This article is the first of three articles which address the advantages of sending your child to private school. Private schools offer several advantages specific to students of which you as a parent need to be aware. Here are three of them.
1. Your child will build a network of friends which she will have for life.
Some of you may wonder why I would put this benefit for students at the top of my list. That's because I sincerely believe that networking is the key to success in just about everything these days. Because most private schools are fairly small communities - the typical private high school is about 350 students - your child will have a really good chance of getting to know almost everybody in the school community, especially her classmates. While your child may come from an entirely different background, perhaps even country, from her classmates, she will get to know everybody in the classroom as well as on the playing field and on the stage. With social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram and LinkedIn providing instantaneous communications these days, it is fairly easy to keep that high school network of friends going after she graduates.
This close-knit network of friends from school will help open doors for years after she graduates. The bonds of friendship developed in private school are an important advantage for a private school student as she begins her career.
Private schools are able to build team spirit and school pride because everybody is on the same page. Remember: you chose the school and the school chose you. Both parties mutually agreed to this partnership. There's no passive acceptance factor here. You didn't have to send your child to a school simply because you lived within school district boundaries. You wanted your child to attend that specific private school. That school wanted her to attend.
Implicit in that acceptance is that you bought into the school's aims and objectives, philosophy and the general way things are done at the school. Without constant distractions from parents who have other agendas, it really is possible to build community spirit and a sense of purpose within a school. That, in turn, builds strong bonds among the students as they progress through their high school years and then finally head off to college and their careers. An important constant - an anchor if you will - is that network of friends which she has built during her years at private school. It is a distinct advantage of attending private school.
2. She will be stretched by the demands of rigorous academic studies combined with compulsory athletics and required extracurricular activities.
The amount of work involved in and intensity of private school academics are a game changer for most young people. They begin to ask themselves "Is it my best?" versus "I can get away with that." The rigorous academics in most private schools expect greatness. Your child's personal best. The teaching and the coursework is designed with that goal in mind. Children will rise to those expectations too. Perhaps that is something a helicopter parent can't understand. The reality is that if everybody in her class is working hard and doing their best, so will she. Peer pressure works in a classroom too.
I remember very well asking my eldest daughter how her English classes were going when she went off to Kent School. "Dad! I love it. We are studying three Shakespeare plays in the first semester. I would have been lucky to get through one play in a whole year at my old high school." (Her old high school was a super public school too. But it just didn't have the resources to other the level of academics which our daughter needed in order to stretch her mind and intellect.)
Private schools typically set aside a weekday afternoon for sports. Everybody participates in something. Private schools believe in educating the whole child. Consequently, physical activity is part of the regular program. More importantly, participation in sports teaches your child how important exercise is for her well-being. Teaching her the value of regular exercise while she is young will foster a routine and rhythm to her daily and weekly activities which will enhance the quality of her adult life. If your child attends bordering school, she will have part of her Saturday devoted to recreational and competitive sports as well.
Extracurricular activities are not 'extra' in most private schools. Nor is participation optional. Once again, everybody participates in some club or group. Your daughter may not be the next Renee Fleming, but she will always remember the thrill of the school's glee club performing in some famous venue when they all went on a club trip. Teaching students that what they thought was impossible is, in fact, possible with some hard work and effort is an invaluable lesson. That's what schools and teachers do.
Academics, sports and extracurricular activities comprise the three parts to the 'stretching' process which will impact your child. All are beneficial both in her life as a young person and in later life. They embody the school's mission to educate the whole child. She isn't attending school just to learn physics and math. She's there to exercise her body and learn how to work with her teammates to win the game. She's there to sing in the glee club or play trumpet in the band. These three activities will produce a child who is well-rounded and ready for anything. All you have to do is offer your constant encouragement and approval.
3. She will build confidence in her own abilities as she accomplishes things she probably didn't realize she could accomplish.
The ability of a skilled teacher to see the potential each of her students has is just part of the DNA we teachers are born with. Your daughter may have no clue what the Fermat theorem is. She may even hate math. But watch the transformation which occurs as one day that "Eureka!" moment happens. She will 'get it' and suddenly realize how it works and that she can do it. Then on to the next challenge. Teaching children how to cope with challenges, how to think critically, how to synthesize information and how to solve problems is another tangible benefit of a private school education for your child.
Small class size makes real teaching possible. Your child will not simply be a number. She will be one fo a dozen or so students seated around a table with her teacher. Analysis, discussion, and debate, opinion, research and presentation skills are all part of her learning experience. The advantage here is that a private school education can be a solid preparation for college work.
With all the negative in the world today building confidence and a 'can do' attitude in our children is critically important. Private schools set personal growth as a goal for each student. Yes, it happens at different rates of speed. But three or four years after she enters the school, she will be a much more confident young person who can handle just about anything life will throw at her as a result of all the experiences which she has had at her private school.
A final word to you as a parent: your child is probably not going to appreciate how these three benefits work together to produce the results you know are possible and very much want. Don't dwell on that. She will look back in a few years and realize what a wonderful thing you did for her. Do I sound manipulative? Of course! But for the right reasons.
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