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Picky Parent Guide

Choosing a School: Considering Family Needs and Values

Your family's values, preferences and practical concerns are important factors to consider when choosing a school.

What Matters for Matching My Family to a School

Which of your family's wants and needs matter most for choosing a school? Which will affect your family's life and goals greatly, and which are really low-priority afterthoughts? Which needs must be met at school, and which are better met at home and elsewhere? What will the impact be on your child and family when school is not a perfect fit with your family?

Focus on the Four Fit Factors

Fortunately, we can focus on a limited number of factors that determine how well a school fits a family. As we've talked to parents about their school choices, these are the issues that come up again and again, the ones that truly make a difference when it comes to finding a school that fits. We have taken all of these considerations and sorted them into four Fit Factors. These Fit Factors are simply a way of organizing your family's many needs in a way useful for finding a school that meets them. The Four Fit Factors for families are:

  • What Your Child Learns: These are aspects of your family that affect what subjects and at  what level of difficulty your child should be taught at school. These include your family's values about what content should be taught and particular goals you may have for your child.
  • How Your Child Learns: These are aspects of your family that affect how a school should teach and interact with your child both in and outside of the classroom. These include your family's values about how children should behave at school, and how children should learn and be taught at school (teaching method and classroom management).
  • Social Issues: These include your parental preferences about the student and parent community of a school, preferences about your own or other parents' involvement in the school, and your biases about particular schools and school types regardless of quality and other aspects of fit.
  • Practical Matters: These include your family's needs for child care during non-school hours, daily and yearly schedule, transportation, school location, coordination of your multiple children's educations, and your financial constraints.

©2004-2005 by Armchair Press. All rights reserved. Excerpted by with permission from the book, Picky Parent Guide.

Comments from readers

"I just want to take this opportunity to thank the folks at for developing the "Choosing a School" worksheets! I have been researching high school options for my rising 8th grader for some time now, and I am still undecided. These worksheets will definitely help me narrow my choices! Thank you! "
"Were looking for a great school district in st Louis or Jefferson county that will accommodate my sons speech delay. Can anyone suggest some that they've had personal experience with. Thx "
"i am looking to move to the Idaho Falls area and am looking for a great school that fits my childrens needs. Like a councelor, maybe some special math classes for my ADHD child and a more teacher child ratio. A school nurse on compass would also be a plus . "
"I Have a child who has 2.5 credits and is 16yrs old. She was in and out of Foster care ,Treatment facilities And is now Home with Me her Mom this has caused my Daughter to get so behind no one wants to take the time to teach Her. WHAT IS A MOM TO DO AT THIS POINT????? Please, I need insight in this VERY important matter....................... "
"I'm looking to move into the Surprise or Mesa AZ area, and I'm looking for a school, that is recommended for special needs children. "
"If one comes from a back ground of physical activity/exercise and athletics and schools are a place of EDUCATION/LEARNING, than why can parents choose a school system that promotes this. Just as parents can choose a school for their support in religous beliefs why can one choose a school system that supports athletic beliefs? "
"What are the best middle schools for a top student who needs some ESL support? "
"I think this was a great article, and a great starting point to give low/ middle class parents the quick refernce basics that they need to arm themselves with once the realize that there zip code baised their economic status determines the quality of education that there child will be receiving!!! It's the beginning of loads of general info that will help put them on the path that will be most benefical to there children's education and family needs!!! As a parent who believes that education is the most important journey that a parent must take in leading there children to the education that all americans have the right to, I find it just a shameful that due to all of the political misguidence we've faced and continue to face in this country we've taken our eye off the prize which is EDUCATION! We live in one of the most fortunate countries, we shouldn't be forced to look for a a great education, outside of our communities, or have to jump through holla hoops, and most im! portantly not be buried alive in debt to get it!!!"
"this was very helpful, I'm not happy with my sons school he is zoned to go to. this helps in picking a school. my child did not do his work and the teacher would not lat him have a snack the other kid got one infront of my child."
"Thank you so much for the information you have provided. It is too bad our individual schools and the system itself does not see the importance of offering this to parents. (esp. ones that are just starting out) We have special needs and it is hard enough at times to get the assistance for an average child, almost feeling like you are the only one interested in the child that has special needs. God Bless"
"I am in need of before school care for my 5 year old kindergartener in the columbia area. I've found lots of good schools, but none that can accomodate her before 7am (I am a nurse and have to be at work by 7am and have no family members who can help). Does anyone have any suggestions? I am open to any and all!"
"As well, we are a military family, too and must try to adapt to the constant changes forever present in our lives. These are excellent tools and very helpful. Thank you for your time in preparing it so others may benefit!"
"Great articvle, We are a military family and move often, I love these guides/ worksheets."
"You covered a lot of great points. I would like to add that leadership has a role and was left out. The principal is a major factor that will establish goals and an environment that the teachers and students feel ready to teach and learn at a specific school. The School District will perform up to the goals set by the Superintendent for many of the same reasons. Leadership is what creates of eliminates a common divide between the educators and the administrators. Good leadership will lead our children into the proper environment."