Choosing the Right School

- Joellen Monson

Springtime means new beginnings, including, for many, preparations for next year school choices. Many parents wonder how to choose the right school for their child. For some parents it's as simple as going with whichever school is closest to their home. Other parents choose to move to a different neighborhood or city to ensure that their child attends the ideal school.

If you are currently looking at a change of school, there are a few tips that you may find useful to hold onto as you begin your search:

Value of Parental Involvement

The correlation of parent involvement to children's success in school is well documented. Over the years, research has proven that children benefit from parental involvement in the following ways:

Better grades and test scores.

Better attendance.

Greater completion rate of homework.

Higher graduation rates.

More involvement in extra-curricular activities.

Improved attitude and better all-round behavior (Popkin, 1995).


So keeping this in mind, you can rest assured that even though you may not be able to afford the most expensive school - it is You and your Spouse that have the greatest overall impact on your child's future school success.

Temperamental Factors

Other factors to consider in school choice involve ensuring that your child attends a program that is equipped to address your child's unique style of learning, experiencing the world and features elements which will make his or her heart sing. Not every program can be tailor made to each child but finding a school that appeals to your child's style will help them to feel successful. For example, if your child is overwhelmed by lots of activity and noise, putting them in a classroom that has a large number of children and little structure will be an extra challenge for them. Not only will they need to challenge their coping skills by maintaining their own energy while managing the high energy around them, that extra work on their part can take away from your child's ability to focus and concentrate on their own learning. Another example of learning style differences is the case where you have a very physically active child. If their learning environment doesn't offer the ability to get up and move throughout the day - they can continually feel as though their need to move is "wrong", that there is something not ok about who they are as a person. There have been reports of schools who wanted to permanently cancel recess so more time could be spent preparing for the "No Child Left Behind" type tests - this would not be the kind of environment for a physically active child.

It is important to remember that each child deserves to have the best school choice for each of them. Often parents struggle with the joys and challenges of one gifted child in a family of wonderful but typically achieving siblings. These parents will feel guilty if they allow one child to attend a school that addresses that child's special gifts, believing that if one goes to a private school or special program then they all should go. Or the reverse - if the other children go to the local public school then they all need to be treated the exact same way. What happens in these circumstances is that in parents efforts to make things seem fair and so all the kids feel equal attention and love - the reverse can actually be true. How people feel loved is for their uniqueness, we are all unique and need to be regarded and loved in that way. Equal is not the same as unique. Recognizing and allowing for differences goes much farther to honor individuals than lumping them all in the same bunch.

Family Factors

It is also important to note that decisions about where a school is located, who will drive to and from, what is the financial impact - these are all elements which can affect the entire family. So whether or not you choose to live in a smaller house, only one parent works, the children spend time at daycare because both are working, the commute to various schools takes hours - whatever the implications - it is vital that all elements are considered because these are family decisions which impact everyone in some way. If your child would be great at that special school but it's an hour and a half commute and you have twins on the way - that drudge of driving could get old really quickly and you might end up pulling them out of the school.

So just be sure and look at the big picture. You'll do great in your choice. Know also that even when you do all your homework to research all the right information and pick just that one special school - if it turns out that it's just not working for you and your child or in reality it's just not what your expectations led you to believe - it's not the end of the world to open your search up again.

Finally, the school years are a special time because what you are doing is choosing who will be taking your place during the day in instilling values, teaching new information and watching out for the wellbeing of your child. It is the next step in your child's ongoing adventures in the greater world so helping ensure these teacher/guides will take that responsibility and share their own love of learning with your child. The teaching profession is one of the most honorable - the men and women who teach are not in it for the money, they are indeed involved in their work for the love of teaching new information and the love of children. Trust them, it can be a great ride - for you and for your child.