I am often asked what benefits there are for parents when they send their children to private school. The quintessential "What's in it for me?" is a legitimate question. After all you are thinking about sending your baby off to a school where you are being told she will work hard, learn how to get along with others and be involved in all kinds of activities. And it is going to cost you a small fortune to boot.
Your concerns are well-founded. So against that backdrop let's examine what I personally consider to be the three main benefits for us parents of sending our children to private school. Lest you think that I am speculating or theorizing, all four of our children went to private school. All grades too. Nursery school. Elementary school. Middle School and high school. So I speak from my own experience as a private school parent.
1. Knowing that your child will receive a comprehensive education: academics, sports and extracurricular activities.
Private schools educate the whole child. Educating the whole child requires an integrated program of academic studies, athletics and extracurricular activities. Essentially a private school is going to pick up where you left off when you sent her to school.
You have invested some serious time raising your child. Remember how you did it? Always a variety of activities. Always encouraging your child to do things she didn't know she could do. Always stimulating that little mind. Always inculcating a love of learning. Always patient explanations and answers to the hundreds of questions she had. Your age-appropriate answers and guidance laid the foundations for the next level of academic learning, sports and group activities. You had a plan. You worked that plan. Now all any good private school is going to do is to build on that solid foundation. The personal growth which you have worked so hard at achieving is now in very capable, professional hands.
The advantage for us as parents is that we no longer have to be the generalists in areas which we really perhaps didn't know too much about. Indeed there even might have been areas which we avoided either because we did not enjoy them or felt incapable of presenting them effectively. For example, you discover that your child has a gift for music and art. Yes, you exposed her to music and art to the best of your abilities. But can you imagine how she will respond under the watchful eye and guidance of a teacher who has a degree or two in music or fine arts. The combination of that professional training and the deep, abiding passion which every good teacher feels for her subject is precisely what your child needs to develop her talents. With the private school taking the reins and responsibility for your child's education, you can now relax and focus on the many enrichment activities which you can organize for her.
Knowing that your child will receive a comprehensive education in academics, sports and extracurricular activities is in my opinion the most important benefit a private school gives us parents. No more worry about planning all that activity. The school does it as part of its daily, ongoing program. Seamlessly. Professionally. Effectively.
2. Knowing that your child will benefit from the individual attention which comes from being in a small class - 10-15 students.
Your child is unique. She has specific needs which simply are not identical with other children in her class. Similar, yes. But not identical. Knowing that your child will not be a number or a faceless name in a class register which has 30 other names in it gives us parents tremendous piece of mind. Remember: she had your undivided attention from the time she was born until now. Why would you want to undo all that good work?
A small class size is the hallmark of just about every good private school I can think of. Students in small classes get to really know their teachers and vice-versa. Students in small classes cannot hide when they don't know the answer or when they are feeling out of sorts. Students in small classes won't be humiliated if they don't know the answers or don't understand the material. The skilled teacher will have the experience and skills necessary to draw your child into the discussion without embarrassing her. That's much harder to do with a larger class. Classroom management absorbs more of a teacher's time and attention when the the class is large.
Because her students are fully engaged in the discussions and learning process, the teacher can move as quickly as she can through the material at hand. Let me use the analogy of driving in order to explain: driving on a road with lots of twists and turns, hills and blind spots typically will slow you down in order to be safe. Once you are on the interstate you can drive much faster while still maintaining the safety margins you want and need. Much the same thing with teaching. A large class size will slow the teacher down because she has to try to keep all her students engaged. A small class size is rather like the interstate. You can move along at the speed limit safely and comfortably.
3.You will have the piece of mind which comes from knowing that your child is properly supervised while at school.
You never let your child out of your sight when she was an infant. When she started socializing, you were very careful about where she went and with whom. So why would you want to start worrying now about whether or not your child is properly supervised while at school?
To me the supervision which most private schools offer is a major benefit for us parents. Coupled with that is the fact that most private schools segment their various age groupings. So the primary grades will have their own building or section of a building just for them. Same with middle school and the high school grades. Their recreation facilities are separate as well and age appropriate. That gives young children the chance to explore and learn on their own terms.
Bad behavior when it does occur is dealt with promptly. Simply put, if you break the rules, you will face consequences. Swiftly. That is of some comfort to most of us parents. We understand that things can and do happen. But at least the school has policies and procedures in place to deal with things when they happen. The safety of your child is paramount. Most private schools have zero tolerance for things such as substance abuse. That's important to know.
Most private schools pride themselves on being a community in which respect for other members of the community is expected. The tone is set by the board and the faculty staff. Students are expected to follow suit.
These three benefits of private school are specific to us parents. Keep them in mind as you gather information and data about private schools.
Speaking of gathering information, be sure to start your school selection process as early as you can. A two year head start is not unreasonable. Why start so early? What will happen is that before you know it you have less than six months to visit schools and deal with all the admission requirements such as testing, transcripts and submitting your applications. And you have to do all this at the same time as you are managing your own affairs. It is a big project worth getting right.
To help you get organized and stay on course I have written three articles to guide you through the process. Bookmark them.
Questions? Contact me on Twitter. @privateschl