Choosing an Elementary School

This winter it will be time to choose a elementary school for our 4 year old daughter. How do you choose the best school? What type of questions should we ask? Any advice or tips would be of great help.

Question:

Welcome to the ranks of parents of school-aged children! You are embarking on a great adventure with your daughter, and I wish you the best of luck in your decision-making process.

When choosing a school for your child, the first thing you need to consider is your child. Think about her personality traits and the way she learns, as well as her interests, strengths, and weaknesses. The perfect school for your neighbor's child may not be the perfect school for your child because each child is different. You need to select a school with an environment that will foster your daughter's desire to learn. If your daughter is artistic, look for schools with strong fine arts programs. If she needs structure, look for schools with that characteristic. Consider every aspect of her personality.

Once you have a profile of your child and her learning habits, start looking at schools. Visit all the schools that you are considering if at all possible so that you can get a feel for each campus. Spend time observing the kindergarten classes at each school and try to envision your daughter in the surroundings. Would she be happy here? Is the environment inviting? Does the curriculum suit her academic needs and learning style? Be sure to get any brochures that the school might have and take notes on your feelings and observations. You may also want to talk with parents of students from each school to get their input.

After gathering information on the schools and organizing your notes, look carefully at each school. Weigh your observations along with the school's philosophy, test scores, and curriculum. Narrow your choices to two or three schools, then ask about visitation days. Many schools have days where "new friends" can visit for the day, participating in activities and generally getting comfortable in the environment. If the schools you are considering offer this opportunity, take advantage of it. This will allow you to see your child interact in the environment, which could help you make your final decision. If you do not have this visitation opportunity, try to revisit those schools that you favor and ask any questions that you need to have answered. Questions that you may want to ask could include:

  • What role do parents play in the function of the school?
  • What curriculum is used to teach reading? writing? math?
  • What is the school's philosophy? How is this reflected in the curriculum?
  • What special programs does your school offer?
  • What type of instruction is used by the teachers?

Principals and teachers appreciate meeting parents like you who take your child's education very seriously. Don't be afraid to ask questions of these people. They are proud of their schools and will be happy to share information with you.

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