Pick of the litter: choosing your child’s next school

You can do all the research you want, but a great education isn’t all about the stats

I HAVE DIPPED my quill into almost all the possible educational ink pots out there. My journey began at age three in Montessori preschool where I learned to fold tea towels, play bells and polish silver. I also learned how to make my own choices and deal with their consequences. From there I went to a private middle school (grades 1 through 7), Catholic school for Grade 8 and public school for high school.

Although my educational stops were varied, they all have something significant in common: they each have a strong sense of community. When you think about it, outside your family unit, a school is the first real community your child will become a part of. Schools will teach your child more than just the names of Columbus’s three ships. A school, its teachers and its students will teach your kid how to deal with success and failure, pressure, conflict and resolution and ultimately how to become a resilient adult.

My son starts Grade 8 in September. This will be the year he (we) will chose which high school he attends. When I was his age, I didn’t have much say in what schools I went to, but life in the information age changed all that. Schools now have websites through which you can set up tours, research curriculum, class sizes and even learn the school song. You can also peruse comprehensive print guides (Post City puts one out in September), or visit chat rooms and bulletin boards to post questions to other parents and experts about anything you can think of.

All your kid’s individual needs can be researched (often from your laptop). It’s like having a virtual shopping cart for your child’s education, but that doesn’t mean you can know it all.

Easy-access information can be helpful, but when it comes down to it, the most important thing is somewhat unknowable. You want your kid to feel connected to his or her educational community so he or she can thrive. Education is a conduit to life, and so a school should act as a supportive safety net, allowing kids to explore and learn to become resilient adults. And all the online information in the world may not tell you if the school you’re considering will measure up.

To this day, I still have a connection to each of my educational stops. My very first Montessori teacher came to my dad’s funeral, my private school headmaster is a Facebook friend, and my best friend from Catholic school and I talk daily. I even ran into my old high school principal in an elevator a few months back, and he remembered my name like it was yesterday.

I hope my son realizes how important feeling the human connection of a school is while we research his choices online. Not every question can be answered in cyberspace, but access to more information can help you and your kid make the right decision for him or her as individuals. Luckily, making a choice and dealing with the consequences is something I learned long ago. Wish us luck!

Post City Magazines’ resident low-tech mom, Jack Hourigan, is the host of Slice Network’s Three Takes and a freelance writer living in Toronto.

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