Choosing a school for your kids when they start grade school is a tough decision. Some parents may already determine that their kid is going to public school or private school maybe based on their background. There is not a right or wrong answer choice but I wanted to share my experience as we are going through the same decision process for my son who will soon be starting kindergarten. One thing we have learned is that you can’t base your decision on strictly what is best for your child, you have to ensure the decision is made based on your family lifestyle. We have been touring a long list of public and private schools in raleigh nc and have not made a decision yet. Yes we are in a fortunate position where both the public and private school systems are great but at the end of the day you have to figure out what’s gonna be best long term. Here are some things to keep into consideration:
- List of your child’s needs: Make a list of strengths and weaknesses for your child. This will help you determine what to look for in a school and the types of questions to ask. For example are they behind educationally or physically? What area of knowledge do they need more focus on? Are they ahead of the average student educationally? Do they get anxiety in large groups?
- Budget: Figure out what your family budget is for schooling. Take into consideration if you have a little one who has not started school yet. Sometimes we get caught up on the first kid we forget another school payment is coming. Try to map out long term what you can afford. While doing this take into consideration any financial assistance you may get if you qualify.
- List of potential schools: Make a list of potential schools and make sure you tour all of them so you never have that “what if that school was good for him or her” feeling. You might go on one tour and realize “this is the Best School in the World” and immediately want your child to go there. It can be time-consuming but worth it at the end of the day. Don’t make a decision based on the website because some schools we toured were nothing what they said on the website. As you tour them make a compare/contrast chart because they will all start feeling the same after looking at so many.
- Travel Time: Drive to the school during drop off or pickup one day and see how long it takes you. Also take into consideration if you have to drop off/pick up your other children. This really made a difference for us. We had our eyes on a few schools we loved but it really was not feasible to take 30 minutes to drop off just 1 kid as we are both full time career oriented parents. You may LOVE the school but you will come home exhausted from just being in the car for so long and rushing off of work. Also from a social aspect, will you be able to have play dates with kids that are 20 minutes away on a regular basis?
- Class sizes: You will see a huge difference in class sizes between public and private but again for private that’s what you pay for. Sit down and think about how important this is for your kid. There are many fantastic private schools in houston and all over the world for that matter!! Also remind yourself that if he/she does do better in small groups, would you consider putting them in larger groups so they can experience and learn from it?
- Extra curricular activities: See what both schools offer as well as your local area. If you choose a school farther than your district, take into consideration the additional drop off and pick up for those activities as well as gas money! On the other hand many private schools offer programs that other schools can’t so talk about those with the school administrators.
- Lifestyle: What we saw is when you join a private school, your whole family becomes a part of it. It forms a tight community of parents, students and teachers that are always together which is great for some families and maybe not the way others want to live.
- Community Outreach: If this is important to you, look into how much the children get involved with the community. I know some private schools we toured have specific days where they do volunteer work at young ages to start learning to help others.
- School Curriculum: In the public schools the curriculum is normally based on state standards where all kids in the class learn the same thing at the same pace. A lot of private schools offer a specialized curriculum based on your child’s needs. Figure out how important that is to you based on where your child is performing.
- Technology: Our world is completely technology based right now and it’s only going to continue to be. Yes private schools offer a lot more interaction with technology than public schools but how important is it to you that your child is exposed to those things? Make sure you really know how you feel about this because you will get persuaded to go private once you see some of the things they can offer without you realizing if it’s really necessary for your child.
Always remember you can change your decision once you make it. If the choice you made does not seem to fit well with your child’s needs and family lifestyle you can switch them. It’s hard on the child but they are way more adaptable than we think :). Remember this is a lifestyle choice, don’t follow what others do because their kid seems “perfect.” At the end of the day it’s your family going through it not anyone else.