As the cliche goes, as parents, we always want the best for our child or children. We see their potential, their interests. We listen to their dreams. We support them; we cheer them on; we advocate for them.
Sometimes we have a child who is exceptional in some way. While I think all my children are wonderful, as all parents do, I also know there is a special something about one of my children. No, he’s not a prodigy. He’s just one of those kids who can think outside the box, discuss concepts beyond his 7 years, navigate the social waters of neighborhood friends, and still be a fun, silly boy. Truly, words don’t describe my son. Stories. Stories are what I use to convey my sense of his distinctness, his specialness. Boy do I have a lot of stories to share about him! Want to hear about poop ball? Yes, I’m digressing.
There’s a niggling worry about my son at the back of my mind. While he loves structure and is flourishing in first grade this year, how will he do next year, and the year after that? I know he could complete the first grade work in a just few months if I homeschooled him. Instead, we chose to put him in Catholic school where he doesn’t have access to the gifted services public school students have. We decided that we wanted a Catholic education for our children most of all.
At this point, I have questions about making Catholic school work for my son. The new Core Standards curriculum is supposed to go in depth on concepts and topics instead of covering a broad range. Will it be enough for his quick mind and insatiable curiosity? Can he be accelerated in one subject like math and sit with the second graders? Or, can he go to the new math resource center at school which is supposed to be for 4th grade and up, even though he’s a first grader?
The bottomline – is our Catholic school willing (I’m certain they would be) and able (an entirely different matter) to make the accommodations for my son?
With all this in mind, I attended the MainLine Private and Independent Schools Expo organized by Main Line Parent this past Sunday at the Radnor Valley Country Club wearing 2 hats – mom and social media correspondent. With 27 independent schools exhibiting at the expo, I knew I would find a committed, passionate group of educators who didn’t have to stick to the Core Standards for their students. They were free to focus on different educational methods without the fetters of teaching to the test.
I brought my son’s story to these educators, and had some wonderful in depth conversations with them. I also came away with a list of questions to keep in mind as I look at options for educating my son, in fact all of my children. These questions can help parents navigating both the public education system or the private one.
1. Know your child’s strengths and weaknesses for the right fit.
2. When choosing a school, look at your son or daughter’s interests, rather than yours. Look at the school through their eyes.
3. Ask about character development programs, not only the academics.
4. Ask admission directors or principals about the class size if that is a concern.
5. Ask about the class size flexibility – when and where it happens. Is there exposure to a variety of students?
6. Communication is key for kids, school, and parents. Kids change. Needs change.
7. Ask who in the school has served on an evaluation committee for other schools.
8. Ask about professional development for teachers at the school.
I don’t have the answers yet for my son. Our next step may be getting him tested by our school district. Since my son is attending Catholic school, I will need to talk to the principal first before starting on the process. Attending the Main Line Private and Independent School Expo has opened up possibilities before me that I never considered before. There’s a lot of choice for parents in the Delaware Valley.
I received compensation to attend the Main Line Private and Public School Expo. All opinions expressed in this post are purely my own.