"Alternative schools" refers to any school that offers a curriculum, learning environment, or philosophical predisposition that diverges markedly from the mainstream. Typical examples of alternative private schools and preschools include Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, and Arrowsmith.
Parents send children to alternative schools for numerous reasons. Classroom structure, educational outlook, and essentially alternative ideas about childhood development are among the most common motivators for sending a child to such a school. Some of these schools test innovative teaching strategies and programs to help them identify how children develop most effectively.
For example, Montessori schools, unlike most other types of private schools, believe that students learn best in large classes where they can educate themselves (i.e., self-exploration) and become mentors for each other. This principle has always distinguished Montessori education from the customary model of teaching.
Arrowsmith Schools focus on helping students with learning disabilities, through intensive and graduated cognitive exercises. The program presupposes the plasticity of the human brain, a concept that has gained much wider acceptance in the broader scientific community and in the public sphere.
Waldorf schools and preschools focus on hands-on activities and the stimulation provided bya a more holistic approach that downplays seat work.
Arrowsmith and Montessori (as well as, to a lesser extent, Waldorf) are examples of alternative schools that have seen their curriculum influence public education and become more widely accepted. Both progenitors of these methods (Maria Montessori and Barbara Arrowsmith) used their personal observations to see flaws in and help mold a unique alternative to mainstream schooling. Alternative schools are an important breeding ground for new ideas and approaches, although not all alternatives are as successful as these two examples.
Parents who enroll their sons or daughters in alternative private schools also have more control than they would find elsewhere. Conventional schools have fairly standard curricula and teaching strategies. Being private, alternative schools offer more control.
If your son or daughter has a high aptitude or passion in a certain discipline, some alternative schools can recognize this and help him or her develop that aptitude. Plenty of alternative schools and preschools (and daycares) combine classroom education with a particular specialty. In countless cases, parents prefer alternative schools because they allow their children to unleash their creativity which may have been stifled in another environment.
Selecting a private school usually comes down to finding the right fit. As such, private schools with clear and identifiable educational visions can help you make a choice based on concrete reasons.
Prior to making this important decision, consider some, if not all, of these key questions:
For much more detailed information about some excellent alternative private schools, visit one of Our Kids’ annual expos or click on any of the links below.