School’s back in session and millions of kids are settling back into their routine of waking up early and heading to class. But as time goes on, that experience is becoming more and more diverse. There are four main kinds of schooling currently available to the majority of students—public, private and charter schools, or a homeschooling environment. The school that works best for your family ultimately depends on your situation and goals. Let’s take a look at what sets these establishments apart from each other.
Public school is the most common form of school because it’s tuition-free and readily available. The biggest benefits of America’s public school system are the consistent regulations and guidelines set in place. For instance, everyone is accepted into public school and all are provided state-certified teachers and efficient equipment and supplies. Another important aspect of public schooling is that every public school accommodates various learning and physical disabilities. In addition, because public schools are most common, they have large networks of team sports and clubs for their students.
There are some less-than-ideal aspects to having such a large, regulated education system as well. Because public schools are dedicated to accommodating everyone, it’s impossible for every group of students to receive endless support and attention. Advanced students sit alongside those who need extra help, progressing at different paces. Public schools generally have very mixed standardized test scores.
Private schools were some of the first schools to open in America, dating back to the seventeenth century. They remain popular today. Annual tuition at private schools can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $17,000, as they aren’t funded by the government. Parents tend to be very involved at private schools through fundraising and volunteering for events and trips. Because private schools aren’t federally regulated, their policies and curriculum vary. For instance, students are accepted on a case-by-case basis. Essays, interviews and academic ability are all considered before enrollment.
Despite not having a set of guidelines to follow, private schools rank higher on the SAT than public schools in every core subject on tests. Because of this, private schools often choose to have their students take standardized tests, though they aren’t required to. Private schools usually have smaller class sizes and a stricter set of rules for their students, including school uniforms and a secure disciplinary system. Large sectors of private schools are religiously affiliated, making their respective religion a main part of the curriculum, which is an important thing for many families.
Charter schools are the newest major kind of schooling offered in the United States. They began on an experimental basis in the 1980s and remain a source to experiment with different educational techniques. Much like public schools, charter schools are funded by the government, never charge tuition, accept everyone who enrolls and are held to a set of academic standards. The main difference between charter schools and public schools is that they have more freedom to decide how they spend their time in the classroom. Their styles are ultimately examined when students take standardized tests, and the schools are held accountable by their scores.
Charter schools have the ability to divide classrooms, extend school hours onto weekends or breaks, and spend more time on particular subjects than others. Charter schools commonly cater to children from low income neighborhoods or students who are transitioning to an English speaking society. Another common practice of charter school is to cater to a specific skill or interest area, such as performing arts or medical education. Tests scores have proven to be very mixed from different areas and schools, but some charter school practices have proven to be very successful.
Homeschooling differs the most from traditional schooling and its popularity rapidly increases every year. The majority of parents who decide to dedicate their time to homeschooling their children state they do so because they’re dissatisfied with the public school system, as homeschooling does offer parents the most control over their child’s education. Their sleep schedule, the amount of time they spend studying and the majority of the subject matter they cover are all to the parents’ personal discretion. Every state has different guidelines on the tests homeschooled students take and the certifications their parents must have in order to homeschool, and it’s important to research those before seriously considering homeschooling for your family.
Millions of kids are currently homeschooled and overall, they have higher test scores than public schools. Students who are homeschooled get to work at their own pace and focus on their interests, leaving time for family outings and trips. Many parents who homeschool agree that it eliminates the negative social aspects attributed to traditional school, such as bullying, peer pressure, competition, boredom or low self-esteem. Though that may be true, homeschools can sometimes lack the large organized social activities, like sports teams and artistic clubs that contribute to social development.
Whichever educational avenue you chose to take, it’s important to do your research. First, consider your family’s needs, resources and values. Then, make sure to read reviews of schools, visit them in person and ask any questions you might have. The assortment of educational opportunities available will make it so that you and your children end up at the school that’s best for you.