Guest Blogger Samantha: Wait-Listed At Wildwood, Then The Phone Call That Was The Best/Worst Possible News

Ok, so we all have felt the anxiety of the Los Angeles private elementary school admissions process…  For some of us (read: me) it started with preschool, then it quietly smoldered until it was time for kindergarten.  By then, the smoldering had turned into a forest fire.


All the mothers I knew at my son’s preschool seemed cool and collected on the surface, but just below was the same anxiety I felt, and for some, this competition manifested in some pretty unpleasant behavior.  For me, this was the part of the process I hated the most.


For good or for bad, I have the general demeanor of a Golden Retriever.  I’m pretty even keeled in the mood department (a plus when going through the stresses of applying to private school), but it also means that I am oblivious to the politics surrounding me as I go along my merry way (not a plus when applying to private schools).  I’ll spare you the tales of hurt feelings and ruffled feathers and save that for another time.  Suffice to say, whatever you are feeling, I guarantee that you are not alone.


In our case, we applied to 4 schools, and ultimately, we were accepted at 3 of them.  This is the happy ending of the story, and as someone who fights the urge to read the end of the book first; I’ve spared you the suspense.  However, things didn’t start out so peachy.


While it seemed like everyone around me was joyous about their private school acceptances (aside from a few whispers regarding people who hadn’t gotten in anywhere), I was not.  I had had my heart set on one particular school: Wildwood.


It wasn’t that the other schools weren’t appealing; they were!  It was just that on some visceral level Wildwood was it for me.  And absolutely, more importantly, it was IT for my child.  When D-Day came, we were wait-listed at Wildwood and I was devastated.


I wrote a note to the Admissions Director at Wildwood.  This is what it said:


“Dear Chantelle,

We received your kind notice regarding our waitlisted status at Wildwood. 

With that in mind, we wanted to reiterate our interest in your school and our profound desire to become part of the Wildwood community. 

We know in our heart that Wildwood is the school that we want to educate our children and that we want to make part of our family. We would, at anytime, jump at the opportunity to take a Kindergarten opening if a space were to open up. 

Your school is and was the number one choice for our son, and it is our deepest hope that you might keep us top of mind if an opening were to become available.

Thank you so much for considering our family and our heartfelt request.”


Not having much time to wallow, for fear my son might pick up on my disappointment, I bucked up, determined to look at the glass as half full.  I talked to friends and family, I lost sleep, and within the 2 week window by which time one needs to commit to their said school, we had picked between our 2 contenders. My son was going to The Willows.This was a happy thing!   We were so lucky!  The Willows was a wonderful school and I knew people who would have loved to have gone there, but didn’t get in.  Yet, no matter how much spin I tried to put on it, I wasn’t as happy as I knew I should be.


I berated myself for getting too emotionally invested in the whole school picking process.  My son was going to do well anywhere, I told myself.  And, best of all, The Willows was closer to where we lived!  See, I kept repeating, that’s a sign that we’re supposed to be at The Willows.


We sent in the deposit check.


After a few days, my talking to myself was working.  I wanted to throw off the cape of disappointment that burdened me; it was no fun to wear it around!  I started embracing our new school and planning for the fall.  I even told my son that he would be attending The Willows with another little boy that he knew from preschool.  All was feeling right again, and I was happy to put the misery behind me.


Then, a couple of days after the deposit checks were due; I had a message on my phone.  I listened to it.  My heart started pounding.  I felt nauseous.  It was the absolute worst/best news possible!


We were being offered a space at Wildwood off the wait list.  I damned the old adage:


Be careful what you wish for…


Suddenly, after all the internal dialogues, and the committees talking in my head, I didn’t know what to do.  My husband seemed mystified that my gut check was deactivated.  When he reminded me that Wildwood had been our first choice initially, I quickly retorted that while that was true then, now I was unsure.  My campaign to embrace the other was, apparently, very effective.


I was adrift, feeling (irrationally) that my son’s entire life depended on my making the right decision.  But which choice was right?  Who knew anymore?  Somewhere there had to be an answer.  I found nothing illuminating.  I spoke, once again, with friends and family, taking everyone’s opinion-temperature, hoping somehow to find the right answer.  Nothing helped.


That day was a cacophony of phone calls, endless discussions with my husband, and talks that seemed more like solace than congratulations.  Frankly, it was ridiculous, and that night I vowed to shut out all the voices — those of others and my own — and try to feel the right decision.


Clarity arrived from the most obvious of places: my son.  Knowing that little boy, knowing his strengths and his stretches and my dreams for him, not to mention his developing dreams for himself, I found an answer.


It wasn’t the right answer.


It was the right answer for him.


In June, my boy will be finishing his first year at Wildwood and all of us are happier than we ever could have imagined.


Samantha Goodman is the mom of a Kindergartner at Wildwood School and a preschooler at 10th St. Preschool in Santa Monica. Samantha’s son also attended 10th St. Preschool. Before her current parenting hiatus she was a screenwriter in Hollywood.

Radom Questions For Guest Blogger Jenny AND The New $1,600 Bugaboo Donkey Stroller

Writing a blog doesn’t necessarily require the writer to share much about themself although many bloggers do.  I’m such a private person that it still amazes me that I even have a blog. Beyond The Brochure isn’t a confessional blog, so it’s not filled with stories about my personal life. But, a few months ago, it occurred to me that some of you might want to know more about the moms on this site who are offering advice about private school admissions and writing about what life is really like at some of these schools. 

So, I’ve posted some of Jenny and my recent blog pieces we’ve written for other sites, that offer more personal details about us (we’ve even told you our ages!). Who knows, maybe my co-authors, Anne and Porcha will tell-all too! 

My favorite blogs tell me enough information about the writer so I can identify with them, understand them, learn from them and laugh with them. I relate to my favorite bloggers in some intrinsic way and therefore keep reading their blogs. That’s one of my favorite aspects of blogging, which is more personal than reading a newspaper (which I like too!). Of course, with a newspaper, you rarely get to know anything about a reporter whose stories you read regularly and whose writing you admire. So, in the interest of Oprah-style full disclosure, here are a few random questions for our favorite guest blogger, Jenny Heitz. Oh, and she has a question for me too. 

What is your daughter Anna like (besides being super-smart)?
Anna is a very funny, very irreverent, high-energy person. She has always had precise likes and dislikes, and she’s pretty socially savvy. Anna will always find the work around in order to get what she wants, so it requires a certain level of energy to keep one step ahead of her. She’s also a nice kid. She’s sweet to animals and younger children, and tries hard to steer clear of mean girls. Overall, I’m very proud of her and can’t believe she’s my kid.

Are you a “Free Range” type of mom?
I think I thought in free range terms before there was a term for it. I tend not to worry about stuff like abduction and stranger danger, as it’s highly unlikely. Anna needs to learn how to function in the world on her own terms, and it’s my job to teach her how to do that, which means letting her do things on her own, away from me. This will be her third year at sleep away camp, which has always been a mixed bag, socially, for Anna. I’m hoping that this new camp will be different, even though I think she gained a lot out of the other camp experiences despite the mean girls in the cabin.

Is there anything about being a mom that makes you panic?
As I previously stated, I don’t panic about the usual stuff like abduction or the house catching on fire. The one thing about being a mom that I didn’t anticipate was the importance of sleep. I took sleep for granted until I was 34. Now, I feel like there’s this hopeless sleep deficit and I’ll never catch up. Going to bed has become the highlight of my day, and a chance to sleep in is the most luxurious thing I can think of. Seriously, I’m either regressing into an adolescent or fast forwarding into an old fart, and neither scenario holds appeal. Nothing fills me with panic more than realizing I’m going to have a crummy night’s sleep, that will effect every single brutal move I make the following day, until making dinner feels like the culinary equivalent of the Gulag. Yes, I know this is pathetic. 

Can you summarize Attachment Parenting in one sentence?
Attachment Parenting is a misguided and socially impractical attempt to compensate for one’s own inadequate childhood.

What does your ex-husband do? Does he read your blog posts?
My ex is a lawyer. I have no idea if he reads my posts on any kind of regular basis (creepy). But he has read some of my work, and greatly objects to my involving Anna in the process. Anna, on the other hand, was outraged when she found out I use a fake name for her, exclaiming “How are people going to know who I am? And I HATE the name Anna!” Kid, “go ask your father” is all I have to say about that.

How many Facebook friends do you have? Are you on Twitter?
I don’t have a lot of Facebook friends. I think it’s under 150. I guess I’m just not popular. And I just put a Twitter button on my blog to find out where all the LA food trucks are at any given moment, just in case I feel like having a Kogi taco on the fly. I also post items of interest for Find A Toad readers. 

Do you have anything in common with The Bloggess? (Gawker called her an “interesting psycho” because she stalked William Shatner on Twitter. She also rides a medical scooter at Disneyland)
Well, we share a first name! No, I have very little else in common with her. I would never stalk William Shatner, and I pretty much hate Disneyland (although maybe if you’re on a medical scooter, you get to cut ahead in line… I’d be in support of that). The Bloggess has occasional posts of comedic brilliance, and I enjoy her, but I think our humor is a bit different. 

Do you watch any reality TV shows?
I watch paranormal shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. I find them both horribly boring and amusing. And I don’t find them nearly as scary as anything involving housewives. 

Do you think Barack Obama is hot?
Yes, I think he’s hotter than any other president we’ve had, although that competition’s not that stiff. Mostly, I think he’s smart and interesting and has depth. And yes, I find all that very attractive.

Is French First Lady Carla Bruni trying to steal Barack Obama in lieu of her short, conservative husband?
God, I hope not. Michelle could so take her in a catfight.           

Do you have a favorite hobby?
I do trapeze at a circus school near my house. I’ve been doing it for about a year now and feel like I’ve made big improvements. It’s very very hard, but learning to do it has been incredibly rewarding. One of the great side benefits is that you get in incredible shape without realizing you’re exercising. The downside is that you’re covered in bruises and rope burns, so it look like someone’s been beating you.

Jenny, so you have a question for me? 
Christina, do you keep the BTB nasty comments you receive in a special file or spot? And do you reread them sometimes? We love reader comments! But, no, I don’t keep the nasty comments in a special file. I post them (or most of them, except for truly crude or inappropriate ones). If they’re mean, I hit DELETE as fast as possible and never look back. 

As I’ve written previously, having a blog requires me to be less sensitive and have a thick skin because not everyone will like what I (we) do all of the time. Beyond The Brochure is unique and growing pretty fast and I’m really proud of it. I won’t approve comments that personally attack me or our guest bloggers. What blogger would?  I rejected an anonymous comment because it was rude and demanded I remove an apostrophe from a word. It was a gratuitous comment that would add nothing to any discussion.  I’ll use whatever grammar I want! No, I’m not always perfect, but this ain’t the New York Times.  

Want to know what Jenny thinks about the new (gasp!) $1,6oo Bugabook “Donkey” Stroller? Click on her guest post on one of our favorite mom blogs, Sane Moms

Don’t Forget! Jenny is holding a fabulous Mother’s Day giveaway on her modern gift giving blog, Find A Toad. Winner announced on May 4th! You know Jenny has fabulous taste, so click on Find A Toad to enter to win (I won’t tell you what the prize is). Hint: The April issue of In Style called the items “so right now.”

Guest Blogger Jenny: What I Did (And Did Not) Expect About The Mirman School

Mirman is one of those schools that has a certain mystique surrounding it. Because it accepts only highly gifted children, there are people who refer to it as “the freak school,” “the geek school,” or, in one stunning instance, “the Hitler school” (I have no idea what that means). While I took all these nicknames with a grain of salt, I had some apprehension about sending my daughter Anna there. I felt it was probably the right place for her, but I was worried that it would be too serious, too high powered, and, frankly, too dorky.

Happily, none of these fears manifested into reality. 

Here’s What Surprised Me:


  • The kids are not weird. Well, ok, there might be a few little boys running around speaking in monotone voices, but they are few and far between. One of the interesting things about Mirman students is how normal they actually are. They may be super smart kids, but they’re still kids, and they act like kids. The only difference is that the level of carpool conversation is suddenly elevated.


  • The parents are far nicer than I expected. I was worried that the parents would be way too into their super gifted children. But what I’ve found is that most of the parents seem sort of puzzled and bemused to have these kids. The parent body is, for the most part, very smart, very educated, a bit shy, and really not snobby in the least. The “not snobby” factor makes dealing with Mirman parents a pleasure, especially on field trips. As far as I know, there are no celebrities at Mirman. Interesting. You can draw your own conclusions about that.


  • The workload isn’t nearly as heavy as I thought it would be. Naturally, I’d heard horror stories about Mirman kids working constantly, even during carpool, and how “unnatural” the whole thing was. That turned out to be nonsense. Anna definitely has homework, and it’s homework she has to schedule for herself during the week. It’s made her into quite the little time management pro. And while the school works the kids really hard during the school day, Anna actually seems to spend less of her time at home doing homework than some of her public school friends. I would not say that she is overworked on any level.


  • Parents are not treated like royalty. Unlike some private schools, where wealthy parents get the kid glove treatment, Mirman generally treats the parents like idiots. I’m not kidding. I’ve even brought up this fact to other Mirman parents and they crack up as they agree. All the school’s emphasis and efforts involve the kids; it is the most kid focused school I’ve encountered. While Mirman wants parents to give money and be on committees and be involved, it will not brownnose you when you enter the front office. If you’re looking for adulation, seek it elsewhere.


  • The commute isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Commuting from Hollywood to Mirman seemed like a nightmare at first, but it’s turned out to be ok. It’s made ok only by the fact that I’m in a carpool that I’ll defend with my life. At the moment, we’re trying to get together enough kids on this side of town to justify a bus. I dream about the bus, and someday my dream will be made a reality.


  • My child is even happier at Mirman than I ever imagined. I had a feeling that Mirman was the right place for Anna, but her transformation over her first year there has been extraordinary. She came in at fourth grade, at a distinct academic disadvantage, and has still managed to get really good grades. It has focused her competitive instincts, but also emphasized good citizenship and kindness. Her self-confidence in terms of public speaking has skyrocketed. She’s making new friends. All in all, she’s a different child now, and I really credit Mirman with all the positive changes.


  • The kids are so nice. Really, they’re nice. The bullying problems that seem so prevalent at other schools are far less at Mirman. If there’s a problem, it gets handled. And one of the advantages of putting together so many highly gifted kids, who were so often the butts of jokes, is that they’re generally kind to one another. These kids have empathy for one another. While Anna has had some girl politics moments, they have been mild and easily handled.
  • It’s more diverse than I thought. The reality about private school is that it will never be as diverse as public school. So, while Mirman doesn’t resemble a microcosm of Los Angeles, diversity wise, it’s still better than I anticipated. And because all the kids share the trait of high intelligence (that’s the main criterion for entrance to Mirman), this seems to be what draws them together, not race. My daughter heard plenty of racial slurs at her old public school, but hasn’t heard one thing at Mirman. Good.


As Anna’s first year at Mirman draws to a close, I’m delighted with the school. It has exceeded every expectation I had for it, and my child is having a wonderful educational experience. It’s so nice when a school turns out to be such a pleasant surprise.

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 recently 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 music (Guitar) lessons at Marlborough summer school. Worth its weight in gold!

Next up for 4th grade? A study unit on physics, the physics of roller coasters and a field trip to Astrocamp.  

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