E-Follett: You Can Tell A Lot About A School’s Curriculum From This Book Shopping Site by Jessica Gottlieb


Browse a school's required readling list on e-follett
Browse a school’s required readling list on e-follett

It feels like the bulk of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013 was spent trying to figure out which high school Jane would attend. She looked at schools from Pasadena to Calabasas and from Brentwood to Chatsworth. After a few months she came to us with a list ten schools long and we then began attending open houses and querying friends. Some schools were too big, some were too young, one was too religious and another was so progressive I got twitchy. It was sort of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears… we finally found her perfect fit, well as perfect as anything ever will be.


The book list came in the mail recently and dutifully logged on to eFollett.com to start the book buying process (can we all OMG together about the price of textbooks?!) when I noticed that quite a few of the schools that Jane had applied to also use eFollett and it would have been a wonderful resource when we were searching for schools. For instance you’d see that Marlborough’s 9th grade English curriculum includes reading The Catcher in the Rye, The Odyssey and Macbeth. Viewpoint’s 9th grade kids will be reading The Bible, Joy Luck Club, Julius Caesar, Oedipus and The Odyssey. For 7th grade English at Polytechnic in Pasadena, students will read Vocabulary From Classical Roots, Absolutely True Diary Of a Part-Time Indian and Of Mice and Men. Christina’s daughter, entering 7th grade at Viewpoint, will be reading Fahrenheit 451, From There To Here, Pearl, Romeo & Juliet, House On Mango Street, and Raisin In The Sun in English class.


When I browsed the bookstore for 9th grade English books I found that the selections were mostly impressive. I did notice that one of the schools I’d not allowed Jane to apply to had only a textbook for 9th grade English and absolutely no literature. Fortunately for me this wasn’t a first or even a second choice school for my daughter so she didn’t push back too hard when I told her, “Dad and I just aren’t willing to pay for that school.” I had a suspicion that it was academically underachieving but some bookstore browsing could have helped me a year ago.


Bookstore shopping isn’t a good way to decide that you want to apply to a school. I’d be lying to you if I said it was, but I found myself on the fence with a few of the schools. I sat and listened to their presentations and was wondering if they would deliver the great education they were selling. Capping off those presentations with a look-see in the bookstore could have made the decisions a whole lot easier.


Jessica Gottlieb is a Los Angeles private school mom who writes the nationally acclaimed blog JessicaGottlieb.com.  Jessica’s recent TV appearances include the CBS Evening News, KTLA News, CNN, HLN, Wendy Williams, Fox and Friends and The Daily Show. Her work has been written about at the LA Times, NY Times, LA Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, Ms. Magazine and more. 

Do These Things Only Happen at L.A. Private Elementary Schools?

Magic Mountain Creative Commons

These truth-is-scarier-than-fiction situations all involved real families at L.A. private elementary schools (yes, I’m one of them, but not the only one).


Depending on your perspective they are:

A. Obnoxious

B. Scary

C. Funny

D. Incomprehensible

E. Could happen at any type of school

The question is, “what would you do?”


  • A mom takes her daughter over to a kindergarten classmate’s house for a playdate. The nanny answers the door. As the visiting mom goes to sit on a white sofa, the little girl orders her off the couch telling her that her mom doesn’t want it to get dirty.
  • Your 5 year-old child is picked up by another parent for a playdate. You find out afterwards that she didn’t have an extra car seat so she rode without one.
  • On a school field trip to an amusement park, a dad chaperone suddenly realizes the 5 kids in his supervision are missing. After a moment of panic, everyone realizes the kids are at the top of a roller-coaster ride without a parent, against the rules.
  • You arrive at a playdate and the mom whose house you are visiting never comes downstairs, but instead sends her kids down. Two hours pass and still no mom. You leave.
  • A celebrity mom calls, sounding hungover, and asks to take your daughter to dinner and a movie in downtown LA. She doesn’t mention she has a very recent DUI arrest that was reported in the LA Times.
  • A mom sends her son to Magic Mountain with a celebrity mom. Despite a very specific time to check in by phone, she doesn’t hear from the mom. Worried, she starts calling other parents who may know where they are at the theme park. At least 12 hours pass before she gets a return call as to the whereabouts of her son.
  • A mom arrives at a home to pick up her son from a playdate. She finds her 6 year- old son alone in the swimming pool. The only adult she can find is the chef, who is in the kitchen.
  • A kid is in the bouncy house at a backyard birthday party. An adult friend of the host family threatens to “choke the life out of” the kid. Driving home, the kid tells his mom about the bizarre incident.
  • Your child is invited to a sleepover birthday party at a hotel, which will be followed by a day spent at an amusement park. You’ve never met the family and your kids aren’t friends. You decline the invitation. The mom stops speaking to you.