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Kindergarten Admissions: Part One

Kindergarten Admissions: Part One

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - January 20th, 2016

When you are thinking about which kindergarten is best for your child, one of the first things to consider is whether you want a private school, public school, or religious school (which are private).  This is a very personal decision for every family.  Money is an obvious consideration, but there are other factors as well, which we will explore. 

This will be a three part series this week, so stay tuned for ALL the venues.  Today we will hone in on religious schools.

Which Kindergarten is Best Part One: Religious Schools

Here is my personal opinion on this question.  I’m not saying it’s right; it’s just how I feel after my own experiences with both private and public schools.  If money is no object for your family, choose private school. If money is an issue for you (and it is for most of us), do your homework and get your child into the best public school that you can for the elementary years. You can always rethink your decision later when you understand your child’s learning profile better and the type of school situation that will work best for him in middle and high school. 

A few years ago, I wrote an editorial for the New York Times on this subject and essentially said what you just read (click here to read it).  People called me an elitist, which I didn’t think that was very nice.  I’ve had my children in both public and private schools and I’ve counseled families who have put their kids in both.  There are amazing private schools and marvelous public schools.  There are lousy private schools and rotten public schools (and everything in between).  There is no right answer to the question, “is private or public school better?”

Your beliefs about what matters in a school are different from mine and from your neighbor’s.  The quality of your child’s teacher each year will have more of an impact on his experience than whether he goes to a public or private school. Your child’s personality will make a difference in whether public or private is best for him – a very shy, quiet child could fall through the cracks in a large public school, for example. 

Ultimately, the choice between public and private will depend on what feels right for your child and family given your personal situation and values.

I find that whatever parents choose, they usually end up feeling very good about where their child lands.  And if it doesn’t work out, they move them. 

I will be speaking specifically about the advantages and disadvantages of private schools and public schools later this week, but today, I want to begin with religious schools, which are a private school choice.

You may want to consider religious schools.  Here are a few things to consider when looking at these…

Religious School Advantages

  • Your child can grow up practicing her religion on a daily basis, not just at church or temple;
  • You can also choose religious schools that are more loosely affiliated with a denomination, welcoming students of all faiths; These schools teach religious, moral and ethical values without being evangelistic; It is important to visit the religious schools you are considering because they differ widely in terms of how deeply integrated religious teachings are in their curriculum; 
  • If your local public school is underperforming and secular private schools are too expensive, a local religious school may be a good compromise;
  • Religious schools aren’t subject to The No Child Left Behind Act, so teachers won’t spend months getting children ready for those standardized tests;
  • If you are from a family of faith, a religious school may be a good match for your family’s values.

Religious School Disadvantages

  • There is tuition, although it is often less than tuition of non-sectarian private schools;
  • Even if the school underplays religion, do you want your Jewish child going to a school that displays crucifixes throughout the building?  Do you want your Catholic child going to Meeting for Worship at a Quaker school?  At any faith based school no matter how much they low-key it, there will always be religious overtones that a child of a different faith can’t avoid;
  • They tend to be less diverse;
  • They are often smaller schools, lacking the wider curriculum and extras that you would find in a non-secular private school and even a public school;
  • Teachers are paid less than those in public school;
  • It is difficult to find general statistics on academic performance of children in religious schools; if you are considering this option, do the research with regard to whichever religious school you are considering.

In my book, Testing For Kindergarten, I reviewed many of the factors that were predictive of a child’s accomplishments in school.   Kids who achieved the greatest success came from higher socioeconomic family homes (where parents had more time to spend working with their kids), lived with parents who valued education and reading, surrounded them with language, and instilled the quality of high self-control in them.  Academic success had little to do with whether a child went to private, public or religious school.  My advice is to tour and apply to both public and private schools (if private is an option), and then make the decision that feels best to you. As long as you’re an involved parent at home and in your child’s schooling, your child will be fine. 

Don’t miss the entire series:

Kindergarten Admissions: Part Two

Kindergarten Admissions: Part Three

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