Single-sex Education Shows Benefits

Carolyn Means - Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The Gurian Institute developed from the work of Michael Gurian who has written numerous books on how boys and girls learn in ways that differ from one another. Their recent e-newsletter referred to an article on this topic in Education Week, citing not only gains in test scores, but also those "soft skills" which are hard to measure but make life much better and learning more successful. In Dallas ISD comparisons were made between coed schools and all girls or all boys schools. The measurable gains in reading and math were clearly evident, yet the more impressive "gains" were summed up in the comments by the boys. In comparing their former coed school experiences, the boys reported that students in their current school were calmer and less disruptive, more cooperative and built friendships more easily. The boys said they liked the emphasis on leadership, forging stronger relationships and helping each other become better students and peers. For the all girls school, the benefits were greatest in the freedom girls found to explore math, science and technology. Single-sex schools in Houston include The Regis School of the Sacred Heart, (preschool thru 8th grade) and two high schools for boys - Strake Jesuit Preparatory and St. Thomas High School. We have three high schools for girls - Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, Incarnate Word Academy, and St. Agnes Academy. St. Thomas' Episcopal School offers a coed program in Bridge and Kindergarten, single sex from grades one to eight and coed in high school. 

A Tour of St. Francis Episcopal Upper School Campus

Carolyn Means - Thursday, August 02, 2018

Twenty-two trail-blazing students are about to embark on their freshman year at Houston's newest high school, the Upper School at St. Francis Episcopal School. Yesterday, I had a tour of the large campus with Director of College Counseling and Interim Head of Admissions, Steven Scales. While preserving the elegant finishes and furnishings of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Cooper who owned this property, spaces have been re-purposed as administrative offices and student-centered environments. Ranging from the student center in the historic Richmond House, dining, study and meeting spaces in the Andrews House, six modern classrooms in a separate academic building, science labs upstairs in the Crum Athletic Center, to large playing fields, the facilities have been designed with today's students in mind. I enjoyed a brief chat with Kara Henderson, Upper School Head, who will be teaching all levels of Spanish and Freshman Seminar. Before her most recent position at Emery/Weiner School, Kara was at St. John's School. Angie Flowers, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, also came to St. Francis from St. John's. She has been working for the past two years on translating the high school vision into a road map for the talented faculty assembled for the Upper School. With the addition of a grade each year and the development of the remaining acres of the South Campus, St. Francis Episcopal School will be a strong preschool to high school option for Houston families.  

Southampton Montessori School Tour

Carolyn Means - Friday, July 27, 2018

The campus of Southampton Montessori School is a little gem tucked in the neighborhood surrounding Rice Village - a sprawling collection of shaded cottages on both sides of Robinhood at Morningside.

The school is a Houston Montessori institution that fostered the growth of many of our finest Montessori schools. I have worked with numerous Southampton children over the fourteen years of my practice when families are looking for the next school after their child is ready to leave the 3-6 year class. Montessori children are already lovers of work, able to focus, and possess a strong foundation in reading and math, so they transition well into traditional programs.

The charm of Southampton is immediately evident as one enters the office with its soft pink and white colors and charming decor. Each classroom is well furnished with Montessori materials.  Children were busy with practical life activities, on task alone on their rugs, or having a lesson in small groups. The large playground features a darling playhouse, huge climbing structure, plus a swimming pool that is the hit of the summer camp. Southampton also has a lovely gym with hoops and a shiny floor to serve the day and after-school program.

Children from several public and private schools come after school by bus to Southampton as well as in the summer. The teachers are certified in Montessori methods, and this is not always the case in "Montessori" schools. The only drawback to this wonderful school is the long waiting list for the 2-year old class. Right now, the children get places according to the date they are registered, so consider getting on the list when your child is an infant so you have a choice when your child is ready to begin school. 


When Children Lose Control

Carolyn Means - Friday, July 20, 2018

Any headline like this from the weekend's Wall Street Journal, July 7-8, 2018will get my attention because self-control and learning go 

hand-in-hand. Self-control, often called emotional regulation, is one of those "soft skills", an "executive function" that schools look for when considering students for admission. 

Teacher recommendation forms ask the current teacher to rate the degree to which a candidate exhibits emotional control in many areas of school life. This article reflects on research about the connection of school success and self-control. "Growing research finds that children who are able to regulate their emotions perform better academically and are more successful socially than those who don't. In adolescence, strong self-regulation skills can help to buffer against impulsiveness and risky behaviors." 

A 30-year study at the University of North Carolina by Dr. Susan Calkins suggests that parents are key role models for their children in how to behave. A study of German families found that when parents helped their child reframe a situation with a more positive view, the child was better able to cope with disappointment and adopt this strategy in the future. "Self-regulation offers big payoffs as we age, including better physical and mental health." Children need tools for handling life's challenges. If you wish to learn more about this topic, contact me and I will send you some excellent resources. 

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! Thechild 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” 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. 

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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. Single-sex Education Shows Benefits Carolyn Means 07-Aug-2018
  2. A Tour of St. Francis Episcopal Upper School Campus Carolyn Means 02-Aug-2018
  3. Southampton Montessori School Tour Carolyn Means 27-Jul-2018
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