What I Did (and Did Not) Expect About Mirman School by Jenny Heitz (re-post)

Today is Throwback Thursday (TBT) in social media. So, I’m posting this piece by Jenny Heitz from the archives. It’s not often you get an insider’s look at a school like Mirman. –Christina


Mirman is one of those schools that has a certain mystique surrounding it. Because it accepts only highly gifted children, there are people who refer to it as “the freak school,” “the geek school,” or, in one stunning instance, “the Hitler school” (I have no idea what that means). While I took all these nicknames with a grain of salt, I had some apprehension about sending my daughter Anna there. I felt it was probably the right place for her, but I was worried that it would be too serious, too high powered, and, frankly, too dorky.


Happily, none of these fears manifested into reality.


Here’s What Surprised Me:


  • The kids are not weird. Well, ok, there might be a few little boys running around speaking in monotone voices, but they are few and far between. One of the interesting things about Mirman students is how normal they actually are. They may be super smart kids, but they’re still kids, and they act like kids. The only difference is that the level of carpool conversation is suddenly elevated.


  • The parents are far nicer than I expected. I was worried that the parents would be way too into their super gifted children. But what I’ve found is that most of the parents seem sort of puzzled and bemused to have these kids. The parent body is, for the most part, very smart, very educated, a bit shy, and really not snobby in the least. The “not snobby” factor makes dealing with Mirman parents a pleasure, especially on field trips. As far as I know, there are no celebrities at Mirman. Interesting. You can draw your own conclusions about that.


  • The workload isn’t nearly as heavy as I thought it would be. Naturally, I’d heard horror stories about Mirman kids working constantly, even during carpool, and how “unnatural” the whole thing was. That turned out to be nonsense. Anna definitely has homework, and it’s homework she has to schedule for herself during the week. It’s made her into quite the little time management pro. And while the school works the kids really hard during the school day, Anna actually seems to spend less of her time at home doing homework than some of her public school friends. I would not say that she is overworked on any level.


  • Parents are not treated like royalty. Unlike some private schools, where wealthy parents get the kid glove treatment, Mirman generally treats the parents like idiots. I’m not kidding. I’ve even brought up this fact to other Mirman parents and they crack up as they agree. All the school’s emphasis and efforts involve the kids; it is the most kid focused school I’ve encountered. While Mirman wants parents to give money and be on committees and be involved, it will not brownnose you when you enter the front office. If you’re looking for adulation, seek it elsewhere.


  • The commute isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Commuting from Hollywood to Mirman seemed like a nightmare at first, but it’s turned out to be ok. It’s made ok only by the fact that I’m in a carpool that I’ll defend with my life. At the moment, we’re trying to get together enough kids on this side of town to justify a bus. I dream about the bus, and someday my dream will be made a reality.


  • My child is even happier at Mirman than I ever imagined. I had a feeling that Mirman was the right place for Anna, but her transformation over her first year there has been extraordinary. She came in at fourth grade, at a distinct academic disadvantage, and has still managed to get really good grades. It has focused her competitive instincts, but also emphasized good citizenship and kindness. Her self-confidence in terms of public speaking has skyrocketed. She’s making new friends. All in all, she’s a different child now, and I really credit Mirman with all the positive changes.


  • The kids are so nice. Really, they’re nice. The bullying problems that seem so prevalent at other schools are far less at Mirman. If there’s a problem, it gets handled. And one of the advantages of putting together so many highly gifted kids, who were so often the butts of jokes, is that they’re generally kind to one another. These kids have empathy for one another. While Anna has had some girl politics moments, they have been mild and easily handled.


  • It’s more diverse than I thought. The reality about private school is that it will never be as diverse as public school. So, while Mirman doesn’t resemble a microcosm of Los Angeles, diversity wise, it’s still better than I anticipated. And because all the kids share the trait of high intelligence (that’s the main criterion for entrance to Mirman), this seems to be what draws them together, not race. My daughter heard plenty of racial slurs at her old public school, but hasn’t heard one thing at Mirman. Good.


As Anna’s first year at Mirman draws to a close, I’m delighted with the school. It has exceeded every expectation I had for it, and my child is having a wonderful educational experience. It’s so nice when a school turns out to be such a pleasant surprise.


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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Christina Simon: Los Angeles, California, United States I'm the mom of two kids who attended The Willows School in Culver City and Viewpoint School in Calabasas. My daughter is a graduate of Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism ('23) and my son is a sophomore at UPenn/Wharton ('26). I live in Coldwater Canyon with my husband, Barry, and our dogs. Contact me at csimon2007@gmail.com

3 thoughts to “What I Did (and Did Not) Expect About Mirman School by Jenny Heitz (re-post)”

  1. Hello, I read your blog and found it to be quite entertaining. I am a casting producer for the TV Series, “Child Genius,” which is a docu-series about highly gifted children 8-12 years old. The program ran for multiple seasons in the U.K. before making its way to the States. The show celebrates the “highly gifted” culture; providing an education in the process as most people are unaware of the sacrifices that need to be made in order to get gifted children to be properly challenged. There is also a competition portion of the show, much like a “mental decathlon” with different rounds and categories . The parents are an integral part of the program as well, which is why i am commenting on this blog. The show is done in cooperation with American MENSA, and I definitely wanted to reach out to the families of Mirman. I hope you don’t mind me doing so I just want to get the best cast possible. Any interested parties can contact me @ zachcasting10@gmail.com.

  2. I attended Mirman in 1972-1973, along with my older brother, Douglas.
    I do not recall and specific comments Doug may have made at the time, so I can not speak to his experience there.
    I was sent to Mirman as a twelve year old because Doug and I had IQ tests administered by our elementary school, El Rodeo in Beverly Hills, and both of us proved to be in the gifted to genius range.
    I had been incredibly unhappy in the public school system for a long time, due primarily to the intense bullying.
    I was mercilessly teased because instead of being like all the other kids and smoking in the bathroom and gossiping about boys, I was very involved with riding my horse and competing in hunter/jumper shows.
    I also had not been doing well academically except in English, so when my parents saw my IQ scores, they thought perhaps the reason for my below par performance was due to boredom and lack of challenging material.
    At Mirman I was fortunate to have an English teacher named Lori Goldman, who was not only a fabulous teacher, she was a friend and mentor to me, which I needed more than anyone knew.
    I wish I could find her, as I stated in contact with her into my late teens and early twenties.
    Beyond that excellent experience, I can not say I was happier at Mirman than I had been at El Rodeo, and I remained at Mirman for only one year.
    My academic experience did not substantially change for the better until I returned to school at age 26 to become a doctor.
    I guess my point here is that I believe that no matter how great the academic atmosphere and opportunities may be, it’s an inside job: until I was motivated be desire to do a specific task, no outside influence could change my attitude or ability to rise to the level of my innate abilities intellectually.
    I think Mirman has likely changed greatly in the last 40 years and I am glad to read the story of successful school experience noted above.
    If anyone out there happens to read this and know how to contact Lori Goldman, please would you be kind enough to contact me at : chesterdenoff@gmail.com
    I would be very grateful.
    Cheers Mirman staff, students, and parents.

    Leslie Denoff

  3. I was enrolled at Mirman 1964-1971. It was the absolute best (academic) time of my life, wonderful, and we didn’t have the beautiful campus on Mulholland. We attended the first “iteration” on Pico. It was just great.

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