Choosing where your child goes to school is a big decision. From traditional public schools and private schools, to charter schools and magnet schools, to online academies and homeschooling — there are lots of options! With so many incredible options, your head can be left spinning as you try to decipher what each of these schools has to offer.
We understand how overwhelming it can all be. To help you in your search for the right fit, we have compiled a list of some of the types of schools and what makes them unique.
Public schools are funded by local, state and/or federal governments. Public schools may have fees you pay at the beginning of the year, but there is no monthly tuition, making it a good economic option for families. Public schools do participate in standardized testing and their curriculum must adhere to state and federal regulations. Traditional subjects — such as reading, writing, arithmetic, science, social studies, P.E. and fine arts — are offered. At the middle- and high-school levels, students have the opportunity to handpick courses based on their interests. Extracurricular activities are a big part of public schooling, allowing students to participate in sports, music, fine arts, student government and other subjects. Your public school is chosen for you based on where you live and the zoning for your school district.
Private schools are not funded by the government, so there is a tuition required for students to attend. Many schools do offer scholarships, so if you feel this is a good fit for your child but are worried about finances, be sure to contact the institution to find out what the options might be. Private schools might have a specific area of focus and typically will have smaller classrooms, making the student-teacher ratio less than that in a public school. There are several kinds of private schools, such as university-preparatory schools, that have a goal of preparing students to enter college; boarding schools, which provide both an education and place to live; and religiously-affiliated schools, which offer religious education.
Charter schools are tuition-free schools that are publicly funded but independently run. You do not have to be zoned to a particular school, but instead can choose to apply to a charter school of your choice. Charter schools might emphasize a particular field of study such as arts and technology, or they may serve special populations such as disabled or at-risk students. Charter schools are established by teachers, parents or community groups and often have increased parental involvement and the feel of being in a tight-knit community.
Magnet schools are part of the public school system, offering special instruction and programs focused on a specific area of study such as science, technology, math, gifted and talented, engineering, performing arts, world language or career education. You can apply to a magnet school in your district regardless of where you are zoned. Because of this, magnet schools are designed to attract a more diverse student body with specific interests throughout a school district.
Many of us became familiar with doing things remotely during the pandemic, but online schools are different from emergency remote learning or doing classes on Zoom. Most online schools are public, which means there is no tuition required. Online schooling can be a great option for students who need flexible schedules, such as those with medical issues, competitive athletes, performance artists and students who need a break from a negative environment due to things such as bullying. Some families choose online schooling so that they may travel and experience other things that traditional schooling would not allow. Online students follow a set curriculum and submit assignments through an online platform. They receive feedback and grades through accredited teachers. Online programs usually ask parents to be involved in their child’s education and help them to stay on track.
Homeschooling is parent-directed education. Many families choose homeschooling for the freedom it provides, such as choosing your own curriculum, focusing on your child’s interests or learning style and a daily schedule customized to your family’s needs. Some homeschooling families choose to hire tutors, or have their children attend classes (co-ops) with other homeschooled students. Each state has its own laws and regulations for homeschooling. If this is the right fit for your family, you will want to look into what those requirements are as you are planning the curriculum and education plan for your child.