Are you looking for public school alternatives? There are plenty of students who do well in traditional public schools. However, there are also plenty of students who don’t, or who could be doing better in a different environment. If you or your child is struggling in a public school, or you think they would thrive best in a different setting, read on to learn more about public school alternatives.
Here are some of the main public school alternatives:
- Online School
- Traditional Private School
- Charter School
- Military School
- Montesorri School
- Waldorf School
- Country Day School
- One on One School
- Magnet School
- Boarding School
- Dual Enrollment Programs
Let’s take a closer look at each of these public school alternatives to see which might be the best fit for you and your child.
In a homeschool setting, children are primarily educated by their parent(s) in the home. Parents who homeschool their children may follow a curriculum suggested by their child’s school district, or follow another set curriculum. Other parents prefer to design the curriculum themselves. Parents who choose homeschooling typically want to have more direct involvement in their child’s education. They may choose homeschooling as a public school alternative to provide extra support or help when a student is struggling academically or behaviorally. Or, they may choose it because they want their child to have more one on one attention.
Different states have different laws regarding homeschooling. Some states require a certain number of hours and days for homeschool students, and some require certain subjects to be taught. Depending on the state, you may or may not need to belong to a type of homeshool association or group, and some states also require proof of academic progress.
Because of the rise of technology, access to online school has increased, as have online school options. Online school is taught by a licensed teacher who follows a curriculum. They teach lessons, give tests and quizzes and keep records of student grades and scores. Depending on the program, some online schools are tuition free and offer the option to personalize learning plans. Some parents choose to combine online school with their homeschooling curriculum. Online school offers students the ability to move through lessons they understand quickly, while taking more time with content they find challenging. High schoolers who do online school can even take online AP courses! While online school typically follows the curriculum of a traditional public school, it offers this content to students in a more comfotable and individualized way.
Traditional Private School
Parents choolse private schools for a variety of reasons. Some include: a religious aspect to their child’s education, a single-sex education, or more flexible curriculum and teaching styles. Private schools also tend to have smaller class sizes, more unique class offerings, and nicer campuses. They can be a more accepting environment for students with learning disabilities or who need help with social skills. Many private schools have better academic reputations than their public school counterparts. There is also often more parental involvement in learning and the school community. Private schools typically offer high level extra-curriculars (clubs, sports, arts, music). However, private schools also charge tuition for students, and it can get expensive quickly.
Charter Schools are publicly funded schools, but they are operated by an independent group. They don’t have to follow all of the same guidelines and rules as traditional public schools. They have more flexiblity in regards to curriculum, hours, and hiring and firing teachers. However, charter schools are accountable to meet certain standards. They are closed if they fail to do so. Some states do not allow charter schools. Parents often choose charter schools because they are academically focused, have more flexiblity than public schools, and work hard to meet their accounatbility standards.
Unschooling is a type of homeschooling. Unschooling does not involve a set curriculum, but is based on the belief that children learn best and primarily through real life experiences. Parents use housework, travel, internships, books and interactions as ways to teach their children. A set curriculum or standard is not taught in unschooling. Children are invited to follow their interests and parents are heavily involved, making sure that the child is learning lessons throughout each experience. Above all, parents encourage their children to participate in a wide range of experiences so that they can learn even more.
Military schools are offered at several different levels: middle school, high school, college, and the graduate level. They teach students in a way that includes military tradition and training in military subjects. They are often boarding schools. Private institutions run most military schools, but some are publicly funded by a state or a school district. Along with military training, students at these schools also receive a formal academic education. Military schools emphasize following commands, protocol and those with seniority. Some students thrive in an environment of strict discipline and are interested in military subjects. Other students have a difficult time with the exacting nature of military schools.
Montessori schools are a type of private school based on the theory of self-directed learning by Dr. Mari Montessori. In these schools, students are free to choose lessons and activities that interest them most. Montessori classes are often mixed-aged and give students uninterrupted blocks of time to work. Teachers observe students closely to recognize the child’s characteristics, talents, abilities and tendencies. There are no grades and tests given. Students are given freedom within limits to help them develop and maintain a love for learning. Montessori schools for older children give lessons that cover a wide variety of subjects and allow the students to work on follow up projects after the lesson that interest them.
Waldorf schools are a type of private school based on the educational theory of Rudloph Steiner. These schools emphasize imagination and creativity. While traditional academic subjects are taught, there is an empahsis on art, music and language. As a result, teachers and students have freedom and flexibility in the curriculum and content that is taught. Teachers encourage students to be creative in all aspects of their learning. Students may stay with the same teacher for several years, and teachers may spend up to a month on one subject. By introducing new content slowly, students discover things for themselves. Waldorf schools aim to help each student develop intellectual, artisitic and practical skills by emphasizing creativity and imagination,
Country Day School
Country Day schools are private schools that provide training in traditional academic subjects and emphasizes outdoor activities, a welcoming atmosphere and developing a love for learning in students. These schools also focus on physical and mental awareness and problem-solving abilities. The curriculum is often presented as unit studies. Country Day schools offer a variety of after school programs for students in order for them continue to develop physically, socially, intellectually and spiritually, as well as develop leadership skills.
One on One School
One on One schools are just what they sound like! One student with one teacher. Students come to school and work one on one with teachers throughout the day. Students learn at their own pace. One on One schools typically offer core academic classes as well as many unique electives that students can choose from. These schools usually personalize learning for students based on skill level, interests and need. One on One schools can be a great choice for students who are struggling learning in a large group or who need an environment with fewer distractions to learn best.
Although Magnet schools are technically a type of public school, they are not a traditional public school. The typically specialize in an area of expertise, like science, technology, the arts or college prep. As a result, Magnet schools can accept students from a larger geographical area than traditional public schools. Admissions are usually competive and can be based on grades, test scores, performances, try outs, etc. or a lottery system. Students at magnet schools may be given academic and extra-curricular opportunities that are not available at traditional public schools. Magnet schools do follow the state and district curriculum and standards in all areas of study.
Boarding schools are private schools that require or offer housing for students on campus. Boarding schools typically follow strict rules and offer a traditional educational curriculum. Schedules are rigid and students’ days are often inflexible. These schools usually offer many extra-curicular activities to their students. Boarding schools do not allow for much parental involvement in the education process.
Dual Enrollment Programs
When students are juniors and/or seniors in high school, they may have the opportunity to participate in a Dual Enrollment Program or just take a dual enrollment class. These classes are taught at a community college that allow the student to receive credit for high school as well as college. Depending on where you live, this may or may not be an option as a pubilc school alternative.
Some dual enrollment programs have students take all of their classes at the community college, while others only offer certain classes. Or a student may decide to just take one or two classes at the community college. Dual enrollment programs give students the chance to see what college classes will be like, they may be able to take classes not offered at their high school and some classes may even be offered on line. In order to be sure your child receives high school and college credit, talk with your high school and community college advisors/counselors.
Public School Alternatives
We hope that our round up of public school alternatives was helpful to you. We wanted to give you an overview of many different options so that you could choose the ones that resonate most with you and your child and take a more in depth look on your own.