Like many families, you may be navigating the important question of school choice in these days. At Bixby, this week alone, a number of families have attended our open house, called in, set up private tours, and explored our campus and program with me. Many of you have come to campus with notebooks in hand, after already having thoroughly researched the choices we have in Boulder and surrounding communities. Yet, the process of choosing the best possible school for your children can seem daunting, confusing and somewhat anxiety-producing. With the luxury of choice, comes the agony of choice! At Bixby School, we can empathize with your trepidations: How is a family supposed to know what program may be best? Lacking a crystal ball of how your children will develop in the next decade, you are supposed to make a decision about a community that will embrace, challenge and nurture your children and the stakes to get it right are high!
In hindsight, and during my own search as parent, I was excited about a few schools at once, when I was looking for the right preschools, great elementary schools and ultimately middle school for our two children. Despite being an educator and education researcher by training, it did not always make the choices easier. Here is what I noticed along the way that I hope will be helpful to you as well:
- Visit the schools you are interested in more than once! Choosing a school is not just about attending events when the school is polished for the open house or when a playtime admissions event is carefully crafted. See if the school takes time and care to spend time with your child as part of the admissions process. What types of steps do they take to get to know you?
- Ask about important program aspects like: Parent-teacher communication and relationships, teacher qualifications and program strengths. How will the teachers in this school get to know your child-as a learner, as a person, as a community member?
- Look around! This is not about fresh paint, it is about what is displayed in classrooms, on walls and what the spaces for children during class time AND during free time look like. Are they built with children in mind? Do you see student work that resonates with you?
- Ask about expertise in child development and pedagogy. How do you know as parent that the teachers teaching your children are well-trained professionals? How does the school foster ongoing professional development?
- Ask to speak to current parents. What are their experiences at the school? What type of parent community do THEY describe to you?
This is the short list of questions for families looking for a new school. For families who have already chosen their community, you too may be in a time of transition. Your child may transition from Preschool to Kindergarten this year; your child may be moving along the stages of childhood into middle childhood, the tween-time or be on the cusp of being a teenager. At Bixby School, our commitment to supporting families through stages of childhood and transitions along the way is one of our hallmarks. Many of our alumni of 46 years tell us we are so much more than a school. To them we are a community, a place where they learned deeply, had rich relationships with peers and their teachers and discovered their own strengths. They come back to see a community that has given them the gift of the life-long joy of learning, thinking and doing. Those who took the leap of faith to entrust us with their children or to be our students, still say that it is a choice they would make again-even after many years and in a changed Boulder landscape when it comes to school choice!
Admissions Director, Parent and Educator