Deciding on the school that is right for your children - and for your family - can be a challenge. As we continue our discussion about what kinds of things to look for and what kinds of questions to ask when looking for the right school, consider the topics we discussed last week as well as the points below.
And if your family is talking seriously about Christian school options in the Twin Cities, we’ve done our best to help you have a good conversation - the RIGHT conversation - about your next steps.
Character and Personal Development
While all of the schools you’re considering for your family may be Christian, that doesn’t mean they have the same goals for their graduates or the same standards for their teachers, their classrooms, or their curriculum. So you should ask the question,
“What does a graduate from the school look like?
What are the standards of the graduates when they leave the school? What do they value and how do they define success? What does a life of service and significance mean to them?
The efforts that a school takes to equip their students academically must be reinforced with the development of character and values. A GPA cannot fully encapsulate the portrait of a graduate any more than the portrait of a person can fully encapsulate their being. There is more to a person than what they retain or recite under pressure. There is much more to success than how they perform. The investment that a school makes into the personal and character development of a student is a reflection of what they value, how they teach, and how they define significance.
Here are signs that the school you’re considering is willing to invest in something beyond the strictly academic piece of your child:
What kinds of mentoring and coaching is available to students? Further, do students have the opportunity to mentor younger students? The chance to mentor and to be mentored, to impact and to be impacted, points to an educational philosophy that understands that much of learning is about setting an example and following one. It points to a mindset that moves beyond knowing what is true, and into embodying it.
How are students prepared for mature dialog? Can they introduce themselves, interact with adults, and carry on meaningful conversations? Are they trained in the art of conversation so that college and career opportunities aren’t lost because of a lack of what’s commonly referred to as “people skills?”
What does discipline look like at the school? A school that views teaching through the lens of character and personal development will seek to address the heart of an issue, and not simply the surface level behavior. The policies and standards for rules and discipline within the school you're considering will reveal the school’s position regarding their role in developing students’ character.
Athletics & Arts
You should consider how important arts and athletics programs are to your family and to your perspective on quality education. While many public school programs are abandoning the arts and considering them ancillary or unnecessary (a rather utilitarian view of learning), other schools understand that a balanced person is exposed to the arts, and even appreciates them. Further, what is the school’s perspective on athletics? Is it over-emphasized, so that they’ll loosen their admissions requirements in order to enroll gifted athletes? Is it under-emphasized and seen as nothing more than “play?”
Art awakens the soul to God’s beauty in new ways. And competition builds character and teaches endurance. The school you choose for your student should reflect the values that you place on both the arts and on athletics. There should be adequate opportunity to learn, create, compete, and explore, so that academics reaches beyond the limits of the mind and engages the whole person.
Some questions and considerations about the arts and athletics in education:
- Is art a requirement? For what grades? How is it studied? Is it integrated with the overall curriculum of the school?
- Are students engaging more than their minds in learning? Is physical activity, and even play, a part of learning?
- Do coaches, art teachers, trainers, and music directors extend the philosophy of learning at the school? How so?
Safety & Security
As parents, we want to know that the place we send our kids is safe. We want to know that both inside and outside the buildings, our kids are protected.
Somewhere between in between armed security teams with metal detectors and open doors that let anyone and everyone in is the conversation about security at your child’s school. A safe environment is about more than keeping people who wish to do harm out…though that’s certainly an essential piece of the conversation. It’s also about creating a safe, empowering environment within the halls and classrooms of the school.
Some questions to ask and things to consider:
- Is access to the building restricted and monitored?
- Are emergency response procedures actively rehearsed and communicated?
- Is bullying a part of the conversation and is it actively addressed?
- Are there clear standards and guidelines for addressing issues within the student body?
Deciding on Next Steps
The right school for your children - and for your family - is much more than an academic decision. As you consider the Christian schools throughout the Twin Cities, do your homework! As you come to understand the school’s perspectives on academics, the Bible, and community, you’ll be able to measure it’s connection to your own family’s culture.
We’ll continue to unpack this topic, doing our best to help families around the Twin Cities make the right choice for their children’s education.