Guest Blogger Jenny: Languishing On The Wait-List

I know, I know. You thought that once the private school letters came out, you’d be off the hook. You’d know the score. You’d pick a school from those that accepted your child and write that fat check and that would be the end of it.


Until your child was wait-listed.


The wait list feels a bit like private school purgatory. Your child hasn’t been accepted, yet. Perhaps there isn’t enough room at the school. Perhaps there’s some other, inexplicable reason for the wait list status. You just don’t know. When my daughter was wait listed at both the schools she applied to, I was confused. What did it mean? Was it all over? Should I just accept the fate of another year at public school and forget about the whole thing, regarding the admissions process as some bad dream now receding into memory?


My stepsister, who attended Archer and Windward, filled me in. “Wait list is good,” she explained. “Many people just get rejected outright. The wait list means they’re still interested.” It turns out that she was right. I got the call from Mirman in late June that there was a space, she took it, and the rest is history.


In the meanwhile, though, there were many awkward moments. After all, while you’re going through the surreal private school admissions process, you’re usually blabbing all about it. Your friends, family, acquaintances, mailmen, and the guy at the dry cleaner have all heard something, in excruciating detail. And now, it’s just limbo. There’s a feeling of inadequacy as you try to explain the situation, rationalizing it to anyone who will listen (this is an excellent time to have a shrink). Wait listing implies second choice, second best, second rate, and you just know that’s not true about your child. You feel like, at any moment, you could be given a ticket for private school wait list loitering.


Of course, a parent whose child does get in everywhere faces some unfair scrutiny, too. I know someone whose daughter was accepted everywhere she applied. She’s a wonderful student and a great kid. Someone had the nerve to imply it was because she was black. Pretty nasty and spiteful, isn’t it?


Maybe there’s no winning here.


Anyway, some advice to those who have been wait -isted. Don’t stop contact with the schools. Call them every month or so, just to check in and remind them you’re still interested. If there’s a function, you might want to attend it, again to display your willingness to participate and be a good sport. Besides, even if your child doesn’t get in off the wait list, if you love the school, you might want to reapply next year. If that’s the case, you definitely want to keep a good relationship going. You certainly don’t want to burn any bridges.


In any case, pay no mind to the doubters and insulters. Those people are not your real friends (like you needed me to tell you that). Be a proud loiterer! Hang in there, and you might get a surprise phone call, too. And if you do get that phone call, CALL THEM BACK IMMEDIATELY. Because it’s called a “list” for a reason, and there’s more kids on it. Swipe up the space on the spot and don’t think too hard about it. If you’ve worked this hard and come this far to get your child into the right school, the decision should be a done deal. Then, take a deep breath, sit back, and enjoy the moment.




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 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.

Learning With Nuggets Of Gold At The Willows School

Cover of “The Willows Voice” Winter 2011
Sure the essentials are all there. Math, reading, science. But what always amazes me is the broader palette of sheer creativity brought into the Willows classroom. It’s what is taught AND how it’s taught. Just about everything the kids learn connects to other aspects of their work. Integrated curriculum is what it’s called. Really it’s an ingeniously creative curriculum. 

Lisa Rosenstein, The Willows head of school says, “Focus on creativity, critical thinking and problem solving is central to who we are and what we do in every discipline.”

My daughter’s 4th grade class just completed their study unit on the Gold Rush. What could have been a dreadfully boring subject was transformed into a fascinating and totally exciting few months for the kids.

Parents were invited to attend the end of the study unit culmination event or “culmination.” It consisted of a high-energy musical production that completely captivated the audience. My daughter doesn’t have an interest in musical theater, but there she was singing and dancing on stage, with a huge smile on her face.

After the musical, we went into the classrooms for an open-house. Our kids showed us their Gold Rush themed art work, awesome stories they had written, both individually and in groups, and a technology component with kids narrating Gold Rush stories. My daughter’s wonderful story received “5 gold nuggets” from the teacher. A perfect grade! I’m such a proud mom. 
My daughter was especially captivated by The Gold Rush Game. As she and her friend explained the game to me, kids were grouped into “mining groups” of four students. Over the course of the study unit, each team made group decisions and problem solved. The students wrote mining logs about activities that were taking place in their mining groups. They also participated in competitive question/answer classroom sessions where correctly answered questions were rewarded with gold nuggets and incorrectly answered questions received no gold nuggets. 

The reason I know my daughter was inspired? For the first time, she asked to take Guitar lessons at Marlborough summer school. Worth its weight in gold!

Next up for 4th grade? A study unit on physics. 

Finding YOUR Community At Private School: It’s Not That Easy!

If all goes well, hopefully many of you will have a child starting private school this fall. It’s an exciting time but also a big adjustment for kids and parents alike After all, this is LA, where meeting other moms can be a Sisyphean task under the best of circumstances. Private school is no different (at least it wasn’t for me and a lot of my friends). The first day of school may be eye-opening for a bunch of reasons. You might observe:

  • Unnaturally thin moms
  • Mannies or bodyguards/drivers for kids
  • Lumpy cheekbone implants and terrible nose jobs (spectacular duck lips too!)
  • Talk of fabulous art collections, construction of multi-million dollar homes, summer vacations to exotic locations
  • Your favorite designer clothes being worn by somebody else (gasp!!!)
  • Hermes Birkin handbags
  • One or two really nice moms who invite you to join them for coffee while you wait for your kids.


But, this was just my experience. Yours may be totally different.


I’ve learned that the issue of “community” at your child’s school is one that means different things to different people.


Some moms will say, “I don’t want to hang out with parents at my kid’s school, I have my own friends.”


Others will expound on the virtues of having a close group of friends at their kid’s school, saying “we love our school because we feel such a sense of community with the other families.”


But what is “community” at a private school? For me, it’s moms who get together for coffee or lunch. It’s dads who get together for “guys night out.” It’s about being able to call a mom in your kid’s class to ask advice or just vent without being judged. It’s families who have dinner together. It’s about a mom calling to say, “I saw your daughter on the yard today and she looked so happy.” It’s more than a quick “hi” at morning drop-off. It’s knowing each others names.


I was talking with a Willows mom recently and she brought up what she perceives as the school’s lack of community. Her kids are not in the same grade as mine. She was lamenting the lack of community, but she told me it does allow her family to maintain their privacy. “Nobody is in your business, because nobody is interested,”she said. “True.” I responded. What she’s talking about isn’t a clique. It’s the opposite of a clique.


It’s not that I want the epitome of a sorority. But, community at my kids’ school is very important to me. I want my kids to feel like they belong to a community of families. It hasn’t happened overnight, but I’ve made a few very good mom friends at school. My kids have made some close friends too.  But, it hasn’t been easy. Our first year at The Willows was difficult for a number of reasons. My daughter was bullied by a girl in her class, which made her transition more difficult than it would have normally been. It was (and still is) a geographically fragmented 4th grade. This has been one the biggest obstacles to building a sense of community with other families. The other obstacle, quite honestly, is that my daughter’s grade has a lot of parents who fall into the category of “I don’t want to hang out with parents at my kid’s school.” Some of them still don’t know each other’s names after having kids in the same grade since kindergarten. Friendships, in my opinion, tend to be very superficial among the majority of moms. Many have older siblings and are busy with their activities.


The lack of community in my daughter’s grade has been the single biggest challenge with our school. I had hoped for a closer knit group of families. Now that my kids are in 2nd and 4th grade, it’s less important than it was the first few years. By this age, my kids are picking their own friends. By secondary school, I imagine I’ll be looking for other qualities in a school like academic offerings and athletic programs.


I’m baffled by the mom who has been saying to me for the past 5 years, “let’s get the kids together for a playdate.” We had one playdate set up several years ago. She cancelled five minutes before I left the house to drive my daughter to her side of town. She asked again recently. I contacted her, but they weren’t available. I give up!


I’m in a parenting group run by parent educator Betsy Brown Braun. When I brought up this issue in the group, she gave me very reassuring advice: “Christina, it doesn’t matter whether your daughter’s friends are from school or not, it just matters that she has friends.”


A mom who is new to the school this year confided in a friend of mine that she and her child were having trouble meeting families (and kids) at the school. I immediately called her and we had lunch with our kids. To me, that’s what a community is about.


This might be a good topic to think about when you pick a school. If I had it to do over again, I’d make sure to ask the question of the admissions directors, parents and anyone else who might know: “Does your school have a strong sense of community?” What kind of events does the school have to give parents a chance to get together? Does the school emphasize community? If so, in what ways? Do parents here develop meaningful friendships?


Ultimately, if you want a school where there is more than the mere illusion of community, you’ll have to find a school where that exists. Or, create it yourself once your child is there.


To its credit, The Willows has begun to make an effort to help moms get to know each other. “Willows Wednesdays” is a new event for parents to meet for coffee each week. After all, our school has the word “community” in it’s name.  The Willows Community School.


Here’s a great article called “The Other Mothers” on the Power of Moms blog. The perfect piece as you begin to meet other moms in the private school world. Then if you want a really good laugh, like LOL… read the insanely popular Bloggess as she talks about mommy business cards at the park. 


Guest Blogger Jenny: Waiting For Admissions Letters Gives New Meaning To The Word "Stress"

The clock is currently ticking down to the moment when the envelopes are sent out, separating out those who get into the private school of their choice, and those who are losers forever and must get “Private School Reject” tattooed on their foreheads, and immediately change long term plans for their progeny from President to Professional Pooper Scooper. Sorry, but the future comes down to whatever is delivered by your postman (or email) in late March and it won’t matter how much you tipped him over the holidays.

Yes, this is a gross exaggeration. But, you can’t deny that the air is filled with a certain tension as acceptance or rejection letter day approaches. You’ve been through the endless tours, the hours of research, the shuttling of your child to interviews and testing. You’ve begged for letters of recommendation from influential people you barely know, kissed butt at a bunch of parties, and generally genuflected before the great god of private school education, all in hopes of getting your pride and joy into one of L.A.’s hallowed halls. It’s exhausting and needlessly stressful. You need some perspective and some downtime.

First off, if your child doesn’t get into one of the most popular private schools, it’s not an express ticket to Loserville. I did the calculations once, and it turns out that it may be easier to get your kid into Harvard College than into the Center for Early Education. Sounds absurd, I know, but it’s true.  On a simple supply and demand basis (leaving out the fact that your child would need near-perfect SAT scores and be a professional level musician to approach the Ivy League), The Center has fewer spaces available than Harvard for the number of applicants. This is not depressing news; it’s meant to soften the blow, because if your child doesn’t get into The Center, it’s not a death knell for his future. Obviously, no one gets into The Center!

There are many, many private elementary schools in this city. And hopefully, if you’ve been reading this blog and the Beyond The Brochure book, you’ve applied to a variety of them just to strengthen the odds of acceptance. Thus, when the letters start flying through the mail slot, Harry Potter style, there will hopefully be less of them blowing raspberries in your face.

Here’s how it works. A complete acceptance letter demands an answer, pronto. If you receive one of these, and it’s the school of your choice, call immediately and accept. Then, write a fat check. That’s it. You’re done. A complete rejection letter, however, requires no response on your part, although the ritual burning of it out on the deck is your call. But, how about a “wait list” letter? Well, I can speak from experience that a wait list letter often leads to an acceptance later down the line. If you really want to turn a wait list letter into an acceptance, call immediately and tell them you’re interested. Perhaps call them a month later to again express your interest. And then wait. That’s how my daughter got into Mirman, so I know it works.

In the meantime, though, you need to get yourself together. Stop talking about it with your friends. Your real friends don’t want to hear about it, and your fake competitive friends want to make you feel insecure about it. If you’re biting your fingernails, go get one of those indestructible gel manicures; they taste really bad. Try to be out of the house when the mailman shows up, either because you’re at work and never there anyway or by conveniently needing to do many errands. Don’t mention any of this to your kid unless you like staying up until 3 a.m. dealing with their anxiety over possibly changing schools. Eat ice cream. Have a coffee. Have something stronger.

Most of all, maintain some perspective. At this point, we’ve all heard many private school success and failure stories, but none of them ever ended with the student’s prospects for the future being utterly dashed. There are too many private school routes to take to think that there’s just one school that would work, or just one type of education that’s acceptable. The ability to see the big picture here is really important.

And good luck to you all!
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.

Dreaming Of School Names? No, You’re Not Losing Your Mind!

Do you find yourself dreaming in school names?

Brentwood, The Center, Curtis, Willows, John ThomasDyeNewRoadsTheWillowsCrossroadsCarlthorpMirmanStJamesLaurelHallVillageCampbellHallPS#1Curtis. OMG! Stop! They all start merging together in your mind. That’s because you know the names well. They’re embedded in your sub-conscious. No, you’re not going crazy. You’re just like the rest of us who went through the admissions process.

I wish somebody had told me to find something else to think about, dream about, talk about while we waited until we got our admissions letters. But, nobody did. Well, my husband did, but I ignored his advice. Staying sanely balanced for a few months wasn’t easy! But, I lost myself in fashion magazines, celebrity gossip and of course, blogs. 

I saw this brilliant poster on The English Muse and thought I’d share it. It’s by madmanincognito on etsy. Perhaps it best summarizes how you’re feeling? 

Here’s a previous blog piece, Anticipation Grows”