Questions parents should ask themselves

Listing the criteria your child's prospective school must meet

When you’re considering which school will be best for your family, a good way to start is by making a list of your basic needs. By which, of course, we mean your child’s needs.

It can help to put together a list of bare requirements before visiting or contacting the schools directly.

Why? Think of the process of seeking a new home: if you’re looking to buy, you first decide what you are looking for and then start making the rounds of houses that meet your basic criteria. That way you don’t waste time at places that are out of the question. Similarly you want to narrow down your school inquiries to at least those that meet your basic needs.

These are your physical requirements — like cost, distance of the school from your home, whether you need the school to offer boarding or transportation, care before and after school — as well as concerns about the kind of education to be provided, such as the school size, the availability of modern facilities, specialized training you need supplied by the school. and that old issue of whether you think your child would do better with just his or her own sex or in a co-educational environment.

Your checklist

Here are some of the questions you can ask yourself to help make that list of requirements:

    • What is your budget for tuition, uniforms (if required) and supplies
    • Do you require boarding? If so, what is your budget for residence?
    • If not boarding, how far need your child travel back and forth to school — and does the school provide transportation?
    • Do you require before-school and/or after-school care?
    • Does your child have any special learning problems the school must be equipped to handle? Any physical, linguistic or emotional needs?
    • Does your child have disciplinary problems or require extra structure in his or her program?
    • What size of school is best for your child’s learning — small or large?
    • Are you seeking a school that focuses on specific grade levels or one with a wide range of levels (K–12) where your child can stay for many years?
    • Do you have a preference for instructional model — such as traditional with emphasis on back-to-basics program or alternative approaches to learning?
    • Do you prefer modern facilities and use of new media and technology?
    • Are you looking for college preparation? If so, does the school give special attention to this?
    • Is your child looking for specialized training in certain fields, such as science and technology, athletics, music or arts?
    • Do you want your child educated in a boys-only or girls-only environment — or in a co-ed school?
    • Do you want religious training as part of the curriculum? Even if you are not concerned about religion, you may also be interested in the school’s beliefs that inform its philosophy and pedagogical methods, to see if they are consistent with your own views.
    • Which extracurricular activities are important to  your child — sports, arts, clubs — and are they available at the school? These may seem like frills compared to the weightier academic program but they could affect your child’s overall experience just as much.

When you’ve got your basic needs list put together, you can start checking the available schools against it.

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