A guide for parents of young learners looking for a school to call home.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that children who receive a solid education during their early elementary years are more likely to excel academically and to thrive personally as they advance through their education. As parents, you want to give your child every possible advantage, so the decision about which school your child attends is vitally important.
Just as we encourage our young learners to do their homework, parents also need to do theirs in order to find the best school home — a place where their children will flourish not just academically, but also as well-rounded people.
One of the best ways to gather research for this homework is to attend a prospective family open house. Here are five tips to maximize your open house visits and 10 must-ask questions to help collect the insights needed to make an informed decision.
Navigating an Open House
1. Prepare with Purpose
Familiarize yourself with the school’s ethos and programs — spend time on its website, check out social media pages and talk to people you know whose children attend the school. This will help lay the foundation for what you’ll learn during the open house.
2. Observation Is Key
While at the open house, take note of the atmosphere in the classrooms, playground and other facilities. Get a good window into how your child would learn by observing the student work that is displayed in the classroom and evaluating the “feel” of the environment that the teacher has created in their learning space.
3. Engage with the Community
While you may not get to experience the exciting buzz of a campus full of students at an open house, you will get an excellent opportunity to speak personally with teachers and staff. Ask the school if you can schedule a one-on-one, personalized campus tour during school hours so you can see the school community in action.
4. There’s More than Academics
A well-rounded school develops programs beyond academics. Inquire about the arts, field trips, extracurricular activities and other aspects of the educational experience that work together to create a holistic (whole-child) education.
5. Personal Reflections
Consider what aspects of the school resonate most with your child’s needs and your family values. This personal reflection is crucial in finding the right fit.
10 Essential Questions to Ask at the Open House
While far from being a comprehensive list, these questions are at the top.
1. What is your educational philosophy for early elementary education?
2. Does your school personalize instruction to meet students’ individual learning needs?
3. How does your school handle discipline and create a supportive learning environment?
4. In what ways does your school integrate technology into student learning?
5. How are your educators selected, supported and trained to ensure a quality education?
6. How does the school promote social and emotional learning?
7. What communication channels exist between your school and parents to ensure involvement in their child’s education?
8. What safety measures and emergency plans does your school have in place?
9. How does your school measure and report student progress?
10. What is your school’s approach to addressing concerns involving parents, students and staff?
Elaina Cohen is vice president of Enrollment Management at Fairmont Schools.