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Mendo Lake Family Life

What Kind of School Is Best for Your Child?

By Kim Blaker

One of the most significant decisions parents make for their kids is where to send them to school. The following schools have various benefits and drawbacks. 

Public School These schools are funded by the government at local, state, and national levels and are held to specified standards.

Pros: Because public schools are tied to the government, there are standards to which they must adhere. Teachers must be certified and use an approved curriculum. Public schools typically offer the broadest range of extracurricular activities. 

Cons: The government funding and, therefore, the quality of public schools can vary significantly from one community to the next. If your neighborhood’s public school has a low rating, it isn’t always easy, or possible, to transfer to another. Some public schools are overcrowded and have small budgets.

Charter School Usually founded around a specific mission or charter, charter schools are a form of public school and are free to attend. They often have limited space; in order to attend, prospective students may have to apply or enter a lottery. 

Pros: Charter schools are often a good alternative for students struggling in a traditional school. As long as students consistently perform well, state regulations don’t bind these schools as much as traditional schools. Charter schools often have smaller class sizes and different methods of teaching. They are particularly suited to gifted students, or those with various learning styles or attention difficulties. 

Cons: If a charter school is not performing well, it may have to shut down; so there can be more pressure on students to achieve. 

Magnet School Magnet schools are a type of public school that has a specific focus, such as the arts, music, science, or technology. Unlike a charter school, they do still have to adhere to the same government regulations as traditional public schools. 

Pros: If a magnet school focuses on your child’s particular interest, it can help your child develop skills related to that interest. These schools get additional program funding and generally have smaller class sizes. 

Cons: Admission to magnet schools is limited and, therefore, competitive. Some schools use a lottery, others use an application and even tests or exams to determine who qualifies. 

Special Education School There are schools available for students with hearing or vision impairments, autism, and specific intellectual or learning disabilities. 

Pros: Curriculum and instruction are adapted to best meet the needs of the students; teachers are specially trained. Students can relate to each other, which builds community.

Cons: Students only interact with others who have similar disabilities. 

Private School Usually tuition-based, private schools do not have to adhere to the same regulations as public schools. Often private schools have a specific focus or educational philosophy, such as Montessori or Waldorf.

Pros: Parents often get more input on their child’s education. Families can find a school that is aligned with their wants or beliefs. Also, class sizes are usually smaller.

Cons: Private schools are often expensive. They also do not have the same level of oversight as public schools. So it is up to parents to make sure the school is providing their child with an appropriate education. 

Religious School Religious schools are a type of private school that is associated with a particular faith or organization. A parochial school is a type of religious school that is connected directly to a local church. 

Pros: At a religious school, your family’s faith can be part of your child’s education. These schools usually have strong community and smaller class sizes.

Cons: Tuition can be high. Religious schools are also not held to government standards. Many omit certain teachings in science and history that don’t fit their beliefs. So it is vital to make sure that your child is receiving a full education.

Virtual Schools Both public and private virtual schools offer a variety of educational opportunities, including full-time study or supplemental classes. Classes and schoolwork can be done anywhere there’s Internet access. 

Pros: Learning in virtual schools is more individualized, so students have more flexibility and can learn at their own pace. Virtual schools can also provide more educational opportunities or access to specialized classes. 

Cons: Virtual schools require a lot of self-discipline. They do not have the same in-person social opportunities for community or friendships, which can cause students to feel isolated. 

Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer who also owns an online bookshop, Sage Rare & Collectible Books: