Private schools offer a variety of environments, methodologies and philosophies. How do you choose which school will best meet your needs?

“We call it the gut response. You immediately feel at home, and you should honor that response,” says Liz Anderson, communications director at Tulsa’s Holland Hall School.

A few things that play into that gut response include a school’s particular mission, areas of emphasis, culture and the way a school fits a child’s individualized needs, goals and talents.

The Child

Some find that one benefit of private school is a holistic approach to the development of a child guided by a philosophy that not all ability can be measured by tests.
“There are different types of intelligence,” says Anderson.

Considering the needs of an individual child is key in selecting a private school where he will thrive.

“Get the fit right, and your child will be happy,” says Robert Kennedy of Private School Review. “Other considerations are secondary.”

Some children need a very structured environment, while others students do best where they are given a lot of opportunity for independent study.

“They need to be around kids who have that same level or style of learning,” says Matt Vereecke, school director at Monte Cassino in Tulsa.

Capitalizing on a child’s gifts and passions is another component of private education. It is important to find a school that will tease these out of a child.

“Does the school’s curriculum inspire your child?” is a critical question, says Anderson.

Kennedy says some of the top reasons for choosing to pursue private education are to find particular academic programs not available at a local public school or a strong sports program that will push a child’s talents.

“Some schools are labeled the art school or the athletic school,” Anderson says.

Other schools, like Holland Hall, require students to participate in a number of activities including sports, arts, theater and social service.

Mission And Philosophy

Private schools often tout a comprehensive approach to education that goes beyond academics.

In addition to academic development, you are evaluating a social development program and moral development program says Vereecke.

“It’s very values-based education even if you aren’t at a religious school,” he says.

Anderson says it is important that the mission and philosophies of the school align with a family’s values. That is not to say that you should not go to a Catholic school if you are not Catholic.

Monte Cassino is founded on Benedictine values such as balance, simplicity of life, community and service. The core ideas, he says, are concepts that many people agree with and want, including the students from Jewish, Hindu and non-Christian backgrounds who attend his school.

Community and Culture

“Education at its root is social,” says Vereecke.

Private schools are not made up of children who live in the same neighborhood. The community is built around academic, social and moral goals and priorities. It is important the community and culture are a good fit for the child and for the family.

In this atmosphere people have instant and natural connections, says Vereecke. Get to know some parents and students, he says. “They should really be able to tell you what the life of the school is.”

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