Public School Alternatives for Young Learners

Aug 2, 2019 by

When most people think about the importance of education and choosing the right school, college comes to mind. So much importance is placed on getting a college education, choosing a reputable university, and obtaining your degree. And while all of these things are extremely important, they don’t lay the foundation for a quality learning experience. That happens much earlier in life — starting from Kindergarten (or even pre-K) all the way through high school. Elementary school years are the building blocks of a solid, bright future for many young learners. So why is there little emphasis placed on the importance of choosing a quality school for students just starting out? Most parents send their children through the public school system without another thought. While others seek out alternatives including technical schools, charter, and private schools. But what exactly do these schools offer students? And are they “better” than a public school education? Let’s take a look.

Different Schools for Young Learners

Outside of the public education system, there are a few options for parents and students. Here are some of the most popular.

Private School

Private schools, which are also known as non-governmental, non-state, privately funded, or independent schools are not run by any form of government — local, state, or national. Instead, they are privately owned and operated. Because private schools are not government funded, students must pay tuition to attend. Many people opt for private schools due to a frustration or dissatisfaction with the public school system, whether it be education or dynamics. 

It’s no surprise that private schools are smaller than public schools. After all, most people opt for free education over one they have to pay for. That actually leads to one of the major benefits of private schools — small class size. The average American classroom contains anywhere between 25-30 students. Private school class size ranges from 10-15 students. This means more individualized teaching, opportunity for growth, and a better student-teacher connection. But this tentative care and instruction doesn’t come without a cost. The average private school ranges from just under $8,000 for elementary school annually to over $13,000 for high school. Another thing to remember, though, is that because private schools are privately owned, there is an intense selection process for students. A private school can deny enrollment for any reason they deem appropriate. If you want to improve your chances of being accepted, provide outstanding recommendations, show student involvement in volunteer programs and extracurricular activities, along with admirable grades. Also, be sure to follow the school’s strict application requirements.

Charter School

Many people confuse private and charter schools — and this is understandable. After all, both establishments fall outside of the normal public education system. But there are notable differences. A charter school is founded and run by parents, teachers, and community groups but still receive government funding. However, charter schools don’t fall under the same rules, regulations, and curriculum requirements as those schools within the district. Charter schools are run independently and a prime example of public asset privatization. Freedom Prep Academy is an example of one such school. 

Two main principles of charter schools are “freedom and accountability”. While these two concepts may seem to be in juxtaposition, charter school founders believe in the freedom of choosing a curriculum and resources that work for the students, while also holding the administration accountable for student success. While charter schools are technically non-profit, they can hire a for-profit company to help run and manage them. When it comes to parent involvement, nothing trumps charter schools. The entire premise of the establishment is that parents have direct involvement with the development and implementation of the curriculum and other programs. Most charter schools also have a board that oversees daily operations. The main benefit of charter schools is that parents and teachers are directly responsible for the student’s success. In addition, these schools have the autonomy to develop a curriculum that works best for its students. 

Montessori Schools 

Montessori schools date back to the 1301 in Rome, Italy. These schools are designed around self-directed activities. The classroom is designed around learning through play and hands-on experimentation and exploration. Students are encouraged to discover and explore those things that interest them most. Instead of acting as a single instructor to a classroom full of students, Montessori teachers are viewed as facilitators. Their main role is to navigate through the room, guiding the learning process by asking open-ended questions and looking for “teachable moments”. This method of teaching allows students to thrive and grow in their own areas of interest. It also promotes creativity, independence, and self-confidence. Students are encouraged to problem solve both independently and in small group environments, strengthening social and communication skills. Some additional benefits that Montessori students experience include self-discipline and structure. When students are allowed to explore what interests them, they’re much more in-tune with the learning process and excited about what’s next.

Technical or Trade School

Not all students were made to thrive in a traditional classroom setting. With so many different types of learners, trade and technical schools are growing in popularity. Not to mention, the demand for trade and technical workers is on the rise. The unfortunate part is most trade schools aren’t available for students until they enter high school age. But in some cases, there are specialized schools designed around specific subject matter including the sciences and arts. These are available as young as the elementary school level in some places. This allows students who are already showing interest and talent in a specific area to start honing their craft from a very young age. While all basic education requirements are taught, more emphasis is placed on the area of expertise or interest. Not only does this allow students to develop their skills and knowledge early on, but it can also help students eliminate specific subject matter that no longer interests them.

Education of all types is the foundation of the young learner’s future. Without a solid base, it will be difficult to build upon. But not all elementary school experiences look the same — and that’s okay! Certain students thrive in certain environments. The key is to find out what’s best for the students in your classroom and offer them the resources they need to succeed. 

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