Choosing a New School for Your Child

I’m a kindergarten teacher and early childhood coordinator at the American School in Puerto Vallarta, and I love this time of year.

As a kindergarten teacher, I’m watching my five-year-old students turn six, which means they are starting to do all kinds of amazing things. 

For example, some of them are starting to read and write more conventionally. Instead of writing as though they are mashing down keys on a laptop (EOWIRH#$% to represent “I love you, Miss Leza”), they are now writing things that, while only a kindergarten teacher could read them, relate to the sounds of the real letters (ILYMLZZZZ). 

As another example, some students are starting to consider other people’s desires, not simply grabbing the bike they want while ignoring the protests of the current rider. Or even offering their bicycle to a child who hasn’t yet had a turn. It seems less than thrilling to the layperson, but it’s a sort of nirvana to an early childhood educator. 

The other thing about this time of year is that we start getting prospective families to visit the school, checking to see if this is the right place for their little human being. The parents always look a little nervous and a lot hopeful. The nerves are often based on the fact that two-and-a-half-year-olds are a) unpredictable and b) unconcerned about the impression they leave. A tricky combination, to be sure.

I understand the hopefulness, too. You want to find that place where your child will learn and thrive. You also want a place where you feel at home and find a community because your child’s school will be where you spend a LOT of time in the next twelve to fourteen years (or forever, depending on how many kids you have). 

As someone who has seen hundreds of families enter our school’s doors and into a new educational experience, I have a few tips for families looking for a school that will check all the boxes. Here are a few general steps to follow when you begin that all-important search:

  1. Dream big – What matters most to you? Is there a particular type of school (project-based learning, strong academics, bilingual education, play-based in the early years, etc.) that you believe is right for your children? 
  2. Consider your core values – what kind of school will support the non-negotiables? 
  3. Come back down to earth – Now it’s time to get practical. Are you ok with a big commute? Can you afford private education? If so, what is your budget? Do you need a school that offers after-school care? Do you need learning support for your child?
  4. Time to investigate – Check out some school websites. Attend open houses and public school events. Talk to people you know whose kids are at the school. Ask ALL the questions that you won’t find the answers to on the website – what is school culture like? Are the other families supportive? Does the admin get to know the families?
  5. Go with your heart – You know your child, and now you’ve met the school you think will be their home away from home. Trust your heart and step out in faith. You’ve got this!


  • Leza Warkentin

    I have been living and teaching in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, since the turn of the century. I am a Canadian with a musician-Mexican husband and two Mexican-Canadian patas saladas who are growing up way too fast.

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