School Hacks: How to Pick the Best School for Your Child
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Here are the best school hacks to help you find the right school for your child. In fact, these tips will help if you are changing schools too. I’ve got you covered either way.
I am a teacher and mom who has taught in private school, public school, and I have also homeschooled. Furthermore, my kids have attended these three school options so I have the perspective of both mom and teacher.
We can tell you first-hand the pros and cons of each type of school you may be considering. Whatever you choose, realize there is no perfect school. You are simply looking for the best fit at this time.
PUBLIC SCHOOL HACKS
1. Large selection of classes. Most schools offer Theater, Art, Dance, Gymnastics, Swimming, Architecture, etc. There is an opportunity for your child to try about any and everything. You name it, they probably have it. My son acquired a boater’s license through one of his classes. He was elated.
2. Friends are close in proximity. There is not a lot of driving when it comes to play-dates. Your child’s friends will be within about a 0 – 10-mile radius. It is nice to drop off and pick up within a 15-20 minute time span.
3. Multiple facilities. Our public high school has a large baseball field, football field, a practice field, multiple locker rooms, swimming pool, several gyms, a large auditorium with high tech lighting, classrooms with technology, etc.
Because a public school is funded by the government, there is more money to meet the needs of the students.
4. Teachers are licensed. Teachers are required to have a license to teach in a public school. Both of my kids had excellent teachers almost all the way through.
I had my kids in public school for about 8-9 years. In all that time, I can count maybe 1 or 2 teachers who were not acceptable at teaching their subject.
1. Teachers do not reinforce biblical values. Public schools are void of teaching any real values and morals in the classroom. It is illegal to pray in class, have the 10 commandments on the wall, or to acknowledge God due to the separation of church and state.
This may not be a problem for some. Personally, I found it disheartening.
2. Safety. To this date, the school shootings have only been in a public school. This doesn’t mean private schools are immune. The problem is public schools cannot be selective about who enters their doors. They take any and everyone.
3. Drugs, alcohol, promiscuity. Illegal and immoral activity seems to be normal for most kids. We found many parents were okay with it.
School Hack: These problems may give you pause to think twice about public school. It may not be the best school for your child. It was difficult to navigate through the lack of morality, but my kids grew from the conflict.
PRIVATE SCHOOL HACKS
1. Freedom to teach values and morals. The teachers and administration have the freedom to pray and talk about values and morals. They constantly reinforce them biblically which is nice.
This does not eliminate the drug, alcohol, and promiscuity, but it does give your child a chance to hear about a better way to live.
2. Academics. Academics are strong in most private schools because the teachers don’t have to stop for a lot of discipline issues. They can present material and teach the full allotted time.
3. Small class size. Most private schools keep their class ratio small. In my experience, it has been around 22:1 or less. This allows for more individual instruction. In some cases, the honors courses will be even smaller. This is almost as good as private tutoring.
4. Quality of families. Students and families are vetted. There is a long application process and interviews before a student is accepted. This makes it easier to connect with other like-minded families who reinforce the same values at home that you do.
5. Sports. In a small school, your child will get to play everything. This can be a huge benefit if you know your child has the kind of athletic ability that may get overlooked in a big school.
School Hack: There is more of a chance for your child to get an athletic scholarship at a division two school if he is a superstar in a smaller pool.
1. Cost of tuition. The cost of tuition is usually high. This makes it impossible for the majority of people to have access to a private school education unless scholarships are given.
2. Lack of facilities. There are no public tax dollars going to a private school. This means everything has to be built with private funding.
Many private schools have been around for a while, so they have had a chance to grow. Other private schools still struggle to keep up with the same kind of quality facilities as a public school.
3. Class and sports variety. The number of classes or the variety of sports may not be as extensive as a public school. Small schools don’t always have the money to fund specialized teachers or multiple sports.
This may not be the best school for your child if your student has a unique gift such as swimming, gymnastics, etc.
4. Can be used as a reform school. Many private schools are less picky about their enrollment because they need money. Students who have been kicked out of public school end up in private school.
It is a great opportunity for a second chance, but if the student does not take advantage of this gift, it can be a big problem.
5. Spoiled children. Private school caters to a wealthier group of people. This means there are spoiled children who may act entitled. This problem is everywhere, but it is more pronounced in private schools.
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1. You are the teacher. You decide the curriculum. It is really fun to have complete control over what your child learns. There is an opportunity to present material that would never be talked about in a public or private school.
When I homeschooled, we did a lot of field trips. That was really fun.
2. Safety. There is a 0% chance of a school shooting, your child being bullied, or ever feeling threatened by another student. This may be the best school for your child just to keep him out of harm’s way.
3. Opportunity for outside development. Many parents have opted to homeschool because their child is gifted in an area. For instance, a gymnast or an ice skater would have more time for practice.
School Hack: Even if your child is not especially gifted, she can make more time for ballet, horseback riding, part-time job or internship. There is also extra time for family vacations during the offseason. We went to Disney World offseason which was nice!
4. College Advancement. Starting junior year, your child could be eligible to take courses at the local junior college for free. Yes, it is free until 18 years old in Dallas, Texas. (Books are not included.) Check with your local junior college to see if your area has the same program.
1. Lack of social interaction. I have noticed students who are homeschooled struggle socially. The longer they have been homeschooled, the harder it is for them to translate social cues.
They do pretty well one on one, but group situations are next to impossible for them to navigate. This could really hamper your child long term on getting a job and making friends.
2. Teaching quality. Many parents think they are qualified to teach any and all subjects at every level. Or believe there is a video to teach the material. While it is true there is a video, it doesn’t allow for questions, feedback, and individualized reinforcement of the material.
School Hack: There are very few people who are truly qualified at all levels. When your child enters junior high and/or high school, I recommend you supplement with a tutor or join a homeschool group that offers classes in advanced material.
3. Depression. Some students become depressed because they are isolated from peers their own age. As much as you would like siblings or the occasional church friend to be their buddy, it is just not enough interaction.
Homeschooling may not be the best option for kids who are highly social. I know this first hand.
4. No dances and/or sporting events. Missing out on dances may not be a big deal. There is a lot of needless drama and money spent on one night. However, it is important to make sure your child is active.
Playing a team sport not only helps your child get exercise, but it teaches teamwork and social skills.
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Charter, Magnet, or Montessori School Hacks
1. Charter schools. They were established in 1995. In the last 10-15 years, these schools have become recognized as a viable alternative to public schools and could be the best school for your child. It is interesting to note they have gained traction in areas where the public schools are failing to do their job.
Charter schools are still funded by the government, but they have fewer state laws governing them. The reduced legislation allows them more flexibility to be creative in the way they run the school.
Many of them have the feel of a private school. I have read about some of them using a classical (liberal arts) or Montessori approach while other charter schools only offer online classes with a teacher-facilitator.
Some charter schools are great.
Other schools are more of a receptacle for kids who have been kicked out of school for behavior issues, teens who are going back to get a GED, or students who are suffering from a health issue.
It is worth checking out the ones in your area to see if they meet the standards you have set for your child’s educational needs.
2. Magnet schools. They are an extension of the public school. They specialize in dance, art, music, law, science, agriculture, etc. The majority of these schools are academically selective.
I know several people who have their kids in a magnet school. Many go on to prestigious colleges and become very successful. It is definitely a good opportunity for a child to attend one of these schools given the opportunity.
3. Montessori schools. It is a teacher-directed education geared toward children who love to learn. Kids are given lots of freedom to learn through play and discovery. Its primary philosophy is to teach using all 5 senses.
I have neither taught nor had my children attend this type of learning environment. I do think it is a wonderful way to learn when a child is young. It’s not for everyone.
School Hack: Montessori Schools fall under the private school category mostly, but as I said, there have been charter schools who use this model. It is a good school choice for those kids who are more of a self-starter and can handle lots of freedom.
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Last Thoughts on Picking the Best School.
These are the best school hacks for picking a school for your child whether you are just starting or are changing schools. Another resource I found is Great Schools. It is a legitimate indicator of a school’s overall quality.
It shouldn’t be the only thing you use, but it is wise to consider it as a valuable piece in your analysis.
Remember, what you pick now may be a good fit for one child, but it may not be the best fit for a sibling. Be willing to adjust educational options as your family changes and grows
If you are thinking about changing schools, it is wise to ask about the characteristic of your child’s potential class. Consult teachers, administrators, and friends who already have children attending the school.
Hopefully, they will be forthright with you. This is especially important if you are choosing a private school with a class size under 50 students in each grade.
Some classes have mean girls or bullies. If the class is not characterized as nice, consider another option.
A couple of bullies or mean girls can destroy an otherwise perfectly good group. I have seen it happen over and over again. They are toxic and can make the class environment unbearable.
Last, but not least, pray for direction. God clearly showed us what to do with each of our children. I would have loved for both of them to attend the same school for all 13 years, but we moved.
There was no choice in our change. It all worked out in the end. My kids would tell you they have great memories of every school venue.
Related: How to Pray for Your Children
What school hack do you have?
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