It’s the time of year when families of 4-year-olds focus on the next big step in their child’s schooling—Kindergarten and choosing a school!

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we are very fortunate to have lots of choices for both public and private schools. The bad news is that it is sometimes hard to figure out what all these choices might be and navigate the process of registering, entering lotteries, or applying to the schools that interest you for your child.

Choosing an elementary school is such an important choice for your child, and it is also like joining a club for your entire family to enjoy.

This is the longest period of time your child will spend in one school as most elementary schools encompass T-K or K — 5th grade, and some even go through 8th grade. It is also a period in your child’s development when she treasures your involvement and connection to what she is learning and who she is meeting.

This is an ideal time to participate in activities at school with your child as much as you can. You will most likely attend parent/teacher conferences, volunteer in the classroom, attend social activities, and reach out to meet and become friends with parents of your child’s friends. When you do this you are showing your child that his participation in school matters to everyone in the family. It is not just “his thing to do.” Your efforts to be aware of what is expected of students and what is going on at school will spark increased effort from your child. She will develop a “love of learning” and your family life will be enhanced by the sense of community you experience and the social connections you make that can last a lifetime.

When your child enters Middle School, he will be in a different developmental stage and become more influenced by his peers. He will not welcome your involvement in his life in the same way. However, if you have established yourself as parent who knows his friends and makes connections to his teachers at an earlier age, he will be more tolerant of your desire to know what is happening while also allowing him the space he needs to establish some independence. Instilling a value to love learning during elementary school and modeling an interest in her work makes it more likely for your child to stay on track and avoid losing her way.

As you are considering your options for elementary school, explore the opportunities for parent involvement that work for your schedule and think about what the parent community is like. I promise you will be happy you did!

Stephanie Agnew is the Assistant Director at Parents Place on the Peninsula. If you would like to learn more about choosing schools and how to help your child’s transition to Kindergarten or about Kindergarten Readiness, please book a consultation with Stephanie at 650-688-3046.