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Five Steps to Selecting an Alternative School

Students ready for schoolYour child has more private and public alternative school options than ever before.  An alternative school has a custom learning environment unencumbered by the traditional classroom model.  Alternative schools may be publicly funded charter school or private schools.  They range in size from large K-12 schools to alternative schools where the teacher instructs just your child throughout the day.


At its best an alternative school provides a Designer Education – curriculum, learning method and subject matter tailored to your child’s needs and interests.  Students who failed to thrive in a traditional school setting reconnect with their natural curiosity and passion for learning with customized alternative schooling.


Because the experiences are non-standard, comparing and selecting an alternative educational setting takes introspection and time.


Here are five tips to help guide your search for an alternative school.


Define What Your Child Needs in an Alternative School

Your child and his or her needs must scope your search.  Think through your child’s strengths, interests, areas for improvement and social temperament.  Maybe one of the STEM-based alternative schools will excite your child.  If there are learning disabilities make sure the alternative school has staff trained in specialized instruction.  Will they be in a classroom or would one-to-one instruction be a better fit?  The options are almost limitless so be sure to clearly define your child’s needs before you look at schools.


Research Alternative Schools

Defining your child’s needs will create a list of possible schools.  Now the homework falls to you.  Alternative schools do not have to participate in the battery of standardized tests that guide the public schools so researching test scores may be neither possible or relevant.  To get a feel for a school, prepare a list of questions addressing your child’s needs and wants.  Then spend time on a school’s website, interview parents, request literature and attend an open house.   Your goal is to narrow your list to a few possible candidates.


Visit Each Alternative School in Person

Once you have your short list, visit each school in person.  Meet with the administration.  Ask to sit-in on a class or instructional setting.  Have the school describe the alternative educational setting they will provide for your student.  Depending upon the level of customized instruction the alternative school provides, you may get a broad overview to a very detailed written proposal outlining curriculum, schedule and instructional models.


Meet the Alternative School Application Deadlines

Alternative schools may have deadline enrollment or work from a continuous enrollment model.    Don’t assume you’ve missed a deadline.  By design, alternative schools adjust instruction so they may be able to enroll your child mid-quarter or even during the summer.  Because alternative schools are unique, expect each to have different application requirements and take time to understand the application and enrollment process including any associated deadlines.


Have a Second Choice Alternative School

If your child’s first choice alternative school either does not admit your child or upon enrollment, does not best fit your child’s learning needs, be sure to have a back-up plan.  The work you completed to define your child’s needs and create a short list of alternative schools should provide you with one or two other options.  Also as your child matures, his or her needs may change, so being aware of other alternative education environments puts you in a position to support your child’s academic growth, whatever its trajectory.


Selecting an alternative school for your child requires introspection and leg-work.  However, finding the learning environment where your child feels supported, inspired and motivated makes seeking an alternative school worth your time investment.

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  (425) 483-1353

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  (253) 327-1414


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