Where to Begin? | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Where to Begin?

Questions for parents when touring schools

As parents, we value our children's education and know that getting involved in their school life is important.

Perhaps the most crucial first step is finding the school that is the right fit, whether it's a larger public, smaller private, charter school or other. With so many different options, how is a parent to decide? 

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School websites and brochures, as well as talking to current or former alumni families, can certainly provide a springboard for the process. Nothing, though, will give you a feel for how a school operates like taking a tour and seeing for yourself.

As a teacher who has given plenty of school tours here in Central Oregon, I've compiled a list of valuable questions to ask while on your tour. (You might want to write down your list of questions to bring with you, so you don't forget on the big day!) 

It may help to start with a broad focus, and then narrow to specific questions that are most relevant to your unique family values. Each child is different, so drilling down on what matters most in their arena will be important.

What is your school's overarching philosophy or mission statement?

The answer to this question will tell you what the school values most. Does your tour director talk about the school's rigorous academic curriculum designed to develop mastery, or perhaps their progressive alternative approach based on child development or experiential learning? Do they focus on a love of lifelong learning, being prepared for the complexities of the modern age, developing critical thinking or becoming socially responsible citizens? Do they explain their commitment to social justice, community service projects, environmental stewardship or perhaps dual-language programming? Whatever the big picture is, you'll want to pay close attention to what the school values as their top educational priorities. 

Can you describe a typical "day in the life" at your school?

When considering schools, it's natural to think back to your own schooling days, yet oftentimes parents are surprised to learn how much has changed in the past few decades. Some schools are experimenting with different curricular and scheduling structures, such as free choice electives, rotating recess periods, alternative desk arrangements, etc.

Do students travel from classroom to classroom with different teachers or stay in one location as teachers come to them? Do they sit in traditional desks in rows facing the front or are they arranged in groups for project-based learning? Are academic classes tracked based on skill level or do all students learn together? What are the opportunities for physical education, artistic exploration or other extracurriculars? Are students required to join a club or given free choice on electives? How much time is spent outside?

Here you can drill down from the big picture philosophy to how the pedagogy is implemented on a day-to-day basis and ask any pertinent follow up questions.

What is your school's approach to homework?

Homework is oftentimes a hot topic on school tours, and for good reason: this is where home and school intersect, so the answer to this question may have a big impact on your family.

Like politics, homework expectations can swing to extremes in either direction, from virtually none to hours every night. Many times, parents ask, "How much homework do you give?" which only scratches the surface. Twenty minutes of independent reading will look different than 20 minutes of phonics worksheets; online science quizzes will look different than creating a three-dimensional project. Some schools may expect parents to take a very hands-on approach towards helping their child at home, while others may expect the child to complete the work on their own. Asking about the school's approach, as opposed to just the amount, can get to the heart of what the homework expectations are.

In addition, it's important to find out if the faculty is held to a universal standard or if teachers are free to design their own homework plans. And then what happens when students don't complete their homework on time? Are emails or phone calls made to parents? Are they recommended for evaluation for learning services? Are they denied privileges?

Think carefully about your own attitude towards homework, and tailor your follow-up questions accordingly.   

2023-2024 Enrollment Application Dates:

Bend La Pine K-8 Choice Options: Applications received after January 20 will be filled on a first come, first served basis should any spots remain.
Bend International School: March 24
Bridge Charter Academy: Rolling
Cascades Academy: Rolling
Deschutes River Montessori School: Rolling
Desert Sky Montessori: Kindergarten – March 24; Grades 1-6 – Jan. 20
Eastmont Community School: Rolling
Forge: Rolling
Montessori in the Pines: Rolling
Morning Star Christian School: Early March
New Leaf Academy: Rolling
Seven Peaks: Feb. 12
Three Sisters Adventist School: Rolling
Trinity Lutheran School: Rolling
Waldorf School of Bend: Rolling

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