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What can parents do to ensure a positive school experience?

By Kate Johnson

Being a good parent is a HUGE responsibility. There are so many tasks involved with child rearing and parenting that there’s really no way to be completely prepared. Late nights, diapers, reading “Goodnight Moon” and “Green Eggs & Ham” thousands of times, buying bigger shoes every few months, the list never ends. Parents want their children to grow up to be good, successful adults but it can be difficult to know what to do or how.

Children depend on their parents for everything. It is up to parents, then, to give their children the very best they can: healthy food, clean clothes, good moral lessons and the best education. Good parents work hard to make sure their children are polite, that they know how to tie their shoes and dress themselves. Parents read to their children, helping them learn their letters and numbers and to speak well. All this effort is in preparation for the Big Day when their child will head out into the world and go to school.

The first day of school is a milestone in a child’s (and a parent’s) life. New clothes, a new backpack filled with fresh paper and pencils. That first day is exciting for the whole family. Will the child be happy? Will they make good friends? Will they like their teacher? So many questions, so many unknowns. The truth is, most parents feel they have little or no control over their child’s school experience. They stand at the curb, waving to their child, fervently praying everything will go well.

So, what can parents do to ensure a positive school experience?

Actually, there is a lot they can do. Knowledge is power. The Internet provides a medium in which parents can research all of their school options. There are websites that offer parents access to the various schools in their area and to compare notes with other parents about the focus, philosophy, programs, achievements and challenges faced by each school.

As every parent knows, each child is different. What works for one may not work for another. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to education. Some children need to be nurtured while others need to be challenged. Some children thrive under military school discipline while others would wither and fail. Parents need to ask themselves if their child would do better in a large school or a small school. Does the child have special interests or needs? Only with the answers to questions like these can parents select the best school for their child.

School review sites provide parents with a forum where they can learn about each school’s philosophy of education and any special programs they might offer. School profiles gives parents access to the information needed to make the best choice. How is literacy developed at each school? What physical education and extracurricular activities are offered? Are the school’s teams well organized and successful or are they neglected and under-funded? What clubs are available? What forms of technology being used and taught at each school? Does the school have a traditional approach to teaching or do they use an alternative approach? How does each school promote the fine arts? Do they have a drama club or student chorus? What about transportation and bus service?

School profiles can also be used to view student diversity, school calendars, teacher-student ratios, faculty, student performance data, class sizes, before and after school programs, teacher development programs, academic resources, availability of tutoring programs, administrative leadership, enrollment procedures and fees, class placement and parental involvement opportunities.

Schools can be searched by a variety of criteria including location, type of school and parent ratings. School profiles should include the school’s address and phone number, communities served, homepage information and parent reviews. The best sites offer viewers an opportunity to post their own personal reviews. Each addition to this kind of knowledge base provides parents with the information they need to make an informed decision about where their child will succeed academically.

Each parent knows what works best for their child. School review sites make the information parents need about schools more easily accessible and empower them to make the best decision possible for their child’s education.