Choosing a School for your Child
First – nothing can replace an actual visit to each school. This will help you get a feel for the school and will help you think of questions that you might not otherwise consider. If your child is going to be spending 7-8 hours a day there – it is worth taking the time to visit each school you are considering. Especially during the early years, your child should be in a place that fosters a love of learning and will be a nurturing environment. As a child gets older, you should consider your child’s needs and learning styles and look for an environment in which your child will thrive.
Key Questions to Ask:
- What are some highlights of the school’s curriculum?
- What is the student to teacher ratio?
- Are classes in Art, Music, and PE taught and how often?
- Is a second language taught in elementary school when it is most readily learned?
- What is the school’s approach to discipline?
- How does the school handle students who may need remedial services or enrichment? Is there a learning support center?
- What test scores are used by the school and how?
- What kinds of library and technology resources are available to the students and is technology incorporated into the learning environment?
- Does the school appreciate different learning styles and provide an engaging learning environment?
- Are field trips a part of the curriculum? If so, how do they add to the curriculum?
- Is there an active parents’ association? How are parents involved at the school? Are they welcome on campus or in the classroom?
- How does the school keep parents informed of school information and activities?
- How available are teachers and staff to parents? Can you readily speak to the principal or head of school?
- What extracurricular opportunities (e.g., sports, clubs, community service, and competitions) are available?
- Is leadership training or community service incorporated into the curriculum?
- In what ways do teachers collaborate and how is the curriculum reinforced between subjects?
- What additional resources are available to children who need assistance?
- What does each school offer that other schools don’t? What are the biggest challenges that the school faces and what are the biggest strengths?
- What are the costs for sending your child to each school? For independent schools be sure to consider additional fees or transportation costs that may not be included in the tuition.
- If the school is an independent (or private) school, is the school accredited and by whom? What types of certification and experience do the teachers have?
- Is child care available before or after school? Are summer camps offered?
Things to look for when visiting:
- Do classrooms look cheerful? Is student work displayed and does it seem appropriate for the grade level?
- Are the students actively engaged in the learning or do they spend most of their time doing “desk work”?
- Do teachers seem enthusiastic and knowledgeable; do they interact with students in an engaging manner?
- Apart from academics, what else is emphasized at the school – such as character values, religion, fine arts, and athletics? Are each student’s individual strengths valued?
- How do students behave as they move from one class to another or play outside?
Bottom Line: There are pros and cons to each school you will consider. Evaluate which school has the best fit for your child and your family at this time. Your child’s education is about more than what he or she learns from the books. Consider where your child will thrive at this point in his or her life and which environment will foster a lifetime love of learning. Take time to evaluate your options carefully – your children are worth it.