Choosing the right school or educational environment for your child could be one of the most difficult decisions that you and your spouse will make.

But let us take some pressure off as it relates to school choice: Where your child goes to school or in what format he learns is not a one-and-done choice. You can always change your mind.

What do you do when you and your spouse struggle to come to an agreement on the best educational environment for your child? We have 5 tips for you.

  1. Just as our kids let go of various toys and friends as they age, you as a parent may need to let go of certain expectations or ideals you had when they were young.

school choice

As parents, it’s easy to think of our children as they were at a certain age. Maybe you look at your daughter and remember the daddy-daughter dates when she was younger. Or perhaps you still see your 3-year-old playing in the dirt. and can’t imagine it’s already time for him to start school.

When our children grow, we have to grow too — and sometimes, that means letting go of an idea we had about the school environment that is best for them. So if you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement about the BEST fit, we have some good news. Recognizing together as parents what season your child is in can put you both on the same playing field.

2. Start the conversation with your child’s stage of life — not his or her stage of learning.

If you Google “how to choose the right school” or “school choice,” you will find plenty of articles with seasoned advice about proximity to your home, school pedagogy (a fancy word that means how a school approaches teaching and learning), and school types. But if you and your spouse ignore all of that first, you can start with something more important: your child and what he/she needs now that he/she might not have needed before.

You can ask questions together:

  • What is our child interested in right now?
  • What are her friendship circles like?
  • Is she enjoying the learning process, or does she loathe it?
  • Is he struggling to process what goes on around him with ease?
  • Can he cope with life as-is, or would a change in pace or scope overall in his life be helpful to him?
  • How do his needs — emotionally, spiritually, and educationally — impact the rest of our family?

3. Try to make a priority list about what your child needs most right now — together. These needs, ideally, would be based on pain points you see in your child’s life, no matter what his/her age and no matter what his/her educational system is right now. If you can limit your pain-point-based priority list to two or three things, that will help you as you begin to explore various options for education.

Your options may be based mostly on emotional needs, learning needs, or social needs. Or it may be that there’s a mix of all three. Make this exercise work for your child. If you have more than one, it could be different for each one. Think about each individual child…in large groups, in how he handles conflict, or in her propensity to aim for perfection and be disappointed when she can’t be excellent at everything. Is she more apt to make a deep friendship with one or two, or does she need tons of friends even if it means they may not all be very close friends?

Keep in mind that choosing the best fit for your child is about more than just academics.

The bottom line here is to really write out the priorities as they relate to your child’s pain points.

4. Take your priority list for each child and line it up with your overall family priorities.

Now is the appropriate time — whether you have a rising kindergarten student, a rising eighth-grader, or somewhere in between — to discuss with your spouse what your mutually-agreed-upon desires are for your family.

Questions you may consider are:

  • Do we want to prioritize seeing other parts of the country and/or the world together?
  • Is one of our children so passionate and excelling so much in one specific thing that he/she needs more flexibility in the family schedule, and so all the family members will need to adjust?
  • Do you as parents want to have a larger voice in how your children learn, what they spend their free time doing, and/or the kind of character they develop as they grow?
  • Are faith and personal responsibility (not relying on Mom and Dad for everything) something you want for your children?
  • Do you want more time to spend with them in everyday situations, so you can teach them non-academic skills such as cooking, carpentry, car maintenance, situational awareness or self-defense?

As you and your spouse discuss what really matters most to you, take the overall family priorities and see where they line up with each individual child’s needs. This can really help put things in perspective to bring you and your spouse back on the same page.

5. Talk through what you and your spouse need.

Now that you can clearly visualize your family priorities and each child’s needs, it’s time to look at your own needs. Believe it or not, even though the education of your children is important, it is not THE most important thing. Your relationship is.

So if one of you really needs to stay in his or her career (or just wants to), look at how that impacts your priorities together and as a family. Be sure to really listen first to what the other spouse needs here. Rushing this process or making assumptions based on what he/she needed when you got married can short-circuit the process.

When you’ve both been able to share what you really need most from this season of life, that’s when you can start to make a more informed decision that will work for the two of you — first and foremost — and for your children. No educational format is worth marital strife, so it’s an important consideration:

What fits your season of life right now?

And guess what? You can always change your mind or move your child to a better fit if the circumstances and needs of you, your spouse, your family, and your children change.

Once you are ready to explore your options, we have a free guide that can help you find the “just right” fit for each child. It’s called “Time to Make a Change?”