Surviving the first year
Tips that private school parents need to know
Once the ink has dried on the last admissions form, you breathe a sigh of relief. Then you panic. You realize you have been so preoccupied with admissions, you forgot about what comes next!
Uniforms and books
A select group of schools sell mandatory clothing at their on-site store, and some include textbooks in their annual fees.
Many schools direct parents to uniform providers for clothes and to online stores for books. Or they’ll give you an order form and a deadline. Regardless, none of it is cheap.
The saving grace in the book and uniform saga is the option of getting both second-hand. Previously owned sales organized by school parents often take place at the school before the year begins.
After-school sessions have become a meaningful and beneficial part of programming at many institutions, and often you can use the service on an ad hoc basis.
Rather than just sitting and watching as kids complete their work, teachers and supervisors are there to provide support and assistance with homework.
There are also frequent outings and organized group activities. You may show up at 6 p.m. to find that your child doesn’t want to leave!
The circle of parents
With few exceptions, every private school has a parents’ association, of which you’re automatically a member.
It is up to you to determine your level of involvement, but you shouldn’t shy away. Associations participate in school life by volunteering at co-curricular and extracurricular activities as well as by organizing a variety of community and fundraising events, ranging from teacher appreciation lunches to formal evenings.
The parents’ association is one of the most important aspects of a private school community and is a great way to get involved without being in your child’s face.
It will come as a relief to many parents to hear that the highest pressure element in private schools is scholastic competition.
That said, the heavy expectations and numerous opportunities to excel can take their toll, and in many cases, parents contribute to the problem by stressing scholastic achievement above all else.
A parent’s expectations for his or her child can be very high. Sometimes it can be a problem if the child does not have such a strong academic record.
Luckily, other social pressures of private school are not what they used to be. Although it may have been common 20 years ago for kids to judge one another based on parental income or demographic, cultural changes in the GTA are making those judgments seem woefully outdated.
Simply being more aware of your children’s strengths and weaknesses can go a long way toward lessening the pressure they may already be feeling from their peers.
No matter which school you’ve selected, being part of the prep school world takes some getting used to. Having realistic expectations of your child and keeping an open line of communication between yourself and the school will lead to a successful first year.
Before long, you may even find yourself coaching new parents through their first year jitters.
Consider yourself in the club.
Parents can be as stressed out as students when it comes to starting the first year at a private school