How to Choose the Right Kindergarten

As spring approaches, parents of more than 530,000 California children entering kindergarten this fall are embarking on a journey to find the right school.

For parents looking for guidance in their searches, Sherry Adams, co-founder of Stratford School, based in California with more than 6,000 students at 23 campuses, offers some helpful tips.

“Parents are seeking a learning environment that embraces the genius of childhood while providing academic excellence,” Ms. Adams said. “They want a balanced curriculum where the basics of reading, writing, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are combined with fine arts, foreign language and physical education. Children are all beautifully unique and school philosophies are just as diverse. That means the best solution can be different for every child and family.”

In looking for the best place for your child, Ms. Adams recommends parents focus on their children’s needs, the school, its teachers and culture.

Know your child’s temperament
Studies have shown that kindergarten readiness is closely related to temperament.
● What engages your child’s interest? What are they passionate about? What makes them unique?
● Does the school understand child temperament? Does it offer a curriculum that supports your child’s interests and needs? Does the faculty see children as unique individuals and, if so, what do they do to support this?

The role of culture
When choosing a school for their children, experts say parents look for a culture of curiosity, openness, possibilities and strong leadership. Culture is crucial, according to Roland Barth, founder of the Principal’s Center at Harvard University. Barth said school culture “has more influence on life and learning in the schoolhouse than the president of the country, the state department of education, the superintendent, the school board or even the principal, teachers and parents can ever have.”

Ms. Adams said that upholding culture involves everyone, every day. That means maintaining respect, excellence, collaboration, care and connection.

“I can speak from our experience at Stratford School,” Ms. Adams said. “By empowering extraordinary teachers with a rigorous, balanced curriculum, combined with a dose of compassion and care, we expand a child’s natural curiosity to master what they don’t understand and explore whatever fascinates them.”

She recommends that prospective parents ask tough questions, talk to friends and coworkers, and spend time at each potential school before making a decision.

Explore options and learn the school’s philosophy
● Does everyone in the school share the same philosophy and communicate it clearly?
● Beginning in kindergarten, how does each grade level prepare your child for the next step?
● What do they say about the academic and social culture of the school environment?
● What can you learn about the leadership of the school, and what role do students play in the school’s success?

Tour the schools
● Does the school allow children to attend the tour? If the opportunity arises, bring them.
● Does your child feel welcomed or invited to participate? Even if your child is shy and declines at first, the point is he or she was asked and that can make all the difference.
● Can you see your child happy in this environment?

“Once you’ve done your ‘schoolwork,’ weigh your options,” said Ms. Adams. “Trust your judgment and the perspective of your child. When you decide, there is a world of exploration and discovery ahead. Enjoy the journey.”

Learn more about Stratford School and schedule a tour at



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