Cut Through the School Daze

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How to Find the Right Education Option for Your Child

As parents, the responsibility of making countless decisions both great and small for our children is part of our privilege, but there is hardly any which will resound so powerfully throughout a child’s life as that of their schooling.

The right schooling for a child can make a difference in developing life-long patterns of self-confidence, how they face education and how they will come to define success. Let’s start with the basics, because knowing what types of schooling are offered here in Central Virginia will certainly help in narrowing the focus on what will work best for your child and family.

Public School
Public schooling is available, without prejudice or preference, to all children in the community. In addition to being free of charge to those living within the districts, there is also the added benefit of being part of the diverse community, which gives children the opportunity to appreciate different cultures, races and religions. Further, each student is provided with transportation and the use of the books, materials and equipment they will need to be successful in their learning.

Public schools also provide academic opportunities such as advanced placement, exchange student programs and dual-enrollments in trades and college programs. Public schools provide diverse sports programs, music and theatre programs, clubs and other extracurricular activities to suit the talents, interests and skill level of any student.

These programs, in turn, give the student opportunities to excel among peers and to develop leadership skills, confidence and a sense of belonging which can aid them both in their educational and life pursuits. In addition to these benefits, public schools are also equipped with the services and trained individuals to address the needs, no matter how extensive, of any student with an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).
Dr. Scott Brabrand, Superintendent of Lynchburg City Schools, explains, “Our country and our world today face a myriad of challenges. At the center of it all rests the ability to connect with people from different backgrounds, experiences, faiths and viewpoints. Public school can best prepare our children to have the answers to solve these problems. No school system in Central Virginia, public or private, offers more opportunities for engagement, for innovation and for connectedness than Lynchburg City Schools.”

Home School
While homeschooling has historically been viewed with strong opinions, there are very interesting movements taking place within the homeschool system which are as varied and individual as the homeschooled students. Within these homeschool communities exist the familiar traditional programs, private tutors, co-ops (which meet for collective learning experiences) and hybrid programs which utilize both the strengths of homeschooling and private and public school systems for particular subjects.

Many families, who would have previously not considered homeschooling, have opted to use it for the flexible scheduling it offers and for the ability to introduce their young students to so much more than just the standard learning curriculum. How much a student learns about a particular topic, or a variety of topics, is wholly up to the student and the parent or teacher who guides them.

Homeschooling, by its very nature, is able to be personally catered to the student’s needs and addresses his/her own learning styles, timelines, weaknesses and strengths. There really is no limitation on what type of student can thrive in a homeschool environment, so long as the parent or tutor is educated and well-researched on methods available to address their student’s individual needs. Even the previous concerns of missing the social aspects of traditional schooling have been addressed through local clubs, co-ops and hybrid programs.

Alysia Isenhour, a local mother who homeschools and attends co-ops, states that the reason their family chooses to homeschool is the continued ability to address their children as whole individuals and give them not only individualized attention but also education plans suited for them personally. “The relationships that are formed, and the security that the children have in the home, I truly believe has a really great impact … they tend to do better in every aspect of their lives, and [it]sets them up for success, not just in their education … but in self-confidence and self-motivation … instilling character. I feel like homeschooling gives them a great start in life!”

Private School
Private school has long been heralded for academic excellence and smaller, safer school sizes, which facilitate more preferred student-to-teacher ratios thus making learning a more individualized venture. Traditionally, private school students have also been known to test higher than their peers, according to a 2002 NAEP study, and to also have a higher likelihood of going on to higher education.

Private schools, because of their smaller sizes, are able to focus on developing their own curricula while supplementing with additional concepts such as root languages, character development programs, religious studies, music classes and more.

Additionally, with smaller class sizes, students often participate in more activities because they face less competition and have more flexibility in scheduling.

Previously, the cost of privatized schools has been the primary drawback, but with so many families looking for privatized programs for their children, new schools have opened, and long-standing institutions are addressing the issue by making attendance more affordable through multi-child discounts and scholarship opportunities.

Currently in Central Virginia, there are no private schools that specialize in IEP programs, so the students that flourish in private school systems tend to be of average to advanced intelligence and willingness to learn. However, as the classroom sizes are smaller and teachers are more available to provide individualized attention, students with attention deficits can succeed in a privatized setting.

Pete York, Assistant Head of School at James River Day School (JRDS), explains that through the school’s blended traditional and progressive learning styles, they are able to utilize project and student-based learning to keep the students actively engaged in order to celebrate and facilitate learning.

Beyond the curriculum, JRDS takes the opportunity to teach children leadership and confidence through mentorship programs. York explains, “The children get to be children … and get to be good role models for the other children.” JRDS teachers and administration have the opportunity to address and cultivate a love of education and character, which can be carried through their continued education, and it’s a difference that is palpable. York’s exuberant words ring true: “Walk down the hall and you can just feel … the joy!”


By Tiffany Lyttle

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