You know what’s life-changing? The type of school environment where a child spends more than six hours a day. When children benefit from environments that tap into their strengths — while nurturing and invigorating them — that transformation can lead to higher levels of learning, happiness, success, and preparation for life.

These are the main reasons that I encourage parents across New Mexico to evaluate all education options available for their children even after National School Choice Week, which took place last month.

Whether parents are looking for their child’s first school or wanting to find a different learning environment for their daughter or son, starting the school search process early provides enough time to find the right fit for the 2020-21 school year.

The two words “school choice” are shorthand for myriad options — from choosing your neighborhood school to homeschooling and everything in between. New Mexico parents have access to six broad options: traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, online schools, private schools, and homeschooling.

Within these broad categories are even more choices. New Mexico parents who live near low-performing schools may transfer their children to another school in their district or outside their district. Parents in other circumstances should check with their local school district. Traditional public schools may differ in leadership, learning methods, or just “feel different” to you.

In New Mexico, families can also choose from tuition-free public charter schools. These schools are allowed extra freedom to innovate with learning methods, which can then be shared with district schools.

Magnet schools are a third type of public school in New Mexico. These schools allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering, science, or the arts.

Additionally, New Mexico offers several free, full-time public online learning options for students. The state’s Public Education Department offers a supplemental online course program as well. The state-run program charges fees to schools who enroll students — some local districts absorb these costs, while some pass them along to families.

Of course, New Mexico also has all shapes and sizes of private schools for you to consider too, from schools that pass on a cultural heritage to schools designed for children with special needs. While New Mexico doesn’t have a publicly run scholarship program, privately run programs may be available.

Finally, homeschooling, which is permitted in all 50 states, is another school option you can consider, and there are more resources for homeschooling families than ever before.

National School Choice Week was a reminder to help empower parents and provide information about all of these options, while encouraging schools and learning environments to raise awareness of the positive impact they have on their local communities.

Your child deserves the best opportunity to excel in life — and that starts with choosing the learning environment that suits his or her strengths and your family’s values. School choice doesn’t work miracles, but it can come close. I’ve personally seen and heard families whose lives have been transformed in a matter of months after finding a school that better fit them.

Students have a world of undeveloped possibilities to discover in their school years. I hope you’ll use School Choice Week to find the best learning destination for them, or celebrate the home they’ve already found in the right school.

A nationally recognized advocate for children and families, Andrew R. Campanella serves as president of National School Choice Week, the world’s largest annual celebration of opportunity in education. He lives in Miami.

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