This is National School Choice Week. I have no idea if this is the first School Choice Week or the 51st. All I know is that I have a daughter who will enter kindergarten in the fall, so choosing a school is my first priority these days.
Like most of my friends, when I was little it was just a given that I would attend the public school in our neighborhood. It was great. I was happy. I received an above-average education and have enjoyed professional and personal success. I have no complaints about the public school education I received.
But I’m not considering our neighborhood school for my daughter. None of my friends made the neighborhood school their first choice either.
I have a number of reasons for investigating our options, but at the top of my list is the state of California’s economy and the ongoing threats to public education. You don’t even have to be a parent to know that a lot has been cut from pubic education over the years. It’s always in the news, and there are many more cuts coming. Even San Diego Unified’s Office of School Choice, which helps parents navigate magnet, charter and alternative school options, is on the chopping block.
Several months ago I started reviewing options from home schooling, to religious education, to charters, magnets and independent schools. It is real work educating yourself about all of the types of schools and teaching philosophies, to try to figure out the pros and cons of each for your child, to attend the open houses or take the tours, fill out applications, etc. It would be so much easier if we didn’t have so many options to consider.
I could write for days about what I’ve learned so far, but for now I’ll just share these points with you in case you’re wondering where to begin.
1. Tour your neighborhood school first to see what they have to offer.
2. Ask your child’s preschool teacher for recommendations.
3. Speak with your school district’s enrollment options or school choice department to find out about charters and magnets. If you’re interested, take a tour.
4. Create an education wish list. Small class size? Diversity? Religious instruction? Specialty classes including art, music, foreign language? Playground with recess? PE? Bus transportation? Hot lunch availability? …you get the idea.
5. If you’re looking at private schools, check their financial aid policies. Many schools offer assistance.
If you already have children in San Diego schools, I’d love to hear about how you selected the school and how you feel about the choice you’ve made. I’m still learning, so contact me anytime!