Choosing a Private School

This section will provide expert advice, valuable tools, and relevant resources to aid in the decision making process. Learn more about what factors to consider when choosing a private school, what to expect at an open house, and how an educational consultant can help.
View the most popular articles in Choosing a Private School:
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What Do They Teach?
As you evaluate schools, take time to explore fully what the schools which you are looking at teach.
This article is a companion article to How Do They Teach? which discusses what goes on in private school classrooms. This article explores the academics and other material which schools actually teach.
 
When we parents first start thinking about sending our children to private school, one of the first questions which comes to mind is the teaching content. What exactly will the schools you are looking at teach? Obviously with thousands of private schools I cannot address all the permutations and variations which exist. So I thought it might make sense for us to look at several educational approaches and methods and see what they teach. That will at least give you a starting point for some in depth exploration of what they are teaching at schools you might be interested in.
 
Toddler
 
The wee ones won't be at school for very long on a daily basis. Apart from that the teachers will create a rich environment to peak a child's interests. Development of fine and gross motor skills are a focus as are language and speech skills.
 
Prekindergarten
 
Most prekindergarten programs focus on preparing their students for kindergarten. Look for the development of motor skills and teaching children how to socialize. Also look for play-based lessons and an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork and listening. Building on the excitement of discovery is another component in the prekindergarten teacher's portfolio of skills. Children learn by doing. Your child should have lots to do balanced of course with snacks and quiet times. Here
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What Do I Do When....? Part 2
Here are some more answers and resources to help you deal with tough questions such as "What do I do when my child doesn't test well?"
I wrote Part 1 of What Do I Do When...? a few years ago. It contained eight questions and my answers. Here are another ten questions. If you think of any other questions which you would like answered, all you have to do is to tweet them to me @privateschl I will give them my best shot.
 
So, here goes Part 2 of What Do I Do When....?
 
What do I do when....
 
I can't decide whether to send my child to private school for the early years or for the high school years? Which is more important?
 
There are two schools of thought on this subject. Some parents feel that the early years give their children that solid educational foundation and love of learning which is so desirable. Other parents feel that an intense three or four years of high school college preparation is what their children need. Still others send their children right through from prekindergarten through to twelfth grade.
 
I want my child to have a religious education?
 
Our faith means so much to us. We have raised our children to be observant and to practice our religion. I hear you and in this situation your best option will probably be a private religious school. The biggest obstacle which you will face has to do with the available options in your area. Private schools exist in just about any faith you can think of. They also exist in various levels of orthodoxy within those faiths. Most religious schools will be
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Religious Schools: An Overview
Your religion matters to you. You want your child to attend a school which will combine academics and religious education. Here is an overview of what is available together with some links to denominational web sites.
One of the main reasons many of us parents look at private schools is because we want our children to receive a religious education. I define a religious education for the purposes of this article as an education which adheres more or less to the religious beliefs which we hold dear. In other words if you are Roman Catholic, you will want to think seriously about educating your child in a Roman Catholic school.
 
It has been several years since I examined the data on religious schools in the National Center for Education Statistics Private School Universe Survey. This survey covers academic year 2011-2012.  So I was fascinated to see that out of the 30,000 private schools in the United States approximately 21,000 were described as religiously-oriented schools. About 9,000 schools were what we call non-sectarian or not affiliated with any specific religion.  By comparison there were approximately 99,000 public schools in the 2011-2012 academic year. That would mean that private K-12 schools are educating approximately 30% of school-age children.
 
Let's review the 25 religious categories which the Private Universe Survey documents.
 
Roman Catholic: The Roman Catholic Church has always taken its educational mission seriously. As a result about 7,000 K-12 schools educate 1.9 million students. Catholic schools include parochial schools which are largely K-8 schools and diocesan high schools. These schools are mostly organized and administered at the local and regional level. Add to this mix hundreds of schools which were established by the various religious orders - Jesuit,
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 Why Did You Select That School?
"Because I heard it is a good school." That may well be, but there are some other factors in the private school selection process we need to consider.
One of the first things a parent says when she speaks to me about private schools is something along the lines of "I want my son to go to such and such a school." When I diplomatically ask why she is interested in that specific school, the answer is usually "because I heard it is a really good school." That is a starting point in determining which school your child should attend. However, there is much more to the process than merely expressing an interest in a school because you heard it was a good one.
 
So, why not you and I work our way through that initial consultation? Hopefully it will help you refine your private school search process. Ideally it will help you find a school which meets your requirements as well as what your child needs to flourish and be happy.
 
What are you really looking for?
 
Understanding what you are really looking for is a critical part of any private school search process. So, start at the beginning and apply a couple of filters. The first filter asks what type of school are you looking for? Day or boarding? With thousands of private schools here in the United States as well as hundreds more in Canada and the United Kingdom, using this filter reduces the number of schools for our consideration rather dramatically.

As this introduction to choosing a private school states, you have to look at a lot of schools before you find the one that's right
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Find! Visit! Apply!
What's involved with choosing the right private school for your child? These three steps: find schools, visit schools and apply to schools.
Many years ago I had no clue what a private school was, much less how to get into one. I can remember one of my public school classmates announcing that he was going to be attending a private school beginning the next academic year. Indeed about three of my classmates ended up going to what is still a prestigious old Montreal private school, Lower Canada College. I also had a few friends who had transferred in from a boarding school in the Eastern Townships. As I learned a little later, they had been asked to leave the school. In any case, I am trying to make the point that you are not the only person who isn't really sure how private schools work, how to get your child in and so on. So let's keep this really simple. You won't get too stressed. You might actually find it enjoyable finding the right private school for your child. 
 
Find!
 
The first step in the process is to find schools which you can explore and investigate as part of your personal due diligence. Sending your child to private school is a major commitment both financially and in terms of your investment of your personal time and energy as a parent. So it is important that we get it right.
 
Fortunately for us just about every private school has some kind of web site. You will find all levels of web sites ranging from embarrassingly amateurish to extremely professional. Don't let a school's web site
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Choosing a Private School

Getting Started

In this section we offer a look into some of the most important factors of choosing a private school. Investigate single-sex education and read what students have to say, learn more about what is important when choosing a private school, and get valuable advice on transitioning to a new school.

Finding Schools

Learn more about how to find and evaluate private schools. Find out why price should not be your only consideration. Get valuable advice on how to save time and money when choosing a school. Learn more about ranking schools and why it may not work.

Evaluating Schools

Here you will find resources and tools to aid in your search and evaluation of private schools. Explore the ranking system and read what schools have to say about it. Learn more about the most important questions to ask and how an education consultant can get answers. Use our checklists to help compare school administration, curriculum and more.