Why Your School Choice Matters
Most home buyers will ask about the school district before purchasing a new home. The quality of the schools is such an important consideration that it often affects the home prices of an entire neighborhood.
Today, parents have choices beyond their neighborhood public school. And choosing the right school matters more than ever. Parents know that kids don’t come with one-size-fits-all learning needs and they want the best education for their children. “A good school is a school that’s right for your child,” says Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, “. . . my best advice is to make a decision that is right for your child and your family.”
Just as schools tend to differ, no two children are exactly alike. Each child has unique strengths, weaknesses, and individual needs. Some kids respond well to visual learning tools while others process information best when it is spoken. Some excel in social environments while others are more introverted so need to study and learn alone, without social distractions. These dynamics should be taken into account when choosing the best school option for your child.
Whether in elementary or high school, choosing a school for your child should be a deliberate and thoughtful decision and one that can be revisited periodically to ensure a child has the best chance of meeting their educational potential.
Here are some strategies for choosing the best school option for your child:
Consider All Your Choices
There are more options today than in the past when it comes to choosing a school. In addition to researching your neighborhood public school, you should also review the charter schools, private academies (religious and secular), homeschooling, and online learning programs that are available in your area. Create a list of all your choices and include the pros and cons for each option. You’ll want to look at the curriculum, the school’s philosophy, the teachers, and any other services provided, in addition to costs and transportation needs. Take a look at each school’s academic performance and ratings as well. The school’s general environment, safety, and crime stats might also be a consideration for you.
Consider Your Child’s Needs
Your child’s individual needs should be at the forefront in your decision-making process. While the school’s credentials, reputation, and quality of teachers are all important, if the school doesn’t offer what your child needs it probably won’t be your best option. You’ll need to determine your child’s unique requirements such as:
- What type of learning environment does he prefer (structured or more relaxed, a group setting or a one-to-one situation)?
- Does he learn quickly or need more individual attention?
- Does he struggle to keep up or is he too advanced for the curriculum?
- What are his learning preferences? Does he learn best with physical activities or prefer to listen to lectures or read? Do other kids promote or distract his learning?
Once you have a list of your child’s individual needs, you can apply those needs to the school options you have listed.
Consider What’s Worked
Depending on your child’s age, you may be guided by past experiences. Has your child’s previous school fit his needs? Think about whether he seemed to enjoy class or dreaded attending each day. Did the classes stimulate, challenge, or bore him? Were your child’s grades good or not up to his potential? Was he making progress throughout the year? How was the social environment—did he make friends or was he bullied or excluded from social circles? How were his relationships with his teachers? All these areas should be considered when deciding whether you should keep your child enrolled in his current school or look elsewhere.
Consider Other School Options
Make sure to research all school choices available to your child, including local public and private options as well as online learning programs. Many families with children who have specific learning needs that are not addressed by traditional schools have succeeded with this option, including:
- Students who struggle with several subjects
- Gifted and advanced learners
- Children who learn at a different pace or need more individual attention
- Students interested in preparing for a specific college or career
- Families who choose to homeschool their children and want access to accredited, award-winning curriculum
- Children of parents in the military or those with overseas commitments
- Athletes, musicians, and artists training for competitions or professions
- Children who are homebound due to illness or other conditions
- Children who are being bullied or have other problems at a traditional school
- Children who want more focus on education with less distractions
If your child isn’t enjoying or doing well in school, it may be time to rethink your choice of schools. Early education is important, so be sure you’ve given this decision the careful thought it deserves. For more information about online public or private schools, visit K12.com or complete an inquiry form. Choosing the right school matters!
Elizabeth Street is a writer and managing editor for Learning Liftoff. For the past 20 years, she has written newsletter and website content for nonprofit and corporate organizations on such topics as the plight of children of prisoners worldwide, the lack of prenatal care for mothers in developing countries, and child mentoring programs. She has a particular interest in the importance of providing all children with a quality education regardless of their family’s financial status or background. A native of Virginia, Elizabeth is a graduate of James Madison University and loves animals, with particular fondness for her two cats, Oscar and Emmy.