All parents want the best for their children. This was evident in the number of parents that attended the Beijing Kids School Fair earlier this Spring in search of the best school for their family.
This annual fair is an excellent opportunity to get a taste of many different types of schools, such as local and International, day and boarding, Chinese and bi-lingual schools and to listen to parents talk about their own children’s schooling experience.
Choosing the right school is a daunting process. I remember moving to a new country with a four year old and being told that we were much too late to enrol her and indeed, all the schools we were interested in were already full. We did eventually find one that had vacancies, we registered, bought the uniform, our daughter enjoyed her first day, all went well until we received news later that same day that a spot had unexpectedly become available at our first choice school,.. would we want it, and if yes, could we decide by tomorrow.
This sudden opportunity started a whole new discussion which involved our extended family around the world. Having done the smooth acclimatisation to her new school experience, would we traumatise our daughter by transferring her to another school after that one successful day in her first school? Like all first time parents we wanted to do the right thing. After much deliberation we decided to move her; it proved to be a good decision (and if you want to know, she doesn’t remember a thing about our huge dilemma).
When it was time to find a kindergarten for our two year old, the nice neighbourhood kindergarten I had carefully selected told me that they had no morning places available and that they could only offer us an afternoon place and not a morning one (that could have been acceptable once we had sorted out her nap time). The kindergarten then said that they would only take her if she attended every afternoon instead of agreeing to my plan of starting initially with two and gently building up to five afternoons during the year. That, on the other hand, was not acceptable to me and we registered our daughter somewhere else.
Talking to Admissions officers at a Fair, browsing through websites and glossy brochures can give you some flavour of a school but visiting it provides you with a true personal impression. Some schools make you feel happy, some make you feel uninspired. If you are uncomfortable or intimidated by the Head of school, it is likely your child will be too. Follow your instinct and choose a place where you would be happy going to everyday and where you see engaged, motivated children and enthusiastic teachers.
‘It takes a Village to raise a Child’ goes the old saying. Finding a school that values dialogue between family and school is essential. Find out if the school welcomes parents on campus (within reason), will listen to your concerns and will contact you if your child struggles academically or emotionally. This is particularly important when we send our children to a school with a foreign curriculum or in a foreign language and even more so to a boarding school.
Our involvement as parents however, doesn’t end once we have paid the school fees.
Research has shown that children achieve better when their parents are interested in their work, their learning, their school, their friends and not just their report cards:
Be a supportive and encouraging parent.
Avoid talking only about grades.
Ask how they feel, listen when they complain about a teacher or an assignment.
Offer help for homework if needed, praise their effort and their hard work, not only their achievement.
Don’t fill up their free time with extra tutoring lessons.
Take time to sit and chat about life at school. Ask what was their favourite event of the day, tell them about yours.
Listen to your children respectfully like you would listen to a friend.
Attend their music concerts as well as their sports games.
Display their art work around the house.
Attend school events.
Get to know your child’s friends and their parents.
Meet the teachers at the beginning of the school year and ask to meet with them again briefly but regularly during the year even if it is not common practice.
A good school should be a community where teachers and parents cooperate alongside each other with the common goal of raising happy, balanced and successful children.
This post first appeared on Lyliane Stewart’s site parentingeastwest.com on March 10, 2014.
Lyliane Stewart is a teacher, a positive discipline parent educator and a mother of two young adults. Originally from Switzerland, she lives with her husband in Beijing where she has been very active with the school community over the years. Her personal experience of living internationally in a cross-cultural family has given her a good understanding of the various challenges encountered by multi-cultural, multi-lingual expatriate families. Passionate about psychology and education, she founded Parenting East West to offer support to families around the world. Lyliane believes that by gaining a better understanding of ourselves, and of human relationships in general, we become better equipped for parenting. She offers weekly interactive parenting classes through which she introduces positive parenting tools and strategies.
The Mums2B group she started meets in Sanlitun weekly and welcomes new expectant parents.To get in touch, send a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Lyliane Stewart