According to a new report from Knight Frank, a global property agent based in England, finding the right school is the biggest challenge for relocating families, whether they are moving around the world or only 100 miles away. The kids are leaving their friends and extended family behind, and no matter how excited they are about the move, they are still facing some very challenging hurdles: fitting in and making new friends while doing well in their new school.
Relocate magazine reports that many families are even demanding the peace of mind of a school placement before the executive accepts the new assignment.
The ultimate goal is to find the school where your child will flourish and thrive. Here are a few things to consider in identifying options and arriving at the best solution for your child.
• If you are relocating abroad, finding appropriate schools in the host country is a priority. In an unfamiliar culture and environment, you really need expert guidance, as the processes, entrance requirements and educational options vary widely. Children might attend international, parochial or local schools. TRC’s goal is always to minimize disruption while maximizing the children’s unique expatriate experience. TRC’s local experts arrange tours of public, private, international or specialized schools as appropriate and assist with the interview, selection and registration processes. We can also identify tutoring or special-needs resources as needed.
• If you are relocating intra-U.S., the process will be much more familiar and you will have more data at your disposal to aid in decision-making. Your destination-area real estate agent will have information on top-ranked local school districts and private school options as well. GreatSchools.org is a valuable resource. It provides information and test scores for public, charter and private schools and parent-provided ratings on teachers, administration and parent involvement. It is here where you will also find the answers to vital questions such as admission requirements and academic rigor. When you identify schools of interest, you can make a further virtual assessment by visiting their websites and social media presences, including Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and even YouTube videos. This complements the hard data with a glimpse of everyday life and culture at the schools.
• What are the characteristics of your ideal school? Get out a piece of paper, and if your child is old enough, make a list together. This will help to narrow options and focus your search. Consider your child’s unique abilities, interests and learning styles, and any special needs. Asking trusted past teachers about what your child needs can also prove invaluable. Other questions to ask yourself:
- Will your child be happier in a small or large school?
- Does your child do best in a structured or independent learning environment?
- Is there a strong arts component in the curriculum?
- How do sports and exercise programs fit into daily life?
• Housing or school first? If you have found your dream school, can you afford a home in that school district? Of course, if you are choosing a religious or private school, you can live anywhere, but it is still important to consider distance from home to school. Aside from commuting time, a long distance can make it harder for your children to connect with new friends.
• Ask your new co-workers about neighborhoods and schools. Talk to other parents, using social media as a tool. Check out local magazines and newspapers for school information.
• Visit the schools. When you go on your house-hunting trip, plan to visit several schools. Ask questions. Be sure to include social questions; for example, how the school deals with bullying issues or which after-school activities are supported. You will likely get a quick sense of whether it will be a place where your child can flourish.
And most importantly, if your child begins school and it is not a good fit, consider a change. Your ultimate goal is to make your child as comfortable as possible in your new environment.