One question I get asked a lot by our families of school-aged kids is: Should we choose a private school or public school? Or should we homeschool?
There is no crystal ball answer to this question. There is no one answer for all families. The “right” choice depends on you, your particular situation, and your child. We have many families who have done all three. I, personally, have done all three through the lifespan of my own kiddos. I did certain things at certain times, based on the situation we were in.
Public school can be a wonderful resource. Many of our kiddos will be in special ed or they might have a 504 accommodation. When considering a public school, many families ask us what is the best school district to live in. There is no real answer to this, either! In North Texas, we have a variety of types of school districts, and they’re all high ranking. It will usually come down to the particular campus, and the philosophy of the principal and the teachers there. I’ve had parents tell us that their teacher one year was the best they ever had, but next year the situation was horrible.
If you’re going to go the public school route I think it’s important that you stay very involved in the process. It’s important that you work with the teachers and support them. It’s also important for you to question things, talk to your kiddo, and see what kinds of work comes home. You have to be very involved in the whole process. It’s vitally important for you to have good communication with the school team. If you will be doing IEPs and ARD meetings and 504s, that’s a whole other piece that you’ll have to manage. I could make 20 videos and blog posts just on that process alone! It’s a lot of work. I did this for many years!
Also, please know that it doesn’t help if you approach these meetings in an adversarial way. That just puts up blocks in the process. If you feel you need people to go in to observe, or you need to bring in an advocate to help you, feel free to do that. This doesn’t have to be adversarial. Just approach it all from a standpoint of wanting to get all the help you can for your kiddo.
I know families who have chosen to leave public school because they weren’t able to reach an agreement. They felt that maybe taking some time off to homeschool, doing some one on one instruction with an individualized curriculum, was best for them. School has a wonderful social component that you can’t replace. On the other hand, one on one instruction with an individualized curriculum allows you to be focused and to do things more intensely.
There are many homeschool groups, even in the special needs community, who will get together and talk to you about which curricula worked best for their kids. There are even some groups that let you get together with other parents to have a social component. You may choose to homeschool for a season and then return to public school.
I also know families who left public school to go to private schools. Private school is great in that it gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of truancy and attendance. If you have to go to therapy during the school day but don’t have an IEP to leave school for that, you just have to go to therapy after school hours. If you do have an IEP you have some more flexibility, but if not you’re stuck doing your therapy after school because you must be in school during school hours. Private schools don’t have the same truancy and attendance rules that public schools do so you have more flexibility there.
Some of our local private schools actually focus on kiddos with learning disabilities! In those schools, you will find smaller ratios, and you will get more of a customized curriculum for your child. The compromise here is that private schools often don’t have resources that a public school has, like large computer labs.
Every Child is Different
As you can see, it all depends on your child and your situation. Ask yourself: Does your kiddo need one on one instruction or smaller ratios? Do you want to push your child to be able to function in a public school environment and be successful there, so that they’re able to move into the world in a busier environment?
Your Next Step
Lots of questions, and lots of answers! Remember you are not alone! Your clinicians probably have an opinion on this so be sure to ask them. Like I said, I’ve done all three kinds of education at different times. The most important thing in making your choice is to be sure that everyone is on the same team for your kiddo, with your kiddo’s best interests at heart.