Education 101

Greater Indianapolis is home to a wide variety of school alternatives. While parents are fortunate to have so many choices available, the sheer number of options can leave one wondering where to start. Here we explain some of the key differences among the various types of schooling available in our area.

Public and charter schools
Each district is unique in how it sets up its educational system, but it is typical to see several elementary schools feeding into a few middle or junior schools, culminating in one or two high schools. Some districts allow for “school of choice” designations, meaning parents can select a specific school within the district.

Charter schools receive public funding but are run independently. “Charter schools were created to increase competition for students and provide more choice for parents, especially for low-income and minority students from diverse backgrounds,” explains Katherine Beckwith, Regional Community Engagement Coordinator for Indiana Math and Science Academies.

Application required?
Sometimes. Indianapolis Public, for instance, requires applications to many of its magnet schools, and some have extensive waiting lists. Charter schools require applications.

Generally, no. Charter schools are tuition-free.

Find out more:

The My IPS website ( includes details about every school in the district. Input your zip code to find charter schools near you at the Great Schools website ( Visit the Indiana Math & Sciences Academy website ( for information about this college-prep charter school, which has been given an “A” ranking by the Indiana Department of Education.

Private schools

Private schools are not required to follow some of the federal and state laws that apply to public schools, especially in regards to curriculum. Parochial (religion-centered) schools fall under the private category.

Application required?
Yes. Requirements vary widely.

Yes. Financial assistance is often available, and academic scholarships can be earned at some private schools in later years. Some private schools will work with you to establish a payment plan, while others require full payment upfront. Check on these details early in the process if the cost is a major concern for your family.

Find out more:
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis website ( provides a wealth of information for families interested in Catholic education. The School Digger website ( offers an extensive database of private schools throughout the state.

Montessori schools
“Montessori” is an educational approach designed by Maria Montessori. Classrooms are mixed age and the approach includes a great deal of child-led choice, movement, and hands-on discovery.

Application required?
Usually. Some Montessori schools are public schools and don’t require a formal application. Private Montessori schools always do.

Tuition? >/u>
Tuition is required at private Montessori schools.

Find out more:
Check out the United Montessori Schools of Indiana website ( for a directory of Montessori schools across the state. For more general information about the Montessori method, try the American Montessori Society website. Locally, contact Maria Montessori International Academy or Village Montessori School to get started.

Homeschool and virtual school
Parents who opt to exercise the legal right to homeschool file a notice with their local district and follow other state laws to report back to the district about their child’s educational progress. Some families choose to purchase a pre-set curriculum, while others opt for a more relaxed or hands-on approach. Virtual, or e-schools, are sometimes considered a subset of homeschool since most schoolwork is conducted at home, on a computer. However, students enrolled in these schools are actually classified as public students in a statewide district. They follow a curriculum provided by the virtual school and check in with state certified teachers on a regular basis.

Application required?
Virtual schools require an extensive application process to verify a student’s identity, school and medical history. Homeschool families follow state standards for notification to the local district.

Most virtual/e-schools are free to families, including all materials and a computer. Homeschooling is tuition-free, but curricula choices run the gamut from free to thousands of dollars a year.

Find out more:
Go to the Indiana Department of Education website ( to read about homeschool requirements in Indiana. A few online schools to check out are Connections Academy, Hoosier Academies, Indiana Online Academy, Indiana Virtual Academy, Indiana Virtual School and Indiana University High School.

The right educational environment for your student is out there – with a little homework you can find the best fit to help your child have a happy and successful school experience!

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