Choosing a school for your child can be intimidating. Make a good decision and opportunities could open up. Choose the wrong school and everyone, including you as parents, will be miserable. Obviously you want to visit the potential school before making a choice, but then what? Thankfully, there are some key questions you should ask to help make the decision easier.
1. What do we want in a school? This question should guide your decision-making process. What will best meet your child’s needs? What kind of learner is she? In which environment—structured or flexible, independent, or collaborative—does your child learn best?
2. What is the look and feel of the school? Is it warm and inviting or cold and impersonal? Do students and teachers seem comfortable? Do they seem to enjoy being there? How old are the facilities, and how well do they appear to be maintained?
3. Does the school have a particular philosophy or approach? Some do, others don’t. It’s good to know, though, and can help you decide if the fit is going to be right. Examples of teaching approaches include Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio.
4. How many students are in each class? Smaller class sizes often mean that students have greater access to individualized attention and support. If class sizes are large, ask the administration how their teachers are able to effectively manage so many kids. They may have a full-time aide, team-teach, or work in small groups.
5. What are the school’s policies? Ask about homework, discipline, grading, assessment, special services, extracurricular activities, and parental involvement.
Beyond these questions, be sure to visit locations such as the library, technology center, gym, lunchroom, and playground. The condition of these areas will give you a good feel for the school’s priorities and capacity. It’s also important to ask for copies of the student handbook, class schedules, and newsletters. These materials, combined with the tour and answers to your questions, should help you make the most informed decision about your child’s education.