Thinking about best elementary schools
These are the critical, foundation years where you child will learn the basics. You are seeking the best primary school to assure solid concepts acquisition and formation of a positive attitude toward learning.
Importantly, this is also the time when you begin to discover your child’s learner profile. In what sort of a classroom does he thrive? Top primary schools can be found among all pedagogies. In most simple terms, classrooms can be categorized as student-lead or teacher-lead. Classic student-lead pedagogies include Montessori and emergent curriculum schools. Waldorf is a teacher-lead pedagogy. Then there are many new “ways” to do school which can be loosely grouped as deeper learning schools, academically rigorous schools, online school and personalized learning schools. AltSchool is an example of the personalized learning school, using a model that is “centrally tech-focused and individualistic in nature.”
Top elementary schools will also have a philosophy about how kids learn. Does this support your own philosophy of child development? In these early years do children learn best in an unstructured environment carried along by their interests and curiosity? Or are young children predisposed to be excellent memorizers and should be happily introduced to poems, math facts and rhymes to learn? Should school be serious business early on and rather formal, giving students a “head start” and taking advantage of their absorbent minds? Or is this more of a carefree time when children should focus on how to learn rather than what to learn? There are pedagogies and top primary schools available that offer programming aligning with each of these theories of child development.
Don’t assume. For example, do not assume that a formal school is lifeless. Conversely, do not assume that only student-lead philosophies boost student creativity. Notably, Waldorf schools are unabashedly teacher-lead and zealous about fostering student creativity. Question what you think you know about each philosophy or what friends say. The stereotypes may not hold up to further scrutiny.
Once you prioritize the programs that you feel would be an ideal learning environment for your child, research the best primary schools that are available in your area. You may have many options. Or for various valid reasons, your neighborhood public school may be your only choice. Perhaps you find yourself in a host country where the cultural expectations about schooling for young children are very different from your home country’s norms. You may have few school choices. In this case, try to exercise flexibility. Remember that kids from every culture learn and thrive in all sorts of schooling situations. This can be part of the expatriate adventure for your children and opportunity to gain valuable exposure to another way of learning that will benefit them in the future.
With your target school list in hand, plan for school visits. Attend parent nights. Take a look at the other families attending and decide if this is your group. Be prepared for some surprises. Most schools are actually very different in “real life” than they are on paper.
Finally, even narrowing your list to a school that is a good match for your philosophy does not guarantee that the school is a worthy institution. The local IB Primary Years Program may have had a lot of teacher turn over or has a lackluster facility. You will have to make some compromises as you search for best primary school options.
At a minimum, use these criteria to evaluate top elementary schools:
- Class size
- Adult/child ratio
- Noise vs silence
- Individual work vs collaborative assignments
- What does the head feel is special about the school or differentiates it from similar programs
- Condition of facilities
- Opportunities for parent involvement
These are precious years for your early learner. Understandably you want the best elementary school for your child. Careful preparation, research and thoughtful reflection about optimal school setting will yield an excellent school choice.