How to Decide Between Public and Private Elementary School

Choosing between enrolling your child in public school and providing him with a private education is a big decision, and one that isn’t an easy one to make. There are benefits and drawbacks to both options, so it’s important to weigh each one carefully to determine which environment is best for your child. Because this choice can have such far-reaching implications and affects both the immediate and long-term future of your child, it’s one that can’t be taken lightly. Before making your decision, it’s wise to take the time to consider the following points:

  • Spiritual Versus Secular Education – If your family is very religious, the idea of a curriculum that draws heavily on your spirituality and places an emphasis on spiritual instruction may be one of the most appealing aspects of a private school. Because these things cannot legally be part of a public school’s curriculum, this can play a large role in the decision that parents ultimately make. In smaller cities and rural areas, religious schools can often be the only option for private education.
  • Cultural Diversity – Most private schools are far less culturally and racially diverse than public schools, and will almost exclusively house children who come from a similar socioeconomic and cultural background to that of your own child. For some parents, this lack of diversity can be off-putting, so you should consider this aspect of private education before making your decision. If it’s important to you that your children’s peers come from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, a private school may not be the best choice for you and your family. Keep in mind, however, that this is far from being a hard and fast rule. When you visit a private school, ask about the level of diversity there. You may be surprised by what you learn.
  • Economic Feasibility – Private schools can be very expensive, even on the lower end of the spectrum. You may find that it puts a bigger economic strain on your household than you anticipate, leaving your family struggling to afford tuition. Some private schools have scholarship programs in place for academically outstanding children, which can make the costs more manageable. On the same token, just because you can afford private school doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best option for your family. It’s best to make your decision based largely on other factors, but the financial implications shouldn’t be completely ignored.
  • Parental Involvement – Private schools typically expect parents to be more actively involved in their children’s education and to periodically volunteer for special activities. It’s important to consider how much involvement you would like to have in your child’s classroom education and to then choose a school that’s an appropriate match.
  • Special Programs – A child with special needs may have those needs better met in a private school that focuses on special education, but he may also be more suited to a public school environment if there are no dedicated private schools in his area. Because public schools are required by law to provide classes and assistance that private schools do not, a public education may ultimately be the best choice for him since there are often more resources and services. Kids who require special attention in the form of advanced classes and gifted programs, however, may do better in a private school with a curriculum designed for high-performing students.
  • Safety and Security – In areas that have a particularly high crime rate or a history of violence in their public schools, a private school may be a safer, less threatening environment. Kids who are frequently bullied in public school will often be so distracted that their academic performance suffers, but may thrive in a private school environment where smaller class sizes make it easier for staff to monitor such situations.

There are rules that are set in stone for determining which school a child should attend. Because every child is different, each situation must be considered individually. Taking all of these factors into account can help you make the right decision for your child and your family as a whole.

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