LIFE sees educational choice as free-range choice in lifelong learning, including public, private, home based education or any combination or variation thereof! Too often, the phrase “educational choice” gets bogged down in public education debate and rhetoric. But true educational choice should embrace any method that a learner values, needs or from which he or she benefits. Today, these choices include everything from standard public schools, charter schools, magnet schools,online learning, a variety of private schools, dual enrollment, part time enrollment, and home education.
But LIFE believes that our educational choices go far beyond institutional choices and should embrace, celebrate and further develop collaborative partnerships for community learning opportunities like libraries, museums, zoos, aquariums, private co-operatives, skills centers, apprenticeships, youth groups and more!
All of these venues typically offer a wealth of hands on learning opportunities through the shared skills and resources of talented and caring individuals, and LIFE believes everyone can tap into these everyday resources in our everyday lives.
Others are also exploring the many learning options available to us today in new and exciting ways:
- Educational Alternatives: A Map of the Territory”
- Parent Preferences and Parent Choices: The Public-Private Decision about School Choice (2006)
- Paths of Learning: An Introduction to Educational Alternatives
- Partnerships for Free Choice Learning
In Navigating School Options: How’s a Parent to Choose? by Onnie Shekerjian and Mary Gifford , the authors outline “Seven Steps to Finding the Best Education for Your Child.” Reprinted here by permission, they provide some sound advice for finding the best learning choice for each family or learner’s needs.
1. Embrace your role in your children’s education. Parents, not schools, are ultimately responsible for children’s education. When a child is educated outside the home, parents are technically delegating the responsibility to the school; they should never abdicate it. Meaning, if a child’s not doing well in a school, it is still the parent’s duty to ensure their child’s education needs are met either by working with the child’s existing school or by choosing a different educational setting. But a choice is only good if it is an informed choice. Parents need to know their child, learn about the options available to them and then take actions to ensure that child receives the best education possible.
2. Document your findings. As you work toward deciding how your children should be educated, write down your thoughts, observations and questions. Create a file for each of your children; keep all gathered information in this file. Use the collected information to make a final decision regarding your children’s education.
3. Know your children’s educational needs. Understand each child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. Ask past and present teachers to share their thoughts and opinions. Does your child do best in a highly structured or a more independent setting? What do the report cards and standardized test scores reveal? As a parent, what do your observations tell you? What are your child’s interests? What are your child’s thoughts on learning?
4. Establish your education priorities. Decide what you feel is important for your child to experience at school. For example, is it important that your child receive a strong character education? Or, maybe it is important to you that your child be exposed to a strong back-to-basics type program. Do you feel a religious program is vital to your child’s education? How important is the use of computers at school or the role of extracurricular activities and the arts to you? How do you feel about schooling your child at home? Since many education choices do not include transportation, ask yourself, “how far am I willing to transport my child?“
5. Learn the education landscape. Keeping in mind your child’s needs and your priorities, research the education options available to you on the Internet. GreatSchools.Net is an excellent source of information regarding the charter public, traditional public and private schools in your area. If you don’t have internet access at home or work, visit your local library; many offer free public Internet access. If private schools are on your list, don’t forget to explore scholarship programs. Create a list of potentially acceptable options.
6. Explore your targeted options. Compose a list of criteria and questions based on your child’s education needs and your priorities. Make contact over the phone with the schools or programs you have targeted. Does the organization welcome your questions and encourage you to visit their school or talk with other parents? If not, this is a red flag and should be taken into consideration when the final decision is made. Good educators appreciate interested and concerned parents and encourage them to become more knowledgeable about their children’s education. Make an appointment to visit with the principals of your top three to five schools; find out what information your state requires schools to report, such as drop out rate, qualifications of teachers, suspension rates, test scores, etc. Ask the principals to share the information with you. What do the schools’ Stanford 9s and their AIMS score look like? What does the data tell you? See the campuses; observe the students interactions with each other and the teachers. Could you see your child at one of these schools?
Visit our Resource Directory for more information on Educational Choice.