Happy Holidays and Family Photos

My Family 2010

Love and Happiness

Football Game
My Girl!

Hi Everyone!

Happy Holidays from our families to yours! Anne, Porcha and I are so appreciative of all your support for our book, events and blog. Please keep the comments and emails coming. We love hearing from our readers!

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a fabulous 2011! 

All our best, 

Christina, Anne and Porcha

How Preschool Directors Can Help With Admissions: Interview With Veronica Cabello, Founder, Green Beginning Preschool

Veronica Cabello

Veronica, first, let me start by congratulating you on the opening of Green Beginning Preschool in February. I’ve been to the school and it’s absolutely amazing! The eco-friendly theme is very inspiring.


Question: As you know, preschool directors can play an important role in helping families with the private elementary school application process. If a family knows they will be interested in private school, how early should they begin this discussion with their preschool director?

Answer: The conversation usually takes place a year before the child graduates from preschool. When a parent has an older sibling already in elementary school, they know to initiate the conversation early. All families should start early. When the family is applying to schools (one year before the child will enroll in kindergarten), the discussion with the preschool director is as simple as letting the director know the name of the school that is the family’s first choice and then requesting a recommendation letter from the director. I have also had parents who request a recommendation letter from the child’s teacher.


Question: As the former Assistant Director of Temple Isaiah (a preschool where a number of families apply to private elementary schools each year), you’re very familiar with the competitive nature of LA private elementary schools. What specifically can a preschool director do to help families prepare for this process?

Answer: Personally, I like to be proactive in this process and I plant the seed as early as when the family enrolls in preschool. For families who start preschool when the child is 2 or 3, I let them know that this is something to keep in the back of their head and even recommend they start looking at different school websites to check out their educational philosophies. As children get older, a year before graduating, I let parents know about schools open houses, dates and times. I also meet with individual families and might make recommendations depending on the child’s mode of learning, personality or needs, as well as the family’s philosophy. I try to help families find the right school match for them and walk them through the process.


Question: How much parent-education do you plan to provide at Green Beginning about how the application process works?

Answer: I plan on providing information on an ongoing basis. There is the initial parent meeting where information is provided about elementary school options. There is also information sent via email so that parents are able to attend and make appointments to visit different schools. And there is the more formal panel with information provided by a guest speaker. Next year, I am hoping to have you, Christina, as a guest speaker so you can share your wealth of knowledge from Beyond the Brochure.


Question: What if a parent thinks their child should attend a very traditional school, but you think a more developmental school would be better for the child?

Answer: I always advocate for what I consider will be best for the child. In this situation I would discuss why I think a traditional school would not have the best-fit program for the child. In addition, I also have my teachers visit the different schools so that they can have a feel for the various private school programs and can offer feedback to the parents.


Question: In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake made by parents when they are applying to schools?

Answer: The most common mistakes I have seen are:

▪ Applying to a school based on “who goes there”! Many top private elementary schools have an elite group of parents, even when the school makes a strong effort to have a diverse body of students. I have known parents who apply to schools because of “perceived status” and not because it might be the best-fit program for the family. In the long run, this decision hurts the child and the family.

▪ Putting their eggs all in one basket or putting in too many applications. Believe it or not, there are parents (and I hope not to ruffle anyone’s feathers!) who feel a sense of entitlement and apply to just one school because they are sure they will get in. Later, they are crushed with disappointment or anger when they get a rejection letter. On the opposite spectrum are parents who get a bit anxious and apply to as many schools as possible. In my experience as a preschool director, schools like knowing they are the first choice of school for the family who is applying. Admissions directors have relationships with other fellow admissions directors and the word sometimes goes around.

▪ Poor attitude during the parent interview. Schools like to have parents on board who are in alignment with the school’s philosophy, and who are willing to volunteer and participate in school events. Parents who appear to be “too demanding” can be rated poorly by admissions directors and can be viewed as uncooperative or trouble makers. A demanding attitude might work against the family and give the impression that the family will not collaborate with the school. Therefore, the school might pick a different family based on their willingness to be a part of the community.


Question: There is a form that preschool directors fill out and send directly to all the elementary schools where a family applies. Do you discuss this form and the particular child with the private elementary school admissions director? Note: a copy of this form is in our book.

Answer: Not all the time, the assessment form is self-explanatory. However, there are times where I have had to make a call or request a call from the admission’s director at a private elementary school. An example of this case might be: a developmental delay in a specific domain that might give the impression of the child’s lack of readiness to move on to the next step. I might also call the admissions director if I know that the school for which I am filing out the form is the first choice for the family.


Question: Can a preschool director be an effective advocate for a family and their child help them get into a school (s)?

Answer: Absolutely! In general, preschool directors should establish relationships with local public and private elementary schools to learn about their programs and help families find the right match. When good relationships are established, preschool directors will go out of their way to help the family get into the school of choice by putting in a good word for the family, making phone calls, sending emails; and writing recommendation letters for the families.

Veronica Cabello, M.A., is the Founder and Executive Director of Green Beginning Community Preschool in West Los Angeles. She is the former Assistant Director of Temple Isaiah Preschool and has more than 25 years experience as an educator. She has a 12 year old child. To see a review of Green Beginning Preschool, visit The Twin Coach blog.



Giving Back To Our Community At The Willows School

PATH Lunch

It would be an understatement to say that this is the year to give back to our communities. With the economy still struggling, the need for anyone who is in a position to give back is more important than ever. Private elementary schools (like many public schools) are, for the most part, very generous when it comes to charitable giving and community service.

PATH Toiletries
My favorite community service program at The Willows School has always been the PATH program (People Assisting The Homeless). Every week, my kids and I make an extra home lunch in a brown bag (provided by the school) to give to the PATH program (Wednesdays at our school is home lunch day). These homemade lunches are comprised of whatever my kids are eating. One week it’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The next week, it might be turkey and cheese sandwiches. Our lunches always include something healthy and something yummy, along with a drink. The lunches are organized by Willows students and picked up by PATH. For the holidays, the school asked each student to put together a large ziplock bag of travel sized toiletries for PATH families who need these essentials. It’s simple, easy and meaningful.

Willows families recently served meals at the Westside PATH location, a wonderful way to continue giving through the holiday season.

This is only one of several excellent community service programs at The Willows Community School. These programs are needed now more than ever. I make sure my kids understand how important this work is to families they may never meet, but who will be very grateful for their efforts.

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Musings Of A Private Elementary School Mom In LA (And Her Husband)

I was excited to be asked to write the following guest blog piece for Aristotle Circle, a website and educational resource. Aristotle Circle was founded by Suzanne Rheault, a Wall Street veteran and mother of two who was frustrated by both the process and lack of resources when applying to Manhattan private schools for her children. Aristotle Circle matches parents and students with experts in New York, Los Angeles and other cities to help give families a clear path through school admissions. Aristotle Circle also donates up to 10% of its profits to provide expert services for low income students through the “I Have A Dream Foundation”

Musings Of A Private Elementary School Mom In Los Angeles (And Her Husband) By Christina Simon

Shortly after we enrolled our daughter in a private elementary school in Los Angeles, my husband, Barry, told me he thought he was a scarce commodity at the school: a dad who worked at a “real job”. Terms like “hand me down money” and “born on third base, but thought they hit a triple”, have been tossed about in our conversations. You get the picture. At the time, Barry was CEO of a company with thirty locations around the globe. He wasn’t exactly working 9-5. It was more like 24/7.

Barry thinks that parents who don’t have to work at “real jobs”, and instead create “vanity projects” appear to dominate LA private elementary schools. Wineries, artistic endeavors, clothing stores that are shuttered quickly and oversized, money-losing, signature projects are rampant.

I remind him that a lot of families work hard to pay school tuition. He thinks it’s a small percentage of the families, unless you include the grandparents who pay tuition for their grandchildren. Who really knows? But, it can make for some hilarious social situations when we find ourselves nodding supportively as a parent talks about their “business” or a “huge deal” they are working on. We feign interest, knowing it’s not making or breaking the family finances.

Now that we have kids, my family recently visited NYC for a pre-reception to celebrate Barry’s 25th Harvard College Reunion next year. Barry has suddenly decided, along with his college friends (who also have kids) that Harvard is a really good cause to give money to.

To continue reading, click on the link below. 


Guest Blogger Jenny: Parent Interviews, P/T Conferences And The Big "D" (Divorce)

Kids, Divorce, And The Things Private Schools Notice

Recently, my daughter Anna (who is in her first year, 4th grade, at The Mirman School) had her first private school parent teacher conference. It was quite different from the previous public school parent/teacher conferences in the past (she previously went to 3rd St. Elementary), partially because this is the first year that her entire immediate family showed up.

By entire immediate family, I mean Anna’s father, Anna’s stepfather, and myself. We have never done this before, all of us at a conference, but it seemed time. Anna’s teacher didn’t skip a beat, referring to us as “Anna’s family” rather than parents. But perhaps the most gratifying thing to happen during the conference (besides discovering that Anna is doing very well), is that the teacher complimented us, saying “I don’t know what you all did, but Anna is the most well-adjusted child of a divorced family I’ve seen.”

I don’t believe the teacher was blowing smoke; she had nothing really to gain by saying such a thing. Still, I was filled with such a sense of relief and surprise. Not just because she was telling me my child was great, but because she felt comfortable enough to mention the “D” word at all. Many people will not. It’s sort of like cancer: people know divorce isn’t contagious, but they still avoid it when at all possible.

Perhaps, however, this is typical for Mirman. I don’t remember our family’s divorced status even being mentioned during our admissions interview (partially because we were never interviewed alone, but always with Anna). Mirman is incredibly child focused, so the intact or divorced status of the family is only relevant to them in terms of our child and her behavior. Compare that to our admissions interview at John Thomas Dye, where our status seemed front and center. There was a mention of acrimonious divorced families and separate parent interviews (we obviously get along; this commentary seemed unnecessary). I felt like we had to go out of our way to look like an intact family, even though we’re not.

Anna’s father and I split up when Anna was four.  Although that seems like a young age, it was old enough, and Anna was verbal enough, for her to have a violent and eloquent reaction. It was hard on everyone, but hardest on the poor kid who never asked for any of this. Her world exploded through no fault of her own, and she had plenty to say about it. Luckily, most of her ire was directed at me, not at teachers or acting out at school. It was rough.

It’s been five years since the divorce, and things have become very routine. As I was the first of my friends and acquaintances to go through this unfortunate process, I got very little useful advice (and forget those therapists and so-called experts, since many of them just contradict one another anyway). 

So, when Anna’s teacher paid us this unexpected compliment, I thought back: how did we handle our divorce situation?

1. We did not fight about custody. An arrangement was set up immediately so that Anna’s schedule and life would become as predictable as possible.
2. We tried not to diss each other in front of her. A no brainer.
3. We set up two complete households. She has a room at each, stuff at each, and feels at home at each. We also kept the households within easy driving distance of each other, so that the back and forth is very easy.
4. I accepted the fact that Anna will always want the family intact. Children long for the idea of a complete family. My parents divorced when I was 21, and I still fall into reveries about them being together. It’s normal, and I wouldn’t even try to convince her that it’s really “better this way.” She wouldn’t buy that, and there’s no reason why she should. 
5. When I introduced Anna to her stepfather, I was sure the relationship was going to stick. And it has. I didn’t want Anna to get attached to someone, only to have us break up. She’s had enough upheaval. Now, she’s close with her stepfather and enjoys the step family situation (but we were patient; she did her share of acting out). 
6. We try not to vary the schedule. Anna has a right to know what’s going on and where she’s going to spend time. Last minute changes are reserved for emergencies.

To put it bluntly, we did all these things, Anna is good, but divorce still pretty much sucks. The Huffington Post can give Divorce its own blogging and news section (questionable taste, that), but that doesn’t mean it’s anything to take lightly. 

I will say that Anna’s teacher’s masterful handling of our family fills me with gratitude. Her inclusiveness, her perceptiveness on the part of my child, and her willingness to address the divorced elephant in the room was such a welcome relief.  I’m very happy to have Anna at a school that recognizes her situation, doesn’t judge it, and lets her shine. 
Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad