Deciding between private school and home school depends upon a family’s priorities and limitations in several areas: time, money, and quality. The right schooling decision for each family requires careful consideration of these sometimes competing factors.
Home school requires a parent to actually provide instruction to the children. The amount of time required depends upon the number of children, their grade levels, and the curriculum or approach used. If the family uses a video or internet-based program, the parent may only need to get things started each morning and monitor the student periodically. If the family uses a traditional textbook-based curriculum for all subjects and has several grade levels to teach, the time commitment may be equivalent to more than a full-time job. On the positive side, home school affords some flexibility in scheduling the exact hours of instruction.
Private school also takes time; furthermore, you are bound to a schedule not of your own making. While home schooling requires time spent teaching, private schooling requires time spent waiting in carpool lines, communicating with different teachers for each child, and dealing with endless requests for volunteers and fundraisers. If private school tuition means both parents work outside the home, school transportation will be a daily struggle, and snow days or sick days will require contingency plans. If one parent works at home or has a flexible schedule, this may work. Do not, however, put children in private school thinking you will gain loads of time versus home schooling-you may be disappointed at how little time you actually save.
Cost of school
Private school is more expensive in almost every case. Home schooling costs depend upon the curriculum chosen. A unit study home school approach using mostly library books is not expensive, while a full-service program from a major curriculum provider can be as costly as the less expensive private schools. Another factor in the money equation is whether the education a child receives may enable them to earn college credit by examination, which may save college funds.
Quality of education
Quality, or lack thereof, can be found in both home schools and private schools. Evaluate the curriculum and philosophy of any private school and observe classes to determine whether the school is a good fit for your family. Also consider the needs of each individual child, since one school may not fit all. If accreditation is important to you, find out whether the school is accredited by Association of Christian Schools International, Association of Classical and Christian Schools, or a regional accrediting agency such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Quality of home school curricula can be evaluated through reviews in home schooling publications such as The Teaching Home or by attending a curriculum fair at a state home school conference. Local support groups are often the most helpful, since you can often speak to parents about exactly what they found helpful about a particular curriculum. If one of your children has special needs, network with other parents to learn what has worked for them.
While school decisions are important, remember that you can always change your mind at some point if your private school or home school decision is not working as well as you would like. Consider time, money, and quality. Make the best decision you can for each child each year. Evaluate your decision periodically to make sure your choices are still working for your family.