When I was teaching kindergarten, every fall parents would come and tour our school. Week after week I would sit with them during recess and different groups of parents would ask the same questions: Do kindergarteners get homework? Do they have time for free play? How do you resolve conflicts?
Now that my daughter is entering kindergarten in the fall, I’ve been on the other side of these tours. I’ve been visiting local schools and asking the same questions parents asked me many years ago. I’ve learned that it’s not just about what people say on the tours: it’s about getting a feel for the school, trying to know in your bones where your child would thrive.
After being on both sides of school tours, I’ve compiled a list of what I find to be the most-valuable questions to ask and things to look for.
- What approach do you take to teaching reading/writing/math/science/social studies/the arts?
- Do students have enrichments (P.E., music, art, languages, etc.)? If so, which ones and why?
- What is your homework policy? Why?
- How are teachers supported? What have teachers been learning together recently?
- What do teachers like about teaching here? Have the current teachers been at the school for a long time? How do you attract and retain high-quality teachers?
- How are parents involved in the school?
- How do you handle conflict?
- Do you teach social and emotional skills? How?
- What skills do you hope students develop over the course of attending your school?
- What makes your school unique?
Pay Attention To:
- Your feelings: What is your gut reaction to the school?
- What kids are doing: Are they working together or separately? Using textbooks or participating in hands-on projects? Do they seem happy?
- What teachers are doing: Are they lecturing from the front of the class or circulating amongst students? Do they seem happy?
- The walls: Can you see evidence of learning in student work around the room? How do students use the learning tools that are posted?
- The environment: Are classrooms neat and tidy or messy and busy? Which is most important to you?
- Noise level: Are kids quiet or loud? If kids are noisy, are they engaged in doing work? (The best learning is often loud!)
- How students get along: How do students act towards one another? What kinds of language do you hear on the playground?
By taking multiple tours, you’ll get a sense of what sets schools apart from one another. Try not to look for perfect school, but instead the one that feels like the best fit for your child. Of course, there is another option out there: homeschooling! If you’re interested in homeschooling your child, I’d love to support you. Please take my survey for homeschoolers to let me know how I can help (and be entered into a drawing to win a homeschool consult and customized personalized learning plan for your child, a $250 value!).