Reader Question: Will You Please Share Information From Your Event re: Family Message

Christina Simon, Celebrity Mom, Dayna Devon and Porcha Dodson at an event Dayna held at her home for Wagon Wheel and Montessori Shir-Hashirim Preschool parents last year. Dayna is now a mom at Curtis School.

Whenever we speak to groups of parents who are applying to private elementary schools, I talk about how I developed a “family message.” This is a concept Anne Simon, my co-author and step-mom, helped me come up with. It’s the way I was able to write about and discuss our family’s attributes, interests and child. I used these points in our written applications, parent interviews and even thank you notes.

My family message included these points:

1. We are well-educated (Harvard and Berkeley) and have advanced degrees from Harvard Law School and UCLA

2. We are committed to private school. We have ruled out public school

3. We have volunteered in our community and served on non-profit boards

4. We have a shy, studious daughter who will benefit from a developmental school

5. Our family is NOT artistic, but we want our kids exposed to the arts  

6. We have specific skills that can benefit your school i.e. fundraising and finance       
My family


Your family message should be unique to your family. But, don’t be afraid to share things that your family values like diversity, the outdoors or the arts. This is really about helping the admissions directors get to know your family!


During talks, we mention that if you are a graduate of one of the schools where you are applying, you should discuss that. For example, “As a graduate of XYZ school, I would like my child to benefit from the outstanding education I received. My experience at XYZ school has benefited me academically and socially throughout my life (explain further if needed).


We also discuss ways you can describe your child that steer away from cliches like “leader” or “precocious” which tend to be overused and vague. Try to explain your child’s unique attributes in a straightforward manner. For example, “Henry will pass the ball to any kid who is open on his soccer team. He doesn’t care whether the kid is the best player or not.” This describes qualities like maturity, sharing and leadership without using those words.


Also, think about how your child learns, the environment where he learns best. For example, my son needs a lot of physical activity…he’s super high energy, but can still focus and follow classroom instruction. I needed a school that had a lot of yard time, PE, etc. He’s outgoing and friendly. I wrote about this in his application.


Hope this helps!


A Tale Of Two Preschools

Me and my preschoolers (photo: Elizabeth Beristain)

I posted this guest piece I wrote for Macaroni Kid Santa Monica on our Facebook Page. In case you missed it, I write about sending my daughter to a fancy preschool and my son to a no-frills school. The schools are very different, but each was wonderful in its own way.

To read, click HERE

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Who Is This Child You’re Describing? by Sandy Eiges, LA School Scout

L.A. School Scout



What you need to know about private school applications

Once your child is entering middle or high school, you pretty much know what kind of learner they are, how they function in the classroom, their verifiable strengths and their ongoing challenges.

So when it comes to private school applications for middle and high school, most parents are in fairly good shape. Besides, your child actually has a major role in the process, including a written essay, an entrance exam, an interview. There is little mystery about who the admissions team will meet. They will meet the student described in all the paperwork. The parent essays, once so daunting, also tend to be short and to the point, realistic, true.

Kindergarten applications, on the other hand, are a whole ‘nother animal. It goes without saying that every child is brilliant, talented, clever, funny. I have known enough children to know that this is absolutely true.

For those of you with go-along, get-along children, this isn’t for you. But for those of you with children who have any challenges – emotional, social, cognitive, fine motor, gross motor – you should know that your view of your child may or may not be what someone else sees.

I’ve observed a 4- year old described as creative, articulate, a leader, who in fact was one of the most poised, competent, verbal, articulate, self-possessed children I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. That child’s parents knew she was smart – but they didn’t think she was a genius, or “gifted,” and if they did they never mentioned it.

Not so another set of parents of an almost 5-year old described in similar terms, who displayed none of those qualities in the classroom or with peers. The parents saw him as brilliant – but this was a child who lived on the periphery of the classroom, did not participate in daily class activities, and had made no real friendships in three years at the school. The teachers could not verify what the parents described – at all.

The admissions process is competitive, and of course you want to put your best foot forward. On the other hand, if there is a complete disconnect about what a parent believes about their child and how their school experiences them then you’re doing yourself and your child a great disservice.

The trick in answering those questions about how a particular school, or a particular type of education, suits your child, or about your child’s strengths and challenges, is to be honest about who your child is. You have one view; trust your preschool to fill in some of those details about who they are in the classroom, on the school yard, playing with others. Take what they say to heart, and describe the child your intended school is actually going to meet.

So, for example, if you have an introverted dreamy child, that’s fine – but describing him or her as being the class leader is probably not going to be something anyone will see in a Kindergarten assessment playdate, or in an observation at the preschool. Describe them as who they are. Yes, they might at times display leadership qualities – but is the one-time observer going to see that side of your child?

Most of you will do just fine on your applications. When in doubt – tell the truth.


Sandy Eiges
Sandy Eiges, M.S.W.
L.A. School Scout

For those of you starting to think about school applications for 2012 or 2013, feel free to give me a call, at 310 926 0050; or email me at or visit

New Pics From "Beyond The Brochure’s" Facebook Page

Christina Simon,  Porcha Dodson, Luvuyo Mandela (great-grandson of Nelson Mandela). Luvuyo was the keynote speaker at Project Knapsack’s “Out of Africa” dinner held at the Hancock Park home of Dayna Devon and Dr. Brent Moellekin. Porcha founded Project Knapsack to deliver school supplies to African Children.

Thanksgiving in Philadelphia. My daughter at the amazing Liberty Bell. 
Courtney Lewis, Publisher of Macaroni Kid, Santa Monica and Christina Simon at Bubbles Indoor Playground “Mommy Monday”, Santa Monica. Co-hosted by Momangeles.
Christina Simon with her former boss and friend, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, at his annual birthday fundraiser, Fraiche Restaurant, Culver City. 
Kelly Contant (Willows Mom) and Christina Simon. Kelly rescues pitbulls with Karma Rescue!
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The Top 10 Best Things About L.A. Private Elementary Schools

These are obviously generalizations, but it gives you an idea of what you might be paying for if you send your kid to private elementary school in Los Angeles.

1.    L.A. private elementary schools offer something for every type of parent and child: uber-traditional to super-progressive and everything in between

2.    They are clean and well-staffed

3.    The curriculum is typically cutting edge, based on the latest research and best practices

4.    The teachers are motivated, well-educated, caring, creative and smart

5.    They usually have character and values programs in place

6.    Teachers can be hired or fired as needed

7.    Technology is an integral part of the curriculum

8.    School gardens are beautiful and inspiring (even edible)

9.    You might see a manny (male nanny)

10. After the first year, you will no longer be impressed by 20,000 sq ft. mansions (unless you live in one!)

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