Reader Question: How Do I Know If I Selected The Right Private Elementary School?



One of our wonderful blog readers emailed me with a question about picking the right school. This question is personal for me because I often wonder if I made a mistake with our previous school. See my conclusion below.  –Christina


Question: It’s been a long week of intense debate, extreme list and spreadsheet making and we finally selected a school. The school we didn’t choose seemed pretentious, but it had a lot to offer. We picked the school that also offers a lot, but where we think the parents are “our people.” Now, I feel some remorse (and regret?) with our decision. How do I know if I picked the right school?


Answer: Selecting a school for your kid can be filled with uncertainty (it was for me!). Second-guessing your decision, doubts, lingering thoughts about “what if” may persist until you just decide to embrace your decision and forget about the other school.


Let me just say that you’ll never be able to answer the question fully until your child is a student at your school and some time has passed. Then, most likely, it will become “your school” and the fleeting doubts will be a distant memory. Transitions to a new school are usually uneventful, but for some kids it can be a bumpy few months. So, try to resist judging the school until your family is settled there. Then, if your intuition tells you something isn’t right or if your child isn’t happy, you can try to figure out what’s really going on.


Unfortunately, I have frequent regrets about selecting The Willows Community School where my kids were generally happy, but Barry and I were not. Why did we spend so many years there? I know I need to put this chapter behind me. For various reasons, my family didn’t fit in at The Willows like we do at Viewpoint.


My decisions for selecting the Willows weren’t entirely flawed. For elementary school, I wanted a progressive/developmental school with excellent teachers and a small, nurturing environment with all the “bells and whistles.” The Willows is all that. It was the wrong school for our family for completely subjective, not objective reasons. The problem for us wasn’t something I could point to on a school brochure or during a tour. The culture of the school wasn’t right for us. We didn’t fit the very specific culture of the school. The more I volunteered and tried to make the fit work, the worse it got. Contributing to the school, both financially and with our free time was a wasted effort. I watched great families in a similar situation leave the school in first grade and second grade. We stayed. Every year I hoped something would change. It never did.  In retrospect, I realized the priorities of the school administration, the board and many of the parents were far different than ours. However, if we hadn’t stayed at Willows, we probably wouldn’t be at Viewpoint School now. Of course, I find myself thinking, “I wish my kids had started kindergarten at Viewpoint!” But, in the end everything worked out better than I could have imagined. Isn’t that how life works?


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Have We Applied To Enough L.A. Private Elementary Schools?

If you’re wondering (like I was) whether you’ve applied to enough schools, there are schools with January 2012 application deadlines. In Beyond The Brochure, we discuss this issue in detail. Obviously, there’s no perfect number, but if the schools you’ve selected are super-competitive, or you’re applying for financial aid, consider adding one or two more to your list. Here are a few schools with January 2012 admissions deadlines:

Campbell Hall: The deadline for all applications is Friday, January 27th, 2012.

St. James Episcopal School. Submit your application to the Admissions Office with the $100 non-refundable application fee as soon as possible, but no later than January 13, 2012. Late applications received will be considered after April if space is available. 

New Roads: January 20, 2012. Deadline for completed applications

Pilgrim School: Jan. 31s, 2012. 

PS #1. Still accepting applications for Fall 2012. 

Children’s Community School. Deadline is Jan. 27, 2012.  

Laurence School. Deadline is Jan. 15, 2012. 

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