Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Two Most Important Questions

We're beginning our search for Kindergarten for our twins and, having learned a few things along the way after applying to preschools, we're trying to be a bit more educated about the process this time around. Getting into your choice of schools involves, in part, really knowing your kids and your family and what you want from a school. Sounds easy enough, but it's actually harder than you'd think.

For one thing, if you and your partner haven't talked about it before your parent interview, you may sit there disagreeing about your children's characteristics and personalities in front of the admissions director! Probably not such a great first impression. And if you haven't thought about what you really want from a school, other than it being a "good" school, you are going to have a hard time really knowing what you're looking at.

I recently got a very interesting newsletter from Kim Hamer, an LA private school expert and financial aid guru. In it, she discusses the importance of asking two key questions:

"A good application actually starts with a focused tour. But, most parents don't understand how to focus on a tour. Here are two questions to ask yourself to help you determine when you tour WHY the school is a good fit for your family.
  1. What values do you want your child to have as an adult? 

    This is 
    the most important question … I’m going to say … EVER. Yes, you can find a good school without answering it. Yes, you can get into that school without answering it, BUT if you take the time to answer it, you will find that it provides such a great compass you’ll wonder what you were doing before you answered it!

    The beauty of your answer is that it can have an effect on other parts of your life as well, such as making decisions on the rules you have in the house, giving you words to explain your expectations of your kids and why you feel it’s important for them to strive to meet them. I have used our list a lot lately.

    Answering this question, provides the framework for defining what a good school is to you.

    The exercise:

    Write a list of 10 values you want your child to obtain by the time she or he is twenty-one. To help you with this question, go to and click 332 Values.
    a) Print out two separate lists. One for you and one for your partner.
    b) Start crossing out the values that 
    are not important to you.
    c) When each of your lists is down to 15 values, combine the lists and get it down to 10.
    The result is a list of the 10 most important values to you for your child. This is the list you can use when you tour. As you tour, look for ways that a school demonstrates the values on your list.

  2. What skills, including academic, do you want your child to possess when they leave school?
I love to quote the Talking Heads song, Once In A Lifetime.
“You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife.
You may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?”
Answer this question and you’ll have an idea. Wanting your child to have good grades is not enough. The path to success is not linear. Do you want your child to be able to interpret what his or her teachers say? Know how to assess a social situation? Know how to recall and restate information? Understand how to critically take apart a theory and/or develop and try to prove his or her own theory? 
Think back to when you were in high school. Now look at your current working/living life. What skills did you learn back in elementary school or high school that help you now? What skills did you wish you learned then but had to learn in your adult life? Those are the skills you want to put on your list. That is what you want to see being demonstrated on the tour."
My husband and I did this exercise and it was really interesting on many levels, not the least of which was how hard it was to narrow down to just 10 the values we want for our children! However, it also opened up a great dialogue between us about how we see our children in the future, what we like or wish we could change about our own personality and what we want in a school environment. So, having done it, we now are able to narrow down what we're looking for; this is particularly important because, unless you have nothing else going on in your life, I can't imagine you want to tour every single school in LA. 

Kim Hamer, The Private School Admissions Expert, is founder of the 7 Steps to Acceptance System™, the proven step-by-step program that shows you exactly how to get your child into private elementary, private middle or private high school. To get your F.R.E.E. 7 Steps to Getting Into Private School by e-mail and receive Kim's weekly admissions secrets articles on getting the private education you want for your child, visit

If you liked this post, you may also like Private School and Twins, Private Elementary Schools: An Interview With Christina Simon and More LA School Information.

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach

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6 Great Comments Made By Clicking Here!:

Jackie said...

Great post!
I know what I will be doing this weekend :)

Nathan M McTague, CPCC said...

Hi Gina,

The values list is such a great tool -- for picking a school, yes, but more importantly for informing our parenting choices! And for the latter, I don't think it is necessary to narrow down to 10. We can have HUGE lists of the values we want to impart to our children, no matter how basic the general idea may be. And the more things that are on our list(s), the more precisely we can choose (and the more firmly we can be committed to) the methods that resonate most with those values.

Thanks for passing on the values tool. Really awesome. And great post, too. Thanks again.

Be well,
Nathan M

The Twin Coach said...

Hi Nathan,
I totally agree with you; school is just one small area to apply this to. The values list is really a great way to sit down & think about who your children are and who you want them to become. Once you have that clear in your mind you can set about figuring out how to help them get there!
Thanks for your comment. And, as I have told you before, I love your blog! :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the advice, Gina!

The link is not working. (I realize I'm reading this 3 years after it was originally written) Do you still have the list of values you could post somehow or have another source? Should I email you directly?

All your posts are so helpful!

Gina Osher said...

Anonymous, I am so sorry the link is broken! Kim Hamer decided to shut down her business, Get Into Private School, almost 2 years ago, so the site must no longer be active. I just searched through my files to see if I had the list of values, but all I have are the 10 we narrowed it down to.

It was a very helpful list, but it was also simply a list of about 300 adjectives you could use to describe someone. Ultimately, this was our 10 value list (just to give you an idea):

1. Ambition
2. Compassionate
3. Confidence
4. Creative
5. Curious
6. Expressive
7. Honest
8. Passionate
9. Resourceful
10. Self-aware

You are welcome to email me privately if you would like. I am happy to talk about it more with you! is the best way to reach me.

Good luck with your search!
- Gina

Anonymous said...

thank you so much! it will be a good exercise for us.

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