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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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