How The Other Classmate Lives: A Field Trip

I got an email a few months ago from my son’s Room Parent at The Willows School telling me the kids would be taking a field trip to a classmate’s house on the Westside to see their horse ranch. This classmate is the child of a board member. I was speechless. There was little information provided except that the trip tied into the novels about horses they were reading in class. Really?


Those of you with kids at L.A. private schools know there are some very wealthy families at these schools. It comes with the territory and if your kid become friends with theirs, you might glimpse a life that’s very different than your own (or maybe not). But, most school field trips are to museums, Watts Towers, the beach, The Aquarium and other historic and/or meaningful, educational venues. Most of the school’s previous field trips were excellent. Never had I questioned the purpose of any of them.


I wondered if this field trip would offer any learning opportunities like having a vet discuss the anatomy of a horse or something like that. Or, would it simply be a show-off trip to see how another well-off classmate lives?


Thinking about some of the kids who live in apartments or normal size homes, I thought about the message this trip would send to them. What useful purpose would it serve? A few moms of girls worried about the “Queen Bees and Wannabes” mean girl syndrome a trip like this could perpetuate.


I thought about scheduling a dentist appointment for my son the morning of the trip. I considered calling the school to inquire about whether there would be any learning opportunities beyond petting a horse on the trip. My better judgement prevailed. Calling the school would only cause me problems. I’d never get a real answer. Besides, I knew the real reason.


My son went on the field trip. When I asked him how it was, he told me it was “dumb.” “We petted horses and watched the board member/homeowner’s daughter ride her horse,” he told me. Lunch, he explained laughing, consisted of bacon, hardboiled eggs and fruit, served by a private chef. My guess is that *somebody* at the house was on a high protein diet and thought the kids should be too.


What my son learned from the trip isn’t something I could have told him. He learned an important life lesson by going on the field trip. I’m so glad he went.



L.A. Private Schools and Country Clubs: Caddys, Cocktails and Playdates

Since Beyond The Brochure is about applying to L.A. private elementary schools and what life is really like at some of these schools, its about time I discussed country clubs and the fact that they are a fixture on the social scene at many schools.


Talking to a private school parent recently, they told me they immediately fit right in when their kid started kindergarten at Curtis School since they knew everyone from their country club.


Growing up, my family didn’t belong to a country club. My parents were anti-establishment, left-of-center hippies. You couldn’t have paid them to join a country club. And, with Topanga State Park as our playground, who needed a club?


Fast forward to my daughter’s enrollment at The Willows School. This isn’t a school with a reputation for lifestyles of the rich and famous. So, when I began meeting moms who invited us to their various clubs for playdates, I didn’t really know what to think. My husband and I weren’t members of a country club. A few of our good friends were, but we had never given it much thought.


Playdates at a private country club? Say it ain’t so! I can’t. It’s true.


A group of Willows families in our grade belonged to a “low rent” private club. By “low rent” I mean about $2000 to join and a few hundred dollars per month in fees. Of course, if you play tennis like we do, the lessons can tally up to a few thousand a month. (This is small change compared to the clubs that cost six-figures to join). We visited as guests a few times and decided to become members. We’d meet Willlows families there for swimming and tennis. It was fun. The tennis camp is excellent and my daughter enjoyed a few summers there. Then, the kids got older and we moved to a house with a pool. They started saying they “hated” the club. We stopped using it and discontinued our membership. We haven’t joined another club.


Country clubs play a big part in the social life at some private schools. There are Willows families who belong to Brentwood Country Club, Bel Air Country Club, The Riviera, Beverly Hills Country Club, LA Tennis Club, The Jonathan Club and so on. These exclusive places are part of life at private schools for a many families. Just look through a school’s auction book and you’ll probably see auction items like golf for four at Brentwood Country Club or The Riviera or Braemar.  Dinner at The Jonathan Club. And that sort of thing. These are coveted auction items. Apparently, business gets done on the golf course. I’ve never set foot on a golf course, so I wouldn’t know. Barry (my husband) has gone on a few of these outings since he like golf. But, he always comes home saying he feels uncomfortable with the fact that the service staff are almost always minorities and he’s seen members treating them terribly, which makes him sick.


Some of you are probably already members of clubs so you won’t be surprised to meet other families who are members of your own club or other places. For those of you who aren’t country club members (or its not your thing), get ready. You’ll hear club names thrown around as if they were restaurants. The question is, will it be Spago or California Pizza Kitchen?


Here’s a piece about LA members-only Country Clubs from The Daily Truffle.