‘Tis the Season to Search for Schools

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

For many families across America, the holidays are not just the happiest time of the year, they are the busiest time, too.

For parents, the quest to find the perfect presents for their children – for Christmas, Hanukkah, or any of the many holidays celebrated this winter – can be a months-long project.

All parents want to find gifts that their kids will love. They want to find items that reflect their children’s unique interests, hobbies, and personalities. Parents know that what might be the perfect gift for one child would completely fall flat with another.

For parents who do not have the money for material presents, they still spend a lot of time working hard to make the holidays a magical, special time for their children. After all, every parent wants their kids to look back on their childhood holidays with a sense of nostalgia, happiness, and joy.

But the excitement of the holidays – and thoughtful gift-giving, in particular – doesn’t need to end when the calendar turns the page to 2015.

As 2015 begins, parents can and should work to ensure that their children have a tremendous gift that will truly last a lifetime: an effective, challenging, and motivating education. Many parents use the start of the new year as a time to start searching for new schools for their children for the 2015-2016 school year. And believe it or not, January is not too early to get this search stared. (In some cases, it might be considered late!)

America is transitioning from a one-size-fits-all education model to one that recognizes the unique needs of each child. It’s called school choice and, while there are still millions of families who do not have nearly enough choices from which to make for their children, school choice is rapidly becoming the new normal in many states across America. In fact, most parents today have many more choices than parents of 20 years ago.

But to avail themselves of these many choices – from open enrollment in traditional public schools, to public charter schools, public magnet schools, private school choice programs, online academies, or homeschooling – parents need to start considering their options, asking questions, and making decisions pretty quickly.  And while January may sound like it is a bit early to start shopping for schools, if parents wait too long, they might find their options limited.

During National School Choice Week (January 25 – 31, 2015), parents can take the time to learn more about the education options available for their children. The Week, which will be the nation’s largest-ever celebration of opportunity in education, will feature an unprecedented 10,000 events across all 50 states.

At some events, parents can discover the benefits of different types of educational styles and themes. At other events, parents can learn more about the offerings and characteristics of specific schools, or even about the policies that allow for greater choice and freedom in specific states.

For younger children just entering school, early in the year can be a time for parents to thoroughly evaluate the options they have for their children. For parents with older children, January provides parents with an opportunity to review whether their children’s existing schools are meeting their needs and expectations.

As for making school choices for their children, parents can and should take the lessons of holiday gift-giving and apply them to choosing the right education environment for their children. Questions like, “will this work for my child,” “is this the right fit,” “is this a quality choice,” and “will my child be happy with this” can go a long way in helping parents navigate the school selection process.

Just as when it comes to holiday gift-giving, parents know their children best. Just as no parent would let a stranger choose his or her child’s holiday presents, parents should work now to ensure that they are actively part of the process of choosing their children’s schools.

Every child is unique; every child is different. Every child deserves the opportunity to learn in an environment that is challenging, motivating, exciting, and inspiring. And this decision – the one of a great school or educational environment – is a gift that only parents are uniquely qualified to give.

National School Choice Week 2015 will officially begin on Friday, January 23 with an Official Kickoff in Jacksonville, Florida.

For more information, visit www.schoolchoiceweek.com.

Andrew Campanella is the President of National School Choice Week.  Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewRCamp and @SchoolChoiceWk.


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