School Life

Get a glimpse of private school life. Here you'll find a survival guide for parents, brush up on terms and jargon, and learn why extracurricular activities are so important.
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If you are new to the school where you child has just been accepted, you may think that the school functions like a well-oiled machine with little help from outside. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your help and support as a parent is essential and, indeed, expected. Let's look at some ways in which we parents can contribute time, talent and treasure to our children's schools.

1. Support your school financially.
Depending on where you live and what your schedule is like , supporting the school financially may be all that you can do. If you have the means to make a significant gift, then contact the development office to see how best to use your munificence. Leadership gifts are critical to any school's fund raising success. In any case give what you can. Gifts from parents are an important source of funding for most private schools.

2. Be a class parent.
Primary schools in particular will appreciate help with all sorts of things. You will be worth your weight in gold if you are the kind of parent who simply does what she is asked to do faithfully and without interfering with the teacher or children. Communicating with the other parents and getting them organized to do whatever the class needs done is part of the
role of the ideal class parent. Chaperoning field trips and walks might also be part of your volunteer work. Class parents are especially important these days because so . . .read more
It's a big step sending your darling off to private school. She will probably survive the transition just fine. But how about you? How will you restrain yourself and avoid being an over-protective or helicopter parent? Let's look at how to cope with private school at four grade levels.

Preschool
When you send your baby off to preschool or nursery school, you will go through all kinds of angst. Especially if she's your first child. Or only child. You can offset much of the worry by selecting your preschool or nursery school carefully. The best schools will be hard to get into. Places will be limited. But once she's accepted, then determine how you can be helpful without getting in the way. Most schools will welcome assistance with everything from class activities to fund raising. The key is to stay involved as a team player rather than as the leader which you are probably accustomed to being.

Elementary School
This is where things begin to get interesting from a parenting perspective. Why? Because the elementary years are the time when most children learn those core skills which cast the die for a lifetime of learning. If you have been serious about parenting, you taught your child to read ages ago. Probably when she was two or three years old. You limited her television watching and video games so that she developed her imagination and ability to experience situations vicariously. That worked well in your home. But now . . .read more
Extracurricular activities are exactly that, extras, right? Unfortunately, in these tough economic times that is very often the case in public schools. Faced with declining tax revenues, public schools have had to make some very heavy cuts in their budgets. It's difficult to justify cutting teachers and course offerings. So, the 'extras' have to be cut. Extras in the public school world include extracurricular activities such as a band or orchestra as well as clubs and other activities.
 
In private schools extracurricular activities are an integral part of the school's offerings. Solid academics, a variety of athletic programs and an assortment of extracurricular activities are considered essential to the way a private school works.

Put another way, you cannot educate a child solely by teaching her academic subjects such as math and science. There's more to education than that. That's where sports and extracurricular activities come in. They allow your child to grow. They allow her to be stimulated by new ideas and ways of thinking. They give her a sense of accomplishment and encourage team spirit. These are all excellent lessons she needs to learn in order to be a successful adult.

Let's look at a couple of schools to get an idea of the rich array of choices your child will encounter at private school. Incidentally, it doesn't matter too much whether the private school you are considering is a day school or a boarding school. Either type of private school will offer more extracurricular activities . . .read more
Private schools have their own jargon just like any activity or affinity group has. Some of the terms which you will encounter come to us from England where private or public schools as they call them have been around for centuries. That's why you will see words you know with meaning you weren't expecting. 
 
Here are some of the more common terms you are likely to encounter as you explore private schools.
 
AD/ADHD
AD and ADHD are really the same thing: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. If your child exhibits any signs of ADHD, you should have him evaluated thoroughly. The syndrome is treatable. Several private schools do an outstanding job of teaching boys and girls with AD/ADHD.
 

Crew
Crew is the ancient sport of rowing. Rowing in shells is very popular in many private schools. Crew is offered in the fall and spring. Schools participate in regional and international competitions called regattas. Events like Henley draw rowers from all over the world.

Dorm Master
If the term sounds a bit scary, it is actually quite the opposite. A dorm master is a teacher who is in charge of and supervises a residential house of boarding school students. He or she in many ways becomes a surrogate parent providing stability and guidance for the mercurial adolescents in his care. 
 

ESL
ESL is an acronym for English as a Second Language. When a student whose mother tongue is Spanish, for example, learns English, he . . .read more
Athletic programs in private schools are an integral part of school life. They are not 'optional'. All students participate in some kind of athletic activity every week while school is in session. Most private schools set aside a weekday afternoon - generally Wednesday - for athletics. There are no classes. Everybody is involved in some athletic activity somewhere on campus. In boarding schools part of each Saturday is given over to sports as well. Throughout this article I have quoted from private school web sites so that you can get an idea of how private schools view competitive and recreatioal sports.
 
"Competitive or recreational sports at Putney are valued for fostering individual skills and strengths. Sports do not conflict with art activities, so there is no need to choose between one or the other."...The Putney School, Vermont
 
This is also a fundamental difference between private and public schools. I am not saying that sports in public schools are not important. It's simply that when money has to be trimmed from a public school budget it is often trimmed from the athletics budget. Why? Because the board would rather trim that expense than to lay off more teachers. It is a tough choice which most private schools don't have to make and will not make in most cases.
 
"The Gunnery's sports program cultivates competition and cooperation in the context of organized athletics. This is a tradition that stretches back, unbroken, to Mr. Gunn's era. A staunch advocate of physical fitness, he . . .read more
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School Life

School Life

Get a glimpse of private school life. Here you'll find a survival guide for parents, brush up on terms and jargon, and learn why extracurricular activities are so important.