John Rosemond
Tribune News Service

Q: We are looking for a private school for our 4-year-old. Regardless of the school we ultimately choose, we want to keep him there through eighth grade at least. We live in a suburban area so we have a lot of options to choose from. Our son is intelligent, creative, and very imaginative. Do you have a recommendation?

A: These days, the educational options, especially in high-density population areas, can be daunting.

Since you’ve already narrowed your search to private schools, the first thing to decide is whether you’re looking for a religious or non-religious (secular) experience. From there, decide whether you think your child would do better in a more structured, traditional environment that emphasizes classroom discipline and the “Three R’s” or a more creative, child-centered one.

Most religious schools, including schools that are loosely affiliated with churches and synagogues, put some emphasis on moral education, which I happen to believe is a good thing. They also tend to be fairly traditional, which is especially true of most Catholic schools, which also tend to have the most demographically diverse student population of all private schools.

The average age and average experience (years teaching) of the faculty are also important, as is the teacher turnover rate. Obviously, a high turnover rate is a red flag as is a faculty with relatively few years of experience.

Private schools tend to tout their average achievement test scores, the number of graduates that go on to top-flight colleges, and so on. I don’t put a lot of stock in those sorts of statistics because research has shown that student achievement is primarily a matter of parent education and expectations, not the school one attends. When parents place a high value on education and their academic expectations are high, public- and private-school kids do equally well.

When all is said and done, I am biased toward two educational philosophies that are, in fact, somewhat disparate: Montessori and classical.

A Montessori education is very child-centered, but in its original form also emphasizes classroom discipline and student responsibility while also allowing for a good amount of independence and peer collaboration.

A classical education places emphasis on learning the core “liberal arts” grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

In the final analysis, if you like a particular school and support its educational philosophy, it will most likely turn out to be a good “fit” for your child.

Visit John Rosemond’s website at www.johnrosemond.com.