Guide to Choosing the Right School for Your Child

A smiling elementary school student on his laptop

In the past, traditional brick-and-mortar schools dominated the education landscape. And while still very prevalent today, many families are opting to explore non-traditional school settings. Whether homeschool, private and charter, or online public school, there are a variety of options.

With this increase in options, parents now have the freedom to choose how and where their student learns. But before making that decision, it’s important to consider which setting is the right fit.

Here’s what you need to know to make finding the right school for your student a success:  

What Are My Choices?

Selecting a school for your child comes down to three factors: personality, academic talents, and learning preference. Is your child an introvert or extrovert? Would your child’s learning gifts benefit from accelerated instruction? Knowing the answers to these simple questions can help determine which of these schools you select: 

  • Traditional School
  • Private/Charter School
  • Homeschool
  • Online Public/Private School

While learning how to choose a school for your child, begin by exploring what each school has to offer. 

Traditional School

Traditional schools are schools just like the one you probably attended! They are brick-and-mortar public schools, divided into grades and overseen by school districts. At these schools, students participate in in-person instruction with their teachers and peers. 

Private & Charter School

Private and charter schools are similar to traditional schools but are not a part of a school district. Both schools offer advanced education opportunities for students, whether that be the arts or college prep. While similar in many ways, private schools are funded mostly by tuition and charter schools are funded by the government.  

Homeschool

Homeschooling is when students are primarily educated by their parents or guardians at home. Many homeschooled students follow a set curriculum and may take part in clubs, groups, and co-ops to receive a well-rounded education. 

Online Public & Private School

Online public and private schools offer virtual programs that are designed to allow students to learn from home. At online schools like Connections Academy® and Pearson Online Academy, students learn from an accredited curriculum under the guidance of instructors, with support from their parents as Learning Coaches. 

Now that we’ve identified your choices, let’s dive into the similarities and differences of each. 

A parent budgeting school tuition costs.

Cost

When choosing a school, several factors can impact your decision—one of the most important being cost. While traditional, charter, and public online schools are tuition-free, private school parents are accustomed to spending thousands of dollars on education.  

One of the primary reasons parents could choose a private school is better college preparation. With the price of tuition, students at private schools might enjoy a more intimate learning environment, rigorous coursework and individualized attention on a day-to-day basis.  

But before deciding to send your child to a private school, it’s critical to consider everything associated with this type of education. What are the tuition costs? Uniform costs? How much are books and supplies? Research is important, so learning about it now can help inform what option is best for your student. Charter schools can also offer many of the same benefits to students as private schools, but with free education. 

With public online schools, homeschool, and traditional schools, parents pay little to nothing, which could be a deciding factor when figuring out how to choose the right school for your child. While families still incur costs for school supplies, field trips and extracurricular activities—all these options are more cost-friendly.  

When affordability is an important component for you, traditional learning and public online schools like Connections Academy might work best—offering tuition-free education that helps foster students’ love for learning. 

Location

Your location has a huge influence on the educational options available to you. In most cases, students will go to school based on the district they live in. So, if you prefer a simple and easy commute for your student and yourself, a traditional school might be a good option. If you go this route, you can take your child to school, carpool, or allow older children to walk in the morning with friends. Additionally, most school districts offer bus transportation to and from school for students, taking the pressure off you. 

For private and charter schools, there’s a chance that they are located in your neighborhood, but if not, you’ll need to consider if the travel distance is feasible for your family. If the commute is over 30 minutes, for example, not only does that lengthen your day, but it could also potentially cut into your student’s homework time and significantly impact their overall wellbeing. This may not be the case for some families but, it should be considered when selecting where your child will receive an education. 

On the other hand, online school and homeschooled students don’t have to worry about transportation. Since they’re learning from the comfort of their home, school is at their fingertips. Because commute isn’t a factor, students can spend that extra 15-30 minutes studying or catching up with their Learning Coach in the morning to outline the day. Online school and homeschool provide the perfect opportunity to use your location to your advantage. 

A parent and online student working on an assignment. 

Education Quality

Research shows that most parents want rigorous academic opportunities for their children. So, when searching for a school, this is likely one of your top concerns. It’s important to know that all schools are created differently and no one academic program will be the same.  

Public schools generally offer one program designed for all students. The curriculum usually includes core subjects like math, English, science, and history. Additionally, they may offer other subjects such as music, arts, and technology. The biggest distinguisher of traditional public schools to any other is that the content and curriculum are pre-determined by the state and school district, leaving little room for outside influence.  

Private and charter schools are starkly different. While they also offer core subjects and creative programs, they prioritize a specialized curriculum that caters to their students’ abilities and interests. For instance, instead of a required list of books enforced by the school district, instructors can recommend other book choices to help students better understand the concept. In addition, private and charter schools often boast a more challenging curriculum, whereas students in traditional schools will often have to opt for Advanced Placement® (AP®*) or honors classes for additional rigor.  

Online schools like Connections Academy and Pearson Online Academy are similar to private and charter schools in tailoring their programs to students’ unique interests, goals, and abilities. At every point in an online student’s learning career, they are encouraged to become resilient learners—being equally challenged and supported every step of the way. Starting in elementary school, Connections Academy courses are designed to ignite a passion for discovery and knowledge. This is done by implementing engaging lessons to help students gain fundamental knowledge while offering the flexibility to build other skills. So if you’re wondering how to pick an elementary school, taking a look at the curriculum is a good start.  

Online learning also provides an opportunity for students to receive tutoring. Connections Academy parents and students can contact their teacher at any time for extra support and sign up for tutoring if they need further assistance. 

A student checking her schedule for the day.

Schedule

Classroom culture and structure is typically influenced by an individual teacher, but the overall school day setup varies by school setting.  

Let’s take a look at the traditional school setting: brick-and-mortar schools have a set schedule for all students with clear start and end times to the day. This setup is ideal for working parents and students who thrive with more structure, but provides little flexibility to pursue outside passions.   

Private and charter schools also encourage time-management and structure, while offering the opportunity for individual study. Students might be encouraged to participate in independent learning activities depending on their grade level and abilities—helping them develop as learners.  

Parents who have students that attend online public schools can create schedules that best suit their students’ lifestyles and family schedule. For example, Learning Coaches can arrange online school schedules to be flexible, so students don’t have to adhere to a fixed schedule every day like the other school settings. Homeschool and online parents can also choose to implement frequent breaks for students to help them focus better versus traditional or private schools where students may only receive a break once or twice a day. 

Some parents might be concerned about the online learning environment and classroom culture, but the truth is, it offers plenty of interaction and guidance from teachers. At Connections Academy, instructors encourage students to communicate and ask questions at every grade level, introducing open communication at an early age. Homeschooled students also have their instructor readily available for assistance at any point, but interaction is limited to the environment parents create at home.  

No one approach is better than the other, but the best classroom culture is one that creates a positive environment where students feel comfortable connecting with the content, their peers, and the teacher.  

Finding the right school for your child can be challenging, but as long as you do your best to learn about your options, you’ll be on the path to answer questions like, what type of school is best for my child? 

But if you do have other questions on how to pick the right school for your child or what it looks like to be enrolled in an online public school, you can take this quiz to determine if a virtual school is right for your student. You can also receive a free eGuide that outlines online learning, provides advice from experts, and much more. 

*AP® and Advanced Placement® are registered trademarks of the College Board. Used with permission. 

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