Choosing a School: First Steps

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This article will help you to better understand how to evaluate your child’s needs, your family’s needs, and your overall priorities for choosing the best school for your child.

When moving into a new neighborhood or choosing the right school for your preschool children there are three basic steps that you should follow before making a final decision: consider your needs and priorities; understand all of your options; and lastly, evaluate your options.

Your Child’s Needs

Consider your child’s personality, his learning needs, and his special interests. Here are some things to consider when evaluating your child’s needs:

  • Is it important that your child be placed in a small school with high student-to-teacher ratios, or is your child well suited to a more active social environment with lots of children and higher student-to-teacher ratios?
  • Does your child need extra attention in order to understand the curriculum? Is your child considered “gifted and talented” and in need of a more challenging academic environment.
  • Is your child quiet and shy (small school) or more comfortable in larger social settings?
  • Is your child interested and talented in music, art, science, language, sports, etc.?

Your Family’s Needs

Consider your family’s needs regarding work schedules, religion, finances, and lifestyle. Here are some things to consider when evaluating your family’s needs:

  • Is it important that your child be able to walk to school?
  • Is it important that your child’s playmates live in your neighborhood?
  • Is it important that your child’s school have after-school activities and/or all-day childcare?
  • Do you have a budget for your child’s education?
  • Is it important that the school teaches and reinforces your religious, ethic and/or moral beliefs?

Setting Priorities

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After you have thought about and answered these questions, it is time to set your priorities. What are the top three or four items that are most important to you when deciding on the right school for your child? These top priority items will help you to narrow your options.

If the ability to walk to school is a top priority, you will obviously narrow your search to schools within a two-mile radius of your home. If religious teaching is a top priority, then local parochial schools will be given top consideration. How about low student-to-teacher ratios? Most public schools cannot compete with private schools for small class size (studies have shown, however, that within certain limits, class size is not a significant factor in student achievement).

Perhaps your child has been tested as a “gifted and talented” learner, but you would like your child to attend public school. Your choice will be narrowed to public schools that provide “gifted and talented” programs, as not all of them do.

Conclusion

After creating your priority list you will have a much better idea of how to evaluate the various schools that can meet your child’s and your family’s needs. The next article will describe how to explore and compare your school options.

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