Paying for Schools: Which years have the most impact

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There is no clear-cut answer as to what age is best to enrol a child in private school. Each stage of development has certain benefits to be gained from the private school experience, many that depend on your child and when you feel they would benefit most from the investment.


Early Years (18 months – 5 years)

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An education beginning in private school ensures a solid foundation that can be carried on throughout the rest of a child’s academic career. Preschoolers go through rapid mental and physical growth and are able to easily absorb and retain information, so this period of development is best suited to learn basic reading, writing, math and language skills. Malkin Dare, the president of the Society for Quality Education, even states that students with strong reading skills early on are 95% certain to succeed in later studies. The individual attention found in private school can also lead to advanced discovery of learning problems. Private school can also help children cultivate proper study habits, organizational and social skills, and provide them with exciting outings and extracurricular activities to help them discover the world around them.

Middle Years (Grades 1 – 6)

Author and parenting guru Barbara Coloroso insists that the change from public to private school be made at natural breaks in a child’s education, and the transition from kindergarten to grade school offers an easy opportunity to make the switch. A new private school environment may help re-ignite a disinterest in learning that occurs frequently around Grades 3 or 4. Educational consultant Ruth Ehrlich believes private school would be most advantageous in the middle years because children are beginning to find their own interests, and therefore can have more of a say in what school they would like to attend. Parents also cite social and safety reasons for enrolling their children in private school at this stage. During the beginning of the vulnerable adolescence period, instructors can feature prominently in children’s lives as they begin to look outside the family for role models.

Late Years (Grades 7 – 12)

Similar to the middle stage of development, the late years of adolescence are ripe with uncertainty and self-consciousness. According to Mary Polychronas, a staff psychologist at Weston School in Montreal, the supportive community of a private school can greatly help students struggling with finding their identity. Grades 7 and 9 also provide convenient entrance points into most private schools. At this point, children can articulate their needs and wants and contribute to the school decision-making process. Private high schools focus strongly on getting their students into the college or university of their choice, and this is also a reason why many parents choose to send their child to private school at a later age. Students can also adequately prepare themselves for the personal and academic challenges of post-secondary education. For graduating students or those going into their final year, private school can be a fulfilling and exciting reward for their academic hard work, and Advanced Placement courses can help students prepare for university with transferable credits.

Read more from the Our Kids Archives, from a psychologists' perspective or from the perspective of an academic.

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