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Thursday, August 5, 2010

School Options, What Are They?

School is just around the corner, but your local public school isn’t your only choice. Today, there’s a variety of education options designed to fit every child’s and family’s needs.

At this point, I have 2 school-aged children (and 2 more that aren’t in school yet) and have looked at all of the options to follow. For the last 5 years, my oldest has been in public school while my second son is going into his third year. When the oldest was just starting kindergarten, we looked at several private schools in our area and decided it just wasn’t for us. For the last several months, we’ve been looking into homeschooling and cyber schooling for our oldest in particular, who struggles in school.

The following is simply my opinion and my observations over the last 5 years.

Public School:

You already know this one, I’m sure. It’s free. It’s local. There’s often a bus available to transport your child. The school sends you your enrollment information. The curriculum is decided by the school. In short, it’s fairly easy. And your children often know many of their classmates, before ever attending school for even a day, from daycare, gymnastics classes, reading programs, and even next door.

The downfall to public school? They pretty much aim at one style of learning-the auditory learner. The auditory learner learns best by listening to the information. They absorb it and retain it best this way. Not all of us learn this way though. Many of us learn by doing or seeing. These types of learning styles get a little attention, but not a ton in public school.

Another issue is that they are government funded, so they don’t always have every single class available that your child may be interested in. Some schools offer a music program while others just don’t have the money for it. Some offer a computer class with dinosaur computers while others have no computers or, on the flip side, have the most amazing computers you’ve ever seen.

One final issue I’ll address is the teaching speed. Teachers often have 20-30 kids per class and have to teach at a steady pace. They may be teaching too slow for some kids while others still don’t grasp the concept when the next is introduced. It’s frustrating for both ends of the learning spectrum.

Private School:

Private school is a great option for those parents who want their children to have a religious education, in particular. They can have all of the same positives and negatives as the public school option with one exception: parents pay to send their kids to these schools and they can be pricey! Still, if this is the way you want to go, make sure you do a lot of research on all of your local options. Go to open houses and talk to other parents who have kids in each of the schools you’re considering. Make sure that you’re positive about your decision.

Cyber School:

Some of you might not know what I’m talking about but you should really google this one. Cyber School is a form of public school available in most (if not all) states across America. Your child often receives a free computer-laptop or desk top- and a free printer to use while in school. The cyber school usually pays for all or part of your internet access in the home as well.

Cyber school can be all “in the classroom” on the computer or it can be “self lead” and more like the homeschool option with a parent acting as the teacher. The school still chooses the curriculum but you can move at your child’s pace. This is great for the kids who are often ahead or behind in class. There’s less chance of boredom for the fast learner and less chance of being left behind for the slower learner.

The downside? You have to keep up with your work at home or risk your child being set back a year in school. Each state has a required number of hours and days for their children for school. Check yours to be sure you know what it is.

You also have to deal with the whole gym class issue. Cyber schooled children are still required to have a certain number of hours of physical activity. Many can get their hours by participating in sports or taking walks while just playing outside usually doesn’t count. Again, check with your state and your local cyber schools to find out.

And then there’s the social aspect of things. Cyber schooled children can easily become anti-social if not encouraged to have play dates, participate in group activities (such as field trips arranged by your cyber school), or even attend a church program. It’s important that when cyber schooling, your children still get exposed to others, though it’ll be easier to choose who you allow to have contact with your child (which is a definite plus).

Home School:

Home schooling is just that. It’s school done at home. Again, there are pluses and minuses to this one. For starters, you can choose when to do school, when to start and stop, what curriculum to use, and how you want to teach it. If your child is one of those people that learns best by doing, then you can teach them that way. If your child just doesn’t understand fractions, you can spend more time on them and teach them in various ways until they really understand. If you have a vacation planned for the middle of the school year, you can cover those days that your child will miss earlier or later in the year. You decide!

But there are some downfalls. Home school is often not recognized by colleges as a “real school” and many want a diploma from an actual school. It’s not fair, but it’s a sad fact. Not all colleges and universities are this way, but there are definitely several out there. You’ll have to look into it for yourself.

Another potential problem is all the work involved. In PA, we’re required to submit a portfolio for each home schooled child after the age of 8. This means collecting all the work done throughout the year, finding someone who’s qualified to go over it, and submitting it in enough time to get it all done! For a procrastinator like me, this could be problematic. Add to it my disorganization, and you’ll spell disaster! For other parents, this is no big deal. It’s just one little thing they have to do at the end of the year. You need to decide for yourself if this works for you.

Home schooling can also get pricey since you have to collect your own curriculum. There are tons of used home school supply sites out there to get a good deal and you can also use the curriculum your local schools offer if you ask them. But if you buy it all brand new, it’ll cost a lot! So be careful!

Hopefully now that you’ve read my descriptions of each school option, you have a better grasp on the positive and negative aspects of each one. Like I said, they all have good and bad things about them, you just need to decide which one you’re most interested in pursuing for your particular child (or children). In the end, it’s really up to you as the parents. I’ve included a bunch of the resources I read/looked at below. I’m sure there were a ton more! I did a lot of reading on the home school subject. Good luck with this one!


1. “Bringing Up Boys” by James Dobson
2. “Bringing Up Girls” by James Dobson
3. http://www.k12.com/
4. http://www.pacyber.org/
6. http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/schooling/effective_home_schooling.aspx
7. http://www.diaperswappers.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=52
8. http://www.hslda.org/Default.asp?bhcp=1 (Laws by State for Home Schooling)
9. http://www.pennywiselearning.com/
10. www.usedhomeschoolcurriculum.com/
11. www.homeschoolclassifieds.com/
12. http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/Issues/C/College.asp


Lilypad Mom said...

I think you generalized private schools a little too much. The religious private schools may be very similar to public schools, but there are many other private schools out there that help children who have learn through other styles. Our daughter attends a Montessori school. They have a very hands-on learning method, and the speed is child-driven, so each child moves at their own pace making sure no one is bored or left behind.

Kristi26 said...

Hey Lilypad Mom,

That sounds like a great option! I'd never heard of that before. Come to think of it, I've read something about a Circle School as well that sounds similar to that. In the future, I'll have to add information about those as well. I'm sorry you felt I generalized private school too much! It wasn't my intention at all. Like I said in the beginning, these comments are only MY experience and observations of the school options out there.

Melanie Rogers said...

Great article, especially about homeschooling. I agree however, that private school was glossed over and just in San Diego alone we have looked at many different types of private schools with various teaching philosophies that have no religious affiliation. For our family we wanted an alternative approach to teaching children and to instill in them a love of learning and a real hands on approach to learning. The Montessori method fit our family the best and seems to us one of the most innovative ways of teaching kids. Obviously private school is expensive, so I understand that it is not an option for everyone.

Rachael said...

Homeschoolers can also be UNschooled, which is our preferred option. Some colleges are very in tune with that progressive way to school children and actually LOOK for unschooled children, I believe Yale in particular reserves a portion of their Freshman class for unschooled children. Or you could do a private Sudbury School and get the same effect without homeschooling. Sudbury schools are also inexpensive (tuition is usually $6000-7000 per year) when compared with other private schools.

Thanks for the info on Cyber Schools, I'll have to look into that & had never heard of it before!

crochunisclan said...

Two things that I take issue with. 1st you said Cyber-schooled children can easily become anti-social. That's a myth that is continually perpetuated with homeschooled children as well. Parents that care enough about their children's education to take the time to cyber-school or homeschool their children also care about their social development and make appropriate interactions available. Most of the homeschooled children I know are actually better at socializing because they can interact with all ages groups not just their "peers". This is especially true when it comes to teens.

Secondly, homeschooled students may have had dificuluties in the past but by in large are not rejected by colleges thanks to groups like HSLDA. On the contrary Colleges LOVE homeschooled students and consider them an asset to the campus.

Here are some links that may help aleviate common homeschool myths:





Kristi26 said...

Rachael-I have read about Unschooling, which in all of my reading has always been grouped into the home schooling category. Unfortunately, to write about everything that goes with schooling, I'd need an entire book! Lol.

Kristi26 said...

Crochunisclan (I assume this is Tanya, right? :)),

First, I said that SOME colleges take issue with home schooling and don't accept it as a "legitimate graduation." I am aware, as I'm sure most of the readers are, that this isn't true for ALL (or likely even most) colleges. It also doesn't mean that I think it's fair or right, it just is at the moment.

Second, I said: "Cyber schooled children can easily become anti-social if not encouraged to have play dates, participate in group activities (such as field trips arranged by your cyber school), or even attend a church program." I don't believe I ever said that all home schooled or cyber schooled children will automatically become anti-social. I said that parents need to make more of an effort unlike public school where they are constantly around lots of people. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily think it's a good or bad thing to be around a ton of people all of the time, but if you tend to stay home a lot in the summer when school's out (as I do), you'll likely tend to stay home a lot when school's in which will lead to more of an effort in the area of socialization. Again, I said in the beginning of this post that these were my own observations. I know that not everyone will agree.

Thanks for the links and for your opinions! I'm sure they'll be helpful to everyone! :)

crochunisclan said...

I understand you said "some" but I don't think that's legitimate enough to put it in the con category. First of all it perpetuates a myth because people will walk away from the article assuming its the norm and secondly, there are "some" colleges that public schooled students can't get into either. It really comes down to scores as well as a students involvement in extracurricular activities. If you homeschool and your child had the scores, etc. and couldn't get into their dream school due to discrimination HSLDA would make it happen. I've heard of homeschoolers going to Yale, Brown, and Harvard so I really don't think its an issue worthy of being a con IMHO.

And the social factor is the same. It perpetuates a myth and really isn't a con for 99% of people who cyber-school or homeschool. Being in a classroom of your peers 6 hrs. or more per day doesn't really fit the definition of socialization anyway. (individual identity vs. herd identity) I know public school kids that come home and stay in front of their TV all afternoon, all day on weekends, and all summer. So public/private school doesn't necessarily equal proper socialization either. Regardless of the type of schooling a child receives the responsibility still lies with the parent to make sure their child can properly interact in society.

Good luck in your decision making regarding future school plans for your bunch :)