12 Tips to choose the right school for your child
Published: December 28, 2018
By: Denise Yearian
Why do parents send their children to private schools?
For some it is a smaller teacher-student ratio and more individualized attention. For others, it’s religious grounding. For still others, it is to better address their student’s needs and cater to his academic timetable — be it a late-bloomer or one who is gifted in math or art.
But no two schools are alike, so where do parents begin their search? Consider these tips:
- Get recommendations. There is no perfect school or one-size-fits-all academic setting, but one may be a better fit for your child than another. Get input from parents you trust.
- Consider your child’s individuality. Take into account his strengths, weaknesses, interests and talents, as well as the learning environment most comfortable for him. A self-motivated learner may do well where he gets to direct and carry out his own learning. A child in need of constant direction might need a structured environment.
- Make a list. Write down specifically what you are looking for in ambiance, class size, teaching style, curriculum, the role of art and music, homework and where parents fit in. Then prioritize your list, allowing that some things, such as class size or religious affiliation, may be non-negotiable.
- Research options. Check out websites of school candidates, or call for more information. Consider each one’s program, mission, services, faculty and administration. What makes the school unique? What is its teaching philosophy? Is there anything the school does particularly well? Will the curriculum cater to your child’s talents and interests?
- Don’t let cost limit you. Look at a school, even if you don’t think you can afford it. Most academic institutions offer scholarships or have financial aid based on need, so ask about it.
- Go the distance, if needed. A longer commute may be worth it if your child will be happy and thrive. Look for someone to carpool with.
- Schedule a visit. Visit schools that meet your initial criteria. This will give you a feel for their academic and developmental philosophy. Note, however, that even schools that adhere to like-minded philosophies can be tremendously different. A school that seemed to be the perfect fit may prove otherwise once visited. And the school you weren’t initially drawn to may turn out to be the “one.”
- Meet with administrators. Spend a few minutes talking with the principal or school administrator. Discuss your child’s needs and ask if the school can meet them.
- Make observations. If possible, sit in on classes and observe the teachers and students. Write down facts such as school and class size, ambiance and general demeanor of students and teachers.
- Ask for references. Get names of parents willing to talk with you about the school. If you can, obtain a few names of parents who were not happy with the school and enrolled their children elsewhere.
- Get your child’s take. Bring your child to schools that meet your criteria. Have him meet the teacher and spend time in the classroom. What was his reaction? Did he seem comfortable?
- Follow your intuition. You know your child better than anyone else. If you have done your homework, you’ll know if it’s the right school for your child.