Blue Oak Creative Schoolhouse: A New Private School In West LA

* April 18, 2013 Update: Blue Oak is now open and is a wonderful, flourishing gem of a school! Check it out!
When I received the email inviting me to tour Blue Oak Creative School House, I was immediately intrigued. Blue Oak is a brand new–not yet open– private Transitional Kindergarten/Kindergarten program in West L.A.  This two-year program will serve as a “bridge” between preschool and elementary school for kids ages 4 1/2 (TK) to 5 (K). The concept behind the school is that with kindergarten age cut-offs being fairly strict at most schools, there are some children who just miss the cut-off but have grown out of a preschool environment. Other children may need an extra year in a smaller environment before beginning elementary school. Blue Oak will open in January 2012.
On Friday morning, Carissa Feeney, the co-founder of Blue Oak, and a Wildwood Elementary School mom, welcomed me into the large, bright, engaging classroom space filled with all sorts of wonderful learning materials. As Carissa explained, Blue Oak is a Reggio school, a progressive educational philosophy which emphasizes learning through collaboration. Kids work in small groups and core curriculum and academics are taught in groups, which stay together for 6 months or even a year. Kids learn social skills, conflict resolution, literacy and much more. According to the school’s website, the two-year program is inspired by the philosophy of Reggio Emilia – parents, teachers, and children work in close collaboration in a mutually supportive environment.  At Blue Oak, children connect academic concepts (reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies) to real-world investigations in the arts and nature.
Carissa Feeney, Co-Founder and Wildwood Mom
The school is the brain child of Carissa and her Blue Oak co-founder, Lisa Perttula, (a PS#1 mom). It’s an outgrowth of their former preschool, Our World. Samira Herrera is the third co-founder. Carissa and I talked about the type of families who will be attending Blue Oak, LA private elementary school admissions, Reggio education, preschool learning, her passion Blue Oak and the upcoming change in cutoff dates for public kindergarten. Carissa is a knowledgeable and experienced educator She’s also warm, friendly and has a calm, caring personality. Parent volunteers will be welcome at Blue Oak. Parents will be invited to teach enrichment classes, as well as participate in other volunteer projects with the kids. Although the school isn’t open yet, I could easily see my kids being happy and inspired in this environment. It reminded me of my son’s Developmental Kindergarten classroom at the Willows.
The families Carissa expects to attend Blue Oak will live primarily on the Westside. The school is located on Washington Place, West of the 405, just West of Centinela Blvd. She anticipates graduates of the school to apply to The Willows, Wildwood, PS#1, Crossroads, Echo Horizon, Turning Point and other Westside private elementary schools. Families may also be interested in Open Charter and Beethoven Elementary, both public schools. As private school moms, both Carissa and Lisa are committed to helping families navigate the private elementary school admissions process.
Tuition at Blue Oak is based on preschool pricing: $1,250/month, from 8:00 a.m-6:00 p.m. From 9:00 a.m-3:00 p.m, the kids will focus on learning and academics. From 3:00 p.m-6:00 p.m, yard activities will take place. Drop off carpool in the back of the school makes it easy for working parents and prevents a parking shortage.
Blue Oak is on track to be an impressive school, based on a progressive education model that will be run by experienced educators who are committed to Reggio education. It has all the elements to be a wonderful school! Tours are happening now for the opening in Jan. 2012. Applications will be accepted until the school is filled.
For more information about Blue Oak Creative School House, please visit,
Popular with kids: the light board
Don’t miss school event information, guest posts and more! Like Us On  Facebook!

Read More

A Waverly School Dad Writes About Why His Family Loves The Progressive Pasadena K-12 School

The Waverly School arrived in my life like some sort of granted wish.  It’s as if I willed it and its staff into existence from my most pie-in-the-sky hopes for my children’s education.

Once we had children, I started panicking about the state of public education, and started daydreaming about some impossible alternative. What I saw blurrily floating before me was:

  1. A modest, energetic place – not too big or small – where children run through the door in the morning shrieking gleefully and run out the door in the afternoon even happier.
  2. A place where children with unusual personalities or gifts are treated like a delicious bit    of variety and are respected for their eccentricity rather than punished for it. 
To continue reading more of Waverly School dad Michael’s blog post, click on the link HERE
Don’t miss school event information, guest posts and more! Like Us On  Facebook! 

Read More

How To Describe Your Child’s "Weaknesses" During LA Private Elementary School Admissions

It is so important to be able to portray your child realistically when speaking with admissions directors you encounter during the private school admissions process. This does not mean that I think it is wise to describe your child’s idiosyncratic behaviors as weaknesses.  It is preferable to let people know that you accept your child – quirks and all. The question is: what do you say about the quirks? What can you say that tells the truth in the most positive way possible?
Some children have issues that fall in the social/emotional arena. Perhaps they are noticeably shy and have a hard time moving into new activities. This can cause parents concern if they think their child will receive some kind of bad mark when they do not jump into an activity during a group play session or assessment. Some children have social challenges – like sharing or taking turns, that can create some disruption. Some are just active – I had one student stand up on the table and start marching during a one on one paper and pencil kindergarten readiness assessment.
There are also children who have already shown signs of cognitive or academic concern. More often this is the case when a child is brought to a private school at an older age, when parents have grown concerned about their child’s progress.
The answers are not clear-cut. I return to a refrain I have used before – be sure to do your homework! It is not a good idea to take a child who is struggling academically and think that applying to a highly competitive academic school will be successful. Make sure that the schools you are applying to offer a program that fits your child. Ask questions openly that will determine this. Then, frame how you speak about your child in a way that does not apologize but accurately describes your concerns. Similarly, if you have an active child, for instance, who does not have a very good attention span, be sure that you explore this issue well in advance of speaking with admissions directors about it. Talk to your preschool director about it. If you have had an evaluation done, or had some counseling from your pediatrician, then you enter the discussion from a place of educated concern, looking for an appropriate solution to the situation. Ultimately, you do not want your child to be somewhere where they cannot be successful. If you are prepared and educated, you can speak about your child’s issue without it reflecting poorly on you or your child. It frames the discussion in a problem-solving way rather than a defensive one.
Using phrases like “observer” rather than “withdrawn”, and referring to “challenges” rather than “weaknesses” may seem trite but are not a bad idea. The goal is to have a positive and real discussion about your child and the school’s ability to provide the best kind of education for that child. If you can keep this in mind, the road getting there becomes a bit smoother.
Anne Simon, Beyond The Brochure co-author, is the former head of Wildwood Elementary School. She is also the former dean of the Crossroads Middle School, where her daughter is a graduate of the high school. 

Don’t miss school event information, guest posts and more! Like Us On  Facebook! 

Read More

Do You And Your Spouse/Partner Agree About The Best Type Of L.A. Private Elementary Schools?


Photo courtesy Bing Images

Christina, my wonderful and talented stepdaughter, (sidebar: we are on a mission to recast that word in the positive light that reflects our relationship, and that of many other stepmother-stepdaughter relationships) has written recently about the importance of establishing a family message that can be presented consistently to schools as you journey through the elementary admissions process.


Part of this task is to determine whether you and your spouse are really looking for the same thing in the education of your children. It is remarkably easy to think you see things similarly but when you are up against it, perhaps even at an admissions open house, you discover that there are some significant differences in your perceptions or expectations.


It is generally the case that people are comfortable with what they understand. We have all responded to our own upbringing, either by valuing it and wishing to recreate it for our children, or by questioning our own experience and seeking something different. It is very important to have this conversation at home well before you begin to build your family brand and participate in parent interviews.


It is likely that one of you has taken the lead in gathering the necessary information that will determine what schools you visit and apply to. There is a lot of learning that takes place along the way. One example is that you will discover that the best competitive academic schools have come to realize that ‘hands-on’ learning is appropriate and preferred in many instances at the elementary level. Looking for the classroom where children sit quietly in rows and keep their eyes on the teacher in the front of the room who talks may seem familiar, but it does not mean that the best teaching is going on in that school. Be sure that both you and your spouse have the benefit of this new level of understanding that you have found. There are articles on the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) website that can help with this need to keep current with what is accepted as “Good Practice” in elementary education.


The importance of you and your spouse/partner being on the same page when it comes to interviews at schools cannot be underestimated. Admissions directors can sense any rift, or even minor difference, between you very easily, and that will create concern immediately. So do your homework – both of you, and have the necessary conversations, even if you don’t think you need to. What you discover will either cement your family message or help you determine the issues that need to be resolved before you can move forward as a united front.


In the end, isn’t this just part of what being a family is? I think so!

Anne Simon is the co-author of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles.

Read More

Guest Blogger Jenny: Is There A Mom "Uniform" At LA Private Elementary Schools?

Catwalk or Carpool? (Badgley-Mischka, 2011)
The other day I read an article in the New York Times. Its headline was, “Mom Uniforms for School Run Are Designers,” meaning that Manhattan mommies dress up for private school drop offs and pick ups. It sort of made me laugh at first.

But then I started thinking about it more. Some of the mothers interviewed in the article were working mothers and dressed fashionably and accordingly. Thus, it wasn’t really a “Mom uniform,” it was a “Work uniform” (I hardly think that the New York Times would bother with an article commenting on the “Dad uniform” of an Armani suit and tie, so there’s some sexism at work there). And the other mothers, well, maybe they just wanted to look nice. Or actually wear the lovely stuff they’d purchased. Maybe drop off and pick up times were a good a time as any to pretty up.

Then I started thinking about the moms at Mirman, my daughter’s school. Were they dressing up? Nope. The parent body at Mirman ranges from fairly harried moms of multiple kids to some very understated yet classy dressers. Plus, some parents who arrive in surgical scrubs. Now, that’s a uniform with integrity, and there’s nothing like it to give everyone an inferiority complex about whatever paltry-thing-that doesn’t-involve-saving-human-life that they do for a living. Ok, there’s one super fashion mom at Mirman; she often dresses like the mannequins on Net-A-Porter. She’s very cool and her mommy uniform is solely her own. I have no sense that she’s dressing to impress anyone; she’s just pleasing herself.

But Mirman is strange (in a good way), and the parent body is overrun with academics and brainiacs who maybe aren’t that into the culture at large, so I decided to ask, in a totally unscientific and unbalanced way, how the mom uniform manifests at other private schools.

Hermes Birkin Bag

Take one uber-traditional school for instance. This school is a religious school. It has a fair amount of hefty old money attached to it as well. One could imagine Birkin bags and Chanel flats. I asked my very understated but classy friend, who sends her daughter to this school, what the mom uniform was there.

“Pretty dowdy,” she replied. “A bunch of Frumpelstiltskins. I swear, one of the moms even wears a Bump-It.”

This wasn’t really the answer I was expecting. She later admitted that maybe there were some Chanel flats lurking during those parent meetings. But they were the wrong Chanel flats, worn without irony.
I don’t think that that’s typical for LA private school mom uniforms, though. My friends at two very popular schools (both extremely progressive schools) speak of many thousand dollar handbags, premium fashion brands like Prada, hipster fashion houses like Rag and Bone. I suppose they feel pressure to compete on some level, since life after high school is still just one degree removed from it; you can end up participating in high school level lunacy forever if you aren’t careful.
So why, when we parents aren’t attending these schools, our children are, is the “mom uniform” even an issue? Before you (if you haven’t already) dismissed me as shallow and superficial, I think there’s some significance here. For instance, as I’m not a particularly dolled up mom and I don’t own a super designer handbag, I’m not sure I’d want my kid to attend a school full of families who all value such things and aggressively display them. This isn’t about “looking nice,” it’s about not flaunting your wealth in an outward way. The flash and bling just aren’t part of my family’s culture. So the minimal emphasis on appearance at Mirman suits me just fine, although it might not suit someone else at all.
Bump-It. So Tacky!


In the end, I suppose, you pick the “uniform” you feel most comfortable in, for vanity or necessity, whether it’s high fashion or jeans or workout wear or suits.  But, you might want to lose the Bump-It.

See our previous post Fashion Dispatch to find out what moms at top schools are wearing.
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

Don’t miss school event information, guest posts and more! Like Us On  Facebook! 

Read More