Pasadena Waldorf: Blending Old and New For An Expansive World View

Opening the doors to a global world vision

Diane La Salle, the director of admissions at Pasadena Waldorf, occupies an office in a big, beautiful, rambling home with a bohemian feel that has been turned into administrative offices and the 4th grade classrooms for the school. Located on a quaint residential street, Pasadena Waldorf is a hideaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. On a very hot day recently, Diane welcomed me to her office on the second floor.  A fomer Waldorf mom herself, Diane is extremely friendly, genuine and passionate about the school. We talked for 30 minutes about this intriguing school: its mission, the guiding Waldorf philosophy and specifics about the curriculum. Unique and fascinating, the school pays homage to Rudolph Steiner’s 90 year-old ideas, while embracing many current educational practices.

 

A view of the campus

 

Waldorf schools take their name from a world-wide educational philosophy centered on the belief that nurturing both the imagination and the intellect are important to create a deep love of learning in children. Pasadena Waldorf is a developmental school, meaning that, “children learn in distinctly different ways at different stages of their development.” (Source: Waldorf materials). As Diane explained, the intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual development of each child are all nurtured. This is essentially what is known as the whole child approach. However, Pasadena Waldorf is not a progressive school, Diane explained, although it shares many elements with progressive schools. For example, students at Pasadena Waldorf don’t call teachers by their first names as they do in progressive schools.

 

Interestingly, there is no head of school. The school is governed by its faculty and decisions are made by consensus. Weekly faculty meetings help sort out and identify issues involving students and curriculum.

 

Kindergarten play area

 

Walking through the gorgeous 3 ½ acre campus, surrounded by enormous trees on a gently sloping hill, I was taken in by the beauty of the natural surroundings. The school is stunning in its pristine beauty. Classrooms are in located in rustic one-story bungalows. At the top of the campus is the renovated home that serves as the majestic entrance to the school. The middle school is up the hill from there. A newly opened high school resides at separate location.

 

One of two identical kindergarten classrooms

 

Pasadena Waldorf has a modern vintage vibe. Walking into the kindergarten classroom felt very nurturing. It is reminicient of a life-sized dollhouse. When we arrived, the teacher was setting up for story time while the kids played in the enclosed outdoor kindergarten play area. The retro feel of the school comes from many of the play and learning tools in the classroom, which are made largely of natural materials such as wood, stones and other found objects.

 

Close up: One of two Kindergarten classrooms

 

The main lesson is a two-hour block in the morning over a period of three to four weeks, focusing on one subject. Specialist teachers are responsible for music, languages, P.E., arts and other subjects. Hands on activities are important at Waldorf and the classroom is filled with imaginative activity centers. The power of childrens’ imaginations plays an important role in the classroom. In kindergarten, much of the teaching is done through teacher-led storytelling, without reading from a book. The teachers tell stories based on carefully selected books, while encouraging free play to both teach and inspire. Kids learn through baking, creating books, making snacks, gardening and doing handicrafts. The hands-on quality of the classroom gives one the sense that learning here is both serious and fun, organic and inspiring. Kids reach for the stars while learning the 3 Rs.

 

Basketball court

 

What you won’t see in the classrooms are computers or technology of any kind. Pasadena Waldorf is a tech-free zone until 9th grade. This is unusual in the world of private schools. But, it fits perfectly with the Waldorf method, which focuses on learning through play, imagination and hands-on experiences with natural materials.

 

First, Second and Third grade classrooms

 

Pasadena Waldorf is a structured school, but it is one without the intense academic pressure found in so many private elementary schools. One of my favorite aspects of the program is called “looping.” Teachers remain with their students from 1st to 8th grade, forging a deep bond and mutual understanding. There are two kindergarten classes, each with a teacher and an assistant for 20 kids per class.

 

A place in the sun: the gorgeous garden

 

Until this year, when the school added its high school, Pasadena Waldorf students went on to 9th grade at The Waverly School, Flintridge Prep., Mayfield, St. Francis, and public schools. Families who attend Pasadena Waldorf live in Pasadena, Altadena, Los Feliz, La Canada and other locations.

 

My observations of Pasadena Waldorf are that it is a school filled with a love for teaching children to reach their fullest potential. A tried and true philosophy that instills the spirit of adventure radiates from every corner of the school.  The educators here have seamlessly blended the past, present and future, creating a warm, nurturing school filled with imaginative elements created by– and for– kids. Attention to tiny details combined with a big picture focus on the world in which we live has created a school that is authentic and uncontrived. Encouraging students to dare to dream big is what makes this school so remarkable. Retaining the best elements of eras gone by while remaining just ahead of the educational curve is what Pasadena Waldorf is all about.

 

If you’re looking for a school with a distinctive vision, a stunning campus and a style of teaching that has the just the right mix of structure and freedom with a magical, homespun quality, this school might just fit your family’s wish-list.

 

The coolest store ever: A carefully curated selection of all things Waldorf-inspired

 

The school’s super-popular Elves Fair is coming up on Sat. Nov. 17th. Admission is free and it the fair is open to the community. It includes music, crafts, games, food, a tea garden, a silent auction and puppet show. Best of all, you’ll get to visit the charming campus store that is stuffed full of amazing Waldorf educational objects and toys. www.elves-fair.com

For more information, visit, www.pasadenawaldorf.org

 

 

 

Turning Point School: A Vocabulary of Visuals, Academics, Creativity


Turning Point School

Turning Point School is a multi-faceted, developmental Preschool-8th grade school in Culver City.

 

Located on a gorgeously renovated movie studio, the campus has a hip, urban vibe, much like the famed Dalton School in New York City, where the classrooms are on multiple levels and stairs are used to access various levels within the interior of the building. Big windows flood rooms with light. Kids flow from the main building out onto an artificial turf athletic playing field, next to a garden and outdoor classroom.

 

Creativity starts here! A Kindergarten classroom

 

Turning Point’s blueprint has inspired a school filled with colorful hues, spacious classrooms, dynamic teachers and a diverse student-body. The architecture of the campus is roomy enough for virtually every grade level to have its own space. Some areas, like the music room, are shared by multiple grades. The preschool has occupies a separate building.

 

Outside the kindergarten classroom

 

Walking through the school with Christian Davis, the associate director of admissions, I felt like I’d encounter something magical around every corner. As we visited classrooms, I learned a lot about each part of the school. Smart Boards are a feature in every class. Music is central to the curriculum, starting in Primary with the xylophone.  Wind instruments  are introduced in 5th grade.

 

All that Jazz! The Music Room

 

Touring with Christian, I quickly realized he’s the kind of admissions director parents shouldn’t be worried about calling to ask a question or just to touch base. He’s so nice! Easy going and accessible, he’s well versed in the school’s many programs. His manner instantly puts one at ease.

 

Outdoor field

 

Head of School, Deborah Richman, has been with the school since its early days. She has been the driving force behind Turning Point’s impressive expansion. Her vision has created a modern school, valued by parents for its sense of community. Nothing about the school is antiquated or outdated. There’s a cutting edge-ness to it that I felt instinctively drawn to.  From the kid-inspired kindergarten classrooms, to the language center and the outdoor classroom, layers of this energetic school unfolded before my eyes. It has a delightful, whimsical quality, reminiscent of an Alice in Wonderland adventure.

 

Talented Middle School artists

 

Turning Point is a developmental school with a Montessori based program for Primary and K-1. Mixed age classrooms are a key feature of the Montessori philosophy and Turning Point’s Kindergarten and 1st grades are separate, but interact during portions of the day. Students in Primary and K-1 remain with the same teacher and classmates, per the Montessori method. This gives kids the chance to learn independently, while collaborating with their peers and older kids. Then, when they become the oldest in the class, they take on a leadership role by mentoring younger children.

 

An interconnected campus

 

The Smart Lab

There’s definitely a “wow factor” when you walk into the The SmartLab. It is a highlight of the school and rather unique: it is one of two labs of its kind in Southern California. What is the SmartLab? It’s a hub of new technology where students get hands-on learning experience.

 

From Turning Point’s website:

“Students work in groups to exercise their creativity utilizing modern day technology while developing vital 21st century skills. The curriculum of the SmartLab emphasizes 8 systems of technology: science and data acquisition, mechanics and structures, robotics and control technology, circuitry, graphic design, multimedia and publishing, computer simulation, and renewable energy.”

The Smart Lab

The Smart Lab teacher, a young guy named Travis, was enthusiastic as he talked to us about all the learning that’s happening in this mega-lab. SmartLab becomes part of the curriculum in 5th grade. It is offered as both an elective and a requirement in Middle School. It is also offered as an after school class and as an option in the summer specialists’ camp. Let’s just say the SmartLab caught my attention—and held it.

Theater Arts

The new theater gives Turning Point serious bragging rights. It’s a place for the performing arts that hits all the right notes! Generous families, including a heavily tattooed pop-rock star whose name adorns the building (due to his generous donation), made the theater possible.

 

Lights out! The Theater

 

Turning Point offers students all the extras, within an environment rich with the classics to foster each student’s talent. But, it hasn’t lost sight of its mission, which is to educate and nurture each student, focusing on the whole child. Perhaps the school’s mission statement says it best: “Turning Point provides a harmony between structure and freedom…”

 

The best way to describe Turning Point is substance without pretense.  It’s a place where kids thrive in an effortlessly cool setting. Its very apparent that students at Turning Point are encouraged to be expressive, to get creative and challenge themselves in all aspects of their education. It’s a school where one size doesn’t fit all.  That’s sure to please prospective kids and parent alike!

 

Tomatoes growing in a corner of the school garden

 

Upper School Acceptances for the Class of 2012 include: Brentwood, Buckley, Campbell Hall, Crossroads, Harvard Westlake, Loyola, Marlborough, Wildwood, Windward and more.

 

See the school! Open House, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 10 a.m.-12 noon.

For more information, visit, www.turningpointschool.org

St. Matthew’s Parish School: Embracing Tradition and Excellence

Nature takes center stage!

 

The first thing any visitor notices upon arriving at St. Matthew’s Parish School in Pacific Palisades is the stunning campus where nature takes center stage on 30 acres in a beautiful park-like setting.

 

West Coast warmth infused with the gravitas of an East Coast prep school makes for just the right combination at this well-respected institution. Virtually everything about St. Matthew’s is reserved and understated. In our city of over-the-top lifestyles it is refreshing to see this quality in a school.

 

A place for inspiration

St. Matthew’s was founded in 1949, but it has been significantly updated. From the classrooms to the technology for learning (Smart Boards, iPads and more), St. Matthew’s has done an amazing job remodeling and rebuilding all of its 28 classrooms, the enormous library and virtually the entire campus, in part with a recently completed capital campaign. The look and feel of the campus is rustic and modern.

 

Buildings are rustic and modern

Head of School, Stuart Work (also known as Stu), and Jane Young, the principal, were generous with their time as I sat with them in Stu’s office talking about what make the school unique. Stu is thoughtful and articulate, with a firm handshake and a direct gaze. He is a former science teacher and accomplished administrator who adores kids and is obviously extremely proud of his school. He took the helm at St. Matthew’s in 2011. Walking around the campus, he seemed to know every student. Jane, a member of the St. Matthew’s community for more than 30 years, as an alumni parent and teacher, is warm, outgoing and approachable.

 

St. Matthew’s is a traditional school, both in its academic philosophy and its religious values. As part of the St. Matthew’s Parish, the school has embraced both spiritual growth—kids attend chapel and religious class each week—and rigorous academics, creating an enviable educational institution.

 

A pretty bell

As Jane describes it, the school combines academics and a deep moral and spiritual foundation, rooted in its three faith-based elements: SERVE, LEAD, FLOURISH. Sixty percent of families belong to St. Matthew’s Parish, and there are a number of different religions at the school.  All are welcome. The school is known in the community for being open to all faiths and very respectful.

 

St. Matthew’s is small (325 students total). There is one class per grade, with about 24 students and 2 teachers.

 

The kindergarten classroom is very spacious and bright. Natural light streams in from big windows giving the young students a glimpse of the outdoors as they learn. There is also a separate break-out room where they work on projects.

 

The kindergarten classroom

A room with a view: science room

 

St. Matthew’s embodies a strong tradition of community service for all students, which is integrated into the curriculum. Students participate in a variety of volunteer and service learning activities from partnerships with St. Anne School to raising money for an Episcopal school in Haiti to working in the St. Matthew’s thrift store in Venice.

 

School quilt

Stu and Jane enthusiastically described one of the school’s signature programs: grant funding for teachers to visit places that correlate with the study units they teach. Costa Rica, Haiti and Africa are a few of the locations where 1st and 3rd grade teachers have traveled.  Returning to St. Matthew’s, teachers bring back a deeper, first hand understanding of what they are teaching.

 

Walking through the various classrooms from K-middle school, touches of tradition are noticeable from the moment one enters the school. Classes are orderly, fairly structured and calm. Students wear uniforms and address their teachers by their last names, all hallmarks of a traditional school. Yet despite the fact that several classes were taking quizzes, students were friendly and welcoming to the head of school and his visitors.

 

Eating area

Leaving the kindergarten classroom, Jane pointed to an example of the school’s belief that mistakes happen and that’s fine. She pointed to the steps, where the artist who created them had inadvertently laid the wrong letters side by side. She explained that the artist offered immediately to fix the error. Instead, she told me they decided to leave it. Serious and focused, the school isn’t afraid to let its sense of humor show!

 

The fence pattern follows the musical notes from the school's prayer

St. Matthews is recognized for its sports programs. Many athletes go on to play high school and college sports.

 

Basketball!

Admission to St. Matthew’s is competitive. The school is especially popular among Palisades and Brentwood families. However, both Stu and Jane pointed out that they encourage families to remain on their active wait-list if they are not admitted right away. The St. Matthew’s wait-list is one that does have spaces open up and admits families.

 

The primary points of entry are Preschool 1 and 4th grade, with spots open at 5th and 6th grade. Kindergarten admission is based on attrition from the preschool. “Keep applying” Stu and Jane told me is their message to families who are wait-listed. For those who are not part of the St. Matthew’s parish, being active in your own religious institution can be an asset for admissions.

 

The library

St. Matthew’s is certainly a school for a traditional family looking for that perfect mix of rigorous academics, faith and community.

 

As one of my Palisades mom friends told me, “St. Matthew’s is really popular among the Palisades moms.”

 

Now I know why!

 

For more information, visit, www.stmatthewsschool.com

 

 

 

Stephen S. Wise Elementary School: A Very “Wise” Choice

A compelling corner of the campus

A sunny L.A. morning last week found me visiting Stephen S. Wise Elementary School for the first time. Headed by principal Tami Weiser, this Jewish Day School is tucked away on a picturesque campus nestled in the trees, accessible from a small private drive off Mulholland in Bel Air.

 

Tami welcomed me graciously into her office where Beth Behar, the admissions director, joined us. Our conversation flowed from general private school observations to the popular school Tami oversees. Within a few minutes, I quickly realized this is a school with a lot to offer!

 

Tami is an educator with many years of experience who is constantly seeking the best scholarly ideas in education to implement at the school. She is vibrant and likable. Her mood sparkles as she proudly talks about two of their signature programs: The Gifted Education Partnership with USC and The Studio Lab.

 

Peak viewing!

 

Tradition With A Twist

When I asked how she would describe the school’s educational philosophy, she responded, “This is a traditional school within a Reform congregation.” Speaking with the confidence we all want from the principal responsible for educating our kids, Tami was quick to point out there is a lot of experiential education taking place, making the school a hybrid of new and traditional ideas.  She was also effusive in her praise for the staff and board, who help make these ideas come to life.

 

One of three kindergarten classes

 

Walking around the sprawling campus with its low slung buildings that are punctuated by open spaces, Beth, one of the friendliest and most knowledgeable directors I’ve met, was happy to showcase the school. From the kindergarten classroom to the kindergarten play yard, kids dressed in their blue uniforms, were happily buzzing with activity.

 

The kindergarten playground

 

Stopping by a math class, we saw kids gathered on a rug as the young, energetic teacher discussed a math concept. They were focused and engaged. Science class students were finishing up a project.

 

Earthworks: The school garden

 

Gifted Education, Re-interpreted

One of the school’s signature programs is its unique partnership with USC Professor Dr. Sandra Kaplan, a gifted education expert. Putting their combined talents to work, the elementary school and the University have created implemented a program that ensures “every student is exposed to a gifted curriculum and high level learning experiences.”* This collaboration between the principal and the professor is an integral part of the school’s curriculum for every kid, not only those who are gifted.

 

Weiser shares, “It is our belief that children are gifted in different ways; be it intellectually, creatively, artistically or athletically. Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School recognizes and cultivates these gifts.” *

 

According to the school’s website, “Our program provides a variety of teaching and learning strategies by grouping children according to their achievement in reading, math and Hebrew; and in homogeneous groups in writing, social studies and specialist areas of technology, science, music and art. These learning experiences provide children with the opportunity to build critical, problem solving and research skills, be creative and innovative, and exhibit leadership and responsibility.

 

Project Studio: Innovation happens here

 

Project Studio

Entering Project Studio, teacher Jason Meth was busy setting up maps on the floor of a large open classroom before his students arrived. He explained that Project Studio is a space for kids to explore, solve problems and learn in a space without the constraints of tables, chairs and desks. This encourages connection and collaboration between students and between teacher and students. A smart board and other technologies are at the center of this inquiry-based program.

 

It is important to note that Jewish education is a major theme at Stephen S. Wise. Jewish ethical and spiritual values, along with Hebrew as a second language are taught.

 

How cool! Fun and safety in the pool

There are 350 students in the school, with two teachers per grade. Importantly, the school disburses $800,000 annually in financial aid (that’s a lot of money that is most welcome in these uncertain economic times).

 

Where Graduates Go

Most of the school’s graduates attend Milken Middle School and Milken Community High School of Stephen S. Wise Temple, but of those who did not, all 21 were accepted at secondary schools of their choice. Graduates attend Milken, Harvard-Westlake, Brentwood, Buckley, Windward, Campbell Hall, Oakwood and Archer.

 

My experience touring Stephen S. Wise Elementary School provided me with an up close look at a remarkable school.

 

For more information, visit, www.wiseelementary.org

* Source: Stephen S. Wise Elementary website

 

 

 

Guest Blogger Jenny: A “Nurturing” Environment: Does Mirman School Deliver?

 

Mirman School (Photo: Google Images)

The word “nurture” means to nourish or feed, either in the form of food and sustenance or skills and education. By that definition, any Los Angeles private school has a “nurturing” environment. Each educates children every day, and most even gives them a balanced lunch, too.

 

But, (sigh) “nurturing” has taken on a much more involved and expanded definition according to our crop of private school helicopter parents.  Apparently, “nurturing” also means listening to and respecting everything the child says or desires, not letting them ever feel bad for even a moment about themselves (this includes bad grades that they earned), praising everything they do (no matter how mediocre it might be), and just generally kowtowing to the so-called “self esteem” movement (a movement which actually has produced kids with lower self esteem, but don’t get me started on that rant).

 

Thus, when parents are looking at private schools, they might be looking for the most “nurturing” environment, a place where their child is accepted for who she is in everything she does (even if she turns out to be disruptive, disrespectful, and refuses to eat her broccoli). Some schools do better at presenting the “nurturing” image better than others; The Willows School, for example, has a sterling reputation in this regard. In some ways, these schools appear to be nurturing the parents’ needs, not the children’s.

 

Well, my child doesn’t go to The Willows. My child goes to Mirman, a school with an air of mystery. What do they do there? I’ve heard it called (from rather clueless sources) everything from elitist (any private school earns this adjective in an instant) to “the Nazi school” (obviously listening to Rush Limbaugh instead of reading the brochure). So what’s the story? Is Mirman “nurturing?”

 

My daughter didn’t enter Mirman until 4th grade. She was understandably nervous about going to a new school with kids who’d mostly been there since Room 1 (there is no kindergarten). She was also uptight about the academic expectations; Mirman is a school for “highly gifted” students, and Anna came from public school. She worried about having to play catch up.

 

From the first day, Anna settled in quickly. Her teacher, a real pro, was kind to her while still expecting excellent work. Anna’s emotional comfort was greatly considered; nasty girl politics were shut down. Friends were made. Lunches were eaten. All in all, it was the easiest school transition Anna has ever had. Sure, she was the “new girl” for the first year. But that’s life.

 

If you define “nurturing” as educating, I honestly can’t think of a school that does a better job. The kinds of assignments they’re given are pretty extraordinary. Mirman teaches the kids to work in small groups, and encourages them to analyze their group’s dynamic in order to improve performance. Honest self-evaluation is a valuable skill, and Anna learned it early.  From self-analysis comes improvement, and that’s a true self-esteem booster.

 

Is the school squishy and warm and full of free time? Well, no it’s not. Mirman students are smart and wily; they’re a tough room. Mirman teachers are hyper organized and structured, because highly gifted children need to keep their brains occupied at all times. Those kids are stimulated all day long with constant knowledge and problem solving. They’re encouraged to have good manners (my daughter’s manners skyrocketed) and be able to make good conversation. They’re also expected to manage their own time, be responsible for their own work, remember the school’s honor code, and use their school distributed laptops according to the school’s ultra strict use agreement they signed.

 

Does that mean there’s no jokes or hugs? Of course not! Students get plenty of positive feedback, when it’s merited. The students are still treated like children, not like adults. Anna has had great, funny , respectful relationships with her teachers. This respect is reflected in the way the students treat one another; I’ve seen no substantive bullying or mean girl behavior there.

 

I think Mirman nurtures students in the best, purest possible way. The education is incredible, the social skills invaluable, the campus itself a lovely little oasis where the nerdy kids can be themselves. What’s more nurturing than that?

 

You know whom they don’t nurture? The parents! Seriously, the school just wants parents to drop the kids off, pay the tuition, help out when asked, and otherwise vaporize.  And I’m totally fine with that, because my daughter gets exactly what she needs to thrive.

 

Jenny Heitz Schulte 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 in 2010. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Hybrid Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.

 

 

 

 

 

An Unusually Vexing Homework Assignment At The Willows School

The Declaration of Independence

Not long ago, my 5th grade daughter came upstairs and said in a shaky voice that she needed help with her homework, due the next day. This isn’t her usual pattern or demeanor. Normally, she goes into her room and does her homework, popping out if she has a question. So, when I saw her face, I knew she wanted help with the assignment.

 

“I have to memorize the Preamble to the Declaration Of Independence,” she said in a quivering voice. Handing me a paper with the Preamble on it, she said she needed to understand its words before she could memorize it. The class is studying the American Revolution so the assignment fit with the theme she’s been working on. What didn’t fit was the rote memorization aspect of the homework.

 

I was reminded why we chose The Willows for our kids. I’ve written about homework previously. The teaching style is incredibly creative and inspiring, using big concepts and ideas to help kids learn.  Memorizing is used to support an assignment, not for its own sake or to “make work.” Of course, this was a very worthy homework assignment. It was just atypical for our school.  Thankfully, my daughter isn’t used to the type of endless memorization I grew up with.

 

We sat together on the bed and went though the incredible Preamble, line by line. I explained each premise and we talked about how America is unique and unduplicated because of the Declaration of Independence. I explained the concept of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Thinking about it gave me chills. It is carefully nuanced and profound. It is, at once, both simple and stunningly complex. Imperfect, but as close to perfect as any country has come. This document has powered through the decades, helping define who we are as a nation.

 

Despite my daughter’s uneasiness with the assignment, I loved sitting with her talking about the history of our country, written in antiquated language we no longer use, but whose eloquence and brilliance still guides our founding principles.

 

The next morning, my daughter woke up and asked to recite the Preamble. In a sing-song voice, she nailed it. Off to school we went.

 

After school, I asked her how the test went. “Great” she said as if the previous night had been unnecessary. That’s my girl!

 

Guest Blogger Jenny: The Private School End of the Year Marathon and My New (smaller) House

Jenny Heitz

Our fabulous contributor/guest blogger Jenny Heitz has been super-busy. She got married! She also moved to a new house in the hills of Los Feliz, from a bigger house in Hancock Park. Yes, that’s correct, Jenny downsized in L.A. (gasp!). Check out her new blog series about the new house and what she’s doing to fix it up on her style blog, Find A Toad. We know once it’s complete, Jenny’s unique, modern sense of style will transform her new space into a very cool family house! Unfortunately, she realized they moved without a coffee maker, but she found an awesome espresso maker that would make a great house-warming gift.

 

Meanwhile, end of the year at Mirman is upon her. Read on:

 

Once your kid has been in private school for at least a year, you recognize it: the end of the year slog toward the summer break finish line.

 

It’s as if all the private school powers that be got together and decided: enough learning, we must have ceremony, and lots of it! Thus, at Mirman, we had the Pops Concert, followed by the Spring Fair, followed by Colonial Day (presentations given by Room 5 students in full colonial regalia), followed by a music recital (skipped this; my daughter isn’t playing an instrument), followed by Open House (Mulholland and the 405 at rush hour: such fun). Soon, there’s a violin concert, the Upper School play, and then the massive number of matriculation and awards ceremonies. Finally, there’s Field Day, the final day of school that’s all about play.

 

Just reading the last paragraph, much less writing it, makes me long for a solid nap.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Mirman and what it’s done for my daughter, but driving up there from Los Feliz makes me break out in hives. And having to haul up there repeatedly over a two month span of time during critical traffic hours has brought new levels of road rage to the surface. What happened to spreading these things out, to moderation? Why was Open House the same night as Obama’s visit to George Clooney’s estate?  Why bother asking why? My daughter’s lucky to go there.

 

I’ve written in the past about how wonderful it is to have a bus route from the east side, so that we no longer have to carpool 4X a week. But, the bus has spoiled us rotten. Now that we don’t have to schlep up to the campus constantly, the occasional sojourn is that much more painful. While I realize that road construction is a temporary state of affairs, it has made the commute, even done occasionally, a total unpredictable nightmare.

 

I also wonder a bit about families with two intensely working parents: how do they cope? I work from home and have a flexible schedule; I still have a bad attitude about the drive and the constant events. How do doctors, lawyers, bankers, and anyone else with a “normal” job manage it? Are you tag teaming the events, or perhaps letting relatives fill in? Really, I want to know.

 

In the meantime, we will schlep. And slog. And clap for our matriculating kids. And, finally, welcome summer and some sort of sleeping in.

 

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.

Third Grade Native American Study Unit at The Willows Community School

Third graders at The Willows Community School presented the culmination of their Native American Study Unit, designed to enhance their knowledge of Native American culture.  My son and his classmates worked on a series of classroom projects that included writing assignments, iSearch technology and art. The photos below show the amazing baskets, woven from looms the kids created on a paper plate in art class. The kids loved constructing and playing in the teepee.

Baskets woven by 3rd graders on looms created on paper plates

Teepee

Teepee

 

The World Meets France in Los Feliz: Lycée International de Los Angeles (Pre-K-12)

Parlez-Vous Francais? Oui! At Lycee International de Los Angeles 

Lycée International de Los Angeles, Los Feliz

“Bringing Up Bebe”, the bestselling book by Pamela Druckerman was the topic of a fabulous luncheon I attended recently, hosted by Lycee International de Los Angeles (LILA) and Launch Education Group at The Little Door. Before the event, I toured LILA, a wonderful, developmental Pre-K-12 in Los Feliz.

Elizabeth Chaponot, LILA head of school and Christina Simon (photo: www.miajphoto.com)

As we ate the Little Door’s superb food, Elizabeth Chaponot, the French/American head of school at LILA, spoke about the differences between French and American education and how LILA achieves the delicate balance of blending the two educational influences and cultures.

 

Elizabeth is an experienced educator and a mom, with impressive credentials and a passion for education. Her family founded LILA, she’s a graduate of the school and now she’s continuing the tradition. Elizabeth pointed out that at the school, she approaches French parents differently than she does their American counterparts. With American parents, she told us, she often begins with talking about the child’s unique qualities like their sense of humor or other characteristics. French parents, she said, want to know how their child is doing in school, but don’t expect continual feedback on their child’s attributes. American parents also place a premium on extracurricular actives like sports to a greater extent than many French parents. So, part of her job at LILA is to unify the distinct parenting and educational values of these two very different cultures.

Author Sarah Maizes at The Little Door (photo: Mia J. Photography)

Giving a quintessentially American perspective on the bestselling book, “Bringing Up Bebe,” Sarah Maizes, author of Got Milf? The Modern Mom’s Guide To Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great and Rocking a Minivan, is a triple threat: mom of three, author and comedian. She writes the parenting humor site, Mommy Lite Online. Sarah talked about writing the review of the book for the Today Show Moms and what she learned by reading it. She also talked about her own kids and the unique parenting challenges that come with twins and a daughter with Asperberger’s, who became the inspiration for her new children’s book, On My Way To The Bath due out in June.

Juliette Lange, LILA admissions coordinator, Matt Steiner, Launch Education Group and Christina Simon at The Little Door (photo: Mia J. Photography)

Although my two years of college French are long forgotten, touring LILA with Juliette Lange, the charming and friendly admissions coordinator, I was pleasantly surprised that I recognized a few familiar phrases from days gone by, as ridiculously cute children darted by speaking the most adorable French.

Mia Johnstone (LA Private School Guide/photographer) and Christina Simon at The Little Door

Noelle Orsini, The Kelter Center and Christina Simon at The Little Door (photo: Mia J. Photography)

LILA is a great option for families who are looking for a developmental dual immersion school. Students are taught to read, write and speak both French and English by the end of elementary school. However, the goal is to offer more than “mere knowledge of two languages. The ultimate goal is to form bi-literate students capable of functioning in two linguistic worlds, according to LILA. Families at LILA truly embrace French language, culture and diverse cultures at the school. A quarter of the school is comprised of French nationals and there are students from 48 nationalities.

 

Founded by Progressive educators in 1979, the school has grown to four campuses (Los Feliz, Pasadena, Orange County and West Valley). The school is accredited by the French Ministry of Education, The Western Association of Schools and Colleges and The International Bacculaurate.

In a Kindergarten classroom

LILA is a Pre-K-12,  private school nestled on six acres in Los Feliz. The campus is instantly welcoming and low-key. It buzzes with with student excitement. The one-story buildings contain large, bright classrooms containing with smart boards. Teacher’s assignments and the student’s work decorate the walls. When I arrived, the school day was in full swing.

The garden at LILA serves as a place of learning and inspiration

Sitting a the edge of the campus is a huge, vibrant school garden that’s part of a bigger community garden. This glorious greenery lends the school nature’s greenery. Students help grow a wide assortment of fruit, vegetables and flowers. It’s a magical place where seedlings and plump, ready-to-pick fruit are examples of the kids’ efforts.

Earthly Delight!

Here are a few things to know about LILA:
  • Learning is project based at LILA
  • There are 2 grades per class, 450 students
  • A new secondary campus is in the works in Burbank, to move the secondary campus to a new location
  • The point of entry is Pre-K or K unless fluent in French
  • Tuition is approximately $14K per year for Kindergarten. Financial aid is available for up to 50% of tuition
  • LILA is more than a language immersion program, it’s a cultural immersion program
  • Graduates from the school attend top U.S. and international colleges and universities, including Columbia, Stanford, NYU, Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Brown, McGill University, Oxford University, Sorbonne, Universite Paris and more
  • LILA emphasizes community and the sharing of cultures

Oh, so pretty!

If you are considering a dual-immersion French-English school, visit LILA and see for yourself this unique, sprawling school on a gently sloping hill in Los Feliz. LILA puts a worldly spin on education!  C’est magnifique!

 

For more information, visit, Lycée International De Los Angeles

Photos: Mia J. Photography and Christina Simon