What are Traditional and Non-Traditional Schools?

If you have children at home, chances are their education occupies a significant amount of time in your thoughts.  For some of us, that means setting goals for higher education and making sure our children have the grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities to obtain those goals.  Others of us may wonder if our kids are being challenged enough in their traditional classrooms, or if our child who is struggling is getting the attention he or she needs.

We might spend a lot of time thinking about the social environment and how well our kids are, or are not, making friends.  Maybe we have a kid who is a competitive athlete and is missing school because of it.  No matter what parts of our children’s educations occupy our thoughts, we all want the same thing: happy children who are successful in their schooling.  Most of us have our children enrolled in some type of public school, which is most likely traditional, charter, or online.

Traditional schools are schools just like the one you or most of your friends probably attended.  They’re public schools, divided into grades and governed by school districts.  These schools are where the majority of children get their primary and secondary education.

Charter schools are not part of a school district.  Rather, they are overseen directly by the state board of education.  A board, generally composed of founding parents and educators, governs each charter school.  Most charter schools have distinct methods of instruction and “level” the children for core subjects.  This means children are grouped by ability, rather than age, for subjects like reading and math.  Some charter schools will have a special emphasis, such as computer science, performing arts, or foreign language.  Students will receive more instruction in these areas than their traditionally-schooled peers.

Online schools are generally charter schools that allow students to study at home.  Some schools provide textbooks and other required school materials that are mailed to your doorstep, others reimburse parents for curriculum purchases.  Online schools and their courses operate in a variety of ways.  Some are entirely self-guided, some have lessons that can be watched on the computer, some have recorded lessons from an instructor, and others have classes that a student must log into and remotely attend at a specified time.  

Most of these schools have teacher-to-student ratios that are much higher than traditional schools.  These instructors are available for help via email and phone.  Many students prefer these schools, because they can often work through the courses at their own pace, taking less time for what they understand and a little more in the areas where they struggle.  Many online schools offer a variety of electives that, due to budget constraints, are unavailable in traditional schools.  Online schools are becoming increasingly popular among parents who would like to educate their children at home but don’t have the resources to home school them.  Students who are involved in competitive sports, music, and other activities enjoy the scheduling flexibility online schooling gives them.

Making a change in your child’s education is a big step.  As you contemplate what is the best learning environment for your child, take the time to talk with representatives from the school and parents of children who attend there.