From the Parent Perspective: Choosing a Private School

From the Parent Perspective: Choosing a Private School

by Parents at Lowell School

Choosing the right school for your child is an important decision. When you first started your research and touring schools, you might not have known what to look for or what questions to ask. Now, you’ve been accepted at more than one private school, and/or you have a public/charter school option, and you need to make a choice. This post lists the things some of our parents thought about when they made their decision to attend Lowell (Pre-K-8), and it includes a few questions to help you weigh your family’s options.

Your Child—Will the school see your child’s unique qualities and foster your child’s positive self esteem? Is this a place where your child will be safe, supported, and able to be him/herself?

The Program—What are your educational priorities? Do they mesh with the school’s? Do some subjects or activities matter more to you than others—Math? Science? Foreign language? Art? Athletics? Try to determine which school has the best program for the things that matter most to you and your child. What about teaching methods—is it important that your child’s classes include innovative, hands-on and project-based assignments or are you looking for a more traditional approach to the academic disciplines? Project ahead and think about how your priorities might change as your child gets older.

Other Priorities—Other educational values might help you further distinguish between schools. To varying degrees, schools embrace concepts like excellence, a love of learning, collaboration, independence, diversity, character education, perseverance, responsibility, respect, achievement, competition, tradition, choice, student voice, social justice, creativity, and individuality—just to name a few. Weigh these, and compare your values to those of the schools you are considering.

Range of Students—Who do you want your child’s classmates to be? Do you want your child to be surrounded by others with the same academic interests and abilities or with children whose interests and abilities vary? What kind of a range do you think is best for your child? What about socio-economic and racial diversity? Private schools have different missions, programs, and communities. Being clear about what you want for your child will help you as you compare schools.

The Parent Community—How active do you want to be in the community? Do you hope to develop new friendships or want to volunteer? Are there any programs for parents at the schools you are considering—affinity groups, study groups, social opportunities? Ask schools how parents are involved in the life of the community and try to envision yourself at the school.

Location—Consider not only the location and accessibility of the school for drop-off and pick-up, but also where the school draws its students from geographically. How easy will it be to arrange play dates for your younger child? Will your older child be able to sustain friendships outside of school? Does the school pull from a geographic area that ensures your child will be able to have a diverse group of friends?

The Head of School and Division Directors—Consider school leadership. What is their vision for the future of the school? What kind of access to them do you hope to have? Are they approachable? If a problem arises, will they work with you on behalf of your child?

The Gut Feeling—Don’t ignore your gut feeling. Where do you think your child will thrive and be most happy?

If your choice still isn’t clear or if you are having second thoughts about your first choice, don’t be shy about contacting the schools you are considering. They will be happy to answer your questions or put you in touch with current parents who can give you another point of view.