These parents often fall into two opposite camps that cover vastly different viewpoints. Parents on the conservative side of the spectrum often feel that public schools fail to offer clear guidance and strict enough rules and regulations. These parents will often seek out private schools that support their own particular philosophy of education and training for life. Many religiously affiliated schools would fall into this category, so would some military schools. On the other end of the spectrum there are the liberal parents who feel that their child is being oppressed by unnecessary, and sometimes thoughtless, institutional rules and regulations. These parents would look to private schools that reflect a more enlightened viewpoint on education. These alternative schools often call themselves ‘independent’ rather than private schools because of the, sometimes elitist, connotations associated with private school education.
Once you have established that you want your teenager to attend a private school, you may well feel intimidated by the homework required to select the right one. Before you get started with the research, sit down with your child. Have pen and paper available to jot down important points. Choosing private schools is a vitally important process. Remember to be open and attentive to your teen’s input and responses. The climate should be such that the child feels genuinely included and not just a spectator on the sidelines of his or her own life. Concerns voiced regarding private schools, need to be properly addressed. The consequences of bulldozing the child into an unsuitable school will stay with all of you for many years to come. Try not to project your own desires on the teenager. He or she is old enough to have significant preferences, some of which may be hard for you to relate to. Good parenting means listening and keeping an open mind. If the discussion should become heated, and it may, then pause awhile, sleep on it and reconvene after time out. You are trying to match an educational circumstance with your child’s very unique personality. You will need to be patient and understanding in order to let that personality feel safe to declare itself.
Once you have fearlessly established the criteria for choosing a private school, you will be ready for the next step. At this point the challenge has less to do with interpersonal skills and more to do with correlating your research on what private schools are out there and which one best fits your child’s needs. You may choose to engage an educational counselor whose job is to help you establish a reliable shortlist from which to work. The educational counselor is an expert in schooling in general and private schools in particular. A good counselor should be able to give you background information that will save a great deal of time in deciding which schools make your list and which ones don’t. Once you have a short list it is time to visit each school. This will be a joint parent-teenager enterprise so make appointments for times that your child is available. Just a couple of hours on a school campus can reveal countless important considerations for or against its suitability for your child.
The minute you set foot on the school grounds take note of the feel and atmosphere of the place. First there are the obvious surface impressions like the aesthetic appeal of the school setting and environment. Private schools use your funding to provide this environment so now is the time to observe whether they are responsible in their use of this resource. Take a good look at the students themselves.
Can you envision your child here?
How do the children relate to each other?
How do they relate to the teaching staff?
Good education needn’t squash the spirit. Superior education should encourage and enhance the spirit. Has education at this particular school resulted in a bored and cynical approach or are the students engaged and interested? Does the student mix look like a fit for your child? Apply the same keen observation to the teaching staff at all the private schools you visit, and be sure to visit all of those on your short list. Have a good look at the role of respect in this particular institution. No real education can survive outside of an atmosphere of mutual respect. In your interview with staff members don’t be afraid to ask salient questions. Remember that the interview process is a mutual one. Not only are they looking to see if your teenager will fit in, but you and your teenager have strong feelings regarding whether the school will potentially deliver what you need.