Guest Blogger Lorena: Applying To Kindergarten- You Gotta Love It (one year later)

This fall feels so relaxing compared to last fall when I was a basket case trying to find the best school for my son who started kindergarten this year. And I’m not joking around….that experience will be one I’ll never forget. Looking back now I can honestly say that I enjoyed it. Believe it or not I take pleasure in researching, writing letters, interviewing, writing thank you notes and even worrying. My mother gave me the gift of the last trait. 

Seriously, I could not have managed without the book “Beyond the Brochure.” I remember exactly when I heard about the book. It was a Saturday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. and the only store where I could find it was Chevalier’s Bookstore in Larchmont Village. Of course, I could have ordered it on Amazon, but I was not about to wait 5 days to get it! Nope! I had to rush from the valley to this bookstore in Hancock Park before they closed at 6 p.m. I came right home, read it all in one sitting and felt this incredible excitement. Now, I had the inside scoop. I knew I could do this. 
I followed the book to a tee and used every one of the authors’ suggestions. I toured about 7 schools, submitted applications to our top choices, got my son’s teachers to send evaluations, secured letters of recommendation, interviewed at our top 3 schools, prepared my son for his assessments (which meant actually not preparing him), sent thank you notes, and finally, sent one last letter to our top choice before the acceptance letters came out. Now I was done and the hardest part began.  I had to sit back and wait for the letters to arrive in the mailbox.
My son was accepted to 2 out of the 3 schools to which we applied.
It really is not as simple as it sounds in my story. On top of all the things I previously mentioned, you need to be honest, show your true personality in both your writing and in person, be prepared to share how your family is special and….. pray. Knowing the inside scoop that the authors of “Beyond the Brochure” tell you will not only put you on the right track, but will also giveg you the confidence to get it done.Good luck to all you lovely moms out there who are so committed to your children. They are lucky to have you. Enjoy the ride.
Lorena is a working actor who has appeared on 2 dozen commercials and various network shows. She has a kindergartner at Laurel Hall School and a 2 year-old at Laurel Hall ECC. 

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Guest Blogger Jenny: Rebuttal To NYT "Redshirting" Op-Ed-Part 1

To Redshirt Or Not? The Debate Continues…
On Sunday, The New York Times published an op ed piece entitled, “Delay Kindergarten at Your Child’s Peril.” The subject of this rather alarmist headline was redshirting, the practice of delaying a child’s entrance into kindergarten for a year.
Redshirting has been discussed on this blog in the past, with Christina weighing in on how she redshirted her daughter, whom she felt would benefit socially from the delay (proven correct), but didn’t redshirt her son, who’s consistently one of the youngest kids in his grade, but is doing great.  Redshirting, though, has a much more sweeping reputation, as a practice done to ensure a “leg up” on the competition; the assumption is that delaying kindergarten, especially for boys, gives them an academic and social advantage.

Of course, an advantage is only an advantage when you’re the only beneficiary. When the so-called “advantages” of redshirting hit the mainstream, upper middle class parents took to it with a vengeance. The result was kindergarten classrooms stuffed full of boys the size of 40 year olds. The redshirting “advantage” thus became a level playing field, albeit one with bigger players. Estimates of redshirting vary between 10 and 20 percent of kindergartners, depending on the source. That’s sizable.

Now, of course, the backlash has begun regarding redshirting. The authors of the aforementioned op ed piece are two academics, Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt, who, it so happens, have recently co-authored a book. The subject: “Welcome to Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Grows From Conception to College.”  Congratulations to them on their hard work, since publishing is one tough, competitive business. And what better way to gain traction on their book sales than with an inflammatory op ed piece about a now commonplace educational practice?

Call me a cynic, but I suspect that Wang and Aamodt wrote this piece because they couldn’t afford a 1/3 page ad in The New York Times celebrating their book. The headline alone is enough to send any parent who redshirted her child, for whatever reason, into fits of worry and anxiety.

Yet, when I read their piece, and looked at the so-called evidence for this inflammatory headline, it didn’t really hold up.  The one study cited in the piece was a large scale one (that means a large sample, which adds to credibility) held at 26 elementary schools. Sounds good so far. But, the schools were in … Canada. Now, I know next to nothing about the Canadian school system and teaching methods, not to mention all the other social differences between our population and the Canadian one that was studied here.  What I do know is that, without discussing these things, it’s difficult to compare the two school populations. The authors even made the pronouncement that, because the youngest fifth-graders in the study tested five points higher in IQ than fourth graders of the same age, that school makes children smarter. Without knowing the measurement methods for said IQ, or the class and affluence backgrounds of the kids, or the sample size, this is a ridiculous statement.

In the end, there’s plenty of things that can influence your child’s IQ. Apparently, breastfeeding increases it (or lack of breastfeeding lowers it. Whatever). First born children tend to have higher IQs than younger siblings, by a whopping (sense the sarcasm here) three points. But that doesn’t mean that your kid will be an idiot because you didn’t breastfeed (remember: there was a whole generation that was formula fed, and many of them turned out all right), or that you should only have one child because the rest will be “inferior.” That would be ridiculous, right?

Just like it’s ridiculous to make sweeping generalizations about kids and redshirting. While there might not actually be a “success advantage” in redshirting, as was previously thought, it might benefit your child in other ways. You’re the only one who can look at your child and decide what fits them best. Maybe being the oldest in a class would help them socially. Conversely, perhaps being the youngest in the class fits their competitive side.  Just use your instincts and decide. Because, whatever you do, depending upon the frantic advice of “experts” shilling books probably isn’t going to help your child, although it will definitely help the authors’ bottom line.

Coming Soon- Part Two : Jenny discusses how her daughter was redshirted (sort of) upon her move from 3rd St. Elementary to Mirman School. 

Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad

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What If You Don’t LOVE The Schools You’ve Toured So Far?

I’ve talked to a few moms recently who’ve said they haven’t seen any schools they’ve really loved. They like them, but don’t really understand what the big deal is. That said, they’re applying to these schools that they don’t really love. So far, they haven’t had that “ah-ha” moment.

I must have looked surprised during these conversations because when I toured schools I had trouble narrowing down the list. It seemed like each school I looked at was more amazing then the next. But, geography limited our choices.

If you haven’t seen any private elementary schools you’ve fallen in love with, keep looking! More likely than not, you’ll find a school or two that will find you making a mental note, “must get our kid into this school” category.  If that doesn’t happen, tour more schools. Expand your options. Then, if you still don’t find at least one or two schools you absolutely must get your kid into, tour your local public school to see if it would be a good fit for your family. Private schools are expensive, especially if you think they’re just ok. And, try to find something about each school you are enthusiastic about before your parent interview. A lack of interest in the school will definitely be obvious to the admissions directors.

Tour, tour, tour. Tour some more! You gotta love it!

Take A Look! Dazzling New Outdoor Spaces At Wildwood Elementary School

Update: Emma Katznelson is now the admissions director at Wildwood. See our profile of her HERE.

I was honored to be invited to Wildwood Elementary School for a tour of their new outdoor learning and play spaces on Friday. Ever since my step-mom and co-author, Anne Simon, served as head of Wildwood’s Elementary School, I’ve had a special place in my heart for the school.

Landis Green, the head of school, is a friendly, experienced and truly inspiring educator. Sitting in his office on a sunny afternoon, I chatted with him about a range of subjects, from kindergarten admissions to teacher hiring and standardized test preparation, I got the sense that he truly loves his job. Afterwards, Katie Rios (head of the elementary school), Jennifer Rowland (communications director) and Chantelle Pierre (admissions director) were gracious enough to show me the new outdoor spaces, which were completed just in time for the start of the new school year. 

Designed to inspire children’s imaginations and connect them to nature in a space that allows for creative play of all types. The transformation is incredible!

Wildwood Elementary School’s new outdoor play space: Big Yard Woods

Pretty green trees, shade, water and native California plants define Wildwood Elementary’s lush new play and learning spaces, designed by world-class garden designer Nancy Goslee Power. Removing a large, 11 year-old play structure from Wildwood’s ”Big Yard” (but leaving the main athletic field for P.E.), and adding ground cover made of ProDeck, a soft-synthetic mulch with 70 percent recycled tires, Nancy and a team of school administrators and teachers created a magical new play experience that mimics the natural world.

The Arroyo: A dry creek bed and a bridge for kids to sit on
The Arroyo: kids create dams and water-oriented projects
Play spaces that spark children’s imaginations
A hand pump allows water to flow through creek-like stream bed
A bright red wooden play structure
My particular favorite: a stunning shaded archway covered in willows and grapes

The Outdoor Classroom

The outdoor classroom is complete with a white board installed on a topiary

The curriculum of the outdoor spaces includes:

  • All students will have an opportunity to work in the gardens.
  • Grades 2-5 will have their own garden bed in the outdoor classroom to learn about tending, nurturing, and composting.
    • 2nd grade will create a wildlife garden to attract butterflies and other critters.
    • 3rd grade will grow edible gardens using seasonal, native vegetables
    • 4th grade will create a garden based on plants introduced by European settlers
I watched a teacher holding class outside

Nestled on an urban campus, Wildwood Elementary School’s spectacular new outdoor spaces combine eco-friendly beauty and learning. What could be better than that?
For more information, visit,

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Guest Blogger Samantha: What I Wish I’d Been Told During Admissions Process

Feathers Are Easily Ruffled During Admissions Process

A little advice, from the trenches…

Try to keep your thoughts and plans to yourself during school application time.
I know you think it would be great if we could all go through this private school application process together; if we could embrace the “Sisterhood” we share as women and as Moms.  You think to yourself, “Hey, there’s enough of the “pie” for everyone, right? I’m not in competition with so-and-so…”
In a perfect world you’d be right.  It’s a nice world to want to live in.  I know.  I want it too.  It’s all animated birds, all the time.  Or, it can be, can’t it?
Remember this, people generally get weird when it comes to two subjects: money and their kids.  Not ALL people, but most of them, or at least enough of them so that you’d better watch yourself. 
It can be a minefield out there.
Now, I don’t want to be a downer, and I certainly don’t want to make you paranoid.  The whole applying to school process is stressful enough already!  But I do want to give you some wisdom – you’ll avoid less drama and hurt feelings if you minimize your discussions and involvement with other people regarding where you are applying to school, where they are applying to school, and where you both hope to get in.
In this game: No news is good news.  Ignorance is bliss.  Good fences make good neighbors.
During the stress of the application process, there is a lot less opportunity for feathers to be ruffled and general unpleasantness to permeate relationships if you play it a little close to the vest.
Now, some folks may think I’m wrong.  If you had a good experience with your friends and/or acquaintances applying to school, well then, hat’s off to ya!  Fantastic!
But, it’s been my experience that during application time, everyone gets into their own zone hoping for the best for their own kiddo, and during that process people might not be as thoughtful as they normally would be, or they might get a little socially clumsy, or sometimes, they might get even downright mean.  I’m just saying, it’s a possibility, so be prepared and try to dodge all that you can. 
It’s disappointing, I know, but I’d be doing you a disservice if I told you that the Blue Bird on my shoulder was real.

Samantha Goodman is the mom of a First Grader at Wildwood School and a preschooler at 10th St. Preschool in Santa Monica. Samantha’s son also attended 10th St. Preschool. Before her current parenting hiatus she was a screenwriter in Hollywood.
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L.A. Association of Independent Schools-Kindergarten Fair 9/20

Hi Everyone,

The Los Angeles Association of Independent Schools Fall Kindergarten Fair

will feature admissions directors and representatives from about 50 LA private (independent) schools. 

Here’s the link:

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Guest Blogger Janis: Straight Talk From Admissions Directors At Some Of LA’s Top Private Elementary Schools

“Every kindergarten applicant is adorable,” I heard over and over as I interviewed over a dozen admission directors from the top Los Angeles private elementary schools.
“But what are they looking for?” I heard over and over as I spoke to nearly as many kindergarten applicant parents.
The answers, as you might have guessed, are simple…and complicated.
We all know there are only so many seats in each class.  And most schools allot priority spaces for siblings, alumni, and children of faculty. However, even the most selective schools must fill at least half of the class with families not previously affiliated with their school.  Families who are diverse, interesting, committed, and nice. Families who hold the same values and philosophies that the school does.
Here’s a roundup of advice for applicant parents from admissions directors from some of the best private elementary schools in LA (in alphabetical order by school name):
“At Brawerman we take in an entire family, not just the child.  We seek families who are eager to join a school community. We have a very involved parent body. Jewish values also play an important role.  We encourage families who embrace the teaching of Jewish and human values as much as the academic content.” Gillian Feldman, Director of Admissions, Brawerman Elementary School of Wilshire Blvd. Temple
“Brentwood School is eager to embrace new families. This year’s class came from 33 different preschools and we even had one child who never attended preschool.”  Mary Beth Barry, Director of Admissions, Brentwood School
“We look for families who believe in our 4-Fold Plan of Education.  Our curriculum places equal emphasis on academics, arts, athletics, and a strong moral foundation.  We have a more traditional structure than is typically associated with schools, such as ours, that strongly emphasize the arts and creativity.” Carinne Barker, Director of Admissions, Buckley School
“We want parents who want to get involved in the school and who embrace our policies like student uniforms. We have an ‘open door’ policy where parents are welcome any time on our campus or in the classroom.” Alice Fleming, Admissions Director, Campbell Hall
“Carlthorp School looks for families who understand and appreciate our Code of Conduct, which emphasizes integrity, courtesy, and respect. We are also looking for families who are seeking a more understated social experience for their children.  At Carlthorp, we try to keep activities simple and age appropriate for our students, not always easy to do in Los Angeles.” Lynn Wagmeister, Admissions Chair, Carlthorp School
“Crossroads has a big commitment to diversity.  We want a community of different ethnicities, different socio-economic groups and different family types.  We also look for families who agree with our philosophy of educating the whole child though rich programs in academics, the arts, athletics, human development and outdoor education.”  Celia Lee, Admissions Director, Crossroads School
“Our school is looking for nice kids from good families. Family is very important for us as it forms the school’s community.” Josie Bahedry, Asst. Head of School/Lower School Director, John Thomas Dye
“At Mirman, we do not offer priority spaces for sibling families, alumni, or children of faculty. We consider students who have a passion for learning, who need us the most, and will thrive in our school community.” Becky Riley Fisher, Director of Admissions, Mirman School
“We look for families who uphold our philosophy of pluralism, diversity and inter-connectedness. We want families who will build a community that embraces diversity that is consciously inclusive.” Andrea Roth, Director of Admissions, PS#1 Pluralistic School
“St. Matthew’s encourages families who want a school with strong academics, a sense of community, and a focus on moral values and character development.” Jane Young, Principal PS-4, St. Matthew’s School, Pacific Palisades
“At St. James we look for families who desire a solid educational foundation for their children in a warm, caring, and diverse community. We are a community where children, parents and staff demonstrate respect for oneself and others. Our strong and experienced teachers exemplify the joy of learning as a life long process. In sum, one of St James’ Core Beliefs says it all: Everything we teach and do is the curriculum.”  Adriane Rothstein, Director Lower Elementary, St. James Episcopal School
“Wildwood is a community of collaboration. We want students and parents who will interact well with each other, who will take ownership in the learning process.  Learning, like motivation, is a process.” Chantelle Pierre, Admissions Director, Wildwood School

Assuming you, too, have a nice family, and are polite and respectful, what exactly is the admissions committee looking for when they evaluate your child?
Across the board admissions directors talked about evaluating small and large motor skills, auditory and visual acuity, sociability, emotional readiness, ability to focus, ability to transition from task to task, and that all illusive term, “a good fit.”  A good fit seems to vary a bit from school to school.
Josie Bahedry at John Thomas Dye says they limit the applicants to the first 70 boys and the first 70 girls. They are looking for kids who can transition easily, who have a mastery of some basic pre-school skills and who show their ability to learn something new. They have a group of 6-8 students meet one-on-one with all of their 6 K teachers and do a little work at each station. They also prefer the boys to be a little older.
At Viewpoint, Laurel Baker Tew, Director of Admissions, said they do a group interview of up to 10 students at a time and are evaluating, among other things, each child’s ability to play together, focus, and have phonemic awareness, math awareness, and spatial awareness.
Nora Malone, Head of School at Village School, keeps the enrollment open until the deadline. “We don’t want to miss anybody.”  She mentioned that the kindergarteners are evaluated on their social adaptability as well as their developmental ability. They should be able to relate to peers, adults, and make a friend.  They must be “ready to engage.”
Curtis School caps their applications at 200 for combined DK and K.  Mimi Petrie, Director of Admissions, also looks for children who are ready to learn.  They want students who will be able to “embody Curtis School’s balance of academics, art, and athletics.”
PS#1’s Andrea Roth said they are not looking for any particular skill set in their applicants.  They have had entering kindergartners who were on beginning phonics and some reading chapter books.  They look for an ability to focus.
Mary Beth Barry, Brentwood School, stressed the importance of looking at the class as a whole and trying to balance the different personalities. They want a variety of personalities who will work well together.  “After all, the class will be together for thirteen years,” she said.
Crossroads looks at students with a broad range of cognitive skills, but they especially look for children with a strong emotional core. “Crossroads has a lively enriched atmosphere,” says Celia Lee, Director of Admissions. “We look for applicants who are flexible and can think outside the box.  We want a certain level of ability, but also children who are active and joyful.”
Gillian Feldman tells us that Brawerman is looking for children who are developmentally ready to begin the work of a kindergartener. This includes the academics as well as the social, emotional, and problem solving components.
Carlthorp is looking for Kindergarteners with an “ability and eagerness to learn.” Lynn Wagmeister, Director of Admissions, admits their school is looking for above average to highly gifted students, however, she was quick to add, they should be happy, fun loving, and kind as well.  We’re looking for children who can work hard and play hard, who also have a twinkle in their eye!”
Wildwood School really tries to get a sense of who the child is.  They use an internal assessment with basic letter and number recognition, but mostly they look at applicants who engage, rebound, and “are resilient,” says Chantelle Pierre.
Each of LA’s top private elementary schools has its own unique personality, with excellent websites to peruse. Prospective families should spend time on campus, see a play, go to a book fair or event, see a concert, get a feel for the campus, the current parents and kids.  Timing can work for you so apply early.
Finally, it’s important to know that even if your child is not accepted to your top choice school, don’t give up.  If your child is wait-listed, stay in touch, say the admissions directors.  As many of the schools told me, “Things change.”
Janis Adams has raised and educated 3 children who have attended some of the top schools in the country, including Village School, Harvard-Westlake, Loyola High School, Harvard University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Harvard Kennedy School and University San Diego Law School. She is on the docent council at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the owner of Academic Achievers Tutoring and the popular KinderPrep: Learning To Love Learning.  You can contact her with questions at

Enter To Win Free Copy of "Beyond The Brochure"

Thursday 9/8 is the last day to enter to win a FREE copy of Beyond The Brochure:An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In LA

To enter the giveaway, it’s easy!

1. Leave a comment telling us why you want to win a copy of Beyond The Brochure. You must leave your email, but you can use the format, csimon2007 at gmail dot com (to prevent spam) To comment, click on “comments” at the end of any post. You don’t have to register or sign in).Sometimes Google Blogger requires you to click “Post” a few times before your comment will go through. Please note, if you subscribe to this blog, click on “Beyond The Brochure” at the top of the page and you will be able to leave a comment. 

2. Earn an extra chance to win by subscribing to our blog! Click here. If you’re already a subscriber, let us know. 

3. Winner will be selected at random on Thursday, September 8, 2011. We will post the winner’s name on our Facebook page. 

Real Application Of Child Admitted To Top Schools In L.A.

Book Giveaway! "Beyond The Brochure" Turns Two!

Christina: Writing A Blog Post

Hi Everyone, 

It’s our blogoversary! Beyond The Brochure, the book and the blog, turn 2 years old today! We want to say a huge THANK YOU to our readers! It’s been an exciting adventure and we plan to continue writing as long as you’ll keep reading. To celebrate our blogoversary, we’re giving away one free copy of Beyond The Brochure! (see excerpt below).

Over the past 2 years, our blog has grown steadily. We’ve had more than 122,500 page views. We’re very proud that our blog won a Circle Of Moms award for “Best Parent Resource Blog.” Beyond The Brochure has also been nominated for a 2011 Parents Magazine best local blog award. Kirkus Review called the book, “An indispensable resource for parents.” And, the book has been featured on KTLA Channel 5, Fishbowl LA, The Larchmont Chronicle, Macaroni Kids, The Beverly Hills Courier and more. 

We’ve been privileged to feature amazing guest bloggers, who offer expertise and perspectives different than our own. We’d like to give a huge shout out to guest blogger extraordinaire, Jenny Heitz, Mirman School mom and writer of the modern gift blog Find A Toad, for her incredible writing, her insight into L.A. private elementary schools and her sense of humor. 

One of our favorite aspects of Beyond The Brochure is speaking to parents at preschools and private events about the admissions process. And, of course we love blog comments! We are touched by your heartfelt emails. Of course, this wouldn’t be a private schools blog without the occasional criticism or scolding from our readers. 

If you have topics you’d like to see featured on the blog, please leave a comment and let us know! As many of you start the admissions process for 2011-12, please know that we understand the emotions, the time and energy involved, the stress and the highs and lows of the admissions process. We’ve lived it. 

From our hearts, Anne, Porcha and I wish you all the best in your quest for a great private school for your child.

To enter the giveaway, it’s easy!

1. Leave a comment telling us why you want to win a copy of Beyond The Brochure. You must leave your email, but you can use the format, csimon2007 at gmail dot com (to prevent spam) To comment, click on “comments” at the end of any post. You don’t have to register or sign in).Sometimes Google Blogger requires you to click “Post” a few times before your comment will go through. Please note, if you subscribe to this blog, click on “Beyond The Brochure” at the top of the page and you will be able to leave a comment. 

2. Earn an extra chance to win by subscribing to our blog! Click here. If you’re already a subscriber, let us know. 

3. Winner will be selected at random on Thursday, September 8, 2011. We will post the winner’s name on our Facebook page. 

 Portion of a real sample application for a child admitted to top schools