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Choosing the right educational setting for your child

Parents must select the right learning environment based on the individual child

Back in the days I attended elementary school, decisions were simple. My parents enrolled me in the neighborhood school, and that was that. When I finally had a child of my own, things had changed drastically in the education system.
Where we lived in Los Angeles, none of my neighbors with children sent their kids to the school at the end of the street. I soon learned that getting into the right school required a ton of homework as well as a lot of finagling.
What’s known as report cards for schools are available online so that parents can review the test scores and other assessments to determine if a school is of an acceptable caliber to enroll their children and then start applying. Unfortunately, if you don’t start this process early enough, say while your child is in kindergarten, you may miss out on the limited available spots in the better schools.
To begin with, most savvy parents first attempt to get their children into the top charter schools. These are public schools, but even though they may be next door to you, not just anyone can get in. They usually operate on a lottery system, though some will give families extra points if they have siblings already enrolled in the school, or if their child is a certain ethnic minority that will help the school reach its required quota.
Even though you don’t think you will get into these charter schools, since they have very few openings each year, if you get rejected then you get points that you can accumulate year after year, which you can save until you are applying for middle school.  By then the hope is you may be able to have enough points to move your child’s name closer to the top of the waitlist at the best middle schools.
It’s an incredibly complex system, and it is befuddling too many parents that  the Los Angeles Unified School District, or LAUSD, simply does not put the money and resources it needs into every neighborhood “home” school so that parents do not need to go through this bizarre application process, and so that all children – not just those with parents who have the resources to drive their children many miles each day to a better school, can have equal access to a great education.
Once I moved out of Los Angeles and to Fauquier county in Virginia, I was relieved that the home school in my area was the top-rated in all of the county; but even if it weren’t, I would not be given the choice to cart my child to another more-preferred nearby school, unless I wanted to pay for a private school.
Fauquier County and most of the other local school systems in Virginia subscribes to the old-school system of children attending schools that are near them, and for all intents and purposes, funding is shared fairly among all of the schools in the system.
One big difference in Virginia though is that many families have opted to homeschool their children. Where as this was considered odd in Los Angeles, it is quite common in this state. I wondered how parents could feel they could educate their children as well as a public school, unless they are teachers themselves, but I have learned that due to the popularity of homeschooling there are many resources for parents who choose this option.
Many of the parents rely upon tutors and supplementary educational experiences such as those offered by Groza Learning Center. These types of centers provide extra support for kids who don’t respond well to traditional schooling as well as those who desire to excel beyond what is available through the public school or homeschooling.
Facilities like Groza Learning Center additionally offer the kind of community connection that homeschoolers may miss out on, though most homeschooling parents are sensitive to socialization issues, and so often homeschooled children are enrolled in many extracurricular activities outside the home.
While there are a myriad of options available when choosing the style of schooling a parent wishes for their child, the best approach it is always to consider the individual child. Deciding on where to place their child, a parent should assess developmental progress, academic rigorousness, emotional maturity and the child’s unique personality in selecting an educational setting in order to achieve the best outcome for the child.