Vital Tips for Choosing the Right School

The RIGHT School?

What Actually Matters?

This question causes parents sleepless nights.  For many of us, relocation gave us the first opportunity to choose our child’s school.  Many times, especially with the first child, we chose the local community school.  For those of us public school kids, that is typically where we send our children.  The school boundaries determining where they go and how they would be educated.

As long as the parents around us thought the schools were OK, we never considered another choice or what actually made a school, good. We accepted it.

Relocation changes that.  Perhaps for the first time, we must evaluate and make a choice.

The responsibility for our child’s education lands in our lap. It is a weighty decision that will impact where we choose to live, what our children get to do and what they will learn both actively and passively. That feeling of responsibility makes the decision making process more difficult.

Before we can decide we need to find some information.

The Internet School Search

Looking for school information looks a lot like shopping for a new car.  We look at what others are driving or considering.  We want one that as many features as we can afford.  We typically test drive the ones at the top of our budget.  We know we are not going to get everything we want but, we want as much as we can get.

When shopping for schools, the ones with the highest rated educational features look the best. The easiest stats to find are The Big SIX School Stats:

  • Testing
  • Graduation Rates
  • Internet Ratings
  • Sports/Arts Ranking
  • Diversity (economic & racial)
  • The Facilities

Each of these is relatively easy to find on the internet through the district and state education websites.  Facebook & Instagram provides images of what these schools are like. Other relocation sites provide some of this and current parent opinions on a 0 to 10 point scale.

Certainly, The Big SIX School Stats are important.  We should be able to identify the right schools for our kids.

Right?  Not necessarily.

The challenge with all of these sources is that they are easily skewed.  It is like looking at your best friend’s social media posts.  Most likely she is not airing the issues she has had in her family, with her schools or in her life on social media.  We individually and as institutions want to show our best side.

Whether the booster clubs, the districts, the PTA, etc., every part of a school has an intrinsic agenda to sell their school or program.  Therefore, only the best information will be presented.

What about the test scores, is this irrefutable data?  It may or may not be.  But, what does it matter? Will some other kid’s ability to take a test determine whether your child can achieve high test scores?  The answer is not necessarily.  Your child’s ability to test what they know is independent of the other child, their history and abilities.

Beyond Test Scores and Sports Rankings

What really matters in choosing the right school is truly understanding the school.  A school is not test scores and sports programs.  It is a living community.  Just like a one on one relationship, it will educate, impact and affect your child and your family.  All of the influences, the programs, the culture.

To understand as much as possible before the choice is made dive into knowing the following:

  • Parent involvement
  • Student culture
  • Social pressures (dress, participation, status, etc.)
  • Parent culture
  • Counselor availability
  • Administration hallway presence
  • Heavily funded preferred programs
  • District wide incentives and focus
  • Educational options
  • Education pathways & rules for access
  • Discipline rules and procedures
  • Charity and community endeavors
  • Extra-curricular activities/travel/access
  • Specialty programs and true availability (STEAM, Special Needs, Dyslexia, Gifted & Talented)
  • Student expectations (academic, behavioral, participation)
  • Parent expectations (academic, behavioral, participation)

Consider each of these and determine what works for us and our child, what is a challenge and what is a distraction or an impediment to our child and family.

What really matters is what makes a difference to your child and your family.

A Living Community

This small list represents only a fraction of what goes on at school.  A School is a living community, that functions like any other community.  It provides the structure and the rules for life with in the school.  The purpose served may be to educate children, but most of the education that goes on outside of the classroom, is what typically determines how children learn inside the classroom.

How do I know? Because 8 years of school taught my child, he was “stupid”.  That is a hard thing to unlearn.  Believe me, it still sneaks up on him as a college student…well after he has proven himself to be anything but stupid.

We tried time after time to understand why he struggled, asking administrator after administrator and teacher.  He wasn’t struggling enough for services even though multiple teachers requested evaluations.  This led to being told by peers he was “stupid”, and he accepted it.   The severe dyslexia went undiagnosed for years.

These communities have stronger influence than any test score or football ranking.  It is important to know a school’s daily culture, so that children can be placed in a school where they can thrive.

Thriving for my son came in the form of private school.  We shifted him to an college preparatory school. This was the first time where he was surrounded by kids who wanted to learn. He was expected to learn and participate.  In this environment and with these expectations he rose to the occasion.  In a smaller school, he could no longer hide from the other kids, the teachers or himself.  He found his voice and participated.  It wasn’t an easy ride.  It would be 4 more years before his dyslexia was diagnosed, but he found a community that was inclusive and academically interesting. Here, he was willing to put forth the effort and learn.

With the educational clean slate of relocation, there is no school that must be attended.  The options are wide open, even more wide open with online and home school options during the COVID pandemic.  Take advantage of the wide open options and find the living educational community that encourages, inspires and drives personal growth.

Identify Your Right School

Your Right School, one defined specifically for your child starts with a vision of the perfect school. A specific vision for each of your children.  Do not judge or hold back, just create.

For each of your children, what would the perfect school look like?

  • What would they learn?
  • What is your child’s potential (all areas)?
  • How would they be treated?
  • What does discipline look like?
  • What opportunities would they have?
  • What extras are offered (travel/arts/sports/clubs/language/STEAM/etc.)?
  • Are there program spots for my child?
  • What does each day look like?
  • What does your child need to become all they can be?
  • What do they expect of my child and the family?
  • The school will provide…
  • The school will communicate (through/when)…
  • As parents we will have _________ access and participation options.

Defining these things ahead of time will help you see the matches available.  Understand that due to the nature of organized school, no child is perfectly served by any school, private or public. And this is OK.  What you are doing here is creating a vision specifically tailored to each child.

This vision of the right school, helps you quickly identify which schools in the new community will best serve your child(ren).  This vision helps you move beyond the Big SIX School Stats, and focus on the school aspects that will positively impact your child and your family. 

“Begin with the end in mind.” ~ Steven Covey

Real Parents have the Information

You may be thinking, “But I don’t know any parents there.”  This is not going to be a problem. 

Finding real parents in the community happens with each phone call into the new community.  The real estate transaction alone will provide many locals who can connect you.  The local real estate agent, mortgage broker, title company and inspectors will all most likely have clients or co-workers with children in the different local schools.  This informal networking starts real information flowing your way.

One of the easiest call to make is to each school. Ask how to contact their PTA president and Membership chairperson.  These people will be excited to tell you all about the wonderful aspects of the school.  Be sure and ask about specific programs or services your child may need, and if they know of any parents who have kids like yours who could give you more information.

A non-traditional call is to the Chamber of Commerce.  Sure, this is a business organization but many of the small business owners are local and have children in school, both public and private. 

Local membership organizations are filled with real parents.  If you are a Junior League member, Rotary/Lions club members, MOPS member or might like to join the garden club, contact the local clubs.  After receiving club information ask about the schools and school options.

Parents typically love to talk about their kid’s schools.  The real parents are the most likely source to learns how the school fail as well as how to overcome some of that

Understanding a school’s culture before experiencing it can be difficult. However, by making these phone calls and talking to real parents, getting a “feel” for each school becomes possible.  This way, by the time a tour is walked and school counselors give their sales pitch, a real view of what that school is all about can be better understood.


If you are ready to plan and organize your relocation
download the ReloMoms 3 Step Relocation Workbook today. 


My passion is to help you relocate well from packing to connecting!

Have a wonderful week and come join us in the
ReloMoms Community on Facebook.
Monday – Facebook Live, Tuesday – ReloMoms Blog, Thursday – ReloMoms Podcast

Remember that Relocating Well is done best, Together!

#3 Relocation Challenge–Navigating My New Community

Navigating. I use GPS!

Navigating. I use GPS
Free photo 87858161 © creativecommonsstockphotos – Dreamstime.com

Navigating an Abandoned Road
Elderly man drives into Sand Pile
Girl drives down boat path into lake
Limo Driver follows GPS down a flight of stairs
Driving into the ocean and 8 other spectacular fails as GPS turns 25
by Sarah Wolfe Global Post PRI

Knowing HOW to get there is a big deal.
GPS is not the whole answer.

Though some of these stories are funny, not finding the DMV after driving an hour, being late picking up the kids, or ending up in a dangerous part of town is not funny.

To live well in a community, you must know your community’s layout, landmarks and how to get ________(there).

COMMUNITY

A PAPER Map.  To many younger than 40 that might seem unreasonable.  However, a paper map, one you can spread out on your kitchen table, is the first step to understanding where you live.

Starting with a paper map identify the major highways and which part of town they are in.  They could be on the north edge, go northeast to southwest or potentially a loop.  By identifying these and knowing generally where you are in the city, NOW you are never lost.

Next identify the landmarks in your city and put a star or highlight the intersection on your paper map.  Whether they are major, like the St. Louis Arch or what your sister would judge minor the high school or the only stoplight in town, mark it all.

Identify landmarks on all sides of town.  Even If one of them is the only sign of civilization truck stop on the west side mark it.

This layering of information creates a spatial map in your brain engaging the navigational abilities we were all born with.

A MAP IN YOUR BRAIN

https://www.facebook.com/StormMountainCenter/photos/a.400315725123/10153339728925124/?type=3&theaterThis is NOT Mount Rushmore
an actual sign 13 miles from Mount Rushmore
referenced in the May 2016 issue of Time Magazine article How GPS is messing with our minds.

Practically, with a spatial map you:

  1. Know how to get there
  2. Are never truly lost
  3. Do not waste time
  4. KNOW IMMEDIATELY if Siri/Waze/GoogleMaps is sending you the wrong way.

GPS, as good as it is, is flawed.  Waze, as much as I LOVE it above the rest, sends me into some of the worst neighborhood when I am not paying attention.

Like with everything else in life we must take responsibility for where we are.  This is as much for our safety as the safety of those we love.

FUN WITH PRACTICE

We have a bird’s eye view of where we are going.  We know the major landmarks to verify our route along the way.  Now it is time to practice getting there.

We might as well choose something fun as our first destination.

Let’s say you have a passion for Italian Ice, fabric stores or select soccer.  Find the top 3 of your thing and plot them on the map.

  • Look over the directions both on your paper map and GPS.
  • Print out your directions
  • Make your way to your destination without voice directions

Without voice direction you notice the environment around you and increase practical knowledge of the area.  Are these good areas of town?  Would I walk around here?  Is there a brewery or pie shop to explore next time?

Each trip into the community will provide another thread of information that ultimately makes this community, your community.

YOUR SUPER POWER

Becoming a navigational expert in your area is a SuperPower!  Who knew all you needed was a paper map and a little practice

Most locals only venture within a 2 mile radius.

You will find that they will start asking you how to get places.  Being navigational expert people will start asking you, the new kid, how to get there.   All is all, it is an easy and practical way to understand where you live.

Perhaps you can even encourage others to learn about and engage more in their community.

If you have any suggestions to help others please email me at Annette@ReloMoms.com.  Together we live great Relo Lives!!

Annette
A ReloMom currently in the wilds of Texas, working to encourage and inspire others while seeking another adventure.

Top 7 Relocation Challenges

(c) Monkeybusinessimages | Dreamstime.com
(c) Monkeybusinessimages | Dreamstime.com

The same 7 Relocation Challenges, every time.  These will test your resolve and question your decision to accept a relocation ~ at some point.

Knowing and identifying these 7 challenges as they come will prevent the challenges from delaying your progress.  Here you will learn what they are and be able to identify them.

These 7 blogs will further explore and provide tactical solutions.

The 7 Relo Challenges in order of appearance

#1 – Who to Call

Usually taken for granted, the list from (your last city name here) was curated over years of trusted referrals, friends and good experiences.   Upon relocation though, there are no trusted local friends and resources to help you manage the uncountable demands of finding what you need a getting things done….now.

In Who to Call, we will talk about who can help you, identifying new people and tapping into trustworthy community resources.

#2 – Emergency Plans

This is a rather scary one.

Let’s say you have small children and your spouse experiences some episode that require a trip to the hospital.  Who do you leave them with?  Which hospital is trust worth?  Who is part of your insurance anyway?

In Emergency Plan, we will list out the type of events that require an emergency plan and how establish immediate connections and put provide support.

#3 – How to Get There

During unpacking you realize you need _____.  That requires a trip to _____.

It is time to learn the area in more detail from the major highways to finding the best repair shop, perhaps across town.  We will talk about core landmarks, major highways/boulevards and the process by which to efficiently learn the area and not feel lost.

Get on your explorer hat because here we go!

#4 – Support System

Support System follows on the heels of Emergency Plans.  This is the long term solution for matching your values and needs to what to do, who to ask and where to go.

Here we will spend time talking about how to define you values and quickly identify both personal and professional resources.

#5 – Cultural Differences

Everywhere you move is different.  A true cliché.

Even moving across a Metroplex like Dallas Fort Worth can be a seismic culture shift.  Urban city to cowboy country requires a different attitude and rules.  Whether across country and global move we will discuss how to use those values of yours, adapt, and appreciate while still staying who you are.

#6 – What to Do

In the first few weeks, you NEED FUN to off balance all that work!

What do you like to do?  Is it here?  And what else?

Adventuring through your new community and beyond will help you relieve stress and acclimate to where you are now.  In a less obvious way, this will also help you define and refine challenges 1 thru 5.

#7 – The New Normal

Normal life, will it ever happen?  Though it seems impossible in the first few weeks or months, on the other side of this, your predictable daily routine will be established.

Don’t Worry…well, not so much.

We will talk about how you define home and normal life as well as the things you will learn and incorporate as the journey from here to there evolves.  Hang in there.  So many of us has survived this before you.

You can too…can have an amazing journey along the way.

The first one Who to Call is already here.

Please email me at Annette@ReloMoms.com with any questions or thoughts.

Have a wonderful Relo,

Annette
A ReloMom currently in the wilds of Texas, working to encourage and inspire others while seeking another adventure.

RELOCATION: How to Connect Easily

(c)Creativecommonsstockphotos | Dreamstime.com

Finding a repeatable and yet easy way to connect is the key to a successful relocation.
Why?
Because it’s the connections
that make relocation work.

WHO ARE YOU AFFILIATED WITH?

If you are an Texas Aggie in London (London A&M Club) or a Manchester United Fan now in Miami (Miami Manchester United Fan Club), chances are those strong affiliations will be easy to find.  Why?  Because some organizationS establish themselves wherever their members wander to.

Traditionally, these “affiliations” are established through what you have done and participated in before and sometimes the ones you LOVE.

LET’S START OPENING THOSE DOORS

(c) Niserin | Dreamstime.com

List it out:

  • What you like to do
  • Groups you belong to
  • Group or charity you think you would like
  • Teams you LOVE

And then there are the ones you may not think of….

 WHO YOU ARE
AND WHAT YOU HAVE DONE

As simple as birth.  Strong affiliations and groups exist just for being born to a certain culture, like being Jewish.  Other birth related groups are bloodline but not culture specific, like Daughters of the American Revolution or the Magna Carta.

Others are established through choice.  Are you an Eagle Scout, Silver Award Girl Scout or did you attend a University where their alumni wear their rings for life?

These types of alumni seek each other out.  It is a club that comes from a shared experience.  It’s as if they have a secret language between them.

NO AFFILIATIONS, NO PROBLEM

Do not despair.  There are plenty opportunities to choose from.

Starting with some of the national and international organization will be an excellent place to start, especially if there is a chance of another relocation.

A mother of pre-schoolers?  MOPS is one of the national US groups that gives immediate access to other mothers in this stage of life.  With childcare provided, this give the moms time to get to know one another and perhaps begin new friendships.

No children?  No worries.  Look into clubs like Lions Club, Kiwannas and Rotary.  These clubs focus in on providing eye glasses and water in 3rd world areas, improving the local community, networking and even nearly eliminating Polio.

https://www.rotary.org/en

No matter what local club you walk into, by looking at their about page you will know what they values.  For example, Rotary’s core values are demonstrated by “Four Way Test” which is repeated at every meeting around the world.

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

It provides consistency of purpose and atmosphere, everywhere.

IT’S LIKE BUILT IN FRIENDS…

By joining one of the national or international groups/charities, it’s like walking into to a group of friends.

On some level, you already know each other.

And walking into one of their meetings in Fort Myers or Amsterdam, brings that introduction before the first hello.  The sign in host will most likely greet you with an excitement reserved for a long lost loved one.

NOW IT IS TIME TO MEET THE LOCALS

Step forward in confidence that you will meet locals who will be happy to meet you.

Whether or not you stay long term, you will meet REAL Locals.  They will love to share what they know about the community and show a willingness to help as you settle in.

Click on the Easy Connecting Resource Guide for more ideas on how to meet the locals..

Have a wonderful week and we will catch you next week with:

RELOCATION: Simple Steps to knowing where you live

RELOCATION: Search & find what you Love!


A Mom Scavenger HUNT!

Finding what we love after relocation is a lot like a scavenger hunt.  You have a list and a general location, but not much else.  Discovering what to search is key.

OLD SCHOOL GARAGE SALE-ING

Back in the 80s, Mom and I got to figure this one out through garage sale-ing after our move to Dallas from Atlanta.  In Atlanta, the Garage Sale paper would appear every week in our mailbox.  This community guide detailed items for sale and ALL of the garage sales that weekend.

Once in Dallas, we figured this would be a fun way to learn about how to get around. However, there were no Green Sheets.  In fact, there was no garage sale source anywhere.  Dallas was all about the newspapers, both major and community.  Even those didn’t include very much, so mostly we drove around  to find them.

WHERE SHOULD I SEARCH?

The primary source of information varies from community to community and from activity to activity.

In Minnesota, information primarily came through through the community education department in each school district.  There was always an abundance of activities for everyone from learning Spanish and reading to dogs in the library to senior trips to Europe.

Atlanta proved more difficult.  The school district had limited events and opportunities outside of the school day.  In this area, online searches for specific group or location searches were the key. For example, Atlanta area moms group or Lake Lanier events proved much more effective than searching for a central source.

And then in Dallas Fort Worth, I found a number of printed sources that would keep track of festivals, educational seminars and kids events.  Between Ft Worth Child, Suburban Parents and Texas Highways, I could find what I needed while exploring the greater area.

THE WEB ~

The secret is to know what to search in every place.  I suggest the following “just general enough” types of searches:

  • (City name) magazine, events, calendar, chamber of commerce
  • (State name) magazine, events, calendar
  • (City/County name) Garden/womens/MOPs/Newcomers/etc. Club, Group or Association
  • National Local Clubs – Rotary/Lions/Kiwanis/Sorority/Fraternaty/College/etc.
  • Meetups – Moms/Writers/Language practice/nurses/music/etc
  • Religious Studies – BSF/MOPS/Bible Study/Prayer groups
  • Moms day out – a infant/pre-school Southern thing
  • Local (type specific) shops – biker/English EXPATs/running clubs & groups
  • School district & school specific PTA/Gifted and Talented/Moms
  • All of the surrounding city Parks and Recreation Events/Magazine/Newsletter
  • Facebook for all the above

ENGAGE! ~ Yes you need to call,
possibly email,
or just show up
😉

Most of what you will find, does not require an RSVP.  Showing up at a local club (Rotary, Garden, PTA, etc.) or a of course something like a bike shop is pretty easy.  Ask some questions, get on the newsletter email list and start to connect.

If your favorite activity/sport/club isn’t listed, call around.  The local Chambers of Commerce will have people answering the phone that will give you information about their members, as well as the area they live in.

No one to call?  The public libraries have research desks, for You.  Call the research desk and ask.  Nothing is too mundane or crazy.

The bonus to showing up or calling, is that by visiting or calling you will meet people who want to talk to you.  Chances are they will be willing to answer future questions, too.

BUT, WHAT IF YOU CAN’T DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT??

Sometimes as moms, we just don’t know what we want.  After being so busy crafting lives for those around us…Frankly, we forget.
Click on the Next blog to learn more about YOU

Relocation: Discovering who YOU are!

#Meetup,#PTA,#ISD,#facebook,#relomoms,#BSF,#ParksandRec,#Rotary,#Lionsclub,#MOPS,#Kiwanas,