As another school year starts, I’ve come to the exciting realization that my eldest is due to start kindergarten next year! I was able to determine his age appropriateness by referring to the Edmonton Public Schools’ website and check out their Kindergarten Registration page here.
So, this week I thought I’d talk about my experiences so far in finding the right school for my children! First off, there are three (and maybe more) choices: private schools, charter schools, and public schools. Then there are the different kinds of each of those! You can register your children in immersion schools, where they learn different languages; you can look at different extracurricular activities or advanced programs; there are separate schools, where classes are all girls or all boys; and you have the choice of different religions or no religion schools. On top of that, as if it wasn’t confusing enough, you can decide on how much time they spend away from home from boarding schools to homeschooled – the choice is yours – and it’s a big one!
Here is a little breakdown of the three main kinds and those that are most easily available:
Private Schools – There are around 180 private schools in Alberta. Most private schools are not funded by the Ministry of Education and parents are required to pay for their child’s education. The reviews of private schools and education foundations are outstanding. The price per year for a child in a private school can run between $7,000 and $18,000 (during my searches). Find more information here and look up schools here.
Charter Schools – Alberta has 13 charter schools, most of which reside in Edmonton and Calgary. Charter schools sit in the middle of private and public. They are non-profit schools, meaning that they are like public schools, and are tuition-free, and they provide high-quality education. The catch with charter schools is that they are hard to enrol in. They rely mostly on a lottery system where you register and hope they pick your name. Additionally, if one of your children is chosen, it isn’t a guarantee that the other will be. To find more information, click here and look up schools here.
Public Schools – All public schools are funded by the Ministry of Education (taxes). They usually only require an administration fee, transportation fee, and school supplies. When I looked at the difference between daycare costs and these types of schools, my piggy bank did a happy dance! However, depending on where you live, class sizes of public schools can be very large and the facilities may be run-down from overuse and lack of adequate financing. Another downside is that you can’t simply “choose” your school if living in a large community. Chances are, there will be districts (based on addresses) and, depending on your district, your child may have no choices in the public school they attend. You will need proof of where you live (driver’s licence will suffice) to enrol your child. Find your designated school here.
In addition to these resources, I’ve also been relying a lot on school rankings by grades from the Fraser Institute. This is a nice way to check that the school you’ve fallen in love with consistently achieves high rankings in comparison to others. Check it out here.
Decisions about where your child goes to school are sometimes very personal and can be difficult. It’s common and normal for parents to feel anxious about getting this decision right. These decisions depend on where you live, your personal values, your child’s needs, school-specific factors, religion, and more. When you’re choosing an elementary school (like me), it’s also important to consider things like before-school and after-school care, and proximity to the day-home for any younger children still requiring care.
For some parents, the decision isn’t simple. Mine certainly wasn’t!
My husband and I have determined that the public school system will be a feasible, and still wonderful, option. As we have two children, charter schools were not for us, as we wanted them to stick together. Private schools are not feasible for us (unless I’m holding the winning lottery ticket).
But which public school? Going through our current interests and requirements helped us further determine which one was for us. Our youngest will still be attending the dayhome full-time, so proximity and commute are important factors. There’s nothing like the whirlwind that is our current morning schedule, and minimizing any further stress is very important. Both my husband and I attended immersion schools, me in French and he in Aboriginal, so that was a key interest of ours. We also have two very active youngsters that enjoy the outdoors and sports, so after-school extracurriculars were important too. We also needed to fixate on drop-off and pick-up times as we are both working. To accommodate this, you might consider sharing the load with your spouse. For example, many parents take the morning shift while the other spouse goes to work. The other spouse can then leave work early to pick up the kids and handle the afternoon shift. Many companies are becoming more flexible to accommodate two working parents and this option is very economical and stress-relieving.
So, to what we decided! We are very much looking at a French immersion daycare that is accredited as a public school kindergarten. I am uneasy splitting my youngsters up and when I found this co-preschool-kindergarten option, I was very relieved! As both kids will be in the same building, in different classes, the pick-up/drop-off will be easier, plus both will be with youngsters of their own ages and be learning the approved Alberta curriculum. The costs of daycares exceeded our reach in the past, but because this is a publicly funded school, the costs for my kinder-aged child are low. As it is a daycare, and not a public school, districts are not an issue at the moment (although this daycare is right around the corner too!). We believe that, after the months of research, our efforts have paid off with finding this gem!
We hope you and your family have success in finding the right educational fit for your family too! Whether it’s homeschool, public, charter, private or other (boarding schools sound the best during rough mornings!). Please feel free to share your inputs or other resources with the KARA online family!
Happy School Hunting!