Friday, March 23, 2007


So we've decided that Lily will go to the Bement School in the fall. While we never intended to put her into private school, we found that the public schools here don't offer enough challenges -- social, emotional and other -- the way PS 261 did. Now there is an amazing school.

So if you will indulge me, here's what I wrote on our application to the school, in response to the "tell us about your child" question:

A favorite family story, from when Lily was two and a half years old:
We were joking with her, and her father said, “Lily! Say, ‘I’m beautiful!’”
She responded obediently, “I’m beautiful!”
“Lily, say, ‘I’m smart!’” commanded her father.
“I’m smart!”
“Say, ‘I’m a grapefruit!’”
“You’re a grapefruit!” Naturally, we all exploded with laughter.

That’s our daughter: precocious, verbal, funny – and of course beautiful and smart. Indulged as an only child, we fear, but also struggling to find her grounding with parents who both have strong personalities.

We work hard to stay one step ahead of her, in terms of her interests, enthusiasms, discipline, and structure, which she likes a lot. We seek her opinions on decisions and various topics, and work hard to deal with behavior issues with clear, unemotional language, respect, and firmness. She responds well when she’s asked to be trustworthy and she craves her independence, as long as she knows she can come back at any time.

Lily is very much her own person. She loves people and she’s very friendly. Once she warms up to someone, which takes about 30 seconds, she will talk non-stop, asking questions and telling her story. More than anything she loves to read. Her book choices range from Harry Potter and Lloyd Alexander to the Babysitters Club and biographies. She loves her weekly book group at the public library and she will happily spend most of a day reading. She also enjoys music – she has taken a year of piano and music theory and began violin in December – and theater, and is particularly interested in studio art, and crafts including crochet. She can be fearful about learning new skills, such as riding a bike.

As a rule Lily gets along well with us and with her extended family and friends. She has a half-dozen very close girl friends her age in Brooklyn; their play still includes pretend and fantasy, and they seem to have the usual issues with sharing. She has made a couple of friends in Amherst but we don’t think she’s found her tribe here yet. Still, she works hard at her friendships and seeks children out, including those of different ages.

We feel sure that Bement would be wonderful for Lily. We know the school will keep her challenged intellectually: She will adore the variety of subjects, the small class size, and the close attention from grown-ups. The entire Bement School seems both demanding and loving, with structure and discipline, but also affection and appreciation for the individual. Lily thrives in that kind of setting.

We expect her to thrive too in the family atmosphere, enjoying close relationship with adults as well as other children her age and not. We long for her to overcome her perfectionism to the extent that she can enjoy working in areas where she lacks confidence, such as math, as well as try new things. We are confident Lily will find herself intellectually, socially, and emotionally at Bement, and work hard to be a respected, contributing member of the community.

In response to another question, we told Bement about that the first couple of months here were hard for Lily, that "she loved PS 261, her old school – we all did – and had no interest in moving away from the only home she had ever known. Despite this, she’s finding her way in this new and strange land where we drive everywhere, can see stars and the horizon, and live next door to pedigreed dairy cows.

She has a great deal of personal power and we don’t want to squelch her enthusiasm; we work hard to be consistent and set limits, saying that her feelings aren’t wrong or bad, just her ways of expressing them. It sounds obvious, but she’s much easier to be with when she has a lot of focused attention from each of her parents; a Saturday afternoon game of Brooklyn in a Box (Brooklyn Monopoly) makes the evening to follow a joy."

So we'll see. Summer camps are still undecided, and really, the next big question is where I end up working, and thus where we end up living. But knowing Lily will be at Bement helps ground us; we know we will be somewhere near Deerfield, so that she doesn't have a long commute. More will be revealed.

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