Choosing a school for your child is a huge responsibility and careful planning is vital. Parents should consider what type of education and school community best suits their child and their family. Questions to ask are: do we prefer traditional or progressive? Single sex or co-ed? Is the class size large or small? Does the school offer a curriculum with features that our child would enjoy, such as music, art, sports, technology, foreign languages, etc. Another consideration is geographic location – are we okay commuting to a school or do we value being physically close to the school?
Once you’re clear on your child’s (and your own) unique requirements, then you can start to gather as much information as possible about the schools you are interested in.
You can look at school directories, the Parents League and the schools’ own websites to learn about their curriculums, values and philosophies. Do they take the students on many trips? Do they provide enrichment opportunities?
It’s also important to visit the schools you are interested in. Do not rely on word of mouth and reputation alone. Schools can change over time; especially if there has been a change in leadership and/or staff. Go on Open House visits and try to attend any events the school may hold that are open to the public.
Most schools have Open Houses, which give you an opportunity to see the facilities and learn more about the curriculum and programming. Sometimes it can be more beneficial to try and arrange a tour of the school during the school day. This will give you a true insight into daily life at the school. Schools are usually very happy to allow this, especially if you are unable to attend their Open House dates.
Here are a few things to consider when visiting prospective schools:
- Do you feel welcome and comfortable to ask questions?
- What is the head teacher and the teaching staff like?
- How do the children interact with them?
- How safe and clean is the school?
- What are the dining facilities like?
- How does playtime work? Are the children separated by age?
After researching and touring several tools, families should narrow their focus to 4 to 6 schools. Listen to your child and truly evaluate what would be the best fit for him or her. What may attract you may not be the same environment that will allow your child to flourish and succeed. When you visit, if it feels right to you and your child, then it more than likely will be.