There is one thing that is a bit strange about the process we, go through to pick the right school for our children. Parents often develop a very systematic evaluation system for picking a school that weighs the academic resources of the school, the abilities of the teachers, the school’s physical plant, and how classes are organized. Often the school mission statement’ is taken into account on the theory that if the school was founded on certain basic principles, you should see those principles in action at the school.
But even after we go through that systematic process, we have left out one big factor which how your child will feel about the prospect of going to this new school. After all, even if the new school looks great on paper and passes all of your requirements, you are not the one who will have to live at that school spending almost as much time there as at home. So if your child isn’t happy with the new school, no matter how great their computer lab is or how qualified the math teacher is, there is a chance of failure.
Probably the one thing you can do to help your child make the adjustment to the new school is to give her a vote in the choosing of the new school. The odds are that you are looking at changing schools for a reason, particularly if you are moving your child from public to private school. So if there are negatives at the old school, your child knows about them. Discuss the option of changing schools and weigh that big change against staying in the current school system and putting up with the faults there.
But keep the door open to the possibility and make the search for a better school a family project. Let the student in the family who will be most affected look at the checklist of questions and the selection criteria for the new school and make additions and changes. By giving the child ownership in the selection process, he or she will be much more excited about making the move when the time comes.
You can go on the initial interview at the schools yourself, so you can take your time and ask the “adult” questions before your child gets involved. But after you narrow down the choices by weeding out the schools that you say “no way” to, bring your son or daughter on the second visit. Your child can ask more questions and visit classrooms and meet teachers which will give your child the chance to visualize life at that school. This engages the youth in the process, so he or she is excited about the adventure of the big change rather than feel that you are forcing that change without regard for his or her feelings.
One of the biggest concerns your son or daughter will have will be about leaving friends behind and going to a school where they don’t know anybody. By starting early and visiting the school often, your son or daughter can identify some people in the school that they do know, so they are not totally isolated when they get there. And when they see that private schools have some very creative and often much better-funded clubs and special activity groups to get involved with outside of class, that excitement can really begin to grow.
Transition to a new school is hard. But by letting your kid be part of the process and even having him or her sit in on a day of classes, the anxiety of that change will go down. And when the excitement of the change goes up, you will have made a big step forward in assuring this change of school experiment will be a big success.