While the curriculum at public schools is mandated by state guidelines, private schools have a great deal of latitude in designing their curriculum. For example, parochial schools can teach courses that offer direct instruction in religion, which is not allowed at public schools. College-prep schools can offer a number of Advanced Placement, or AP classes, that are geared to college-bound students. In addition, private schools often have certain specialized missions--for example, instruction in music or the arts--that most public schools do not share. There are also specific special education schools that offer instruction and services for children with learning, emotional, or developmental issues.
Most private schools do not accept state funding, so they do not have to comply with No Child Left Behind. This means that the children at most private schools do not have to take state tests, which frees private and parochial school teachers to teach the subject matter of interest to their school and student body.
Here are some interesting course offerings at different private schools across the country:
The Cate School, a private boarding and day high school in Carpinteria, California, offers classes such as Sculpture and 3D Design and American Wilderness, a senior elective that can be counted towards credits in English or Science.
Milton Academy, a private boarding and day high school in Milton, Massachusetts, offers advanced Classics courses, including the Roman Elegy and the Philosophy of Lucretius.
Germantown Friends School, a Quaker K-12 day school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers a junior-senior seminar entitled War and Peace: A Cultural History, in which students read war-related texts going back to the Iliad and that includes writings by historic anti-war organizations.
The American Boychoir School, a boarding school for boy choristers in grades 4-8 in Princeton, New Jersey, a offers a music theory classes four days a week that includes aural training, written theory, vocal technique, and rehearsal technique.