Monday, 25 May 2015

Choosing a school for your family, rather than for your children

In the next few weeks, families close to our school are going to be choosing schools for their children. This exercise is fraught with anxiety as it is such an important decision!
Our school ducks are part of our family
I have always interviewed all the families who apply to Pinelands North Primary, and at the first meeting, I pass on this advice:
Remember that the choice of school is actually a choice for your whole family, not for the one child. This means that your whole family, within reason of course, should align themselves with the values and ethos you perceive the chosen school to have. The only way this can be established without being a member of the community, is through spending time at the establishment.....make sure you attend everything the school organises before your child is 'school ready'. Functions like school fairs, open days, sports matches and plays are perfect opportunities to see the 'school in action'. Instinctively you will feel the right 'fit', just walking along a corridor! 
The school must also be affordable for your family, not only in school fees but also in uniform, and extras like camps, stationery and extramurals. The one thing families often
forget to include in this affordability is......Will your child go on similar holidays, wear similar civvies clothes, buy the same toys......? This problem rears its head later in school life because, as they get older, all children want to fit in. If your child is going overseas every holiday, and nobody else in his class is doing so, it becomes difficult to talk about the holiday. In the same vein, if your child is getting small toys for their birthday, but everybody else in his class is getting an iPad, an iPhone or an Apple watch, then your child is again not going to fit in.
Multisport athletes riding through Koeberg Nature Reserve
Most schools you would consider will give your child a good academic education. In South Africa the curriculum is regulated so there should be few differences in the academics between schools. Instead, look for the extras over and above the usual academics. Things in this category would be outings, fun days, projects, camps, music lessons, and extramural learning like science and stamp clubs. In a school like Pinelands North, this also would mean the Creative and Talented Programme. This programme caters for the brighter child and is geared to extending them longitudinally and vertically. This means that if your child turns out to be advanced academically, this programme would extend their thinking without them feeling frustrated academically.  
Celebrating books on World Book Day
I am biased but my other consideration is that I would want my child to grow up in a school that celebrates diversity, not only by race but also by religion, ability and disability, psychologically and academically. The country we live in in 2015 is very diverse, and children growing up in a homogenous society will find life after school exceptionally difficult!
So, go on...investigate, research, interview, and discover the perfect school for your child which will then be the perfect school for your family. Finding a school like this will encourage you and your partner to be fully 'present' in your child's learning, throughout the 7 years of primary school! School today is so different from schooling we experienced, so go out and enjoy your schooling, all over again, through your children!