Is Private Education Right For My Student?
A private school education isn’t for everyone. Let’s be real, public schools can be pretty fabulous. Many public school teachers and administrators seem to genuinely care deeply about their students and the quality of education they are receiving.
But what if public school doesn’t seem like the perfect fit for your student? Do you just stick it out, or do you try something different? We’re choosy when purchasing a home, or a new automobile—heck, some of us have a hard time buying new clothes (which is probably why some of us still have blue jeans from college hanging in our closets). We wouldn’t accept a one-size-fits-all swimsuit, now would we? So why should we accept a one-size-fits- all approach to education?
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A PRIVATE SCHOOL EDUCATION?
For some (we would never claim all) students, public education has become a pressure cooker situation. For these students, private school can provide a more independent education—with less emphasis on how your child is performing compared to other students, and more emphasis on the student as an individual. It can be a fabulous option for some families—but you have to ask yourself, is private education worth the investment for my family?
SMALLER CLASS SIZES
Conventional wisdom says that smaller class sizes translate into better student performance on academic achievement tests. Obviously private schools vary greatly in size, but almost every private school focuses on the importance of small class size. Smaller class sizes allow teachers to focus more on the individual student— allowing teachers to better hone in and address both educational strengths and weaknesses.
One mother, Sarah Alderman, says she has been very pleased with her family’s decision to send their children to a private school.
“We have three very different boys,” Alderman says. “There are vast differences in their learning styles and abilities. To be in a classroom environment where the teacher has the ability to spend one-on-one time with our child to ensure not just their success, but mastery of the subject matter is priceless... many times teachers have no control over the speed in which they teach the material, or how much time they can give to any one individual student. The teachers in our local school district are phenomenal, caring, exceptional; but oftentimes their hands are tied.”
AMPLE RESOURCES, EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
A private school can provide exceptional and challenging experiences through extracurricular activities, Advanced Placement courses, and other programs geared specifically towards talented and gifted students. Many private school students tend to score top marks on standardized tests and college entrance exams.
Quality resources and extracurriculars provide students with the opportunity to fully explore their interests and talents. Much like their public school counterparts, private schools are responsible for producing many leaders in politics, business, and society. And increasingly today, private schools are sought out by parents of kids with special needs such as behavior problems or learning disabilities.
“Our middle son has ADHD. We weren’t sure he would be able to keep up in school where the academic bar has been set so high. At the beginning of the year, his reading score was a 0.8, which isn’t even equivalent to a kindergarten reading level. But his teacher saw him as an individual, and refused to let him fail,” says Alderman. “Instead of saying you have a learning disorder so we’ll just set the bar lower and let you get by, she chose to work hard with him. She challenged him in such a way that not only did he ‘get by,’ he flourished. She was able to make time for him—and all of her students—to personally encourage them and cater to their needs, to see them exceed expectations.”
“At the end of the year the teacher pulled me aside in the lunchroom. With tears in her eyes and his reading scores in her hand, she explained to me that his reading level was now a 3.5. A third grade reading level. I get it, it’s not terribly uncommon for children to be ahead of their reading level—but for my son, it was a triumph. She inspired a desire in him to work harder, reach higher, and achieve in a way we didn’t know he had in him,” Alderman says. “The cost can be a burden. The financial commitment is not easy for our family. We are self- employed, and have three children attending the school in the fall. The sacrifice is daunting at times, but every sacrifice we make to pay their tuition seems outweighed by the rewards.”
A SAFE ENVIRONMENT, A STRONG SENSE OF COMMUNITY
Private educational institutions have reputations for maintaining high disciplinary standards. Lower staff-to- student ratios allow for more effective observation and control of school grounds. The strong sense of community tends to discourage (most) dangerous behavior. This often translates into improved success rates at the post- secondary education level as well. A strong sense of pride is instilled in private school alumni, creating rich networking opportunities upon entering the workforce. This is sometimes especially true at faith-based schools.
There are many approaches to education, and finding a school (or preschool) that matches one’s own perspective can create a positive and productive academic experience for not only your student, but for your entire family. So do your research!
“Private education benefits the entire family unit. From the parent’s point of view, the required involvement in the student’s studies and school life fosters a closer relationship in the home. The parents tend to have a deeper feeling of ownership in the school, and work alongside the teachers as a team to educate and raise the students,” says Alderman. “From the student’s perspective, they are seen as an individual. A person worthy of investment not only from their parents, but from the entire school body.”
“Parents need to ask themselves, what fundamental aspects are non-negotiable? Is it small classes? College prep? Large athletic teams? Arts? Religion? Once you know what you truly desire and require for your family— you need to be willing to decide how to achieve it,” says Alderman. “Private school might not be the best fit for every family, and I do not believe it is universally ‘better’. But I do believe it is best for our family. We had a list of requirements, found a school that filled them, and will do anything necessary to keep our boys in an environment where they truly flourish.”