Most schools cannot support academic and extracurricular programs as well as facilities projects and financial aid through either tax receipts (public schools) or tuition revenue (private schools). It is common for both public and private schools to supplement their budgets with donations from parents. Ask about expectations for donations at your interview and also ask other parents before you send a child to new school. It is important that you are comfortable with the customary amounts of donations as well as pressure that may be put upon families to give.
Commitment to diversity is common among schools today. In some cases you will see this commitment throughout the school website, the admissions process, as well as life in the classroom. In other cases the commitment may be more superficial. If diversity is important to your family, either philosophically or because you are a member of a potential minority, be sure that the school’s commitment reflects more than lip service. At your interview ask how classes are composed to make sure your child will have a peer and also to make sure he or she is exposed to children from many other backgrounds. Ask about play dates, and inquire about examples of sensitive situations and how they have been handled. Before making a decision to send your child to the school, ask to speak with another parent who has shared your concerns.
Parents have different views and schools have different policies on homework in the younger grades and it is important that your views and your school’s policies are aligned. When you tour a school ask about the amount of homework expected at various grade levels as well as whether, and how, time limits are enforced. Also question whether parents are frequent participants in children’s homework – you should not have to be. Homework should be assigned to reinforce what is learned during the day, to provide creative outlets and to give children opportunities to work collaboratively. Although in competitive schools it is not uncommon for parents to assist children with homework, your child will benefit in many ways from doing it him or herself. This is a hard practice to establish when peer and social pressure work otherwise.
On the playground
Many students find the unstructured times the most difficult parts of the school day. Without specific projects to work on together, students gravitate to their old friends making it hard for new children to find someone to talk to or play with. Beyond the lack of structure on the playground, the classroom teacher who understands the social dynamics may not be present. And so teasing, and at times even bullying, may be more prevalent.
If you are concerned about your child during these times of day, talk to the teacher to see if he can identify a suitable playmate for the playground, or what you might do to lessen your child’s anxiety. You may be able to prepare your child by sending a game, a snack or something else to add focus to unstructured intervals. Or organizing play dates outside of school may give your child a familiar face to sit beside on the bus or to approach on the playground.