Isn’t it crazy? It feels like just yesterday we brought this sweet child home from the hospital and now here she is about to start school! How quickly the time passes…
The time has come to start looking more closely at your child’s future. Finding that “perfect” school for your children is yet another roller coaster of emotions. Will it be the right fit? Will he/she be happy? Will they do well and make friends? Will I be okay letting them go? The answers to all your questions may never be 100% to your satisfaction but we can at least find some comfort in the information we have gathered. Here is a checklist of things to help you chose the right school:
1). Understanding your child
Figure out what is best for your child. What does He/She need more of? Perhaps they need something more structured? Maybe a school that will work on his social abilities? Maybe your child needs something that is academically more challenging? Does your child have a learning disability or require an extra push? Are sports and a sense of belonging to something important to your child? These are all important factors in picking the best place that best fits your child. Not all schools are tailored the same. A school might have a prestigious name and background, but it might do nothing beneficial for your child. Remember this is their future.
2). Private or Public
Of course if we’re talking preschools, private is usually the only option. Unless it’s a TK program or a government funded program, at least to my knowledge. Since preschool is not mandatory, it’s considered daycare. But, we still have to pick the right one!
The biggest factor for us when deciding on keeping Olivia at her private school or switching her to public was money. At the end of the day, you have to be honest with yourself and what is realistic for you.
Evaluate the pros and cons of both sectors. Private schools give you smaller classes, more one on one. They might specialize in a particular lesson plan. Are you choosing it because of religious affiliations? Maybe that’s the most important for you. Private schools may or may not have teachers with actual teaching credentials, just ones who focus on subjects they know. Private school classrooms may offer better textbooks and technology (for the most part) but with that, comes a hefty tuition. What are you comfortable with? For me, what I enjoyed most was how safe and secure I felt at the private school. Knowing my children were/are in a smaller more tight knit community (my views on this shift a bit, keep reading) meant the world to me. Public schools have their own pros and cons to say the least. Are you ready for a huge school for your little tiny human? Eventually, it doesn’t feel so huge anymore, but you know what i mean! Consider that there will be larger class sizes and limited access to learning materials (depending on the type of school and how it’s funded). On that same note, public schools may offer more extra curricular activities that a private can’t. Will your child get the attention you think they need? Its all part of the process of elimination.
3). Make a list of all the features you want the school to have
Are you looking for a specific extra-curricular activity?
Does the school offer after-school programs? Sports, clubs etc.
Does the school feel safe and clean?
Does the school offer programs such as; music, arts, computer lab and library time?
Convenience? Is it near your home? Can you volunteer your time?
Is it a supportive environment?
***This list can go on. You have to figure out what are your must haves***
4). Collect as much info and visit schools
Ask around. Ask neighbors. Go in and talk to the principal. Try to get as much information as possible. I prefer more honest and candid opinions versus just what I read online.
Set up a time to go visit these schools. This way you can see things in action. You can talk to students and staff (if they allow it). You can get a more visual one on one observation.
5). Test scores
Though I don’t think these scores are an accurate representation of a school and everything it may have to offer, it does help you to see how well the students test and score academically.
6). Apply to many schools
You are not limited to just the school you are assigned to. Of course, I’m referring to public schools. You can go to any private school, no matter how near or far. In our case, we were linked with a school we absolutely did not want our children to attend. We asked around and did our research on the schools that were up to our standards. We applied to all of them.
Here is where it becomes a bit tricky. By applying you are entering into a lottery. Hoping and praying that they pick your child’s name. That is why applying to as many as you can is a plus. For us, if Olivia was not chosen for any of the lottery schools then private is where she would continue. We would find a way to afford it because the school in our neighborhood was not an option.
Don’t panic, they will call. You have to believe it will all work out. The school we were hoping for called us the very last week before school started to tell us Olivia was chosen. I screamed so loud, I felt like we really won the lottery!
7). Trust your gut and go all in!
Soon as you step foot into a place, chances are your gut is telling you yes or no. There is a reason for that. Go with it! Don’t second guess yourself because that only makes this process harder.
Get your children involved. Take them with you. Let them get a feel of their new school. This will only assure them that their best interest is your priority.
I would also like to add that when you finally do find the “perfect” school for your child, remember that its just as much your job as it is theirs to make friends and get acclimated. Drop offs are great and convenient but make it a point to go on campus and meet new moms. You’ll be surprised on what incredible friendships can be formed there. You have one major thing in common with these parents, your love and concern for your child. What an incredible feeling it is to know you have a team of moms/dads who love and support your children like they are their own. Put yourself out there as much as you can. Get involved and be present. Find a group that you can connect with. I can’t tell you enough how blessed I am for the group of moms (and dads) I have in my life. They saved me time and time again when I couldn’t make it to drop-off. When I’ve had to rush in the mornings. When I needed something picked up or dropped off because my kid was sick.
Our first two months in public school were awful. Olivia cried everyday, she was angry and bitter and frightened. I cried just as much soon as she walked away. She had to make new friends all over again. She brought home those same feelings of withdrawal and unhappiness. Making home life unbearable at times. By the grace of G-d, I was sent a group of women who somehow felt my agony and my desperation. I had found my group, my safe-haven. We were all new to this world. We all felt a certain way. We came together and made each other stronger! Open yourself up. Knowing you have a trustworthy team looking out for you and yours make this whole process so much easier.
We have all come through for one another in some shape or form. We’ve been together since kinder and its been one hell of a ride. I’m grateful beyond words…
Good luck and stay calm. Everything always works out in the end.