I attended public school from kindergarten through 12th grade, and I was happy with my experience for the most part. In the fifth grade, I considered switching to a private school — even going as far as taking the Secondary School Admission Test, which supposedly provides a standardized measure of academics for admission into a private school. But in the end, I decided to stay in public school.
I had very few complaints about my school system, and my high school was even nationally ranked in the 2009–2010 school year. But now that I’m a parent, I wonder if I should send my child to private school. Importantly, can I afford to send my child to a private school?
Reasons to Attend Private School
I don’t live in the excellent school district where I grew up, and while the public schools in my neighborhood are okay, they aren’t top-notch. Could that be a problem? It depends on my child. If she's high-achieving, then perhaps the public school wouldn’t be bad.
But if she needs more individualized attention, extra support, and alternative or creative instruction, my daughter might benefit from a private school.
At the same time, my partner and I wonder whether we would prefer our child to be in a private Jewish school in order to learn Hebrew and Jewish texts from a young age. After all, many catholic parents do seriously consider a list of different types of catholic schools when it comes to making a choice. Indeed, different types of religious schools are often an automatic first consideration for many.
You may want to consider private school for your kid if you’re looking for . . .
- Smaller classes
- Higher parental involvement
- A more rigorous academic program
- Specialized attention for each student
- More religious instruction than a supplementary school can provide
- Fewer standardized tests (and less content that's taught simply to pass the standardized tests)
Types of Private Schools
It’s easy to get confused when researching the different types of private schools. Many schools have similar goals, so how can you tell them apart?
1. Traditional Private Schools
These are typically nonreligious, independent schools that vary from college preparatory institutions to schools that allow for more creative instruction. Check out the National Association of Independent Schools listings to research if you are looking for a list of best independent schools in your areas of choice.
2. Boarding Schools
Consider a boarding school if you’re looking for full-time educational immersion for your child. Boarding schools encourage a kind of independence that traditional private schools can’t offer, as students will be living at the school full-time during the school year.
While many boarding schools are co-ed, learning in a single-gender environment may be beneficial for some students.
Find boarding schools by searching on The Association of Boarding School website.
3. Language-Immersion Schools
If you want your child to learn a second (or third!) language, a private language-immersion school may be a good choice. These schools tend to have instruction in both English and a second language throughout the day.
4. Montessori Schools
Montessori schools are based on a child-centered educational approach that encourages a child to make “use of what the environment offers to develop himself, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.” While this method of learning is more commonly associated with preschool, there are now Montessori schools that serve K through 12 throughout the country.
5. Private Special Education Schools
While public schools are required to provide services to students with special needs, some private schools have better resources to work with special needs students than public schools. Whether your child has ADD/ADHD or dyslexia; is hard of hearing, deaf, or speech impaired; or has severe mental or physical disabilities, there are options available. The website Private School Review can help you find a special education private school near you.
6. Religious Schools
Religious schools vary just as much as traditional private schools. There are Catholic, Episcopal, Friends, Jewish, Lutheran, Christian, and Seventh-Day Adventist schools, among others. Even within each religion, the schools may have different styles, and there might be more than one school association. Check with your local clergy to find out more information on the options in your area.
7. Waldorf Schools
The Waldorf education focuses on learning through the arts and creativity. They are not art schools but instead utilize the arts in their teaching methodology. These schools are available for preschool through 12th grade.
The Cost of Private School
It’s hard to determine which type of private school is most affordable, but according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Catholic schools ($6,890) are on average about 20 percent cheaper than other religious schools ($8,690) and 68 percent cheaper than nonsectarian schools ($21,510). Why might this be? Some Catholic schools receive funding from the Catholic church, subsidizing the costs for families to an extent that other religious schools may not be able to do. That doesn’t mean you should automatically pick a Catholic school because it may be good for your wallet. Some Catholic schools only accept Catholic students. Besides, depending on your financial needs, a non-Catholic school will work with you to offer enough assistance to make it affordable.
The best thing you can do is contact a few schools that you're considering for your child and talk with admissions staff. They can give you a rundown of what makes that school special and what kind of financial aid you may receive.