by Ellen Weston, B.S. Ed., MBA, Educational Consultant, Children’s Educational Consulting, LLC
Choosing the right school for your child is a challenging thoughtful process. This is true whether your child is entering pre-kindergarten, kindergarten or in the natural transition from elementary school to middle school, or middle school to high school. Sometimes, it is necessary to find the right-fit school because the previous school wasn’t working.
The best way to approach the process is to consider two co-existing sets of priorities/goals: your child and your family. Here are five tips to help you choose the right school.
Consider the needs and interests of your child
Each child has a unique personality and set of capabilities, needs, strengths, interests, learning styles, physical or behavior challenges, and learning differences. Knowing what your child needs becomes key in choosing a school with the best fit for your child. Some thoughtful suggestions to consider are:
- Does your child need a more/less structured environment?
- Does your child need more challenging work or have special learning needs?
- Does your child need an environment that fosters creativity?
Understand your child’s learning style
Knowing your child’s learning style will help you find a school that is a great fit. Your child will be oriented toward either an Auditory, Visual or Kinesthetic learning style. Finding an environment that incorporates several learning styles will help your student stay engaged, excited, and ready to learn. For example:
- Does your child learn best by seeing how things work or does he/she prefer reading, listening or physical activity to learn?
- Is your child logical/mathematical, musical or artistic?
- Does your child prefer to learn in groups or work alone?
Evaluate your family’s needs
Various considerations concerning the family must be evaluated in conjunction with your child’s needs for the choice of school to be the right fit. These considerations will include, but not be limited to: proximity of school to home, financial realities of public vs. private, and siblings attending different schools. These considerations may be:
- Can your child’s talents be better nurtured outside your neighborhood school?
- Do you prefer to have your child bused or are you willing to drive your child; consider driving logistics of having children in different schools?
- Does your child want to be in a school with his or her friends?
Weigh-in on your expectations and values in a school
Be comfortable with the school’s mission statement and culture and be sure that it fits with your family’s values. Be clear on how the school and teachers communicate with parents. Some recommendations include:
- If your child has special needs, will those needs being met?
- Visit the school, observe the classrooms and the teachers’ style, if possible.
- Will your child be adequately challenged?
Assess the types of schools
School choices are either public or private, but private schools can be expensive. That being said, private schools often have smaller classes and may offer a curriculum or special courses that better suit your child. In addition, consider whether a co-ed or single sex education is preferable for your child. Last, evaluate the school’s programs: are they progressive or traditional and which is better for your child.
- Public schools are either District, Magnate or International Baccalaureate.
- Private Schools are either Independent Day, Boarding, Therapeutic, Micro, Special Needs, or have a Religious Affiliation.
- Private Schools may be co-ed or single sex, may have a smaller school environment, and may have progressive or traditional programs.
In conclusion, start your search for the best-fit school by thinking about what you want a school to do for your child. After all, you know your son or daughter better than anyone else does. Then, combine your child’s needs with your families’ priorities. Following these tips should help get you well on the way to finding the right school for your child.
If you’re looking at private school options for your child, check the Stamford Moms 2020 Private School Guide, here and the Stamford Moms 2020 Preschool Guide, here.