As your children reach school age—or perhaps they’ve been in school for some time now—you may find yourself considering whether private school is the right choice for them. It could be that you are currently homeschooling your child but are looking for a bit more day-to-day structure. It could be that they’re currently in public school, or it could even be that the private school they’re attending just isn’t the right fit for them. Or, like many new parents, you’re simply trying to get a jumpstart on school research so you’re prepared to make a decision once your child reaches preschool or kindergarten age. One thing is certain: Choosing when and what private school is an incredibly important decision and it’s one that looks different for every family. As a parent, you’ll know what’s best for your unique child and the way they learn in certain environments.
As you navigate the private school decision, we have a handful of tips to help make the decision easier and to guide you on the questions you should ask during private school visitations.
The Factors to Consider
Whether your child is too young to weigh in on the decision about which private school they’ll attend, or they’re old enough to consider the options, there are a number of factors to consider.
First and foremost, consider the type of environment your child already thrives in. Do they benefit from a highly structured learning environment or does their curiosity call for a more freeform learning experience? One of the benefits of choosing private school over public school is that you can place your child in an environment that is more tailored to their individual needs. Class sizes are smaller, education is more tailored, and course offerings can vary more.
If you are the parent of a very young child and are considering private school just as they reach preschool age, there are certain queues that can help you identify what type of learner your child is. As a general rule, all people are kinesthetic, visual, or auditory learners. Typically, we are a balance of all three but have a tendency to lean toward one specific style. Understanding, even at the most basic level, what type of learner your child is will help you identify which private school may be best for them.
“The five top factors for parents and students to consider when deciding on a private school should be accreditations, course offerings, Biblical foundation, mission, and opportunity,” explained Ashley Saunders, Director of Marketing and Communications for Liberty Christian Academy. “At LCA, we are able to support our students by recognizing each student’s individual needs. We combine small class sizes, our guidance team, and full-time campus pastor to create a team of support for our students.”
Choosing whether or not to enroll your child in a parochial school—or a school that is affiliated with a religious or spiritual organization—is also a factor to consider. Within the Lynchburg, Campbell, and Bedford footprints, there is an incredible diversity among private schools so you can align your child with a curriculum that matches your family’s lifestyle and spiritual beliefs.
Also take into consideration the extracurriculars and athletics available to your child. Each private school offers a different set of opportunities—some of which aren’t often found at our local public schools, like lacrosse. Consider the musical opportunities that may be available to your child as well.
“A parent or student should consider the educational philosophy and curriculum of the school, as well as the school’s culture and values, outcomes, extracurriculars and athletic programs, and classroom size and student-teacher ratio,” said Maryanna Stands, Associate Head of School for Advancement and Director of Admissions for James River Day School.
There are certain misconceptions attached to private schools that should be debunked as you’re navigating the private school decision, as well.
“A common misconception is that parents think there are less opportunities for their students, whether it be extracurricular or academic,” said Saunders.
“People think private schools are only for wealthy students and provide a less diverse student body,” continued Stands. “James River Day School is more diverse, both socioeconomically and culturally, than most people think. Nearly a quarter of our families receive some amount of need-based tuition assistance, and 21-percent of our students come from ethnically diverse backgrounds. We continue to focus some of our strategic efforts on diversity, equity, and inclusion as a more diverse school is what’s best for all of our students.”
As you’re visiting the local private schools that you’ve identified as potential options for your child, have a running list of some of the assumptions that you may have about that particular private school, or just private school in general. Ask pointed questions to challenge those assumptions—you may just be pleasantly surprised at the answers.