Houston offers a great variety in schools and that is a lucky thing, because what’s right for one child may not be right for another. It can be especially challenging if you have more than one child. Whether you choose a public or private school, here are some considerations and steps to take to choose the perfect school:
Observe Classes and/or the Lunch Room
Observing a class in progress may seem obvious but some parents skip this step. This is a good chance to look at the teacher’s demeanor and expectations in the classroom. The lunch room is an often missed opportunity to get a general feel for the school’s atmosphere. See if it is the type of environment that you would want for your child. Schools will have different rules so observing a classroom in progress may or may not be possible.
Meet the Principal
Although some principals may not have time to meet with prospective parents, others may be open to this route. Meeting and talking with a school’s principal will help you determine the atmosphere of the school. Ask yourself if the principal seems approachable and seems to have good leadership qualities.
Consider Your Goals for Your Child
This is a good time to think about the goals you ultimately have for your child. What are his or her strengths and weaknesses? Is your child independent or more group oriented and are these qualities you want to reinforce? Try to choose a school you feel will encourage the goals you are ultimately working toward.
Attend a PTO meeting
Attending a PTO meeting can give you information about the school you may not get from a classroom observation. In addition, meeting other parents will give you the opportunity to ask their opinions about the school.
Different families have different tolerances for driving and how much time you are willing to spend in the car each day will impact what schools to consider. But distance affects more than just drop off and pick up. Will the friends your children make live close to you or far away? There may also be activities available to your child on weekends so make sure and factor this in when deciding how far you can travel.
Amount of Structure
Are children allowed to walk freely throughout the hallway or do they walk in a quiet line? Does the general pace seem rushed or relaxed? Depending on the personality of your child, he or she may thrive with more structure or perhaps your child may prefer a more relaxed approach.
After school activities
Consider what sports or clubs the school offers. Your child’s interests extend past the school day so find out what the offerings may be at each school you consider.
In elementary this may not be as much of an issue, but generally by middle school children will have a group of friends. It may make a difference to your child whether their friends are attending the same school or not.
Each school has its own unique blend of activities. Magnet programs within HISD may focus on fine arts, dual language, vanguard, or Montessori approach. Private schools typically have a great deal of diversity in course offerings.
Values and Religion
If you choose a school based on religion, the school’s values may be evident. But even if you are not choosing a religious school it will still be important to make sure the school’s values align with your own. Furthermore, there may be ways to incorporate your religious instruction into your child’s academic experience even if a school does not emphasize religion. For instance, you can look at vacation Bible school programs that offer an organized curriculum for teaching biblical values and concepts during breaks or vacations. One example may be the vacation bible school curriculum of Grow Curriculum, which offers a variety of free programs designed to engage and educate children in a fun and interactive way. These programs can serve as a supplement to your child’s regular education, allowing them to deepen their understanding of their faith and develop their moral compass. The school’s website is a good place to explore the school’s mission statement for example.
It’s always beneficial to consider the school schedule. If the school day doesn’t begin and end at a convenient time, do they offer care before or after school? Seeking this information ahead of time will ensure a good match.
Choosing the perfect school for your child can seem like an overwhelming prospect. But taking these ideas into consideration will help you on your way to finding the perfect fit!