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Finding the Best Fit

Looking for a private school? Consider traditional vs. nontraditional approaches to teaching.


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As you begin to pursue the idea of sending your child to private school, you will need to come to grips with differing approaches to teaching. What it really comes down to is whether you want to send your child to a school that uses a traditional approach to teaching or one that uses a nontraditional approach.

In the public-school world, a traditional school is a regular public school and a nontraditional school is a charter school. That’s not what I am discussing here with respect to private schools. The concept of a private school as an independent, largely self-financing corporate entity does not change. I am going to focus on what is taught in the classroom and how it is taught.

The early years

Your child’s age is a major factor when it comes to choosing an educational approach. For example, if you send him to a Montessori school as a toddler, you are exposing him to a nontraditional approach to education. It is an excellent approach and highly regarded, but nontraditional nonetheless.

Start your child off in a Montessori, Waldorf, or Reggio Emilia school and you will lay solid foundations for learning in later life. But visit a traditional private primary school and you will see a quite different approach to early education.

The first obvious difference will be the dress code. Uniforms are required at many traditional religious schools. The curricula will follow traditional blocks of science, math, language arts, and social studies. (Add religion if the school is a faith-based private school.) Another difference is that class sizes will more than likely be larger than in a typical nontraditional school (typically 10 to 15 per class).

The real differences take place in the classroom and the way the teachers teach. (No judgments here; I'm merely highlighting differences so you can make informed school choice decisions.) The traditional approaches believe that everybody should be engaged in the same activity at the same time. The nontraditional approaches claim to allow children more flexibility to do work on their own and at their own pace.

Beyond the dress code ->

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