​FAQs for Parents Considering Private School Education

By Nora Heston Tarte

When it comes to a child’s education, few subjects are more heavily debated. Weighing the benefits of a private versus a public institution, as well as the associated costs, can be overwhelming to say the least. Take into consideration, no school (public or private) is the same, and it’s nearly impossible to make a quick decision.

Consider all options and consider budget, the individual student and family dynamic. There will be pros and cons to every decision; explore your possibilities. Some private schools may have what your child needs, while others may not. As you start your research, we’ve rounded-up a few FAQs for parents considering private school education—but, be sure to visit Sacramento Parent’s Annual Private School Guide to quickly access your local options.

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE APPLICATION PROCESS BEFORE I GET STARTED?
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to educational institutions—or at least not many. Private schools tend to be more varied than public schools. For this reason, parents should always visit a campus with their child before enrolling. Call the office, discuss pricing and if it’s a fit, visit.

Then, the application process starts. Testing may be required for private schools and children and parents may be asked to attend an interview. Essays are sometimes required of older students. This is different from public schools, which must take all students who live in the district.

DOES PRIVATE SCHOOL MEAN MORE HOMEWORK?
The amount of time spent on homework will fluctuate not only based on school, but also depending on classes, teachers and the child’s work pace.

At Carden School of Sacramento, the rule of thumb is children will typically not be assigned more than 15-minutes of homework per grade level each night. For example, a fourth grader may have an hour or less of homework across all subjects, while eighth graders may receive up to two hours nightly. “We follow the same standards that most public schools do,” says Norm Cone, director of Carden School.

“In the younger grades, it’s important that we still maintain a joy of learning and ensure kids get enough sleep,” adds Nick Broad, director of admissions at Sacramento Waldorf School. For that reason, students start with 15-minutes of homework per night and steadily build up to two hours per night at the high school level. “You don’t want to stress students out with too much homework, because it leaves diminishing returns.”

WHAT EXTRACURRICULAR WILL BE AVAILABLE TO MY CHILD THAT PUBLIC SCHOOL DOESN’T OFFER?
Extracurricular activities vary from school to school and many are the same at both private and public schools. Carden offers both sports and music classes after school and during the day enrichment classes, including foreign language, music, daily physical education and computer lab, are available. While at St. Philomene Parish School, baton, student government, scouting, yearbook and academic decathlon are offered.
When comparing, it’s important to look at every school individually instead of clumping all private schools versus all public schools.

DO PRIVATE SCHOOLS FOLLOW COMMON CORE STANDARDS?
All public schools in California must adhere to the California Department of Education’s Common Core State Standards. These standards dictate what all students (K-12), will be taught in the classroom.

Private schools, however, have the freedom to choose. “We have a phonics-based fundamental curriculum,” Cone says of Carden School. “Most of the parents, at this Carden School, do not want their children doing common core.” At St. Philomene, however, the school is transitioning to common core standards with integrated religious teachings. While Sacramento Waldorf School’s curriculum follows the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner.

WILL PRIVATE SCHOOL OFFER MY CHILD LOWER STUDENT-TEACHER RATIOS?
In 2015, Sacramento City Unified School District schools changed from a 28-32:1 student-to-teacher ratio, to a 24:1 ratio to offer more individualized student attention.

These ratios differ among private schools. Carden School reports a 6 to 12:1 student-teacher ratio for K-8 grades, St. Philomene, a 16:1 ratio and Brookfield School, an 18:1 ratio. (All are private K-8 schools.)

WILL PRIVATE SCHOOL HINDER MY CHILD’S SOCIAL LIFE?
While there are less children at a private school, there are still opportunities to make lifelong friends. Many private school
students will add to their social circles outside of school, through sports, scouts, church, etc. School social functions such as dances vary by institution.

Nora Heston Tarte is a freelance writer and Sacramento State alum. When she isn’t chasing her two-year-old son around, she’s musing about motherhood on her blog, www.slightlykrunchymama.blogspot.com.

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