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How to Choose a Private High School

How to Choose a Private High School
High School

7 Key Questions to Answer
My brother’s son is in fifth grade and is starting to think about which high school is “right” for their family. In today’s private school market, the process of choosing the school that fits your family’s needs and style is nothing short of an art-form. Fortunately, this medium can be learned by just about anyone.

What’s your motivation for a private school education? This is the first question to ask when considering a private school education. Its answer reveals a lot about the parents and their hopes and dreams for their kids. For parents whose sole desire is to help their kids get into an Ivy-league college, private school may be helpful in this regard, as long as the child works hard and is responsible. Other families have a faith-based motivation for private schooling and so opt out of the public school system in favor of traditional values and a consistent process of discipline.

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Some parents are looking for the school to provide structure and discipline which is not provided at home. This, I have found, is an unrealistic expectation. To expect a teacher to “undo” over twelve years of upbringing isn’t a fair expectation.

How far are you willing to travel? When I lived in New Hampshire, there were only four parochial high schools for the entire state. Some families would travel 45-50 minutes each way to school. What about you? Are you willing to add drive-time to your day? Can you be comfortable with your child when they get their license and handle the same commute in the 11th and 12th grades? How will the added driving expense affect your budget? The answers to these questions are as much about lifestyle as they are about educational expectations.

How much can you afford? Obviously an important question! I have seen countless families commit their teen to a private high school, only to have the school ask them to leave due to missed tuition payments. This places undue stress on the child and hardship on the family in the long run. If you can’t afford the tuition plus added expenses of books, technology and sports fees, better to go the public school rout.

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What are your child’s needs? Children have particular wants and needs when it comes to a high school education. Some are so gifted athletically that they may choose for a private school that can coach them into professional sports. Others have a deep aptitude for science and choose a school that can focus his talents into an engineering path. Still others have children who need extra time, attention and resources and choose a high school accordingly.

Which values are at the top of your list? Why not sit down with your son or daughter and ask them to write 10 things down which are important for them in a high school. Encourage them to list everything from big lockers to fun dances to a fantastic art program. Parents should do the same thing and then compare your lists. Having a frank conversation about what’s important for parents and children is important.

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How long a honeymoon will you endure? As it will take one to two years of research, Shopping around and open houses to attend, your decision should be given some time to play itself out. Don’t let one negative interaction with one secretary undermine several years of thoughtful discernment. On the other hand, if you see a pattern of poor communication or worse yet, irresponsibility on the part of the school administration, a red flag may be emerging. I recommend giving the school one to two years of honeymoon time.

What kind of parents help you feel at home? Let’s face it- not everyone is comfortable in every situation. If you feel out of place with the kind of people who are also part of the school community, it might not be the school for you. The key is in finding a school that helps you to feel at home. After all, your son or daughter will be spending four years there so comfort becomes a very important factor.

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Mike St. Pierre is the Dean of Students at Oratory Preparatory School and blogs regularly at thedailysaint.com

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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