Video: A guide to private schools
Video: How to find a middle school
By GreatSchools Staff
Does your daughter learn effectively when given freedom to go at her own pace, or is she more likely to thrive in a highly structured setting? Should your son learn a standardized curriculum, or one based on his personal areas of interest?
Some schools across the nation are taking dramatically different approaches to these and other important questions, and many offer alternatives to traditional education settings.
Here's a look at some of the options, ranging from rigorous college prep programs to more flexible learning formats. Note that not all these options are available in every community. If one doesn't exist where you live, check the school organization's Web site to find out more about how to bring one of these schools to your area.
This teaching method is based on educator Maria Montessori's philosophy that it's important for children to discover and learn in their own ways. Montessori teachers encourage independence and individuality, and will even provide lesson plans based on your child's progress.
Montessori classrooms are "child-centric" — filled with hands-on materials designed to stimulate children's senses and motor skills, and to promote self-directed learning. Additionally, students within a three-year age range often share a classroom, creating a flexible, non-competitive environment where older children can teach younger students.
Nearly 8,000 private schools and several hundred public schools in the United States include Montessori programs, mostly at the elementary level. Most schools have a primary program (from 3-6 years) and often a lower elementary (6-9 years). Upper elementary programs (9-12 years) are less common, although about one school in eight will have this program. There are no grades, rewards or punishments at Montessori schools and although some parents worry about the lack of traditional homework and letter-grade report cards, a 2006 study found that Montessori students tend to show advanced social skills and creativity, and perform better on standardized tests than their peers in traditional programs.
This network of free college preparatory charter public schools emphasizes academic rigor in order to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds attend top boarding schools and universities. KIPP, known for its strong focus on achievement, has long school days, mandatory three-week summer school and two to three hours of homework each night. Students, parents and teachers are asked to sign a Commitment to Excellence pledge to confirm their shared goal of student success.
Students are encouraged by a reward system in which they receive "KIPP dollars" for academic achievement and good behavior that may be spent on important items like books and laptops. KIPP students participate in extracurricular activities including martial arts, chess and music, and take annual field trips to national landmarks and college campuses. As of 2011, more than 90 percent of KIPP's eighth grade grads had graduated from high school, and more than 80 percent of KIPP alumni have gone to college.
The Waldorf philosophy emphasizes imagination and creativity. The Waldorf classroom is meant to feel like home, with plenty of space and materials for free play. Teachers encourage students' creativity in all aspects of learning, and stress music, art and language along with traditional academic subjects.
At Waldorf schools, the same teacher often stays with a group of students for up to eight grades, and may focus on a single subject for as long as a month. Teachers introduce concepts gradually in order to help children slowly discover the world around them.
Waldorf education is currently practiced in 60 countries throughout the world, including 124 member schools in the United States, with 20 in California alone. Waldorf schools are generally private schools but there are several Waldorf-oriented charter schools around the country. You can find a list of these public charter schools here.
Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you more
insights to help you help your child succeed.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to complete your registration.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to submit your review.
Please click on the link in the verification email we just sent you to complete your change of email address.
Whoops! It looks like we still need to verify your email. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the e-mail? Click the button below and we'll send you a new one.
Thanks for registering. Welcome to GreatSchools, the largest online community committed to improving educational outcomes through parental involvement.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! You haven't verified your email address yet. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the email? Click the button below to receive a new one.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
For principals and school officials, we offer a special Enhanced School Profile (ESP) which allows you to update and add information about your school, as well as respond to reviews. If you are a school official, click Continue to start.
Please note that it can take up to 48 hours for your comment to be posted to our site. While you're here, we'd like to invite you to fill out a survey on your school's programs, activities, and extracurriculars. It only takes a few minutes and will help parents get a full picture of your school.
Get started now! You have successfully registered and can now start updating your Official School Profile. The information you provide is extremely valuable in helping parents and students learn more about your school, so thanks for taking the time!
Thank you for registering as a school leader. We just need to verify your email address. We've sent you an email - please click on the link in that message to get started editing your school's information!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.