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A Checklist for Choosing a Private Elementary School
A Checklist for Choosing a Private Elementary School
St. Thomas School

Choosing the right private elementary school for your child can feel overwhelming. Luckily, all it takes is a few discerning steps to help you find the school that best fits your family's needs.

Learn About Financing Options

Navigating the cost of private school is one of the most important steps when choosing a school for your child. Most private schools strive to be accessible to any student and will typically offer a variety of options to help with affordability and financing. These may include financial aid, merit scholarships, payment plans, sibling discounts, etc. It is also important to research what school tuition includes at each private institution so you can plan for any expenses or fees a school may charge in addition to tuition.

Look for Schools that Don't Underestimate Young People

Children should be given opportunities to lead, grow, and engage with their classes at every age. Make sure that the private school's website, classrooms, and teachers use language that empowers and challenges young people to be the best they can be and doesn't belittle children based on their age. Ask what opportunities they will have for leadership, public speaking, and collaboration. Hint: they should be given these opportunities throughout elementary school – even in preschool!

Do They Use a Whole-Child Approach to Education?

Elementary school students are building the character foundation that will determine how they interact with the world around them for the rest of their lives. Therefore, emotional and social development are just as important as intellectual development. Look for private schools that incorporate this whole-child approach into their curriculum at every grade.

Understand Safety vs. Risk in Elementary School Education

While any school your child attends should make them feel safe, it's important that class assignments and unstructured playtime give children room to explore. In order to develop a healthy self-esteem, students need to take risks, deal with failure, and go outside of their comfort zone throughout their childhood. Find a private elementary school that incorporates supervised opportunities for your child to take these risks.

How Do They Incorporate Technology into the Curriculum?

Children must learn how to use technology intentionally and productively in order to succeed throughout their lives. Private schools often have better access to educational technology than public schools. However, it's important that technology enhances the learning experience and doesn't prove a distraction to learning.

Treat Each Child's Educational Needs Individually

Private schools are not a one-size-fits-all approach. If you have more than one child who you'd like to enroll in a private elementary school, be sure to consider their unique needs, talents, and aspirations before defaulting to one you've already chosen for another child.

Visit the School Before Applying

Once you've compiled a list of schools that look good on paper, it's essential that you see them in person. Some schools have open houses or group tours while others prefer that you schedule a private visit. While visiting, be sure to ask yourself the following the questions:

  • Do students look happy?
  • Are students engaged and actively participating in their classes?
  • Are teachers able to provide individual attention to students?
  • Are teachers excited to be teaching?
  • Do faculty and staff interact with students outside the classroom?
  • Is there adequate space for recess and outdoor learning?
  • Are the classrooms and other spaces inspiring?
  • Would your child like coming here?
  • Do you feel welcome?
  • Is the community warm and authentic?

If you've answered yes to these questions, odds are the private school is a good fit for your child.

Learn More About STS's Elementary School Program