Sh*t Private School Mothers Say- Part 2

Some kids only swim in infinity pools

  • She doesn’t want to swim today because you don’t have an infinity pool.
  • I really don’t mind being at my kid’s volleyball game with stiches in my eyes. Next week, I’ll look 10 years younger!
  •  NBA star “Laker God” lives in our gated community. Jordan just has to walk next door for private basketball lessons.
  • Horseback riding is a way of life.
  • His stint in rehab for crack addiction was 3 years ago…now he just does the occasional Ecstasy but it doesn’t impact his board duties.
  • We just bought a sports team.
  • My art dealer called today to let me know a painting hanging on my wall is now worth $200,000. but I’m not selling it.
  • DUIs aren’t a big deal…they’re easy to get rid of.
  • Don’t let that teacher tutor your kids at home. She’s on the prowl for a rich guy.
  • We fired our chef because we found out he stole one of my husband’s scripts.
  • Dr. Z will give you any scripts you want–with a bunch of refills–without even examining you!
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A Treasure Trove of Wonders: The Willows School Class Art Projects

"Many Me": The youngest kids in the school (DK) create unique self portraits

Once again, the students at my kids’ school, The Willows Community School, have created whimsical, dazzling class art projects that will be sold at the annual auction to raise money for the school. Using an integrated curriculum, the art projects are closely tied to subjects the kids are studying in class.

Using DIY designer toys from Munky King, DK students bridged the gap between toys and art

 

"Complexity From Simplicity": 5th Grade

 

"An Ocean of Inspiration": 2nd Grade

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From the Boardroom to the Schoolroom: Dads are heading up PTAs

I’m a contributor to the great site, Moms LA. I wrote this piece after reading a New York Times article on Sunday…

An interesting article this week in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times, “What’s New at the PTA, Dad?” highlighted what is possibly a new trend: dads running their kids’ school PTAs. I’m pleased to see this happening.  I  wish more dads would take on what can definitely be considered “non-traditional” volunteer roles at their kids’ schools.

To continue reading click on Moms LA

 

Guest Blogger Jenny: Tuition Blues

 

L.A. Private Schools: Expensive, But Worth The Cost

Once I realized that private school was in my child’s future, I accepted the fact that tuition just comes with the territory. Yes, I’d be forking out thousands and thousands of dollars per year in tuition. Most LA. private elementary schools raise tuition somewhere between 4-8 percent annually. And that doesn’t cover additional costs like books, possibly uniforms, maybe a bus expense, silent auction items bid upon and won, perhaps a hot lunch every day, and the annual giving donation.

 

So, the first year I was in sticker shock. These are some monster checks. Still, when I realized what a great education Anna was getting, it eased the pain slightly. I relax. The damage was done, no one died, no one’s starving (yet), and there is peace on earth.

 

Sometimes there’s luck, and the school doesn’t raise tuition at all for a year. That was nice. That was consistent. I could handle that.

 

But then the next year’s tuition packet arrived, and there was an increase. It was a small increase, but it was enough to remind me of a brutal, hard and cold fact: prices rarely go down, they almost always keep rising.

 

There’s a big jump between a Lower School tuition and an Upper School tuition, around a two to three thousand dollar increase. But even if your child has just started, don’t get complacent, since tuition rises every one to two years anyway.

 

I decided to check the regular increase stats for myself, in the most unscientific way possible, by just looking at one school, a top tier school for girls. Rated as one of the best (if not the best) private schools in L.A., it has always boasted tuition to match its hefty reputation. In fact, back in 2006, the Los Angeles Times even wrote an article about how this school’s tuition had reached the crazy amount of $25,250 per year. This seemed a milestone, an impossible number, a number almost matching tuition at a private Ivy League university.

 

The Times has stayed strangely silent since that article in 2006. I guess it felt it had enough to report about, with the economy tanking and no one having any money anymore, plus an historic election and all. But if the Times decided to write an update to that 2006 article, it might be shocked to learn this: that school’s annual tuition increased six thousand dollars over the last six years…to $31,200.

 

Looking at these numbers makes me want to run screaming like a lunatic. Let’s say I want to send my daughter (now in 5th grade at Mirman) to this school, and she’s lucky enough to get accepted. If the tuition keeps rising at its $1000 per year rate, it will be $33,200 by the time she’s in 7th grade. By the time she graduates, tuition would be $38,200 just so she could walk through the front gate; that’s not counting giving and uniforms and all the various and sundry private school costs I’ve previously mentioned.

 

I’m trying to figure out how a school justifies a 20% tuition increase over a six year period, especially during a recession in which many people’s earnings took a massive dive. I suppose it’s just simple supply and demand: there will always be enough wealthy people to pay full freight, with others fighting it out for financial aid (currently, this one school has 14% of its students receiving financial aid). I suppose that if you can afford thirty grand a year, what’s another grand or so on top of that, anyway?

 

But, for the rest of us (I get help from my family to pay my share of the tuition), this “race to the top” is unsustainable. Perhaps a parochial school, that still offers a good education and is less money, is in Anna’s future. Maybe other private schools (new and untested, with no college acceptance rates) will emerge. Although, since the tuition bar has already been set so high, where’s the incentive to offer a lower price? The so-called “top tier” schools will all charge the same crazy tuition, and the lower tier schools will always aspire to the same.

 

In the end, prices never go down. They only go up.

 

Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Jenny is a graduate of Crossroads. 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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Edible Gardens LA: Creating School Gardens That Delight And Inspire Kids

Lauri Kranz, Founder of Edible Gardens L.A. and Christina Simon in The Willows School Garden

At 8 a.m. on a bright, sunny morning surrounded by bok choy, lettuce, wildflowers, kale and one very large sunflower, I sat down with my friend, Lauri Kranz, founder of Edible Gardens LA at The Willows Community School to talk about her amazing work building the Willows School garden. I first met Lauri when our kids were in kindergarten at The Willows. She’s a friendly, eco-minded mom of two boys with an eclectic, urban style. One of our most memorable afternoons was spent at Lauri’s house where she hosted a “Pilates and Margaritas” party. She makes a fabulous fresh margarita (or two!). Lauri, who is quickly becoming known for her beautiful yet practical gardens, works with celebrity chefs, families and schools (Willows, Westland and Walther Preschool) to create edible gardens. For this talented garden designer, the focus is on creating gardens that bring people and nature closer together.

Question: How did you become interested in school gardens?

Answer: I’ve always loved gardening. I got very involved in teaching gardening when I started volunteering at The Willows when my son was in DK. I’ve been gardening ever since!

Question: What’s the best thing about gardening with kids at schools?

Answer: There’s nothing better than watching a spark go off when the kids make the connection between the garden and where their food comes from. They learn about how a seed turns into a seedling and then into a plant that is harvested and used to make food. Their excitement about this process inspires me.

Christina's son having fun gardening with Lauri at The Willows

Question: Do you think school gardens motivate kids to eat vegetables?

Answer: Absolutely. Even the pickiest eaters will pluck a snow pea from the trellis and eat it. I have parents tell me that their kids, who never eat green vegetables, come home from school are suddenly eating vegetables.

Willows School Garden

Question: What are you obsessed with right now?

Answer: Greenhouses

Lauri Kranz at The Willows School

Question: Do you have a favorite garden store?

Answer: Sunset Nursery in Silverlake

Question: Do you have any recipes you’d like to share?

Answer: Chef Suzanne Goin (Lucques, AOC and The Tavern) has an amazing recipe for green rice. In Suzanne’s garden we are growing loads of herbs and fennel.  Here is Suzanne’s delicious recipe for green rice, which uses generous amounts of both.

Green Ric

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup packed parsley leaves

1/4 cup packed mint leaves

2 tablespoons minced chives

1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup finely diced fennel

3/4 cup finely diced red onion

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 dried chili d’arbol

1 1/2 cups white basmati rice

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cooking Directions:

Bring the chicken stock and 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a medium pot and turn off the heat.

Place the parsley, mint, chives, and cilantro in a blender. Add 1 cup of the hot stock and pureé the herbs on medium speed (keeping your hand tightly over the lid so it doesn’t explode). Slowly pour in the rest of the stock and purée on high (holding the lid again) for almost 2 minutes, until you have a very smooth, very green broth.

Toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until they release their aromas and light golden brown. Pound them using a mortar and pestle.

Quickly rinse out the chicken stock pot and heat it over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil, diced fennel and onion, ground fennel seeds, chili, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onions and fennel are translucent. Add the rice, 1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Stir well to coat the rice with the oil and vegetables. Add the herb stock and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add the butter, cover, and cook the rice 15-20 minutes, until tender. Turn off the heat and leave the rice covered for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and taste for seasoning.

For more information and inspiration, visit, Edible Gardens LA

L.A. Private Elementary School Buzz

Private Elementary school BUZZ

  • Turning Point School’s Admissions Director, Maggie Wright is retiring. She will be replaced by Amy Calvert, currently the Co-Director of Admissions and Placement.
  •  The Willows School has been relying on the expertise of Elizabeth Berkley (she starred in the movie “Showgirls”) to help Middle School girls with life skills like body image. Not surprisingly, some curious dads have been Googling her past film roles. She founded a non-profit, “Ask Elizabeth” to help adolescent girls.
  • An education consultant with connections at many of the top private elementary schools tells me the number of admissions directors who are requesting her to ask her clients to pick a “first choice” school is way up this year.
  • Just because an elementary school gets applications from 100 or more preschools doesn’t mean they accept kids from that many schools…”feeder” schools are alive and well at some top private elementary schools.
  • Heidi Klum and Seal have split, but some Turning Point School parents haven’t forgotten when this former couple’s kids attended the school and Seal would obnoxiously speed to the front of the long carpool line and cut in front of waiting parents in his special Audi (only available in Germany), To avoid an accident, waiting parents would reluctantly allow him to cut in line. Who does that? Now their kids attend a school on Mulholland.
  • It’s spring, which means private school auctions. Bid to win! Brentwood School will hold their event at the Fairmont Hotel, Santa Monica. The Center For Early Education’s soiree will be at Hollywood & Highland, catered by Wolfgang Puck and The WillowsSchool will host a Moroccan-themed event on its own campus. Oakwood School will host its auction downtown at The Historic Cooper Building with catering by Global Cusine.

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Guest Blogger Lindsay: SH*T L.A. Private School Mothers Say

The Mansion

  • The official cutoff is September 1, but parents are holding May kids back now.
  • Where is your winter home?
  • We don’t have to vaccinate because everyone else does.
  • We spend summers back east.
  • I might have to fire the nanny—she was late dropping off the kids again.
  • You have to come to our holiday party—we hired FX company to make real snow!
  • My driver got stuck in traffic.
  • Why doesn’t that child have a “shadow?”
  • We never fly commercial.
  • I was going to get a B, but everyone told me I’d be happier with a C.
  • I had to wait all day for the interior decorator for my Malibu house.
  • Do you realize how much I paid for this parking spot at the silent auction?
  • She’s writing our son’s recommendation letter, so for Christmas we gave her a week at our house in Aspen.

The Aspen House

  • This is a feeder school for Harvard-Westlake.
  • It was all nannies at that birthday party. Except for the hosts, I was the only mother there.
  • Actually, 7000 sq. feet isn’t really that big.
  • Dr. X is an artist. I’m on the 6-month wait list to get my eyes done.
  • Public school kids have a better chance at getting into the UCs.
  • Do you know who her father is?

Part Two Coming Soon!
Lindsay J. Gallagher, a Gen X mother of two, is a transplant from New York City, who has lived in LA for 15 years.  Married to a cinematographer, she is a “film widow,” doing her best to create a “normal” family life for her son and daughter even though dad is often away.  When she is not carting her children to baseball, swimming, ballet, acting or voice, or volunteering at their schools, she works on her novel, plays tennis, snowboards or watches Netflix on TV (new addiction!)  She travels a lot with her kids, often on her own, and blogs for family travel website Poshbrood.com.  Recently she switched from coffee to green tea and from wine to tequila. Lindsay has one child who attends an LAUSD elementary school and one who attends a private elementary school. Visit Lindsay’s personal blog, iknowbutidontknow.

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Guest Blogger Jenny: Pre-Acceptance Private School Participation: Does It Work?

So here it is, another application season, and this pesky question keeps popping up: Does attending school events before my child even goes to the school give my application an advantage? The answer: it depends.

I feel pretty strongly that the pre-acceptance participation factor only works with certain schools. For instance, when we applied to Mirman for our daughter, her father (my ex) decided that attending the Mirman Holiday Program would be a good idea. Mind you, we hadn’t yet really applied, Anna hadn’t had an interview or a tour, but he figured it couldn’t hurt. So, he drove up to the church across the street from the school and watched a bunch of strange kids sing holiday songs. It probably beat going to work that morning. But did his participation help her chances of getting into the school? No. Anna was wait-listed, and we didn’t hear that there was an opening until late June.

But that’s Mirman, and Mirman isn’t every school. I’ve heard different things about other schools. One family I know had their child in one private school, but really had their hearts set on another. So, they attended events at the school she didn’t go to, showed up for meetings, and, for all I know, paid for a new science wing (just kidding). Well, guess what: it worked! She got in for 3rd grade. Of course, we’ll never know definitively if all this participation and dedication garnered an advantage, but there is a correlation.

So, if you know, for certain, that there’s a particular private elementary school that’s just perfect for your child, by all means show an interest before application season. You could attend an event like a fair or a fundraiser. You could, of course, give money or silent auction donations, although some schools prohibit this type of giving during the year you’re applying to avoid any perception of conflicts of interest.  If you have a valued skill set, like public relations or publicity, offer to help the school plan or publicize an event. Most schools like to see helpful and interested parents, and such efforts will be duly noted. In schools with a very clannish scene, showing that you “fit in” is a definite advantage, because some schools are more about the families than the individual children (although that’s definitely NOT the case with Mirman).

All this being said, you could still get the dreaded flat rejection letter anyway, leading to all kinds of curses. There are no guarantees.

Or, you could pay for that Science Wing.

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.

Campell Hall Mom Supports A Very Worthy Cause

Many of you may know Lee Rose Emery as the popular blogger at LA City Mom, one of my favorite sites. Lee is also a Campbell Hall School mom who is helping to raise funds to find a cure for pediatric cancer. Lee’s personal message to honor Pablo, a remarkable little boy who died of cancer, and the foundation created in his memory, is inspiring and worthy of our support. Please see below for Lee’s post from LA City Mom:

Here is a family event in February that should not be missed. The Pablove Foundation’s Family Valentine’s Celebration. This day of family friendly crafting, music, food, and fun is so dear to my heart. Pablo Castalez was a pre-school classmate of my children. Two years ago, he lost his year long battle with Wilm’s Tumor cancer. He was six years old. His parents, JoAnn and Jeff have started The Pablove Foundation in his honor, with the mission to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer research and provide programs to enhance the lives of those children living with cancer.  Having a charity event that kids can be a part of (and one craft the kids can participate in that day is in making Valentines for kids in the hospital) is an opportunity for all of us to appreciate our good fortune and health,  and to take a moment to give and consider the struggle that many families endure.  My kids and I will be there, and I hope you can make it too. Details are below:

WHEN: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11th

WHERE: Quixote Studios in Los Angeles.

True Pablove, will feature Valentine-themed arts & crafts, a silent auction, catering by some of LA’s best eateries, kids’ activities, The Pablove Shutterbugs Giving Tree, special musical guests and more!

True Pablove’s fun and festive arts & crafts for kids of all ages include creating biodegradable planter boxes, cookie decorating, tote bag design, felt flower crafts and Valentine’s decorations for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  Silent auction items generously donated by friends of The Pablove Foundation include a classic Palm Springs getaway to an Alexander mid-century modern retreat, dinner at Mozza/Osteria, a Maya Brenner Pablove necklace, Rob Jones “White Stripes” lithograph, Surfing with Crash, a Channel Islands surfboard and much more!

All proceeds will benefit The Pablove Foundation’s mission to fund pediatric cancer research and advances in treatment, educate and empower cancer families, and improve the quality of life for children living with cancer through hospital play, music and arts programs.

Tickets can be purchased at Pablove for $60. For more information on the Pablove Foundation.

Event sponsors Include: Quixote Studios, Intelligentsia, The Scootabaker, Izze, Pazzo Gelato, Swing House and Filter Magazine.

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