Over the last decade there have been a lot of debates about the education system in our country. More and more, for a lot of different reasons, parents are looking for alternatives to public school. With the summer break and several parents thinking about moving, we thought it was a good idea to tackle this subject and propose the question: public school, charter school, private school or homeschool?
Let’s understand their difference: when someone talks about a Public School it doesn’t mean exclusively that said school is funded by the government, but that said school is part of the public education system and abides to all of its rules. After all, Charter Schools are also funded by the government (via taxes) but do not follow the public education system guidelines 100%; they have a lot of room to customize their curriculum and deal with student admission differently. Private schools are schools that are self-funded by its owners and Homeschool is a method for children to obtain education without leaving their house.
Ok, now that we have dealt with the basics, let’s take a closer look at them one by one.
For several reasons they get a bad rep between us – and that’s great; our ability to never settle and constantly discuss things to try and make them better is one of the reasons that makes America great – but if you do a little research or talk to a foreigner you will realize how great our Public Schools standards are.
First and foremost: you don’t pay a thing. Plus, because of the school districts system you’ll likely not spend any money on transportation either, and your kid will “grow roots” on the location you live, developing relationships with people and places near your house. This is important for the psychological development of an individual. The sense of belonging is very powerful and public schools work that very well with their sports teams and cheerleaders. An individual that learns early on to be part of a community understands he/she needs to play their part on it and develops a sense of responsibility to it.
Private schools are actually the oldest type of schools in America. In the colonial days, it was the only way to get education, because the government wasn’t properly set up yet to make education available (or even mandatory) to every citizen. But, because of that lack of regulation, it didn’t need to serve everyone or anyone, so it was very stratified. Boys would study math and reading, girls duties of home, non-white kids wouldn’t study at all. Thank God we have evolved and so has private school. Still, it has conserved this spirit in a way that, because they are independent organizations with their own guide of rules, it stratifies the “philosophy” and the focus of its education. That’s why you see a lot of religious private schools; they were created as a way for their practitioners to have their children attending a school that emphasizes their religious beliefs.
Because you need to pay (usually big bucks) for your children to attend a private school – and some of them have tests and take in consideration other aspects to approve or deny applications – the teacher-to-student ratio is usually much better than in a public school. If correctly chosen to your kid’s needs and personality, a private school will prepare him/her much better than the broad knowledge provided by the regular public school curriculum. Plus, as it is a private entity, it’s in their interest to see your kid succeeding and might vouch for him/her with Ivy league colleges, not to mention the fact that it’s much easier to correct problems along the way than going through the crazy public education system ladder and governmental bureaucracies and Zzzzzz…
Charter schools are something very recent. First established in Minnesota in 1991, they are somewhere between public schools and private schools. Why is that? Charter schools are funded by the government (although it receives much lower figures than public schools) and do not charge for students to attend just like public schools. However, are not bind to the public education system. Charter school have less federal and state rules and regulations, which means, among other things, they are allowed to focus on specifics areas of study, most of the times students can attend the school even if they don’t live in its school district, and they even have the ability of customizing how many hours their classrooms run and how many school days their year will have. In a nutshell, charter schools are essentially private enterprises – founded and run by people (teachers, parents, you name it) or companies – that use government money to complement education where public schools can’t.
Why do we say complement where public schools can’t? Because the great thing about the charter school is that they are intended to counter the “one size fits all” of public schools. They can be tailor-made for kids with special needs, they can be tailor-made for more artistic kids, or they can even have a broad field of study but have the classes taught in a different way from the classic “reading book and a homework” type of education… it can be almost anything! America needs to have room for experimental education. Our winning public school system is very old. It was founded in 1837! To adapt things in it, it takes a long time – as it should! – and initiatives like charter schools are a good way to empirically test before being put into a large irreversible scale.
So, charter schools are the best of both worlds really, and that’s why it’s been growing so much in the United States. Although it’s still an abysmally small number when compared with public school enrollment – which entails to more than 80% of students in America – you see a lot of political discussion regarding charter schools because they have shown a growth of whopping 600% since 2000 and this trend promises to keep on growing.
If you want better teacher-to-student ratio and a specific type of focus, while not having to spend money with it: charter schools are a great option for you.
If Private Schools are the oldest schools in America, homeschool is the oldest type of education in the whole world, right? Before there were schools with teachers etc. there were parents teaching kids the basics. Nowadays, some countries do not approve homeschooling, but here in America, ever since the 1920’s, the supreme court recognizes and enforces that parents have the fundamental right to direct the education of their children, which means: homeschooling.
Homeschool is challenging, but it can be done in a number of ways. You can do it yourself by being the teacher, you can do it yourself by being the principal and hiring teachers to come to your house and teach your kid. You can get off the way and have your kid experience an institution’s curriculum, but without leaving the house, having accredited teachers come up to your house and use it as teaching class. You can even have your kid attend a virtual school, which, with the increasing advance of technology, is something that will probably become more and more popular; especially the ones that are governed by public entities enforcing the public school curriculum. It all depends on your state’s regulations and your will.
The great problem with homeschool is that your kid might miss out on socializing, which is something so important and that all of the other types of school provide. However, parents concerned with the gun problem our public schools have been suffering with, will counter that homeschool is an assured way to protect their kids and keep them safe under their wings. Plus, precisely because that deficiency was noted, a lot of online homeschool groups were created and they meet up often; not to mention that you can always enroll the kids in “after school” programs – like eagle scouts and sports activities – so they don’t miss out on socializing.
We do not have the intention of telling you which is better, because it all depends on the student and its family’s goals regarding education and a lot of other things, like: where is your real estate located at? If you live in a very secluded place, your viable options are very different from someone that lives in big real estate markets like New York or Houston, right? So, if there’s something we are willing to advocate is that: you can never have enough education. The fact that our education system has 4 types of schools (with hundreds of branches within them) speaks loud about the richness of it. And since discussing it will only make it stronger, feel free to use the comments to sound off your preferences, your worries and anything you feel is important so that, together, we can educate ourselves more regarding this important subject.
And if you think choosing between Public School, Charter School, Private school or Homeschool is stressful: wait until they graduate and you have to look for Student Accommodations and choose between dorm, rent or buy…
Parenting: not easy!