Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why I Love The Laurel School

Not every child needs what The Laurel School offers, but it's a welcome treasure for the students who do need something extra (and for their parents).

Here's the school's official, accurately-descriptive blurb: "The Laurel School serves students with learning differences and students who benefit from a small class size. In a community that nurtures mutual respect and compassion, we cultivate the academic potential of each child through multimodal, differentiated instruction. By teaching learning strategies, self advocacy skills, and social competence, The Laurel School prepares students for the next level of education."

And here's our story: Our son attended Kindergarten at a progressive San Francisco private school that we hoped would meet his educational needs. He has a vision impairment that we knew would require some accommodation. During the school year, we also learned that his difficulty in focusing and staying on task was a type of ADHD. Though the school meant well and welcomed a variety of supports that we put in place, it just really wasn’t set up to meet his needs.

We had applied to the Laurel School the year before and, throughout that Kindergarten year, had many of what we called “maybe Laurel?” moments – maybe we should have chosen the Laurel School, maybe we should apply again for next year, maybe we should call and see if they have a spot available right now. Hindsight is easy, and there was some reason to believe the relatively small, progressive private school would work for him. But he wasn’t participating much with the class, he was standing out as somehow different, and we could see that it was beginning to affect how he saw himself as a student and among his peers. It became clear that he needed a school with more built-in supports and with experience teaching children who, for whatever reason, need something extra.

Our son switched to Laurel School for 1st grade and we’re confident that he’s in the right school for him. Everything about the school has made a difference, including the much smaller class size. Our son is now participating academically and is feeling like a succesful student. More intangibly, we think he feels a greater sense of belonging at this school. The unexpected bonus of the school year is that we, as parents, feel less anxiety and feel our own sense of belonging – not only are we at ease dropping him off every morning (as opposed to last year’s daily anxiety and fear of what the day might bring), but we know that our fellow Laurel School parents have been on some similar journey with their children and that the teachers understand.

The best advice we heard last year, in thinking about whether to change schools, was this: it’s not really about what we want for our son, it’s about what he needs. He started in a perfectly fine school that we liked very much, but it didn’t meet his needs. Some kinds of school work may always be challenging for our son, but now we can feel sure that the Laurel School is actually teaching him.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It's great to hear that you find the right place for your son. Much be a relief.

  2. Very well written. Thank you

  3. I think it is important to spread the word on schools that help kids with learning differences. In theory, the SFUSD should accommodate these learners, but realisticly, the school does not.

  4. Laurel is a wonderful school - highly personalized, nurturing, and incredibly supportive to students. Thanks for writing this!

  5. Not affordable for most parents.

  6. How could you fail to understand the point of: "not affordable for most parents?"


  7. Laurel does offer financial aid to families!

  8. Does anyone know how their financial aid is structured? Some schools give smaller grants to more families (thus ending up with more upper-middle class families--say, the $75,000 to $125,000 earners); other schools offer larger grants and thus can admit middle and working class families (up to $75,000/family of three), but often with a significant number of wealthy families (the $200,000+ group).

    There is a big difference in feel between these structures. Since Laurel is a small school that serves kids with learning differences, I'm wondering how they approach it. It doesn't feel like Town, but it's hard to tell from the outside.