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by Tara Bone, contributing writer

The first day of kindergarten: Children celebrate it and parents either cheer or mourn the landmark day that ushers in the pursuit of academic excellence and eventual career success or failure (really? no pressure, parents). To put it bluntly, there’s a lot of pressure on parents and schools when it comes to our children’s education. Where and how children learn is a complex decision for parents.

With so many options available, the decision can be daunting. There’s public school, private school, homeschool, charter school and even online school. So what is a parent to do?

Our family asked this question for the first time last year. We had never considered all of the education options. To be honest, I don’t think parents often look into the options because there’s been a negative stigma associated with some of them.

As I did some research, the amount of resources available to parents surprised me.

First of all, we are fortunate to live in a place where there are strong public schools. Before you assume I’m not a proponent of public schools, I am. I’m a card-carrying PTA member and a product of public schools in rural Idaho (Yes, and I’m proud of it!).

My heroes growing up were my bus driver Phil and my kindergarten teacher who happened to be my grandma. In our family’s experience, we can’t say enough good about the dedicated teachers and staff at our local public schools (Go Canyon Colts!). These schools play a critical role in our communities and often meet all of a child’s educational needs. But if a child or family needs something different, there are options.

Student writing paper at school

When deciding which one works best for your child and family, realize that each family situation is different and each child has different needs that may change over time. One option that is increasing in momentum is homeschooling. There are homeschool groups in our area and a wide range of methods and curriculum. Parents who seek this option aren’t alone; they are meeting and collaborating together.

Online courses can help supplement homeschool or public school, or students can independently enroll as full-time students in virtual classrooms. Young, elementary students can even take part in virtual classrooms and interact with teachers and classmates seen right on the computer screen.

For more traditional learners, there are four charter schools in Cache Valley (for school details, see box below). While two of the four charter schools have uniform policies, none of them provide school bus service. Charter schools are publicly funded, so there are no tuition fees.

I have realized, the bottom line is that each child has a different education path. Each will flourish in his or her own way, and that’s OK. Some may thrive in public school, while others may need online courses, or may need both or one or the other at different times. All parents want the best education for their child. Aren’t we fortunate to live in a time and place where it’s all at our fingertips?

List of Cache Valley schools