Are you working on choosing a school for your child?
Many things about childhood impact one’s success when they reach adulthood, and school is a major factor. Not everyone lives in the best school districts in America, but you can still give your child a great education. There are good schools near you – the hard part is figuring out what to look for.
In this guide, we’ll show you what you need to know to choose the right school for your child’s current and future success.
Keep reading to learn our top tips for choosing a school for your child!
Attend a Meeting
A great first step is to attend a PTA or similar meeting at a prospective school before enrolling. You’re an interested parent, so they’re going to let you attend.
At the meeting, work on making connections with as many parents as you can. Get their contact information so you can get in touch with them after the meeting and ask more questions, or find out who else you should speak with.
If the school seems like a good fit, go ahead and get involved in the PTA, even if your child isn’t attending yet. This gives an endorsement that can be valuable to the parents who are already there, so they’ll like having you.
Connect With the Principal
Find enough time to really get to know the principal – you often need more than a quick meeting to get a feel for how they run the school. Although many principals say they work under time constraints, not many parents are making the time to arrange meetings with them. They’ll be able to find time for you.
Ask them what the school’s educational goals and methods are, and how they work to reach those goals and implement those methods. Some kids don’t do well with a one-size-fits-all education. But many schools also have specialists who can help meet your child’s needs.
Watch a Class
Some schools have banned parents from sitting in on a class, claiming that it can be disruptive. But if the school you’re interested in permits in, find an hour to sit in on a class and get a first-hand look at how things work.
Make sure to watch the kids, not just the teacher. Are they relaxed and engaged in the class? A room full of quiet, still kids doesn’t necessarily indicate learning. It’s actually better to see the children be active and productive throughout the class, as long as they’re working.
Visit Surrounding Areas
The classroom itself isn’t the only important part of a school. What about the rest of the school, and the neighborhood it’s in?
Most schools will give you a tour, although they might not let you take much time to sit in on a class. See how the school looks as a setting. Is it neat, clean, and engaging? How does the administration treat you, and how do the kids act? How does the faculty respond to their students inside and outside the classroom?
You can even drive through the neighborhood during both school hours and other hours to get a more holistic feel of the environment.
Another good place to look is on the playgrounds during recess, and in the hallways when it’s break time. The kids should be active, not overly controlled. It’s okay for things to be chaotic, as long as you don’t see anything risky or dangerous.
Check for any local blogs or websites for parents in your area, or the area you’re looking at schools in. Search for the name of the state or school district and “school report card” for data you can really use.
Keep in mind that some schools have more parental reviews than others, which can skew what you find. If only two percent of parents rated a school online, you might have all negative reviews. But the picture might be very different if one hundred percent of the parents gave their response. Use this information, but you’ll still need to draw your own conclusions in the end.
Avoid Leaning on Demographics
Many parents hope to find a school with students of mixed backgrounds and income levels. But in many communities, that may be hard to find – and the school can be just as good.
A top charter school might have students that are all from low-income families, for example. Their achievement levels can still be high, no matter what their families’ incomes are. It all depends on the quality of the school (although home environments also play a role).
Use Your Instincts
None of this information can make the decision for you. You’ll ultimately need to go with what you feel is right for your child, even if it doesn’t look the most impressive on paper.
No matter how good the school’s ratings are, or which lists it tops, if you’re not sold on it, keep looking.
Friendship might not be at the top of your mind when looking at schools for your child. However, it’s almost certainly one of the most important things to your kid. It’s worthwhile to take a look at how friendships and social lives play out in the school.
Friendships and connections can help your child thrive in school – or the lack of them can cause school performance to suffer. How does school staff emotionally support and care for their students? How do they respond to difficulties students might be having with their friendships and social lives?
Watch to see if the kids work together, play together, take turns, and share. A good school will foster that environment as much as it can.
Choosing a School for Your Child Doesn’t Have to be Hard
Above all, don’t stress too much about choosing a school for your child. Your home environment means just as much to their future success, or even more. If you can, involve your child in the selection process and use this as a chance to connect with your kid.
After you’ve decided on the right school, be sure to read this post about helping your child feel safe and secure at school.