What family doesn’t have discarded tutus, tap shoes, baseball gloves, cleats, swim team bags or violins in a closet? These are the leftovers of exposing children to activities that can enrich their young years. It starts with an investment in time and paraphernalia, and then comes the day they want to quit. The Wall Street Journal (August 25, 2016) carried an article by Nina Sovich with some helpful points for parents who worry that allowing children to quit an activity will have lasting, negative repercussions. Sovich says, “there are benefits to letting go, and they are best learned in childhood” when the stakes are low. Quitting allows a child to learn to make decisions. Sovich suggests children should spend at least six months at an activity or a season at a sport to decide if they like it. Parents need to be careful when choosing a child’s activities because their child may not have the natural talent for it. If children are exposed to many activities, they will usually find one they are passionate about by their teens. Remember my rule for activities: one after school per semester because the brain needs rest to learn all the content our schools are pushing.
The Houston Chronicle story about former Texas Comptroller Susan Combs enticed me to go to her new website, Texas Smart Schools. This website actually connects to Children at Risk, my top resource for the most objective ranking of Texas public schools. Texas Smart Schools goes one step further by bringing the ranking information close to home. When I opened up the website, I got a listing of the top schools in my neighborhood. Check it out.
William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard University, addressed a special session of the Independent Educational Consultants Association at our Spring Conference in Boston. He shared his compelling story as a student whose parents owned a failing gas station in the mid-West and how he managed in the Harvard world of wealthy students. He joked that it was at Harvard where he learned that “summer” was a verb. The current Harvard admission policy is informed by their “Futures” exercise which aims each year to select Freshman class candidates who will make the biggest difference to the education of each other over four years. Incoming students for Fall 2016 include a female tae-kwon-do champion from Honduras and a girl who lives on a farm near nothing and raises cows. For these students, a Harvard education can transform their world and ours. Harvard now has a special fund for students who need it so they can enrich their university experience by attending a concert, a museum event, or even buy shoes – as Fitzsimmons struggled to do.
This morning I toured Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart where their motto is “Girls in Formation”. Founded in 1960, on spacious grounds of a former residence in Memorial, Duchesne serves over 700 girls from preschool 3 through high school. The tour began with a welcome from Head of School Patricia Swenson and brief remarks by Middle School Head Tony Houle and Upper School Head Donald Cramp. Director of Admission Beth Anchondo spoke about the benefit of tours and the admission process. A unique aspect of the division heads and admission director is they all have daughters attending Duchesne. Part of the recent campus expansion included new classrooms for the high school to support enhanced math and science programs with fully furnished labs. Aside from the obvious quality of curriculum in the hands of talented teachers, the engagement of the girls in their work, and the spirit of friendship expressed on posters in the halls and decorated lockers, an “extra” on the tour was meeting Mrs. Leib, the librarian. She is not only highly regarded among her peers, but also someone who could entice the most reluctant reader to become a lover of books. Beth Anchondo explained that Duchesne is not having a Lower School Open House this year because parents of young girls seem to prefer a tour so they can peek into rooms and ask more questions. Duchesne has many tour dates posted online and an open house for middle and upper school in October.
One of the unique new high schools in Houston now has a senior class. Post Oak High School under the leadership of John Long, Head of Post Oak School, and James Moudry, who was picked to be head of the high school, thoughtfully designed every aspect of the high school. The board and leadership waited for all the right pieces to be in place, resulting in a beautiful school with a solid enrollment of students who are right for the program. With increasing demand for enrollment, a larger high school building is now under construction. Next fall, the middle school from Post Oak School will move from the Bissonnet campus to the current high school building to make room for the growing enrollment in younger age classes. True to the vision, Post Oak High School students are able to take advantage of their urban location in the Museum District. One only has to step inside the spacious open classroom which has few walls to divide the groups of students to see that this is a different way of learning. Teachers are instructing, interacting and accessible. Students are engaged, responding, comfortable, grouped for conversation about the topic at hand or studying on their own in the study space. The only sound is the hum of learning. I also had a visit with College Counselor Amanda Phelps Smith, who brings energy and experience to this important position. She is excited to see which colleges and universities will be chosen by the first graduates of Post Oak High School.
October – St. Paul’s School Annual Beyond St. Paul’s program includes a presentation on the 2016-17 school year admission process for Private Schools and HISD’s School Choice Magnet and Vanguard programs. I will give parents an overview of private school timeline, steps in the admission process and some strategies for success. Later in the month I will present an evening program at St. Paul’s on Strong Executive Functioning Skills – how to develop them in your child and why they are important for school success. If your organization would like to ask about a presentation, please contact me.
In July, the ADDA-SR sponsored Utilizing New Technology to Avoid Medication Failure and Side Effects, a half-day seminar presented by Ron Swatzyna and Jay Tarnow of The Tarnow Center. This event was based on a recently published six-year study of the most common brain and body anomalies that create ADHD symptoms and explain how this information can assist in medication selection and treatment. Targeted therapy is a new phase of effective treatment for those who have failed on prior medications.
IECA’s bi-monthly webinars are excellent sources for member consultants to learn more about their profession. The August webinar was Red Flags During the Intake Process: Identifying Students with Hidden Learning or Attention Disorders. Detecting academic barriers to future success is my responsibility as a consultant when I am helping a family with a list of schools for application. If I sense we need to know more about a student’s learning process, I discuss with parents the advantages of a confidential assessment. Often, the first clue to further investigation is when a student with top grades does not have comparable standardized test scores.
I’m so excited to finally get this post published now that my website change is nearly completed. Ascension Episcopal School in the Energy Corridor is one of those “gems” which a lot of families overlook because it ends at grade 5. Just like The Fay School and Yorkshire Academy, Ascension offers such an outstanding education that its graduates are well-prepared and highly desired when they apply to middle schools. Parents may not like having to go through admissions again, but an Ascension education can make up for that. There is much richness within the international community at Ascension with its small class size, academic support for children at both ends of the learning curve, integrated technology and hands-on learning for all ages. The campus has extensive playing fields to support a year-round athletic program and a variety of engaging after-school programs. Add to this the welcoming arms of the Episcopal church to nurture children in love and grace, a talented faculty, and an experienced Head of School in Nancy Clausey. Be sure you add Ascension Episcopal School to your list of open houses in the upcoming admission season.
In the two years since I visited The Awty International School, the campus has undergone changes. The school has built a high wall to block off the south view and noise along !-10 and made updates to its play grounds. Awty has purchased property across N. Post Oak and will move the Primary School to that location when the lease runs out for the current tenants. A highlight of my tour was the art classroom where I saw work from very talented students.