Reader Question: How Do I Know If I Selected The Right Private Elementary School?

Reflections

 

One of our wonderful blog readers emailed me with a question about picking the right school. This question is personal for me because I often wonder if I made a mistake with our previous school. See my conclusion below.  –Christina

 

Question: It’s been a long week of intense debate, extreme list and spreadsheet making and we finally selected a school. The school we didn’t choose seemed pretentious, but it had a lot to offer. We picked the school that also offers a lot, but where we think the parents are “our people.” Now, I feel some remorse (and regret?) with our decision. How do I know if I picked the right school?

 

Answer: Selecting a school for your kid can be filled with uncertainty (it was for me!). Second-guessing your decision, doubts, lingering thoughts about “what if” may persist until you just decide to embrace your decision and forget about the other school.

 

Let me just say that you’ll never be able to answer the question fully until your child is a student at your school and some time has passed. Then, most likely, it will become “your school” and the fleeting doubts will be a distant memory. Transitions to a new school are usually uneventful, but for some kids it can be a bumpy few months. So, try to resist judging the school until your family is settled there. Then, if your intuition tells you something isn’t right or if your child isn’t happy, you can try to figure out what’s really going on.

 

Unfortunately, I have frequent regrets about selecting The Willows Community School where my kids were generally happy, but Barry and I were not. Why did we spend so many years there? I know I need to put this chapter behind me. For various reasons, my family didn’t fit in at The Willows like we do at Viewpoint.

 

My decisions for selecting the Willows weren’t entirely flawed. For elementary school, I wanted a progressive/developmental school with excellent teachers and a small, nurturing environment with all the “bells and whistles.” The Willows is all that. It was the wrong school for our family for completely subjective, not objective reasons. The problem for us wasn’t something I could point to on a school brochure or during a tour. The culture of the school wasn’t right for us. We didn’t fit the very specific culture of the school. The more I volunteered and tried to make the fit work, the worse it got. Contributing to the school, both financially and with our free time was a wasted effort. I watched great families in a similar situation leave the school in first grade and second grade. We stayed. Every year I hoped something would change. It never did.  In retrospect, I realized the priorities of the school administration, the board and many of the parents were far different than ours. However, if we hadn’t stayed at Willows, we probably wouldn’t be at Viewpoint School now. Of course, I find myself thinking, “I wish my kids had started kindergarten at Viewpoint!” But, in the end everything worked out better than I could have imagined. Isn’t that how life works?

 

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Christina Simon: Los Angeles, California, United States I'm the mom of a daughter (15) and a son (12) who attend Viewpoint School in Calabasas. I live in Coldwater Canyon with my family and a rescue pit bull, Cocoa. Contact me at csimon2007@gmail.com

4 thoughts on “Reader Question: How Do I Know If I Selected The Right Private Elementary School?

  1. Oh my gosh, I could have written that question myself! I felt (and still feel) remorse and regret because the school we declined, like Christina said, had all the “bells and whistles”, lovely classrooms, great library and art rooms, gym, and play yard, which my preschooler loved… The one we chose is also great but had a different vibe and like the reader said, the parent community felt more like “our people”. We know parents there who we’ve known since kindergarten, since college, through work, through mutual friends, etc… They are our people. We also chose this school for other reasons having to do with our child and the learning environment we want. And still we won’t know if we made the right decision until next year. Yes, we turned down the school with the larger, nicer library, a real indoor gym, perhaps better facilities and more organized looking classrooms. It’s hard to overlook that stuff when you want the best for your child. But at the same time, we feel good about the decision we made. I just try to remind myself, nothing is permanent. If it the first year of kinder seems wrong, we can change it.

  2. Excellent topic. I’ve noticed that a lot of parents feel a tinge of regret after they’ve moved onto ‘greener pastures’ for middle school or high school. I also think that children may outgrow or evolve out of the culture/community/curriculum of their elementary schools (just as parents do). So happy to hear that you’ve found a new home at Viewpoint!

  3. So interesting to read all this. All I can say is that you are wonderful to share your experience in such an honest way. I’m sure that will help people eliminate those feelings of remorse. Nice post, Christina.

  4. It’s so easy to get distracted by “bells & whistles” and, in my opinion, much better in the long run to find a school that speaks to your heart. Of course you want it to have great programs and amenities, but I think it is the teachers, the overall philosophy & the other families at a school that make it the right fit – at least in the early days. Our children are at the end of the 2nd year at our school and while the school has many lovely “extras” it really is more about how comfortable we feel that is making it the right choice for us. By that I mean I feel comfortable discussing our children’s changing needs with the teachers and administration, I feel comfortable with the other families there and have made wonderful friends who are raising wonderful children (who are the kids my own children hang out with & who influence my kids daily), I feel comfortable with the overall philosophy the school has about social and emotional growth of our children and so on.

    No school is perfect. But the bottom line is that you need to find a place where your family fits and where you feel you are heard if you need to speak up about something you are unhappy with. You need a school that welcomes your input and involvement. You need a school with parents who are involved with their kids’ lives and upbringing – not just making sure they have the latest whatever-is-cool-now. And as someone else above said, nothing has to be permanent. If you find you’ve picked a place that doesn’t fit – change is always possible.

    And Christina, I am so thrilled for you that Viewpoint has turned out to be such a wonderful fit for your family! The school is lucky to have you & your kids.

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