Special Needs Resources

I love working with families to find the right fit school and community for all their children.  As I tell my client families, I am a local resource and spend hours and hours visiting schools, establishing relationships and, most importantly, learning.  A few weeks ago I attended the Every Child Resource Fair sponsored by ParentMap Magazine at the University of Washington and I had the opportunity to meet smart, committed people, hear about their organizations, expand my resource list, and learn! 

The event featured experts who focus on the many categories of atypical learners: ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, processing disorders, developmental delays, autism, Asperger’s and other spectrum learning differences.  I met with over 20 different organizations and left the event with an increased understanding of all the resources available to families in the Seattle area.  Seattle continues to lead on autism research and resources, ADHD services and support and is home to Seattle Children's Hospital and the University of Washington - both leaders in the country for children's health.

The event concluded with ADHD expert Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of bestsellers Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction, providing a basic introduction to the world of attention deficit disorder. Dr. Hallowell discussed diagnosis and treatment in both children and adults and also explored the brain science and current research. Having both ADD and dyslexia himself, Dr. Hallowell spoke about the powers and gifts that come with having ADHD -  the impact of ADHD on the family, and his life-long goal: to help people master the power of ADHD.

The Every Child Resource Fair showcased what Seattle has to offer for all families and their children. This event is just one of the many way I continue to learnand enables me to connect newly arrived families with the resources they need to call Seattle home. 

Lakeside's New Micro School

Projected to Open Fall 2018

There has been a lot of talk about Lakeside expanding their school in Seattle. While demand at Lakeside's original campus continues to be high, the school administration is looking at other way to educate students outside of their traditional school and campus.

I had a very informative phone call with Sue Belcher, Lakeside School's Director of Micro School Research and Development to learn more about this new school model. They refer to their new school as a micro school. Lakeside's micro school will have a different education model, but still keeps to their standards of academic excellence and innovation. 

The school is slated to open for the 2018-19 school year and will service grades 9-12 with 160 total students = 40 students across each grade.  When the school opens in the Fall of 2018, it will accept only 9th and 10th grade students and (80 students total) grow by a grade each year (adding a new 9th grade class each application year) until reaching capacity and filling out all four grade levels by the 2021-22 school year. 

They are currently scouting downtown South Seattle locations and access to light rail is a priority. It will not be a campus school, but instead reside in an office building or like structure with a lease secured by winter 2017. The tuition is currently estimated at $17K per year (vs Lakeside's main campus cost of $32K per year).  This cost will make the school more affordable to families looking for a private school and also reflects a no frills school model. They do not anticipate the micro school will pull from the current Lakeside population, but will draw in a new group of students seeking out this style of learning experience at a lower price point.  What is a no frills model? No athletics (students will be able to participate at their local public school), PE classes or art electives.  

The micro school will integrate the city into the curriculum including required internships. The core curriculum for each grade will be signature to Lakeside and also revolve around a singular learning concept for each grade incorporating history, English and math.  The school will teach wellness and art appreciation with the goal of utilizing the city and neighborhood resources. Spanish language will be the only foreign language option.  They may also utilize the growing online program, Global Online Academy, to add additional course offerings geared toward the independent student.

I am looking forward to following the development of Lakeside's micro school and will continue to see how other Seattle area schools move forward and introduce new learning models.
It is already application time for independent schools for the 2017-18 school year and I am in the middle of touring many of them.  I have 12 tours scheduled over the next month and I am always happy to talk to families about the Seattle independent school scene. 


Racial diversity and Seattle area schools

Racially diverse schools and communities are top of mind for many of my client families moving from outside of the Seattle area.  Many families are coming from international schools, large metropolitan areas (like Boston, NYC) and have questions about Seattle area public schools with regards to race and family income. 

I find many families unfamiliar with Seattle view it as a very homogeneous city and are surprised when they see how diverse many of the schools are with regard to race and income.  I also assist families coming from smaller school districts and city suburbs and their children have not been in a racially diverse school and they have questions about how schools in the Seattle area "look and feel" compared to their current district. 

Seattle no longer buses students outside of their neighborhood schools and schools reflect the population of the neighborhood. The Eastside (Bellevue, Issaquah, Kirkland) never bussed outside of area and their schools racial make up has changed along with the changing population following the tech industry. 

Recently, The Seattle Times published this very informative article about race and our public schools andincluded an interactive tool to view your school or target school and look up the diversity index score for any school in King or Snohomish County.


I am available to discuss these statistics and specific schools assisting you in finding the right fit schools for your children. 















Teentix - Engaging Teens in the Arts

How had I never heard of this amazing organization?   Thankfully a friend with a high school student brought it to my attention and I am now a big fan and have been able to pass this resource on to several client families with teens and even my own teens.  Bored teens - no more!

TeenTix is a free pass that gets your teen (age 13-19) in to movies, music, theatre, dance and visual art events around Seattle for just $5. It is easy - just have your teen sign up for a free pass, take it to the event and buy a day of show ticket for $5 - cash only.  The catch - this discount is for day of show only.  Your teen is able to call ahead to make sure teentix tickets are still available. Check their website at teentix.org for current events

The Teentix website outlines all the partner organizations, available shows and offers your teen the ability to sign up for a weekly newsletter and calendar.  For example - Teentix tickets are available for the Seattle Art Museum's special exhibit:  GRAPHIC MASTERS: DÜRER, REMBRANDT, GOYA, PICASSO, MATISSE, R. CRUMB - daily in July except on Tuesdays when the museum is closed.  Also for the month of July, teens can attend a performance of BIG FISH at the Taproot Theatre.  This show is offering a 2 tickets for $10 deal allowing your teen to take you as a date and use the great discount! Any day in July has at least 18 daily opportunities with weekends offering 40+ programs.

The partners include large arts organizations like the 5th Avenue Theatre, ACT Theatre and the EMP museum to smaller organization like Jet City Improv.  Opportunities also are available to see a Teotro Zinzanni show, attend the Seattle Opera and visit an exhibit at many of Seattle's art museums including the Henry Art Gallery and the Burke. 

An amazing organization and opportunity for your teen to get out and explore the Seattle art's scene. 

Remember - you can subscribe to my monthly blog by going to the contact page and signing up! 









Tips to Find Your New Neighborhood

A favorite part of my job is assisting families find the right fit neighborhood for their family. Most families are looking for the best school, shortest commute and want the most house for their money.  While all these things are important and should be on your list, I also believe you should make sure your new community shares your values and is the right place to call home for your family. 

Here are a few of my tips to take into consideration when looking at neighborhoods:

1.  School:  Visit the neighborhood school at drop off and pick up time.  Talk to families, join in at the playground and review the flyers posted around the school advertising events and activities.

2.  Library:  Check out the library, kids programs, adult programs and what are the top books being read by adults and in the library sponsored book club.

3.  Shopping and Restaurants: Walk around the grocery store, pharmacy (Bartell is the main local chain), Target (if that is a must have store for you), home improvement store and hang out at the local coffee shop. What other retail is around your housing area?  How about restaurants and food delivery - what are the neighborhood favorites and does that match with your tastes? 

4.  Community Center:  Is there a neighborhood community center?  If yes, the staff will be of great assistance letting you know the services available from kid's classes and camps to adult services and clubs.  What about services for the elderly - a great way to see if families stay long term in this neighborhood or if it is more transitional.

5.  Neighborhood Make-up:  What is the move in rate of new comers verses natives.  Is it new housing or older homes that may be passed from generation to generation.  There are several Seattle area neighborhoods that have a higher population of long time families and it may be harder to make adult friends when the groups have been established since university days.

6.  Playground and Sports Fields:  Visit the local playground.  Who is supervising the younger kids - parents, babysitters/nannies or is it many used by child care groups? Do most kids walk to the playground or is it a commuter playground with lots of parking? Look at parks, sports fields (if your child loves soccer/baseball are there well maintained fields in the area), what about tennis courts and even dog parks.

7.  High School Events:  Even if you only have a young child, consider visiting a high school sporting event or arts performance.  Your children will be there before you know it and it is great way to get a pulse on the community. 

8.  Summer Fun - where is it?  Is there a neighborhood pool or beach?  Is it private or open to the public?  Is it important for you to have it biking/walking distance?  Where can your kids play outside besides your own yard? 

9.  Church: If you and your family attend church do not hesitate to stop in and introduce yourself.  A great resource to find out if this neighborhood s the right fit for you - as most families attend church within a reasonable distance of their neighborhood. 

10:  Demographics:  Is this a two working parent community or is there a larger population of stay at home parents.  Does this matter to you? 

11:  Gym Membership: If you like to work out at a gym then don't forget to go tour and visit the options.  Do they have your favorite classes, what are the fees and facility extras?  Try to visit at the same time you like to work out - is it crowded, who are the other members, could this offer an opportunity for you to meet new friends? 

I'd love to partner with you and together we will provide your real estate agent with the information needed to identify two to three neighborhoods, and ideally several individual schools that meet the needs of your family. 




Understanding Standardized Testing

I am asked on a regular basis by families relocating to Washington State to explain required testing for our public schools to meet the State Common Core standards and also graduation requirements. Part of my service includes putting together informational documents for my clients comparing their current testing schedule with the requirements for Washington State.

With the recent demise of the No Child Left Behind Law and its replacement with the Every Student Succeed Act (signed into Federal law by President Obama in December 2015), it is not only confusing for current families to understand the requirements, but nearly impossible for families new to the U.S. education system. 

Standardized testing is a topic that divides teachers, administrators, government agencies and families and one that is hard for me to keep my opinion to myself.  Lucky for me, ParentMap Magazine just published an excellent article about Washington State standardized testing rules. 


From all my time visiting schools and speaking with parents, I know that many students in the lower elementary school grades opted out of testing last year.  It is only in the extreme cases like with Nathan Hale and Garfield High School that the numbers are released.  It is hard to get a clear picture of families opting out in the elementary years, as the students still attend school to avoid being marked absent, but spend the time in the library or a supervised study period. 

For families moving from within the United States public school system, the amount of testing in Washington State does not differ dramatically from other States. For families coming to the area from outside of the United States, it can be quite perplexing as it differs dramatically from the graduation and leveling testing requirements in countries such as Britain, Singapore, China, Germany and Australia.   

I'll do my best to answer your specific questions about testing and graduation requirements - whether you are joining the U.S. school system for a few years and returning to your home country to complete your child's education or if you are planning to have your children graduate from an U.S. high school and apply for university.








Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate

I am asked the question quite often from families with rising high school students - What is the difference between Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) high school program?

Both AP and IB programs offer very rigorous courses that universities want to see on high school transcripts. Both programs are designed to academically challenge students and help prepare for college.  There is an ongoing debate regarding the emphasis of colleges acceptance rate and standards of rigor based on students acceptance and AP courses taken in high school. 

The IB Diploma Program (IBDP)

IB classes follow a curriculum mandated by the International Baccalaureate Organization in Cardiff, Wales. IB courses include papers and IB exams graded by trained teachers and IB external assessors.

In 1968, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program was founded by a group of progressive teachers from the International School of Geneva, with assistance from several other international schools, in part “to facilitate the international mobility of students.”

Students can take individual IB classes and earn a certificate of completion for each class or can be IB diploma students, which is the 2-year program for high school juniors and seniors. Students who decide to pursue an IB diploma must complete a specific set of courses including the Theory of Knowledge course, a course on critical thinking and creativity, action and service, which also involves activities outside of the classroom.  Students must also complete a 4,000 word thesis paper. 

Over 800 schools in the U.S. offer this program.  There is a small number of Seattle area high schools offering the IB program including Rainier Beach, Sealth, and Ingraham within the Seattle School District, Skyline in Issaquah, Interlake in Bellevue, Forest Ridge in Bellevue (independent girl's school), Edmonds Woodway High School in Edmonds and Inglemoor in the Northshore School District. 

Proponents of the IBDP point to a rigorous two-year program, which puts more emphasis on writing and research, foreign language and global citizenship than on traditional curriculum.

The Advanced Placement Program (AP)

AP courses follow a curriculum mandated by the College Board. AP exams prepared by the College Board are given in May, and are graded by the College Board on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being the highest. Scores are reported in mid-July.

Proponents of Advanced Placement, a U.S. program founded in 1955 and administered by the College Board (the same body responsible for the SAT exam), and it is a well-known, well-established program. Many universities award college credit to students who pass high school AP end-of-course exams allowing students to enter college with completed college course work and credits. 

AP classes typically begin in junior year and are often preceded by pre-AP classes and in larger high schools it is often used as an honors tracking system, with pre-AP classes beginning in freshman year.  Test are multiple choice and also require written original work.  Students can self-select for AP classes and may choose to take them in only one subject or across many subjects.  They may also choose whether or not to take the exam for college credit.

Individual high school teachers structure the advanced placement classes, so the course offerings and content will vary by school. The College Board has available some supporting materials, but teachers are not required to use them.  There are also optional training conferences for teachers. 

One of the benefits of the AP program is that any student may self-select a subject she is interested in and take that for AP credit, without undertaking an entire AP program. This can be true of the IB program. Students may take select IB courses without pursuing the full diploma, if the school decides to allow it. 

Recognition by Colleges

Colleges generally recognize AP and IB courses as being on a par, although they are generally more familiar with the AP curriculum. The extent to which colleges will give credit or placement varies among colleges, but generally if they accept AP scores (usually a score of at least 3), then they also accept IB scores (usually a score of at least 5). Some colleges give credit for certain scores on AP or IB exams; others will allow students to place out of lower level classes, but will not give credit.

AP or IB?

Whether to take all or some AP courses, be an IB diploma student, be an IB certificate student, or take a mixture of AP and IB courses needs to be a matter of student preference, interest, and learning style. The experience of the IB Theory of Knowledge class and the guided research class for Extended Essay are unduplicated in AP. 

As a global program, one of the major differences between the IB and AP programs is IB's focus on world history rather than U.S. history.  

The IB diploma program is comprehensive, but fairly inflexible. The AP program and IB certificate program are more flexible, allowing a student to take AP or IB courses in the subjects which interest them.  It is possible to take an IB course in some subject areas and take the AP exam in the same subject area. However, students who have not taken an IB course may not take an IB exam. Review books for AP exams are commercially available; there are no commercially available IB exam review books.

The majority of greater Seattle independent (private) high schools do not offer AP or IB courses, but feel that students are prepared to sit for the AP exams, if desired.  The recently released Harvard School of Education report of university admission policy calls for the de-emphasis of AP classes (and I imagine IB will fall into this too - but was not called out in the summary of the report that was released last month.). The recent backlash against excessive AP course load as an indicator of college readiness is highlighted in the report and it is recommended for schools teach fewer topics across a subject, but go into greater depth with emphasis on student interest, creativity and exploration. For more information on this report - listen to the podcast - Slate's Getting In - Researchers call for bold changes in College admissions -- Episode # 4F and available on iTunes

Most public high schools host an open houses for prospective students and their families in the late winter months (late January - February) and all interested families (unrelated to current district placement) are allowed to attend and hear about the programs.  This is a great way to get to know a school and learn more about their IB and/or AP offerings and teaching philosophy around these advanced courses. 

Seattle Themed books for Adults

As a follow up to my previous post on Seattle-centric books for kids, I am now sharing some of my favorite books for adults:

As I previewed in the last blog, The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown in a great read.  This nonfiction story is set during the Great Depression and tells the story of the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team as they qualified to compete in the Berlin Olympics.   An inspiring read and a wonderful introduction to Seattle, University of Washington and the lake you see all around you - Lake Washington.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a fun, light novel with many Seattle cultural references writen by Maria Semple.  Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: This is an old-fashioned historical novel that alternates between the early 1940s and 1984 written by Jamie Ford.  The story focuses on Henry Lee, a 12-year-old Chinese boy who falls in love with Keiko Okabe, a 12-year-old Japanese girl, while they are scholarship students at a prestigious private school during the World War II time period in Seattle. The story alternates between this time period and the 1980's when the belongings of Japanese immigrants interned during WWII were found in the basement of the Panama Hotel. *This book is on several middle school reading lists - as it is appropriate for adults and teens.

Also story revolving around World War II and the Japanese interment, David Guterson wrote the beautiful book - Snow Falling on Cedars.   Fighting the distrust and prejudice of his neighbors on a remote island in Puget Sound, a Japanese-American man who spent time in an internment camp during World War II, finds himself on trial for murder. The histories of the accused and the victim, both fishermen and residents of a small town unfold as newspaperman Ishmael Chambers embarks on a quest for the truth. Snow Falling on Cedars won the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award.  

Some notable Seattle authors with novels set in the area include:  Tom Robbins, Sherman Alexie, Garth Stein, Jim Lynch, Timothy Egan and don't forget Seattle is home to Nancy Pearl, America's favorite librarian, NPR contributor and author of several books on books including Book Lust and Book Crush.  Rick Steves, the author and PBS travel show host is also from Seattle and is most likely the Seattleite holding the title of most books authored - I think last count was 100+ travel guides. 

For all the teens - there is always Stephenie Meyers.  Her Twilight Series, is set right here in the Olympic National Park area and the small town of  Forks, Washington. After you read the books you'll be ready to go tour the areas visited by Edward, Bella and Jacob. 

Seattle Themed Books for Kids

I love my business and getting to know all the new families moving to Seattle and I equally love introducing these families to a few of my favorite Seattle things.  We have a little storage area in our house and I always keep it stocked with a few goodies for my clients, as a welcoming gift to Seattle.  Here is a list of some Seattle-centric kid's books that make for a great introduction to their new home:

Children's books: 

Wheedle the Needle  - by  Stephen Cosgrove -   Deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest lives a quiet old creature named the Wheedle. When humans move into his forests, bringing their loud city noises, Wheedle flees to the rocky peaks of Mount Rainier, and then to the very tip-top of Seattle's Space Needle.                                                               

Larry gets lost in Seattle - by John Skewes - A children’s story about a young boy (Pete) who goes to Seattle with his family and is temporarily separated from his cute little dog, Larry, while sightseeing. In his search for Pete, Larry encounters many Seattle landmarks and cultural attractions before the two are reunited.

Colorful Seattle - Explore & Coloring book - by Laura Lahm -  Originally crafted for a children's coloring book, but with the popularity of adult coloring, this is suitable for kids, teens and adults. 

ParentMap Magazine - This is a great local resource published monthly and found for free at bookstores and other locations across town.  Articles, resources, family events offering a great way to be a Seattle Savvy family.

Future blogs I will share my welcome gift ideas for teens and adults - can anyone say Seahawk/Sounder's anything and Fran's chocolate!  I will also publish my list of favorite books both fiction and nonfiction for teens and adults set in/around Seattle.   

One preview:  The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown.  Set during the Great Depression, The Boys in the Boat  tells the story of the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team as they qualified to compete in the Berlin Olympics.   A great read and a wonderful introduction to Seattle, University of Washington and the big lake you see all around you - Lake Washington.  


Preschool Primer - Parentmap Magazine

I have been busy working on updating my directory for preschools.  I attended ParentMap Magazine's preschool fair for the east side area (Bellevue, Issaquah, Redmond) this past week and will be attending the Seattle fair next weekend.  I love seeing familiar faces working the school booths and I also enjoy meeting the new teachers and owners to learn about their programs.  ParentMap is expecting over 1600 people to visit their four fairs this year - that is a lot of families looking for preschool! 

There are so many great preschools in the area with a program to fit every family and budget.  The problem may lie in this fact - so many choices and it is hard to narrow down the right school for your child.  Popular preschool programs start their registration process and accept deposits in the winter prior to the Fall start, at times making it difficult for families moving to the area to find a program in their new neighborhood.

I am consistently touring preschools, evaluating new programs and adding additional schools to my resource list.  I love helping families find the right preschool for their child and spending time observing in a preschool class is always a highlight of my day. 

Along with sponsoring the preschool fairs, ParentMap magazine published an excellent article explaining the different preschool teaching methods.  A great read and I am always happy to review in additional detail too.