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My oldest has been homeschooled for 8 years and wants to attend a bricks and mortar high school next year. We have two very good schools in the area. I know when he goes for the tours he will see the ideal of the school and compare it to the reality of homeschooling. Can anyone help me think through questions he and I should ask the schools (and ourselves) to get a better sense of the reality of the schools? If you've btdt, I'd also love hearing about your experience. Thanks!

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We've been to two open houses for private schools.  More topics to ask about, some of which might be answered by the website but not necessarily, include the following: 


- class selection/course catalog, including APs and foreign languages offered

- math sequence options and what portion of the grade level starts in which track

- math texts used

- daily schedule - how much flexibility does that generate in the long run (e.g. true block schedule vs modified block vs regular)

- credit requirements - how much room is leftover for electives (sometimes more advanced courses could end up taking up "electives" space)

- are there placement tests for math and foreign language

- clubs and extracurriculars - what are the options and when do they meet (after school or during lunch?)

- community service requirements

- class sizes, grade sizes

- list of college acceptances of recent grads

- quality of college counseling

- AP exam scores

- teaching quality, if you can get some info from an actual student

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One of the questions he should ask students who are currently attending those 2 schools, and graduates of those 2 schools, is "when you are a parent, will you want your children to attend this school?"

When we had a lot more income, in K4, K5 and First grade, DD attended an elite, private, bilingual school here. There is another school, very comparable in cost, reputation, test results, etc.

Many of the parents of children in the school we chose for DD were graduates of the other school. I think that spoke volumes, that they did not want their own children to attend the school they had graduated from... And, I believe they would have received a discount, in the school they had graduated from.

To me, that would be the "kiss of death" in consideration of a school.

If one school just "feels right" to your DS, that is the one he should attend.

When we visited the school we selected for DD, it just "felt right", to my wife, to DD, and to me, and we did not look at any other schools for her. Sadly, we had to withdraw her, after 3 school years, because of a huge drop in income.


Another thing to ask about is how the school administration deals with students who are guilty of using drugs, bullying, etc. The more strict they are, the better it will be for your DS. I realize the administrators of public schools are very limited in the actions they can take, but the more strict they are, the better it is for the students who are not using drugs and who are not bullying other students.

Your son is lucky in that he has 2 schools to choose from, and not more than 2. It can become very confusing.


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See if you can arrange for the tours to include eating lunch with students, sitting in on a class, and observing an extracurricular that interests him.


Some schools will allow you to schedule a "shadow day" for your child so that they can attend for a day and see how it feels. 


 We looked at 3 different schools for my daughter.  All were public charter schools and had higher standardized test scores and good reputation.  We talked to parents and students and asked them what they liked and what they didn't like about the school.  My daughter was interested in choir and theater so we attended performances and talked to students who were involved in these activities.



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My oldest went to school for 2 years and we looked at like 10-20 schools, and are considering schools again right now as my oldest approaches high school. We are urban. I think the single most helpful thing to me was to find families that LEFT the school in question for some reason or are having a less than ideal experience there. Parents of currently enrolled students tended to always paint a very sunny picture of their world and they were fine to chat with in terms of general information. But in terms of giving realistic feedback on the downsides of a particular school - not really. At high school age, students might be more helpful in that regard.


I know locally finding parent who chose the same or differently as the school they went to really wouldn't be helpful. School cultures, community, and staff tend to really change over every 5-10 year period in the schools here and even some people who love a school for K and 1st, might make a change before 5th. Maybe that's a product of the number of choices we have available to us here.


ETA - I would highly recommend asking about a shadowing day as well.

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Also ask about staff turnover, how many students come back the following year, how many stay the whole time there, etc. etc.


I know of a private school locally that turns over the majority of it's staff in 3-5 years.  They've had new headmasters every 3-5 years too.


And other where the majority of the students go elsewhere for high school.  It's considered great for PK-8th, but so-so for high school.


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