A Mom Rant’s About LA Private Elementary School Admissions

I stumbled across this post on Urban Baby recently:

LA private school process sucks, and there are fewer schools than NY (at least within reasonable driving area of wherever you live) so there are fewer choices. They are full of siblings and celebrities and then a few diversity admits. If you are white and unconnected, good luck with the most popular schools. On the next tier, you can find spaces…

This mom writes what many parents in LA think: that it’s impossible to get into LA’s top private elementary schools unless you are a celebrity or sibling. While there is no doubt LA private schools are uber-competitive, it’s not impossible. Every year, all types of families get into the best private elementary schools in LA. We wrote Beyond The Brochure to help parents navigate the admissions process and understand what really happens behind the scenes, how decisions are made and what you need to do to get your child into a great school. Your positive attitude and a sense of optimism are an absolutely necessary component to getting in. A belief that your child will get into the best school possible will help sustain you through the process. And, it will certainly come across as you interview at the schools. 

LA Private Elementary School Buzz…

  • We hear that a private elementary school located on Mulholland sent at least one mom an email telling her that her child was accepted. A few hours later, she got an email saying her child had not been accepted. Luckily, this family had other acceptance letters. A Big Oops!
  • According to one prominent Westside education consultant 2011-12 was one of the most difficult years to get into some schools. Why? At older, more established schools, alumni now have kids entering kindergarten who are legacies. That combined with concern about public school budget cuts helped spur applications to private elementary schools. Even second and third tier schools were sending out rejection letters, according to our source. 
  • Interestingly, we spoke to an admissions director at a top private elementary school in the LA suburbs. This AD told us that in the past, many ADs placed heavy weight on the writing and fine motor skills portion of the observation and testing process. Nowadays, more emphasis is being placed on the child’s memory skills, language proficiency in response to the interview questions and the child’s ability to organize his or her thoughts.
  • We hear that a very prominent private elementary school has a mess on its hands.  Apparently, at a 4th grader’s birthday party at a private home, a dad of one kid, after having a drink or two, headed out onto the basketball court to play with the kids. This dad collided with a 4th grader and the dad broke his arm in the collision. The dad is reportedly suing the kid and possibly the kid’s family. The kid involved in the collision and his siblings abruptly left the school–can you blame them?. Now, there’s a dispute over the family’s request that the school refund their tuition. The school is refusing to return the tuition. The dad is married to a member of the school’s board of directors.  Can you say bad horrendous dad behavior?
  • Please join us! We still have a few spots open for our Wed. April 20th, 7:30 p.m. event at the Beverly Hills Country Club: Demystifying The Private Elementary School Admissions And Financial Aid Process.  To register, click on link: http://www.getintoprivateschool.com/insiders-game.html
  • Check out The School Boards, an online message and resource site for all things school related. 
To leave a comment, click on “comments” below. Your comment can be anonymous. Just scroll down until your see the “anonymous” option. Sometimes Google Blogger requires you to click post several times. 

Raising Mixed Race Kids: Where Did He Get Those Blue Eyes?

Where Did He Get Those Blue Eyes?

Here’s one of my most personal guest posts about raising mixed race kids. It’s on a wonderful website called The Mother Company. 

The Mother Company produces “Ruby’s Studio” a series of gentle, fun, and beautiful DVDs for preschool children ages 3-6. All of their shows focus on a single theme based in social and emotional learning – with the goal of helping parents teach these important lessons in a smart, stylish, meaningful way. 


"Got MILF?" and Guest Blogger Jenny: Dads, Minivans & Private Schools

Do We Love Or Hate Minivans?
Wednesday night I attended a book signing for Got MILF? The Modern Mom’s Guide To Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great And Rocking A Minivan by Sarah Maizes. About a year ago, Sarah invited me to her house for a MILF focus group. She was writing the book and wanted to talk to a group of MILFs. In case you don’t know, MILF is short for “Mom I’d Like To F@#k.” Bewildered and flattered, I accepted her invitation. I’d never met her before, but how could I decline? I’d never been called a MILF! Over wine and food, we talked, laughed and discussed what was and what wasn’t a MILF. 

Fast forward to the book signing at Book Soup where Sarah was her usual funny, charming self. After the book signing I got home and started reading Got MILF?. It’s hilarious! I couldn’t put it down and you won’t be able to either. Being a MILF is about more than looks–it’s a lifestyle. 

For example, Sarah wonders if a MILF can “pimp a minivan…apparently you can and it’s pretty f@#king awesome!”

For more information, visit Sarah’s blog, Mommy Lite.

Toyota Sienna

Now, let’s talk about dads who drive minivans. At private elementary schools. Yes, that’s correct. While there is a Willows dad who drives a Maserati (no, not my husband!), there are a lot of minivans too. 

Not surprisingly, Jenny has an opinion about Toyota’s new Sienna Minivan ads targeting dads:

Recently, there’ve been billboards dotting L.A., boasting a Toyota Sienna minivan with the copy “Daddy like” emblazoned on it.

At first, I was confused. Was Toyota trying to reposition the Sienna as a cool car for hip dads? Because that seemed like a truly Sisyphean task. There’s just nothing, NOTHING cool about a minivan under any circumstances. Parents only buy minivans because they have to drive one to accommodate children, ridiculously large car seats (seriously, could these seats GET any bigger? They’re like the Barcaloungers of the road), big furry animals, shopping done in bulk, oddly shaped artwork, furniture destined for Goodwill, luggage for five, copious carpooling, and everything else that needs hauling around town.

Any bells and whistles found in a minivan quickly gets buried under the detritus of a hundred mornings of breakfast in the car, flyers pulled off the windshield and thrown in the back, pet hair, old candy wrappers and the remains of roughly forty five empty Starbuck’s grande latte containers. There’s mustard on the fake wood dash and the CD changer got clogged with Bubble Yum long ago. Cool? Even the people I know who own minivans and ARE actually cool would never describe their car using such language.  They don’t really “like” their car; they “suffer” it instead.

Such cool people, incidentally, hardly ever include dads. Dads tend to get a pass in the dork car department. Seriously, do you know any dad who drives the minivan as his main car? Nope. They tend to go for the Saab, or the BMW (the little wagon, for instance), or an Audi. No minivans. Unfortunately, that’s usually given over to the mom, who doesn’t deserve such a fate but has to look practicality square in the face, every single day.

A minivan, then, is a pragmatic choice. A minivan says “I already know this car isn’t cool, but I don’t care.” Because let’s face it: if you’re a parent who’s really into cool, and needs a big car, and have money, you probably own an SUV. Yeah, an SUV that drives really well and feels more like a car, except on stilts, and has leather interior and holds less than a minivan and gets worse gas mileage. If you look in any carpool pick up line at any private school in Los Angeles, you’ll see the automotive pecking order demonstrated en masse. Lined up, motors idling, there will be mostly SUVs, from the super sized Escalades to the more petite models, ranging in price from the highly ridiculous (Range Rover) to the modest (Toureg, the smarter driver’s Porsche Cayenne). Next come the minivans, usually unwashed and slightly dented, and then perhaps a smattering of sedans. A person like me, with one child? I drive a Mini and park it. Anywhere.

But back to Toyota’s viral Sienna advertising campaign, which is funny but totally misguided. As it turns out, if you go online and actually view the viral ads on YouTube, you’ll discover that Toyota’s not pushing the Sienna as being cool for dads at all. In fact, Toyota is making fun of those self-satisfied perfect parents who supposedly drive minivans. Viral Dad is a balding dorkmeyer with horn-rimmed glasses and a hoodie; Viral Mom an aging blonde sorority girl. Self-congratulatory and pretentious, Dad yaps on about freedom while running errands (“I can take all the time I want”), while sticking his head out of the window and letting the wind rush through his “hairs.”

Yes, it’s funny, if it were on Saturday Night Live. But what makes it funny is contempt for the parents, who are obnoxious. Usually, in advertising, the person in the ad either has something you want (a cool car), or is too hopeless to get the thing you want (a cool car). These people are hopelessly awful, AND they have the car. This does not make me want to buy a Sienna. It, in fact, repels me. The ad is amusing, yes, but it probably isn’t going to sell many minivans.

And that’s fine with me.

Here’s the link to the Toyota ad. If you only watch 90 seconds, it’s a must-see!

We leave you with this question: If you could only drive either a Minivan or a Maserati,which would it be? Leave us a comment!!

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

Guest Blogger Adine: Staying Sane During The Private Middle School Admissions Process

This morning, with tears running down my cheeks, I have finally achieved closure on the lengthy, yet exciting, middle school admissions process for my son.  It was a process that my husband and I decided we would embrace with gusto and enthusiasm, and we were determined that all of us, even my daughter who is years away from the process, would have fun with it, or as much fun as could be humanly possible.   We would all learn very quickly that there are many excellent choices in middle and high schools in Los Angeles – including some public schools that no one seems to be factoring into the mix.
We started the process in August by meeting with our Principal at Brawerman Elementary Of Wilshire Boulevard Temple and discussing options, thoughts and goals…even long-term dreams.  And, then we waited.  And we waited until that very first Open House – this one for both parents and kids, where almost the entire 6th grade from every private school in West Los Angeles descended upon the school that put itself out for the sacrificial first rite. 
The process repeated itself over and over again, some with the kids, some without.  Each one brought more excitement, comparisons, and lots of banter and new acquaintances, too (“oh, weren’t you at the open house last week?”).  We saw the new gym here, the new auditorium there, the plans for the 2011 build out, the new science labs, each reaching out with great attraction.  We saw excited teachers, engaged students and lots of active learning.  There were special “meet the coaches” practice sessions, coffees for girl and boy parents, and arts and media show and tell.  Some schools even bragged about their lunch program. 
I must say, most (and, I mean most) of the parents, both at our school and at other ones, were much less competitive and sly then I had heard I would experience.  They discussed their feelings – good and bad – as we marched through school after school, drinking weak coffee and eating mediocre bagels, and filling out some applications along the way.  Lots of fun chatter mixed with a little gossip, taking the edge off of the finality of it all.  And some Girls Nights Out with lots of alcohol didn’t hurt.
There was also the “dreaded” ISEE Prep Classes and In-Home Tutoring Services.  We decided to keep our stress-level in check and found the one that seemed the most mellow and fun.  And most of all, I adored Valerie, the owner of Learning Encounters.  I wasn’t sure my son would be into the classes, but he really enjoyed it.  Even now, he’ll talk about how fun it was and how the homework wasn’t too much.  He met new kids, and reconnected with old buddies from probably every city recreation league in town.  The class was kept fun and light by some fabulous instructors, and the plethora of flowing snacks didn’t hurt either…along with the red licorice that they grabbed on the way out the door.  Some parents came early to chat/whine/complain/brag with others about schools and the process, and that was also mildly engaging, at times, as well.  And, the test was the test…kids came loaded with number 2 pencils, the new and improved erasable pens, and a mountain of snacks and water, and gave it their all.  Lots of energy at test sites, and then the dreaded waiting for scores, which rolled in with unexpected, expedited, rocket speed for those that paid the extra $30 to get them via email.
And, then, it all stopped at the end of February.  The applications were filed away, and coffees, tours and interviews completed.  Quiet.  Deadly silence.  Most parents did all they could and/or wanted to do.  But, of course, it is the Westside of LA, and some did more – to be clear, we did not.  Well, except for the letter from his Club Soccer Coach, which some schools seemed to want, or at least list as “optional.”  The calls to well-connected friends on the Boards of the schools, friends of friends on the Board, friends of distant relatives, friends of a friend that stayed at the Kea Lani with another friend, or some chateau or villa…you know the type.  Basically, anyone they could find that knew someone, somewhere, on some Board.  It was “game on” for some, and for others, it was time to just have yet another lemon drop martini and relax.
And then, Saturday morning – Decision Day, 2011 finally arrived.   Home phones, cell phones, texts, iChats (for the kids)…they all lit up like a raging inferno. Incredibly, the servers didn’t crash and trunk lines didn’t go down all over the Westside.  Some were so happy that you could peel them off the ceiling, others got the expected, and others were crushed.  A few got into their pre-designated first and only choice, and postcards were completed by 5 P.M. on Saturday night; others cried and cried and then started the next step in the process…settling or strategizing, and still others got into decision-making mode.
We were lucky enough to get into our top choices, and it was decision time.  We had an early favorite and stood by our choice through the process until we unexpectedly found another love.  It was back and forth, and back and forth, but deep inside, we knew. We started the pro-con lists, over and over again, with calls into parents to make sure our first love was still as shiny gold as it had started.  And, it was…even more so.
Yesterday, I filled out the postcards, listed our selected school: Windward.  Then I got to the dreaded task of writing letters to the schools our son won’t be attending.  Heartbreaking. 
We loved so many of them, for so many reasons.  Some oozed passion for learning and the arts; some demonstrated that they could challenge our son at levels we didn’t conceive possible; and still others had sports and electives programs that were mind-blowing.  Really, we asked, how could anyone go wrong at any of these schools?    In the end, we picked a school, Windward, that seemed like the best fit for our son and our family.  But, I cried when I wrote that letter to our almost first choice.  I never thought I could get that attached to a school, but I did.  I even called them and cried when I told them we weren’t going.  But, in the end, we know we were fortunate to have a choice.   
And, most of all we kept the process light.  Saying he was “going on tour” like a rock band, and finding his new home away from home.  We laughed at some of the craziness together, made him feel like he would do great anywhere he went, never put pressure on him with the interviews, and just joked about whether he attended more than half of the first semester of 6th grade at his school.  And, of course there was his lucky interview polo shirt with his favorite soccer team logo on it.  I don’t think he’ll ever part with that shirt…he even wore it out to our “celebration dinner” on Decision Day.
The process is as easy or difficult as you make…keep it stress-free for yourself and your child, and have fun with it!  Any other way, and it is a pressure cooker waiting to explode…and now, only a couple of years until we start it all over again.  Oy.
Adine Forman grew up in Chicago and is an attorney who works 30 hours a week at a non-profit, while her children are in school.  Adine has been married to Dan, also an attorney, for 15 years, and has two children who play a combination of club soccer, travel basketball and lacrosse, school sports and musical instruments.  Adine spends all of her free time driving to gyms, and turf and grass fields throughout the Southern California Region.