As parents, we make big, life-shaping decisions for our kids. And when it comes to decisions of this magnitude, choosing an elementary school is right at the top. After all, from preschool to grade 8, children are learning the essential building blocks for success later in life. Finding a school that will lay a solid foundation now can head off heartache later.
Like most big decisions, finding the right school for your child involves a little research. Visit open houses or schedule a personal tour to get a sense of the school and how it feels to you and your family. Most of all, ask questions. Here’s my three “must ask” questions — use them as a starting point to create a list of your own!
1.What is the mission and/or philosophy of this school?
It all starts here. The best partnerships between parents and educators are built on a shared understanding of what the school is trying to accomplish. For instance, the school I send my children to puts an emphasis on helping students “share their God-given gifts and talents by being educated, informed, contributing members of the twenty-first century.” Check the school’s website- is their mission and/or philosophy listed? If not, ask!
2. What makes this school special or different from others?
Every school has its own unique character. You can sense it the moment you walk in the door. It might be an atmosphere of welcoming that you become aware of first. Or it could be a sense of energy and liveliness. Maybe it’s clear from the decor and school features that there’s a special focus on science, technology, the arts, or religion (if it is a faith-based school). Ask teachers, students, parents and administrators what they think is special. You’ll get a good sense of the personality of the school and what you can expect if you send your children there.
3. Does the school meet the basic needs of my family/situation?
If you love the answers to #1 and #2, you need to take into consideration basic things like what time school starts, does it offer before and after school care, how far it is from your home, is there a hot lunch program, and so on. For some families, how these questions are answered could be the difference between a perfect fit and a near miss. It won’t matter how much you love a school if it doesn’t fit into the rhythm of your daily life.
While these are only three questions to get you started, there are so many more things to ask when choosing a school for your child. Jot them down, start visiting your top choices and find that perfect school to call “home”!
Thinking about a Catholic School? Catholic Schools Week begins this Sunday, January 29 and runs through February 5. If you’re in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, please check out Our Lady of the Ridge School – Open Houses and personal tours are available even after these dates!