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.



How Could Choosing A School Be So Hard? What I Did (And Did Not) Expect About The Willows School

My Girl!
Your child got into one of more school. Great news! But, choosing a school is much more difficult than you imagined. Why?
Rumors abound. School X is very academic. School Y is for kids who aren’t very academic. School Z has too many celebrity families. And so on and on and on…
If your head is spinning trying to decide where to send your child, here are a few things I’ve learned about our school, The Willows, after almost 5 years as a parent there:
  • The Willows is more academic than I thought it would be
  • The Willows has more of an emphasis on sports that I envisioned
  • The Willows’ curriculum is integrated and amazing
  • The technology resources at The Willows are cutting-edge
  • The Willows is great for both my kids (who are very different)
  • The Willows has a some great families we’ve become friends with (I didn’t expect this)
  • The Willows has inspired my kids to love learning, even if they don’t always love every subject (like drama)
  • The Willows is small enough so that the head of school, Lisa Rosenstein, knows every child and every family
  • The Willows’ teachers are fabulous (patient, enthusiastic, nurturing and inspiring). There are two teachers per class.
  • The Willows does not emphasize standardized testing i.e. ERB or ISEE
  • The Willows’ practice of looping (keeping the same class and teachers for 2 years) worked extremely well for both my kids
  • The Willows has bullies just like every other school. It’s how the school deals with them that matters and The Willows teachers are adept at handling this issue.
  • The Willows’ curriculum is smart and well thought-out ( I am constantly amazed!)
Does what I’ve said mean that everything is always perfect? No. And it won’t be wherever you send your child. There can definitely be rough patches. After all, your child is involved. But, you know your child and let that be your guide when choosing a school.
We cover the different types of school (traditional, developmental, etc.) and what to look for when choosing a school in our book.

Fourth Grade: Year Of The Mean Girl?

4th Grade: The Year Of The Mean Girl?

I’m part of a great monthly parenting group run by Betsy Brown Braun. It seems every meeting, I bring up issues my daughter is having with other girls at school. Rumors, secrets, lies, broken friendships, tears, nastiness and on and on. Everyday seems to bring a new hurt or upset for my daughter. She is funny, nice and smart. But, she’s not tough.


My daughter also made a faux-paux recently. She gossiped about some of the “mean girls” to her friend and her friend promptly went and told them what my daughter said. They came and confronted her. My daughter is no longer friends with her former good friend.


The Willows School has periodic conversations with the 4th grade girls about acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It just doesn’t seem like it’s having the desired impact. But, as a mom, I can’t intervene. The school doesn’t encourage parent involvement in kids’ disputes and at some point, my daughter has to learn to deal with this stuff.


In the parenting group, Betsy assures me these are typical 4th grade girl antics. Whew! Call me crazy, but I thought this was middle school behavior. No! It’s arrived early and with a bang. Every day brings a new challenge. I’m optimistic, but lately my optimism is dashed when I pick my daughter up from school. Another incident! My friend and guest blogger Jenny Heitz, put it well when she said, everything you’re dealing with is still better than having the mean girl for a daughter. She’s right. I love my daughter’s sweet, trusting nature. But, she does need to learn, as the school said, to the girls to “watch what they say.”


Yesterday, I had one of my toughest parenting days in a long time. My daughter, after talking with me for more than an hour about how she was feeling, sent me an email. She signed it, “your sad daughter.” I instantly broke into tears. I knew how she was feeling, but I didn’t know how to make the hurt disappear. We talked some more and she settled down for the evening.  I assured her tomorrow would be a new day and there’d be an opportunity for good, fun things to happen.


Sure enough, just at the right time today, an invitation to a classmate’s birthday party arrived. My daughter will be attending!

The Willows School Back To School Night 2010

Willows Head Of School Lisa Rosenstein Phonics in 2nd Grade Classroom
and Christina

What “courage” means to my son On the 2nd Grade Classroom Wall

Courage Is The Willows School’s Theme For 2010
What does it mean to have courage? How have people shown courage throughout history? How can we demonstrate courage when things get tough?

These are just a few of the questions that Willows students will be addressing throughout the 2010-11 school year, as they consider our schoolwide theme of “Courage.” As in previous years, teachers will be working with their own students and across the grade levels to explore the idea of courage in a variety of contexts and disciplines, including art, mathematics, language arts, and science.

Willows School Volunteer Options For New Parents-What Would You Choose?

Here is the list of The Willows School volunteer activities any parent can sign up for. As you can see, there’s lots to do at my kids school and at most private elementary schools. This isn’t even all of the volunteer positions that need to be filled (committee co-chairs, room parent and other leadership positions are generally offered to parents who have volunteered in one or more of the positions below first).


Hint: When you are writing your applications, look at the school’s events and volunteer activities to see if your skills or interests match their needs. If so, mention it in your application!! I’ve worked on the Book Fair, Co-Chaired the Auction, Served as class captain for the annual giving campaign and more. Everything I’ve done has been based on my interests and skills.

Most popular: #5 (Book Fair), #7 (Gardening), #8 (Hot Lunch)

Least Popular: #10 Lost and Found, #3 Auction Solicitation

1. AUCTION: Assist the Auction Co-Chairs in planning, organizing, and publicizing the Annual Auction and Party. (This is the biggest parent-run fundraiser of the year, so please join in the fun, there’s lots to do.)

2. AUCTION CATALOGUE CREATION: Help with writing, designing and formatting the catalogue entries for silent and live auctions

3. AUCTION ITEM SOLICITATION: Join the team in procuring fabulous auction items and sponsorships.

4. AUCTION ITEM MANAGEMENT: Database input and management of auction items.

5. BOOK FAIR: Help plan and organize the Fall Book Fair Celebration.

6. CULTURAL PROGRAMS: Help committee to promote a greater understanding of the history and diversity of cultures and people.

7. GARDENING: Garden with your child’s grade (DK through 2nd) in the learning garden on a semi-regular basis

8. HOT LUNCH: Assist the Hot Lunch program Co-Chairs. Act as a “lead” hot lunch server. “Lead” servers are asked to commit to overseeing the serving of hot lunch one day, every other week throughout the school year. (Hours are from 11:30 am –1 pm).

9. LIBRARY: Work with the Librarian and the Library Co-Chairs to assist in maintenance of the school library, Birthday Book Program and special projects. (Must commit to involvement in Book Fair and end-of-year inventory.)

10. LOST & FOUND: Help keep lost and found organized. Sort and deliver items with names to classrooms. Volunteers are asked to commit approximately one hour every other week.

11. PACIFIC PARK PIER EVENT: Help plan and organize the spring family event.

12. POSTER/SIGNAGE COMMITTEE (A): Looking for Graphic Designers to create posters/signage and invitations for school events. Knowledge of Photoshop and other design programs required.

13. POSTER/SIGNAGE COMMITTEE (B): If you are not a graphic designer, you can volunteers to print posters/signage on our large format printer, and then mount for use at school and special events. We will train on printer. Some knowledge of Photoshop required.

14. SCHOOL PHOTO COORDINATION: Work with co-chair to coordinate activities between photographer, yearbook staff, teachers, administration and parents. Coordinate scheduling for portraits, all school photo and class photos. Organize parent volunteers for photo shoots.

15. T-Shirt Sales. Assist in the organization, sales and delivery of Willows T-shirts, both regular and event (Book Fair and Pier Party) throughout the year.

16. VIDEOGRAPHY: Video various school activities and daytime/evening events as coordinated by Willows staff. Supply Communication/Media with footage we will share on our website and use in school video productions. Responsible for downloading footage to our Willows Yearbook server. Willows will supply a digital camcorder that can be checked out for use at the school. Download is easy with a DV memory card. It’s important to have some computer knowledge for downloading to a Macintosh.

17. YEARBOOK: Assist in the planning, assembly and production of the annual Willows yearbook.