It’s among the greatest questions parents face when preparing their children to one day face the world as confident adults: Where should little Jack and Diane go to school?
If you’re asking that question now and haven’t yet thought of private school as an option, perhaps it’s time to consider that a host of institutions in Baltimore are offering programs tailor-made to children like yours.
Schools like St. James Academy in Monkton offer their students small class sizes of between 16 and 18 students with a student-teacher ratio of 8 to 1.
“Divine thinking is a way of extended learning,” said Lower School Head Lori Dembo. “You give them a certain mission and supplies and they teach each other.”
St. James runs from kindergarten through 8th grade and offers “choice time” for 3rd through 5th graders in which students are able to choose a topic they are interested in and study it in depth.
“They narrow it down to a reasonable field of study and they learn about it for three weeks or six weeks depending on how expensive the project is,” Dembo said.
Dembo said the 8th-graders take a field trip every year to Disney World, where they learn about physics and chemistry in the underground Disney classrooms. She thinks self-empowerment is an important skill kids gain through private school.
“I think what private school does is produce great thinkers, and [teach kids to] take ownership for their learning,” she said.
Baltimore’s Calvert school also runs through 8th grade, and kids spend part of their time in single-sex environments—something communications director Stephanie Coldren thinks is healthy.
“I think that there’s so much out there that supports having coed education as well as having single-sex education that there’s benefits to both,” she said.
Coldren said she is particularly proud of the fact that many of the older students at Calvert form long-lasting relationships with the younger students.
“If you have an older school that’s a high school, that’s not usually the case,” she said.
Each fall, the school holds a high school fair for 8th graders in which representatives from many of the local private high schools come to speak to students and parents. Coldren said Calvert pairs each student with a high school placement counselor in order to determine his or her specific needs.
“What that does is allow students to have a voice in where they want go to high school,” she said.
If you’re looking to send a boy to private school, Boys Latin School may be the answer. Founded in 1844, it is one of the oldest K-12 all-boys schools in the Mid-Atlantic states. Headmaster Christopher Post said Boys Latin tries to counter current literature about boys falling behind in the classroom by creating a close-knit community that teaches boys how to be men.
“There are images that being smart and being proactive is unmasculine,” he said. “They really learn that being smart is a great thing and working hard is a great thing.”
Post noted that many Boys Latin students have gone on to attend prestigious institutions like Berklee College of Music, Savannah College of Art and Design and the United States Military Academy at West Point. He said there is a natural inclination toward competition that boys have, and that the school works to foster that kind of atmosphere.
“From each boy, there’s an abiding desire to be known and loved for what he is,” Post said.
With a student population of more than 800 students, Friends School of Baltimore is one of the few Quaker schools in the area,according to school spokeswoman Heidi Blalock. She said kids there are able to learn both basic skills and higher-level thinking skills at a young age.
“What they really need are the skills of inquiry and how to discern critical information, navigating all that complexity,” she said. “And they need to be in a supportive community where ideas are expressed, discussed and tested.
At McDonogh School in Owings Mills, the school environment is more like that of Google, according to Associate Headmaster Tim Fish. He cited the student-run school website, launched in 1998, as an example of the school’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“If you have an idea and you want to try something, we try to find a way to make it work,” he said.
McDonogh runs through high school, with 4-year olds able to start pre-kindergarten there in the upcoming school year. It includes a five-day boarding program for upper school students and busing for day students, which Fish thinks contributes to the school’s diversity.
“It provides us the opportunity to have a geographically diverse student body,” he said of the busing.
McDonogh’s campus includes a ropes course, working farm and horses that students ride for an equestrian program.
“All this stuff happens because McDonogh has a ‘say yes’ attitude as opposed to a ‘say no’ attitude,” Fish said.