20 Things to Consider When Choosing Schools

Last week, I shared several tips for selecting schools for the upcoming school year on Instagram. As always, our Instagram community blew me away with their words of encouragement and additional advice! Since we’re in the middle of “admission season” for private schools, and many families are considering moves to other states and evaluating different school districts, I thought it would be helpful to dive deeper into things to consider when choosing schools for your children.

Now, disclaimer time! If you’ve been a reader for a while, then you know that my family has had experience with private school, public school, and homeschooling (read my post about our homeschool experience here!) and I realize what a privilege it is to have choices. These questions are designed to get you to think about what is most important for your family in educating your children whether that’s public, private, charter, and homeschool. But most of all, they apply to all of us as parents. I think the thing we all share is the desire to make the best decisions that we can for our children. That can mean anything from the type of school we want them to attend to the types of technology used in the classroom, curriculum, discipline, and everything in between. 

I said this in my Instagram post but it’s worth saying again: While it’s good to forecast for your child’s education, rarely does it turn out exactly how we plan. (God’s plans are always much better!) No decision has to be forever when it comes to school — be flexible and take it a year at a time! If a change is what’s best for your child and your family, be open to it. 

Read on for my list of the top things to consider when choosing schools, and please let me know if you’d add anything in the comments below!

Before You Go:

1. Make a short list of what’s really important for your child’s education and your family. (Faith-based? Sports programs? A school that goes to through the 12th grade?)

2. Consider how much “car time” you are willing to have each day, and the proximity of the school(s) to home and work. If the school meets all your other criteria, a longer drive might be worth it! 

3. Follow the schools you’re considering on Instagram. Many public, private, and homeschool groups’ pages may be private, but request to follow to get a taste of their culture and values.

4. Talk to families with older children who attend(ed) the school and ask for honest feedback. 

5. If considering a private school, research tuition costs, scholarship opportunities, and fees associated with learning intervention if needed. Are the schools you’re considering going through a capital campaign effort, and will you be expected to contribute more? Do they have discounts for enrolling multiple children? The cost goes up every year (and with every child), so cost is something to consider greatly.

When You Visit:

6. Visit more than one school so you have a comparison. 

7. Don’t just go to the open house. Ask to sit in on classes and notice the teaching style, classroom decor, and children’s engagement. Visit older grades while you’re there, too.

8. If your child is being tested or visits the school for a shadow day, watch how they react. Does your child look comfortable? 

Questions to Consider Asking The School:

9. What kind of curriculum do they use? Make sure it fits with your family’s worldview and educational goals for your children. 

10. What is parent involvement like? Are parents allowed on campus? Are they allowed to visit for lunch or help in the classroom? How active is the PTA? 

11. What are the school’s or school district’s discipline policy? Does this align with your family’s values?

12. What is homework typically like? This varies widely from school to school, and it’s good to know what the expectation will be as they get older. 

13. What is the school’s philosophy on technology? Do they have school-issued iPads? How do they protect students while they’re online? How much do they read paper books vs. e-books? How much do they write versus type?

14. Do they learn cursive?

15. How do they teach reading?

16. Do they offer intervention and/or assistance if your child is diagnosed with a learning disability? What does that look like?

17. What does standardized testing look like? How much do the classes and grade levels prepare for the tests? How are they weighted?

18. Do most people at the school hold back children with summer birthdays? What do they encourage parents to do?

When Making a Decision:

19. Know that decisions aren’t permanent. Be open to making adjustments and school changes if needs arise. Take it one year at a time.

20. Choose a school that is right for YOUR children and family, which may not necessarily be where your friends are going or your alma mater. Consider your child’s personality — and be open to different schools for each of your children. 

What would you add to this list?