If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a parent or have friends or neighbors who are. Baby Boomer, Gen X or Millennial, the kindergarten through 12th-grade school scene has changed much since we were children. Understanding these changes can help moms and dads guide their children to greater learning, success and happiness. Here are the three biggest changes affecting education in Eagle River and across the United States, and what these changes mean.

First, school choice opportunities have broadened over the last generation. That means parents have more options for where to send their children to school. For example, traditional public schools have adopted more flexible enrollment policies. Charter school laws have passed in 45 states including Wisconsin. More families are aware they can choose public magnet programs, where children receive education with a special focus like science, technology, engineering and mathematics or the arts. Today, any Wisconsin taxpayer can deduct the cost of private school tuition. Wisconsin students who meet certain income limits or students with special needs may qualify for state-run scholarship programs. Plus, a growing number of Wisconsin families are choosing homeschooling.

A second game changer since when we were children is that there’s now more community support for making school choices. There also are more resources for parents to help them find schools and learning environments that meet their children’s needs. I’ve worked in kindergarten through 12th-grade education for more than 15 years. Over that time, I’ve seen dozens of parent-focused organizations spring up to shine a spotlight on learning options in local communities. From helping parents find scholarships to private schools to helping them figure out the process of transferring to public school outside of their zone, to offering bilingual application assistance, grassroots organizations are cutting the stress out of school searching.

You can visit schoolchoiceweek.com to find community organizations in Wisconsin. Keep in mind that parents cite “word of mouth” as a key factor in what school they choose. This means you have the power to help others in Eagle River by sharing your own school experiences.

Third, a plethora of online learning environments have developed since our school days. These online schooling options are more comprehensive and focused than the emergency remote learning that many families experienced during the pandemic. For example, Wisconsin offers several free, full-time online learning options for students like Wisconsin Connections Academy, Wisconsin Virtual Learning, Wisconsin Virtual Academy, Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin and iForward. Besides official online schooling, resources like schoolhouse.world offer free support to supplement in-person learning.

All of these changes to kindergarten through 12th-grade education are reasons for hope. With more options, Eagle River parents have more opportunities to find a free or inexpensive education personalized to their unique children.

If you are considering a new or different environment for your daughter or son for the next school year, though, the time to start evaluating your options is now. Don’t wait. Begin the school search process during National School Choice Week, Jan. 23-29, when 579 schools and homeschool groups in Wisconsin will be working together to raise awareness of opportunity in kindergarten through 12th-grade education. You won’t regret it and your children will thank you.

Andrew Campanella is the author of “The School Choice Roadmap: Seven Steps to Finding the Right School for Your Child.”