There are few decisions more important than finding the right school for your child. You probably have a few choices, including public school—so how do you make this tough decision? You really have to do your homework when it comes to making this choice. You can probably do some initial web searches, but you really can’t judge a school until you walk its hallways and see the teachers and students in action.
- Decide what is a priority for your family. How important is academic quality? An atmosphere of respect and good manners? How much do you value sports? Community service? The arts? How often do the children have P.E? How often do the children have recess? These are important questions because not every school has the same priorities as you do, and you may take things for granted that are not actually a part of a school’s routine.
- Once you have narrowed your search based on priorities, schedule open house visits and/or school tours. An open house will give you a look at the facilities, the administration, some of the children’s work and their classrooms, and most likely a chance to meet some of the teachers. A school tour is a great way to see how the teachers deliver the curriculum, the level of student work, the progression from grade-to-grade, and a true reflection of a typical day.
- Determine class size. Small class size does matter—most especially in the younger grades. This only makes good sense. Teachers can pay greater attention to each individual student, and remediate or enrich as needed. It also helps the teacher get to know his or her students and manage the classroom and academics more efficiently. On the other hand, class sizes shouldn’t be too small. If there is only one classroom per grade level, or if there too few students in the class, your child may have fewer opportunities to make friends and learn to get along with a variety of individuals.
- Consider teacher quality. Teachers are a large part of the success of a school. What are the teachers’ qualifications? How well do they understand the mission of the school? Are they committed to your child’s success? Are they passionate and enthusiastic about their subject matter? Schools should be able to provide much of this information to you, and you should be able to see the passion and enthusiasm as you tour the school.
- What tools are available above and beyond the classroom? What if your child is in need of more challenges than most? What if he or she is struggling? What steps would be taken by the teacher and school to meet these needs? In the early years, a parent may not be aware of a child’s learning style; however, it is essential to know that certain programs are in place at the school should your child ever need them.
Do not just take for granted that your neighborhood school will fulfill your expectations when it comes to your child’s education. Each child has unique talents, learning abilities, and personalities. You will be surprised at how schools are different from one another—not only in their facilities, but in their philosophy and mission. Make sure you find the school that best aligns with your family’s hopes and dreams for the future.