School Choice

Hello Mommies and Daddies. Thank you for reading with me today! Happyhealthychildren.org is here to provide you with information you need get back to the basics of raising happy, healthy children. Today I want to talk with you about school choice.

What is school choice?

For the purpose of this post, we will define school choice as the decision that parents make on behalf of their children regarding where to send them to school. Some people politicize the issue of school choice. This post is not a political one. Its purpose is to provide you, as parents, information on available school options and encourage you to analyze your choices so you can make the best schooling decisions for your children.

Why is school choice important to raising happy, healthy children?

According to the National Association of Elementary School Principles, the average American child spends at least 1,080 hours in school per year.   That is one full quarter of their year!  When you take into account the educational, social and cultural influences your child is exposed to at school, you begin to see how your child’s school will either facilitate or obstruct your ability to raise happy, healthy children.

What are the options for schooling elementary, middle and high school children?

When it comes to school choice in America today, there are basically four options. They are listed here in order from most to least attended: public school, private school, charter school and home school.

A traditional public school is a local school, supported by taxpayer dollars, that allows entry to any child who lives in the school district.

Private schools are educational institutions that are privately funded.  Usually, they charge tuition to the families of the children who attend. Scholarships are often available. These schools can be either secular or religious in nature. 

Charter schools use public school dollars but are independent of local school board control.  They use of their own curricula rather than that which the local school board sets forth for the other public schools in the area. Charter schools are often of a particular philosophy. For example, some charter schools espouse classical education while others focus on educational excellence through community building and support.

Home schools are schools that are run within a private home in order to educate the children of that home.

Many parents start out with very specific ideas of how they want to educate their children. Some parents cannot imagine sending their children anywhere besides their local public school system because they believe in the notion of “free school” for everyone.  Other people say “under no circumstances would I send my children to public school” because they do not agree that the state should be involved in educating their children.  The latter group tend toward private or home school. 

Why do people need school choice?

School choice becomes important when, once children are actually enrolled in school, parents find that the school their children is attending is simply not working for them. There are a variety of reasons this occurs.  Some parents find that their children’s school is not meeting their academic needs. Some find that the school’s values do not align with their own.  In other cases, a child may be having serious problems interacting with one or more of their peers and the situation is not improving.  In other words, the reason school choice is important is that, if you find your child to be in one of these situations, you have options! 

A personal account

When my husband and I had our first child almost 11 years ago, we did not realize that the decision of where to send him, and our subsequent children, to school would be the most difficult parenting decision we would make.  In fact, we had always planned on homeschooling our children.

It soon became clear that homeschooling was not the best option for our son.  I began researching the different schools in the area, touring campuses, talking with parents whose children attended the different schools and visiting with my husband about options. We finally settled on a local private school.

However, we simply never felt satisfied with our son at that school. There were several issues that bothered us.  But the biggest issue was that we felt he wasn’t being properly educated. And, of course, obtaining a proper education is the primary reason why children go to school.

Time to experiment

When my daughter was ready to start kindergarten, two years behind my son, my husband and I decided to send her to a local parochial school.  We would spend the year comparing the two schools and, the following year, we would send the children to the better of the two.

By the end of the year, it was clear that my son’s school was the better choice for our children. So, despite not being overly enthusiastic with his school, the next year we enrolled our daughter there. But our unhappiness with the quality of the education continued.

School choice does not involve perfection

“There is no such thing as a perfect school” my husband would say.  And, while I knew this was true, I made a distinction between minor problems with a school and major problems.  Minor problems I could accept as they would not interfere with our children’s overall happiness and health.  Major problems were a different story.  What I was identifying at their school were major problems.   

More experimenting

Through a series of events, I was reminded of a charter school that I had looked into prior to my son starting kindergarten. Once again, I went back into research mode.  I reviewed the school’s educational outcomes and spoke with current parents about their children’s experiences at this charter. Unfortunately, I was unable to tour the school due to Covid restrictions.  My husband and I were strongly considering transferring our now three children to the charter school the following year.  However, changing schools is a difficult decision. Sometimes the devil you know can feel better than the devil you don’t. In this case though we decided to go ahead and make the jump.

A school choice success story

What we found after making the jump to the new school was that we landed on a nice, soft cloud. While the new school our children are attending is not perfect, all of the problems we have found there have definitely been in the “minor” category. The education has been fabulous, the culture is strong and the teachers are dedicated.

I share this story with you so that you know you are not alone in your struggle to find the right school for your child.  Every parent I spoke to in our search to find the right school agreed that educational decisions on behalf of their children were some of the most difficult decisions they had to make.

But don’t feel locked in. Just because you live in a certain school district or because your children have been at their school for many years does not mean that you cannot transfer them to a new school. Or even decide to homeschool them. You do have options. Some options are easier than others. The easiest option, of course, is just sending your child on a school bus to your local public school. But is this the best option?

Final thoughts on school choice

Remember, you have the choice to homeschool your children or to send them to a charter school, a private school or your local public school.  Look into your options. Examine how your children are currently doing in school.  Are you happy with their educational performance? When you have a serious concern, is the school appropriately responsive? If not, consider taking your educational dollars and walking with them to a place that deserves the privilege of educating your children.

Thank you for reading with me today.  Please enter your email address below to subscribe to my blog, which will allow my future posts to come directly to your inbox.  Write to me at dr.pamela@happyhealthychildren.org with any topics you would like to see me cover in the future.  And please share my Gettr account, Facebook page, YouTube videos and Instagram with your friends and family.  My goal is to help parents raise happy, healthy children!

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