School choice? Plenty!

Educational choice is just one of the reasons Minnesota is a great place to raise our kids. 

Though traditional public schools in our state are some of the best, many Minnesota parents often take advantage of other avenues to education such as open enrollment in a school outside their home district, plus charter schools, magnet schools, language-immersion programs, schools for gifted and talented kids, online schools, private schools and homeschooling. There's even a new school in Hopkins geared toward twice exceptional students (kids who are gifted but who also have exceptional or special needs).

And many of our schools boast strong STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), plus language instruction starting in kindergarten. IB (International Baccalaureate) programs abound in Minnesota as well. 

And that’s all to say nothing of the countless out-of-school avenues we have for further learning in Minnesota — including music, dance, art, science, math, nature and sports — that make other states green with envy. (Check our extensive online Education Resource listings to see what I’m talking about!)

In our October issue of Minnesota Parent magazine — our annual Education edition (page through the electronic version here or pick one up at one of our rack sites) — you’ll find stories about some of the biggest trends shaping education in Minnesota.  

I was surprised to learn about a new trend taking hold on the East Coast, and now in Minnesota: There are now K-12 education counselors who help families find the right school for their kids, starting well before kindergarten. They cater to families just entering the system as well as those whose kids are having trouble in their current school and need some solutions, stat. 

Another hot topic is early childhood music education. In the Twin Cities, the popularity of these programs — which are typically open to infants and older — has exploded. 

Finally, another major movement in education is language immersion. And it’s not just taking off in the heart of the Twin Cities. In Forest Lake, more than 700 students are learning Spanish and Mandarin from within an elementary IB curriculum at Lakes International Language Academy. And it's a tuition-free charter school, not a pricy private.

Though my son attends a traditional public school, we had the choice of a free Mandarin program in our district (Hopkins), including busing! I grew up in a small town with a single school, so the novelty isn’t lost on me.

More important: My son’s school offers not just on-site before-and-after care, but also late-start, non-school-day and even vacation care. Yes, that includes summer (with field trips)! As a two-working-parent family, this offers us huge flexibility and, most of all, choices!

How are Minnesota's schools working out for you so far? Comment below! 

Sarah Dorison is the Editor of Minnesota Parent magazine. She lives in Golden Valley with her husband and their 6-year-old son. Write her at editor@mnparent.com.