When you overthink a private school screening, you realize that it's insane. You bring your four-year-old to a place she's visited maybe once, or never at all. You quickly introduce her to a group of adults and kids—maybe she knows a few or none of them. And then you leave her with these strangers. You nervously say: "I love you. I'll be back in two hours." Maybe you whisper, "We'll go out for hot fudge sundaes." Most likely, your child transitions easily into the situation but you leave feeling uncertain.
Live Oak seems entirely aware that a private school play date is an awkward, and for some scary or stressful, situation. The school takes a gentle approach to the process. When Alice and I recently visited the school over the weekend, I found that the administrators and staff did everything possible to make us feel at ease. If you've got a Live Oak play date on your calendar, I recommend that you don't overthink it. Forget worrying and get a goodnight's sleep. Show up—in a pair of jeans—and you'll be fine. And your child will have a lot of fun. I promise.
When we arrived—a few minute's early, yeah!—kids, parents, teachers, and administrators were beginning to gather in a play area outside. The kids were throwing balls and building structures with giant blocks, while the parents chatted. Alice, who is always shy in new situations, grabbed hold of my leg. The admissions director, Tracy Gertsen, immediately noticed Alice's shy nature, and approached us. She made clear that they would do everything possible to make the transition easy. Many of the teachers came up and said hello to Alice. If anything, I felt like we were special because Alice was shy. We played outside for about 20 minutes, by which time Alice was comfortably holding my hand.
We gathered in a big room. The kids sat in a circle, and the parents stood behind them. There was a brief explanation of the process and then the mommies and daddies were excused. Alice got a little clingy. I walked her up to one of the teachers who gave her a big hug and sat Alice down in her lap. I looked back at her before I walked out the door, and she was smiling.
The prospective parents gathered with current parents in the upstairs library. We noshed on bagels, drank coffee, and tried to put together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Holly Horton, the head of school, stopped in and casually chatted with parents. Gersten came in to tell me that Alice was doing great in her play date. Gersten also checked in with other parents.
When I went to pick up Alice, she was excited because they served snack. "Yummy letter-shaped cookies," she said. I'm not even going to overthink that one.