The morning that I said “Happy Birthday!” to my newly five year old daughter, she said to me, “Now can I go to Kindergarten?” She had been in a private preschool since she was two years old. The preschool placed each child in different classes based on age. She had been a student in every classroom except the kindergarten class. She was excited to experience what she had seen her older school mates experience. Although she had to wait a few months to be able to attend kindergarten, we as parents had to decide which kindergarten program we would place our daughter in. Were we going to keep her in her current preschool knowing she would need to change schools for first grade? Or would we make the move now to a new school? We knew we wanted her in a private school. We wrestled with many questions as we planned where she would actually attend kindergarten. Are you wrestling with making a decision about which private school is best for your child? Here are 10 questions to ask when choosing a private school.
1. Are the school’s philosophy and vision in line with your family’s values and beliefs?
Considering that our daughter spends 70 hours a week sleeping, 35 hours a week in school, and 63 hours a week doing everything else, it was important to us that the 35 hours away from home are in an environment that is in line with our family’s beliefs.
2. What is your child expected to learn at each grade level?
When I was considering which kindergarten to put my daughter in, I found out that one school taught cursive while the other school taught printing only. One school introduced Latin, while the other did not. The school you are looking at should have a written plan for what each grade level learns.
3. What is required to know or do before proceeding to the next grade level?
Does the school move children to the next grade level based on age only, or are there other factors and exceptions?
4. What style or type of curriculum is the school using?
There are many styles or types of curricula that a private school will use. Do your research on the choices of curricula and which one sounds the best for your child. My husband had been a part-time teacher at the school we were looking at for our daughter. He knew well what type of curriculum our daughter would experience.
5. Are there programs for both the academically struggling and the academically advanced student?
Every child is not the same and has different educational strengths and weaknesses. Know your child and the type of educational program your child needs.
6. Evaluate the teachers both for their qualifications and character. Are they people you want your child emulating?
I still remember the names of many of my elementary school teachers. There have been many times that I wished that I could meet them today and tell them how much of an influence they had on my life. I imagine that they would be proud of me. Why do I think about these adults of my past? For one, I spent 35 hours a week with them for 10 months of my life. They dedicated their lives to my future. Your child’s teacher will influence your child’s future.
7. What is the ratio of teacher to student? What is the minimum and maximum class size?
There are both advantages and disadvantages to all class sizes. What do you want for your child?
8. Are the buildings, classrooms, and playgrounds cheerful, inviting, and safe? Do they foster healthy relationships?
Again, it’s 35 hours a week. Relationships and attitudes will be fostered.
9. If a parent wishes to volunteer or wants to get to know the teachers better, what are the opportunities and methods to do it?
I learned from my mom that the parent relationship with teachers is oftentimes crucial to the educational process. My mom volunteered at my school and got to know all the teachers. I, on the other hand, do not have the same availability to volunteer exactly the same way my mom volunteered when I was a child. However, my daughter’s school has found a way for me to be involved. What types of opportunities are you looking for?
10. What additional questions are important to your family to have answered? This can range from tuition costs, before or after school childcare, endowment funds, dress code, governance of the school….etc..
We almost did not choose the school we put our daughter in because of the lack of after school childcare. However, because there were so many other positive factors that weighed more heavily in our priority list, we chose our daughter’s school anyway. Brainstorm a list of priorities that are important for your family. Know what you can compromise on and what you will not waiver from.
In the end, God made the answer very clear to us as to which school our daughter would attend. We have been very pleased with our choice.
May God bless you in your journey to discover the best private school for your child.