One question parents should ask themselves is, “What do I really want from my child’s education?” This question is the first one parents should ask when enrolling their children in school for the first time, but it is also a good question to come back to each year. It is easy to think that we have to follow the same educational pattern that we grew up in or that everyone around us accepts as normal, but the truth is, we have options. In fact, never before have we had so many options in education, so parents are in the driver’s seat like never before. With so many options available, a few clarifying questions are in order:
Public or Private?
Some areas of the country have public school systems that perform well academically. Public schools in the Northeast, for example, enroll some of the highest achieving students found anywhere in the world. For Christians, however, the agenda found in public school systems is often antithetical to their long-held beliefs. Private schools in many areas of the country achieve better results in reading, writing, and arithmetic than public schools, but there are many options there as well. In Florida and other states, the price of private education is often no longer a hindrance for families because of the various school choice scholarship programs in place. Individual schools also often offer tuition assistance that puts a private education within reach for many families.
Secular or Christian?
Many private secular schools offer college prep programs that boast high academic standards, preparing students well for college and career. Again for Christians, though, while the reading, writing, and arithmetic may be solid, the trappings can be problematic for parents who are serious about passing on a Christian way of life to their children. On the other hand, Christian schools are often strong when it comes to passing along the Faith but suspected of being weak when it comes to education. Some Christian schools, however, have managed to bridge the gap: classical Christian schools are both passing along a Christian way of being to their students and giving them an education that equals or even surpasses the secular college prep schools. Christians no longer have to settle for one or the other.
Big or small?
Parents often think a mega school is the only school that will offer lots of opportunities for their children. It is certainly true that a school with 1,000 or more students is likely to offer everything from football to debate. Remember, though, that the competition will be stiff. A “B” level actor is not likely to win a spot in the school play at a huge school so may never discover his true potential in drama. It stands to reason that a smaller school will provide fewer opportunities, but the competition may not be as fierce for those opportunities. That can afford students more chances to develop talent that would never have been nurtured in a larger school.
Class size is worth considering too. A teacher with fifteen students should have more time with individual students than a teacher who has twenty-five students in every class. Is it better for your child to be well known by his instructors or to go relatively unnoticed? Most students thrive in smaller classes.
Parental involvement comes into play here as well. Larger schools generally have more machinery; in other words, they have a routine that runs best without parents. Small schools often welcome parental involvement and even thrive on it. How involved do you want to be in your child’s education?
G. K. Chesterton once said that education, rather than dealing in subjects as we may tend to think, is really more about the transfer of a way of life to students. Parents should ask themselves what way of life they want transferred to their children. As you consider what it is you want from your child’s education, ask the questions of schools that help you answer what way of life they are transferring to their students. Choosing a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will ever make—not only for you, but for your child’s eternal life. So, what do you want from your child’s education?