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Choose the right school for your child

Find a school philosophy that caters to your child's specific learning needs

When choosing a school for your child, there are so many factors that will go into making the right decision. Do you want to send your child to a private or public school? Do you want to homeschool? Where is the school located? How much does it cost? Does it meet your religious needs? What is the school's curriculum?

There is another factor that you should consider and that is the school's philosophy.  

A school's philosophy is their belief of what they will teach and what the child can learn while there.

What is the best philosophy?
Karin Shultz is the head of Mizzentop Day School, a private school in Pawling. She explains that the philosophy of the school is that it "offers an interdisciplinary approach to education that instills the values, skills and knowledge children need to pursue their interests, to take joy in lifetime learning, and to lead successful and meaningful lives."

"Students think, learn, and apply themselves across all disciplines, freeing the mind to its fullest potential," says Shultz. "Students are educated in the range of human experience and achievement through our integrated curriculum, which provides broad knowledge of the wider world (science, culture, society) and develops a sense of social responsibility."

The philosophy of the Montgomery Montessori School is that a child learns best within a social environment, which supports each individual's unique development. When Carolyn Doderer was searching for a school for her four-year-old daughter Sydney, she chose the Montgomery Montessori School for several reasons, including its philosophy.

"Sydney comes home from school every day bubbling over with life and energy," says Doderer, a Newburgh resident. "She is excited to tell me about her day and eager to continue her lessons with more at-home study and games."

READ MORE: Teaching styles of the Hudson Valley

Doderer explains that she chose the Montgomery Montessori School for their respectful, child-centered education style and multi-aged classrooms, but a key factor in her decision was their adherence to the three-year cycle: each child is with their group of educators for three full years.

"This allows my child to bond to her teachers and classmates, as well as for her teachers to get to know her strengths and weaknesses so they can truly formulate the best approach to teach her," she says.

Doderer says that she knows that she made the right decision for Sydney.

Find the right fit
It's important to visit different schools to find the right fit.

The United States Department of Education recommends touring schools during regular school hours, scheduling an appointment with the school principal and, if possible,
attending an open house or parent- teacher meeting before you decide.

"Visit a given school's campus and talk to teachers and students," says Kevin Pendergast, head of school at The Kildonan School in Amenia, a school for children with dyslexia. "See whether the school seeks to apply an externally established curriculum or designs the curriculum according to each student's talents, needs, knowledge, and curiosity."

When deciding on a preschool for her two children, five-year-old Owen and three-year-old Nathaniel, Nikki Hernon D'Aleo toured several private schools before making The Goddard School her final decision.

Located in Wappingers Falls, The Goddard School's academic philosophy is based on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) and a fun learning
experience (FLEX).

READ MORE: Is unschooling right for your little one?

"They integrate play into education and value exploratory play," says Hernon D'Aleo, who lives inLaGrange. "It was important to me that my children's first exposure to school was a positive, engaging, supportive environment. There's a lot of pressure for children to arrive at kindergarten well-prepared, so that was important."

However, she also wanted her children to play outside and learn how to fill unstructured time. "Essentially, I wanted them to be kids," she says. "It was important to me to find a school where my kids would be exposed to a diverse and rich curriculum, but also learn to love school and learning."

Focus on their individual needs
When choosing a school, parents do not need to choose the same school for all their children. Instead, they should base it on their child's individual needs.

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Kingston resident Kathy Hernandez has two children, 12-year-old Mya and 15-year-old Kyra. Mya attends Good Shepherd Christian School, a private school in Kingston, while Kyra attends John A. Coleman Catholic High School in Hurley.

The mission of John A. Coleman Catholic High School is "to form students to become responsible, caring, mature and knowledgeable young adults, with a sense of responsibility to God, themselves, their neighbor and the society in which they live."

"My oldest does not do well in large groups, which is why I wanted a smaller school for her," says Hernandez. "I felt that a school where the teachers have a more personal relationship with their students was a better fit for her. The teachers know each child on a more personal level and they receive more individual attention. It's more of a community."

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