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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 January 13, 2020

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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