Do Your Homework: Tips on Choosing a School for Your Child

One of many big decisions parents have to make is choosing where to send their children to school. This isn’t as easy as it used to be, because there are so many options — but it can definitely be great to have those options!

There are many factors to consider when sorting through your choices:

  • location
  • transportation
  • cost
  • facilities
  • class size
  • special programs

So how do you decide? Try first making a list of what is most important academically. Look for schools that fit those requirements, and then weigh in the other factors, in order of your priorities.Curry_ChoosingSchool_photo1

Public v. Private

Becky, mom of two young boys, comments, “Private schools sound impressive, but is it actually better than your own school district? If we lived somewhere else, then that could have been the case. But for us, we lucked out and found that the early childhood program in our school district is phenomenal.”

Some public school districts are highly-rated by the state and by their communities. Others are struggling with a lack of resources, staffing issues, and other obstacles found within the education system. If you want to send your child to public schools, but if the district you live in gives you cause for concern, what do you do?

Personally, my husband and I moved. We moved mostly because we needed more space for his home office and our growing family, but we limited our search for our new home based on what we knew of the school districts in our area.

“Also factor the costs,” Becky adds. “Should parents go in to debt to fund their child’s early education?” It’s a question without an easy answer and one that all parents should carefully consider.

One possible route if you live in a larger district with many choices of elementary schools is to enroll your child in a different elementary than the one with bus service to your neighborhood. This way, you don’t have to move or pay for private schools, but you do have to commit to the driving or carpooling.

In addition to these options, some parents choose to homeschool either partially or permanently,which eliminates some of the common questions about school choice, but raises a host of other considerations and commitments to weigh.

Transportation

This is another very important factor, especially for working parents. If you are sending your children to your local public school, they can likely take the bus or get a ride from you. In some cities, they may just be a short walk or bike ride away, if that is a choice that makes sense with your location, schedule, and the child’s age and level of independence. If you are sending your children to private school, there may or may not be bus service to your neighborhood, and you will need to coordinate their transportation and fit it in with your schedule.

Last Day of Preschool - Gabe's a big boy now!

Last Day of Preschool – Gabe’s a big boy now!

Special Programs

For Becky, it was all about ensuring the smoothest transition, and a school that offered the therapy services her son Gabe needed.

“Gabe was 6 weeks premature, and received speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and socialization through Help Me Grow. He started there at 13 months old. HMG only works with your child until they turn 3, but they find the best place for your child to start preschool and do what’s needed to get your child placed there and continue with the services needed.

“Gabe always thrived with a solid, structured routine. In the past year, Gabe has since been diagnosed with sensory modulation dysfunction, so we knew we needed a school that could work with him, and smooth transitions from grade to grade would be important.”

Luckily for them, Help Me Grow found that the Early Childhood Center in her local public school district offered all the services Gabe required. He did two years of full time preschool there and will be starting all day kindergarten at the end of August. They were so impressed with the Early Childhood Center, that they enrolled their younger son in preschool there too!

Do Your Homework

School report cards are available every year online through your state’s Board of Education website. Some states’ are easier to read and comprehend than others. These can be very helpful for getting general information on school districts and specific schools.

If you are choosing between schools, take tours of all the schools on your list to get a feel for the facility, staff, and atmosphere of the schools. Talk to administrators and teachers. If possible, find some parents of children who attend the school to talk with to get an inside scoop!

School is where your children will grow, develop, and learn, academically and socially. A good school will encourage their enjoyment of learning and discovery, and give a solid foundation for the rest of their lives! (No pressure.)

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