Few things are as critical to your child’s future as a good education. As a parent, you naturally want your child to have every possible opportunity to live a happy and productive life. And the time to start building toward that goal is right now, even if your child is not yet old enough to enter the educational system.
Contrary to what adults might think, childhood and adolescence are inherently stressful times for a child, testing his or her rapidly expanding awareness of the larger world. The child naturally wants little more than to have fun, make friends, and to fit it. But between peer pressure, the media’s frequent distortion of reality, and underdeveloped faculties of logical discernment, today's children face greater obstacles than ever before. Your job as a parent is to help your child steer through those obstacles in a manner that causes him or her the least amount of difficulty, while at the same time building a strong moral and intellectual foundation. The choices you face might appear daunting, but by using available resources and your own good common sense, you should be able to face the task without too much difficulty... at least no more than standard difficulties inherent to parenthood.
Choosing a school
Pre-school - Even if your child is still a toddler, and a couple of years must pass before his or her formal education begins, you will need to begin to formulate a plan for his or her school experience. If both parents work, you might need to look into pre-schools. No longer merely formalized baby sitters, pre-schools offer your child a head start on the education process, by providing early instruction in basic comprehension, socialization, and reading & math skills. Beyond these functional skills, pre-schools also serve to help your child develop a social and moral compass. As such, you need to determine whether the approach taken by the pre-school is consistent with your own parenting objectives and guidelines. If the parents hold to a secular world-view, for example, enrolling a child in a strict, faith-based pre-school can cause significant conflict for the child, not to mention being the source of tension with the rest of the family. By the same token, if the child lives in a home where faith plays an important role, it only makes sense to enrol the child in a pre-school where practices and instruction closely resonate with the family’s beliefs.
|School Boy Studying: Stockvault|
Public, private, or home school?
While the majority of children attend public schools, more and more parents are choosing alternative education formats for their children. Private schools typically have higher teacher to student ratios, and can therefore offer more individualized instruction than can a public system with larger class sizes. They also offer the ability to somewhat limit the range of personalities with whom the child routinely associates, particularly in more exclusive or faith-based private schools. Home-schooling, of course, offers significantly more control over the child’s level of socialization, but this is actually a two-edged sword. While you will be able to insulate your child from many of the problems that plague public schools, you will also be severely restricting the opportunities the child has to develop a broader range of relationships and engage with people who come from different backgrounds. Whether the trade-off is worth it is a decision that requires significant thought on your part.
In addition, you have to honestly consider whether you are best qualified – in both your own education and temperament – to educate your child. Furthermore, there are significant logistical considerations to be weighed before undertaking the task of home schooling. When both parents work, even if the parent who will be providing the home schooling works from the home, it might be difficult to devote the time and energy necessary to properly educate the child. These are all considerations that must be addressed honestly if your child is to be afforded the education that he or she will need to thrive as an adult.
Finally, you should consider whether your educational choice will best prepare the child for his or her subsequent ventures. Does the public, private, or home schooling program increase your child’s qualifications for admission to the college that he or she might ultimately wish to attend, or prepare the child for whatever alternative career choices he or she might make, such as technical school, the military, or apprenticeship in a trade.
For additional information on choosing a school, the Department of Education website offers a free, downloadable booklet, available at http://www2.ed.gov/parents/schools/find/choose/choosing.pdf .
These are weighty choices, and certainly not to be taken lightly. In addition to today's concerns, you need to start preparing to pay for your child’s college education, but that is a topic worthy of its own article.