1. Private schools are really private.
By design American private schools are really private. While in most cases they observe applicable state laws with respect to minimum requirements concerning what is taught, private schools are answerable to their boards and their clients, i.e., the families who send students to them.
2. Private schools are more affordable than you think.
Granted, some private schools are very expensive. Especially boarding schools. However, since they generally seek to attract a diverse student population, most private schools offer generous financial aid packages.
3. Several private schools are free.
Years ago several benefactors established schools which will cost eligible students virtually nothing to attend. In more recent times the Cristo Rey network of schools has made a private school education almost free for families of limited means.
4. Some private schools are residential.
Residential private schools are known as boarding schools. Your child will attend classes as well as eat and sleep at the school. Professional, experienced adult supervision ensures the safety of your child 24/7.
5. Most private schools are day schools.
In a day school your child attends classes during normal daytime hours. Extracurricular activities and sports are typically included within that day time schedule.
6. Some private schools offer a blend of day and boarding options.
Boarding schools located in a town or city often offer a day student option for local families. That can reduce the cost of a private school education significantly.
7. Some private schools are religious schools.
Roman Catholic, Muslim, Christian, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Seventh Day Adventist, Quaker, Jewish and dozens of other religions are represented in the private school world. If educating your child in a school which observes and practises your religion is important to you, there will be a private school suitable for your needs and requirements.
8. Some private schools are non-sectarian.
Non-sectarian usually means that a school does not adhere to any particular religious beliefs. School functions will include prayers and readings from the Bible and other religious writings. But apart from that there is no denominational emphasis.
9. Some private schools offer military training.
Looking to send your daughter or son to a school with Junior ROTC and other military training? Then you should review and evaluate private military schools. They offer excellent academics combined with the focused military training you want.
10. Most private schools require admissions testing in one form or another.
Unlike public schools which pretty much have to accommodate anybody within their geographic boundaries who registers, private schools admit applicants after a rigorous and thorough admissions process. This process includes among other things a standardized admissions test such as the SSAT or ISEE.
11. Many private schools offer just the early grades: PK-3.
Most communities of any size will have a pre-school or two or three. These schools come in all flavors and sizes so do your due diligence very carefully. Most of the time you will know that the school is a good one when there are way more applicants than places. You might want to consider putting your child's name on the list shortly after she is born in the case of some very highly sought after urban pre-schools. If a school follows the Montessori, Waldorf or Reggio Emilia philosophy, be sure to check it. It just might suit your needs.
12. Other private schools offer grades PK-8.
The PK through grade 8 schools are frequently found attached to a religious establishment. When that is the case, tuition is generally affordable. The religious component, however, is not optional in most of these schools. In addition to the faith-based PK-8 schools, there are usually a few non-sectarian PK-8 schools available as well.
13. Many private schools offer only high school grades 9-12 (13).
Most private high schools are college preparatory schools. That is, their curricula are designed to prepare your child for college level studies. There are many ways to accomplish this, of course. Investigate. Compare. Ask lots of questions. You will find the school which is the best fit for you and your child.
14. Many private schools offer all the grades from PK-12 (13).
Most of the private schools which offer all the grades are day schools. They will have an upper and a lower school each with its own faculty and administration. Assuming that things work out, it is rather comfirting to know that once your child gets into a primary grade, she could conceivably stay at the same school right through until graduation from grade 12.
15. Some private schools cater exclusively to students with special needs.
Children with special needs deserve to be taught by highly experienced professionals who know how to teach children with special needs. The small class sizes found in these schools coupled with plenty of one on one time with the teachers make these schools very effective at what they do.
16. Athletics are compulsory at most private schools.
Athletics are not aptional at most private schools. They are an integral part of school programs. The idea simply put is that a healthy mind needs a healthy body. Typically schools will set aside an afternoon in the middle of the week for sports and other athletic activities. Everybody gets involved - students and teachers. The scope of athletic programs offered depends on many factors. If a particular sport is important to your child, investigate thoroughly. Not every school has a natatorium or an equestrian program.
17. A few private schools specialize in sports.
A very limited number of private schools specialize in certain sports such as skiing or tennis. If you feel that your child needs an advanced level of instruction or a major focus on a specific sport, private school may well prove to be your best option.
18. Extracurricular activities are also compulsory at most private schools.
Just as with athletics everybody gets involved with extracurricular activities in private school. Private schools believe that their students learn important life lessons by being involved in an extracurricular activity.
19. Each private school decides what it is going to teach and how it is going to teach it.
Private schools exceed whatever state-mandated minimum requirements exist in the core subjects. They teach those subjects and many other ones in a manner they choose
20. Many private schools belong to the National Association of Independent Schools.
The NAIS is the trade association for private K-12 education. Located in Washington, DC, it offers a wealth of information and guidance for its members. It also promotes and protects the interests of private schools.
21. Private school teachers tend to have degrees in their subject areas.
An education degree is acceptable currency in teaching. But a degree in your subject area, such as Mandarin or physics, is what most private schools will expect you to have.
22. Many private schools offer needs-blind admission.
If your child can meet or exceed the academic standard for admission, the school will help you be able to afford to send your child to the school.
23. Many private high schools offer extensive Advanced Placement programs.
Advanced Placement or AP courses are important to many parents who see them as a way of guaranteeing success in college. Some progressive private schools do not offer AP courses. If this aspect of your child's education matters to you, investigate, observe and ask questions.
24. A small number of private schools offer the International Baccalaureate diploma program.
The International Baccalaureate or IB program is, as the name implies, an international curriculum. It is based in Switzerland. The IB curriculum is comprehensive and covers elementary grades through high school.
25. The National Center for Education Statistics offers a wealth of data and information about private K-12 schools.