Marriage Transitions: Choosing a School for Your Kids 

Perhaps you’ve barely adjusted to having a new baby in the house when it’s already time to start thinking about where to send them to school! Don’t think we’re crazy; in Singapore, some parents already apply for schools right after their baby is born. 

Joy and I are probably one of those who aren’t as adamant about getting our kids into the best schools—but we weren’t always this relaxed. I remember when our second child got her Primary 6 results back. We were on holiday in Taiwan, and I was nonchalant when we first opened the results. But when I saw the words “normal academic,” I couldn’t help feeling aghast. How could one of my children not get into the advanced stream?

As a brief background, in Singapore, kids take a test in Primary 6 that determines where they go next. When I was in school, I was an avid learner and achiever, and placed in the stream just short of gifted. Naturally, I assumed that all my kids would follow in my footsteps. Since then, I’ve learned that we are all gifted differently, so I shouldn’t impose unrealistic expectations on them!

Why am I talking about this in a post about choosing our kids’ schools? Because we believe our mindset about what our children could be can greatly affect our decision-making process!

Whatever you envision your family to be will impact what kind of school you choose for your kids. For example, if you want a family that spends much time together on the weekends, you will probably look for a school that doesn’t demand as much time outside of school hours. 
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Top 4 Tips for Deciding on Our Children’s School 

We want to share our top 4 tips for choosing a school for your children. 

1. Talk about your goals for your family. 

First, it’s important for you and your spouse to get into a discussion about your goals for your family. Some couples we know go as far as to set a life vision for themselves individually and as a family. Tools like this can help you talk about your desires, hopes, and ambitions in more detail. 

Why is this crucial? Whatever you envision your family to be will impact what kind of school you choose for your kids. For example, if you want a family that spends much time together on the weekends, you will probably look for a school that doesn’t demand as much time outside of school hours. 

2. List down your priorities. 

After you set your overarching goal for your family, list down your priorities, preferably in order, from non-negotiable to negotiable. This can include things like your preferences in the school’s programs. Would you like a school with a strong academic program? A strong vocational stream? A robust co-curricular life? All these things can factor into your decision. 

Under this, you might also discuss whether you or your spouse have special reasons for wanting your children to attend your alma mater, and whether these reasons are negotiable or non-negotiable. 

3. Observe your child’s strengths and interests. 

Next, we recommend you to observe—and appreciate—your child’s natural strengths and talents. This can go a long way to determine whether he will thrive or not in a given school environment. That’s not to say that you just give in to whatever he “feels” like doing, because that’s also not always wise; parents are given the responsibility to make difficult decisions for our children. Instead, what we do is we take their individuality seriously, and understand that each child may be gifted differently from another. (This is especially important for families with several kids.) 

Their interests are also a good clue as to what kind of environment would work best for them. Again, take these alongside what you believe can be good for them. 

4. Lay down realistic expectations on your kids and on yourselves. 

Like I learned from my own kids, I needed to lay down realistic expectations on them. Just because I enjoyed excelling and collecting trophies when I was in school doesn’t mean that they also have to do that. (Hmm, of course, that hasn’t stopped me looking around our living room walls for nonexistent trophies!) 

On the other hand, you also need to make realistic expectations on yourself and your spouse. For example, it may not be realistic to choose five different schools for five different kids with you and your spouse chauffeuring them everywhere! Try to find a good balance. 

Lay a Good Foundation at Home 

Whatever school you decide on, remember this: the foundation for your child’s security, learning, and confidence starts at home. We encourage you to lay a good foundation, in terms of a healthy relationship with you as the parents and with their siblings, as well as in terms of a healthy self-worth. 

At the end of the day, they will spend so many more hours in school than in the home, but we hope you will be able to come together as a family and continue to get to know one another. That is what they will fall back on when things get tough, as they surely will! 

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