We parents who send our children to private school have a lot in common. Most of us want our children to think critically, analyze information, and read widely. For example, Nancy and I wanted to stretch our girls academically. That's why we sent them off to private school. Those poor kids never stood a chance because my late wife read to her daughters almost from birth. She was a voracious reader. She read real books made out of paper, not books on an iPad or Kindle. She had an honors degree in French language and literature and Spanish language and literature. She attended private schools in New York City. Academic excellence was simply a given from her point of view. I was passionate about music and made a career in church music as an organist and choir director. I mention these facts about us because I know you have your upbringing and educational experiences that have shaped you. Those will shape how you plan your child's schooling at every level.
Many of us also have public schools that are considered very good or excellent. In our case, we were fortunate to have excellent public schools. But we didn't like the large class sizes and the limited curriculum that they offered. So those were among the reasons we started looking for other options for our girls' elementary and high school educations.
Here are seven cases that look at some of the reasons parents choose a private school education for their children.
Must have: Episcopal affiliation
These parents were observant Episcopalians. They wanted their children to grow up in a school setting that followed the teachings and daily rhythm of the Episcopal Church. They were able to find suitable schools on the National Association of Episcopal Schools. Whatever religion you are looking for, you will find a wealth of information on the various denominations' websites. Use the search tool on Private School Review to begin searching for schools.
This video offers a look at the academics at Virginia Episcopal High School.
Must have: Hockey and college-prep academics
These parents are looking for a day school with a strong hockey program. Several coaches had told them that their son had the potential to become a professional hockey player. So, before they began looking for schools, they asked a professional hockey coach to evaluate their son's potential. He also was able to offer suggestions about which schools to attend. They also wanted a viable Plan B in case their son changed his mind about playing hockey professionally. That led them to consider schools that had academic programs which will prepare him for college.
Must have: Instrumental music and college prep academics
These parents wanted to find a school with a strong instrumental music program. They lived in a major city where their daughter studied violin since she was eight years old. They wanted her to continue her private studies while augmenting her musical experience playing in an ensemble at school. Their daughter's violin teacher was able to suggest two private high schools that had chamber music programs. These parents also wanted schools with comprehensive college preparatory programs. Since they had so many choices, they hired an educational consultant to help them find day schools that met their needs and requirements.
Must have: AP Courses
Both parents had attended public schools on Long Island, New York, with extensive Advanced Placement course offerings. The schools also offered guidance and practice in taking the SATs. So, they are looking for a private high school on Long Island that offers an abundance of AP courses taught by experienced teachers. They also want their son to be in small classes where every student wants to do their best. A dress code and a code of conduct are other items on their private school punch list. They also want him to play badminton in the winter and tennis in the summer. And - you guessed it - they expect him to apply to top-tier colleges. Their educational consultant helped them develop a shortlist of private day and boarding schools that met their requirements.
This video offers an overview of the Advanced Placement program.
Must have: IB curriculum
These parents went to school in Europe. As a result, they appreciate the depth and breadth of the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Consequently, they want their children to attend a school that offers the IB program, at a minimum, at the high school level. The IB website will list schools in their area. If there are no schools near them offering the International Baccalaureate, they will have to consider boarding schools with IB programs. Implicit in their needs and requirements are schools that also provide extensive athletics and extracurricular activities.
Must have: Military school
Attending military school has been a family tradition for these parents. As a result, they plan to send their son to a military school, although not the same one several generations of the family have attended. That school ceased operations a few years ago. Most military schools are residential. So, search on Boarding School Review using the filter "military" to produce a list of schools to review in-depth.
This video offers a look at Culver Academies.
Must have: no grades or marks
As a rule, private high schools that do not give marks or grades fall into the progressive camp of schools. While there are approximately 29,000 private schools in the United States, less than 100 high schools follow the progressive approach. (I am not including Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emiglia schools in the progressive category, although, for all practical purposes, we should consider them progressive. But they are almost all elementary schools.) If you are thinking about sending your child to a progressive school, chances are you will have to send her to a residential school.
You know your child better than anyone. By all means, listen to what your consultant says. After all, she knows her schools just the same way your attorney knows contract law. Do your due diligence with some thorough searches online. Visit schools. You must see for yourself what's behind those glossy brochures and gorgeous web photographs. Ask your accountant to review the IRS Form 990 for schools on your shortlist. He will be able to spot any financial issues in a nano-second. In the end, choose the school where your child will be the happiest.
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