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

L.A. Private School and Privilege

Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl

The other day I took one of those ridiculously popular BuzzFeed quizzes. This one was called, How Privileged Are You? I scored a 58 out of 100 points.  Here’s what the quiz said about me:

 

“You’re quite privileged. You’ve had a few struggles, but overall your life has been far easier than most. This is not a bad thing, nor is it something to be ashamed of. But you should be aware of your advantages and work to help others who don’t have them. Thank you for checking your privilege.”

 

According to the quiz, I’m considered privileged, although less so than white men, because of my race and gender. No surprise there. I’m also less privileged than other people because I lost my mom to breast cancer as a teenager. I’d argue that I’ve been severely disadvantaged by this fact alone.

 

One of the BuzzFeed questions asked if I attended private school.

 

I did not attend private school, which deducted from my privileged status. Still, I scored more or less about where I thought I would, based on my level of education and other factors. The private school question jumped out at me. Attending private school gives you points on the privilege scale.

 

This silly quiz reminded me why my kids are in private school, even though I attended public school all the way through graduate school. My elementary and middle school experiences were so negative I wanted something better, something different, for my kids. For me, that didn’t mean the biggest house in the “right” neighborhood or the newest car. It only meant private school.

 

It’s an understatement to say that there is a tremendous amount of privilege among many families at L.A. private schools. I’ve seen it and so have my kids. Sure, there’s some imaginary wealth, but much of it is real. They’ve gone to school with kids who only fly on private jets, whose homes are the size of a city block and who have personal chefs, foundations bearing their family names, multiple nannies and mannys and house managers for their numerous houses around the globe. We have more than enough, thankfully, but we don’t have any of those things.

 

At private school, there will almost always be somebody richer than you. My kids, to their credit, don’t seem to care. They want to go to their friend’s houses to have fun and hang out. They’ve never asked why we don’t have our own airplane or a movie theater in the house. They’ve also had friends who are on financial aid, who have divorced parents whose lifestyles have been shattered by legal fees and kids with parents who work hard to pay tuition. There are the “rich hippies” who hide the fact that they have money, with long, messy hair, Birkenstocks, Volvos and multi-million dollar homes. I sort of like them because they’re so obvious. There are the social climbers whose mission has nothing to do with the parents, but only the kids. I avoid them like crazy. The most egregious social climbers I’ve met at private school aren’t the low-income families. Not even close.

 

When you have kids in private school, extreme wealth is an inherent part of the culture. The school roster tells you where your kid’s classmates live. The Annual Report tells you how much families give to the school. You may recognize some of the last names. You see the expensive cars in the carpool line. This is by no means limited to private school. There are L.A. public schools, especially at the elementary school level, that rival this stuff… it just depends on geography.

 

I’m pretty sure that even if we lived in an affluent suburb with excellent public schools, I’d still want my kids to attend private school. I’m biased because I had so many awful years as a student in L.A. public schools. I doubt anyone who had a similar experience to mine (being the constant target of bullies, being forced to change schools) would willingly entrust their own kids to the same school system.

 

For me, like you, all of this is highly personal and hard to sort out as a parent. We all want better for our kids than we had. Nobody wants an entitled brat. I know parents who talked non-stop about their belief in public schools until their kids got there, then changed their mind and enrolled them in private school. Families who started at private school are now in public school for various reasons, not only financial. After seeing the viral video of the kid and teacher fighting over drugs in the classroom at Santa Monica High, I wrote on my personal Facebook Page, “Nothing’s changed.” I went to that high school. It conjures up bad memories. Well, as sometimes happens on Facebook, somebody I know was offended. I wrote a response, than deleted it, replacing it with a funny meme about relationships. I have no interest in an online debate about that school, so far in my past, yet still obviously impacting my beliefs about my kids’ education.

 

Talking to one of my private school mom friends recently, she joked that she thinks our kids live in a “bubble.” I only half-jokingly laughed, saying that’s exactly where I want them. Yet, my expectations for my kids are big when it comes to their understanding of how fortunate they are to attend private school. They are reminded of the educational opportunities they have and how they need to give back in meaningful ways to those who need their help.  This isn’t a topic that is ignored in our family. I want my kids to know that, according to BuzzFeed, going to private school counts as a privilege.

 

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LAAIS Spring Kindergarten and Secondary School Fairs

The Elementary School Admissions Directors (EASD) will host its annual Spring Kindergarten Fair with 45 private/independent schools in attendance for parents to meet with school admissions directors.

What: Spring Kindergarten Fair, 2014

When: May 8, 2014, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Crossroads School

If you’re curious about this event, click on Launch Education’s blog (now Arbor Bridge) to read about Matt Steiner’s tips for navigating the evening.

 

The Los Angeles Area Independent Schools (LAAIS) is hosting this event. 

What: Spring Secondary School Fair

When: April 30, 2014

Time: 6:30PM – 8:00PM

Where: Curtis 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!

 

8 Things Your Pre-Kindergartner Should Know by Academic Achievers

Julian, at Academic Achiever's Kinder-Prep

Julian, a super-cute student at Academic Achiever’s KinderPrep

 

For some of you, helping your preschooler get ready for kindergarten is something you’re thinking a lot about, maybe even worried about. If so, Academic Achievers has a program designed with your family in mind–a pre-kindergarten literacy program to help promote a secure foundation for when your little one starts kindergarten. Here’s what your pre-kindergartner should know when they start kindergarten at many of L.A.’s private schools.These are exactly the skills they will learn in the one-on-one KinderPrep Summer Camp at Academic Achievers. You may recall the previous guest post written by Janis Adams, founder of KinderPrep. She’s in the loop with L.A.’s admissions directors. This isn’t a sponsored post, it’s just information I’m sharing with our readers–Christina 

 

1. Explicit Instruction & Independent Practice: Our teachers first model, and then give explicit directions on learning strategies for our early learners. Once the student has had exposure to modeling of the specific learning skill, the student can begin to have independent practice with individual skills, which will help our teachers determine your student’s level of proficiency.

 

2. Shared Reading & Guided Reading: Early learners enrolled in our program will have unique exposure to shared and guided reading. During shared reading, students may review many literary terms such as characters, setting, vocabulary development, and more. During our guided reading time, students will be given pre-decodable and decodable stories based on their assessed level of development. Our teachers will pin point and monitor independent reading through this activity.

 

3. Phonological Awareness: Through a variety of activities encompassed in phonological awareness, children will explore through music, reading, and hands on fun!  Some of the specific skills we will focus on in our one on one sessions and summer program include: rhyming, syllabication, sentence segmentation, and onset/rime, the building blocks on phonological awareness.

 

4. Phonemic Awareness: Phonemic awareness is a great predictor of reading success and provides opportunities for young learners to blend, segment, and substitute sounds. Our teachers can provide kinesthetic opportunities for children to learn how to blend sounds by laying large letter cards on the carpet and having the student blend the sounds and walk by the word. This activity will reach learning through kinesthetic means and support active learners.

 

5. Oral Language Exposure: Our teachers use many forms musical experiences through songs, finger plays, and responsive communication to practice blending, segmenting, and substitution of sounds. For example, a teacher and child may sing the song Apples and Bananas, and substitute the word bananas for bononos!

 

6. Phonics Fun!: Our teachers use the latest in the application of letter and sound knowledge to teach consonants, short vowels, diagraphs, blends, and long vowels. Many of the fun activities we implement our sessions include word sorts, word work, and opportunities for interactive writing.

 

7. Vocabulary Development: Research by Tomkins (2011) suggests that kindergarten students should be able to identify words with opposite meanings and should have a repertoire of a few thousand vocabulary words. Here at Academic Achievers, teachers diligently work one on one with your child to ensure that their vocabulary is advancing through one on one conversations, the introduction to new vocabulary during shared reading time, and through word activities such as word sorts, which are used to group words by genre and word structure. Yet another activity we implement in our sessions is the use of Language Experience Approach (LEA), which gives children the opportunity to discuss stories and new information that has been learned.

 

8. Comprehension: Oftentimes, students can impact their depth and breadth of story content by retelling the events in recently read stories. Yet another strategy many of our teachers implement is the use of KWL charts to categorize the information that is known about a book, the information that is desired to be learned, and finally what was learned from the story. This activity helps children remember the information they knew at the beginning of reading and helps children see what they came away knowing.

 

By Elizabeth Fraley, M. Ed., Director, KinderPrep Camp, Academic Achievers, Santa Monica. For More Information, contact Academic Achievers at 310-883-5810 (June 23-July 31). Or click on Academic Achievers.

Weekend Links: Project Knapsack Delivers, The Garden Club at LILA, and More!

Working with elementary students at the Molalatladi Primary School. The Principal is Mama Julia Ngobeni. Amazing students and teachers.

Project Knapsack working with elementary students at the Molalatladi Primary School in Soweto, S. Africa. The Principal is Mama Julia Ngobeni. Amazing students and teachers. Project Knapsack delivers backpacks filled with school supplies to children in Africa and Latin America. A number of Los Angeles private school partner with Project Knapsack as part of their community service programs. April 2014.

Porcha Dodson, Beyond The Brochure co-author (and former teacher at Curtis School) talks to students in Soweto, S. Africa. April 2014.

Porcha Dodson, Beyond The Brochure co-author (and former teacher at Curtis School) talks to students in Soweto, S. Africa. April 2014.

Students at the Molalatladi Primary School in Sowets, S. Africa, excited about their new school supplies donated by Project Knapsack, founded by Porcha Dodson, Beyond The Brochure co-author. April 2014.

At a luuch to benefit Prototypes, an organization dedicated to helping women recover from drug abuse and reunite with their children. Amazing event at the Luxe Hotel on Rodeo Drive. With Matt Steiner and Rachel Sarnoff (Prototypes)

At the Celebrate Mother’s Lunch to benefit Prototypes, an organization dedicated to helping women recover from drug abuse and reunite with their children. Amazing event at the Luxe Hotel on Rodeo Drive. With Matt Steiner and Rachel Sarnoff of Prototypes/Mommy Greenest.

Over Spring Break, we spent four days in Las Vegas where my son's team took 2nd place in the Las Vegas Invitational Tournament!

Tired, but happy team. Over Spring Break, we spent four days in Las Vegas where my son’s club team, Pacific Elite, took 2nd place in the Las Vegas Invitational Tournament!

Las Vegas Invitational 3

Go #23! Las Vegas Invitational Tournament

Lycée International De Los Angeles (LILA) (above) has a new Gardening Club on the Los Feliz campus, created by students, parents and staff. They were approved for a $2,000 grant from the Whole Kids Foundation to keep their garden project going! (LILA news release).

 

Many of you know how much we love school gardens at Beyond The Brochure. According to a study by Cornell University, kids get more exercise if their school has a garden (Cornell University).

 

I posted the articles below on Beyond The Brochure’s Facebook Page. If you didn’t see them, check your “Pages Feed” on the left column of your Facebook Page. Facebook now only shows readers a small portion of what we post. The more “likes” and comments on the Facebook page, the better!

FB pages feed

Dealing with private school rejection is hard. This mom puts it all in perspective. Rejected From Preschool, A Toddler Is Fine, Her Mother Is Getting There (NYT Motherlode). 

 

My friend Tanya Anton is an expert on all things public schools. I love this piece about what to do if your child’s school isn’t the right fit. Tanya’s advice is spot on for private school parents too. (Go Mama Guide).

 

If The Ivy League Is The End Game, I’m Not Sure I Want To Play. Wonderful piece from an Ivy League mom who isn’t sure that’s what she wants for her child. (NYT Motherlode).

 

 Have a great weekend!–Christina

Echo Horizon School’s Secondary School Acceptances for 2014

The Echo Horizon School’s website says 90 percent of graduating 6th graders were accepted to their first choice secondary schools for 2014:

 

The Archer School (3 accepted; 3 attending)
Brentwood School (2 accepted; 2 attending)
Campbell Hall School (11 accepted; 3 attending)
Crossroads School (4 accepted; 2 attending)
Harvard-Westlake School (2 accepted; 2 attending)
Marlborough School (6 accepted; 4 attending)
Milken Community School (4 accepted; 3 attending)
New Roads School (2 accepted)
Oakwood School (7 accepted; 3 attending)
The Buckley School (2 accepted)
Turning Point School (1 accepted)
Wildwood School (7 accepted; 2 attending)
Windward School (9 accepted; 6 attending)

 

Let’s be social! Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook or Follow us on TwitterAre 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!

 

Differences Between Progressive and Traditional Schools (Part 5)

Traditional School
Traditional Schools: Barbie is just a toy, not a political statement or a cause of bad body image among young girls

Traditional Schools: Barbie is just a toy, not a political statement or a cause of bad body image among young girls. 

Progressive School

Progressive Schools: Toys are eco-friendly and their origin is important.

Progressive Schools: Toys are eco-friendly and their origin is important.

Traditional School

Traditional Schools: What's wrong with a good, old-fashioned hamburger?

Traditional Schools: What’s wrong with a good, old-fashioned hamburger?

Progressive School 

Progressive Schools: Vegan options are offered for hot lunch at some private progressive schools

Progressive Schools: Vegan options are offered for hot lunch at some progressive private schools.

 Traditional School

Traditional Schools: Uniforms reflect the school's culture

Traditional Schools: Uniforms reflect the school’s culture and help guard against over-the-top outfits.

Progressive School

Progressive Schools: Hipster kids dress the part (Singer Gwen Stephani's kids)

Progressive Schools: Hipster kids dress the part (Singer Gwen Stephani’s kids)

 Traditional School

Violin

Traditional Schools: Structure is necessary for learning.

Progressive School

Progressive Schools: Kids learn through play

Progressive Schools: Kids learn through play using found objects.

 

Reader Question: How Do I Know If I Selected The Right Private Elementary School?

Reflections

 

One of our wonderful blog readers emailed me with a question about picking the right school. This question is personal for me because I often wonder if I made a mistake with our previous school. See my conclusion below.  –Christina

 

Question: It’s been a long week of intense debate, extreme list and spreadsheet making and we finally selected a school. The school we didn’t choose seemed pretentious, but it had a lot to offer. We picked the school that also offers a lot, but where we think the parents are “our people.” Now, I feel some remorse (and regret?) with our decision. How do I know if I picked the right school?

 

Answer: Selecting a school for your kid can be filled with uncertainty (it was for me!). Second-guessing your decision, doubts, lingering thoughts about “what if” may persist until you just decide to embrace your decision and forget about the other school.

 

Let me just say that you’ll never be able to answer the question fully until your child is a student at your school and some time has passed. Then, most likely, it will become “your school” and the fleeting doubts will be a distant memory. Transitions to a new school are usually uneventful, but for some kids it can be a bumpy few months. So, try to resist judging the school until your family is settled there. Then, if your intuition tells you something isn’t right or if your child isn’t happy, you can try to figure out what’s really going on.

 

Unfortunately, I have frequent regrets about selecting The Willows Community School where my kids were generally happy, but Barry and I were not. Why did we spend so many years there? I know I need to put this chapter behind me. For various reasons, my family didn’t fit in at The Willows like we do at Viewpoint.

 

My decisions for selecting the Willows weren’t entirely flawed. For elementary school, I wanted a progressive/developmental school with excellent teachers and a small, nurturing environment with all the “bells and whistles.” The Willows is all that. It was the wrong school for our family for completely subjective, not objective reasons. The problem for us wasn’t something I could point to on a school brochure or during a tour. The culture of the school wasn’t right for us. We didn’t fit the very specific culture of the school. The more I volunteered and tried to make the fit work, the worse it got. Contributing to the school, both financially and with our free time was a wasted effort. I watched great families in a similar situation leave the school in first grade and second grade. We stayed. Every year I hoped something would change. It never did.  In retrospect, I realized the priorities of the school administration, the board and many of the parents were far different than ours. However, if we hadn’t stayed at Willows, we probably wouldn’t be at Viewpoint School now. Of course, I find myself thinking, “I wish my kids had started kindergarten at Viewpoint!” But, in the end everything worked out better than I could have imagined. Isn’t that how life works?

 

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!

 

A Really Good Article About Financial Aid in the NYT

This is absolutely one of the best articles I’ve read about how the “sausage-making” process of funding families for financial aid works. Private school administrators, including one from Harvard-Westlake, tell it like it is in this article. Did you know you can’t belong to a country club or have a second home or a boat and expect to get financial aid? Shocking! Also, what’s a big mistake that parents make? Read on…

 

For Boarding Schools, An Evolving Financial Aid Philosophy

 

Waiting on the Private School Wait-List…

Elizabeth Street Logo

Wait-lists are part of private school admissions. Here’s my latest piece for Elizabeth Street about what to do if your child is wait-listed at private school. Click on Elizabeth Street. 

 

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!