We can’t all drink the same kind of milk. Not too long ago, the options were whole, skim and two percent. Today, more health-conscious shoppers are on the lookout to get their families the nutrients they need, and lactose intolerance and various food sensitivities have led families to select options that suit them best. Today, more grocery store refrigerator shelves include everything from organic dairy milk to options like almond, soy, and rice milk.
Along similar lines, many more options exist in education today and parents and students can find what works for them. Most parents agree: every kid learns differently. Making the best possible educational choices can be difficult, but understanding a few basics can help simplify the effort of finding the right setting for a child to thrive.
There are different educational philosophies. For example, a liberal arts philosophy focuses on broad knowledge, thinking, and analytic skills. A liberal arts school program includes extensive coursework in all core academic subject areas.
A back-to-basics philosophy is one that promotes a rigorous educational environment, which places primary emphasis on teaching the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic in the early grades. Many Core Knowledge schools are in line with this kind of philosophy and college prep schools have the primary mission of preparing students for college-level academic work.
Core Knowledge is an educational curriculum that provides a solid, sequential, and specific grade-by-grade core of common knowledge with the goal of developing cultural literacy, greater fairness, and higher literacy in the early grades. Note: Some schools do not use the entire Core Knowledge curriculum. Parents must check with the individual school to find out which subjects and grade levels are taught with Core Knowledge.
Project-based learning is where academic content is taught primarily through projects that include learning about many subjects (such as math, science, reading, and writing) and may be completed over the course of weeks or months.
You will also find differing educational programs and curricula. The International Baccalaureate (IB) is designed to be a challenging educational program for students ages 3 to 19 (Primary Years, ages 3-12; Middle Years, ages 11-16; Diploma Programme, ages 16-19). IB aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. Schools that implement IB may continue to use the local school district curriculum but teach subjects according to IB objectives and methods.
A classical program is one based on the ancient Greek and Roman model of education. The purpose of the program is to increase knowledge through teaching facts and helping students make logical arguments.
Classical education also seeks to promote moral virtue and responsible citizenship. A classical education includes reading many "great books" of history and literature.
Montessori is an educational philosophy and method of learning through hands-on activities. It offers a student-centered environment where teachers introduce new ideas as they see that the students are ready. Most Montessori programs begin in preschool and end in the early grades, but Jeffco is home to Compass Montessori whose Golden campus serves students in preschool through grade 12.
The student-centered or student-directed philosophy is used by non-Montessori schools as well. Promoting the idea that students should be “active” learners. Students’ interests, needs, and abilities determine what and how information is taught in the classroom. Student-centered and student-directed learning is in contrast to teacher-centered learning where teachers present prearranged lessons and curricula to students.
Some parents and students choose other programs that are very experiential, meaning a program with a way of teaching that primarily uses experiences such as projects, field trips, discovery, and experimentation to help students learn. For example, the Waldorf method is designed to educate the whole child: head, heart, and hands. Waldorf schools strongly emphasize integrating the arts and experiential learning into every subject.
Some schools or programs emphasize experiential learning through expeditions, which may involve long-term investigation of important questions and subjects and include individual and group projects, field studies, or performances and presentations of student work.
Sometimes unique needs, such as the need to become proficient in English, drive educational programs. Dual-language schools teach students to read, write, and speak in two languages. The schools usually serve about 50 percent native English speakers and 50 percent students of another native language. Students are taught in both English and the non-English second language.
For kids who do not learn well in a traditional school setting there are online schools or programs, which provide curriculum over the Internet. This allows students to study at their own pace. In a home-based online program, parents or guardians are the primary instructors who receive guidance from qualified teachers via phone, e-mail, and in-person visits. In a site-based online program, students come to a central location where teachers and mentors are available to help guide students through the coursework. Blended learning combines student-directed online learning where the student chooses when and where he will study with in-class learning at a brick-and-mortar location away from home. Many online schools are available to Colorado students regardless of the school district in which they live. Click here to find a list of every public online school in Colorado.
One very helpful thing parents and educators have learned to consider while seeking more-suitable educational options for students is learning style. Many public schools today offer programs designed to serve different learning styles. There are three major learning styles: Kinesthetic (experiential), Visual, and Auditory. Students usually learn best when they are taught in their primary learning style.
Go online for suggestions of school programs that may benefit different types of learners—only suggestions. A kinesthetic learner may learn well in a program for visual learners. You know your child best. It is also a good idea to visit the school and see if it is a good fit for your family.
What characterizes the different learning styles?
Kinesthetic learners are students who learn best by physically experiencing what they are learning about. Sometimes kinesthetic learners need to use all five senses to explore the world. An example of kinesthetic learning is using blocks or beads to learn a math problem. Kinesthetic programs tend to place an emphasis on projects and experiencing what is being learned. Some kinesthetic programs place an emphasis on students working together on projects.
Jefferson County school programs that focus on kinesthetic learners include experiential learningl, Montessori, project-based learning, student-centered/student-directed learning, and Waldorf schools. The only outdoor/expeditionary learning in Jeffco is Outdoor Lab, a short-term experience.
Visual learners are students who learn best by using their eyes to absorb information. An example of visual learning is watching a demonstration, reading a book, or taking an online course. Visual programs tend to place an emphasis on learning through reading.
School programs that focus on visual learners include back-to-basics (emphasis on basic learning skills), classical, college prep, International Baccalaureate, liberal arts, online, and Waldorf programs.
Auditory learners are students ho learn best by hearing and absorbing information through sound. An example of auditory learning is listening to a teacher lecture. Auditory programs tend to place an emphasis on teacher-led instruction or discussion.
School programs that focus on auditory learners include back-to-basics (emphasis on basic learning skills), classical, core knowledge, college prep, dual-language, liberal arts, and Waldorf.
So how do you find a school near you that offers these types of programs? Click here and search with your address by each of the categories listed above (be sure to scroll down to the second, advanced search). As an example, you could search for Montessori and experiential schools for third grade within five miles of your home. The site has many other categories to refine your search as well, including arts or science focus, flexible schedule, school uniforms, gifted and talented, world languages, and more.