National School Choice Week was started in 2011 to increase public awareness of the different educational opportunities available to all K-12 students in the U.S. It’s not about “I live in district X but really want my kid to go to the school in district Y”, although that is a part of it. It is more about reaching as many people as possible and showing them the myriad of options in education today. Each and every child is a unique individual, and each one of them deserves the learning environment that suits them best. One that is equal parts challenging, inspirational, motivating and effective; one where they will be successful and happy.
Nowadays there are many valid choices for your intentional education path. If you have more than one child, you may find that the choice that worked best for one of them won’t work for the other. As a parent, you are the person best suited to matching your child’s needs to their optimal learning environment.
Okay, So What Are My Options?
- Traditional Public School: This is likely where you went to school and where most people you know went to school. Public schools are inclusive, paid for by taxes, and state-run.
- Public Charter School: A charter school is a public school that receives government funding but is run independently from the state school system in which it resides. This allows them to make many of their own rules and regulations, although they cannot charge tuition. Because they run independently from state school mandates, they have the freedom to choose their educational methodology. As such, you will sometimes find charter schools that specialize in STEM, college prep, language immersion, performing arts, etc.
- Public Magnet School: Magnet schools are public schools that offer a specialized curricula or program of study. They can focus on academics, performing arts or technical/vocational/agricultural education. Many have competitive entrance requirements in which students must apply, pass an entrance test, audition or interview. Others offer open enrollment with a lottery waitlist.
- Private School: Private schools are independent, privately-funded schools which are not administered by the state government. Private schools can be faith-based, focused on sports or academics, or abide by alternative educational philosophies such as Montessori, Waldorf or Emilia Reggio. They have the right to select their students and charge a sometimes hefty tuition. Many states and schools do have scholarships available for private schools.
- Virtual School: Virtual schools or online academies teach students through the internet. Some are independent schools, and some programs are offered through state public schools, meaning students have access to these for free.
- Homeschooling: Homeschooling is when a parent or legal guardian chooses to take responsibility of their child’s education. It is legal in all 50 states and is the fastest growing educational movement. Families can choose from different methodologies including Classical, Montessori, Waldorf, Self-Directed, Project-Based and many others. Homeschooling is often a collaboration with other families, co-ops and even new hybrid schools. They can also choose different methods for different children or even different subjects for a customized learning experience.
As you can see, there are many options families can choose to find the most ideal learning environments for their children. As for my family and I, we homeschool. My husband and I made the choice many years ago and haven’t had a single regret. With one neurotypical child and one on the autism spectrum, homeschooling has afforded us the ability to individualize their learning to meet both of their needs while allowing us tons of freedom to follow our interests. Please know that no matter where you are you don’t have to remain stuck in a situation that makes you or your child unhappy. You have the CHOICE!