A few weeks ago the parents of middle school students began receiving information about high school information nights and enrollment dates. We found ourselves listening to information about academics, athletics, extracurricular activities and college requirements. Yet, it feels like just a couple years ago, I was making friends with the other kindergarten parents and scheduling playdates. How quickly the time from kinder to middle school passed, truly in the blink of an eye. I am excited about my son starting high school but also sad and in disbelief that we got here so quickly. The enrollment packets are due this week and I can’t help but think that in another four years, a different set of forms will need to be filled and more decisions made.
In our area there are private schools, charter schools, and large public high schools to choose from. My son is looking at what the very large neighborhood high school offers and at a program at a very small charter school about 25 minutes away. I never had a choice of which school to attend until college but schools in our area offer a variety of programs, even among the our local public high schools.
When making a decision about schooling, my focus is on the opportunity to learn that the school and program provides. Below are some of the questions I am keeping in mind:
- Which school provides the instruction, curriculum, and programs that most match my child’s interests and academic needs?
- Do they focus on student learning (rather than test scores)?
- Does instruction focus on critical and creative thinking or busy work and rote learning?
- Are there extracurricular clubs that match my child’s interests?
- Are there services for gifted and talented students?
- Does the program include interest-based learning?
- Does my child feel comfortable in the school? or overwhelmed?
- Does the athletic program offer the sport/s my child wants to participate in? What is the quality of the program like?
While, I might be thinking about all those topics, my child is the one who will make the final decision about which school best suits him. Today, he is spending the day shadowing a 9th grade students and getting a feel for the high school program at the small charter school. When we arrived he saw a few kids he already knows at the school. He likes the small size of the school and he has noticed that the teachers and administrators know all the kids by name. So far, he has felt welcomed and the school has a reputation of providing a challenging curriculum for all students.
The large high school has an academic track and athletic program that fits his interests. It offers many extracurricular activities and lots of opportunities to learn. My gut tells me that this school best suits him, but the size is overwhelming for many students (and their parents) because it has a student population of about 3,000 students. I am not sure how to go about making the decision but I think that after spending the day at the small school he will know which school is best for him. I am grateful that we have schools in our area that offer a variety of quality programs to choose from.