Should You Send Your Child to Private Primary or High School?

Should You Send Your Child to Private Primary or High School?
If you had to choose when to send your child to private school, would you send her to private school for the primary grades or high school?

If you had to choose when to send your child to private school, would you send her to private school for the primary grades or high school? It's a tough call. The expense alone is a significant consideration for many parents. Another consideration is the market where you live. Do you have several private school options to choose from? Using the search tool on Private School Review, I asked it to list schools within 25 miles of my zip code in Raleigh. There were 119 schools to choose from. Not all would meet my requirements, but at least I had some material to work with. Investigate your local private school options and see how those schools meet your requirements.

Could you send your child to primary school through 12th grade in the same school? Or would you have to consider individual schools for the immediate, middle, and high school grades? Would it make sense to send your child to public school for primary grades and then consider private school for high school?

Frankly, I always feel that the high school years are where things can go off the rails. I wanted my children in a well-disciplined, severe learning environment. That's what I got when I sent my two daughters to boarding school. They both attended private pre-schools. One attended a private primary school, and the other went to an excellent, tiny K-6 elementary school, which happened to be right across the street from our home in our northwest Connecticut town. The primary grades didn't worry me as much as the high school. I wanted a deeper bench of academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities than the local regional school offered.

Here is an example of the sort of program which appeals to me. This video is from The Episcopal School of Dallas.

It is a catch-22 situation. Primary school lays the foundation for solid achievement in high school, while high school lays the foundation for substantial achievement in college. If either foundation is constructed with less than the best materials, the structure built on that foundation will have deficiencies.

The role of the primary grades.

Primary grades build the foundation. Since most parents can more easily monitor and help with learning in the primary grades, sending your child to an excellent public school for the early years makes sense. The important thing any parent must do for her young child is to engage it in a wide variety of stimulating activities, such as reading, solving puzzles, making music, art, and so on. Limiting television and video game time and teaching your child to entertain himself with non-electronic activities is a good thing. The problem is that many parents feel they have to sacrifice quality time with their children for their careers and jobs. That is a callous call. If you can afford to stay home with your child while it is young, you can shape that young mind yourself instead of leaving that critical task to others. After all, you are particular about what food your child eats. Shouldn't you be just as particular about what ideas and facts your child's mind is fed?

Here is an example of what I mean.

You also need to know how your child's mind is being fed. Teachers whose training and experience are limited can hamper your child's progress. Those early years are when the school should reinforce the love of learning you have so carefully nurtured in your child since birth. So, if and when you decide to send your child to primary school, make a point of observing some classes to see how the teacher handles a wide variety of learning perspectives. She has to understand how a child learns and how he receives the information his teacher is presenting. An experienced teacher understands how to teach on several levels simultaneously to ensure that all her students know what they are learning.

The high school years: college preparatory or preparation for something else?

College prep curricula usually require subject specialists. These teachers have advanced degrees and years of experience teaching their subjects. Most high school subjects require specialist teachers with in-depth knowledge of their issues. On the other hand, high school subjects, especially those taught at the AP and IB levels, are intensive and quite complicated. You need a teacher who has a degree in Mandarin, Latin, or calculus to teach those subjects. The highly trained teachers in a good prep school can afford to know how to teach those subjects and prepare your child appropriately for the national examinations most colleges and universities will expect.

What if you think a progressive high school is what your child needs? Approach progressive schools like you would when looking at traditional schools that teach AP and IB courses. Progressive schools prepare their students for college. They use a different approach. Take the time necessary to fully understand what your child will hope to accomplish at a progressive school. Then, find a school that matches your objectives and requirements.

This video from the Wingra School offers a glimpse of what awaits students in a progressive school.

Teenagers need both supervision and stretching. Teenagers need the socialization, the structure, and the extension that a good private school can provide. "Idle hands are the devil's tools." If you are busy parents with demanding careers, prep school is the way to go. You won't be worrying about what your child is up to or who she is with because the school has all of those matters in hand. An ambitious college preparation program of study combined with sports and extracurricular activities will keep your teenager fully occupied. The coaching and mentoring necessary to transition from childhood to adulthood are built into a private school's mission and day-to-day program. The enrichment that every teenager needs is part of any good prep school's activities and routines.

This does not mean that you can abrogate your responsibilities as a parent. Private schools will always insist on your involvement in your child's education. Your role as a guide, exemplar, mentor, and friend does not change just because your child attends a private high school. You will find that it intensifies as you help your child deal with significant decisions, such as what to do after high school.

If you have to make a choice, invest in high school. If you don't have to choose, invest in private education from kindergarten. You will not regret it.

Questions? You may contact me on Facebook. @privateschoolreview

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