Editor's Note: Ask QB is our new advice column. Today, we're answering questions from parents of young children who want to make sure their kids get the best education possible. Enjoy, and please add your thoughts and questions in the comments section below this post, or via our Facebook page!

We Want Our Kids to Have the Best Education Possible: Where Do We Start?

Dear Q.B.,

My husband and I have two young children. The oldest, our daughter, is just starting kindergarten this year.

Since my husband and I didn’t have parents who were interested in or involved in our education, we want to do a better job with our kids. We don't want them to struggle like we do. But we’re not sure about what we should do to see that our kids have the best educational experiences they can.We want to be sure we do what's best for our kids.

Where do we start?

Thank you,

Nadine

Hi Nadine,

I can totally understand why you want the best for your kids, and allow me to commend you for recognizing the significance of being involved with your children’s schooling! Adults who had somewhat uninvolved parents often aren’t aware of the importance of knowing what’s going on educationally with their kids. So, having awareness and interest is truly a great way to start.

One of the initial things you might want to do is to check out the schools in the neighborhood where you live. Your goal is to find out how the public schools in your area rate in terms of standardized assessments of reading and writing abilities.

You can look up the accountability reports for the public schools in your area by searching online for the local school district. You’ll most likely spot links to statistics regarding each specific school. This will take some time and effort on your part, but it’ll be worth it. After you’ve done your research, step one is deciding on the best school for your children to attend.

Stay positive and keep your head in the game!

To You,

Q.B.

Public School or Private School: Which is Best?

Dear Q.B.,

I'm weighing my options on which school to send my kids to in my new neighborhood. There are a few different options, but it boils down to the usual question--do we go public or private? What things should we consider? What about private schools? Are they really better, or do they just cost more? Can we even afford a private school?

Please help! My head is spinning! How do I decide between public and private school for my kids?

Buzzing in Anticipation,

Kelly

Dear Kelly,

It always helps me to know that I'm not alone in a situation like this, and I'm guessing that's pretty common. Fortunately or otherwise, this question sparks spirited discussions across the country--with strong proponents and opponents on each side.

It's not an easy decision, and there are many factors to consider. The answers are many and complex, and the bottom line is that you'll have  to weigh the pros and cons as they apply to your family and your situation specifically.

Factually, the jury is still out on which provides the better education for kids: public or private schools.

Proponents of the public school route would argue that public schools provide a more “real-life” situation and expose kids to more cultures and experiences. They might point out that involved parents and caring teachers can produce public school graduates who outshine any private school alum.

Some would say that public schools offer more special assistance and programming to meet the needs of the masses of children educated in public schools.

Of course, those on the private school side of the fence would adamantly oppose this view and argue that you get what you pay for. They might point out that parents must be willing to pay more to furnish a better education through private schooling.

Money is a big issue when it comes to private schooling. In the U.S., private schooling at the elementary level can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $40,000 per year per child--and sometimes even more. If you can afford it and the exclusivity and potentially better education seem worth it to you, you should check out the private schools in your area to see if they might meet your  children's needs.

There are various kinds of private schools, including parochial, provided through church affiliations, and secular, among others. Some offer reduced pricing to church members and for members who have more than one child in the school. So, check out your church to see if they’re affiliated with any private schools.

Also, you might want to visit the private and parochial schools in your area. Check them out in person to gather as much information as possible about their teachers’ credentials, class size, teaching methods used, and the availability of computers in the classroom. Typically, class sizes are much smaller in private and parochial schools.

To some parents, this translates to more attention given by teachers to each child. However, you must also be aware that some small private schools inter-mingle kids in several grades into the same classroom with one teacher. Depending on your child, this may or may not be the best learning environment for him.

So as you can see, the public versus private debate has strong arguments on both sides and there are many elements to consider. You and your husband can discuss these issues and make decisions based on your local school visits and research. Frankly, for many parents, private or parochial school isn’t a viable option due to the costs of such schooling--but outside of the money, it's all up to you.

You've got this,

Q.B.

Start Early: How Can I Impress the Importance of Education on My Kids?

Dear Q.B.,

I've got twins who just turned a year old. Right now I'm really happy to be a stay-at-home mom, but I'm thinking that I'll go back to work when the kids get in school.

Speaking of which, I'm wondering what kinds of things should I be doing as a parent to ensure they understand the importance of school and that they do as well as possible? I want them to be well-educated because I know how important it is these days--I imagine it'll just get moreso by the time they're adults.

Looking ahead,

Bethann

 

Dear Bethann,

Seems to me that you're on the right track already! The good news is that parents have a pretty significant impact on how well their kids are educated and how much they learn. Plus, parents can even influence whether their kids like school or not--no joke!

Try these strategies to affect your kids’ education in positive ways:

  • Each day your child attends school, have a discussion on what occurred in class that day. Rather than asking, “How was your day,” or “How was school,” be more specific in your questioning. Dinnertime works perfectly for this kind of chat, or just do it on the way home or as he arrives off the school bus.
  • For example, you could ask, “What did you learn in math today?” or “Tell me one thing your teacher talked about today.” Ask open
  • ended questions and encourage your child to comment.
  • Demonstrate that school/homework is important by providing space in an open area of the house for the kids to do homework and read books. For younger kids, all you’ll need is a small table and chairs in the living room or family area. As kids get older and can be trusted to do their homework largely on their own, desks for their rooms are in order.
  • Consistently plan time each day for the kids to read a book when they’re small or do homework as they get older. You’ll be teaching them that education is an important aspect of life whenever you behave in ways that allow time for study just like you do for baths, meals, and playtime.
  • If kindergarteners and first-graders are too young to be reading, sit down with them and either read to them or listen to them practice their reading every day.
  • Smile and show a relaxed mood during “study time” with your child. If a child gets tired or antsy, it’s okay to stop for a snack or even a play break for an hour or so. Just be consistent with getting in the time daily. You be the judge of when your child’s attitude or mood indicate that study time should be suspended.
  • As your child matures, study time will become focused on either helping your child with homework or just occasionally dropping in to ensure the child is completing assignments.
  • As early as kindergarten, share with your child, “We’re going to read for 15 minutes.” This way, kids will develop a sense of time as they mature. They’ll also learn that after they put in the time,
  • it’s off for play.
  • Be very cautious about providing any punishment or negative comments to your child regarding anything to do with school. You want to do everything possible to ensure your child doesn’t develop uncomfortable feelings related to school.
  • Use positive words of reinforcement for your child’s efforts during study time. For example, “Your reading is getting better and better! Good job!” or “You got your homework paper done really quickly! I can see that you’re getting smarter each day because you go to school.”
  • You’ll have endless opportunities to speak encouragingly about your child’s school involvement. Take advantage of them.

Keep on keeping on!

Q.B.

Making for Better Mornings: Getting Bedtime Routines Underway Early

Dear Q.B.

I'm planning our schedule for the upcoming year and I have a little one starting preschool three days a week. I've been thinking about bedtime and getting the kids up for school. When I was younger, I got to stay up as late as I wanted and often slept in, which made me late for school. Pretty much always went to school with no breakfast.

I know this didn't work out well--I remember falling asleep in class more times than I care to admit. And I won't get into the other issues that go along with all that.

I want to work on creating really strong routines in my home and I hope you can help point me in the right direction. Specifically right now I want to know about bed time routines. What do you think?

Sincerely,

Shelly R.

Dear Shelly,

You sound like an amazing mom, and I hope you recognize that the fact that you're even thinking about this stuff is a big, huge deal that means you're pretty awesome.

With all of that being said, you bring up some good points that relate indirectly to the type of education your children will receive. From the time your kids start school, establish a bedtime that fits the child and his age and allows him plenty of time for proper rest before the next school day.

Be consistent and make it clear from day one that there’s no playing around or funny stuff when it comes to staying up late on a school night. Then, in the morning, allow plenty of time for a child to wake up, have breakfast, wash up, and get dressed.

This is one of the times of day that often presents great challenges for parents (and for kids, too). So, it’s best to establish routines and set boundaries to ensure the child gets the message that today is a school day and there’s no time for the television, computer, or video games on a school day morning.

Loving you and all that you do,

Q.B.

 

Keeping Up With the Times: I Want to Increase Communication With Teachers

Dear Q.B.,

My question has to do with communicating with the school and my child's teacher. My second grader is being awfully quiet about his classes about now, and I am not sure I'm getting the whole story from him.

I want to be sure I know if he's struggling so I can help him. What’s the best way to go about increasing communication between his parents and his teacher?

Just curious,

Melinda

Dear Melinda,

You are probably on the right track--when kids clam up suddenly, there's a reason to worry. You already know that both parents must be involved at the child’s school from time to time. Both should also attend parent-teacher conferences if at all possible, of course.

One or both parents may want to join the parent-teacher organization (PTO). This will help you become familiar with the school building, the teachers and other students, and will provide necessary support for the schools and classrooms.

These days, parents might even have nearly daily communication from their kids’ teachers via the school website and email. Respond consistently and in a timely fashion to any requests made by your kids’ teachers.

If you're not feeling like your child's teacher is willing to communicate with you, set up a meeting with her in person and explain that you're genuinely concerned about your child's education and that you want to do whatever you can to make her job easier (i.e. support her in her mission to educate your child).

Commit to be as involved as you can with your child’s school. When teachers see parents who care, they stay on their toes where the children are concerned. And this situation ensures your kids will receive the best education possible.

You Rock, Mama!

Q.B.

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