For some parents, choosing a school is easy. You may already be familiar with a fantastic school in your district or a great program that’s affiliated with your religious community.
For other parents, choosing the right school can be an extremely complicated process. For instance, what’s the difference between a charter school and a magnet school? Are there benefits to selecting a non-traditional curriculum? Or is a nearby public school the better option?
Below you’ll find a summary of the different types of schools to help you better understand what’s out there.
The Different Types of Schools
Here’s a brief description of each category of schools and what type of academic atmosphere you can expect. Keep in mind that every child is unique, so while one kind of learning environment might be great for some, it doesn’t mean it’s perfect for every child.
Public schools receive funding through local, state, and federal governments. The amount of funding for each one will vary according to tax rates and allocation sources, which means that every public school operates differently according to the location. Because the government manages public schools, admission is free, and there are strict standards that they need to follow. For instance, teachers need to be state-certified, and the state accredits curriculums.
Many families love their local public schools because they typically offer after-school programs, free transportation, and lots of extracurricular activities. Some disadvantages of public schools are that they tend to have larger class sizes and a heavy focus on standardized testing.
Private schools receive funding from foundations, religious affiliates, or individuals and charge a tuition fee for attendance. Because they’re not operated by the government, teachers aren’t required to be certified, and state accreditation is optional.
Private schools can be an attractive choice for parents because they often offer small class sizes, allowing children to get more individualized attention. Classrooms are also stacked with supplies, learning materials, and advanced technology. However, attending a private school can also be incredibly expensive, there may be less diversity, and not all children are guaranteed admission.
A magnet school is part of the public school system, but students aren’t limited to zoning, which means they can attend from different districts. The fundamental difference between a traditional public school and a magnet school is that magnet schools focus on specialized programs of interest, such as technology, science, or the arts.
Magnet schools promote hands-on learning, have smaller class sizes, and are well-known for employing highly-educated faculty members. However, the admission process can be complicated, especially if it’s based on a lottery system.
Charter schools are a hybrid of public and private schools. Government tax dollars and private organizations fund them, but they operate independently. They do not charge tuition, but many have a strict admissions process because of small class sizes. Even though they operate independently, charter schools need to meet specific performance expectations set by the state.
These programs are primarily created and run by parents, teachers, and administrations. Many parents and caregivers like the flexibility in teaching methods and the family-oriented style. However, many charter schools require parents to volunteer regularly, which can be challenging for those working full-time.
Parochial schools are private and associated with a local church, parish, or diocese. Most are connected to the Catholic church, but Protestant and Hebrew schools are sometimes also referred to as parochial. Children don’t necessarily have to be religious or belong to a church to attend these schools, but they will receive daily religious instruction. Parochial schools charge tuition and often have a strict admissions policy.
Most of the schools listed above adhere to a traditional form of learning –teacher-led classrooms with a structured curriculum. But there are other types of schools out there that provide non-traditional instruction. Some examples are:
- Montessori – A method that promotes child-led learning. Teachers adapt to the student’s learning style, and children are encouraged to be independent and lean into their natural interests and curiosity. Instead of rows of desks, there are typically play stations and mats on the floor for activities and projects.
- Waldorf – A school program that focuses on fostering a child’s intellectual, emotional, and physical growth according to their developmental stage. For example, early childhood classrooms provide physical and play-based atmospheres. The middle school focuses on emotional development, creativity, and imagination. After age 14, they receive purely intellectual instruction.
- The Reggio Emilia approach – A method mainly presented in preschool and primary school. Much like Montessori schools, this is a child-led approach with informal, open, and flexible classrooms. Teachers urge children to work collectively and present material through many forms such as activities, experiments, videos, music, drama, and art.
With so many school options, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by this decision! But with some careful consideration into each one, you’ll find the right environment for your child to flourish.