Choosing a Middle School That is Right For Your Little Learner

Ease the worry when it comes to educating your growing child in the best possible way for him or her.

It can be one of the most anxiety-forming processes to find a school that is a good fit for your child. The possibility of having to switch schools midstream is a completely unwanted scenario and educators don’t recommend it1. The fact that there is often quite a bit of competition to get kids into a reputable program makes the whole prospect even worse.

If this is your first time with such a transition, take a deep breath, and educate yourself on your options, how the various enrollment procedures work, what you want to look for according to your child’s personality, and what you can expect going in.

Public School. Public schools often get a very bad rap, and yes, overall our public education system falls short of the global standard. However, many public schools are deeply invested in learning, enthusiastic, and creative in driving resources into their programs, so the only way to know what the school is like is to visit. Of course it can be helpful to talk to parents about their choices and criteria, but reserve your judgment until you actually get into the classroom. It makes sense to start from your home and spiral out in your search; you never know if the school down the street from you is the perfect fit for your family. There are two ways a child qualifies to get into public school: Home Location and Lottery. The closest school to your home is the default for kindergarten, but many school districts also have a lottery where the family can choose its top three schools and a set number of children are selected depending on each school’s enrollment.

Public Magnet. Magnet schools are specialized programs that have a concentration on a specific subject, like humanities or zoology. These schools meet all the federal and local requirements as far as curriculum; they just have more liberty to design their programs around a subject. These programs usually require an application and seek out students who show early interest or talent.

Charter School is kind of a cross between a publically funded school and a private school. These schools get their funding from government sources but they are managed by a private or more localized organization, and are often exempt from certain state regulations. Charter schools can be a good solution for children with learning or behavioral difficulties, and similarly, kids who are accelerated learners, because they can offer more individual attention. Charter schools also have an application process but give priority to local students.

Private School is the paid alternative to the above options, but be careful about reputation influencing your judgment. If the school is rated highly, find out what the criteria is; for example, test scores are often an indicator that the school has a very uniform and traditional approach to learning. It’s important to remember that private means for profit and that can change the game in terms of the daily experience and the overall philosophy. Do your due diligence and meet with teachers, parents, and the principal. Private schools often have an application process, a wait-list, and an interview process with your child. If you decide to go that route, prep your child gently instead of placing high stakes on the meeting.


More considerations:

Start looking early, preferably a year before the registration madness begins. Most schools start with orientations around the beginning of the year, so check out their schedules and make time to go to the meetings and ask questions.

Take the long view. It’s easy in the kinder scenario to just try and find something that will stick right away, but draw back and think five years ahead. What will third grade look like for your child? It’s hard to see the future but make sure you look at what the older grades are doing too.

Be realistic about the big picture. If your child gets into the top school in your town, be careful that you make the decisions within the context of your whole family. Will you be living in the same house? Will you have to drive across town twice a day in traffic for drop-offs and pickups? Will you be involved in your child’s school experience? Make sure you set up reasonable priorities and expectations about the next seven years.

Keep a cool head knowing that all parents go through some of this and don’t let the stress get to you. Because you are an involved parent, you will find a great place for your child to thrive, even if there are some hiccups along the way.




About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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