Ask the Expert: Teri Sperry on When Your School Just Isn’t Working Out

Teri Sperry

These days we have so much information at our fingertips to help solve any parenting dilemma (admittedly, most of the times we may have too much). You could argue the Internet was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to parenting.

Despite the sometimes overwhelming amount of information, it’s still nice to consult a parenting expert once in a while to get some new ideas, advice and even a dose of perspective.

At LiveMom, we want to help answer your questions, and so we’ll be starting a regular feature called Ask the Expert. We’ll take on anything from potty training to car seats to dealing with kids and technology to anything in between. Then, we’ll find local and national experts to help guide us to make the best choices for our families.

Got a question? Post it below, on our Facebook page or email us and we’ll try to get it answered!

We all experience a transition when a new school year starts — even us parents. New teachers, new classmates and different expectations can make the first few weeks of school tough on the whole family. But what if you notice that there is pattern of your child not having his or her needs met? What if you begin to wonder if there is anything else out there? If you are in this situation, you might ask yourself:

What should I do when I decide that our school just isn’t right for my child?


Teri Sperry
Teri Sperry

Helping answer today’s question is Teri Sperry, a family education consultant and founder of Alt Ed Austin, an online resource center for parents and educators. Her job entails observing and writing about local schools, keeping up with the latest developments in education, immersing herself in scholarly literature and journalism about innovative approaches, maintaining good working relationships with teachers and administrators at schools throughout Greater Austin, and joyfully helping parents find the right fit for their kids through group workshops and private consultations. Here’s how she answered our question:

When school is not working for your child, and you’ve determined that the problem does indeed lie with the school itself—its educational approach, size, physical environment, teachers, policies, schedule, or a combination of factors—it’s important to remember that you have other options. Lots of them, in fact.

Austin is rapidly earning an international reputation as a place with a huge variety of innovative learning environments where all kinds of learners flourish. Outside the traditional public and parochial school systems, you’ll find independent private schools practicing both long-established and brand-new approaches. A subset of these, sometimes called “hybrid” schools, offer part-time or flexible schedules that work well for those who also choose to homeschool. The Greater Austin homeschooling community is one of the largest and most diverse in the country, with academic co-ops, athletic and arts clubs, and social activities happening every day. Central Texas is also home to dozens of tuition-free public charter schools, each with its own mission, philosophy, and funding sources. Ed tech firms, some founded here in the Austin area, offer online learning communities and offline mentoring.

How to sort through all these options and figure out what will work best for your own kid and family? First, thinking through and talking with your partner or friends about your educational values and priorities can help clarify what it is you’re really looking for. Second, working with a local education consultant can give you insights about specific issues and how various schools or learning methods might address them. Third, there’s no substitute for meeting educators in person and spending time in their learning environments. Consider visiting a school that was never on your radar before, just for comparison; you might be surprised to find that it is exactly what your child needs to thrive intellectually, socially, and emotionally.

A great place to start your exploration is the Austin Alternative School Fair, coming up on September 27 in the outdoor courtyard of the Thinkery. A dozen small independent schools and enrichment programs, serving pre-K through high school students, will be there to talk with parents and share fun hands-on activities with kids. While you’re there, be sure to ask questions unabashedly and make appointments to tour any programs that stir your interest. A better fit for your kid is out there, and you can find it!


About Nicole Basham 793 Articles
A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 10-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau's words, her mission is to "suck out all the marrow of life", or in her son's words, to cultivate in him a love of "advenchers".

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