What do the four words above have in common? They can each precede the word “school,” resulting in very different methods which arrive at the same outcome: an education.
What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the terms public school, private school, cyber school, and home school? I guarantee your reaction will be the exact opposite of how another reader responds, and someone else will feel entirely differently, and so on.
Here we are in August, that wonderful time of the year when minors of all ages prepare to return to the daily grind of receiving an education, no matter which of the above methods is utilized. Teachers thumb through lesson plans with anticipation, hoping to encourage and inspire students to reach their full potential. Parents shop for crayons, notebooks, and mechanical pencils. New clothes and uniforms are purchased. Coaches for fall sports teams already have at least a week of practice in. Some students are looking at bus schedules, while others are receiving laptops and books in the mail.
So where are we all going to school?
A recent PBS News Hour report stated that, of the 1.8 million school-age students in Pennsylvania, less than 2% (approximately 30,000) are in cyber school. Cyber school is, in essence, public school at home. This option is for kids who just can’t be at school during traditional hours and allows greater flexibility for a variety of reasons, such as four-hour gymnastics lessons or extended illness. The school district provides the laptop, books, and lesson plans (read that as free), and students have the option of joining a virtual classroom or working independently.
According to a recent Education News report, one in ten K-12 students nationwide attends a private school, and 43% of those attend Catholic schools. Locally, St. Thomas School and Corry Alliance Academy both provide the option of the private school education. What are the reasons some choose private school? There are many, but most of the reasons boil down to this: parents pay for their children to be educated not just intellectually but also spiritually.
That same Education News report stated that the number of children who are home schooled nationwide is at 4%, an increase of 75% since 1999. For the parents, home schooling is more hands-on than cyber schooling. Most families spend between $400 and $800 per child, per school year, for everything from books to software to music lessons. One parent–usually the mom–stays home with the kids and is their teacher. It is time-intensive and home schooled kids don’t get snow days.
Of Pennsylvania’s 3,303 public schools, a dozen are within a 25-mile radius of Corry. In fact, there are 81 public schools in Erie County alone, serving more than 45,000 students.
I am proud to belong to a school district which boasts within its population all four of the schooling types. Not only that, but the school district is friendly to them all. That might seem like a harsh judgement upon other districts, but as a home schooling mom, I have heard of school districts which subtly refuse to allow any child not attending the public school to participate in interscholastic sports or other extra-curricular activities and clubs.
Their loss. Every sports season the Corry Journal provides excellent coverage of all Corry and Union City sports and, quite often, kids who don’t attend the traditional brick-and-mortar schools are mentioned right along with their public school teammates.
Best of all, the kids don’t regard other schooling types as weird. They get to know each other and actually like each other no matter how or where they are schooled.
The point I’m trying to get across is that there is no single right way to educate our kids. Home schooling isn’t for everyone. Ditto for cyber school, private school, and public school. Because we parents care about our kids and want the best for them, we are willing to go that extra mile to find exactly what fits their learning style. One of the best gifts we can give our kids is the motivation and desire to never stop learning, throughout their school years and beyond.
This year, be sure to thank the teachers, coaches, and parents whose purpose is to invest in the lives of kids. Whether they are online, in the classroom, or at home, every one of them deserves a pat on the back.
This blog was originally published in the Corry Journal, Saturday, August 17, 2013.