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Beyond the Brochure

By Christina Simon, Anne Simon and Porcha Dodson. A blog for parents who are applying to private elementary schools in Los Angeles. And, what life is really like at some of these schools.

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15 Of The Most Affordable Private Elementary Schools in L.A. and Pasadena

Piggy bank

Our post about tuition is one of the most popular on the blog. So, I thought a piece highlighting some of the most affordable private schools would be useful. I selected private elementary schools with tuition lower than $15K per year. There’s nothing magical about tuition under $15K except that less expensive schools can be hard to find. I also know families at most of these schools and I’ve great things about them all. Tuition is usually listed in the “admissions” section of school websites. Please note that tuition listed is for 2014-15 and does not include additional one-time fees, If you’re looking for a budget-conscious private elementary school, you should definitely check out these schools!

 

In alphabetical order:

 

1. Cathedral Chapel, Miracle Mile, $4,830/year (non-Catholic students) $4,200/year (Catholic students)

 

2. Ergemont School, Chatsworth. $13,209/year (Preschool & K)

 

3. Good Shepard Catholic School, Beverly Hills $8,100/year

 

4. High Point Academy, Pasadena, $12,650/year

 

5Laurel Hall, North Hollywood, $10,000/year

 

6Lycée International de Los Angeles (LILA), $14,900/year

 

7Notre Dame Academy, West L.A., $8,100/year

 

8St. Bede’s Catholic School, La Canada-Flintridge $6,000/year or $4,800/year for qualifying parishioners

 

9Saint Francis De Sales, Sherman Oaks $8,540/year or $7,000/year for qualifying parishioners

 

10. St. Paul’s, Westwood, $12,500/year of $8,300/year for qualifying parishioners

 

11. St. Phillip The Apostle, Pasadena. $9,970/year or $7,850 for qualifying parishioners

 

12. St. Timothy, Rancho Park, $8,700/year or $7000 /year for qualifying parishioners

 

13The Valley School, $9,300/year

 

14. Venice Lutheran, $7,450/year

 

15. Westside Lutheran School, Westchester, $9,570/year

 

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons by Tax Credit

 

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Admissions 101: How To Get Into Private School (online event for Tuesday 2/24/15) *updated

Admissions 101 KITH

2/24 Update: To see the 30-minute video, click HERE (or click on photo above)

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. We post a lot of stuff on Facebook that’s not on the blog!  Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!

 

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Finding A Private School With The Right Vibe in L.A. Parent Magazine

LA Parent Vibe 2015

I’m super-excited to be quoted in the latest issue of of L.A. Parent Magazine’s Education Guide!. Here’s the article (March 2015), Finding A Private School With The Right Vibe. I’ve written about my family’s experience in trying to find the right school previously. I can’t underscore enough how important the right “vibe” is for you and your kid!–Christina

Read the article on L.A. Parent.

 

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Guest Blogger Alice: The Letters Are Coming!

The Letters Are Coming L.A

It’s nearly March and there is nothing left to do but wait.  Private elementary school admissions letters all come out on the 13th and emails are sent on the 14th. For Pasadena, it’s March 6. At this point,  you’re not sure which sedative to take and you can’t be seen drinking before noon.  It’s time to develop other coping strategies.

 

My personal best strategy is to try and forget. This is not easy and takes a lifetime of forced forgetfulness to be really good at. I have a famously bad memory derived from years of purposely blocking unpleasant things out, but for those new to the concept, you can avoid some, not all, of the stress if you follow these three important tips:

 

  • Don’t talk about it with all the other parents you know who are applying to schools!
  • Stop looking at the application materials that state the date.  Knowing it’s vaguely in March is much more relaxing than knowing the exact day, trust me on this.
  • Don’t call the admissions director “just one last time”.

 

If it’s too late for you and the date is ingrained in your psyche then you have to engage in more rational behaviors. The most rational by far is to know your back up plan.  If you have a solid back up plan that you can actually live with, you are way ahead of the game.   So while you already likely have a first choice, second and third, you should also have the nuclear option.  You need to be able to answer the question:  What if my brilliant, perfect, deserving child gets in nowhere?  L.A. is insanely competitive and it has happened.

 

Also, if you know the school you want is right and you either didn’t get in, or were wait-listed, don’t make a series of panicked calls the day you get your letter Along the way I’ve been on a few wait-lists, my son at Buckley, a daughter at Harvard-Westlake… and being the one pestering the schools over the weekend won’t help your cause.  The schools purposely time things so your letter comes on a Friday and emails on a Saturday morning.  They do this so you –and they–have the weekend to calm down.  Wait until you are very calm and purposeful and it’s at least a Monday before you call.  Know what you want to say, write it down if need be. This will go a long way if your goal to keep good relations and reapply. 

 

Back up plans vary from family to family, from giving a young child more time in preschool to enrolling in public school, to moving out of town, or out of state.  There are families who really do choose to move when things go south.  If public school is NOT an option for whatever reason, and if you live in L.A. on purpose, it’s not a bad idea to know some of the other lesser-discussed private options.

 

There are church and temple schools that are less competitive and some take rolling applications.  There are Montessori’s that don’t require you know anyone of the Board of Directors or currently working in the White House.  That was our back up for kindergarten.  We had a very good Montessori that went through sixth grade that we could have lived with.  There are for-profit private schools that are small and not too swanky, but who will take great care of your child as you contemplate reapplying next year.

 

And that of course, is the final answer.  If you know you belong somewhere, you can reapply next year and if nothing else the school will value your commitment.  Also, use time between now and then to look honestly at your child, your family and the application you wrote and make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.  Are their some weaknesses that might be addressed?

 

If, for example, you did things on your application like drew pretty pictures, or used multiple color pens in order to stand out, next time – don’t do that.  (I know from a friend’s experience it doesn’t work).   Maybe your child does need to address some social or academic issues you thought weren’t important. Perhaps the school is like a country club and your family is the outsider. That’s a difficult hurdle to overcome, no matter how wonderful your kid is.

 

Also, if you know the school you want is right and you either didn’t get in, or were wait-listed, don’t make a series of panicked calls the day you get your letter.  The schools purposely time things so your letter comes on a Friday and emails on a Saturday morning.  They do this so you –and they–have the weekend to calm down.  Wait until you are very calm and purposeful and it’s at least a Monday before you call.  Know what you want to say, write it down if need be. This will go a long way if your goal to keep good relations and reapply.

 

In the end, hopefully you’ll be pouring the wine to celebrate rather than drown your sorrows, but know, as vital as this all feels right now, in the larger scheme of lives well lived, children becoming adults and prospering, it really just a tiny bump in the road. Perspective is everything.  Cheers.

 

Mother of three, Alice attended east coast private schools as a child and has been in the private school world as a parent for nearly twenty years.  Her kids attended Mirman for elementary, then Harvard-Westlake and Brentwood for high school, with one still to go.  She is a writer working in film, TV and for various magazines such as Family Fun, Wondertime, Glamour and Brides. 

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. We post a lot of stuff on Facebook that’s not on the blog!  Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!

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Quick Tips on Applying for Financial Aid by Sandy Eiges, LA School Scout

LA School ScoutHere’s an informative primer on what’s required to apply for private school financial aid by our good friend, Sandy Eiges of L.A. School Scout, an L.A. area educational consulting company. To see our interview with Sandy, click here. 

 

We’ve come to that part of the private school admissions cycle where everything is coming due at the same time – teacher recommendations, head of school recommendations, transcripts, and for those of you applying for financial aid, tax returns.
 
For those of you wondering whether you qualify for financial aid, wonder no longer. The answer is – maybe!

 

The truth is that every school has a different amount of financial aid available in any given year. Coupled with a different income ceiling per school, this makes it challenging to determine whether you qualify or not. Some schools focus on ethnic diversity in their financial aid calculations; some expand that to include socio-economic diversity as well. If a large school commits a sizeable percentage of their annual income to financial aid, then clearly they will have deeper pockets and will have more aid available than a smaller school might.

 

Applying for financial aid is a very challenging process. While I’ve covered this before, I’m reviewing the steps here. For some schools it’s not too late to submit a financial aid application. For all schools there is one part of the application due by February 1st – your tax returns.

 

Here are some guidelines you’ll need to know when applying for financial aid:

 

1. Have your economic house in some kind of order.
 Once you apply to a school they will ask if you are applying for financial aid. If you are, they will send you specific instructions. While the application isn’t due until February, and you can complete most of the application online, you will have to add supplemental materials. You will need copies of previous years’ tax returns – for some schools it’s one year, for others it’s two. The tax return for the current year will need to be completed and submitted in January, just to meet the deadline.

You will need to itemize every expense and all of your income. If you are divorced, both parents’ incomes are used in the calculation, whether or not both parents are contributing to tuition – or even on speaking terms!  
Be aware that many schools have two aid applications – one you access online, and one that belongs specifically to a particular school. You will need to complete them both.

 

2. Expect to pay some tuitionVery few schools offer full financial aid these days. The more typical scenario is that if you qualify, the school will offer up to 2/3 of the payment. That means that you should expect to pay at least a third of the tuition. At the average L.A. private elementary school, tuition ranges from $18,000 – $25,000 per year. For middle and high school, it can go as high as $35,000 – $40,000 per year. You do the math!

 

3. Financial Aid applications are online.There are two main sites that process financial aid applications – the National Association of Independent Schools School & Student Services application (NAIS/SSS): http://sssbynais.org. “We estimate the amount you can contribute to school expenses and forward that estimate to the schools where you’re applying. It’s one form, for one fee, for any number of siblings, for any number of schools.” and FAST (the schools you are applying to will forward the link to their application).
 
To repeat, once you enter your information they will estimate what they think you can afford. You will also be asked what you can afford. This isn’t the amount of aid you will necessarily receive, but it’s always a good idea to ask for what you need.

Whether you use the FAST form or the SSS form, you will only have to submit one set of materials to each, which will be used for all the schools you specify. Both sites make it easy to upload supplementary materials, such as tax returns. Unfortunately if some of your schools use one form and some the other, you will have to fill out two separate forms.

Just as with school applications, it might be easy to press “submit” – but don’t submit until you’ve checked and double-checked the accuracy of your answers, and especially of your numbers. And of course you should always keep a copy.

 

4. Watch the deadline! While you might be tempted to wait until your child is admitted to a school before submitting an application for financial aid, applications are due prior to admission. If you applied and got in, but only now realize that you really need financial aid, you can always ask – but it is highly unlikely that there will be any aid left. Aid normally goes first to faculty and staff for their children, then to current students at the school, and then to new acceptances. If you apply late, you risk losing any access to financial aid. 

For the most part complete financial aid applications, including current year tax returns, are due by February 1st. If you can get the application done early, then by all means take care of it. Then if all you need to do is upload one tax form on the due date, so much the better.

 

 

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Ex-Marlborough School Teacher Arrested for Felony Sex Assault on Former Student

 

Vanity Fair

The arrest this week of ex-Marlborough School teacher, Joseph Koetters, for felony sex assault of one of his former Marlborough students, adds a new twist to the already shocking allegations against the former teacher. According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2000 Koetters impregnated one of his students, a 16 year-old, who subsequently had a miscarriage. Vanity Fair’s article adds more details, including an interview with “Holly”, Koetter’s 16 year-old victim.  Koetters left the school in 2013 to work at Polytechnic in Pasadena (he’s no longer there). His arrest could not have come soon enough!

 

Here, Vanity Fair reports on the case. The Prep School And The Predator (March 2015)

Girls School’s Handling of Sex Allegations Under Fire After Teacher Arrest (LA Times)

Ex-Marlborough Teacher Arrested For Felony Sex Assault on Former Student (LA Times)

 

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. We post a lot of stuff on Facebook that’s not on the blog!  Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!

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Guest Blogger Alice: Getting Into Brentwood School for 9th Grade

Brentwood Upper School

I used to say that if everyone applying to private schools only met Keith Sarkisian, the then head of admissions at Brentwood (2008), no one would go anywhere else.  I must have been on to something because before I knew it, he was made head of Brentwood’s Lower School.  That says to me, that the school is moving in all the right directions. He was thoughtful, humorous, seemed to still value common sense and serious education.  So – another great school, how do you get in?

 

One of my daughters went to Brentwood and the other to Harvard-Westlake (H-W). Both went at 9th grade which is a trickier move going to Brentwood than H-W simply because of the numbers game.  Brentwood is taking between 15-20 kids in 9th grade and H-W is taking 70.  If you have a good student with good grades, excellent teacher recs and solid ISEE’s (I’d say scores of 6 and up), frankly they may have a better chance at H-W simply because of the numbers.  But if you know that Brentwood is the school you want to be at, it is still possible.

 

Probably the most important thing you need to communicate in the application process is that Brentwood is your first choice.  If they know you are also applying to H-W and Crossroads and sense that they are your “back up” choice, I doubt they’ll be that interested.  The year my oldest daughter applied, she was coming from Mirman School and no one in her class that year really wanted H-W.  A “mean girl” had left Mirman for H-W in 7th grade and it profoundly colored how the others felt when applying out in 9th grade.  It shouldn’t have theoretically, but it did.

 

Let me put this issue another way.  If you know Brentwood is a good choice for your family (think location, serious education, excellent sports and art programs, etc.) then seriously consider applying earlier.  I don’t know much about their lower school, but I’ve already indicated I think it’s in good, capable hands.  If your child doesn’t get in at kindergarten, but you’re confident it’s a match, try again, let the school know how much you want to be there and more importantly why.  They will listen.  (If on the other hand you’ve been rejected several years running, then accept they may never agree and move on).

 

If you’ve chosen a lower school that works for you and are now looking towards middle school or high school, you’ll have a much better chance applying for 7th than 9th grade.   In my opinion if you have a girl, going in at 7th grade will be an easier transition anyway.  A lot of the Brentwood girls have been together since kindergarten and teenage girls can be cliquey and difficult, so the sooner the better.  They accept about 70 kids into the 7th grade and that allows for lots of other new kids to bond with and gets the child there while there are still shifting groups and friendships.

 

But if you’ve waited until 9th grade, as I did… all is not lost.  But you have to come in strong.  That will mean different things to different families.  I’ve known kids who got in with weak scores and weak grades but were from spectacular donor families.  Money talks at every school and anyone who says otherwise isn’t speaking the truth.  That doesn’t mean money can buy a troubled kid, or a kid who is truly unqualified, a spot at any school, but it can give the edge to a qualified candidate.  For other applicants it’s sports.  Brentwood has a great tennis team, water polo and a variety of other sports, if you have an athlete, work it.  It can compensate for weaker ISEEs or grades.  My daughter was a drama kid and that is another area in which Brentwood excels.  She was also a strong writer.

 

I will say this, location matters a little more with Brentwood than it does with H-W for example.  For one thing, you can get trapped on Sunset Blvd. at certain times of day, which can cause aggravation.  Secondly, there are a lot of Westside familes that attend the school.  If you live out of area, a lot of your child’s social time will be spent in Brentwood and you have to think about whether that works for your family.  We live in the valley right off the short cut that takes you over the hill to Brentwood and the commute was easy and reverse from normal traffic.  So it was a match.

 

It also worked for our daughter.  She was a good student but not a hyper-ambitious one.  At 9th grade she didn’t know who she was yet, or where she was headed.  She was an “all arounder”.  She liked a lot of things including theatre and music, but wasn’t a musical prodigy or aspiring to be a movie star.  Because of Brentwood’s size it was a great place for her to find herself. She stumbled into the newspaper in 10th grade and discovered she loved it.  By her senior year she was editor-in-chief.  At a place like H-W if you don’t hit the ground running in 9th grade, it will be hard to find a place on the managing staff, much less make EIC by 12th grade.

 

But don’t let the smaller size fool you.  If you have an academic kid, you can get every bit as challenging a learning experience at Brentwood as you can at H-W. With the exception of certain math geniuses who really need to be at H-W, most bright kids will find everything they need at any of the top schools.  The AP English class my daughter took at Brentwood I’d stand next to any class at H-W in terms of rigor, excitement and college preparation.

 

There is one more thing to consider; because it is a westside school there is a lot of money there.  I love money, huge fan and always hope to have more of it.  Just bare in mind that because of the size of the school, you have a preponderance of families who can afford to live in that area and that ain’t cheap.  Your children will be exposed to beautiful homes which is fantastic, people who have done great things, and be given many opportunities – all good.  The only flip side to that is that a lot of kids go out for sushi for lunch and get new Audi’s when they turn 16.  Know who you are and what you have and what you think your kids should have.  If your family is going to feel deprived and left out and unhappy then find another place. We didn’t fit the mold, but my daughter never cared about that stuff and was thrilled with her 1999 Volvo.

 

(As an aside you have every bit as much extravagant wealth at H-W but because of the sheer size of the school you also have every other kind of family as well.)

 

To recap:  Brentwood is not a back up school to H-W and shouldn’t be treated as such.  Know why you like Brentwood and communicate it. This is especially true in 9th grade.  I’d add that I knew kids who picked the wrong school for them in 7th grade and switched. In fact, I know several examples of kids who transferred out of H-W to Brentwood and visa versa.  Finding your match is really the important thing.

 

ISEE scores do matter to Brentwood, although I don’t believe they weigh them quite as heavily as H-W.  Grades and teacher recs are critical in all applications, if you know Brentwood is your first choice let the teacher writing your recs know that as well.  Know what kinds of clubs and extra curricular activities etc. Brentwood offers and which ones your kid will want to be a part of.  Be mindful of when you apply and the numbers game, there is no point in wearing rose colored glasses. Because it’s a smaller and therefore more tight knit community, if you know people in it, tell them you’re applying and see if they can help you.  Having somebody walk into any admission and saying, “Hey I heard so so in so is applying and they’re terrific” will always help. This applies to any school.  And of course a great interview.  Brentwood has the time and resources to really do great interviews with the applicants and applicant parents. This is where your kid can really make or break his or her application.  And it also gives you a chance to say why you think Brentwood is a fit for your child.

 

Mother of three, Alice attended east coast private schools as a child and has been in the private school world as a parent for nearly twenty years.  Her kids attended Mirman for elementary, then Harvard-Westlake and Brentwood for high school, with one still to go.  She is a writer working in film, TV and for various magazines such as Family Fun, Wondertime, Glamour and Brides. 

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. We post a lot of stuff on Facebook that’s not on the blog!  Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!

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Who’s Nervous? Your Child’s Private School Kindergarten Testing Day

Testing Day

A version of this piece was originally published on Elizabeth Street on January 27, 2014

 

It was early and I was nervous. With my daughter in the car, we drove to the 8 a.m. “visiting day,” one of the requirements of the private school kindergarten admissions process. The school, Oakwood, was more than 30 minutes from our house, traffic was bad and I mistakenly went to the high school rather than the elementary school. Frazzled and arriving with a minute to spare, I arrived at the correct location, a progressive school on a rustic campus.

 

After a brief time in the school library with our kids, parents were asked to go into a conference room for a meet and greet with the Oakwood head of school. At the same time, our kids were taken into classrooms with teachers for various for visiting day. This was the aspect of the admissions process that filled me with anxiety, since a lot depends on how your 4-5 year-old is feeling the day of the visit and how he/she acts when you arrive at the school. As soon as we got there, my usually shy daughter turned on her biggest, most charming personality (one I had only seen at home). Feeling very comfortable in the library, she pulled some books off the shelf and began reading in a loud voice. The admissions director turned to look at her, clearly impressed. Now that she had an audience (the best possible audience, I might add), my daughter continued reading other parents and kids turned to watch.

 

Relieved, I went with other parents into the conference room for what turned out to be a chance to ask questions of the head of school. This, you should note, is a time to ask smart, well-formulated questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the school. It’s also a good time to find something nice to say about the place you want to accept your kid. The room was filled with parents who already had older kids at the school, so they were confident about the process and even joked about their chances of getting in. There were also parents there applying for the second time, after being wait-listed the previous year. The competition for spots Oakwood is no joke, I learned. After about an hour, my daughter emerged from the classroom bursting with enthusiasm. We thanked the staff and left. I didn’t have to ask my kid if it has gone well. I knew. She’d nailed it. The look on her face told me everything. In March, we received our acceptance letter from the school.

 

Beyond The Brochure co-author, Porcha Dodson, has administered numerous testing days at Curtis and St. James schools in Los Angeles. Her advice to parents is from the perspective of the teacher/administrator. Here are Porcha’s tips:

 

• Many private schools use the terms “visiting day,” “testing day” or “play date”. This is the opportunity for the school to observe your child in a mock kindergarten setting with other applicant kids.

• Telling your child the day will be like a fun play date or a visit to kindergarten with teachers and other kids can help them understand what to expect.

• Some schools prefer to visit applicant kids at their preschools and observe them in a setting familiar to the kids. The preschool director will let parents know ahead of time to make sure the child is at school that day.

• Don’t over dress your child! They should wear comfortable clothing that they can move around in. A suit and tie is too formal.

• Some families hire tutors to prepare their kids for written tests, but this isn’t required by schools. Helping your child learn to recognize basic letters, shapes and colors can help ease anxiety.

• If your child is having a bad day when you arrive at the school, try to gently encourage him/her to separate from you and participate in the activity. If he/she refuses, politely ask the teacher to help. If that doesn’t work, as a last resort, ask to come back another day. This happens occasionally and schools expect kids to have bad days.

 

Visiting/Testing Day usually includes some or all of the following activities:

 

o Circle Time/Story Time. Listening to a story read by a teacher and answering questions about the story. Schools are not expecting kindergarten applicants to read, but many kids are early readers. Many schools also give kids a snack.

 

o Written Tests. Written tests can include questions about shapes, colors, letters, lower case and upper case letter and fill in the blank (see sample test questions in our book). Schools will be looking to see if kids can answer the questions, as well as use fine motor skills to hold a pencil to write their name or ABCs.

 

o Play time. Outdoor play time on the school yard. These activities can include playing games, unstructured play with other kids and activities designed to give kids a chance to use gross motor skills to climb, run and play. Schools will watch to see which kids actively play and who takes more time to participate, who shares the ball or play space and who can follow directions. Schools are interested in which kids demonstrate readiness for kindergarten and those kids they believe will be a good fit for their school’s educational philosophy. In order to determine a child’s readiness for kindergarten, schools want to observe a child’s motor skills, language skills and a range of other developmental indicators. For example, the school will be looking to see whether kids raise their hands to answer questions when asked, if they can sit still, if they demonstrate patience by listening to the teacher, whether they will allow other kids a chance to talk and whether or not they can follow basic instructions.

 

Remember, this day is only one aspect of a multi-faceted admissions process. The amount of emphasis placed on visiting day varies by school.

 

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8 Steps To Getting Your Kid Into Private Elementary School on mom.me

Momme

 

Applying to private elementary school is like trying to set up an arranged marriage, one Los Angeles preschool director told me.

 

She’s so right.

 

The entire process is an awkward series of applications, interviews and events, all attempts to find out if you’re the right match for each other. But to even get to that point, you’ll need to know what steps in the admissions process are required. Only after that will you know whether you have found a perfect match.

 

As a mom of two kids, 11 and 14, I’ve been through the kindergarten and middle school admissions process twice for each kid. Here are the eight steps you need to take when applying to private elementary schools:

 

To read the entire post, click on mom.me 

 

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