It’s that time of year when we start asking families to tell us about their plans for enrolling again in the fall. Which means it’s also the time of year for families to be thinking about what school situation is best for their children. In a school like ours, with mixed-age classrooms and a variety of enrollment schedules, it can feel like there are a lot of decisions to make, and like it’s hard to make the right choice. Fortunately, one of the reasons we set up our program with so many options is that all of the options have their benefits.
It’s good to be one of the oldest kids in the class. You’re probably ahead of a lot of your classmates developmentally, so you develop the confidence that comes when you find that things are pretty easy for you. A lot of the other kids look up to you, so you get to develop leadership skills, and you have the opportunity to learn things the best way: by teaching them to others. Younger children are influenced by your big ideas, so your interests drive a lot of what happens in class. Being the big fish in a small pond is great.
It’s good to be one of the youngest kids in the class. You’re surrounded by kids who know more than you do—and children learn very effectively from each other—so you learn a lot very quickly. You get a lot of attention from adults, and from older kids who like to feel like the big siblings. Bigger kids might “boss you around” sometimes, but what that really means is that they help you know how to participate in things you wouldn’t know how to do on your own. Being surrounded by people older than you is great.
It’s good to be in the same class for more than a year. You know all the routines, all the expectations, and all the tricks, so you start the year off feeling successful all the time. You walk in the door the first day with strong relationships, which are the driver of quality education, already in place. When the class revisits old topics you understand them on a deeper level than the first time around; when you explore new topics you’re flush with confidence and experience. Familiarity is powerful.
It’s good to move to a new class for a new year. Your new teachers and new environment ask you to level up your thinking and behavior. You can’t get away with whatever it was you got away with last year, and old compromises are swept away in a new environment. You meet everything with fresh eyes and new energy, and the learning comes fast and thick. It’s great to come in fresh for a new year.
It’s good to come to school five days a week. You can develop ideas from one day to the next, and your class takes on ambitious projects that sustain your attention over time. You delve deeply into ideas that would lose momentum if your schedule were broken up. You form deep relationships with people and comfortable connections with routines more quickly than you would with a shorter week. School feels comfortable and familiar; you feel like you own the place. Things just work great when you’re around every day.
It’s good to come to school just a few days a week. You get the benefits of school at a pace that makes sense for young children. You have great experiences with fun and learning at school without sacrificing time at home with your family. School feels like a special occasion every time, something to look forward to. It’s easy to keep the energy up when you’ve got a short week.
It’s good to come to school just in the mornings. You build strong connections with the people in your classroom who you see at school every day. You work hard in the mornings and then go home to relax in the afternoons. School feels like a special activity, one of many ways you spend your day, many interests in your life. Half a day is a great pace for young children.
It’s good to stay at school for aftercare. In the afternoon things slow down, the group gets smaller, and everything and everyone can relax. You’re with fewer kids, in a wider range of ages, so your teachers can be more flexible in changing plans to meet your needs as they arise and in taking advantage of learning opportunities that pop up unexpectedly. The focus on caregiving gives you a feeling that the school is more like a home, so when you stay for the afternoons you feel at home at school.
So… which choice is “best” for your child? It depends on what you’re hoping they get out of school. But it’s good to know that your child will get a lot of unique opportunities out of every option.