Parents want to give their children the best educational experience possible, but many don't know what to look for when making their selection. What are the benefits and drawbacks of home schooling, private schools and public schools? Each child's needs are different, and each family could come to a different conclusion.


In her book School Choices, Jan Sheble guides parents through steps that will help them determine the best type of schooling for their specific situation. A retired administrator of several Christian schools in Maryland, Sheble earned her doctorate from the University of Maryland in curriculum and instruction. School Choices gives parents tools to evaluate the quality of local public schools and private schools by exploring accreditation, teacher credentials and curriculum. Lists of questions help families determine if they can afford to spend the time and money required for private or home schooling.


During a recent interview, Sheble shared some tips on how to make the best school choice for your family.


Crosswalk: As people try to sort this all out, what are some of the key factors they should consider?


Sheble: You have to know your child. That’s kind of a given. Some children might work better in small groups. Some might need the discipline of getting up and going to a school, as opposed to learning in their pajamas. Regarding home schooling, you have to think of your time, your finances and your energies. Home schooling is a huge commitment of your time. In considering Christian schools, you have to look at your finances too, because private school doesn’t come free. You might have a child who will be better in public school because there’s orchestral music or sports. Or, you might have a child who does much better without the peripheral noise. So, yes, there’s a lot to consider – and you might change your mind when certain things happen in your life.


Crosswalk: What are some of the advantages of sending children to a Christian school?


Sheble: I really feel that if the teachers are free to talk about Jesus, it makes life so much easier. I have been in public school situations when I have stopped myself in mid-sentence and I couldn’t talk about Jesus because of where I was. When I interviewed a lot of parents, they felt if their children could learn about the Lord during school time, then they’d be better steeled for when they get out into the world. And that’s the hope.


Crosswalk: Generally, does the curriculum and educational approach of Christian schools and public schools differ?


Sheble: The answer to that is yes and no! The general topics would be the same – phonics, math and geography. With the Christian school, you’d probably have a Bible section. That’s the main difference. You also have to consider the denomination of the Christian schools you are looking at. You have to be sure you can live with, or be in agreement with, their teaching. For example, if they’re Pentecostal, and you don’t feel that way, that can be a problem.


Crosswalk: What should parents look for when evaluating the quality of their local public and private schools?