Choosing a School for Your Children: Educate Yourself
- Jan. 25, 2013
- Brian Brice
- Home Life
Truth be told, when it comes to choosing a school for your children, there are far too many factors to consider than can be covered in one blog—probably even too many for several blogs. Education is primarily managed at a state and local level so the variation between districts makes it difficult to get too specific. There are, however, general items to consider.
Whether you have children already or plan to have them in the future, where they get their education should be of paramount concern. While we can cover some of the general points here, we encourage parents to investigate further and thoroughly as unique factors such as disabilities or language will greatly affect a particular situation.
It doesn't end at public or private. Within those are subcategories like magnet or charter, independent or parochial. There are even virtual schools—those taught through media like the internet. Each is meant to offer a different approach to education. Magnet schools, for instance, provide a specialized curriculum meant to attract students from various neighborhoods as opposed to just those nearest the school. Parochial schools offer a conventional education as well as a focus on a particular religion. Not all options are guaranteed to be available in your area, so be sure to look around if this appeals to you.
Your children are at school several hours of the day. Factor in extracurricular activities like clubs or sports, and chances are they'll spend as much time there as they do at home—maybe even more. Their lives will be impacted significantly by the people around them. While you can't pick and choose who they interact with, you can try to stack the deck in their (and your) favor by familiarizing yourself with their surroundings and being comfortable with the environment they will be in. If possible, make an appointment to meet the principal and staff. Also, contact the PTA for first-hand accounts of the school's caliber.
Ideally you could drop your kid off and pick them up every day, but a parent's schedule isn't always conducive to this and, let's be honest, most children would probably hate it. It's very likely they will have to walk home or to a friend's house, or in some way be exposed to the area around the campus. A nearby liquor store might attract an undesirable clientele or there may be gang activity in the area. Be aware of the outside influences your child could be affected by. You could see for yourself what they experience and spend some quality time together by taking a day to have them walk their route with you.
The Internet Is Your Friend
Websites like SchoolDigger and GreatSchools.org offer information on schools like test scores, crime data and personal reviews for more than 200,000 schools nationwide. Each offer slightly different options, but either or even both together provide a great resource for parents. Also, many schools have their own websites (especially at the high school level) providing general information consisting of anything from faculty and policies to activities and events. You can usually get important contact information this way as well.
An extra bit of advice: parents scouting elementary schools for their young children may also want to consider nearby high schools as well. It may seem like over-planning, but any parent will tell you time flies and that decision will come up much faster than you anticipate. It can't hurt to have some knowledge of your options ahead of time.
Schools aren't like Starbucks—there isn't one every block—so parents can only be so discerning. Similarly, schools aren't a chain either; every school is different and will offer your child a different learning experience. Choose wisely!