The Year In Review, What’s Ahead and Photos!

Happy New Year! Anne, Porcha and want to say THANK YOU to our book readers, our blog readers and our Facebook friends. We truly appreciate your support, comments, feedback, emails. We love hearing from you!
In 2011, we wrote about a wide range of L.A. private elementary school topics that have become our most popular posts (a few of these are from 2010, but remain our most-read pieces). How to create your Family Message (a three-part piece) was our most popular blog post of 2011. The Big Five Feeder Elementary Schools To Harvard-Westlake continues to be of interest. Jenny Heitz’ Do Or Die For John Thomas Dye is at the top of the list too. Anne wrote a very informative piece about how private schools hire teachers and Jenny’s witty, sly piece about Perfect Mommy Syndrome at L.A. private schools sparked a huge controversy, resulting in a blog spat with Today Show mom blogger, Mayim Bialik and landing Beyond The Brochure on E!Online and Fishbowl L.A. Janis Adams roundup post Straight Talk From Admissions Directors is a great resource. And, Samantha Goodman’s Wait-listed At Wildwood walked readers through her quest to get her son into Wildwood School (she now gives tours there). My personal favorite: Jenny’s post, I Want My Manny: A Private School Status Symbol.
Beyond The Brochure continues to grow! I’m now a contributor to two outstanding sites, Momangeles and Moms LA.
We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have outstanding guest bloggers who bring their own unique perspectives as private elementary school moms to our site. A huge thank you to these women who have contributed so much valuable information and insight to this blog:
Jenny Heitz, Mirman School mom and writer of Find A Toad, a modern style blog
Samantha Goodman, Wildwood School mom and writer of the very witty blog, Life With Smalls
Lauri Kranz, my friend and founder of Edible Gardens LA. She’s the talented mom who oversees the stunning garden at The Willows School.
A special thank you to Chevalier’s Books on Larchmont and Children’s Book World in West LA for carrying our book!
As 2011 comes to a close, we know its been a tough year for many families. The economy continues to falter and many of us have friends who are unemployed.  Yet, as parents, we all strive to give our kids the best possible education, despite uncertain economic times. Private elementary schools in Los Angeles are making sincere efforts to help both current and incoming families with financial aid packages. Some schools are raising additional funds for financial aid. Other schools are trying to keep tuition increases minimal. It is our sense that everything that can be done to help families who qualify for financial aid, is being done.
We’re looking forward to 2012! We’ve got a lot planned that we look forward to sharing with you. Speaking events, excellent guest bloggers, private school buzz, reader questions and an updated version of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles, due out in Fall 2012.
We’ll leave you with our most recent Facebook photos of 2011. See you next year!
All Our Best, 
Christina, Anne and Porcha
Christina’s Kids: Photo by Joy Marie Smallwood
The Willows School Garden, Managed By
Lauri Kranz, Founder of Edible Gardens LA 
Karen Bowlin, Christina Simon and Wendy Wallace
 at Moms Club Of Burbank, Holiday Boutique For Charity
The Willows School’s Beautiful Garden
Christina Simon and Laura Filipowicz of Bag Lady Productions at Holiday Event,  Evolue Beauty

It’s "Confessions Friday" and I’m Guest Blogging: Here’s My Confession



When The Going Gets Tough, I Reach For…

Parenting. Any mom knows it will test even the most secure, steely-nerved of us (not that I have nerves of steel, mind you). As if taking care of the kids on two hours sleep isn’t enough, pressure comes at us from everywhere, fast and furious. Actually, it starts when we’re pregnant. Strangers question what we’re eating, pat our stomach, tell us that we’re getting heavy and ask if we’re expecting twins when we’re not.
Then, once we have the baby, this same stuff happens with more intensity. Are you feeding your child the healthiest food on planet earth? Is he/she doing enough academically? Baby sign language? Cloth diapers? And on and on. Blah, blah, blah. It can be exhausting. I wish I had done a better job of tuning out the competitive chatter when my kids were very young. Now I know it doesn’t matter whether kids can multiply or read chapter books in preschool!

To continue reading, click on Desiree Eaglin’s Blog.

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Did We Apply To Enough Schools?

If you’re wondering whether you’ve applied to enough schools, there are schools with January 2012 application deadlines. In Beyond The Brochure, we discuss this issue in detail. Obviously, there’s no perfect number, but if the schools you’ve selected are super-competitive, consider adding one or two more to your list.  Here are a few schools with January 2012 admissions deadlines:


Campbell Hall: The deadline for all applications is Friday, January 27th, 2012.


St. James Episcopal School. Submit your application to the Admissions Office with the $100 non-refundable application fee as soon as possible, but no later than January 13, 2012. Late applications received will be considered after April if space is available. 


New Roads: January 20, 2012. Deadline for completed applications


Pilgrim School- Jan. 31s, 2012. 


PS #1. Still accepting applications for Fall 2012. 


Children’s Community School. Deadline is Jan. 27, 2012.  


Laurence School. Deadline is Jan. 15, 2012. 


See previous posts about: School tours and A-List School Tours, My school tour process, What If We Don’t Love The Schools We Toured? and Apply to the schools you like

Creating A New Family Tradition To Honor My Late Mother: Hoppin’ John For New Year’s Day on MomsLA

Hoppin’ John Ingredients

When my daughter was born 11 years ago, I felt strongly that I needed to create a new family tradition to honor my mother who died when I was nineteen. But, what could I do that would be a tribute to her at the same time it celebrated our new family? Food immediately came to mind.
Once I decided to use cuisine as a way to remember my mom and introduce her heritage to my children, I needed to find the perfect dish that would accomplish this complicated goal. My mom was African American, born and raised in Joplin, Missouri.  She was Southern, but loved Los Angeles, where I grew up.
To continue reading click on MomsLA
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Guest Blogger Jenny: Mommy Online Referral Groups Are Paradise for the Parsimonious

I am a “member” of an online mommy group. It’s a group that, by virtue of a very efficient moderator, has been stripped of any political, humorous, or timely posts. Instead, it has become an online referral source, sort of like a no fee Angie’s List, that seems to be the country of “cheap.”


Now, before you decide I’m some crazed spendthrift, let me assure you that I’m not; I enjoy a bargain just as much as the next person. I do, however, try to keep the bargain buy phenomenon in perspective. I believe in paying for quality. I believe in passing down gently used goods when it’s appropriate. But, I draw the line at looking for bargains when it comes to people.

You know what I’m talking about. There’s a constant search on these online groups for nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, and handymen. The demands are heady: adjectives like “flexible” (in terms of schedule, we assume, not physically), “trustworthy,” “CPR trained,” “licensed,” “compassionate,” and “self motivated” are rife within the posts. But, the other adjective (and synonyms thereof) found accompanying this laundry list of requirements is, invariably, “cheap.”

Now, “cheap” is not an adjective one usually associates with quality. “Cheap” is something shoddy, second rate, cut rate, or even promiscuous (probably not the right definition in this case, but you never know). How this adjective gets paired up with such a lofty list of other requirements is amazing to me, a kind of domestic cluelessness.

Because, you see, the people hired to help you run your home, care for your children, and maintain your home’s physical integrity and exterior décor probably shouldn’t be “cheap.” By hiring “cheap” or underpaying domestic help, it demeans the important jobs these workers perform, and it seems to imply that those who want “cheap” labor don’t really value their homes or children (something that I’m pretty sure is not the case).

Yet, the people I’ve recommended to the group, per requests, have usually had negative experiences. Things like a housekeeper being offered fifty dollars per “day,” a “day” being described as from 9-2, cleaning a four bedroom, four bathroom house and cooking a reheatable dinner. That’s a lot of work for more than a half day for inadequate pay; a really bad deal for any housekeeper. And when the potential employer called me for a reference, her question to me was : “Is she going to trash my house?” Yeah, sure, I felt like replying. That’s why I employed her for seven years.

One time I recommended a really wonderful handyman. This guy has done tons of work for me, plus he’s just great to have around, so trustworthy. All of us have hung out and our kids and his niece and nephew know each other. But every time he went to consult with a potential job gotten though the group, it always ended with an argument over the price and a decision to either put off the work or do it themselves. In other words, it was always a waste of his time, and he won’t do referrals for the group anymore as a result.

Why is there this fundamental lack of respect for household help? Why is it so undervalued, so thought of as cheap labor? Since when is hiring someone to perform a job an expectation for getting something (actually, quite a LOT of something) for next to nothing?

I have written about these issues before. One commenter accused me of being “anti working mother” because I dared to criticize (indeed, parody) the request of one mother looking for the going rates for both legal and illegal nannies. First off, as a semi-working mother, I most certainly would never criticize the real concerns of other working mothers. In fact, I’m so pro-working parent that I even consider the nannies, housekeepers, and handymen I hire to be working parents, too, deserving a living wage to better their children’s lives.  Yeah, that’s right, they have families too.

In the end, I think the quest for “cheap” actually cheapens the poster, the group, and the referral pool. Why should I refer someone I deeply value and respect, only to have them be humiliated? Plus, although this group is relatively large at around 750 people, I have a feeling a large percentage of them aren’t in the poorhouse. If you’re looking for domestic help to begin with, you must have extra money to spend, so why be a cheapskate? By hiring someone at a good wage, you not only let the employee know that you respect his or her time and talent, but that you respect your own space as well. And that would be keeping it, in the immortal words of Will Ferrell, “classy.” 


* Originally published on The Twin Coach



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 last 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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"No Room For Road Rage at Elementary Schools" by Agoura Hills Mom


Editor’s note: Whether its preschool or elementary school, public or private, we’ve all seen those parents (you know who they are!) who make carpool difficult and even downright scary. Here’s a great piece byAgoura Hills Mom about her school’s carpool nightmare. 

____________________________________________________________
Sigh.
I just got another mass email from my child’s principal that addresses the stupid things parents do when dropping off or picking up their kids at school.
My son goes to a school that has one way in and one way out.  It’s a huge traffic snarl every morning and afternoon, not only because of the bad design, but also – and perhaps mostly – because of selfish parents.
Our school has traffic rules to enable smoother drop off and pick up.  You wait in a long line of cars and inch your way to the traffic circle.  Once you get to a certain point, that’s where you stop to let your kid out or get him into your car.  Then you drive to the left around the tree and go back out the way you came.  No idling on the curb, no parking along any of the painted curbs, no letting your kids out where it’s not allowed.
But of course, not everybody follows the rules for one reason or another.  And every single day there is some parent who rushes ahead and cuts off the line, or stops too early to let their kids out, or simply parks where it’s not allowed and walks into school. Teachers and volunteers often reprimand these people, who are not always gracious or apologetic.
In the middle of all this is a crosswalk where the children who are walking – and therefore relieving the community of yet another car to add to this mess – cross to the side of the road where they can walk back out of the school grounds.  In the afternoons, the principal herself acts as crossing guard, with a big handheld STOP sign.  One day when I was waiting in line I witnessed a minivan blow right by the principal, who was standing in the middle of the crosswalk with the STOP sign held high.  The minivan did not slow down or stop for her.  It had a row of Mickey Mouse decals along the bottom of the rear windshield.
In tonight’s email, the principal said things have gotten so bad that “a parent actually threatened to run over one of our teachers.” To continue reading, click HERE
* This piece originally published on BlogHer. 
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Win A FREE $100 Gift Card For Akasha Restaurant & Copy Of New Celebrity Chef Cookbook!


* Congratulations To Our Giveaway Winner, Adrienne!

As a thank you to our wonderful readers, we are holding our first giveaway that isn’t a copy of Beyond The Brochure. This giveaway–a $100 gift card for the Akasha Restaurant in Culver City (one of our favorite places!) AND a celebrity chef cookbook– is the perfect solution to your search for a fabulous item to donate to your preschool or elementary school auction or fundraiser. Restaurant gift cards are always hot ticket items at school fundraisers! Or, enter to win it for yourself or a gift for a friend!

Enter to WIN a FREE Akasha Restaurant Gift Card For $100 and a copy of “Cart For A Cause,” fabulous cookbook featuring Chef Akasha and numerous other talented and celebrity chef’s recipes ($25.00). All proceeds from the cookbook go to benefit St. Vincent Meals On Wheels. 

It’s easy to enter! To enter, leave a comment on our blog telling us why you would like this gift card and cook book package. You must leave your email (you can avoid spam by using format csimon2007 at gmail dot com)

Deadline to enter is Wed. Dec. 22 at 6:00 p.m. Winner will be selected at random. 

We aren’t requiring you to subscribe or “like” us on Facebook! but we’d love it if you did!


About Akasha Restaurant, Culver City: www.akasharestaurant.com

From the menu at Akasha
AKASHA fea­tures New American cui­sine offer­ing com­fort food with big fla­vors and sus­tain­able ingre­di­ents, for car­ni­vores and her­bi­vores alike.
Akasha is a self-trained chef and artisan-style baker who has been cater­ing events in Los Angeles and other parts of the coun­try for over twenty years. She began her pro­fes­sional career at the Golden Temple, a now defunct but once pop­u­lar veg­e­tar­ian restau­rant in Los Angeles. It was in this kitchen that Akasha dis­cov­ered her pas­sion for mak­ing deli­cious dishes with good-for-you ingre­di­ents. After the Golden Temple she became Michael Jackson’s per­sonal and con­cert tour chef. AKASHA is her first restau­rant ven­ture, the result of a vision she has had for many years.
Her cook­book HOLLYWOODDISH includes tales of Hollywood’s 100-year pas­sion for organic foods and healthy lifestyles and sto­ries of her favorite cook­ing expe­ri­ences: mak­ing hol­i­day din­ners for Billy Bob Thornton, cater­ing par­ties for Pierce Brosnan, pro­duc­ing events at the Sundance Film Festival, and work­ing as a pri­vate chef for Barbra Streisand.
She lends her time and exper­tise to groups such as Share Our Strength, Environmental Media Association, Common Threads and Pediatric Aids. She has appeared on The Food Network (The Best Thing I Ever Ate), Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, Planet Green, and nation­wide news programs.


The Los Angeles Times uses words like, “enticing, simple, gusty” to describe the cuisine at this “wildly successful” place with a “hip urban vibe.”

Guest Blogger Janis: Straight Talk From Admissions Directors At L.A. Private Elementary Schools (re-post)


“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.” Corrine Baker, 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, former 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, former 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, former 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. www.academic-achievers.com. You can contact her with questions at janis@academic-achievers.com

What Should YOU Do During Your Child’s Visiting/Testing Day?

While You Wait



One of the best bits of advice somebody “in the know” could have given me is what I should do while I waited for my daughter to finish her testing day/visiting day at various schools. Each school structures their testing/visiting day differently. You know your kid will participate in some form of “playdate” or test, while you do….what? If the school has parents meet with the head of school or admissions director while you wait, read HERE.


If the school sits you at tables with a few other parents to wait, try to make polite small talk. However, finding out that you’re seated next to an MA/MD/PhD who is married to the same, really won’t help your state of mind unless you are also an MA/MD/PhD. Now, of course the person with those credentials will make sure you know right away that she has those titles.

At one school where we applied, the kids were ushered off to their group playdate while the parents were invited to wait in a lounge. For the duration of the playdate, parents waited. And waited. With nothing to read. Some parents knew each other. I’m not sure if this made the event more stressful for them or less. Unclear.

What I do know is that I wish somebody had told me to bring something to read. Or a gadget to fiddle with. Or some sort of distraction. Because without it, sitting in a room filled with parents who are competing for YOUR kid’s spot, can get really stressful. Your mind may start wandering to places you just don’t want it to go.

“She’s wearing an outfit I recognize from Vogue Magazine…Chanel. Pricey for a Saturday morning. Even her shoes are Chanel. I know it’s tacky to wear head-to-toe in the same designer, but…Oh, god. I’m in jeans and a…oh, never mind!”

“That group of moms definitely seems to know each other. Thinking to myself… “Maybe I should listen in on what they’re saying.” I “overhear” them and find out they vacationed together in paradise last year. One of them already has a kid at the school. They’re all in, I assume.”

To avoid that kind of mental chatter, I should have brought a book. Or a bag of knitting (who cares that I don’t knit!) or an iphone, or a laptop. Anything to avoid sitting there playing mind games with myself.

Don’t make the same mistake I did. Be prepared! Gadgets are good. 

Here are more posts about visiting/testing day

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