Supply and demand
Places for the best elementary schools are always going to be in demand. What do I mean by best schools? Mostly 'best' is a subjective description because there are no rankins of private schools available. Much of a school's reputation rests on things like its campus and facilities as well as the quality of the curriculum and teaching. It is amazing how word gets around about such things but it does.
If you live in cities like New York, Boston or Washington, you literally will need to put your child's name on the list shortly after birth in order to even get an interview at some of the most sought after schools. Well, I am exaggerating a tad. Perhaps not that soon, but don't delay calling the schools and finding out their admissions procedures. Do it well in advance. Two years ahead of time is not too early.
Determine the kind of school you want
This part of the process is the toughest. It is also probably the most important. It is tough because you will have many schools to choose from. It is the most important simply because you need to get it right. The last thing you want is to have to change schools every couple of years.
What kind of teaching do you want? There are basically two approaches to teaching at the elementary grade level:
- The traditional teacher-directed approach
- The student-centric approach
by Natashi Jay
It is most important that you and the school be in harmony with regard to your mutual expectations. The goals of an elementary education should be:
- Teaching a child how to read and write
- Teaching a child how to interact with others
- Developing a sense of discovery and love of learning
The reality which every parent has to deal with is that the school can only do so much. Most of the teaching really is up to us parent. We do that by setting positive examples, by guiding our children as they make choices and y influencing them as they are increasingly exposed to different ideas and ways of looking at things.
"Let the child be a child."
It is a good rule to live by. Children are exposed to so much sex and violence in the popular media these days that one of the best things a parent can do is to carefully limit the amount of television, video and music your child has access to on a daily basis. If you buy into that approach to childraising, then you will look closely at the schools you select to see that they too embrace those values. Encouraging children to use their imaginations is what reading good books does. Interacting in a meaningful way with your children is always preferrable to sitting them in front of a video game or television show.
As I mentioned in passing above, the school can only do so much. We parents need to do the rest. We need to encourage our children to read. Spend time with your child every day. Read to her. Have her read to you.
We need to encourage active versus passive activity. Whether she is sitting in front of a television or using a tablet or listening to music on a handheld device doesn't much matter. Carefully limit those passive activities. Establishing the proper habits in the primary grades will cast the die for middle and high school. Hopefully the school which you have chosen will embrace your values. If it does, that will make your job so much easier.
During the interview process express your willingness to help the school. Demonstrate that you are eager to be a partner in your child's education. Explain how you plan to support what the school does. Discuss your approach to supervising your child's activities. Talk about how you enrich her daily learning activities at home. Private schools value parents who understand that education is a partnership of three.
One final word about selecting an elementary school for your child: choose the school where both you and your child will be the happiest. That all-important happiness quotient is what will make all the difference. You need to decide what things really matter to you most. Since each private school is unique in just about every respect, that places the onus on you to get it right. Decide what matters most to you. Not to somebody else. Then make your decision based on those criteria.
Read about elementary education. Try to understand the different approaches and philosophies. Find out which you prefer. Ask questions. Lots of questions. Your child's elementary school years can and should kindle a passion for learning. When you and the school get it right, you will kindle a passion for learning which will last a lifetime.