We Applied to 26 L.A. Schools for Kindergarten by Mia Sable Hays

Hear me out. I had more “reasonable” plans during the winter of 2020 for our Los Angeles kindergarten search, but the unimaginable happened, and Covid-19 upended our world.

First, the tours were all canceled and the schools were closed to the public for the rest of the year. Anything we hadn’t already seen would remain a mystery hinging on the technical, marketing, and communication savvy of each school (and the health department). Then, amidst the lockdowns we decided to sell our open floorplan condo in Playa Vista and temporarily rent a house with more space to better navigate homeschooling and work-from-home for both my husband and I. The best option for us ended up being on the complete other side of town, in the historic north hills of Glendale. “Great now we can consider more schools! We can apply everywhere and pick a school, then buy a house!”, this optimistic mom naively said to herself…

Cut to – a literal color-coded spreadsheet of information and dates, and SO many Zoom events – like over 100. Preliminary midnight website-reading had me crossing off the ones for which my summer birthday baby would not make the cut-off (Brentwood, Laurence, Crossroads… the universe has predestined we were not meant to be). In the end we chose to hold a place for our preschool (Exploring Minds Montessori)’s older group, put our name in the lottery for 17 charter & magnet schools, and apply to 8 private schools across the westside and San Fernando valley; The Willows, Wildwood, Turning Point, Buckley, Children’s Community School, Oakwood, The Wesley School, and Campbell Hall. 

Right off the bat, it was a cyclone of qualitative data. Not having the normal impressions of the campuses, nor the social opportunities to mingle with our fellow prospective parents, we were locked into what I can best describe as The Bachelor meets Match.com meets college applications meets doing your taxes. It was intimate, it was awkward, it was “dating” them all as if we might get married, never knowing how they really felt about us. We knew a great education was the baseline at ALL of these schools. So what ELSE mattered? My gut said we were also looking for the trustworthy third caregiver, the curator of our community, the unified captain and crew of a pandemic cruise ship… the right people would be the right place. 

Then I had this moment where I lost it. Near the end of the Zoom kindergarten assessments I started to freak out. I had half the schools telling me Zooms with 4 year olds were developmentally inappropriate and they would forgo any such thing, and then The Wesley School required TWO. In my defense I was coming off another school’s ill-fated attempt during which my normally happy-go-lucky kid frowned at the chaotic group of Zoom strangers and laid down on the ground for the duration. I felt horribly guilty like a toddler pageant mom trying to convince her the next one might be fun.

I wrote to Wesley politely asking if there was another option they would consider rather than a second Zoom. The reply was essentially, No – that this was the way they made their decisions. I was tortured and borderline offended to be in the position – but something unexpected happened. Wesley’s teachers brought some other magic with my kid – she lit up! It was like easy (dare I say breezy) – BOTH TIMES. Later, in the parent interview, we addressed my erm, little panic. I listened, and I felt heard. They told me what they had noticed of my child. It was spot on. And I knew for a fact that no other school had truly SEEN her the way they had. I was taken aback by how respectfully the matter was resolved, that instead of making me feel like an insurgent jerk or pandering to my request, there was a sincere and transparent conversation. Was this love? Did I screw it up? 

On that fateful day at 5pm in mid-March the decisions hit my inbox. To my surprise… I was surprised. I had to quickly process a confusing mix of emotions for schools I’d been SURE we’d connected deeply with, schools sending us their cool-toned “Waitlist” offers, and others we’d felt less certain about sending their warmest proposal. As of deciding time, the public and charter schools were still virtual-only, and it felt like too much of an unknown leap if we had a good private option – and we thankfully had several. 

Among our private acceptances were 2 of our top 3 choices! The Willows on the westside (our long-time “progressive” dream school), and The Wesley School in NoHo (the late discovery “traditional” which had stolen a piece of our hearts). For you Bachelor fans: The Willows had our first-impression rose, but The Wesley School sent us a curveball when it won over the family during hometowns.

Turning from our hearts back to our heads for final answers, another factor (and long story) was that we had applied for financial aid, and not received any. This little detail put greater pressure on our house hunt as we realized that it would be financially risky for our family to pay full tuition AND invest in the kind of home we needed back on the westside. Choosing Wesley meant we could probably swing it if I got another part-time gig, plus a larger selection of affordable homes nearby. These were grownup facts that could impact our family life for years… and I suppose my point is that, if other BIG things like buying a house or affording tuition, or you know, getting through a global crisis – intersect with your school search, then you’ve got to look at the big picture and not get too wound up in the romance.

We knew what we had to do, and crossed off our westside offers, including The Willows. It was a dramatic season finale of the most massive blind school search ever, but we are relieved and excited to enthusiastically say “Yes” to The Wesley School and to finding our new village in the valley. 

Mia Sable Hays is a writer, producer, and host of The Motherbird Podcast and founder of Motherbird, a curated community and newsletter for Los Angeles parents.

Stay up to date on the latest L.A. private schools news and events! Follow Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. Buy the book on Amazon.

Get Your Copy! Third Edition of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles

BTB Cover Third Edition

We’re thrilled to announce that the Third Edition of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles (September, 2017) is now available!  You can now buy the book on Amazon!

The Third Edition of the book includes:

  • Updated! List of Los Angeles and Pasadena area private elementary schools
  • New! Five additional sample written applications
  • New! More information about tuition and non-tuition expenses
  • Updated! Current affairs and trends at LA private elementary schools
  • Updated! Beyond The Brochure’s most popular blog posts

Thank you so much to our longtime and new book and blog readers! We truly appreciate your support since 2010, when we first started Beyond The Brochure. We receive your heartfelt emails and we understand exactly what it’s like to navigate the competitive L.A. private school admissions process. We answer as many questions as possible, on our Facebook Page and by email. Your support, encouragement and feedback means the world to us. Cheers to a new edition and lots of acceptance letters for all of our readers!

All our best, Anne and Christina Simon

Please note: If you purchased the Second Edition of the book, you can exchange it for the Third Edition. Or, if you bought it at a local bookstore within the past 2 months, email Christina at csimon2007 @ gmail dot com and we will send you a free Third Edition.

Seven Arrows Elementary School Hires New Admissions Director

Fiona Farrahi

Dear Esteemed Colleagues & Friends,

As you may know, I have made the difficult decision to leave Seven Arrows at the end of this school year. After a decade in my current position working in a job I’ve loved, I feel it’s time to explore other professional possibilities and commitments. It has been a pleasure and privilege to have worked with you over the years, and I sincerely hope I have the opportunity to cross paths with you in a new capacity and continue to stay in touch. Thank you for your partnership and friendship.

Without further ado, I am delighted to introduce you to Fiona Farrahi, Seven Arrows’ new director of admissions. Fiona joins us from Chicago’s Ancona School where she has been a key member of the strategic senior administration since 2010. As the school’s director of external affairs, Fiona is an independent school leader with hands on experience in admissions, enrollment management, marketing, and communications. In addition to her outstanding work experience, Fiona has also demonstrated her ability for leadership and retention through her work with open houses, tours, external marketing events and programs, and social media management. She is a member of the Association of Independent School Admission Professionals and an active member in the Chicago and Lake Shore independent school community.

Most importantly (and as is aligned with our Seven Arrows vision), Fiona understands the power of authentic and trusting relationships, and her approach to admissions is human-centric. In fact, she is very much looking forward to building her own meaningful connections with you and your school communities. She will be reaching out in the summer and fall to introduce herself and begin visiting all the phenomenal preschools LA’s Westside has to offer.

Sonja Carlson
Sonja Carlson

Fiona will be joined by Sonja Carlson in the admissions office as our new admission associate. Sonja joined the Seven Arrows community in 2014 and is excited to transition into her new role after two years as the communications & enrichment manager. In her short time with us, she has proven herself invaluable to the organization. Sonja moved to Los Angeles from her hometown of San Francisco after completing her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley in American Studies & Media Studies. She loves baking, dancing, and exploring new neighborhoods by foot.

Please feel free to reach out to Fiona and Sonja any time. Have a wonderful summer.


With gratitude,
Omid Kheiltash

See Beyond The Brochure’s School Profile of Seven Arrows here. or visit Seven Arrows School here.

Beyonce Performs at Center For Early Education’s Gala (L.A. Times)

Beyonce CEE gala

There is absolutely no way any of us mere mortals would be able to compete with Beyonce and Jay Z for a spot at The Center For Early Education. No way. The school held its annual gala fundraiser where Beyonce performed, paying tribute to Reveta Bowers, the legendary head of school, who is retiring this year. It’s so glamorous you just have to let yourself be swept up in the fabulousness of it all. This stuff is beyond jealousy or envy or even the fanciest private school auctions. It just is.


Here’s the article in The Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post.


Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook for all the latest L.A. private school information!

The Politics Of Un-Gratitude At A Fancy Westside School


Photo: Flickr/Joshua Tree National Park
Photo: Flickr/Joshua Tree National Park

As Thanksgiving creeps up on us, I’ve seen my Facebook and other social media feeds filled with people giving one thing they’re grateful for in order to cultivate looking at the good instead of focusing on the bad. While I generally eye roll at the practice as suddenly everyone’s husband/wife/child/pets/job/plumber/waxer/proctologist is the best ever, I am particularly grateful for one seemingly odd thing: I got to accompany my son on a field trip.

The three years he spent at an expensive L.A. private school were filled with the usual politics that I still find disturbing. The administration deemed which parents were worthy to spearhead what committee. More often than not, those leaders were also the big donors. Coincidence? The same happened with Room Parents. You could not volunteer to be one, you had to be deemed worthy by the administration, receiving an email in later August. These women (always Room Moms, never ever Room Dads) gained special access to the class that non-chosen parents didn’t. They could go to all the parties, go to other special events in class and at school to take pictures for the yearbook and organized who did what for each such gathering. Part of their duties also included deciding which parents could go on field trips.

Back in my private school elementary days in the 1970s and 1980s, if a parent wanted to go on a field trip, they signed up to go and they went. But at this private school it was a super- special designation. Though it was supposed to be blind, with the names of the parents who wanted to go drawn out of a hat, that of course was not the process. Every year, the close friends of the Room Parents went on the field trips. Three years and nine or so field trips and I never got picked. Not once. I’m not good with the maths but I’m pretty sure that’s not statistically accurate. My son would always ask “Why aren’t you going?” and be disappointed, which was heartbreaking because he still wanted me with him.

So imagine when I got the email from my son’s teacher at his new public school asking for volunteers to chaperone a museum trip. I replied “I can go!” lightening fast. I was in. So easy. I was in! The night before the field trip my son seemed to be getting sick so I alerted his teacher that we might have to miss it and to maybe contact a back up parent. “We already have more than enough parents going so don’t worry about it.” So what you’re saying is that a group of parents volunteered to go with their child to the museum, and they were all allowed to go? But, that’s too easy. And fair! So not private school.

Not only did I have the pleasure of accompanying my son and a group of his peers for the day, I was given, a week later, a binder ring on which thank you notes from each student had been personally written to me on index cards. Each class member, whether or not they had been in my group, thanked me for going and had them write one thing they learned on the field trip, so the activity was one of gratitude but also a comprehension check for the teacher.

One of the things that also struck me as odd about our private school was the lack of gratitude towards parents. Yes, donors were acknowledged on the prominently placed public donation tree plaque and rewarded with their name for all to see (and no one chose Anonymous). And of course the highest-ranked parents were rewarded with the prestige committees and privileges. Parents were thanked as group, mostly for showing up to something like a winter or spring concert. But year after year almost no holiday gifts were made for the parents. There were no Mother’s Day and Father’s Day glued together macaroni art, mismatched bead necklaces or cards made. Unless you were designated as a strategically important parent, even the kids didn’t thank you sincerely, let alone anyone else.

Of course no one volunteers on field trips to receive praise (I hope). And holidays aren’t about the gifts (technically). But there is something to be said for cultivating the proverbial attitude of gratitude. Something more than the kids responding in unison to the teacher prompting “Lets say ‘thank you’ to the parents.” Something to recognize all that parents do, even if the campus shuts them out.

On his index card my son wrote to me “Mom, thank you for coming on the field trip. You made it the best field trip ever!!” Why shouldn’t every parent have that opportunity, regardless of their donation size or popularity?


Jennifer Smith* was a mom at a fancy westside K-6 school where she tried to play nice until she couldn’t anymore.

*Not her real name


Like Beyond The Brochure on Facebook and get the latest blog posts, articles, events and more!