EDUCAT ION • T R A DES • LE A R NING
Doing Your Homework on Education by Linda A. Thornton
o one knows your child better—or is determined to find the right academic setting to help him or her thrive—than you do. With so many options available, having all the specifics will help you make informed decisions about your child’s education journey.
“Knowledge is power.” ~Sir Francis Bacon Start by considering the basics: School Type: Each school has its own unique mission statement. Location/Daily Commute: How far is too far? Is staying in your community important? School/Class Size: Evaluate the student-to-faculty ratio. Cost: From free to tuition-based, plus other expenses. Style: What is your child’s personality? Does he require constant monitoring? Is she independent? Does he need to be challenged?
PUBLIC Attendance at public schools is free and there are no entrance requirements. Your child will likely be exposed to a greater diversity of cultures and ethnicities while the experience is still community based—i.e., classmates live nearby. Class sizes may be large, but public schools often offer more options for courses, after-school activities, and curricula. Some districts also 36
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offer impressive facilities such as sports fields, swimming pools, art and music programs and even theaters. Public schools are required to provide for the needs of all students—i.e., speech, physical, and behavior therapies. Standardized testing is required and public school teachers must be certified.
PRIVATE Private schools offer a smaller class size and a challenging curriculum, but come with a price tag and, most likely, admission requirements. Teachers may have more control over the curriculum and teaching methods, but if the school does not seek state certification, teachers need not have a teaching degree. The school size may not be able to support any advanced facilities and each promotes an individual religious or ideological doctrine. Private schools do not need to uphold the same requirements as public schools for special needs students.
CHARTER Charter schools began operating in Texas in 1996 and are free to attend with no admission requirements. These schools are subject to fewer state laws in return for more innovation and flexibility in their curriculum. School size will determine the amount of advanced facilities and special needs programs. Although not entirely government funded and must seek other sources of revenue, charter schools continue to grow in popularity.
HOME-SCHOOL Home-school proponents passionately agree their goal is to not recreate public school at home, but to personalize each child’s
educational experience. Some parents prefer unschooling, a type of learning based on the child’s interests. While Texas is among the most lenient states when it comes to home-schooling requirements, it does stipulate that children must attend school from ages 6 to 19, learn required subjects using a written or online curriculum and receive a parent-issued diploma. Home-schooling is considered a private school, hence special needs children receive no added assistance. With a variety of support and resources available, the costs vary widely.
HOME-SCHOOL CO-OPS To avoid isolation and broaden the emotional experience, co-ops are communities of home-schooling families. Parents share skills, resources, and ideas; e.g., a parent with an art or science background teaches that subject to the whole group. Children enjoy socialization on field trips and in group activities. Conferences and special events also provide parents with up-to-date information on laws and trends.
One person’s “pro” could very well be another's “con.” Educate yourself on the facts so you can make the best determination about your child’s education.