By Chris Croll
I would like to highlight some alternatives to public education for parents who are considering leaving Loudoun County public schools. I am a parent who paid tuition at several private schools in the area, home schooled my child and through my volunteer work collaborated with many private school groups and domicile of the region.
While most K-12 public education alternatives are not free, they may be worth the investment for families who have religious, political, ideological, or other values that do not match the direction in the school. which our public schools head for. Health can also be a factor in a parent’s decision to remove a child from public school. Some children do better in less crowded environments or at home. Whether public, home or private school is suitable for a family, parents should feel good about the place their children are educated.
Home schooling has grown in popularity since the start of the pandemic. Census Bureau research shows that 5.4% of US families home-schooled their children in the spring of 2020. That number rose to 19.5% in May 2021 and is likely even higher today. There are several home school models that parents can choose from, including a parent-led home schooling model, an eclectic home schooling model, and a student-led model.
In the parent-led homeschool model, the parent becomes the primary school teacher. This paradigm gives parents the greatest influence over what and how their children are taught. There are many resources available to help non-accredited parents teach their children. Some materials, such as those from Khan Academy, are free. Khan offers math, science, technology, economics, art, history, and test preparation content delivered through YouTube video lessons. More formal programs can be purchased online or at retail bookstores. The Home School Legal Defense Association estimates that the average parent spends between $ 300 and $ 600 per year per child on tutorials, games, books, and other enrichment materials when they homeschool their children. These expenses are generally not tax deductible.
In what is known as the “eclectic” home schooling model, parents determine the curriculum and direction of education, but the parents themselves are not the primary instructors. This is the model I chose when I homeschooled my son. I set up a program that included language arts, social studies, and science courses from three separate online providers. My son attended his public college for math and foreign language classes, as middle school students in Loudoun County taking high school classes can enroll in LCPS part-time. My son’s physical education class was homemade; we lifted weights in the gym together. His music lessons were held at the Catoctin School of Music in Leesburg. I estimate I spent around $ 1,000 for a year of eclectic home schooling.
Student-led home schooling, also known as self-directed education, is where students study topics that match their interests. This can be done at home in an “unschooling” model, where students follow their passions on their own, or in a more structured program such as that offered at the Embark Center for Self-Directed Education in downtown Leesburg. Embark offers a school-like atmosphere but customizable course work. Many Embark students develop such incredible portfolios, resumes, and skills in their self-directed fields of study that they continue their education at competitive four-year colleges. Embarques students have the legal status of homeschooling and they attend the Center according to a schedule similar to that of a public school. Embark on tuition is around $ 13,000 per year, but the Center works with families if tuition is a challenge.
If neither public school nor home schooling is right for your family, there are several private schools in and around Loudoun County that get high marks from parents. One of the largest independent K-8 schools, which is consistently recognized as a favorite in Loudoun County, is Loudoun Country Day School (LCDS). The school’s “whole-child approach” emphasizes not only academics, but also building character, empathy, integrity, and community. LCDS tuition fees average about $ 25,000 per year.
One faith-based option is Providence Academy, a private K-8 Christian school located in Leesburg. Providence’s tuition fees are approximately $ 15,000 per year.
The high price of a private school does not seem to deter many Loudoun parents; these two private schools, and others in the area, often have long waiting lists.
There are many reasons why parents can choose alternatives to Loudoun County Public Schools. Each family must make the decision that is right for them. We are fortunate to have a large homeschool community in our area, as well as a number of very good private schools.
Chris Croll is a writer, empathy activist and communications consultant. She is a member of the board of directors of the Ryan Bartel Foundation.