Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Mission Possible: Captivating Students
Local Private Schools' Unique Programs Create Lifelong Learners

by Rebecca Todd

September 01, 2010

From the moment one decides to have children, the questions begin. How should they be raised, disciplined and educated?

Options abound in the Indianapolis area for quality education, but when the time arrives to send your young ones off to school, should you go with a public or private education? According to a 2009 and Harris Interactive poll, nearly one in four parents are currently considering switching their child’s school either from private to public or public to private as a result of the economy. It’s a personal decision that shouldn’t be made based on generalizations. Many factors, of course, must be considered when making this very important decision for your child’s future. What are the costs? What are the advantages? What are the challenges? What makes private schools unique?

Indianapolis private schools offer a plethora of opportunities for your children at all educational levels. From preschool to pre-college, the qualities of a private education could set your child on a positive path.

Preschool Power

The early years of a child’s education will set the course for their educational future. Studies consistently show that children who attend preschool are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

The International School of Indiana provides a preschool (ages 3 through kindergarten) that is a full-day academic program. Students learn in either French or Spanish in a total immersion setting (meaning that children carry out all of their normal learning activities in the target language, thereby acquiring a new language at the same time as building their early academic and social skills). A Mandarin Chinese program is also offered and is total immersion for three-year olds, and ‘dual’ immersion together with English in grades pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. The curriculum includes numerical and literacy skills, world discovery, physical education, social and emotional development and the arts.

Traders Point Christian Academy offers a Christian-based education for children from preschool through grade 12 with a mission to “challenge and educate students within the framework of a Biblical world view while leading them to a personal faith and transformed life in Jesus Christ.” Their early childhood program for children ages 2 to 5 focuses on the development of age-appropriate academic and social skills in addition to introductions to music, physical education and Bible stories. Children typically enjoy two field trips per year, as well.

The Sycamore School encourages curiosity, experimentation and exploration for young, gifted children in preschool and kindergarten. Preschool students read and write to the extent of their ability. Reading, writing, and math instruction begin in kindergarten, and children are grouped with others having similar skills. Students receive instruction from specialists in Spanish, art appreciation, music, and physical education in addition to basic computer skills.

Park Tudor’s preschool and kindergarten program focuses on helping children make the transition from home to school environments. Children attend full days that feature flexible arrival times, rest and regroup periods, structured activities (physical education, music, and computers), introduction to Spanish, an outdoor nature lab and monthly community field trips.

The mission of St. Richard’s School, an independent Episcopal day school, is to “foster knowledge and values for a lifetime through the implementation of our five pillars for success: faith, classic curriculum, leadership, civic responsibility and global readiness.” At the preschool level, classes are offered in language arts, math, art, French, fine and gross motor skills, faith development, physical education and social and emotional development. In addition, a portfolio system allows parents and teachers an appreciation of growth and progress and provides a collection of student work for safe-keeping.

Elementary Advantages

At the elementary and middle school level, kids can go above and beyond the ordinary with the following private school options.

The International School of Indiana educates students at the elementary school level to be bilingual. This is achieved through immersion teaching in French, Spanish or Mandarin Chinese in the elementary years, and a combination of foreign language and English in grades 4 and 5. (Students need no prior foreign language experience to enter at any age level). The curriculum is supplemented by overnight camps, an after-school enrichment program and field trips.

Traders Point Christian Academy’s elementary education division (kindergarten through 4th grade) focuses on “building knowledge, nurturing personal growth, and encouraging lifelong study within the context of the Biblical worldview.” Students are also encouraged to move from teacher-led thinking processes to learning to be their own thinkers. Middle school children (grades 5 through 8) prepare for high school with a growing emphasis on problem-solving, critical thinking and incorporating a Christian worldview into all subject areas.

At the Sycamore School, students study content that is more abstract, more complex, broader, and deeper than the norm. Studies are both accelerated and enriched through flexible grouping strategies, field trips, resource people, mentors, and written and visual media. Instruction in music, art, Spanish, computer technology, and physical education is provided by specialists in each area.

The Orchard School is an independent, non-sectarian school for students in preschool through grade eight. Children in the elementary program are encouraged to discover, explore and experiment as they learn. The program is designed to “engage developing minds, build self-confidence, allow a child to see the world from different perspectives, teach students to work together cooperatively, and develop a concern for others.”

Park Tudor’s lower and middle schools (grades 1-8) offer “an active, family-oriented environment in which children are encouraged to take risks and develop confidence in their ability to learn.” Park Tudor offers an integrated Spanish language program beginning in junior kindergarten and continuing through grade 5. Spanish is completely integrated into the curriculum throughout these grades. Middle school students have the opportunity to study Spanish, French or Latin. In addition, Park Tudor has an extensive travel program beginning in elementary school. Fourth and fifth graders may participate in a two-week exchange program to Montevideo, Uruguay or Valladolid, Spain. All fourth graders take part in an annual trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, and younger students also take annual trips to Camp Crosley and Camp Tecumseh. Middle School students visit Washington, DC and Dearborn, Michigan.

St. Richard’s School strives to “shape our students’ intellectual, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual gifts by maintaining high academic expectations and ethical standards, and by encouraging and teaching moral and religious values, respect, service, and discipline in a climate of enthusiasm and joy.” In addition, St. Richard’s School has been nationally recognized for their foreign language program at the middle school level.

Reaching High in High School

The most challenging time in a young man or woman’s life is often their first step into high school. A local private school may offer your child the advantages he or she needs to forge ahead at an accelerated pace thus placing them in a position for further achievement in the world of higher education.

The International School of Indiana High School combines the International Baccalaureate programs with a uniquely multicultural, internationally focused education, while still being firmly rooted in Indiana. All ISI students take on the full International Baccalaureate Diploma and meet the requirements for the Indiana Academic Honors Diploma. In addition, senior students complete a range of challenging tasks, including oral reports, presentations, projects and portfolios, and sit for externally assessed written examinations. Seniors also write a substantial research paper related to one of their six subjects.

Traders Point Christian Academy’s high school offers a continuation of Biblically integrated curriculum with a college preparatory academic structure. Benefits of the program include small class sizes averaging 15 students, a laptop computer program providing all students with a personal laptop, intensive study in Spanish including travel to a Spanish speaking country in grades 9 and 10 and a wide variety of interscholastic athletic competition.

Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School students follow a challenging liberal arts program to develop skills in critical thinking, communication and learning. Technology tools and writing are incorporated throughout the curriculum to enhance research, idea development and presentation skills. Students are encouraged to be inquisitive and open to growth, thus discovering and exploring new ideas and issues. For example, this year eight Brebeuf seniors will be sharing with the entire freshman class the life lessons contained in Sean Covey’s book, “The Habits for Highly Effective Teens.” This has come about from the Dow AgroSciences Leadership Seminar the eight seniors attended last fall in which they studied this same book. These 8 students were so impressed with the wealth of the information and how impactful it could be for all Brebeuf students that they made it their mission to develop a way to pay it forward to the larger student body community. This year, they will pilot a potential annual freshman class program in which all Brebeuf Jesuit freshmen will receive the book, then they will be taught the lessons by their fellow eight student leaders with the help of a leadership expert.

Bishop Chatard High School is dedicated to providing a Catholic education, including religious instruction, spiritual and moral guidance and developing attitudes essential for Christian living. The school’s primary focus is on college preparatory course of studies and includes an advanced placement and honors program, as well academic support for students with special needs. The newly implemented Summa Cum Laude Program, designed for students who are academically gifted, is one of only three such programs in the country.

Park Tudor High School offers students a challenging college preparatory program. In addition to core curriculum and additional opportunities in fine arts, athletics and community service, students have the opportunity to travel to many countries in study-travel programs, including China, Peru, Spain, France, Egypt and Jordan. Park Tudor is only one of nine schools in the U.S. invited to participate in the international Model United Nations in The Hague, Netherlands.

The mission of Cathedral High School, a Catholic college preparatory high school, is to “provide to a diverse group of students opportunities for spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional and physical growth through service and academic excellence.” Academic instruction is offered on three levels: honors, academic and college preparatory. An emphasis on technology in the classroom is prevalent at all levels. Cathedral boasts an exceptional success rate. In fact, 100% of the students from the class of 2008 were accepted to colleges and universities across the nation.

University High School in Indianapolis is focused on academic, creative and physical achievement. Because the school is a small, it is much like a close-knit community offering more opportunities for every student to participate and try new things. In addition, a three-week January term offers intense study and travel opportunities in non-traditional classes. For example, students in oceanic studies may learn to scuba dive, and acting students may attend productions locally and in Chicago. Other students may have the opportunity to intern at hospitals, law firms, schools or restaurants.

As you can see, Indianapolis private schools boast a plethora of opportunities for families seeking to provide their children with the most unique and stimulating programs available. While no amount of money can be put on the value of education, many of the schools offer financial aid and can provide you with detailed information on questions you might have. To find out more information, visit our School Directory for complete contact details.

Rebecca Todd is a freelance writer and author of the book What's the Point? -- Looking for Logic in Modern America.