The school year is coming to a close and while most families have secured school placement for the 2015/2016 school year, many parents are looking for back-up plans. What do you do when you’re in a pinch to find a better program and you’re not able to plan a year in advance? PALNYC asked Alina Adams, author of Getting Into NYC Kindergarten: (September 2016), what her recommendations are for finding the right fit when your current school isn’t cutting it.
Here’s what she had to say:
PALNYC: For parents whose initial goal is a top-tier school, how do you discern the best fit based on your child’s strengths? For example: A gifted and talented literary kid, highly creative for whom math is not their strong suit, do you: A) recommend a G&T focused school that might emphasize STEM and support their weakness in math, B) focus solely on schools that support their literary strength, C) find a school that gives equal focus to both and supplement with after school programs that support their strengths and talents?
ALINA: If you ask my children, they will tell you that I am a horrible mother because with my oldest son, a pure English and History guy, I sent him to Stuyvesant, a math and science school, whereas with my younger son, a math, science and computer whiz, I sent him to a private school that heavily focuses on literature and geography. My rationale is, the things they love, they are going to do anyway. And they are going to study their passions deeper than any school possibly could accommodate. The subjects they don’t love, they are going to have to be dragged to, kicking and screaming. Which means they had better learn them at the highest possible level, because then, even if they only retain 75% of it (i.e. “C” level), that will still be more than they would have gotten in a school that doesn’t spend as much time on the topics they’re not interested in. My children are not ecstatic with my approach.
PALNYC: For those currently enrolled in a school who, despite trying to make it work, realize mid-year their child may be better supported at a different school, what are your recommendations?
For example: A 4th grader in an independent school needs a better fit, do you: A) move to a good local public school for a year and reapply to an independent school for 6th grade, B) stay put and limit the uprooting, reapply for 6th to a new school, or C) take an available spot at a different independent school, though the choices are limited?
ALINA: Again, here comes the bad Mommy in me. But I believe life is a hard. A “struggle,” as Dr. Carol Dweck might put it. And the only way you learn to deal with difficulties is to… deal with difficulties. And fail at them. And try again. If a child is having trouble at school, my advice is to have them keep trying. Because the lessons they’ll learn when they ultimately succeed will be so, so much more than what a test grade can show. That said, people certainly do move between schools all the time, and the school that was a perfect fit for your child in Kindergarten may no longer be that by 6th grade, or even 3rd. There is nothing wrong with shopping around for a better fit, but I would recommend sticking out the year if at all possible. Partially for the child’s sake, so that they can leave on a good note, rather than on a failure. And partially because it is simply very, very difficult to find a spot at an equally good school mid-year, not to mention the child’s social adjustment.
PALNYC: How much emphasis should be placed on selecting a school that supports our child’s talent development strengths versus relying on after school enrichment programs that support their talent and interests.
ALINA: That depends on what your child’s interests are. My 11 year old is obsessed with computer programming. I did my research. NO school in NYC offers it on the level he is currently operating at. Even at the best schools, he’d have to wait to take AP Computer Science in 12th grade! So, instead, I have him at a school that will educate him in reading, writing, public speaking and history. All things that will be critically important even if he is the next Steve Jobs (especially if he’s the next Steve Jobs. I tell my son it doesn’t matter how brilliant his code might be. If he can’t communicate that to people, he’ll never get anywhere). On the other hand, one of the reasons we chose Stuyvesant over LaGuradia for my artistic son, was because, at LaGuardia, he would have only been able to focus on art as his major, whereas at Stuyvesant, he can do costume design, sets, props, even audition for the school play, all in support of his talents and interests (while taking AP World History, Chemistry, and Trigonometry at the same time)
Alina Adams is an author and mother of three children who attend New York City schools. Her book, Getting Into NYC Kindergarten: (September 2016), is due out next month. Be sure to check out Alina’s upcoming workshops intended for parents navigating the Kindergarten application process in NYC. She will be speaking at River Park Nursery School on Thursday, May 14, 2015 (Free, contact River Park Nursery School to RSVP) and at Evolution Enrichment Center Preschool on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 ($24.32, reserve your spot via EventBrite)
Looking for more information on navigating the admissions process in NYC for your child? Check out School Search NYC’s upcoming workshop series, Life After Nursery School beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, April 29th. Robin Aronow will conduct this overview workshop in which she discusses private school admission.
Location & Details
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
West Side YMCA Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater
5 West 63rd St., NY, NY 10023
Registration: 5:35-5:55 PM; Workshop 6:00-8:00 PM
Price: For Workshop Only-$75 for one family member/$80 for two
For Workshop and Panel-$100 for one family member/$110 for two
Includes a 40-page $15 Information Packet on Applying to both Private and Public Schools