Parent interview on choosing a private school: Felix Wong

Felix Wong shares insights about choosing schools for his children

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Felix Wong has two children. He was looking for a combination of a daycare and a private school for his first child.

We asked him several questions about this process. We covered topics such as his goals, research methods used, challenges faced, and plans for the future. Here’s what he had to say.

If you’re interested, read the rest of our parent interviews on choosing a school. You can also read our comprehensive education expert advice guides on choosing a school and getting into a school.

Q: What were you looking to get in a private school? What were your priorities?

  1. We were looking for a combination of a daycare and a private school.
  2. We knew we were looking for a faith-based, Catholic school that might provide more religious instruction than the public system.
  3. We were looking for a cultural fit in line with our religious values, but wanted a daycare/school that promoted respectful behaviour. That was more important than academics to us.

Q: Do you know when you “began” your search? How did you begin?
A: My wife was finishing her maternity leave with our second child. We had parental assistance to look after our baby, but we knew we would need to find a daycare for our daughter who was three at the time. We decided to look at private schools offering daycare because the cost would be about the same, and we had a pretty good idea that we wanted a private school after she was finished with the daycare. The tuition cost for the school we eventually chose was quite reasonable.

I grew up educated in a Catholic school (separate school board), and I did not think they did a very good job of teaching the faith. We heard about the school through a friend at our church who sent their son there. When my wife visited the school she was just very impressed at how well the kids behaved and how well-mannered they were. The teacher said “we have a visitor,” and all the kids stood up and said “hi.”  

My wife was on maternity leave and she took about a month to visit all of the daycares/schools. We were leaning towards this school because our friend had highly recommended it, but she thought, well, we’ve got the time, so we might as well look around at other options. She looked at some daycares and Montessori schools; some of them were better than others, but most of the time they were fairly typical with lots of kids running around. We did look at the public system as well; the Catholic school near our house had a daycare and it was actually quite good. Her visits confirmed what we had expected all along.

She spent maybe three or four days visiting different schools. I would come home after work and we would talk about where she had been. Generally, it was a very easy process for us. We were sure we wanted to send her to the school that had been recommended to us.

One thing she looked for was, “when you first walk into the school, how organized is it?” She thought that told her a lot about what the school might be like. We wanted an organized environment where the teachers and students paid attention to detail. The general behaviour of the kids would reflect on the school.

There was no waitlist and they were pretty open to accepting new students. We let them know that we wanted to attend the private school. We did not have to take any tests; there is no entrance exam even now. The school is K-8; there are about 70 kids; usually one teacher for every 15 students. The ratio was not that important to us.

We have recommended the school to other parents but it’s really hard to beat the free public system. One other family from our church is there. Generally speaking, we don’t know very many families with kids in private school.

Q: Was there a moment when you knew, or was it gradual?
A: We pretty much knew—about 70 percent—that we would go there.

Q: What were your sources of information when doing your search?
A: Friends from church, and simply knowing daycares and schools in the area.

Q: Did you have to interview for acceptance?
A: Not a formal interview, we knew that they were taking students at the time.

Q: Did you have to take tests?
A: No entrance exam.

Q: Any tips for families?
A: We have recommended the school to our friends, but it’s pretty hard to compete against the free public system.

Q: What did you find most difficult about the school-choice process?
A: It was an easy process for us; nothing stands out.

Q: What did you learn about schools and choosing schools from the start to the end of your search process?
A: Find a school that aligns with your values.                                                                

Q: Who was involved in the decision-making process?
A: My wife and I; our daughter was too young to really have a say in the matter.

Q: Do you have any advice for other parents about to visit schools?
A: Find people you know whose values you share. Ask them what their experience is. 
Q: How many combined hours did you work on this (estimate)?
A: On and off for three to four weeks. 

Child-specific advice on school choice
For child-specific insights on choosing a school, read our guide. We explore how school choices crucially depend on kids' unique traits, such as their mental and academic focussocial tendenciesactivity level, academic interests (such as art and STEM), and other attributes (such as giftednessspecial needslearning disabilities, and social issues).

To get school-choice advice customized to your child's unique traits, create a child profile through your user account and read our seven ways to choose a school based on your child's needs (i.e., overall fitmore academic challengesocial strugglesacademic strugglesintensive learning interestsuniversity preparation, and special needs.).

Read the rest of our parent interviews on choosing a school: Catherine MauleJennifer ReynoldsLisa McCabeKarim and ShafreenCaitlin O’LearyCatherine WangHolly WykesNicole MorellShantiKim BridgemanZoe MitchellSabine KussmanShemin Jaffer                                           

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