Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How to Choose the Right School for Your Child in DC

So I am a part of mother's group that a question was  posted in about ED Fest and how to choose a school. That is an educational festival where you can visit all the school booths to find out about the schools in your area and the schools you wish to be considered for. DC may be geographically small, but we are a big city (and growing) with many schools! 

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Because I can officially say now that I'm a consultant for K-12 which is the educational curriculum  that is given to a Friendship Public Charter School online here in DC I feel like I can give a little bit of help in being able to say things are important to consider when you're considering a type of school that works for your child.

There are a lot of factors that you must take into consideration for each school for your child. I'm hoping this little tidbit of advice will be helpful for you and helping does decide what is good for you and for your children.

Number One: You need to realize that you are your child's advocate

This is a given and we all know this but what does that really look like especially in a public or Public Charter School setting?

Basically your role as a parent in determining where your child goes to school. It is really the fact that you know something that the school could never know about your child that is so important for both you and the child. That is an incredibly crucial piece of information to piece together you and your child school in a perfect harmonic schooling situation. This also means being able to advocate for your child to have services if needed or being able to communicate with the teacher to help them on their reading or on their math. It also means that you are also stepping in at home and helping them with their homework and I'm pretty sure most every parent does this. That is a key part of your child's success in any school.


Number Two:  Know what your expectations are from a school.

You can't choose a school realistically for your child without knowing what your expectations as a parent are for that school. Think about the ultimate dream school in your mind's eye that would want for your child. Then write down the qualities from the list you make. From there you can start piecing together what the expectations you have in mind are.

Expectations don't have to be based solely on your dream school either. They can be based on something as basic as their needs that are medical. 

 So for example, if you have a child that has ADHD, down syndrome or dyslexia,  then you need to be prepared to ask those questions. Not just on how they handle it all, but how the teacher(s) is (are) and what their background with special needs. Whatever you do, you also need to make sure that you have the capacity to put a 504 or IEP plan in place immediately. And that was number one; that's when you become your child advocate,  you may have to put your foot down and tell them when they try to tell you that they won't pay for a diagnosis of ADHD that they are wrong is it that is required by law to be able to provide that. I know this personally so that is why I can attest to this need. I didn't go to the school thinking they would turn away the testing they were required by law to provide. If I hadn't known that, the school would have won and I would have paid out of pocket for an official diagnosis. So know the rights and laws for your child's school. 

But expectations don't have to be something that is some medical either. It can also be in the curriculum that's provided for your child or the school schedule or even the lunch schedule. Whatever is important for you as a parent make sure that you are able to think about these things ahead of time that you would apply to any school across the board whether it be a public school or public charter school a private school or even the online school. 

Try to stick to what those ideals are for you when you go in to talk to the schools. But also be reasonable of course.


Number Three: Know your child's learning style

When you played with your child or you helped them with little things that could be from reading to writing, you learned about them as people and what their strengths and weaknesses are in learning. Even science or art, you have the capability of being able to see as a parent what their strengths are and what is the best way that they learn in a way that a new teacher won't have the capacity to see.

For example, my children will be appearing to read at 11 o'clock at night even if I take the book with them at 10:40.... so safe to say, they love to read. So all I know that their learning is a little bit different for each of them as individuals. I know what the capacity is in their learning styles. My oldest son was reading chapter books by four years old. My middle was reading by six or seven. My youngest is following my middle and should be fully reading by seven. (Wow, I can't even think of him being seven yet, honestly!) 

This also goes to include that if they love art or they love cooking or they love math or they love whatever it could be, those are all signs of the way your child learns. Try to cater but not cave or give in to it to help guide them in their learning! Maybe they love to dance all the time then they would be a kinetic learner and that may change but you start from what you know.

Number Four: Preschool is the perfect time to try out different schooling types

What I mean by this is that when you have a child who is a Pre-K 2, pre-k 3, pre k-4,  or pre K-5 you have the ability to be able to let him try out different things to see what best works for them. So your child might be really good at Science and Technology and you really have to think about looking at a stem school instead of an art school. This doesn't necessarily mean that all they do is are or all they do is art. What this means is that their focus is on that. 

An example would be is when I was in high school we had what was called the Health Academy and that was called the HOSA Academy. So we would go around in the same group (or roughly the same group) of kids to different classrooms such as biology, English, History, etc. And so on and so forth. The reason why it is important is that everything was based around health so the idea was that you are learning about say some literature expert but it was done so that you always analyze it in a way that correlates with the health Academy itself. And the same thing goes for some of how the schools run today for even the younger kids. 

When you think about what kind of school you want to go to you want to think about the overall theme or focus of the school. Something that is becoming very very popular is bilingual schools. Yu Ying Washington school is a Mandarin and English school. LAMB is a Latin American Montessori Bilingual School and is extremely popular and hard to get into. If you want to get into LAMB you need to be able to understand that you have to get your child in before they're in kindergarten or younger elementary, it's extremely tough for them to get in after that point because once they start getting in as they get older their lessons go from being predominately in English to being it predominantly in Spanish... which is amazing. Why people fight for their spots as if they were winning the actual million-dollar Lottery we will never know but it purely is such here in Washington DC. So understanding exactly what each school does as an operation for their own Lottery system is going to be incredibly important for you especially if you have a specific School in mind.

This means that not all schools going by MySchoolDC Lottery System. Some hold their own lotteries. So you need to know this as well.


Number Five: Always ask questions and there's no such thing as a dumb question

If you don't ask you're not going be able to find out the answers to your questions. That is simple and plain.

 So your best bet in finding out the answers to the questions that you have for your school for your child is to be able to be honest and ask the questions at the school or over the phone. So when you have questions like, "I need to know something about what's going on at the school", for example, make sure to bring that up-- find out about listserves, and community events, and email lists. Even so,  if you can volunteer to help out. I cannot think of a school that will not be down for that. So make sure that you are being very communicative with them. Also, try to be as supportive of them as you can and what they're doing so that way everybody benefits.

Number Six Go to ED fest or any other educational Fair

The reason for this educational festival is that you can meet the people who work at the school and talk to them and kind of catch the vibe and see if it meshes with the vibe of your family. You can also be able to ask questions and again there's no such thing as a dumb question. We are going there in hopes of talking to people at these educational fairs because that's what they're there for. 

Then you also grab as much material that they have on the table as possible because the one question you might have that you totally forgot to answer, because let's face it we all have mommy's brain, might be in those pamphlets.  Also, important is that when you grab it,  it has their phone number or email on it so you can throw them a quick email or give them a call and say "hey, you know what I totally forgot I had this question". 

So remember that when you go and you get the information, it's not like you're walking in and you have to make a decision that minute!

The most important thing is to go in with an open mind being able to figure out all the different options that you have especially if you have a kindergartener or Pre-K because you're kind of starting from scratch.

It can be extremely overwhelming to be able to go into these education fairs and not really know completely what the differences between each of the elements of each school or school structure, so to speak. So again, everything falls under one umbrella now when you're applying to get in when you're going to MySchool DC. In theory, it is supposed to ease the process. So you have to apply for any public school or public charter school in December but you have to apply for all of them through my school DC. Usually in March around spring break.

So don't go into it thinking "you know what? I'm only having in mind to do a charter school". Look at all the schools around you and all the schools that you're looking to get into and be open-minded to what school your child gets into.

It's honestly not the end of the world if they start at one school and then you get a call from one of your waitlisted schools and you place them there. It happens more often than you think that another school will call halfway through the year saying "hey,  we've got a spot at 88th and you're at you know Rental  Elementary and do you really want to switch your child?"

To add, my older son got into DC International (DCI) and was 277 on the waiting list- so it's possible.

So just go in there with an open mind and find out all about the schools around you, including the locations close to you, but also the schools that you want to get into. This way you know all of your options and you don't feel like you're ill-equipped to be able to understand the schools are around you and how they operate.


Also, when you go to any educational fair,  don't go in the doors first opened (as a fair warning) because it will be really super crowded instead go in a little bit later-- that's number one.

Then number two, if you see that everybody's congregating around the table for K-12 then you can go to the table for Yu Ying.  Then start asking them questions and then go back to the K-12 table when there's not a lot of people around it. It's just kind of a little bit of common sense kind of thing to do but sometimes that's helpful because we forget it.

So just understand that your ability to be able to ask questions does not stop at the educational fair either. So just be open to everything that you can and get as many resources as you can. You also have the capacity to put more than one school so keep that in mind when you do MySchool DC. In fact, you want to put in more than one.You put in your top liked schools, so you don't have to put in your top two schools you put in several schools as many as you want to up. I think it's ten but I could be wrong. So keep in mind that you don't only have to pick like two schools to get into.

I hope this is very helpful! 

Check out the other posts on DC Schools and Choosing (and the Lottery!). 

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