Most of us have the opportunity of selection when it comes to school for our children. Many public school systems offer open enrollment. There are also a growing number of charter schools, specialty schools, and private schools offering us alternative choices if we are not satisfied with our local, public school.
With so many choices, parents must educate themselves on how (and why) to select a school for their children. Without a background in education or child development, how is a parent able to make a wise decision? Unfortunately, many of us turn to friends and trends – but those are not always the most beneficial guides in our decision making process.
Pressures to have the highest achieving children, to get our kindergartners ready for college, and to ensure that our children are getting the very best and the very most of education often drive our decisions. We tend to neglect the basics – of instilling a love of learning in our children, of teaching them the process of critical thinking, and of preparing them to be compassionate contributors to society. Without a foundation of the former, the rest of the academic lessons will take them nowhere.
Five things to consider when selecting a school for your children:
1. What are your educational values and goals? Is your primary goal for your children to achieve high test scores? (It is for some parents.) Have you thought about what you believe the purpose of school is? Spend some time figuring out your values and goals. Being able to define your education wishes for your child will help you figure out the answers to the rest of the questions.
2. Do you want specific-focused instruction for your child? There are art schools, drama schools, pre-engineering schools; there are schools that are focused on math and science; there are schools that are primarily focused on literacy. When visiting schools, it’s important to inquire about the philosophy that is driving the school. Does it match up with your family’s needs and wants? Ask the principal about his or her philosophy of education and determine whether it matches up with your own.
3. Does your child have special needs that need to be addressed? If the answer is yes, your first step will be insuring that a school can meet your child’s needs. If your child has not already completed the proper tests or had the expected evaluations, put it high on your to-do list. Parents must be advocates for their children. Sometimes we need to ask a lot of questions and speak to a lot of people before the answer comes. Talking with other parents is helpful also. Hearing about their journey can help make yours easier.
4. Meet the community. School is not just about the classroom academics but the environment that surrounds it. You will want to get a look at the families who come to this school, the administration that runs it, and the teachers who will be guiding your child day after day. If you don’t have a good feeling about one of these crucial components, pay attention to that feeling and examine it further.
5. Trust your gut. So much of a mother’s decision lies in her intuition. If something rubs you the wrong way – you must trust it, even if all your friends are telling you otherwise. You know your child the best, you know your family’s values, and only you can determine what will be the best choice for your family.
As with every decision we make on behalf of our children, deciding where to send them to school can be stressful and overwhelming. There are so many choices, and we want to ensure that we are making the best possible choice for our children. At the end of the day, we want our children to love school, to have a successful experience, to be challenged at the right degree, and to come out of school a better and wiser person.