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Thrive Academy - A New Houston School

Carolyn Means - Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My life's passion is for children to find joy in learning. I often use the phrase, "I want to find a school where your child will thrive." So how excited was I when Dr. Chris Zaddach, Interim Head of School and Admission Director, invited me to coffee to hear about a new school with the awesome name of Thrive Academy! The child who could be a perfect fit for this school is entering Grades 1-8 and has yet to find joy and success in school. Thrive will offer a low stress environment where there is a tolerance for movement, conversation, creativity, and achievement in a rich curriculum. This could be a child whose abilities are overshadowed by poor communication and executive functioning skills that often result in anxiety, discouragement and lower than expected achievement. The school has been dreamed of and backed by a strong group of parents and professionals. Thrive Academy is located at 1231 Wirt Road, just north of I-10 on the campus of the Houston Mennonite Church. Read the flyer on the Thrive Academy Facebook page for more about the mission of this new school. 

The British International School of Houston

Carolyn Means - Monday, July 09, 2018

Recently I had the great pleasure of touring The British International School of Houston - which is actually located in Katy on N. Westgreen Blvd. Definitely not the former British School, BISH is now owned by the Nord Anglia School group, and they really know how to design a school.

The building is four stories high and architecturally stunning with an atrium featuring the "Bomba" - a huge cafeteria on the first floor.  The family I was touring with was greeted by the Head of School, the Assistant Head of School, several members of the Admission staff, the heads of several athletic programs and the chair of the music department. All questions were welcomed and answered transparently. The school can serve students with a range of academic abilities from age 2 to high school.

There is a learning center for all grades and differentiation is a common instructional strategy. Students come to TBISH from across the globe or across Greater Houston for the excellence in education, the quality of the IB Diploma plus the State of Texas diploma, and the expansive array of extracurricular offerings. Partnerships with the National Jr. Olympic Swim Team, MIT, and Julliard, The Texas Medical Center, NASA and local offices of world-wide energy corporations enhance programs across the school. The distinctive international community is stimulating and reflects the world this generation of students will encounter. The school provides bus transportation to some areas of Greater Houston, so this should be a school to visit regardless of the location.  

The American Child and Bubble Wrap

Kim Green - Thursday, May 10, 2018

Is it possible to be so protective of your child that your child develops anxiety? 

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “The Over-Protected American Child”
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-overprotected-american-child-1527865038 reported on a probable link between the two. The writer likened the over-protected child to being “wrapped in bubble wrap”. Since bubble wrap has been a constant presence in my life since Hurricane Harvey, I felt a stir of interest in the headline.

When Harvey filled our house with seven feet of Buffalo Bayou ten months ago, friends and family used bubble wrap to protect many of our things for storage during the months we were in a temporary apartment. Every time I opened online purchases replacing items lost in the flood, bubble wrap was the standard packaging. When it was time to pack up for our final move to our new mid-rise apartment, I used up four huge rolls of orange bubble wrap to protect fragile items. After unpacking, I enjoyed seeing all of our beautiful china and decorative items freed at last from the bubble wrap.

The WSJ article implies that America’s healthy children will also become more beautiful when they are freed to become emotionally strong rather than living an over-protected, “bubble-wrapped” existence. Efforts to protect our children have resulted in a generation of children wearing helmets on playgrounds and college students who retreat to safe spaces when they hear a comment with which they disagree.

Educators and psychologists have long known that the rise of anxiety among America’s children is linked to the underdevelopment of two key executive functioning skills - resilience (in the face of disappointment) and emotional regulation (such as impulse control). When children learn to share, lose a game, accept disappointment, wait for what they want, risk new experiences, do their own homework and projects, and to manage their emotions, they develop self-confidence. Without these coping skills, over-protected children will be anxious, indecisive, and concerned that they do not measure up to others. These children will not develop the ability to tolerate being alone, having to find their own entertainment, having to wait to be heard, or think about the feelings of others.

Long before this over-protecting trend took to the extreme, my favorite book on the subject was The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel. Another excellent book by Ellen Galinsky is Mind in the Making, The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. The most recent book on my shelf on this topic is Grit, by Angela Duckworth. If you find yourself reaching for the bubble wrap, try reaching for one of these books instead.

Executive Functioning - Organization and SAOTG

Carolyn Means - Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Another school-ready Executive Functioning skill that parents can help develop in their child at an early age is Organization. Some children come into my office and take out the cars in my red plastic case and line them up in a long line across the floor. Other children put all of numbered puzzle blocks in particular patterns. These children are already showing a desire to organize their work. They are also most likely to keep a To Do list and use a planner for school assignments in school. By high school, they will be the ones who use a calendar and plan ahead for projects and major tests. At a recent lunch sponsored by Fusion Academy, guest speaker Evan Weinberger presented an overview of the system his company designed to help students learn effective organizational skills. Over the past eight years I've referred Evan's company Staying Ahead of the Game to about 20 families whose students have learned life long skills. SAOTH  teaches students how to set goals, how to use a planner and calendar, and how to actually study - as opposed to "doing homework." While SAOTG helps students improve their grades, tutors also work with social skills so students learn how to impress even teachers whose classes they actually dislike. 

STEM at The Regis School

Carolyn Means - Tuesday, April 10, 2018

STEM is the big curriculum magnet at schools these days. At The Regis School of the Sacred Heart, STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - is a perfect focus for a school providing a unique education for boys ages 3-8th grade. The youngest boys learn to write code with legos on the library wall or bots in the elementary maker space. They design mazes with tape on the hallway floor. Older boys in the Mac lab create original designs which they produce on 3-D printers, learning the value of precise measurements. New furniture on wheels spins, goes up and down and across the floor in the math lab where boys work in pairs and groups on math projects and games. Since my last campus visit two ping pong tables have been placed in open hall space, golf and tennis have been added to the athletic options, and the new lights on the playing field have promoted more night games on campus. Eighth grade graduates this year will be headed for some of the following high schools: The Kinkaid School, Strake Jesuit Preparatory, St. John's School and St. Thomas High School. 

Why Do Executive Functioning Skills Matter for Admissions

Carolyn Means - Friday, April 06, 2018

When I was making a presentation to parents at ConocoPhillips recently, I asked for a show of hands of those parents who knew about "Executive Functioning Skills". One hand went up. Definitely, this is a topic that I thought was widely understood by parents but it must be just in my world of private school education. We need to change that because developing executive functioning skills - or EF skills - in children is an essential responsibility for parents today. Many EF skills are most evident when they are missing - like the space where a front tooth used to be. Just as every one can tell when a child has lost a front tooth, everyone can tell when a child has lost self-control in the grocery store, at a birthday party or in the classroom. 

Educational research shows that the number one executive functioning skill a child must have in order to learn is Emotional Regulation. This skill begins in the baby's crib and is fostered by loving parents who know that unless their child is hungry, wet or in pain, it is best to let the child cry when she is put down at bedtime. The child learns the power of soothing herself to sleep and not relying on a caregiver to do it for her. Likewise, when a child begins to melt down over a small disappointment, parents need to let the child experience sadness and move on or go to his room until he can calm himself. 

One of my favorite books about teaching executive functioning skills to your children is Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinsky. 


'The Sequence' Is the Secret to Success

Carolyn Means - Thursday, March 29, 2018

Wendy Wang, director of research for Family Studies, wrote an article published in The Wall Street Journal today. Based on one of the best studies of youth and young adults, researchers have identified a 'success sequence': getting a high school diploma, working, and then marrying before having children. In India, Asia and Japan, parents teach their children that the path to success runs through this sequence. Thus, in these regions, less than 4% of births are out of wedlock. In America, the path to the American Dream also depends upon following the sequence. But Wang and her colleague found that among millennials of lower-income, over 44% had a child out of wedlock versus 19% of their upper-income peers. A common statement by high-school students in the lower-income group was, "No one in my school talks about this," or "My mom never said anything either." Wang concludes, "It's time to stop hoarding the success-sequence message and start sharing it with those who need it the most," through MTV shows and media campaigns. 

How to Manage a Wait List Decision

Carolyn Means - Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Admission Decision: "Wait list" "Wait pool" How Should Parents Respond?

After all the months of going through the admission season, it's frustrating when your child ends up on a waiting list at your top school. Hopefully, your child has at least one acceptance at a second choice school, but is there is a chance you child could get off the waiting list?  In my experience as an admission director and 14 years as an independent educational consultant, I have seen many students get off the waiting list at their first or second choice schools. 

Who gets on the waiting list? Are wait lists ranked?

Some schools wait list all the qualified applicants they cannot take, while other schools keep a small  "wait pool". In either case, there is a small, unranked group identified as priority candidates to choose from. Schools often choose a student from the wait pool who closely resembles a student they did not get in order to keep balance and diversity in the class.

How should parents respond to a wait list letter? How long do schools keep a waiting list?

When students are wait listed, the school will request a reply in the form of a return post card, phone call or email to state if the student wishes to remain on the list or not. Parents should notify the school as soon as possible so the school can begin to assess who will remain in their wait pool.

After a week or so, call the admission directors for an update on how the list is looking. Admission directors try to give parents an accurate assessment of their child's chances of getting off the waiting list. Sometimes a "wait list" decision is a "soft no"; sometimes the school really wants a student and tells a parent they think they will go to the waiting list soon. Sometimes a school gets more acceptances than they expected, so that class will be "over-full" and the school will not go to their wait list.

My experience is that some students get off the wait list within two weeks, but others are still waiting on the Common Reply Date. A few days after contracts are due, schools assess their numbers and then contact their wait-listed students. For some students, this is too late because they have already enrolled at another school. As long as the school shows interest in keeping your child on the waiting list, and you would be able to accept a place if offered, you should stay on the list.

Need help getting off the wait list or making the right school choice?

Managing wait lists and deciding on which school to accept is a service provided by School Solutions even for students who did not go through the admission season as our client.  If you want proven, effective strategies to make sure you are accepting the right school offer, a Consultation could be the best way to end your admission season with the right school choice.

The Joy School Summer Programs

Carolyn Means - Thursday, February 01, 2018

"What does JOYful learning look like?" The Joy School Summer Programs brochure arrived yesterday and it's full of fun summer options for students of all ages - including some super middle school camps. Students can choose from social and academic remediation to creative writing and theme park design plus more.  You do not need to be a Joy School student to attend, but registration fills up quickly, so apply soon. www.thejoyschool.org/summer

Houston Private School Admission Myths #3

Carolyn Means - Thursday, February 01, 2018

HOUSTON PRIVATE SCHOOL ADMISSION MYTHS

Real Information Parents Can Use by  

Carolyn Means, M.Ed., CEP, Houston’s Day School Consultant

Myth #3: To make sure your child gets accepted to a school, make a big donation.

Parent: “I hear that if we want our daughter in our first choice school, we need to make a big donation. Should we give $10,000 or $50,000?”

Myth #3: The Truth: The truth is that parents should not make donations to schools they apply to. This can put the school in the embarrassing position of returning the donation, accepting it and not accepting your child, or being talked about as the school “where money gets your kid in”. The only exception to this rule is if the parents already have a relationship with the school as alumni or as parents of a current or former student. It would be appropriate for these parents to donate at their typical level to the annual fund, for example. Many Houston schools have an abundant supply of wealthy parents in their applicant pools, and money is not going to influence the admission committee. Schools have learned hard lessons from admitting unqualified students based on the parents’ potential to generously support a capital campaign. Always remember, the focus of the admission process is the student, not the parent’s bank account. There are many ways that a school can discover the potential financial support of an applicant’s parents, so save your donations until your child is enrolled.  


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Nothing is more important than your child's education. SCHOOL SOLUTIONS in Houston, Texas, offers educational consulting services to help parents make the right choice for their child’s school. As an Educational Consultant and founder of SCHOOL SOLUTIONS in 2004, I have helped over 1000 students find the right fit at over 90 different Houston private and public schools, from preschools to high schools, including special needs schools.

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Recent Blog Posts

  1. Thrive Academy - A New Houston School Carolyn Means 18-Jul-2018
  2. The British International School of Houston Carolyn Means 09-Jul-2018
  3. The American Child and Bubble Wrap Kim Green 10-May-2018
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