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OVERVIEW
Education for kids
How do you pick the best school? Choose one that caters to your child's learning style and interests.
Families and finances

Choosing a school for kids in grades K-12

Deciding where to send your children to school can be an anxiety-producing experience. No matter how much money you spend on private school or how much you love the democratic ideal of public education, choosing the right school for your child can be difficult -- especially for parents on a budget.

Luckily, in many places, educational options exist at varying price ranges. The most expensive school may not be the best solution for your child, but the least costly one may not be the right answer, either.

Choosing the right school
Schools offer several objective standards by which to measure their worth. Among them are test scores, graduation rates, the number of graduates who go on to college or even the number of graduates who get into "Ivies."

To balance their bank accounts with the educational needs of their children, parents should begin by checking out individual schools in the area -- and treating them as individual schools.

"Your child isn't going to the public schools or the private schools; your child is going to a school," says Henry Levin, professor of economics and education at Columbia University's Teachers College.
 
Regardless of whether a school is public or private, look for factors beyond test scores.

"Individualized education is where I would start, and that goes from preschool through elementary school (and) to middle school to high school," says family therapist Carleton Kendrick, author of "Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We're Going to Grandma's."

5 education options
  1. Public schools
  2. Online public schools
  3. Home schooling
  4. Charter schools
  5. Private schools
Schools should also be a place where kids want to be -- comfortable environments filled with personable people. And that's as true for preschool and elementary school as for high school.

"Studies show that the early years can be, and often are, as significant or more significant than what will happen in high school. Their curiosity and love of learning either gets encouraged ... or rigorously drained out," says Kendrick.

If engendering a love of learning in your child is important to you, try to find a school that caters to the child's learning style or interests.

Besides individualization, parents should ask: How are classes taught? Is learning hands-on or are lessons delivered by lectures?

"Are there opportunities to do more than just sit in a classroom and memorize, be tested and memorize?" Levin says. "If your child has a real interest in sports and drama and theater, then you want to make sure that you have those things."

And that is the real key to finding the right school for your children -- knowing what they like, how they learn, their strengths and their weaknesses, as well as their interests.

-- Posted: June 8, 2009
 
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