Choosing a school is an exciting decision for a family, particularly when you’re going through the process as first-time parents. Quite honestly, though, we were a little overwhelmed when we began thinking about it. Where do we start? What websites should we use? Wait....we really need to submit an application essay for our 2 1/2- year-old if we want to apply to private schools?!?
However, once we got started we realized it wasn't that bad... excluding a few flashbacks from our own college application experiences!
Presently, our son is enrolled in the Pre-Primary School at Lowell and is enjoying his start in the Voyagers classroom. It has been amazing to see the strides in his independence and self-confidence so far. We couldn’t be happier with our choice of Lowell.
Reflecting back on lessons learned as new parents going through the school selection process, we wanted to share our thoughts with parents in the search process. Here are our six nuggets for finding the right fit in a school!
Do some research on different educational philosophies.
Our journey began last fall as we started to explore preschool options in the Maryland and Washington, DC, area. Unless you are a professional educator, you probably are not familiar with how educational techniques have evolved since you sat in class. Grab a glass of wine and spend a Saturday night in front of the computer getting caught up with modern educational trends. We found some great preschool prep articles on Parents.com. The site has ample articles across a variety of school selection topics, such as educational philosophies, things to look for when visiting a school, and questions to ask. Another informative resource was DCschoolHub—lots of great articles surrounding education, links, and reviews to DC-area private schools, admissions events, and much more!
After some initial research we decided to look for a child-centered curriculum. We felt the concept of exploration, discovery, and learning through play was important to us in a preschool program. We loved that the Lowell curriculum was student driven. When we first started our search, we weren’t set on choosing a preschool that was PK-8+; however, once we started to visit schools, our mindset changed. We liked the idea of our son becoming part of a community that extended beyond the preschool years—an environment that he could grow within physically and emotionally over the long term. Determining what is right for your family will be a journey, too.
Find a culture that aligns with your child's personality and way of learning.
No Myers-Briggs exam required, but think about what energizes your child. Our son has always been very adventurous and curious. Prior to attending Lowell, we integrated his interests into fun learning experiences and family outings. For example, his fascination with construction led us on many excursions to various construction sites so he could see the vehicles at work. We’ve traveled to big truck shows and read numerous books relating to construction. His natural interest parlayed into great opportunities for him to learn.
Not surprisingly, our son's personality has carried over to Lowell. Within his first couple of weeks at school our son has become really excited learning about spiders, and these lessons are integrated throughout his day. His class has made spider webs outside on the playground, studied how a tarantula sheds its skin in the Wonder Lab, danced to spider music in dance class, and listened to books about spiders during story time. We love that his teachers act as guides to help facilitate learning using the kids’ natural interests and curiosity as the foundation...and, our son has not stopped sharing interesting spider facts at home over dinner every night!
Choose a school with a location that fits your needs.
Don't make your morning commute tougher than it needs to be. As we all know, commuting in the DC area can be trying to say the least, with some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. We’re a dual professional family living in Montgomery County but commuting downtown daily. When we were looking at schools, things like before-school care, after-school care, summer camps, and the convenience of morning carpool were important to us. Lowell offered all of these amenities, which we really liked. Additionally, the convenient location of the campus, situated in DC halfway between home and work, was a plus for us.
Schools can be very different: consider the physical environment.
Lowell is in an urban location but positioned on a beautiful campus with lot of outdoor green space that you wouldn’t expect to find in DC. It was important to us to find a school that had great facilities. We were looking for designated spaces for specialty classes such as gym, music, art, reading, dance, etc. We liked that Lowell had a large campus with all of these defined spaces.
We had seen other schools where the cafeteria doubled as the gym or perhaps there was one small playground or recess was in a parking lot. The extras count, especially because they enhance your child’s experience. For example Lowell has a pool. We had not thought about the added advantage of our son learning to swim, but we are looking forward to that being a part of his PE experience. We also loved Lowell’s focus on STEM and the defined space in the Pre-Primary School called the Wonder Lab. Additionally, the amazing playground and outdoor space designated for just the preschool students was a big plus for our son.
Take a tour and look for ways to attend informal learning sessions.
We toured the campus on several occasions. This was extremely helpful as it gave us the opportunity to connect with various Lowell parents, other prospective parents, and Lowell faculty. We loved the personal touch and community feel exuded by the faculty and staff. We also took advantage of a few campus events (e.g. Lowell's STEMFest) to see how teachers work with students.
We learned about school events such as these on the websites of the schools we were looking at, as well as on event pages of such resources as DCschoolHub. Ask questions; jump into an existing group conversation; think about how your family and child will fit in.
At the end of the day, trust your instincts.
As we moved through this process, we quickly discovered that we had a network of friends and acquaintances with connections to Lowell, as well as some of the other schools we were considering. We talked to everyone! We received some great advice and many unique stories personal to each family.
If you don’t know any parents at the school to which you are applying, ask the admissions director to put you in contact with parents who can tell you about the school. We also attended a fantastic panel discussion put on by Lowell that was made up of current and past Lowell parents. It was so helpful to hear not only about our current focus, which was the Pre-Primary School, but feedback from Primary and Middle School parents as well.
Our son fell in love with Lowell on his first visit. In fact he starting telling everyone about “his school” before he was even accepted. Lowell just felt like the right fit for us. We were impressed with the faculty and the staff. The campus and the amenities, in our opinion, were unmatched at the other schools we toured. At the end of the day, trust your instincts!