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School Choices – Public, Private or Homeschool?

by Jennifer Hatcher Jennifer Hatcher
photography by
The Nielsens Photography & Design

School Choices - Public, Private or Homeschool

Josie NeJame with daughters going into kindergarten and 1st grade

I grew up in a fairly small town during a time when homeschooling was neither popular nor widely accepted. When it came time for me to begin kindergarten, my parents registered me at the closest elementary school and I excitedly climbed on the long, diesel-scented, yellow school bus in early September to join all the other children my age at public school. There was no long deliberation about what form of education would be best for me. Public school essentially was the only choice.

Things sure have changed since then!

Now, we have so many options for educating our children. And with all these choices, it’s never too early to begin to research and examine the opportunities.

Parents have three main options for schooling – public school, private school, and homeschool. But under each of those large umbrellas, there are a vast array of choices, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

Public School

Just as my parents did with me, many families choose to register their children at the neighborhood public school for which they are zoned. It’s free, and the teachers have all been trained and certified according to state standards.

Most public schools also offer gifted programs, extracurricular activities and interesting electives at little or no extra cost. And, legally, public schools must accommodate children with special needs or learning differences.

Florida does have
scholarship programs
for families below
a certain income
level and for children
with special needs.

Cindy, whose three daughters attend public schools in Arizona, loves the “incredible music programs across the board, the vast selection of courses, including advanced placement classes, and the talented and dedicated faculty and staff.” Her daughters have loved the football games, the bandstand tunes, and the marching band trips to incredible places.

Other options under the public school umbrella include magnet schools or charter schools. Like neighborhood public schools, these schools are free and are taught by trained, certified teachers. These public schools are often more specialized or have a different educational philosophy or curriculum than mainstream public schools, giving them a bit of a private school feel.

Erin’s children attend a Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School in the Washington, D.C. area. Since it is a Montessori school, her children are given the freedom to explore the activities that interest them in the time frame they choose. Because it is bilingual, Spanish instruction is equal to English instruction, which is important to their family because Erin’s husband is Latin American. And as a charter school, most of the parents are involved in the school and with their children’s education.

Private School

Just as there are now many types of public school, there are various styles of private schools – Protestant, Catholic, military, college preparatory, Montessori, classical, and on and on. Private schools can range from $3,500 or $4,000 a year up to $16,000 or $18,000 a year. Florida does have grant-based scholarship programs for families below a certain income level and for children with special needs.

Becky, who attended a private school herself, plans to send her son to a private school as well. “I feel like the teachers are much less restricted than public school teachers. They have more freedom in curriculum, and the classes are smaller and more individualized. This way I get to choose whether or not certain agendas are pushed on my child.”

Shannon’s children attend a small Christian school in Virginia. She loves the school’s atmosphere of love — “It’s like a family.” Her children have some special considerations, and she appreciates knowing that the teachers love her children and have their best interest in mind.

Private school can provide a structure similar to public school, with individualized attention similar to homeschool.


As with public school and private school, there are a myriad of ways to homeschool children. Some parents teach every subject at home; some sign their children up for classes in an umbrella school or join a homeschool co-op.

Parents can choose a boxed curriculum set from one publisher and use it for every subject, every year, or pick and choose from a variety of curriculum publishers, piecing together a curriculum tailor-made for each child.

Josie NeJame and two daughters Many textbook companies also offer classes online or via DVD or CD-ROM. And the state of Florida also offers Florida Virtual School for students to take some or all of their classes online.

Sarah has used Pennsylvania’s cyber charter school for the past two years. It is a free homeschool option in which the state supplies all the textbooks and a computer and even pays a portion of the family’s Internet bill. She has enjoyed the freedom of homeschooling with the structure and curriculum guide of the public school.

More than any other option, homeschooling gives parents the opportunity to be intricately engaged in their children’s lives and development. Linda has homeschooled her two children for nine years. “I love being involved in their lives, interests and emotions and having the ability to train them in the midst of everyday life encounters.”

Many homeschool parents appreciate being able to fine tune the curriculum to each child’s individual needs. Homeschooling also offers flexibility and freedom in a family’s daily and weekly schedule.

With so many educational opportunities and choices, we can decide which type of schooling fits best with our family’s priorities and with each child’s personality and needs. Some parents even choose a combination of public or private school and homeschool, sending their children to school for some subjects or to participate in organized sports and teaching some subjects at home.

Putting our children on the long, yellow bus and sending them to the closest neighborhood school may be what we decide is best, but it’s not our only option.

Jennifer has homeschooled, enrolled her children in private school, homeschooled again, and is now sending her children to the closest neighborhood public school, which gives her the opportunity to ride the long, yellow bus on field trips with her kids.


Originally posted 10/13/2012


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