About admin

Christina Simon: Los Angeles, California, United States I'm the mom of a daughter (11) and a son (8) who attend The Willows Community School in Culver City. I live with my husband, Barry Perlstein, in Coldwater Canyon. Contact me at csimon2007@gmail.com

Upcoming Event: Demystifying The L.A. Private Elementary School Admissions Process

The Second Edition: Coming Sept./Oct. 2013!

 

Hi Everyone, Please join me for this FREE event!

 

Who: Christina Simon, co-author, Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles

 

What: Navigating The L.A. Private Elementary School Admissions Process

  • Selecting Schools To Visit, Types of Schools and School Tours
  • Written Applications
  • Parent Interviews
  • Your Child’s Testing/Visiting Day
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • What To Do If Your Child is Wait-Listed
  • Helpful Hints and Insider Tips

 

Where: Brentwood Presbyterian Preschool

12000 San Vicente Blvd/Bundy. There is limited parking on the street.

 

When: Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, 6:30 p.m.

 

Details: Christine Cornsinita, director of Brentwood Presbyterian Church Preschool, has graciously welcomed me back to her amazing preschool for the third year. She’s also invited any of our blog readers who would like to attend. The event is free, but If you plan to join us, you must RSVP to Christine @ bpcp90049 @ gmail dot com. Space is limited. Everyone attending the event will get an event summary from my remarks. I look forward to meeting you! –Christina

 

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Here We Go, Together: 2014-15

Santa Barbara Summer Cup Tournament. Champs!

My son in the final game at Santa Barbara Summer Cup Tournament. FCLA team 2014 champs!

My kids started their second year at Viewpoint School last week, my son in 5th grade and my daughter in 8th grade (I know!). It seems like everything is already in full swing with football practice, back-to-school night, homework, tryouts, auditions and volunteering mode. As the kids get older, juggling their schedules becomes more challenging, but it’s exciting to watch them tackle new classes and activities with excitement and enthusiasm

 

For those of you who are new here, I haven’t forgotten about my own first application process for kindergarten. It is the reason I keep writing this blog and speaking at preschools. I strongly believe every parent who wants a private school education in L.A. should have as much information available to him or her as possible. The notion that every year parents all across this city have to reinvent the wheel every September by spending hours researching information about schools, but coming up almost empty handed, bothers me. The information is there, it just isn’t as easily accessible as it should be. Most schools give very limited information on their websites. A few offer a solid admissions roadmap. Overall, websites have improved since we applied for kindergarten in 2006. Other parents can be a wealth of knowledge, but are often not willing to share with people they don’t know well (this has definitely been my experience).  Some preschool directors are a great information source (ours definitely was). Educational consultants can help those families who need assistance navigating the entire process or a few hours with an expert.

 

One of my favorite pics of the kids, 2012. Photo: Joy Smallwood

One of my favorite pics of the kids, 2012. Photo: Joy Smallwood

What this all adds up to is the “insider” information is there for those who are “insiders” when it should be available to anyone who wants it. Why should a mom who has a friend at a private school have better, more accurate information about applying then a family without connections? This is a rhetorical question, but its also one that I faced when we first applied. Generally, I found most parents to be tight-lipped about the admissions process, but occasionally I’d encounter a generous person who’d share really good advice. We also had a preschool director who was both well-connected and experienced with all things admissions. And, we had Anne Simon, my co-author and step-mom who helped us tremendously.

 

Summer in San Francisco

A fun weekend trip this summer to San Francisco with our extended family

Now that I’ve been a mom at two different private schools, I know how much “insider” information and contacts help applicant families.  Being able to say you know a current family can help your application. I’ve written recommendation letters for friends and lobbied for their kids to be accepted. Trust me when I say it can move the application from the bottom of the pile to the top.

 

So, for those who are new to the blog, just starting the admissions process, welcome. I hope you find this blog a good source of information as you proceed through tours, interviews and visiting days. The pressure can be intense and exhausting. Most of the process is highly subjective, with a few objective aspects like application deadlines or tour dates. I also hope you find the funny in it (as we try to do) every once in a while. After all, private schools can be shrouded in secrecy, much like country clubs (actually, the two go hand in hand at a few elite schools where parents refer their friends from the country club to the school and conversely, parents join specific country clubs with the hope of getting help from members who are parents at a particular school). These are the kind of things that will always surprise me, no matter how many years we’re at private school. The private airplane hanger and soccer field in the back yard also cause my eyes to widen. The idea of community at private schools is one I’ve struggled with. If I were starting over, I’d have focused more on whether the school was a fit for our entire family, not just the kids. I’d pay closer attention to the subtle things that make a school what it is (or is not). I’ve made a few good friends during these years, but my biggest challenge has been finding a true sense of community. Thankfully, I see that beginning to happen at Viewpoint.

 

Barry's birthday dinner at Madeo

Barry’s birthday dinner at Madeo

Beyond The Brochure was started in 2010, after the First Edition of our book (the Second Edition was released in Oct. 2013). Most of the writing on this blog is mine, with help my co-authors and from amazing guest bloggers. I post about 1-2 times per week and I spend about 30 hours/week on the blog, marketing the book and related events and activities. Anne and I respond to every reader email (csimon2007 at gmail dot com) and I love meeting you at events, putting faces to names and being able to share information.  I also use the blog’s Facebook page as a place to share our blog posts and interesting stuff I find online related to events, education, parenting, books, etc. Yesterday, I posted a blurb about Elon Musk (Tesla, Paypal founder) who has started a new invite-only private school, after he left Mirman School.  If you want to know more about me personally, you can find it in the “About The Authors” or the “Find Us Here Too” sections across the blog header.

 

Barry and I didn’t apply to schools as “insiders” but rather as parents who wanted our kids to go to private school. Now that its been more than 7 years as private school parents, I guess you could say that we are firmly on the inside, although writing this blog and my husband’s rather sarcastic sense of humor will probably always keep us from being deep insiders who serve on the board or that sort of thing. And that suits us perfectly.

 

Cheers to a fantastic 2014-15! –Christina

Guest Blogger Sharie: Tour Early, Make Friends

 

Photo: Brad Flickinger using Flickr Creative Commons License

Photo: Brad Flickinger using Flickr Creative Commons License

I’m happy to say our son started Kindergarten this year at our dream school and last fall’s admissions whirlwind is now a distant memory. Thanks to all the great advice in the Beyond the Brochure blog and book, our admissions process was relatively smooth and sane, believe it or not! But if I had to do it all again—like I will for middle school in a few years—there are two key things I could’ve done in advance to better prepare.

 

  •   Make friends with the graduating class at your preschool 

The first year and a half or so of preschool I was so busy dealing with terrible twos, terrible threes, sleep schedules, finding lost shoes, carting home armloads of craft projects… I was pretty oblivious to the graduating families at our school. Until it was time to start applying for elementary schools, when I realized that, even though many families from our preschool had gone on to some of our top choice schools, I didn’t actually know any of them! So much for getting the inside scoop and asking for references. Oops.

 

So don’t be like me—start getting to know the older families in your school right away. Trust me, you’ll be much happier next year hearing from your friends about the pros and cons of their new school and getting their happy recommendations rather than sending out the dreaded “You don’t know me, but…” emails and hoping for a response like I did!

 

  •  Start touring schools you might be interested in, even if you aren’t applying for another year

We didn’t tour any schools until the fall we were actually applying for Kindergarten, but boy do I wish we had looked at some earlier. Fall admissions season from the first fairs and tours in September to application deadlines in December-January may seem like a long time but let me tell you, it flies by in a way you wouldn’t believe.

 

It’s better to get your applications in early. And not just a day early, but actually early. Super early. Seriously, do them early.

 

So that knocks off a couple months right there. Plus the various fall & winter holidays also usually take up a lot of time with travel or entertaining. And, while some schools offer a tour every week, other schools only offer one or two tours per admissions season.

 

If you’re trying to look at 5 or more schools, that’s a lot to juggle! When we were touring, there were some schools I could instantly knock off the list in the first 5 minutes and other schools I wanted to tour more than once to really help our decision. Had we toured some of them the previous year, I could’ve wasted less time during our admissions process on schools that weren’t right for us and spent more time getting to know the ones that were our top choices.

 

Somehow we managed to fit all of our tours in and get our applications in early, but next time hopefully I’ll follow my own advice and make it easier on myself!

 

Sharie Piper (not her real name) is thrilled her son was accepted into their first choice school, and vows to stay in touch with the younger families at his old preschool.

 

 

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L.A. Private School Annual Giving: The Inside Scoop

After 8 years of private school annual giving and working on annual fund campaigns, my family has learned a lot about this topic.  At our first school (Willows), we weren’t asked for a specific amount our first year. At our current school (Viewpoint), we were asked for a specific amount, which we happily donated. At both my kids’ schools, we’ve given generously but within the confines of our family budget. Our annual giving has increased each year, with the exception of one year at our previous school.

 

Here’s an infographic to break down everything you need to know about annual giving at private schools. How much will the school ask you for your first year at the school? What are the giving levels? Get the insider’s scoop below!

Annual Giving Infographic -1

Annual Giving Infographic -2

 

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

L.A. Private Elementary School Tuition: Fast Facts

Here’s our infographic to give you the dollars and cents (sense!) about L.A. private elementary school tuition.

Tuition Infographic Part 1

Tuition Infographic Part 2

 

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!

LAAIS Fall Kindergarten and Secondary School Fairs 2014

LAAIS LOGO

 

  • LAAIS Fall Kindergarten Fair, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, 6:30 p.m at Curtis School

 

  • LAAIS Secondary School Fall Fair, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, 6:30 p.m at The Willows Community School

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!

The 5 Most Surprising Things About L.A. Private Elementary School

My daughter at the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia

My daughter at the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia

I’ve been a parent at two very different L.A. private schools over the past eight years. There’s a lot I expected to see (and I did) like luxury cars, Chanel handbags and enormous homes. But, some stuff has been truly unexpected.

 

Here are the 5 things I’ve been most surprised by:

 

1. The number of grandparents who pay their grandkids’ tuition.

 

2. The willingness of parents to pull their kids out of school for extremely fancy vacations to Thailand, Europe, Africa, Tahiti, Turks & Caicos and other destinations.

 

3. The amount of school and extracurricular activities per kid.

 

4. How little influence parents really have unless they’re a board member or the BFF of a board member.

 

5. The big HUGE emphasis on sports.

 

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!

 

Private Schools, Private Lessons

 

Playing tennis together as a family is one of our favorite activities. At Beverly Hills Tennis public courts.

Playing tennis together as a family is one of our favorite activities. At Beverly Hills Tennis public courts.

“WELL-TO-DO parents fear two things: that their children will die in a freak accident, and that they will not get into Harvard. The first fear is wildly exaggerated. The second is not, but staying awake all night worrying about it will not help—and it will make you miserable.”—The Economist, July 26, 2014

 

An article in The Economist, “Cancel That Violin Lesson,” encourages parents to stop piling on the lessons and give kids more time to play outside. I sighed loudly when I read it. Yet another article advising parents to lighten up on our kids’ over-packed schedules. Instead of cramming the schedule with private lessons for our kids, the article recommends we give them more unscheduled free time. This is exactly the opposite of what I’m seeing well-heeled private school parents do in L.A.

 

Private lessons are the new status symbol. As my kids get older, I’ve noticed more of their friends and classmates taking private lessons of all sorts. When your kids attend private school in L.A., private lessons are a part of life for most families. It’s essential to the get ahead—and stay ahead—culture at highly competitive private schools. I’m not immune to this private lesson craze for my kids. But as I try hard to balance their activities, it’s getting more difficult.

 

Kids at L.A. private schools take private lessons for everything. From goalie lessons to batting, hitting, quarterback, music, voice, skiing and fencing lessons, there are private lessons to help kids excel at virtually every activity. These lessons supplement the sport or activity. And it’s not just sports and music. There are tutors who help kids get organized (i.e turn in their homework or figure out which test to study for), in addition to assisting with academics.  Instead of dropping the extra lesson, parents seem to be increasing the quantity of private lessons.  Group lessons are a thing of the past. Now, it’s all about private, one-on-one lessons.

 

When I hear that one of my kids’ classmates is taking private lessons in the same activity, I secretly wonder if my own kid should be taking private lessons.  All my insecurities as a mom bubble to the surface.  Will my kid be disadvantaged during a game when he competes with his teammate who takes twice weekly private lessons? I’ve largely resisted this urge with a few exceptions, primarily because private lessons for anything are expensive and very time-consuming. Participating in the activity should be enough, right? With the exception of music lessons (who can teach themselves violin?), I haven’t felt the need to add private lessons aside from tennis. Being able to play tennis as a family is important to me. But, for the past year, my son has been to busy for tennis lessons. Go figure.

My daughter hitting it! Family tennis.

My daughter hitting it! Family tennis.

I don’t want my kids to assume that whenever they try a new activity, private lessons are required. But, when I hear that a kid on one of my son’s club sports teams was seen at the park with a private coach, I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Sometimes, private lessons are a way to gain favor with a coach or instructor. It can mean playing time or other advantages for your kid.

 

None of us want to be THAT mom who denied her child private coaching only to find him/her sitting on the bench during games. Sometimes, the pressure is really on. One of my friends increased her kid’s music lessons when another kid challenged her kid’s position in the middle school orchestra. My friend’s kid was able to hang onto the spot, but only after several months of extra $500 a week lessons.

 

My daughter has an audition for the school Jazz Lab in the fall. I’m assuming her weekly guitar lessons will be enough to prepare her for the audition. There’s no way I’m going to cut out that lesson, even on the advice of The Economist. Not a chance.

 

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Choosing The School That’s Right For Your Child by Sandy Eiges, L.A. School Scout

Photo by Anna Armstrong/Flickr Creative Commons License

Photo by Anna Armstrong/Flickr Creative Commons License

Hope you’re having a wonderful summer! Finding the school that’s right for your child can be complicated (it was for my family). Spending some time thinking about the various types of schools over the summer can be helpful when you start your school search in the Fall. We cover school options in our book, Beyond The Brochure and we’ve written a series of posts about differences between progressive and traditional schools on the blog. Let’s face it, few of us stumble on the right private school in L.A. without giving considerable thought to this issue. Here’s a great piece by our friend Sandy Eiges of L.A. School Scout, an educational consulting firm.–Christina

 

In evaluating whether or not a school could be a fit for your child, you are going to be looking at how the school addresses a number of needs – academic, social, athletic, artistic, even moral. You are going to be judging how well the school does what it says it does, and whether or not what they do also matches what you believe in.

 

There are different types of schools out there, including: highly academic, gifted, developmental, special subject (i.e. art, science), traditional, religious, progressive.  You are usually the best judge of your child’s ability to swim in a particular environment. While making this determination can be challenging, there are some areas you can look at in evaluating the school, and areas to look at in assessing what your child needs. While there are many additional factors to consider in thinking about a school for your child – geographic, cultural, financial, to name just a few – here are some questions to consider to help you on your way:

 

Your child and your family:

1. Does the type of school fit your family? Are you a loosely structured family or a more traditional family, or somewhere in between? More traditional families are generally more interested in traditional, academic, more formal schools; more loosely structured families might be more interested in “progressive” or developmental schools. You should see families like yours at schools that feel like a fit.

 

2. What is your child like? How do they respond to structure? Will they fare better in a larger physical environment or a smaller one? With more students in a classroom or fewer? Do they need a lot of one-on-one time or are they fairly independent?

 

3. How does your child learn? How does the school teach? Do you think they can accommodate his style of learning?

 

4. If entering Kindergarten, is your child ready-to-learn? Are they ready for a full school day, and the social, emotional and physical independence required in Kindergarten?

 

5. Does the school offer additional resources if your child is struggling academically? Does the school offer additional resources if your child is gifted?

 

6. If entering middle or high school, does the school offer enough classes and enrichment in the subjects of particular interest to your child?

 

Evaluating the School:

1. What does a typical day look like? Is a schedule posted for children and parents to see? Are parents invited into the classroom? Are there opportunities for parent involvement?

 

2. Does the school communicate with parents in a collaborative way? Is there a culture of openness in communication with teachers and administration?

 

3. Do children sit at assigned desks, either individually or in small groups?

 

4. Is there homework, and if so, how much?

 

5. Are there textbooks, and how often are these updated? Are they grade-appropriate? What other resources do students have access to?

 

6. Where do graduates tend to go on to middle school, high school or college?

 

7. Is there on-going professional development for the teaching staff? Is the school accredited?

 

8. Does the school share its curriculum with parents? Does the curriculum match the school’s philosophy?

 

So, for example, a highly academic school might see its role as providing foundational skills and knowledge, so that the student learns to perform at a high level of academic achievement; whereas a more developmental or progressive school might see its primary role as cultivating the student’s love of learning, and discovery of their own interests and abilities. Of course all schools should do both, but what they consider to be of primary importance will direct the curriculum, the instructional philosophy, and the feel of the school day.

 

What would your ideal school look like? If you can take a step back and put yourself in your child’s shoes, what do you think they would say their ideal school should look like? While you want to be comfortable with what is happening at school, ultimately the school should be a fit for your child.

 

L.A. School Scout™  helps families make informed and thoughtful choices about the schools that will best suit them. Our mission is to promote, encourage and applaud children’s enthusiasm for school and learning; take the mystery and anxiety out of the school finding process for parents; and provide families with comprehensive information on all of their educational choices. For more information about our services, please contact Sandy Eiges, L.A. School Scout™ at 877.877.6240, 310-926-0050. or sandy@LAschoolscout.com or visit www.LAschoolscout.com

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores! 

Wildwood School’s Splendid Sun-Splashed Garden

The gorgeous Wildwood School garden takes inspiration from Richard Louv’s national bestseller Last Child in the Woods a popular read for the Wildwood School community during their elementary campus outdoor space renovation a few years ago. In the book, Louv comes to a startling conclusion: Today’s children can likely tell you more about the Amazon than they can about the last time they went on a hike. More and more, urban children are becoming alienated from nature—and it’s not healthy. In fact, Louv reports that researchers find a direct link between nature and children’s physical and emotional well-being.

 

Wildwood _Garden

The Outdoor Classroom

Wildwood School built a lively area called the Outdoor Classroom that features raised planting beds, trees, an outdoor whiteboard, and classroom area. Besides caring for their gardens, students study sustainability, life cycles, social and cultural implications connections to agriculture, and their roles as stewards of the Wildwood gardens. It’s a welcoming environment for art, math, and science lessons.

Wildwood_Garden_butterfly

Butterfly

Wildwood_Garden_Corn (268x403)

Growing corn

Students compost, plant, maintain, and harvest in the garden. There are seven raised beds, fruit trees, vines, a composting area, worm bins, a pollinator habitat, and a gathering area. The garden plantings are related to grade level curriculum. For example, when 5th grade students were studying the founding of the United States they planted a colonial herb bed. When 4th grade students were studying the Spanish influence on early California they planted a salsa garden.

Wildwood_Garden_Harvesting 1

Kids harvesting garden treasures

Students have studied water systems, conducted soil tests, and prepared meals from their harvest. One of the most important components of the school garden is the role the garden plays in bringing the school’s community together.

Kids harvesting carrots

Kids harvesting carrots

Wildwood’s student Community Involvement Leadership Team conducts presentations about sustainability and environmental responsibility for fellow students. They have also carried out a lunch table composting system so all students compost every day.

The outdoor classroom

The outdoor classroom

A Pollinator

A Pollinator

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. Are you more the email type? Get our posts in your in box by subscribing (enter your email in the subscribe” box on the right sidebar of the blog. Or, buy the Second Edition of our book at Amazon.com or your local bookstores!