A huge decision that directly impacts your child’s future is where to send them to school. You want to make sure you’re taking enough time to explore what’s out there and that you’re asking the right questions to find the best fit for your child’s learning style. From college prep, Montessori and religiously affiliated schools, there are many different approaches to learning and it can seem overwhelming. When you begin touring schools or going to open houses, consider asking these questions.
1. Which curriculum is followed?
While Texas public schools’ curriculum is governed by the Texas Education Agency, private schools can offer unique options in terms of curriculum. Schools in the archdiocese may be adopting parts of common core curriculum, which has not been adopted by Texas public schools. A Montessori curriculum with multi-age classrooms will be very different than a more traditional public school.
2. Which specials are offered and how often?
If languages, music, drama, technology and P.E. are important to you, make sure the school you’re considering offers them. Not all schools are created equally; some have much stronger sports programs, while others may focus more on fine arts. Also, make sure the school offers what your child is drawn toward.
3. How much and what types of technological devices are used in the classroom?
Some schools start children on iPads as early as kindergarten, and others hold off on screens for a few more years. You also want to consider how technology is integrated throughout the grade levels and how much technology is implemented as your child grows older.
4. How much time will your child spend outside?
As a former teacher, I know how important it is for children to have breaks throughout the day, especially younger children. Besides recess, inquire about outdoor learning. Will any of the curriculum take your child outside? Is there an outdoor classroom or garden?
5. Are there opportunities for community service?
If giving back to the community is important to you, ask what opportunities are available. Find out what grades participate in community service; some schools may only focus on older children. Then, find out how these learning experiences relate back into the classroom.
6. What are the school’s safety/security measurements?
What does the school do for lockdowns? How do the teachers relay a message to the school if something looks suspicious? How hard is it for an outsider to walk into a classroom? Where do the children take shelter during severe weather? All important questions for peace of mind.
7. How are students assessed and how often?
This varies greatly from school to school, with some schools conducting formal testing three to four times a year and others assessing students on a more regular basis; some schools opt out of formal testing.
8. What does my child’s future education look like?
This question obviously depends on what grade your child is entering and whether or not he or she attends a school that goes through the end of high school. Always think ahead. If your child is enrolling in a high school, find out what percentage of students attend college.
9. How are holidays celebrated?
Not all schools celebrate holidays equally. Public schools nowadays aren’t allowed to celebrate religious holidays, so if a private school you’re visiting isn’t religiously affiliated, they may not be celebrating the holidays either. Is this something that matters to you?
10. How many students are enrolled per grade and what is the student-to-teacher ratio in the classroom?
It is easy for children to get lost and not get enough attention if there are too many students in a classroom. If one-on-one time is important to you, consider a school with smaller student-to-teacher ratios. Kids are more susceptible to distractions in larger classrooms, too.
Prioritize your desires for your child’s education. Talk to friends with children who are attending the schools you are researching and find out what they like and don’t like. Finally, be honest with yourself and consider where your child will thrive most.