Choosing A Preschool: 5 Things That Matter and 5 That Probably Don’t by Mommy Poppins

 

 

Sunshine Preschool in Brentwood has a reputation as a "feeder" school to John Thomas Dye, Brentwood and others.
Sunshine Preschool in Brentwood has a reputation as a strong “feeder preschool” to John Thomas Dye and Brentwood School. Photo: Sunshine

Here’s a super-helpful article in Mommy Poppins by Jacqueline Stanbury about choosing a preschool in L.A. I sent my kids to two different preschools. My daughter went to an expensive preschool (Montessori Shir-Hashirim) with celebrities and all the extras like Chinese, theater and piano lessons. It is a “feeder preschool” to several schools where I knew we’d apply for my daughter (Oakwood, Willows). It is also feeds to  schools like Laurence, Center For Early Education and Mirman where we didn’t apply. My daughter flourished there and attended Willows for K-6. She’s now in 10th grade at Viewpoint in Calabasas.

My son attended a local neighborhood school that has since closed. I found it through a friend who sent her son there. It wasn’t fancy and cost about half the price of my daughter’s school. It had great teachers, a shabby exterior, hot lunch and a willingness to play football in the yard with him before pickup. He loved it. He was the only kid who attended private elementary school from that preschool and that’s because his sister was already at The Willows. If I’d wanted him to go to a different private school, the preschool director wouldn’t have been able to help at all.

I will say that Stanbury makes an important point about preschools that feed to specific elementary schools. She says, “Those of us who make the mistake of applying only to preschools that feed into one of Los Angeles’s many prestigious elementary programs can too easily get caught up in seeking approval from the director to secure a kindergarten slot.” However, I think these  “feeder preschools” can be important if you want your child to attend a specific, competitive private elementary school.

There’s a clear path from certain preschools to a few of the same elementary schools every year. By sending their kids to “feeder preschools” parents hope to increase their chances of getting into schools like John Thomas Dye, Curtis, Brentwood, Carlthorp and others. Attending a “feeder” isn’t a guarantee into specific schools, but it’s a good place to start (if you can get in) and it makes it a lot easier than applying from a preschool John Thomas Dye has never heard of–good luck with that! Certain hard-to-get-into-private elementary schools admit high numbers of kids from “feeder preschools” and you’ll have to decide if that’s the route you want to go. There are politics involved in elementary school admissions and reasons as to why they choose kids from preschools they know and have worked with for years. Relationships exist between the preschool director and elementary school admission director. A single phone call can smooth the way for your kid to get in. A blow-up with the preschool director can ruin everything. Your relationship with your preschool director can’t be underestimated when it comes time for your kids to apply to kindergarten. And, expect that the preschool director will wield power when it comes to where your kid should attend elementary school. If you have your heart set on one school, but the director thinks it’s not the right school for your child, you’ll be in a difficult position and that’s where your negotiating skills will be required. Also be aware that your child will be competing for a few kindergarten spots with his/her classmates. It all depends on what you’re looking for in a school. “Feeder Preschools” are one option, but certainly not the only preschool option! As the author points out, and I agree, a small, low-key neighborhood school can be just the right place for your child too.

Click to read Choosing A Preschool 5 Things That Matter and 5 That Probably Don’t

 

Sunshine Preschool in Brentwood. Photo: Sunshine
Sunshine Preschool in Brentwood. Photo: Sunshine

Here’s more about Beyond The Brochure’s thoughts on “feeder schools” as we explore how it works and some of the benefits and drawbacks:

You’ll note that when we talk about “feeder” schools (preschools that send more than a few students to particular elementary schools every year) we put the term “feeder” in quotation marks. We use quotes because there is some disagreement within the private school community about whether “feeder” schools even exist. We think they do. But, some private school administrators, preschool directors and even some parents don’t buy into the idea of a “feeder” school. They argue that even if a school is termed a “feeder” school for a certain elementary school, there is no guarantee that any specific child will get into that school. They also believe that to call a preschool a “feeder” diminishes the hard work of the preschool staff and the students who are accepted to the elementary school that receives the “feeder” preschool’s kids. In other words, saying a preschool is a “feeder” implies that it operates primarily on it’s relationship and connections with an elementary school and not much more.

Those are definitely valid points. We do think “feeder” schools develop based on relationships and connections between schools, but also because a particular preschool fits the educational philosophy of a specific elementary school. And, the elementary school probably has success with students and parents from that preschool.

We simply believe that if you look at certain preschools and the number of students they send each year to certain elementary schools, they fit our definition of “feeder” school. If a preschool sends 1/3 or more of it’s class to the same elementary school year after year, that’s what we’d call a “feeder” preschool. We think this is helpful information when you’re in the application process. It can give you important information about your child’s preschool and about the preschool director’s ability to help you place your child. But, don’t enroll your child in a “feeder” preschool just because you want your child to attend a certain elementary school. That’s not enough of a reason to pick a preschool-and things might not work out as you planned. You need to really love your preschool and if it’s a “feeder” to a great private elementary school, all the better. See our previous posts for more about which preschools are known as “feeder” schools. This term also applies to elementary schools that send significant numbers of kids to upper schools.

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“Navigating L.A. Private Secondary School Admissions” with Sandy Eiges of L.A. School Scout-1/19/17

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To reserve your spot, CLICK HERE.

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Applying For 9th Grade: Skylar’s Story

Photo: Ruth Hartnup/Flickr
Photo: Ruth Hartnup/Flickr

Here, I interview one of my good friends, Skylar, about her experience as a mom going through the L.A. private school admissions process for 9th grade. Her son, Luc, attended The Willows for K-8, which is where we met. I think it’s always helpful to hear different perspectives about admissions from a variety of voices.–Christina

Question: Thank you, Skylar, for sharing your family’s experience with the 9th grade admissions process with our readers. Can you describe what the process was like for your family?

Answer: In a word, CHALLENGING. My son really wanted to go to Crossroads. My husband and I really wanted him to go there. Crossroads was his first choice. He wanted to be in the Crossroads theater program and play baseball there. We had high hopes that coming from The Willows he’d get in. He is a multi-faceted kid (baseball, theater, led tours of Willows, rock band, good grades and engaging personality). His ISEE scores were good, but not great. We had great letters of recommendation from parents at the school, his theater director, his baseball coach and even the head of the baseball league. Despite all this, he didn’t get in. It was devastating for him and for me and my husband. He was wait-listed and we tried so hard to get a spot from the wait-list, but it didn’t happen. It was an emotional time for us. Luc had good friends going to Crossroads and he wanted to go there with them. And, we thought it would be the best school for him. But, the numbers didn’t work in our favor. There were too many families with board-level connections and we didn’t have those relationships. Fortunately, he was accepted at 3 other schools.

Question: What do you think was the most difficult part of the process?

Answer: Definitely it was the written application.  The parent essays and the essays our son had to write for every school were very tedious. They are so time-consuming and you want to answer the questions directly but still be interesting and not dull.  Some schools require long essays and others are short. Each school asks different questions. Whew!

Question: What was the easiest part of the process?

Answer:  We are all outgoing and talkative, so for our family the interviews were the least stressful part of the process. We can talk to a potted plant and make it a two-way conversation. But, if you are the quiet type, or your kid is quiet, try to anticipate the type of questions you’ll be asked and practice answering the questions. The schools might ask why you want your kid to attend the school. They might ask your kid why he/she wants to go to the school or to talk about his/her extracurricular activities. If it’s an all-boys or all-girls school, they might ask your kid why he/she wants to attend a single-sex school. Vague, general answers aren’t what they’re looking for. Try to be specific!

Question: What advice would you give parents who are applying for 9th grade?

Answer: Cast a wide net! Tour a lot of schools. Apply to enough schools so you end up with options. Look outside your obvious choices or the most “popular” schools. Look for schools where other families at your current school are not applying. Remember that if you’re at a private school, your head of school has a lot of families who are applying to the same few schools, so if you can apply to a school that is not on that list, your might have a better chance of getting in. Your kid is competing against his/her classmates, unfortunately.

Question: Do you think it’s possible for a kid to get accepted without letters of recommendation?

Answer: Yes! At one school, we didn’t know anybody and Luc got in. At the other schools, we did have letters from current parents. The admissions process is very political at some schools. It can be about who your family is, or what you do for work, at some of these schools, even for 9th grade. If your job gives you strong connections to board members that’s a big deal.

Question: Do you have any words of advice for other parents?

Answer: Try to stay calm and know that your family will get through the process, possibly with an unexpected or surprising (in a good way!) outcome. Don’t rule out a school just because it is different than your current school. Kids change and have different educational needs in high school than they had in elementary school. Keep an open mind. Look at teachers, classes offered, extracurricular activities and college placements at prospective schools. Do they fit with what your kid wants? What you want for him/her? If so, apply! We were way too focused on one school and didn’t initially realize that there was another school that was a great choice for Luc. Also, I’d say that a lot of D1 sports school are religious, but don’t let that deter you. They attract kids of all faiths who come to play sports or for other programs.

Thank you, Skylar for your insights and advice–Christina

Skylar is the mom of Luc, a sophomore at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino, where he is enjoying playing baseball and excelling at the all-boys school. 

Names have been changed for privacy. 

 

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In the LA Times: “To Donald Trump, from the undocumented immigrant who graduated alongside your daughter” (at Viewpoint School)

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My kids attend Viewpoint School, as I’ve mentioned previously. They co-exist among students who are Democrats and Republicans, Independents and Libertarians. They discuss politics, sometimes. A few weeks ago, the Upper School held an assembly to help students understand how to talk about politics with respect toward each other. Barry and I are lifelong Democrats. He might be slightly more liberal than I am, although I’m not even sure why he even thinks that. My kids are also Democrats, in 7th and 10th grade.

 

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The Patriot, Viewpoint’s school newspaper, came out with an edition on election day. In it, my daughter interviewed Scott Baio, one of President-elect Trump’s celebrity convention speakers. Many of us will remember Scott Baio as “Chachi” on the hit show Happy Days. My daughter’s politics are different than Baio’s. That doesn’t matter. She had a chance to interview a dad at her school who’d spoken at the Republican National Convention. She said he was accessible, funny and of course, serious.

Diana Delgado Cornejo’s opinion piece in the LA Times will stay with me for a long time. The writer’s brutal, unflinching honesty–and hope–stunned me. It is one of the reasons Viewpoint is the kind of school I want my kids to attend. They are fortunate to be there, to be around people who don’t share their beliefs and those who are like-minded. I know that. I hope they do too.

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Lisa Marfisi: From L.A. Admissions Director To Educational Consultant

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Stay up-to-date on all the latest L.A. private school news. Follow Beyond The Brochure on Facebook.

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