How in the World Do I Choose Where to Send My Son to School???

Updated on October 05, 2008
L.H. asks from West Jordan, UT
8 answers

So my oldest is only three, but I think it's a good thing I started looking into this subject because there are SO many options.
I'm leaning toward charter or private schooling, but not averse to public schools (except the one in our neighborhood; go figure). But as I understand it, just because a school is a charter or private doesn't make it a good school; they can be awful. What's a mom to do? I can't go around interviewing every kindergarten teacher and observe classes whenever I want to. I have three kids!
How did you moms decide where to send your kids to school? What types of schools do you like best? Are there specific schools your love or ones you think all parents should avoid? Please give me all your school knowledge:)

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E.G.

answers from Salt Lake City on

My mom is a teacher and her pet peeve is people thinking that it's all about the school and teachers for their children to get a good education. It is, partly, but she said the NUMBER ONE most important thing to have for your kids is parents who read to kids, help with their homework and realize that teaching is NOT 100% the teachers job. The two smartest kids I know went to public schools, but their parents were so incredible active in their schooling, homework, study time, and teaching stuff themselves.
My son is 3, and he'll be going into the local public school, but I've already started an at home learning program to give him a heads start and have every intention of continuing to teach him above and beyond what he gets at school.

Whatever you decide to do, I'm sure your kids will be fine. Just play an active role in their education.

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J.S.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I have also grown up as the child of educators. I would just add a few things to the advice you already have. Studies have shown only 2 links to how good of an education children get. Surprisingly, all of the usual suspects - school programs, good vs. bad teachers, class size, amount of money spent per child - did not make the list. The only 2 factors that have an impact are the socio-economic status of the family and the education level of the mother. Crazy. My point is that sometimes we overanalyze & stress ourselves out unnecessarily about our children's education. That being said, of course we want to find the best situation we can. I agree that you should define your priorities for your child's education and strongly agree that you need an unbiased source to analyze the schools/teachers. You cannot trust word-of-mouth. My father was a principal & saw that a few of the parent "favorite" teachers were close to completely inept. Trust the opinions of other educators...not just the popular opinion. There are many great public schools in Salt Lake and only a few I would avoid. Good luck!

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S.S.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I thought I would add my 2 cents worth. It seems to work well for my kids to go to the public school we are in the boundaries for. Ours is a great one so it doesn't make the decision that difficult. However, the family down the street that is going to another school 10 min. away doesn't do very much with the neighborhood kids anymore. We see them at church and really enjoy their company but after school and other activities they just don't all play with the neighborhood kids anymore as they aren't around as much. I feel sorry for them for that reason. I don't mean to discount the importance of learning and the actual educating. Of course their mother has great reasons for sending them elsewhere. But there is a social thing attached to the kids that leave the boundaries to attend another school. It is just interesting and I wanted to point out that perspective. Best of luck!

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A.B.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Well, I am not from Salt Lake and am not LDS. So I have totally gone by word of mouth. I went to public school in the south (N.O.area) and it was a poor education. My husband went to Catholic school and got a wonderful education that was focused on academics as well as standard. Not only did he receive an excellent education he still has very close friends that he went to school with for 13 yrs... We have our 4yr. old at J.E. Cosgriff Memorial Catholic School. It is very structured. The pre-school and pre-k programs are amazing. I highly recommend it. Many of their students are not Catholic.
I observed many as my daughter is and will be an only child.
Good luck to you. Benn there done that.....
A.

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J.N.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Start with the neighborhood school. Think about why you object to it. Usually, people don't want to send kids to their school because many students are minorities, low SES, or otherwise underpriveledged. And their worried that their own child will get missed with all the kids needing so much help. My experience is that:
1- Schools that serve many low SES kids get extra funding (Title I) from the government and so can have MORE programs available.
2- such schools - esp Title I - have higher requirements for their teachers and Para-professionals to be able to work there.
3- whatever school you child is in, you, the parent, are the most important factor in his education. Volunteer at the school, join the PTA, take him to school and meet the teacher and the other moms, read to him and help him do homework, and be involved. If there is a certain area lacking, you can help make it up. Just remember, schools with more diversity have more challenges, but also have more opportunities for learning and growth for the students - stuff that is beyond 'classroom knowledge' but will be very useful in our global world.
So check out the neighborhood school first. Meet the staff and principal. You may find out its better than you thought.

(I'm a past teaher in public schools, saw the best and worst of it, not really unbiased, but well experienced anyway)

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A.H.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I'm in agreement with Erin. Parental involvement is sooooo important. One should not expect the school to 'do it all'. Plan to be very involved in your childrens' education (I didn't realize how much so, until this past year).

That said, they are in the classroom for a good part of the day, and thus the teacher has a big influence on one's child. However, keep in mind that even a so-called 'good' school will have 'bad' teachers, and visa versa. I think too, like Sherry said, it really depends on your priorities, and what is important to you and your child. Some schools are great in the 'arts', some academics is the primary focus, some athletics, etc. It also can depend on the learning style of your child.

Also, in UT, you can send your child to pretty much any public school in the state that you want, as long as there is room. The priority is 1. boundary kids, 2. siblings of out of boundary kids that are already attending the school, 3. out of boundary kids within the district, and lastly 4. out of district kids.

You may also want to consider private preschool and K, then public 1st, etc. That's our plan, since DS #2 misses the Sept 1st cutoff (and he's pretty bright). We want to send him to S.L. Montessori near our house since it has a mixed age group classroom - he'll be learning alongside older children. Then, we'll likely send him to the local public school by 1st or 2nd grade, where his older bro is currently going. DS #1 went straight to public K, and he did alright. He is in a top-5 district school, but his teacher last year was horrid. This year's teacher though, just won UT Teacher of the Year! :) She's awesome!!

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S.R.

answers from Salt Lake City on

What is most important to YOU?
A musical environment? A religious one? Class size? You see what I am getting at. Also consider the personality of your child. The window of learning from 3-6 is vital. I am a strong believer in Pre-school. You didn't mention anything but Kindergarten. I believe the benefits of private school especially in the early years are helpful mostly because of class size. My area in Utah has terrible public schools so my 2 pre-schoolers go to Challenger, which I love because of the musical learning and the structure. My girls come home so excited and I am amazed at the education there. My 2 older boys go to private, Christian school (Intermountain Christian) again due to the amazing attention given because of class size and the focus on community service.
You can see I decided what was most important for our family and went from there. Your off to a great start by asking around!! Good luck, it's an important decision!
Oh! I also couldn't agree more with Erin below me! YOU are the most important factor!

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P.L.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I was just like you when my oldest was 3, too! You kind of do need to Interview the school/principals you are interested in, but how to find them?? 8 years ago when I was in your shoes there was a "watchdog" company someone not associated with the school systems that kept test scores of all local schools and compared them on many levels. There's one called schoolmatch.com just look up school reports in goodle and you can compare your local schools. It helped us so much to know that the best schools in our area were only a 15 minute drive away so we have been driving our kids out-of-bounds for years and love this decision. We now do a carpool with another out-of-bounds family so don't let that stop you! Good luck and don't settle for what you are given!