Best Private School (2001)
The comfort of your own home
OK, you're a parent. Junior's marks this year are underwhelming. And the teacher and the school, well... let's just say they're not meeting their obligations to you or your child. What to do? How 'bout doing it yourself? There's precious little stopping you: The state requires only that you file a letter of intent with the local school board. But who will help you? First rest assured that you're not alone; currently nearly 6000 children from kindergarten through 12th grade in Palm Beach and Broward counties are home-schooled, and the practice is growing 10 to 15 percent nationally every year. The Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) refers parents considering home schooling to several local support groups. (These groups tend to gather their own kind, be they free thinkers or fundamentalists.) Once you begin, home schooling options are almost limitless. A family could spend as much annually as the cost of tuition at a private school, though it's also possible to do it for next to nothing by buying used materials at the home school associations' sales and workbooks from pharmacies and grocery stores. Catalogs, online resources, and enrichment courses are available for parents who feel they need more-traditional school supplies; field trips, physical education classes, spelling and geography bees, and book clubs spin off from the support groups as the need arises. How will you know if Junior is progressing? Once again you have options. You can have your child tested by a certified teacher or administer a standardized test. (The Iowa tests are a favorite.) And what about the long-term outcome? To get beyond high school, kids "test out" by taking the GED or dual-enrolling (as home-schooled teenagers) at a community college. Most universities accept home-schooled students with a year's worth of college grades. Heck, you might even consider Stanford for your baby, baby! Last year Stanford University admitted 9 of the 35 homeschooled children who applied, calling the applicants "an exceptionally strong group."