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Schooling: Homeschool vs. Public School vs. Private School
One of the toughest decisions that you're going to face as a parent is that you're going to have to decide where to send your kids to school. For some parents the choice is easy because the options are limited by funds and availability of a parent's time. Those kids just have to go to the local public school, no doubt about it. However, most parents at least consider alternative options like private school and homeschooling. And even parents looking at public schools often have options such as charter schools and magnet schools. It's a tough call because there are pros and cons to each option.
Here's a closer look at what the benefits and drawbacks are of different types of schooling for children:
Public School Pros and Cons
The public school is the most obvious first choice for many families but it's also one that can cause them a lot of concerns.
Commonly cited benefits of the public school choice include:
- Convenience. Proximity to home, availability of school bus transportation and other facts about public school make this an easy one on a daily basis.
- Cost. It's free so you don't have to think about pay for your kid's education.
- It's the norm. Kids will basically fit in with society after going through standard schooling.
- Diversity. Kids will get to meet all kinds of different people and will learn tolerance (eventually) for everyone.
Commonly cited drawbacks of the public school choice include:
- Low quality of education. Many people feel that public schools gear education to the lowest common denominator in the school which means that smart kids lose out.
- Peer problems. Kids may argue with peers or pick up bad habits in public schools where diversity is common.
- Design of education. The public school has a curriculum that doesn't really allow for individuality or input from the parent. Your kid will learn what the school says he will learn.
Private School Pros and Cons
The private school choice diminishes some of the problems associated with the traditional public school but will bring up its own issues.
Commonly cited benefits of the private school choice include:
- Higher quality of education. These classes are generally geared towards college-bound kids.
- Future opportunities. Private schools look good on resumes and open doors. Kids from private school tend to stick together into adulthood and may help each other out with careers in the future.
- Close community. This close community extends to parents and teachers and creates a situation in which there are a lot of people looking out for your kid.
- Less diversity. Some parents prefer that their kids "stick to their own" so to speak.
Commonly cited drawbacks of the public school choice include:
- Cost. It's not going to be free to go here and you'll have to invest money in different activities throughout the year.
- Time-intensive. Parents are typically expected to be involved in volunteer efforts with the school which can take time.
- Limited experiences. The lack of diversity that is often encountered in public schools is a drawback when kids have to deal with a more diverse world.
Homeschooling Pros and Cons
Many parents find that they can avoid all of the problems of public and private school with homeschooling but it isn't perfect either.
Commonly cited benefits of homeschooling include:
- Control over what your child learns. You design the curriculum and it can be focused on the specific educational needs and level of your child.
- Keeps the family closer. You do more together and this means that you've got a bond that isn't as easy to achieve when your child is away at school all day.
- Freedom and flexibility. You can set a school schedule that suits your family, travel together when it's best for all of you and otherwise enjoy more flexibility in life together,
Commonly cited drawbacks of homeschooling include:
- Very time-intensive. You'll need to be your child's full-time teacher in addition to being a parent.
- Difficult. It's not easy to teach a kid everything that he or she needs to know.
- Isolation. The child and the rest of the family may feel isolated from a larger social group.
- Limits opportunities. Homeschooled kids can go to college but it's not as easy as when you've got standard transcripts from a more traditional school.
- Problems separating school and home. In terms of both time and discipline in the home, boundaries get blurred.
Alternative School Options
Some parents find that they can explore other options that don't quite fit any of these molds. Some of these options include:
- Charter schools. These are small non-profit schools where kids get the same basic education that they would at a public school and there's no cost to attend. However, the classes are smaller so there can be more parent involvement and more individual attention for the student.
- Magnet schools. These are public schools that specialize in a particular area of study. There are magnet schools for technology, science, math, fine arts and even specialty schools like aviation studies. These are good for people who need a basic education but who are interested in niche areas; these classes often have a higher quality of education.
- Private tutor. People who like the idea of homeschooling but don't have the time to do it themselves may find that they would like to pay someone to tutor the child in the home setting.
- Mixture of options. Some kids do best when they are able to combine different options to complete their education. For example, a high school student may attend traditional classes for half the day but then go to a magnet program or homeschool classes in the afternoon.
Thoughts on Choosing a Type of School
In order to choose the right type of school, you need to realistically weigh all of the options open to you. Consider the cost of schooling, the time involvement required by parents, the social pros and cons for your child and the needs of your whole family. Most importantly, be aware that you may make the wrong choice. Instead of fretting about it, be open to paying attention to the cues you receive from your kids over time and be willing to try other options if the first one you try isn't working right.
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