Book Giveaway! "Beyond The Brochure" Turns Two!



Christina: Writing A Blog Post

Hi Everyone, 

It’s our blogoversary! Beyond The Brochure, the book and the blog, turn 2 years old today! We want to say a huge THANK YOU to our readers! It’s been an exciting adventure and we plan to continue writing as long as you’ll keep reading. To celebrate our blogoversary, we’re giving away one free copy of Beyond The Brochure! (see excerpt below).

Over the past 2 years, our blog has grown steadily. We’ve had more than 122,500 page views. We’re very proud that our blog won a Circle Of Moms award for “Best Parent Resource Blog.” Beyond The Brochure has also been nominated for a 2011 Parents Magazine best local blog award. Kirkus Review called the book, “An indispensable resource for parents.” And, the book has been featured on KTLA Channel 5, Fishbowl LA, The Larchmont Chronicle, Macaroni Kids, The Beverly Hills Courier and more. 

We’ve been privileged to feature amazing guest bloggers, who offer expertise and perspectives different than our own. We’d like to give a huge shout out to guest blogger extraordinaire, Jenny Heitz, Mirman School mom and writer of the modern gift blog Find A Toad, for her incredible writing, her insight into L.A. private elementary schools and her sense of humor. 

One of our favorite aspects of Beyond The Brochure is speaking to parents at preschools and private events about the admissions process. And, of course we love blog comments! We are touched by your heartfelt emails. Of course, this wouldn’t be a private schools blog without the occasional criticism or scolding from our readers. 

If you have topics you’d like to see featured on the blog, please leave a comment and let us know! As many of you start the admissions process for 2011-12, please know that we understand the emotions, the time and energy involved, the stress and the highs and lows of the admissions process. We’ve lived it. 

From our hearts, Anne, Porcha and I wish you all the best in your quest for a great private school for your child.

To enter the giveaway, it’s easy!

1. Leave a comment telling us why you want to win a copy of Beyond The Brochure. You must leave your email, but you can use the format, csimon2007 at gmail dot com (to prevent spam) To comment, click on “comments” at the end of any post. You don’t have to register or sign in).Sometimes Google Blogger requires you to click “Post” a few times before your comment will go through. Please note, if you subscribe to this blog, click on “Beyond The Brochure” at the top of the page and you will be able to leave a comment. 

2. Earn an extra chance to win by subscribing to our blog! Click here. If you’re already a subscriber, let us know. 

3. Winner will be selected at random on Thursday, September 8, 2011. We will post the winner’s name on our Facebook page. 

 Portion of a real sample application for a child admitted to top schools



Guest Blogger Jenny: Mass School Transit In The Nick Of Time

Talk about timely travel arrangements. Just the other morning there was an article in the L.A. Times regarding the lane closures on the Mulholland bridge, cutting the lane quantity in half. The result? Massive traffic back ups.
That’s why, after years (apparently this has taken years; last year was our first year at Mirman), there are finally enough parents willing to let their kids ride the bus to school. This is no small feat. Parental control issues regarding the bus range from safety issues (they have seatbelts), to proximity issues (bullying, not enough space, fights), to some leftover weird anxiety that probably stems more from watching too many John Hughes movies during their adolescence than any sort of reality.
405 Freeway
Mulholland Bridge/LA Times
As a native Angeleno, I have some terrible bus memories. Elementary school wasn’t so bad; my 1970s busing situation only had me traveling a mile or so. It was fairly ideal. But once I went to Palms Junior High for 7th grade, the bus became the transport of terror. LAUSD used Big Blue Buses as its school buses. It was pretty rough, with kids swinging around the handrails (this was pre-pole dancing, so there was no grace involved, just lots of gangly elbows in your face. And up your nose). And on band practice day, just don’t get me started. How they managed to fit all those kids into that bus with their trombones and basses and saxophones, I have no idea. It made a rush hour Manhattan subway look like a cakewalk.
But I have no worries about the bus I just put Anna onto. She knows most of the kids (there are some kids from Berkeley Hall on it, so maybe she’ll make some new friends). She seemed perfectly happy to stare out the window, and equally happy to chat with kids she hasn’t seen all summer. Although 7 a.m. pick up seems early to some of you, it’s the same time her carpool used to pick up, so the timing hasn’t really changed.
The only downside is the cost. The bus doesn’t come cheap. But, then, neither does the gas necessary to drive from the Eastside out to Muholland and the 405. And the idea that I won’t be waiting for fifty minutes on that shrunken bridge to go home every afternoon? Hey, that serenity is priceless.
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
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Book Giveaway! Beyond The Brochure’s 2 Year Anniversary

Hi Everyone!


It’s our blogoversary! Beyond The Brochure, the book and the blog. turn 2 years old today! We want to say a huge THANK YOU to our readers! It’s been an exciting adventure and we plan to continue writing as long as you’ll keep reading. To celebrate our blogoversary, we’re giving away a free copy of Beyond The Brochure! (see excerpt below).


Over the past 2 years, our blog has grown steadily. We’ve had more than 122,000 page views. We’re very proud that our blog won a Circle Of Moms award for “Best Parent Resource Blog.” Beyond The Brochure has also been nominated for a 2011 Parents Magazine best local blog award. 


We’ve been privileged to feature amazing guest bloggers, who offer expertise and perspectives different than our own. We’d like to give a huge shout-out to guest blogger extraordinaire, Jenny Heitz, Mirman mom and writer of the modern gift blog Find A Toad, for her incredible writing, insight into L.A. private elementary schools and her sense of humor. 


One of our favorite aspects of Beyond The Brochure is speaking to parents at preschools and private events about the admissions process. And, of course we love blog comments! You also send us heartfelt emails asking questions. This wouldn’t be a private schools blog without the occasional criticism or scolding from our readers. 


If you have topics you’d like to see featured on the blog, please leave a comment and let us know! As many of you start the admissions process for 2011-12, please know that we understand the emotions, the time and energy involved, the stress and the highs and lows of the admissions process. We’ve lived it. 


From our hearts, Anne, Porcha and I wish you all the best in your quest for a great private school for your child.


To enter the giveaway, it’s easy!


1. Leave a comment telling us why you want to win a copy of Beyond The Brochure. You must leave your email, but you can use the format, csimon2007 at gmail dot com (to prevent spam)


2. Earn an extra chance to win by subscribing to our blog! Click here. If you’re already a subscriber, let us know. 


3. Winner will be selected at random on Thursday, September 8, 2011. We will post the winner’s name on our Facebook page. 

A Portion Of A Real Sample Application For A Child That Was Admitted To Top Schools






Guest Blogger Jenny: Apply To The Schools YOU Like

Private elementary school searches in Los Angeles always seem to lead to the same few schools being touted as “the best.” So, inevitably you, the proud parent of some innocent pre-schooler (usually) who’s still building faulty block architecture and trying not to pee her pants, feel pressure to apply to those “best” schools, or look like a loser.


Don’t lie about it. You sometimes hang out with parents who seem to know the scoop on the private school scene, and they have some tough and shill standards to holler at you during cocktail parties. Stuff about the best “progressive” education (I’m still unclear as to what that actually means), the most innovative classroom organization, and (the dirty little LA private school secret) the incredible business connections you could foster with other well heeled parents.

Goodness knows the schools we’re talking about are excellent. All are feeder schools to the top middle and upper schools in the city. All have high ERB scores, and scores of educational goodies. Most are a bit artsy, although underneath that cuddly, slightly 1970’s exterior lurks a ruthless competitive drive. But here’s the problem: you can apply, but the odds of getting in aren’t in your favor.

Take The Center For Early Education (CEE), for instance. CEE is probably the top of the top tier of private elementary schools. Designed by psychologists and other educational experts, CEE is the utmost in “progressive” education (as stated above: not entirely sure what that means), and it’s one cozy and cloistered environment. CEE kids go on to schools like Harvard-Westlake, Marlborough, and Brentwood.

And by all means, you should apply! Why not? But here’s a little statistic for you: your child has more likelihood of getting into Harvard for college than getting into CEE for kindergarten. It’s true.

I’m not writing this to bum you out, but to clue you in on the private school reality. If all you do is apply to the totally top tier, super competitive, ultra progressive (see my other parenthetical statements above) LA schools, you might not get into any of them. Schools like CEE, Brentwood, Oakwood, Crossroads, John Thomas Dye (not progressive, but just as impossible to gain entrance to), Carlthorp and The Willows are a total crap shoot. Your child might get in, either through exceptional performance (could happen with sufficient bladder control that day; skip that extra apple juice box), some connection you happen to have (mazel tov), or sheer amazingly good luck.

This is why it’s important to look at other schools, schools which may be excellent and perfect for your child, but aren’t in that ultra top tier. Kids from mildly religious schools like St. James and St. Brendan’s in Hancock Park still have impressive matriculation stats and offer an excellent education, often for a far lower tuition.  Another example of a great school with limited buzz is our friend Virginia’s take on Children’s Community Schoola slightly less well known school that sounds really wonderful. Check those schools out. And then apply to combination of the heavy hitter long shots and the so called underdog schools which might turn out to be the greatest educational experience your child ever has.

Finally, ignore those cocktail party braying donkeys. Private elementary school is not, ultimately, a status symbol. It shouldn’t be a place for the parents to get ahead in business, it’s a place for children to learn how to function in the world. Your child is the one attending the school; you’ve been done with school for a long, long time. Sip your martini, nod politely, and let all the nonsense roll right off you.

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,


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Guest Blogger Jenny: How Are Private Elementary Schools Different From Public Schools? One Mom’s Opinion



Although Beyond The Brochure is a blog about Los Angeles private elementary schools (and I kind of assume that, if you’re reading this blog, it’s because private school is of interest to you), occasionally I feel the need to discuss the differences between LAUSD schools and private schools.


First off, I’m not anti-public school. On the contrary: I attended LAUSD schools from K-7, and my daughter attended public school at Third St. Elementary from 1-3rd grades.  That’s why I think I can write this comparison with confidence and relatively little bias; I’ve experienced both.

Funding
Obviously, there’s a huge difference in how your child’s education is funded at a private school vs. a public one. At private school, the funder is you, pretty pure and simple. You pay the tuition (ranging anywhere from $12K to $30K annually, depending on the school), and then you pay again in terms of annual giving, plus fundraising offers galore. Even if you get financial aid, you’ll probably still be paying something.

In public school, our tax dollars pay for education. Just how much of our tax dollars trickles down to the actual schools, however, remains a mystery. LAUSD claims anything from around $3,600 to $10,000 per pupil, depending on the school (it’s too complicated to explain here; rest assured if you live in a low income area, even if your school is overcrowded, your school is probably receiving less money per kid than the schools in more affluent areas. It’s not fair). Some sources claim that, since LAUSD doesn’t count money raised by public school funding bond measures in these figures, that the actual funding is higher. Lord knows I’m no expert on this topic, but twenty minutes of researching it online made my head spin in confusion.

What is definitely true (and I know this from our three years at Third St. Elementary), is that you’ll be fundraising all the time, perhaps just as much as at a private school. The difference is that often the parents’ hands are tied in terms of how to allocate the funds; at a private school, you know exactly where the funding is going: straight back into the little school and thus to your child.

Perhaps it’s not fair to compare private schools, which are essentially medium-sized businesses, to public schools, which are vast bureaucracies with massive infrastructure. But it is an important, if somewhat obvious, distinction.

Bullying and Behavioral Issues
There are bullies and nasty girl terror everywhere. That is simply a given. And I’m not sure there’s much difference between public and private schools in how they deal with these entities. I’ve heard unbelievable horror stories circulating about texting harassment at private L.A. schools. Sometimes more money and entitlement absolutely leads to awful behavior. And it’s up to the school and its overall culture to deal with it.

On a personal note, my daughter had trouble on the playground at Third St. with mean girls and aggressive boys. She handled it fine, but she pretty much had to handle it on her own. Then again, it wasn’t anything extreme. But she’s experienced nothing like that at Mirman. The school seems to have a zero tolerance policy for that kind of nonsense.

If you’re concerned, ask the administration about things like honor codes and discipline.  And if the school doesn’t have a real code of conduct, I would ask some current parents about their experiences regarding student behavior.

Quality of Teachers
There are dedicated and wonderful teachers everywhere.  Anna’s second grade teacher at Third St. was one of the best teachers she has ever had; he was an example of how years of experience (I believe he had 17 years) can add up to true excellence.

The difference in public and private school teachers doesn’t really come into play unless you’re talking about bad or ineffective teachers. In public school, teachers earn tenure after only a couple of years of teaching, and after that it’s almost impossible for LAUSD to rid itself of a bad teacher. The best you can do in public school, if your child gets a lousy teacher, is to transfer your child to a different classroom. Forget about getting the teacher fired. It isn’t going to happen.

Private schools, however, pretty much hire and fire at will. If a teacher isn’t cutting it, he or she won’t last long.  Private schools don’t need to tolerate substandard teaching, or attitude problems, or laziness. On the other hand, private schools don’t have to hire terribly qualified teachers, either. Some twenty-something with a history M.A. and no teaching credential could end up teaching your child, and the results could be less than stellar. I got more than a couple of these types of teachers when I attended Crossroads for middle and upper school; Crossroads did get rid of the lousy newbies, but there was some chaos along the way.

Another comparison is the quality of teaching, but that’s hard to gauge. These days, LAUSD teachers are so bound by testing requirements that it’s difficult for them to fit in anything creative or different. It’s a system that doesn’t necessarily reward initiative, but does reward quantitative test results, so many teachers have to teach to the tests (this isn’t true of charter schools, which have different criteria for funding than regular LAUSD campuses).

On the other hand, teaching quality at private schools is more qualitative and far fuzzier. Sure, the kids do get tested every year at private school, but there wasn’t much attention paid to it.  One could argue that a successful private school teacher is willing to compete in a popularity contest, whereas in public school popularity plays no part in job security.

Diversity
Public school wins this one, hands down. Private schools, however they wish to sugar coat it, will never be as diverse as public schools. And I’m not just talking about ethnicity, I’m talking about class as well. If you send your child to private school, she will be with mostly upper middle class to outright rich kids. This does vary from school to school, as some private schools are truly enclaves for the rich and famous.

So there it is, some of the pluses and minuses regarding private and public schools. I’ve tried to be as fair to both sides as I can. At the same time, though, if I’ve inadvertently offended any of you, you might want to keep in mind that Beyond The Brochure is a blog about private schools. If you’re a huge public school- at-all -costs-and-in -all-circumstances-advocate (and all power to you), you might want to ask yourself: why are you reading this???!

Editor’s note: Among our readers we are pleased to include public school parents. Yes, we have public school moms who email us and say they read this blog for a few reasons: 1. They are considering transferring their child to private elementary school at some point in the future. 2. They want a glimpse into what life is really like at private schools. 

A few months ago, Beyond The Brochure was mocked by another mom v-blogger (as Jenny says, if you can’t write, you video yourself) who called us “private schools snobs” and a bunch of other nasty names. We don’t think we’re snobs, and we try hard to be fair and inclusive on this blog, but if we have strong opinions, we write them. If we’ve struggled with a parenting issue at our school, we’ll talk about it. We answer every email and read (and welcome!) your comments. I have never attended a private school in my life! I matriculated through the LAUSD, SMUSD and UC systems from elementary school through graduate school. Oh, and last but not least, we aim for keeping our sense of humor present at all times. If that makes us snobs, so be it. 
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
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