If you are even remotely considering private school for your kids, you should know that now is the time to start thinking about it. Along with fall festivals, pumpkin patches and trick-or-treating — fall is the season for private school open houses.
Around this time a few years ago, we were on the open house circuit for a high school for my oldest, who was in eighth grade. We narrowed the search down to three schools that fit our parameters, which included distance from home, cost and a few other things.
After less than five minutes in the doors of one school, she knew it wasn’t the right fit. It was too big and impersonal. She liked the other two schools and could imagine herself attending either, but she made her final decision after shadowing a student for a day at one. She liked the warm atmosphere, the historic feel of the building and the religious tone, and she loved the school’s swim coach.
It turns out she chose wisely. Now a junior, she is thriving at the school. She’s found a group of friends and is excelling academically, is on the student council and enjoys swimming on the school team.
Many things come into play when searching for the right school for your child. We are so lucky in this area to have so many schools to choose from, and so many different types of schools. Whether you are looking for a competitive college prep school, an affordable faith-based education or something to meet your child’s special needs, we seem to have it all in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area.
The question is, how do you choose?
Tom Rossini, director of enrollment and outreach at the Key School in Annapolis, says that it’s normal to feel anxiety over finding the right school.
“There are a lot of minor differences that make a big impact,” he says. “It’s important to find the school that is best for you, not just the one that looks best online.”
If you are starting the school search, check out our list of open houses. In my experience, the single best way to start narrowing down your options is to visit a school and see how it feels, and an open house is the easiest way to do this.
Just about 12 years ago, when we began the search for an elementary school for our kids, we went to three or four open houses. All of the schools were perfectly acceptable, but when we stepped through the door of the last school we could tell right away it was the place for our kids. There were many concrete reasons we chose that school — from the homework philosophy to the faith-based curriculum — but there was also something else: an overwhelming sense of warmth and welcome that both my husband and I felt that sealed the deal.
Good luck on your school search this fall. Check out our Private School Directory for a listing of schools in the area. It’s likely that when you walk into the right school, you will know it. As for us, we’re moving on to the college search. Yikes.
FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 16, Lilly, 14, Adam, 14, and Jonah, 10.