A Parent’s Guide To Choosing A Private School In Kansas City
When your child is in the right school, everything just clicks.
The right teachers, the right classmates, and the right community make all the difference in your student’s journey through school. Private schools offer students and families choices in these and other areas. And they are no longer just for the elite.
Private schools typically focus on high quality academics and integrate extracurricular activities and athletics right into their programs. They offer many distinctive programs and cater to different learning styles.
The U.S. is home to about 29,000 private schools that educate around 6.1 million students.
Here in Kansas City there are dozens of options, from the well-known Catholic and Montessori schools, to the exclusive secular prep schools, to excellent faith-based schools.
Identifying the right private school for your family can sometimes be challenging. If you’re new to the area or simply thinking about schooling options, we want to help you identify the best possible school option for your child.
Why Consider Private School Education For Your Child?
Families all over America and right here in Kansas City are choosing private education for their children. The issues driving these choices are often quite different from previous generations.
Historically, wealthy families often choose private education to provide their children with an excellent education, and to enable cultural training for an affluent life. Some of these schools were exceptional; others were simply enclaves of snobbishness.
Today, parents from all segments of society and from every socio-economic stratum of our culture are choosing to educate their children privately.
Why is this happening? What is driving this interest?
While it could be said that there as as many reasons as families, four motivations seem to be paramount:
Parents are concerned that many schools in our day are not adequately preparing their child for the future. They worry that their child will not be well prepared for college, a fulfilling career, and God’s calling. Adding to the concerns are the untested educational methods and curriculum such as Common Core.
The social values driving the educational and ethical teaching at the local public school are out of step with so many families own values. Often, these parents look to the future and see only an ever-widening gap between their own values and those of the school system. This is identified in loss of accountability regarding parental notification, the politicization of the classroom, and behavioral permissiveness.
While many students thrive in a large school with 500 to 2000 or more students, the sad truth is that many are miserable at such schools. Despite a large enrollment, their inherent impersonality leaves many students feeling detached at a time when close friendships are important. Additionally, students may not feel that their teachers really know them, and feel they are unlikely to receive individual attention. Concerns over moral and physical safety are real.
A school culture that marginalizes or even disparages Christian faith and practice is ever more common. Parents are looking for an education that supports and encourages their child’s faith. No school can give a child faith, but surrounding a child with teachers, culture, and curriculum that fosters faith makes private schools very attractive to many parents.
While these are typically regarded as the main reasons families seek private education, your reasons may be specifically linked to your family’s needs.
Whatever your motivation, one thing is for sure, you likely have specific goals and are looking for demonstrable value in your choice of school.
Here is a brief overview of the private school landscape today:
Prep Schools and Boarding Schools
Prep and boarding schools are usually older, sometimes prestigious, and usually at the top end of the tuition cost scale. Typically, you will find exceptional facilities, long academic traditions, and established athletics programs.
If your faith commitments and values are important in your choice of school, you may find that the usually non faith-based curriculum and ethos is less attractive.
Charter Schools/Magnet Schools
These are schools that usually attempt to have a focus on excellence in a narrow arena. Some focus on the arts, sports, or science and technology, and others on foreign languages.
If these are areas of giftedness or interest for your child, these schools might be attractive. However, be cautious and realize your child’s interests will change as they mature.
Most charter and magnet schools are public schools, so they come with some of the problems that might have prompted you to look at private schools in the first place.
In Kansas City, you will find some schools that were founded by historic Christian denominations such as Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, and Presbyterian. There are also schools started by Muslim, Jewish, and other congregations. Often these schools were established at times when the congregants did not feel comfortable or welcome in the public schools. Because of this, the intention was to provide a safe replacement for public schools, where students could be inculcated with their denominational theology and practice.
Since “replacing” the public school was the driving force at their founding, they inherited many of the valued aspects and, sadly, the problems of public schools. They often have good athletic programs and excellent facilities, but also an educational vision that mirrors public education and might be more tied to the public school’s academic standards.
Reactive Christian Schools
There are Christian schools in Kansas City not tied to a historic Christian church, that have roots similar to the denominational schools. Parents wanting to escape the negative actions, ideas, or curricular decisions found the public schools started their own school to avoid evolution, sex education, or some liberal or secular point of view.
These schools were very committed protecting Christian children from the world. At times, however, they struggle because their founding vision was—at its core—negative. They were trying to run away from something rather than running toward something. Be careful of legalism. Again, often these schools are aimed toward repeating what the public schools are doing while protecting children from its perceived ills.
Homeschool, Co-op and University Model Schools
Homeschooling is an option if you expect one parent to be at home throughout your children’s education. Contacting homeschool support groups and attending homeschool conferences is a good way of understanding the homeschool model.
You will need to very committed to hands on teaching. One benefit is that parents avoid daily travel and homeschool can fit around a family schedule.
Co-op and university model schools schools are part-time schools where classes meet one, two, or three days a week. Some have specialized teachers, while others use the student’s moms and dads to share the teaching load. They usually have the benefit of lower cost and greater flexibility. It can be challenging to keep the children working at the same pace because so much of the work is done at home.
Online schools, both private and public, are a recent option. These schools may be a good choice for parents who are attracted to homeschooling, but are concerned about their ability to teach. They offer students additional help, support, and access to teachers through the Internet.
Often, students in online schools still need a lot of parental oversight, and, like traditional homeschooling, they can miss some of the formative experience that go with being part of a school—like athletics and peer student interaction. Subjects like art and music are difficult to take online so require additional, often evening, classes.
Classical Christian Schools
Classical Christian schools are committed to an historical academic philosophy of education. These schools focus on academic excellence, usually moving toward an educational vision rather than trying to escape the negative impacts of culture. They are committed to encouraging faith and their values mirror those found in the Christian family.
Classical Christian schools integrate the Christian faith into every subject, require a yearly Bible class, study the Great Books, and have strong math and science options.
The Classical method of education focuses on learning basic facts in fun ways in the early years, then shifting during the middle school years to focus on critical thinking. Just think of how a thirteen year old likes to argue! Finally, classical schools train students to communicate effectively through writing and speaking persuasively.
Many of the leaders of the Renaissance, Reformation, and most of America’s Founders were classically educated.
A brief was recently published by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach at the National Education Policy Center answering the question we are asking: “Does class size really matter?”
Schanzenbach argues that small class size (15-20 students) not only matters but “is an important determinant of a variety of student outcomes, ranging from test scores to broader life outcomes.” She simply states that “children learn more and teachers are more effective in smaller classes.”
Schanzenbach also looks to the STAR class size study where students were randomly assigned to small, middle, and large classes for a period of four years. As they have tracked these students throughout their education, they found that the students from the small classes consistently outperformed their peers.
At Whitefield Academy, the average class size is 16 students with a 10:1 teacher to student ratio.
The biggest deterrent for most families when it comes to choosing private education for their children is the price tag. Though adding private school tuition to the pile of bills can be daunting, there are a number of things that you might do to make affording tuition easier.
1. Use A Budgeting Tool
Many families find that making a budget and sticking to it is important when trying to afford tuition. Using an envelope program like GoodBudget allows families to take each month’s paycheck and allocate funds to each area of spending. Filling the tuition and bills envelopes first and then filtering leftover income into other envelopes helps to prioritize spending for the month.
2. Keep General Spending Low
Paying tuition first is important, but sometimes that means there is not much left over for groceries, eating out, and extras. It helps to plan weekly meals before going grocery shopping to only buy what will be used. Make eating out a treat rather than an expectation. Have birthday parties at home, make family trips to the library rather than the coffee shop, road trip instead of plane trip, and take advantage of hand-me-downs. The list is endless!
3. Use the School’s “Discounts”
Many private schools offer a variety of incentives when it comes to tuition. Some schools will provide tuition discounts in increasing quantities per child in each family. Also, schools sometimes give discounts if tuition is paid in a lump sum rather than monthly. Financial aid can be helpful as well as used uniform sales. The school may offer a uniform closet where excellent condition used uniforms are available at a fraction of the original price.
4. Find More Income
When the budgeting and belt-tightening just aren’t cutting it, some families decide to add a part-time job. Many parents have found that starting a side job like selling baked goods at the farmer’s market, doing part-time office work, or babysitting in their homes are ways to bring in some extra income without committing too many hours.
5. Keep the “Big Picture” in Perspective
Educating and training their children in the way they should go is arguably the most important task for parents today. Parents make sacrifices for their children on a daily basis, and many parents believe paying for a Classical Christian education is one of those important and sometimes life-changing sacrifices. It is important to remember, however, that the difficult life changes that may come with paying private tuition are temporary. Greater financial freedom will come after graduation, but the skills and training the children receive is permanent.
The fundamental difference between our classical model of education and a “modern” approach lies in whether the mental skills of each student are assumed or are explicitly developed.
While the contemporary approach assumes verbal and quantitative skills are already present or that they will emerge on their own, our methodology recognizes that the skills associated with learning must be gradually, explicitly, and thoroughly taught. The latter produces students who are well-rounded, logical reasoners, ready to apply their knowledge and wisdom to a variety of careers and opportunities. The difference is profound in a student’s learning experience.
Classical vs Public vs Other Private Schools
Articulating just what exactly sets classical Christian education (CCE) apart from public education (or even a traditional Christian one) can be a challenge.
The biggest difference lies not in what is actually being taught, but rather the end goals. Unlike modern education where a student is expected to simply know certain facts before moving on, the origins of classical training began with the ancient Greek approach to education. Steve Turley explains that, “The ultimate goal was what the Greeks termed morphosis, the transformation of the student.”
Early Christians adopted the methods of Greek education and encouraged fathers to educate children in Godly wisdom and virtue; students learned to love the pursuit of truth.
Forming People Rather Than Workers
Over the past few hundred years, public schools have shifted from the ancient model to a more practical, utilitarian approach. The progressive era of education arrived where the end goal was no longer the pursuit of lasting things—wisdom, truth, goodness, beauty—but rather a means of obtaining a certain job or career.
Career preparation is not inherently a bad thing, but when schools replace the glorious pursuit of knowledge and wisdom with career readiness, they are training workers not whole people.
In The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, Leigh Bortins writes, “Classical education encourages us that we are capable of becoming an Oxford don who builds bicycles, or a plumber who reads Milton, or a business owner who spouts theology.
The classically educated are not defined by their occupation so much as by their breadth of knowledge and understanding.” CCE instills critical thinking skills and the ability to communicate ideas, the benefits of which are necessary in every career field.
The Need to Seek Truth
Building upon ideals of traditional classical education, a Christian classical education not only ignites a lifelong love of learning, but it commits to the pursuit of God’s truth in our daily lives.
In his celebrated book, How Should We Then Live, Francis Schaeffer states, “The biblical message is truth and it demands a commitment to truth…” We cannot teach grammatical, literary, mathematical, or scientific truths to our children without the Truth of the Gospel.
The Bible speaks famously of the truth setting us free (John 8:32), and classical Christian schools believe strongly that we must teach children how to pursue these truths.
What Makes A Classical Classroom Unique?
So how is the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty realized in the classroom? One major difference is that classical schools are not confined by “teaching to the test.” While classically trained students typically do very well on standardized tests, it is not to this end that they are taught, so there is naturally more freedom in the classroom.
The following are just a few teaching methods commonly found in classical Christian schools:
- Cursive handwriting from Pre-K on
- An emphasis on the memorization of poetry and Scripture
- Training in composition and Latin in Upper Elementary
- Formal training in logic and rhetoric in Middle School
- Seniors write a thesis and orally defend it
Classical Christian education prepares students for the future by standing them on the building blocks of the ancients, emphasizing the love of learning and the pursuit of Biblical Truth over mere career readiness.
The fundamental difference between the classical model of education and a “modern” approach lies in whether the mental skills of each student are assumed or are explicitly developed.
While the contemporary approach assumes verbal and quantitative skills are already present or that they will emerge on their own, our methodology recognizes that the skills associated with learning must be gradually, explicitly, and thoroughly taught.
The latter produces students who are well-rounded, logical reasoners, ready to apply their knowledge and wisdom to a variety of careers and opportunities. The difference is profound in a student’s learning experience.
Perhaps you’re thinking that classical Christian education may be an excellent option for your child’s education but you’re worried that your child won’t be successful.
After all, they haven’t been exposed to classical education methods and curriculum. And how in the world will you be able to help them with Latin homework?
We encourage you to watch our recent webinar where we dig deeper into what it’s like for a student to transfer into a classical Christian school from a homeschool, public or traditional Christian school. You’ll learn solutions to typical problems and hear from a parent about what the transition was like for her children.
At Whitefield Academy, our mission is to equip your children to be Christ-honoring critical thinkers, clear communicators, and compassionate leaders, through the pursuit of academic excellence, in the tradition of classical Christian education.
Our vision is be recognized as the leading Christian School in the Kansas City area, preparing pre-kindergarten – grade 12 students for a love of learning and service, to the glory of God.
Your child will be immersed in a distinctly Christian culture where they walk alongside nurturing faculty and examine life through the lens of Scripture.
They will experience joy as they develop their unique talents and interests, form lasting friendships with classmates, and deepen their understanding of themselves as image bearers of God.
Whitefield students thrive as part of a challenging, loving school family.
At Whitefield Academy, the faculty have worked across grade lines to create an overarching scope and sequence that naturally progresses and builds upon itself. A variety of curricula is used to guide students from Pre-K through senior year, with the goal of graduating well-rounded, Godly men and women who are critical thinkers, clear communicators and compassionate leaders.
Reading and Writing education begins in early grammar school with phonograms, Cursive First and Spell to Write and Read. Once students reach fourth grade, they begin using the Progymnasmata, our writing program.
Upper schoolers read the Great Books, and Juniors and Seniors write and present thesis papers. Every year, eighth graders read and perform Antigone while the high schoolers perform a Shakespeare play. Social Studies begins in lower school with Veritas Press and Story of the World, progressing to Upper School where history is studied through the Great Books, and Logic is taught using Traditional Logic.
Developing number sense, through a variety of resources including Saxon Math and hands-on manipulatives, begins in Pre-K and transitions to more abstract thinking in upper school as students encounter Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus.
The sciences are studied throughout each student’s education through observation, experiment, journaling, reading and exploring natural relationships. Languages begin in fourth to seventh grade with Latin, ninth grade with Greek, and an option of Spanish or Greek in tenth-twelfth.
Bible and Scripture memory are taught from Pre-K to twelfth grade, and art and physical education are required through sixth grade. Music is required through eighth grade.
A variety of electives change from year to year as different needs and interests arise.