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Education Planning for Children

Lori D.
LORI D.
Educational Psychologist and Consultant
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Have you been wondering how to start your search for the right school for your child, the best time of year to apply, what questions to ask, or how to get started with an educational consultant? Join Lori Day, Education Psychologist and Consultant for a Q&A all about the school application process.

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LORI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Planning for 2 kids with different personalities
SAM, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 4 YEAR OLD

Hi Lori,

We have 2 kids with very different personalities when it comes to learning and socialization. One is reserved and listens to everything first before engaging and the other is the first to jump in to whatever the subject happens to be. As we are looking to apply to Elementary schools for the older one, in the back of my mind I am thinking about if the school would be a good fit for the younger one too. We want to be mindful of it now because I would rather not have 2 kids in 2 different schools. I'm sure most schools are prepared to support both learning styles but I am wondering if I should be looking at schools with a certain teacher/kid ratio, a certain type of curriculum, or something else. Any advice you would have would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Lori
LORI

Hi Sam. Not to overgeneralize, but it sounds like you have an extrovert and an introvert. Your older, extroverted child will probably do well anywhere, but your younger, quieter and more sensitive child may be the one you need to proactively cater more to when it comes to this decision. That means looking at schools for your older child that you will be comfortable with for you younger one down the road, if he/she will be applying in a future year (with a sibling preference...). Susan Cain, author of "Quiet," memorably said in her TED talk something like, "Schools need to stop the group work madness!" Introverted kids really struggle in classrooms that feel too chaotic. My own child is exactly this way. I think you should look at schools that are a bit more structured and not too crazed with group work. Some group work is great, necessary, and helpful to the growth of an introverted child, but too much is a recipe for misery. Most private schools have small class sizes, which will benefit a child who wants more opportunities to talk, as well as a child needing a gentler and more nurturing environment. I hope that helps!

LORI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
"Good School" vs the Right School
AUDREY, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 3 YEAR OLD

Our neighbors talk about all the good private schools we HAVE to apply to but I'm not sure how to decide which is right for our family. We want to be involved in our children's education and would prefer some structure but also learning through play. What questions should we be asking ourselves to help narrow down the list to apply to?

Lori
LORI

Hi Audrey. First of all, I love this question. It tells me you are concerned with the right fit, not what everyone else seems to be doing. Nothing bothers me more than when a client comes to me with a copy of US News & World Report's private school rankings, and says, "I want one in the Top 10" irrespective of whether their child could even get in or would even be happy there. The quest for prestige shortchanges our children and the education that uniquely suits them best. We have SO MANY good schools, with great variety in mission, pedagogy, school culture, size, and amenities, just to name a few of the qualities a parent must consider and assess.

I don't know how old your kids are. If they are quite young, and you want a play-based school with a moderate amount of structure, you need to ask questions about how much the school values play, how it teaches through play, and you need to observe classes in session, because seeing is as valuable as hearing what an administrator says. In terms of structure, what do you observe? Is the class "too" quiet/controlled, and therefore perhaps too structured and teacher-centered? Is it chaotic, and therefore possibly too loose in terms of structure? Or, is it active, humming, happy and oriented around different activity centers...leading you to perceive there's a method to the madness, teachers are managing kids, but also letting them be independent and collaborative in their learning?

Ask questions about discipline. How do teachers handle kids who speak out or won't sit in the circle or bully? Ask about how they deal with a wide range of child development, learning styles, and social skills. You want the answers to be compassionate, inclusive, and thoughtful.

I fell like my response to you has been a little bit vague, but it's hard to be more specific without knowing more about your kids. If you have a follow-up question, I'm happy to take it.

AUDREY

Thank you Lori! This is so helpful. I have some homework to do :)

Lori
LORI

You're most welcome!

LORI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Questions to ask on the school tour?
MADELINE, PARENT OF 7 YEAR OLD, 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Lori-I have a couple of questions about touring schools. We have been planning to go to the open houses but I'm assuming it's staff or parents that do those tours not the admissions team due to volume of people coming through the door. Is it worth going or should we just try to schedule a private tour with admissions? If both are good to attend, which questions should we be asking in the private tour vs the open house? Thanks!

Lori
LORI

Hi Madeline. Open Houses serve certain purposes, while private tours serve others. It's good to do both if you can. On a private tour (led by admissions staff, faculty, parents and/or students) you get to see classes in session, and you have more opportunity to ask questions, as does your child. It's quiet, personal, and not crowded. Open Houses are, in a sense, what I call Dog & Pony shows, or Balloons & Brownies. :-) They are crowded and fast-paced. You get to tour in large groups, led by whoever has been given that task. But, you also get to meet a lot of different faculty members and coaches; you get to hear from the admissions director and head of school. You might get to see practice games on the field or view an art show in the gallery. And some parents like the idea of "showing interest" by attending.

In terms of questions to ask, it really depends on your child's age and who is leading your tour, whether during an Open House, or during a private campus visit. For example, if you have a student tour guide, you can't ask the same kind of questions you'd ask an adult, but you can get the scoop on things like "How much homework is there?" or "Are the lunches good?" or "What sports are offered in the Fall?" Parent tour guides can answer a lot of questions about the school, but mostly from their perspective as a parent. They often don't know things like "How many openings will there be this year for Kindergarten boys?" or "What kind of test scores will my child need?" Faculty guides and admissions staff can answer questions about curriculum, what the school "is looking for" in a candidate, or "how is discipline handled?" So...whatever questions you do not get to ask during Open Houses or tours, you should save to ask directly of admissions staff either after your child's interview/playgroup assessment, or by phone or email at any time.

LORI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Education Consultant
MICHELE, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

Hi Lori,
I had never heard of hiring an education consultant. Do people hire these consultants for preschool. What if you cannot afford to hire a consultant? Is a "10" for one school on greatnet.com for a particular state different than a "10" for another state especially if the state is ranked as one of the best for education vs another state this is not near the top.

Lori
LORI

Hi Michele. Most of us do not work at the preschool level, except, perhaps, in Manhattan! I, like most of my colleagues here in New England, begin at Pre-K because that is the first and biggest entry year for the vast majority of our private schools. Consultants can be expensive if you are hiring them for the whole "package." It varies around the country, and is most expensive in New York and parts of California. I can tell you that in the Boston area, where I am located, the going rate is about 4K, and that's mean/median/mode. However, some consultants will work for an hourly fee for smaller projects. "10's" vary for the reason you suspect.

MICHELE

As a follow-up what exactly does this education consultant do exactly? I live in the Boston area.

Lori
LORI

I hope you don't mind, but since this would require a lot of typing, I'm going to cut and paste info from my website that answers your question.

Why Do Parents Seek Out An Educational Consultant?
Every child deserves the most ideal academic and social environment in which to develop, learn and grow into adulthood. Finding the right school for a child is one of life’s most important decisions emotionally and financially. Families need help in navigating their many educational opportunities, a process that can be fun and rewarding, but for some families also challenging, overwhelming, frustrating, and stressful.
In most cases it is also quite time consuming, so having a consultant to guide parents (and students) and help them stay organized and punctual within the admissions process can make everything go more smoothly and relieve anxiety. Family harmony during multiple school applications is a common positive outcome of hiring an educational consultant!
Parents seek an educational consultant for a number of other important reasons:
Consultants are dedicated to the highest ethical standards of practice and have the student’s best interest as their sole focus.
Consultants have often visited the schools they recommend, have developed relationships with the admissions staff, and have often placed other students there as well.
Consultants can offer an unbiased and objective analysis of educational, personal and social goals and choices, and can speak directly to the potential match between a student and a school.
Consultants can help parents achieve a more objective perspective on their child’s strengths and weaknesses as a student and as a candidate.
Consultants look not only at whether a child can be successful in a certain school—academically, socially, and emotionally—but whether he or she is likely to gain admission. A list of potential schools can be developed based on both admissions odds and suitability of match.
Consultants provide personal assistance and attention, a welcome benefit to what can otherwise be a very solitary and confusing process.
Consultants are knowledgeable about a large number of schools, and often have access to information that parents do not have.
School websites, marketing materials, online rankings, blogs, and guidebooks can be confusing, and at times, even deceitful. An independent educational consultant can lend necessary expertise to sifting through the glut of information and helping parents make what often amounts to a considerable financial investment in a child’s education.

With this in mind, I offer the following admissions services:
Advice on selecting schools that will be a good match for the student
Application strategies and logistics, including recommendations for test prep, tutoring, curriculum, and any needed remediation or enrichment
Advice on how to present student profiles in the best light, regardless of academic ability
Mock interview practice and feedback for students
Advice on application essays for students and parents (when applicable)
Light editing help with essays, and review of general portfolio
Review of completed applications
Direct advocacy with admissions officers
Help making the choice between school acceptances
Guidance with waitlists, revisits, contracts, financial aid, tuition arrangements, and eventual enrollment and matriculation

LORI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Daycare and preschool
AVIELLE, PARENT OF 2 YEAR OLD

I already have a nursery/preschool in mind but they don't start a until age one. Until then, we'll need daycare. Should I be looking for a center with a curriculum for infants? Is there even a curricula for infants?

Lori
LORI

Hi AviElle. There really is no need for a certain curriculum at this age. I'm a big fan of play-based preschools and daycares. For a one-year-old, look for a daycare that has a good reputation, does not have a lot of turnover, has happy teachers, is clean and well managed, and is accredited. You can also investigate whether the school of your choice has a good relationship with "next schools" if you plan to go the private route.

LORI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Best time of year for applications
LISA, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 6 YEAR OLD

I like the question you posed in the abstract... "the best time of year to apply", what are your suggestions? Should you make the application personal for charter schools or situations where there is a lottery? Should you introduce yourself and your family? Feels like bribing for admission!!

Lori
LORI

I'm not an expert on charter schools, but if you can make yourself memorable in a positive way, why not do that? Lottery will still determine it, but if you get lucky, you're off to a good start. With private schools, now (September) is the time to begin applying, and the best time to get a consultant involved is even earlier than that if possible (during the summer, or even late spring, although it is not too late.)

LORI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Private school vs. Public vs. Charter
LISA, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 6 YEAR OLD

I'm in Baltimore where there are a million options for school yet the zoned public school gets horrible ratings on greatschoools.org and niche.com. How do you compare schools beyond these websites other than visiting each one individually?

Lori
LORI

Hi Lisa. I'm a little wary of ranking websites, because I know the politics that go into them and algorithms can be confusing, so I'd use them sparingly. School websites can look very similar in that they all seem to espouse rigorous academics, great arts & athletics, community service and character education. Visiting them is important, but you can only visit so many. Honestly, finding an educational consultant really does help you streamline this process, because an experienced consultant will be able to "give you the lowdown" on each school. You should also talk to parents at the schools you're interested in. Schools will usually give you names. Reviews on sites like greatschools are sometimes helpful, but often time people with axes to grind post wildly negative reviews, and sometimes faculty parents, board members, etc. are on a campaign to market the school positively and flood those sites with 5-star reviews, so I always think it's best to do your own research, and hire a consultant if you can afford to.

LORI ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Our Q&A starts now!
TINYHOOD, PARENT OF 4 YEAR OLD

Welcome, Lori! Lori is here to answer your questions about the school planning process including when to start the application process, how to find the right school and what it means to work with an education consultant.

Lori
LORI

Hi everyone! Thanks to Tinyhood for having me. I'm happy to take your questions.