You’ve got your holiday cards stamped and ready to go, holiday gifts checked off your list, but what about your private school applications? In the midst of the holiday season, private school admissions are closing up on deadlines for entrance exams, applications, and interviews. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to apply for a spot at a local private school, now is the time to make a decision, before it’s too late!
Thinking about private school for a child at any point in his or her education is a complex question for many families. Many parents dream of a neighborhood public school that meets each child’s needs with nurturing teachers, academically rigorous and engaging curriculum, and strong moral grounding, but the reality is that not all public schools can provide this experience. Also, some children need a higher level of attention that you can only get in the small class sizes of a private school.
If you’re considering private school as an option for your child in the coming academic year, we have some thoughts to help you with your decision from Kindergarten teacher, Rachel Szalay, at the The Child’s Primary School. While Rachel’s tips are from the perspective of parents looking for kindergarten placements, they easily apply to private school selection at any grade level.
Private School Selection Tips from teacher, Rachel Szalay, at The Child’s Primary School:
- Begin by thinking about your own philosophy of education and what the purpose of school is. What are some of the experiences and outcomes you want for your child? Do you want her to get her hands dirty and experience things close up? Would you like for him to experience a streamlined, rigorous approach to learning or one that is more flexible and grows with a student as they learn? Do you believe in collaboration and group work? Do you believe your child works better on their own? Look and listen for the philosophy of the school to guide your vision of seeing your child as a student there.
- Seek teachers who are enthusiastic, inspired, and passionate about what they do. The biggest influences on your child will be the teachers they interact with, so see them in action! If you want a setting where students are encouraged to think creatively, look for teachers who are thinking creatively. Ask about professional development for teachers. If a school is committed to furthering education for their teachers, you can be sure those teachers are giving students their best.
- Learning should be fun! School is awesome. Learning is awesome, being with friends and teachers who care for you is awesome, and projects are awesome. When you walk into a classroom on a school tour, notice, are the kids’ faces those of happy, involved children? If a child feels the joy of learning, everything else comes naturally.
- A balanced curriculum is an effective curriculum. A great academic program has breadth and time for exploration. Look for a school with a strong social/emotional program and teachers who take the time to help children communicate to solve problems and provide time not only for academic learning, but for working together as a classroom community. As a child prepares to be an active participant in the world, the importance of a well-rounded education that focuses on the whole child is essential.
- Be attentive to class size – its importance cannot be overstated. A small class size can mean the difference between a good school experience and an amazing school experience. In small classes, teachers are able to personally attend to each student every day, many times a day. A teacher is able to tailor curriculum to meet the needs of each student. Students are less likely to get lost because they stay engaged academically and socially.
- Talk to current parents. Parents are a wonderful resource when researching the school you’re interested in. Why did they choose the school? What is the parent expectation for involvement? What do they think is great about the school community? Generally, parents are happy to share their opinion and will have relevant information for you.
- Explore the daily school schedule and before/after school programs. A balanced curriculum is reflected in the daily schedule of the school. Look for a program that honors a child’s need to move, explore, and practice, in and out of the classroom. Developmentally appropriate playtime is essential at the kindergarten level and at least one hour of unstructured, but monitored, playtime (or more) is ideal. Many schools offer after-school enrichment programs, which may add to your child’s overall experience.
- Find out the school’s policy on helping children who are ahead and those who need extra help. Students are a diverse group. Almost without exception, classrooms are full of students working at different levels. Finding a school that actively structures lessons and classroom time around differentiated instruction is critical.
- Above all, VISIT. ☺The best thing you can do when looking for a school is visit. You are the best judge of what is right for your child, so trust your instincts because you will know what feels right. There is much to consider but have fun on the search!
There are many reasons to consider private school for your child, and even if you aren’t sure it’s right for your family, exploring the options can help you make the right decision. If you need help with the private school admissions process, reach out to our staff. We can help with admissions applications and testing, as well as giving guidance on selecting the right school for your child.
About the Author
We’re excited to feature kindergarten teacher, Rachel Szalay, from The Child’s Primary School this month. Rachel is an enthusiastic educator who loves to get her hands dirty with her students in creative projects and exploration. The Child’s Primary School is a small school with small classes focused on nurturing the social, emotional, and academic growth of each student. Find out more about The Child’s Primary School at: https://tcps.org/