Sunday, August 29, 2010

Preschool Application Process: The Sunshine Shack

The Sunshine Shack was, quite literally, the first preschool we looked at. We didn’t even really know what we were looking for at the time but we knew we liked it right away. We loved the director, Sara, who had the perfect blend of straightforward, traditional intelligence about teaching and a wonderfully heartfelt, progressive, knowledge of the way a child learns and develops. We loved the small, homey feel of the classrooms and the way the children’s art that was displayed showed real creativity and unique styles rather than the cookie cutter work other schools called “art”. We loved the way lessons were planned based on what the children were interested in learning about, rather than following a rigid set of rules that had nothing to do with the specific little people who populated the classroom.

Most of all, we could see ourselves at The Shack. We felt like we fit in and that our children would learn and thrive and love this place. We left thinking that every other preschool must be as good because how could the first place we stumbled on be so right? We toured a number of other schools and then visited The Sunshine Shack a second time, just to be sure. And we were. We were sure we had found our home. 

Last day of school - so grown up!
One of the things that my husband and I wanted most from a preschool, other than that our children would be safe and well-cared for, is that they would develop a love of learning. At The Sunshine Shack their natural curiosity is constantly encouraged and developed. The teachers are so attentive and involved; they have really gotten to know who our children are and for us, being parents of twins, we have been so impressed at the teachers’ ability to foster each child’s individuality. This past year I have watched our children grow from two babies who clung to me, crying, on those first days into two, maturing children who love school and who delight in sharing with me all of the wondrous things they learn each day. It has truly been a blessing that our family found The Sunshine Shack.

The Shack, as it's affectionately known, is a progressive, play-based, Reggio-inspired preschool that reflects the importance of learning through play and creative expression. The Sunshine Shack's director and head teacher, Sara Perets, and her husband Segev also run the very successful Super Duper Arts Camp during the summer (one in Los Angeles and the other in West Hills); this allows children attending The Shack during those months to experience the camp's experts and be introduced to such extras as yoga, drama, dance, music, science and wonderful art and creative projects.

So, now you know all of the things I love about the school; how do you get in? Our admissions process went something like this: we contacted the school when our twins were about 10 months old to set up a tour which took place a couple of months after that. They currently hold tours monthly, with Sara conducting them. There is now a fantastic assistant director, Summer Scott, who came to The Shack from Temple Isaiah Preschool who may also be present at tours, but when we went it was just Sara. Tours are after school hours and involved about 20 - 25 parents. Look around, get a sense of who's checking out the school and who seems interested - these are the people you'll potentially be spending the next few years with. Are they the type of parents you can see yourself with? Sara spoke about her philosophy on parenting, teaching and the school; afterwards we were given a look around the classrooms and the play yard and then the tour ended up in one of the larger classrooms with Sara, one of the teachers and the administrative head of the school so that we could mingle and ask questions. 

Although we were very impressed by Sara, because it was the first school we looked at, we felt we had to see others. After doing that, we went back to The Shack for a second tour. At this point we felt we knew what questions to ask and what we were really looking for and we just wanted to make sure we knew that we were making the right choice. After the tours we wrote thank you cards and then sent follow up letters to them to express why we felt the school was such a good one for our family. 

After touring we were emailed a link to an online application that asked the basics, but also had many in-depth questions about our children's characters and personalities. They were 16 months old at the time I filled out this application, applying for a spot for when they were 2 1/2. The school accepts children as young as 2 (and you do not have to be potty trained). We sent another letter following up after that to, once again, express our interest. Towards the end of this process, they narrow down the applications to a small group that are invited to come in for a "play date". 3 parents & their children come together with Sara, the director, for what is essentially an evaluation, but which feels like an informal get together. Sara is extremely good at sussing up children (and their parents as well, I'm sure) even though she appears to just be having a nice chat with you. This part of the process was most nerve wracking because you want your kids to be little angels or little geniuses but of course the play date is scheduled for their nap time & they melt down or have a screaming match with another child. A twin mom friend of mine was on her play date with another family whose 2-year old son knew the names of every dinosaur ("And this is a diplodocus. This one is a Brachiosaurus." and so forth) while her son climbed on top of a table and picked his nose. She texted me: "We are so not getting in". Now that I'm on the other side, my impression of their admissions process, and the make up of the school, is that they wouldn't make a decision solely based on something like that. But as a parent going through the process it can feel as if everything is riding on that one encounter. 

And after that play date, you wait. The most difficult thing about the application process to The Sunshine Shack is that they are fairly laid back in terms of deadlines (on their part). Whereas other preschools let us know quite early that we were accepted or not, we hadn't yet heard from The Shack (our first choice). I debated about what to do....stressing about appearing too needy or too pushy. But our second choice school was quite official and was requesting $1000 non-refundable deposit for each child so, in the end, I sent an email and told The Shack of our predicament and thankfully I received a call to say that we'd been accepted regardless of whether or not the official paperwork was in my hands (something my attorney husband had a hard time dealing with). 

And so we were headed to The Sunshine Shack. We were very excited and knew we had made the right choice. Now, one year down and about to begin our second year there, we couldn't be happier.  

The Sunshine Shack: 1027 N. Cole Ave. Los Angeles, CA. 90038
Director: Sara Perets
Phone: 323-466-4381 
For additional preschool listings, check out my post Hidden Gems: Preschools You May Not Know and my review of eco-friendly preschool Green Beginning. You might also like The School Search Begins.

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about my blog. You can leave them by clicking on "comments" at the end of every post, and can do so anonymously without being a subscriber or follower (although I would love if you were)!
Share it!
Tweet it!
"Like" The Twin Coach on Facebook!

3 Great Comments Made By Clicking Here!:

Christina Simon said...

Hi Gina,

It was great meeting Sara the other day! Your preschool sounds wonderful and its great that you're sharing the write-up with other parents!

Anonymous said...

Found your blog via a google search for preschools in Hollywood (just beginning the process). I'm a mom of a singleton toddler, but am definitely enjoying your posts & finding your blog useful to an LA parent nonetheless! Thanks, Gina.

Amber Weitz said...

Thanks so much for this detailed info on The Sunshine Shack. I would never have come across the school if it weren't for your blog. I wrote to them and haven't heard back yet. I'm curious if the school is within our budget. Is there any way you could email me and tell me the range?


Amber Weitz

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...