Being a parent often means having to make choices about things that in the past were just a given. For example, when it came to sending your child to school “back in the old days” most parents simply sent their child to the school nearest to home... (Even if it was 5 miles, uphill, in the snow both ways). There were few options outside of the closest public school unless you went to a private school or an alternative school. Now days’ parents have many options, and the ability to choose the right school for your child can be a challenging one. There are many factors that may determine the best educational choice. For instance, if the child is moving on to the next level (i.e. from grade school to middle school) you may want to choose a school based on the high school proximity as well. Or, if your child excels in a sport, you may choose a school based on coaching and athletic facilities on campus. Or if you are planning on moving to a new neighborhood, you may choose a school based on walking distance or on your commute to work. Either way, doing your homework and asking the right questions will help you narrow down which school is really best for your child and your family.
Where to begin:
Start by asking what your child’s needs and what the needs of the family are. Consider what your child’s strengths are and what they may already be showing signs of excelling at. For example if your child seems to excel in a specific subject such as art or science you may want to steer your focus towards a school that specializes in that type of program. If your child is quiet, you may want to send them to a school with a smaller class size so they feel less intimidated or more likely to speak up when called upon.
Once you have painted a picture of what the perfect school scenario is your next step is to turn your efforts to online sources. There are many great online tools that can give you information on teacher to student ratios, national testing scores, number of students enrolled as well as how the schools are rated state wide and nationally.
If you have the option, nothing can beat an onsite visit to the schools that are most appealing to you. While you are there you can observe the teacher and staff interactions as well as, the student to student interactions. It is ideal to bring your child along with you to observe and get their input, especially since it will be their experiences that will blossom while in the educational environment long term. It is a good idea to formulate a list of questions for the tour.
Some questions can be simple such as:
- How many class rooms do you have?
- What is the average number of students in each class?
- What facilities do you have beyond the usual?
To more in depth:
- What is the school’s approach to reading, math and writing?
- Can the school share their curriculum?
- What extra-curricular activities do you offer?
- Are there after-school activities?
Another great way to research schools by Helene Goldnadel is by talking to other parents. Parents are often the best measure of what a school is like and can offer some great insight as to what the strengths and possible weaknesses of a school. On occasion, there are forums and parent groups online and through social media that may be available to give you a great place to ask your questions.
All in all, just knowing that you can find a way to gain input on where your child receives their education is a great thing. Whether it is because you are moving and have the opportunity to choose your new location, transferring your child to a different school, or anything in between; it is great to be involved.