Clinica Sierra Vista WIC

Making the Grade!

Finding the Right Educational Fit for Your Child

Sixth-grader Kristi Williams has blossomed at her new school, St. John's Lutheran School, and her mom Pam, couldn't be happier with her decision to enroll her daughter into private school last year. "The individualized attention is the key - they work with her for her individual needs," Pam says. "She has made some really nice friends. The majority of kids have the same Christian standards and they teach Christian values every day."

Changing schools or choosing where to send your child to school can be one of the toughest decisions you face as a parent. For some it's an easy decision based on financial and time constraints or religious affiliations; for others, the decision-making process can be overwhelming with public, private, and homeschooling options having both advantages and disadvantages. No doubt about it: you have to do your homework to find the right school to fit the needs of your family.

To succeed in this endeavor, it often involves countless hours of research and asking a lot of questions. You need to educate yourself and become a savvy consumer. Knowing your child's personality, along with his strengths and weaknesses helps refine the choice. Both educators and parents agree that whatever school your child ends up attending, the underlying desire is to provide a solid foundation of education that will provide him with success in his future.

Public schools offer convenience, no tuition payment, and diversity. Private schools usually have smaller classes with more individualized attention, and homeschooling can provide freedom and flexibility for family schedules. And, you can have a hybrid of any of these schools: a charter school, a magnet program, private tutoring, etc. The options for education in today's society seem compelling and complex.

Some children can work well and succeed in larger class sizes, but some students need more one-on-one attention. Jennifer Tjepkema, lead administrator for Heritage Christian Schools, says that private schools like hers provide an atmosphere of accountability. "With our smaller numbers in class size, we can have more intimate relationships with the kids to make sure the kids are doing what they are suppose to be doing," she says.

At Heritage, a K-8th grade school, the parents are in constant communication with their child's teacher. In elementary school, the teachers send home a weekly progress report every Friday, and junior high students have their grades posted online every week on Tuesday nights. Parents always know how well their child is doing in school. If a child does struggle, they have a learning center where the student receives extra instruction from a specialized teacher.

With this level of support and responsibility, the Heritage Christian School community is a close-knit group that takes care of each other. "We are a family," Tjepkema says.

In addition to educational needs, when selecting a school for your child, you need to consider enrichment opportunities. Tjepkema says that at Heritage they offer all kinds of extracurricular programs like Math Olympics, a piano festival, spelling bee, all kinds of sports, and many more.

At St. John's Lutheran School, students like Kristi have the chance to participate in choir, band, art, computer classes, and many other extra programs. They even begin Spanish instruction in Kindergarten.

Enrichment Opportunities

There are also many enrichment opportunities with both public schools and homeschooling. Deputy Superintendent of Kern County Superintendent of Schools John Lindsay says Valley Oaks Charter School, K through 12th grade, is an excellent resource for parents who are homeschooling their child. The school offers a variety of enrichment classes ranging from sewing to welding to physical education. "It supports home schooling families to provide those enrichment activities that they might have a difficult time doing by themselves," he says.

According to Lindsay, Valley Oaks also provides the needed materials, such as textbooks, for educational instruction. He says homeschooling is not easy work and has its own set of pros and cons. "Homeschooling requires a family and parents that will be really devoted to their child's education," he says. "You have to have a very structured situation at home because you are essentially creating a school at your house."

After weighing the options of a public, private, or a homeschooling situation, you have the final say in your child's educational plan. You know your child's temperament and personality and you know your family's situation better than anyone else, so trust your judgment that you will make the right decision. And, if you get in a situation that is less than ideal, you have a multitude of options to fall back on.

Public, Private, and Home Schooling Advantages

Public School Advantages:

• Convenience – proximity or transportation provided to and from school.

• Cost – no tuition fee!

• Teachers can be more qualified.

• Spend more time studying core subjects.

• Can sponsor more activities.

• Diversity.

Private School Advantages:

• High-quality education.

• Close-knit community.

• Can have less bureaucracy.

• Smaller school/smaller class size.

• Individualized attention.

• Enrichment activities.

Home Schooling Advantages:

• Parents have educational control.

• Keeps family closer.

• Freedom and flexibility for family schedules.

• Individualized attention.

• Enrichment opportunities.

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