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Old 06-01-2008, 04:51 PM
 
Location: Texas
230 posts, read 928,938 times
Reputation: 64

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Thanks Claremarie, we're definately steering towards the public system at the moment. About to email those that we're interested in & will take it from there. Thank-you for all of your input!
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Old 06-14-2008, 10:44 PM
 
148 posts, read 569,405 times
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I want to add my 2 cents as an international family. If my company were paying to partially offset my kids education at Westminster or Flint Hill (or any other ..Maderia, Potomac, etc), I would take that option first. Why? Because in my opinion experience, these schools are at least one year academically advanced than the Gifted programs at county schools and more importantly the teachers are accountable and interested in your kid. Uniforms, discipline, manners, love for reading, classics, drama, art, languages, exploration and other things that are so important in the impressionable ages are simply not there in Fairfax county schools or if there does not meet the expectations of parents who desire a lot from the educational system. I can go into specifics but will spare you the details. County schools are after all Government schools and the teachers will get their paychecks regardless of how the kids and the schools perform. They focus a lot on the SOL testing because of funding issues. (Of course, I would exclude TJ as your kids are not in those grades yet).

You should also check with your local schools on what has been their experience with kids returning from US and what they recommend.

Sure Washington DC has lots of transient families from Government incl. State Dept employees, military and Embassies and they do send kids to County schools (who does not like a free education!) but some of these schools here also have substantial number of non English speaking kids (ESL kids) and check the data (esp. reduced Lunch in the demographics tab of the schools info on fcps.edu). and you will get the idea. There is also lot of PTA activity all around and that is a good thing. However, the schools are always scrambling for money and doing fund raising and peddling Scholastic books etc. and one has to do all extra-curricular outside of school (Piano, Organized sports, etc), that is eliminated in Private schools because most schools have these facilities right there.
One area where I think county schools excel is in special needs education- Smaller private schools do not have the resources and counselors that Fairfax county does. If you do decide on a Fairfax county school, try to see if you can get your kid into the GT program at a Magnet or a GT Center school (and not a school based GT school..). Good luck
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Old 06-15-2009, 05:09 PM
 
3 posts, read 8,420 times
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We just signed up our soon to be 2nd grader at Westminster today - will not be sending him back to Arlington Public Schools (and we went to the "best" one in Arlington). I went to Westminster 40+ years ago when it first started. They are approximately 1 year ahead of Fairfax or Arlington Public Schools. If you can afford it (and even if you cannot - you never know if you will get financial aid) I would not hesitate to send my kids to private school vs. public. My son is the youngest of 4 (sons) and they all went to private school, at least for middle and high schools. It was a complete financial struggle, but well worth it. The older 2 are in college now, and the 3rd attends St.Johns in DC (another private school)
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Old 06-15-2009, 06:26 PM
 
21 posts, read 55,077 times
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I went to public high school years ago with some kids who'd gone to Westminster up through Grade 8. We always thought their parents (the only ones in the area at the time who drove expensive foreign cars) sent them there to make social contacts! I think these kids did fine but didn't have an obvious advantage over those who had gone to the "regular" public middle school. I know they weren't placed in any of the advanced/AP classes.
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Old 06-15-2009, 06:37 PM
 
27 posts, read 98,802 times
Reputation: 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by SaratL View Post
I want to add my 2 cents as an international family. If my company were paying to partially offset my kids education at Westminster or Flint Hill (or any other ..Maderia, Potomac, etc), I would take that option first. Why? Because in my opinion experience, these schools are at least one year academically advanced than the Gifted programs at county schools and more importantly the teachers are accountable and interested in your kid. Uniforms, discipline, manners, love for reading, classics, drama, art, languages, exploration and other things that are so important in the impressionable ages are simply not there in Fairfax county schools or if there does not meet the expectations of parents who desire a lot from the educational system. I can go into specifics but will spare you the details. County schools are after all Government schools and the teachers will get their paychecks regardless of how the kids and the schools perform. They focus a lot on the SOL testing because of funding issues. (Of course, I would exclude TJ as your kids are not in those grades yet).

You should also check with your local schools on what has been their experience with kids returning from US and what they recommend.

Sure Washington DC has lots of transient families from Government incl. State Dept employees, military and Embassies and they do send kids to County schools (who does not like a free education!) but some of these schools here also have substantial number of non English speaking kids (ESL kids) and check the data (esp. reduced Lunch in the demographics tab of the schools info on fcps.edu). and you will get the idea. There is also lot of PTA activity all around and that is a good thing. However, the schools are always scrambling for money and doing fund raising and peddling Scholastic books etc. and one has to do all extra-curricular outside of school (Piano, Organized sports, etc), that is eliminated in Private schools because most schools have these facilities right there.
One area where I think county schools excel is in special needs education- Smaller private schools do not have the resources and counselors that Fairfax county does. If you do decide on a Fairfax county school, try to see if you can get your kid into the GT program at a Magnet or a GT Center school (and not a school based GT school..). Good luck
I don't believe that all private schools in Northern VA are necessarily academically superior to the public schools- some are run by Fundamentalist Christians who don't believe in teaching evolution or allowing cheerleaders to wear short skirts; others exist mostly due to a long history of social elitism (though the academics are probably good as well); and yet others (certain Catholic schools) exist at least partially to serve those who have been expelled from the public high schools and/or need more "discipline" than public schools provide.

I also find it odd that you would suggest someone push their child into GT without even a hint that the child is particularly academically-inclined or advanced. Northern VA has one of the most highly-educated populations in the US, and the vast majority of the children of these highly-educated parents happily attend mainstream classes in the local public schools. While I don't know much of Australian schools, I wouldn't necessarily assume our public schools are vastly inferior or will not challenge the average student.

My experience growing up in Fairfax was that many children were pushed too hard to become academically brilliant and "special" because their parents were overachievers (and hence moved to Northern VA to pursue ambitious careers). GT centers and magnet schools are intended to serve a particular minority of students who are out-of-step with normal intellectual development, and I believe that the public schools do a fairly good job of identifying these students through standardized testing and teacher-initiated recommendations- not through parents pushily shoving their children into stressful overly-difficult classes. I attended TJHSST for a year before quitting to start college instead, and I found that their more-objective test-based admission system led to a more equally-skilled set of students, as opposed to the GT center programs where less-advanced kids were pushed in by parents and ended up stressed and a drag on the rest of the class.

But no offense to the OP- if your daughter is at the head of her class or on a special advanced academic track in Australia, then I assume it would be appropriate to ask for an assessment for possible GT services here as well.
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Old 03-30-2010, 07:44 AM
 
22 posts, read 128,004 times
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Unhappy NOT Westminster

Do NOT look at Westminster School. We were so disappointed with our kids' experience at the school and we are leaving after two years. The rigid and oppressive discipline structure includes detentions, demerits and strikes, starting at age 7. Second graders get detentions (which they have to serve after school) for not having a sharpened pencil, leaving one item blank in their homework or forgetting book. The whole system is stressful and anxiety producing. The website and the admissions office don't talk about this - you have to ask for the Student/Parent Handbook and read it BEFORE signing your child up for the school.

You should also take a look at the previous year's Yearbook and note the dwindling class sizes. It says a lot when many of the middle and upper grades are barely half-full. There will always be spaces available at Westminster while the current administration is in place.
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Old 03-30-2010, 07:57 AM
 
10,596 posts, read 12,094,786 times
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Just another data point--for many years I worked with Australians who were sent over here to the Embassy for 3 year postings. Most of them moved to Arlington, Vienna, and that general area. All had young kids, all used public schools, and all seemed very happy.
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Old 04-25-2010, 03:51 AM
 
2 posts, read 3,102 times
Reputation: 10
Exclamation No to Westminster

Quote:
Do NOT look at Westminster School. We were so disappointed with our kids' experience at the school and we are leaving after two years. The rigid and oppressive discipline structure includes detentions, demerits and strikes, starting at age 7. Second graders get detentions (which they have to serve after school) for not having a sharpened pencil, leaving one item blank in their homework or forgetting book. The whole system is stressful and anxiety producing. The website and the admissions office don't talk about this - you have to ask for the Student/Parent Handbook and read it BEFORE signing your child up for the school.

You should also take a look at the previous year's Yearbook and note the dwindling class sizes. It says a lot when many of the middle and upper grades are barely half-full. There will always be spaces available at Westminster while the current administration is in place.
So true! Worst school ever. The Headmaster operates Westminster like a third world despot - no communication, no dissent, no respect for differing points of view. He stands in front of assemblies pontificating ad naseum. High teacher turnover. Although the school puts most of its resources in its drama program, the rest of the curriculum is dry and lacks creativity. No hands-on science, no integration of technology, no computer lab - focus is on memorization through constant testing.
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Old 07-09-2010, 09:35 PM
 
1 posts, read 2,008 times
Reputation: 10
With regard to Westminster School....
I cannot speak for the current faculty, but when I was there 9-something years ago, I established awesome intellectual relationships with the teachers, and learned how to think critically and outside the box. Westminster is a very tough school and assigns an incredible amount of homework--often pushing students way beyond their limits. This was very rough on me, but I do not regret it for a single instant.

The school is a bit authoritarian, and although some parents would prefer a school that easily bends to parents' demands, the structure actually provided efficiency and--in a roundabout and probably unintended way--taught me to question authority. I will never forget the time I spent growing at this school.

A caveat however: I found that the students who performed best at the school are the ones who finished grade 8 starting at grade 4 or earlier. Students who came to the school later (grade 5, grade 6) often had a very difficult time adjusting to the strict and fast-paced environment. It is a school that takes getting used to.

--Robert K.
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Old 07-21-2010, 12:41 PM
 
1 posts, read 1,950 times
Reputation: 10
My daughters just completed their first year at Westminster. I had two girls in second grade (now going into third) and one girl in kindergarten (now going into first).

I have been very impressed by the school and its academic foundation. My older two daughters came from a good public school in Fairfax County and were still substantially behind their classmates at Westminster due to the school's advanced curriculum. The school spent significant time and resources catching them up in the first semester of the school year. Not once did they complain about my kids being behind. They took the affirmative step of catching them up and now my two older daughters are well-adjusted academically.

My youngest one was reading in no time and I would venture to say that she, as a rising first grader, reads better than when my older two had finished first grade at Fairfax County Public Schools.

We were blessed to have our choice of many schools in the Washington, DC/No VA area (including Congressional, Flint Hill, and Potomac School) and chose Westminster because of its small classes, its emphasis on the Classics, and the ability to turn out poised, confident students. If one meets the eighth graders, one would be very impressed as to their manners and poise.

While no environment is ever perfect, for the tuition they charge, one will not find a better educational value in Northern Virginia. My college fraternity used to say that the fraternity "offers you not idle meadows and indolent shores; she offers you hills, and a star." Westminster fits this description to a tee. Westminster teaches children how to climb hills and reach for the stars on the journey that is education, not simply have them relay back information that they have memorized. The homework assignments make the children think analytically from a young age. As an example, many of the math problems focus on problem solving even in Kindergarten. In short, I would recommend, without an ounce of hesitation, to any Parent that he or she send their child to Westminster.
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