I began this year with a sudden and crushing feeling of parental overwhelm. It hit me with no doubt or uncertainty that the year ahead was a really important one, it seemed that adulting was truly required of us to make some major (and perhaps life changing) decisions. Chops needed to be enrolled into school and we had to call the shots (gulp)!
To preface this, we are blessed with excellent options, geographically placed in the educational epicenter of Melbourne’s Inner North. We’ve been told people move into our hood just to access the schools nearby. I wish I could say we’d thought that far ahead when we bought our place. Five years ago when Chops was just my embryonic Pine Nut sized passenger, we sought amenities which were relevant to us at the time – cafes, restaurants, vicinity to friends, city lifestyle and of course an easy to maintain house (that we could afford). Very BC (before children) thinking. As luck would have it, we were cushioned by an abundance of amenities that also made parenting easy including great park lands, childcare and well regarded schools.
Fast forward almost five years and here we were trying to determine what school was to be the right fit for our clever and capable baby girl, and subsequently her brother who would follow three years later. Knowing this was beyond our skill set and experience, I rallied my troops in the education space. Both my Sister and Best Friend are extremely capable teachers, with the added bonus that they know Chops. They also understood us as a family and what was important to us in terms of our values and goals and the community we wanted to belong to.
What we learnt, was that without a doubt, the most important thing that you need to do is to visit the schools you are considering. You will usually meet with the Principal and will often also be able chat with some of the students and teachers. In doing this, you’ll start to get a feeling for which environments work best for your child and your family. While at the school look around, look for the way children, students and parents are interacting with each other, look for indications of individualism being celebrated (not rows of identical pieces of work), listen for laughter, discussion, debate and most importantly listen to your gut. How do you feel standing in the school, how do you think your child will feel. Your gut knows best whether the school is the right fit for your child.
If you too are facing decisions about school in the next little while, here is the cheat sheet complied from the Little Minx Education Expert Panel.
School Visit: Some Questions to consider
- What is the average class size?
- How is Literacy taught at the school?
- How does the school teach to the individual?
- How is individuality celebrated?
- How is technology used to support teaching and learning at this school?
- How do the arts fit into the curriculum?
- What before and after school care options are is available?
- What extracurricular opportunities are available for students?
- Is bullying a problem at the school? Does the school have an anti-bullying policy?
- Does the school have a program for gifted students?
- How does this school support students who have academic, social or emotional difficulties?
- What professional development opportunities do teachers have? In what ways do teachers collaborate?
- What are some of the school’s greatest accomplishments? What are some of the biggest challenges this school faces?
- How can we as parents support our child to be successful at this school?
- What costs are involved in terms of tuition, as well as extra activities along the way?
- What is the spiritual, cultural and religious ethos of the school?
This exercise is now complete, and Chops will begin her Orientation next month at our School of choice. It’s 2.15pm every Thursday for a month – how to accommodate this as a working family is our next challenge!!! If you find yourself now concerned as to what you need to acquire for the start of the school term, we are here to make life easier for your family. We’ve bundled our essentials for you in our “Starting School Survival Kit”. Grab one of these and cross one more thing off your list …..
There is also a great Canadian Resource site that provides an e-Book you can download on this subject if you want more information.