Extracurricular activities are not an extra in a private school. They are an integral part of the program each school offers.
Extracurricular activities are exactly that, extras, right? Unfortunately, in these tough economic times that is very often the case in public schools. Faced with declining tax revenues, public schools have had to make some very heavy cuts in their budgets. It's difficult to justify cutting teachers and course offerings. So, the 'extras' have to be cut. Extras in the public school world include extracurricular activities such as a band or orchestra as well as clubs and other activities.
In private schools extracurricular activities are an integral part of the school's offerings. Solid academics, a variety of athletic programs and an assortment of extracurricular activities are considered essential to the way a private school works.
Put another way, you cannot educate a child solely by teaching her academic subjects such as math and science. There's more to education than that. That's where sports and extracurricular activities come in. They allow your child to grow. They allow her to be stimulated by new ideas and ways of thinking. They give her a sense of accomplishment and encourage team spirit. These are all excellent lessons she needs to learn in order to be a successful adult.
Let's look at a couple of schools to get an idea of the rich array of choices your child will encounter at private school. Incidentally, it doesn't matter too much whether the private school you are considering is a day school or a boarding school. Either type of private school will offer more extracurricular activities than you can imagine. We have quoted from two schools' descriptions of their activity programs so that you can hear how important these are from the schools' perspective.
"At Middlesex life outside the classroom is marked by energy, exploration, and community. With over 60 clubs and organizations Middlesex students have a diverse and extensive set of opportunities to enrich their lives and learn through experience. Middlesex believes that creativity and self-discovery are important aspects of the student experience, and these clubs and other activities are a great way to find new interests or develop existing ones."
"The goal of The Hill School's Student Activities Office is to provide a diverse and enriching residential experience for the students and faculty. Activities are offered throughout the school year that appeal to a wide variety of interests."
Community Service Group
Ellis Theater Guild
Fine Woodworking Club
Fly Fishing Club
Guitar Ensemble Habitat for Humanity
Hill Athletic Association
International Culture Exchange
Math & Computer Club
Model United Nations
PDS Teaching Assistants
Peer Counseling Group
Speech & Debate Club
Stock Exchange Club
Student Activites Committee
Student Government Association
Tech Support Group
The Dial (yearbook)
The Hill News (newspaper)
The Record (literary journal)
The other consideration about extracurricular activities is the leadership aspect. Most private school teachers are required to supervise an extracurricular activity as part of their duties. In fact that is something which is spelled out in a teacher's contract. The benefit for your child is enormous. She gets to participate in an activity which is guided and directed by an adult who is enthusiastic about the activity. That adult is also one of her teachers. So she has the opportunity of seeing her teachers in a completely different setting from the classroom. Learning and having fun are a great combination. That's one of the reasons why private schools will preserve a rich array of extracurricular activities. Those activities are part of what make the school what it is.
Private Schools Jargon and Terms Private schools have their own jargon just like any activity or affinity group has. Here are some of the more common terms you are likely to encounter as you explore private schools.
How Diverse Are Private Schools? Decades ago private schools could have been accused of being elitist. You had to have money to attend. The student populations were fairly homogeneous. Fortunately that has changed.
Waldorf Schools Waldorf schools offer a well thought out approach to K-12 education.
Schools for Gifted Children Teaching gifted children requires deft handling. These children need intellectual and sensory stimulation. But they also need guidance and careful nurturing so that they grow up handling their special gifts and themselves appropriately.
Teaching Boys Why teach boys in a single sex setting? The answer to this question and several others here.
Special Needs Schools Do you think your son has a learning disability? Not sure what to do? A special needs school might be the way to go.
The Oldest Schools The oldest American private school is Collegiate School in Manhattan founded in 1628.
Progressive Schools Progressive schools have been around since the early 1900's. Some educators think that progressives are rebels against traditional rote learning. The progressive educators like to think of themselves as reformers. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
Lab Schools What is a lab school? It's a K-12 school or school with some variation of those grades which is operated by a university or college.
Military Schools Military schools offer structure and discipline as well as a top-notch education.
Why Waldorf? Vicki Larson provides detailed answers to my questions about Waldorf schools.
Hockey Schools Got an aspiring hockey player in your family? Many American private schools enjoy a great reputation for excellent hockey teams as well as superb academics.
Schools with Non-traditional Approaches Categorizing schools is not a neat process. But there are several educational approaches and philosophies offer some alternatives to traditional schools. Here are some pros and cons about alternative schools.
Classical Christian Schools Classical Christian schools combine strict adherence to Christian beliefs with classical principles of education.
Seattle Area Schools The Seattle area is home to many fine private schools as well as to major companies such as Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks.
Boston Area Schools The metropolitan Boston area offers a wide range of academic and cultural activities. Just as impressive is the area's selection of private schools.
Directories A list of directories of private and independent schools.
Guides To Private Schools Do you prefer to peruse a book rather than going online to find private schools? If so, there are some excellent guides to private schools available.
National Associations As you research schools, check the national and state associations. Is the school you are considering a member? If not, why not?
Regional Associations Some states do not have their own private school associations. Schools band together across state lines forming regional associations. These associations have the same purpose as state associations. More here.
State Associations Do the schools you are researching belong to state independent school associations? If not, find out why not!
Litchfield County Schools Litchfield County, Connecticut, is home to a couple of dozen excellent schools catering to just about every need. The setting about 90 miles north of New York City is convenient to one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.