Choosing A School For Your Child

My son Joe-Joe turns four any day now, so the big question on everyone’s mind in this house is: where should he go for school?

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We are fortunate to live in Colorado where we have the choice of not only public schools, private schools, and homeschool, but also charter schools and magnet programs. Regardless of what school choice options your district offers, here are some points to keep in mind when choosing your child’s school.

  1. Your Child’s Personality

In general, introverted children enjoy smaller academic environments such as little private schools or homeschool. Extroverted children often prefer the noise and social stimulation of larger classroom settings.

One of the biggest mistakes I want to avoid is basing my choice of schools on my personality. Even if you personally loved farm animals and would have given your right arm to work with horses during middle school, that doesn’t mean an agricultural school is the right choice for your child.

2. Your Child’s Learning Style

Much has been written about different learning styles: Kinesthetic, Visual, Auditory, etc. Children who are little balls of energy will do better, and spend less time in the principal’s office, if they attend a school where they can move freely such as Montessori schools or homeschool.

Children who are verbal processors or auditory learners will do better in a classroom setting than in the independent study of homeschool or Montessori, which relies heavily on individual learning.

I personally am a verbal processor. I failed a lot of history lessons in homeschool high school, which relied heavily on self-study and independent reading. But I did well in college history classes, which were taught in a traditional classroom setting and played to my verbal processing strengths through class discussion.

All that to say, if you want your child to succeed at school, discovering their learning style truly is important.

3. Your Child’s Academic Abilities

Ideally you want a school hard enough to challenge your child, but not so hard that it frustrates them. I’ve seen young kids of more average academic abilities put into elite prep school environments. The children often grow to hate school and think of themselves as dunces as they put hour after hour into homework assignments that take the other children mere minutes.

On the other hand, I’ve seen brilliant children put into slower-paced classrooms where they grew bored and soon began to misbehave. Or, almost worse, they decided that they were geniuses and didn’t have to study and so learned no study skills. The right school will stretch your child, but also give him confidence in his ability to learn.

4. Your Own Sanity

No matter where you send your child to school, a lot of the burden falls on you. And your child needs a sane parent at the end of the school day. So don’t drive yourself insane trying to give your child the absolutely best academic environment.

If the top school in your area is an hour and a half drive away, is it really still worth it? If homeschooling your child seems ideal, but is making you scream into mirrors while tearing your hair out, is it really right for you? If paying for private school is making you take out a fourth mortgage on your house and work three jobs, is it really the right decision?

Only you know the answer. But please don’t drive yourself insane. Children need sane parents more than they need perfect schools.

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