Public schools, magnet schools, private schools, charter schools, homeschool, online academies—when it comes to your child’s education, you definitely have options. But how should parents go about choosing a school? We tapped Eleanor Munson, Ph.D., who leads Dallas Educational Consultants, for advice on navigating that decision process—so you can find the school that best meets your family’s needs and maximizes your child’s growth and development.
Determine your “must-haves”
Maybe your child has a learning difference, and you need a school with a certain learning environment. A faith-based curriculum could be important. What are you able to spend on tuition? How far are you willing to drive? Do you definitely want a neighborhood public school, or perhaps a charter school with a particular focus?
Think about your wants
Now bring in your personal preferences. These may be aspects such as whether you want your child to wear a uniform, or what types of advanced programs (IB, AP, dedicated gifted classrooms versus a weekly program) that a school offers. If you want your child to get started on learning a second language, is that part of the curriculum?
Dive deep into school websites
“Typically school websites include the handbook, curriculum guide, course offerings and more,” shares Munson. “Make a spreadsheet and note what schools have both your must-haves and your preferences.”
Tour the possibilities
Munson recommends visiting as many schools as you can. “You’ll have a sense of whether a school fits your child and your family,” she explains. Virtual tours may be available.
Check the fine print
Admission requirements, application deadlines, zoning—make sure these details don’t derail your plans. Magnet schools and private schools have different admission processes than neighborhood public schools. Munson says to check the school website for info and call the office with any questions. If you’re interested in a particular campus, make sure your address is zoned for that school. (Don’t just check a real estate listing—it’s best to confirm.)
Keep your options open
“If you are choosing a private or magnet school, be realistic about the competition and cast a wide net,” Munson advises. “Be sure you have at least one ‘safety school’ on your list.”
See how it goes
Munson points out that you haven’t committed your child for their entire education: “Things can change, and if you decide you haven’t found the best choice, you can move your child to a different school if you need to.”