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What if school doesn’t fit my kid?

What do I do if school doesn’t fit my kid?

That’s the question that so many of the parents and families ask when they’re looking at small independent schools like The Howard Gardner School. There are any number of reasons that their current school might not fit.  

  • “My son is surviving, but they definitely aren’t thriving” 
  • “My daughter stopped doing gymnastics, and doesn’t ride horses anymore. She just does schoolwork.”
  • “I don’t think the school ever really ‘got’ my kid… they’re just different”

These are quotes pulled from parents looking at HGS this year. Our families are a diverse group from all different backgrounds. Our students are just as varied with all kinds of reasons for being at The Howard Gardner School. The common thread is that school wasn’t working.

When school — as we think of it now — was invented, in the 1800s, it was in answer to the industrial revolution. Desks in rows and columns, classrooms with the same number of students as factories had workers in each shift. Even a curriculum contained by four walls and a textbook, set to a standardized approach for a standardized set of goals.  

A few things have changed in the last two hundred years  

Public school in the United States was and is a ground-breaking, crucial program with an audacious mandate: Educate every single citizen of the most diverse nation in the history of the world. Public educators are dedicated professionals seeking to do just that — but the mandate is virtually impossible. What works for one student might be antithetical to the needs of another. What makes one kid excited might make another kid anxious. As a result, typical schools seek to do the most that they can for as many students as they can. It’s a laudable and practical approach to a truly difficult circumstance.

But what if your kid doesn’t fit?

The parents, families, and kids who are exploring The Howard Gardner School are obviously considering a new school setting. It’s a wonderful truth that this region has an incredible array of top tier public and private schools. In particular, this area’s set of intentionally small schools is truly impressive. The Washington Small Schools Association and the Virginia Small Schools Association can provide interested families with information and ideas about how to find a school that fits. 

In fact, the admissions staff at these small schools will take the time and effort to help each individual student find and access the best possible fit for them. Because each small school can be a different place — with programs, teachers, even campuses that fit different kinds of kids.  

At The Howard Gardner School, we work with a very small number of students, in very small classes, designed around experiential programming. For instance, we take thirty-six field trips per year. Our students have multiple overnight travel opportunities each school year. And because of the needs of the teenage brain, we start the school day at 10 a.m. If sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, or slogging through another two hours of homework at night isn’t the right fit for your kid, HGS could help you find a better one.

Our mission here at The Howard Gardner School is to help bright, creative, non-traditional students use their unique strengths to thrive academically, intellectually, and emotionally. 

Please check out our website at, and call or email to learn more about how to find the best fit for your kid.

There is a place where each young person can find their fit and thrive. The process is a bit like being in a dark room — the hard part isn’t turning on the light, it’s finding the switch.

The Howard Gardner School
Serving bright, creative, non-traditional learners in grades 6-12
Alexandria, VA & Sterling, VA

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