Lizzie’s Guide to choosing Private schools in Los Angeles

I would love to share our journey finding Olivia’s incredible school. First, I would recommend watching Nursery University and Waiting for Superman on Netflix. Also subscribe to Beyond the Brochure. Please know, you do not have to be wealthy, have the best connections or even have the best luck. I do encourage patience, persistence and planning. This is a good article of what you want to look for in a private school.

I have this weird thing about hyper-planning. I will plan a vacation down to the minute on our itinerary, the penny for our budgets, hell, I even plan what photos I want to take. My point is, I like researching, organizing and making lists. I enjoy gathering all the information I can before committing. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of being organized. Put together a folder with your child’s birth certificate, their most current vaccinations, fill out admission applications in full. I have been asked to include a family portrait with applications so be sure it’s one that leaves the impression you want to set. You will have to do your own homework when looking at schools. Attend the annual open house, *usually held in at the end of the year* schedule a tour of the campus or sit in on a class, meet the parents or older students and get their perspective. I asked one parent if the tuition was double would they still send their kid to the French school and she said absolutely!

Liv’s teacher takes amazing photos of the class *there’s a Romeo & Juliet in her class!*

When I began researching schools I knew I had a limited selection because I wanted a private school that was non-secular. I didn’t want anything with too far of a commute, so many of the good schools I’ve heard of in the Valley or on the Westside were out. I focused mainly on Pasadena, La Canada/Flintridge and Silver Lake. Then I scoured websites, read online reviews and started narrowing down our choices. I really fell in love with a school close to the Rose Bowl but it presented too many problems for me. It only went to 6th grade so I would have to find a middle school and there are few good local middle schools. It was also very expensive at close the $30k per school year. We knew we would be investing in our child’s future but it wouldn’t do us any good draining all our finances for a school we couldn’t afford comfortably. I was worried about potential snobbishness since the school was in an affluent area and lack of diversity. I got a book with a list of all the different private schools in LA and started looking into a multilingual program. It was a no-brainer for me to lean towards a French school mainly because of my fascination with French culture but also knowing our kid could learn Spanish directly from Grandma Maria *Antz Mom* I only knew of one French school on the Westside that is famous for it’s alumni. When I looked further into it, I knew it was out of our price range and at least an hour drive each way. I spent a second interested in a new progressive school in Calabasas but again, spending 3 hours a day driving back and forth didn’t make sense, even if the school was founded by a well-known celebrity *so glad I didn’t seriously consider it!*

Some time went by and I found a school nearby that I’ve driven past for years but for some reason I always thought it was out of our league financially and we would be denied admission due to not being French citizens. I sort of dismissed it and focused on finding a good pre-school. When we found Camelot Kids Pre-school, I fell in love. I began meeting parents who knew people whose kids went to the French school but they all spoke French. The owner of Liv’s pre-school told me about an open house in December of 2012. We went just to satisfy my curiosity, totally under the impression the school would be too expensive. Just driving up to the campus I was struck by how stimulating the campus was. Unlike most LA schools, there are no prison style fencing. The grounds are on six acres uptop a hill which gives it a sense of solitude away from the city. There is an organic garden that is tended by the students and the local community. The buildings are historically protected 1960s modern designed by famous architect John Lautner. I loved the concept that the children learn at different paces. So the kids with a French background don’t have an advantage over non-French speaking kids. As a matter of fact, most of the kids that come from French speaking homes may understand it well but aren’t speaking French confidently yet. The teachers said they usually become fluent around 1st and 2nd grade. It was astonishing to hear children speak French so effortlessly. I expected to only see French kids but there were Korean, African, Haitian, Swedish, Japanese, Hispanic all happy and eager to say Bonjour to us. I am so used to LA pissy attitude from kids that I was shocked to encounter such politeness and genuine courtesy. I know I may over-talk this school but honestly, I invite anyone to attend their open house and tell me if you aren’t blown away by the history, the philosophy, the down-to-Earth feeling, the community awareness, the academic curriculum, so many awesome activities about the school will make you a believer. The tuition was pricey but not as expensive as other schools. I also loved the idea of Liv attending one school for her entire academic career. It makes her learning consistent and puts less pressure on me finding good schools later. I put Liv on the waiting list and was disheartened to discover she was on the 3rd tier list. The way the school works is priority is given to French students *one or more parent must speak French or have European citizenship* of course siblings are given priority admission, then other International students are on the second waiting list and folks like me with no French language are on the third list. The school only allows admission to non-French speaking students up to Kindergarten since the learning of a language is most effective during a child’s first five years. I was hopeful but also nervous. The first year went by in a blink and by the following year I was sweating. We put her back on the waiting list but we were still at the bottom waiting in limbo. I was a mess when they finally called me for her interview last January. I was planning to send Liv to Camelot Kids full-time but I decided to continue part-time so we could save for the French school. We reached out and met parents from the French school. We asked people to put in a good word for us. We did as much as we could without a cash bribe. In hindsight, I didn’t need to worry as much as I did because the school has three pre-school classes *close to 40 spots* and we were a perfect fit for the school. I am sure they seek students of different nationalities, students who show a desire to learn and parents who are committed to their kid’s education. It’s important to showcase your personality, for example, I don’t have a French background but I’m still very knowledgeable about France and spending the summer there with Olivia was helpful. I still stressed out when we didn’t hear anything and we started thinking about a plan B. There aren’t that many French multilingual schools but people told me about charter schools *I wasn’t so into the idea of lottery based admission* and top public schools in good neighborhoods *but really lacked diversity* Our hearts were set on the French school so we were willing to stay on the wait list another year with our fingers crossed. Well, just around the time to re-register Liv in Camelot Kids we got a phone call that Liv was accepted!

BIAcp2 on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

It took almost three years of waiting to get Liv into this dream school. I love her teachers! So far she already has made new friends and lucky for us, she has no qualms about speaking French aloud *she’s much better at pronouncing her R’s than I am* I have phrasebooks, iPad apps and my friend, Fanny is tutoring me once a week via Skype so I hope to keep up with her so we can practice together at home. I have already memorized the days of the week and the months of the year!

Her first visit to her classroom last month
She loves her new playground

Many people ask me why we chose a French-language school. Aside from being bilingual by 2nd grade, she will be challenged academically. We are excited that Liv will graduate with a dual diploma, an American high school diploma and French Baccalauréat which will make her eligible to attend any university in Europe. The fifth grade class spends two weeks in Paris for their class trip. The graduating class has 100% Ivy League school acceptance rate! The extra-curricular and athletic programs are excellent. The school embraces technology and is constantly upgrading their facilities. There is a strong alumni relationship and most of the students return to teach or volunteer for events. They celebrate many international holidays *so excited for Winterfest in Décembre* and have many cool field trips planned.

Liv’s school is best described by their core values:

  1. First and foremost, academic excellence.
  2. Collaboration, communication and community.
  3. Commitment to the curriculum.
  4. Utmost respect for all individuals within the school community.
  5. Cultural diversity.
  6. Intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness.

I look forward to this new chapter in our lives. J’aime l’école française!

Thanks for all the support and well-wishers, we are so happy to share this adventure with you. Bonne chance!

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