Tales from a Mom on the Search for a Private School!
By “Mrs. Jane Schoolfinder”
Jane is going to tell it like it is, not everyone likes that, so the anonymity as she searches for a school for her child is warranted
It is that time of year in our house — we are gearing up to “start” the search for private schools for our daughter. Start. Ha! What a silly notion! The “start” for these schools started well before this summer. We have an older child who is already in private school and the search for that school started well before the summer of his placement year. These searches start in a great number of ways. They start at casual dinners with friends. They start as informal internet searches for private schools in your geographic area. You start to look to the administrators and teachers at your current schools for guidance. You solicit information from just about anyone who will talk to you about it. It can all be very time consuming and all-encompassing without you even realizing it!
What we learned from our first go around with the private school search is this: it is not about you. That can sound obvious and a little patronizing on the surface, but trust us, it is not. The school that you are searching for has to be the right fit for your child. It has to meet there needs, socially, academically and emotionally. It is not about how you feel about the school. Of course you need to be comfortable and confident that the staff and administration at said school are well equipped to provide the appropriate education for your child, but you are not the student in question.
Once we removed ourselves from the vision, it became ABUNDANTLY clear that the school we really wanted our child to attend was not the right place for him. We were looking at a place we thought our family would fit in and evaluating the reasons we wanted that school over others had nothing to do with the academic, social or emotional needs of our child. The school he attends is as great a school as the other, with another added bonus: our child LOVES it there and our family fits in great!
Another lesson learned: look at your child’s weaknesses. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That saying, while it is a cliché, is helpful when evaluating a school. Whether you are picking a school for an issue in your child’s development, for a shorter period of time, or through 12th grade, you should evaluate where your child struggles. It is that evaluation that will help you pick a place that will be nurturing and empathetic to him/her. It is that place that will build a foundation of strong skills and character that will help him/her be successful later in their educational career.
A helpful tool that we used when evaluating our children’s strengths and weaknesses, was to ask people who knew them best to describe them. We asked grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends’ parents, and close friends of mine. It was amazingly helpful and gratifying to hear their descriptions. We asked for clarification at times and applied some of their words to describe traits our children possess that we could not recall the right word.
It was a humbling experience with some responses as well. It was those responses that were not the easiest to hear, that allowed me to take a different look at our child. Often times we want our children to be the smartest, fastest, strongest, best at whatever they are doing. With the competitive nature of school applications, we can overlook the things at which our children are not the best. Asking people to talk to you about your children can be eye-opening and helpful in being honest with yourself about your child’s wants and needs.
So it is that time again. We are starting the tours of the local private schools in September with our daughter in mind. As a spirited, funny, active and spunky girl there are several places we have in mind. We think she will do best in a place that cultivates a quest for knowledge of all kinds and can continue to teach her to be a self-starter with an inquisitive nature.