Finding the Right School for Your Child with Houston School Options

Finding the Right School for Your Child with Houston School Options

Our guests today, Dee Dee Halpin and Julie Blumberg run Houston School Options where they help families find the most effective school program for their children. Over the years, Dee Dee and Julie have helped guide numerous families - both new to the city and Houston natives - through the school choice process. During our conversation they discuss their process to find the right match and give tips to parents who are looking, such as what to look for when visiting schools and how you’ll know what the right choice is for you. They also remind us that the “best school” is the one that is the right fit for your child. And that sometimes, the right decision now is not a forever decision. While Dee Dee and Julie work with families in Houston, their tips on how to find the right school will work for all families, regardless of location. 

Dee Dee Halpin has a Master of Science in Special Education. She has experience as a classroom teacher, Educational Diagnostician in both public schools and private practice, and currently works as an Educational Consultant. 

Julia Blumberg has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She spent years teaching 2nd and 5th grades before she founded her tutoring business, Motivation Houston, in 2014.  

Dee Dee and Julie use their years of experience both in the classroom and as part of parent teacher organizations and school boards to support families through their business, Houston School Options.  



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Stephanie Landis (00:06):

Hello, and welcome to Unbabbled, a podcast that navigates the world of special education, communication delays, and learning differences. We are your hosts, Stephanie Landis and Meredith Krimmel, and we're certified speech language pathologist who spend our days at The Parish School in Houston, helping children find their voices and connect with the world around them.

Stephanie Landis (00:26):

Finding the right school for your child can feel like an overwhelming task. There are so many options out there and pros and cons for each. Our guests today, Dee Dee Halpin and Julie Blumberg run Houston school options, where they help families find the most effective school program for their children. Over the years, Dee Dee and Julie have helped guide numerous families through school searches. They both have a background in education and are parents themselves, which gives them unique perspective. During our conversation, they discuss their process of finding matches and gives tips such as what to look for when visiting schools and how you'll know what the right choice is for you. They also remind us that the best school is the one that's the right fit for your child. And sometimes that's a right now decision and doesn't have to be a forever decision while Dee Dee and Julie work with families in Houston area, their tips on how to find the right school will work for all families regardless of location.

Stephanie Landis (01:23):

Welcome today, we are really excited to talk with Dee Dee Halpin and Judy Blumberg from Houston School Options. Welcome ladies.

Dee Dee Halpin (01:31):

Welcome. Thank, thank you for having us.

Julie Blumberg (01:34):

Yes. We're excited to be here.

Stephanie Landis (01:35):

All right. Before we jump too far into it, will one of you give us just a little bit of an overview of what exactly you guys offer at Houston school options.

Dee Dee Halpin (01:45):

We guide families through the myriad of school options that there are in our greater Houston area. We feel really lucky that we have all these options, but can be overwhelming. And Julie and I are both moms and my children are adults now, but there were, we went through lots of, of school choices over the years. And even though, you know, I'm an educator, I grew up in Houston, Julie, the same making those choices for your own children can be daunting. And so we knew that if you know, people like guess were having difficulty making these decisions and searching for schools, there must be other families who really need more help even than, than we did. So we like to offer families a guidance through the process.

Stephanie Landis (02:40):

That's amazing. I grew up in Ohio and when I moved down to Houston and had children is completely overwhelming. It was like, what? This is not like anything that I'm used to, even within the public school system. It, it blew my mind. And then the number of choices of different private schools and private school options. And I grew up in a fairly good sized city in Ohio. I don't think we had any choices at the time of different specialized schools, let alone the number of amazing specialized schools out there that are similar, but different from The Parish School. So that service I'm sure is amazingly helpful to parents.

Julie Blumberg (03:19):

I think to give you a little bit of history, Didi started this company over 30 years ago, and they did a lot of work with families relocating to Houston from often overseas, even out of, you know, out of the country and out of the state. And so, like you said, moving here from somewhere else sometimes when you don't even speak English, it's a whole different world, a world that we're lucky to have, but a world that sometimes people need help navigating. And I joined her about five and a half years ago, and she was pretty much strictly doing the relocation side of things with a little bit of local. And I just saw this huge need in a local search because the number of therapeutic schools and specialty schools that have opened in our city over the last, you know, decade or so is really amazing and has been incredible to watch. And I, we think it's so important for families to be aware of these.

Stephanie Landis (04:13):

Do you guys go and visit and tour schools?

Julie Blumberg (04:16):

So that's a really kind of hard question to answer because before COVID, and after COVID have had a little bit of a different answer to it before COVID we visited schools often, very often, particularly if it had been a while since our last visit, because we like to keep up with the current population of a school, the culture, any leadership changes anything that might have changed in a school's philosophy or their atmosphere, anytime a new school opens. We love to check it out. Even if we don't have a particular family in mind for it. And sometimes parents ask us to accompany them on tours. And we always love to do that as well. During COVID however many schools had restrictions that really curtailed our ability to tour. And while that was hard, we have really found a way to connect with the schools and get to know what's happening in the schools. Even during times when visitors were not allowed in and we're hopeful that schools will now be putting in the necessary precautions to allow us and most importantly, to allow perspective parents to visit the schools. So we believe that seeing classrooms in action is the very best way to observe a school and really get a sense of how a child might fit in there. So long answer. But the short answer is yes, we, we absolutely will love to get into the schools.

Meredith Kremmel (05:44):

So when a family reaches out to you, because they're interested in your services and helping them find the right place for their child, what does that process look like? You know, how involved are you guys with meeting the child and, and how do you kind of determine what school is the right place for them or help the parents determine that?

Dee Dee Halpin (06:01):

We ask parents to provide us as much history as possible. We have a background form. We ask them to complete that gives us a profile of their child. We also ask them to just ad lib anything that we didn't ask that you know because there's always something that we, you know, we fail to ask that parents really need to tell us. And quite often it's inside the process that we find those things out. So we, we try to ask as many questions as we can. And we look at, we look at the child's history. We look at report cards. We, if there are evaluation reports, we look at those and, and we just, we interview the parents as much as we can on occasion we get to meet the child quite often. If we meet with the family in their own home, the child is there and we have direct access when we're doing things on zoom. Kids are not always happy to get on with their parents. And for older children, we definitely, you know, like to talk to the children because we want them to buy into the process even, but we also wanna emphasize and have the parents emphasize that the decision making is in the parents' hands, but it just, it does help for kids to feel like they're part of the decision making too.

Stephanie Landis (07:21):

When you're looking at schools and touring them. What are some of the main things that you're looking at? Are you looking at test scores? Are you looking at classroom size? Like what do you look at?

Dee Dee Halpin (07:34):

I think there are hundreds of things that we look at. So to name them all would be difficult. But I, you know, I think that beyond test scores, we, we want to look at all the different types of schools, you know, so we know that parents have options. They have public school options, not just the school, their zoned to, but we have magnet schools in the Houston school district and the spring branch school district. There are charter schools now that parents have options for, and there are lots of private schools. Those schools can be religious schools, they can be secular schools, they can be special needs schools. There's so many of those things that, you know, we, we start out really trying to narrow parents options for them, but we will start out with the broader the broader list of schools we think might work based on what we've learned from the parents about the child. And then we ask the parents to do their own narrowing process, maybe, you know, by just looking online or talking to everybody they know and get it down to a workable number at some point. We, but we like to, we look at all of those different options and then take into account the child's strengths and weaknesses and abilities and and really try to match where we think that child's needs might be met best.

Julie Blumberg (09:12):

And we always like to say, we're looking for the right school, not the best school. It's really important. So in matching those, we're looking for the right school for that child.

Meredith Kremmel (09:23):

Yeah. Right. So when you ask families to do their own research, either online or talking to people or even touring, what kind of things are you suggesting that they look for? Do you kind of guide them, maybe give them some tips and tricks on what to look for when they're trying to find the right school that would fit their child's needs and their family's needs.

Dee Dee Halpin (09:40):

Well, we, if, if they've come to us, we've already done some of that for them. And you know, so we, we like to think that any of the schools that we have that we're gonna move forward with with the family have some of the basic needs things that a child needs. But we do want parents when they, when they're visiting schools to really look at the culture of the school you know, that's gonna have a lot to do with how welcoming they, you know, the school is. And sometimes that's the secretary sitting at the front desk or it's a parent volunteer, but you know, that culture kind of helps, helps families to feel like the, they could see themselves there. We ask them to look at the physical plant of the school, especially if they can get into the school to just see, is it clean? Does it feel safe? How are the classrooms configured? Are the desks all in a row and the teacher's desk at the front? Or does it look like there's cooperative learning and kids are sitting, you know, at tables and there's a lot more movement in the, in the classroom because we're gonna ultimately tell parents to listen to their gut instinct. And we like to say that they, we want them to choose a school where they feel at home. And I remember making the very first school choice for my oldest daughter and my children are all adults now, but walking into the school, we ultimately chose both my husband and I just had this overwhelming feeling that this is the right place. And thankfully they thought she was the right child. But you know, our goal is for families to eventually have a short list of schools that are really op really good options for them. And in the end, when all of the application process is over, they've got a choice to make. That's our goal for most families.

Julie Blumberg (11:38):

And, and I think we also tell families that it's important to remember that they're making a decision for the now based on what they know right now. It's not a life path. That's, it's, it's really a right now path. And that's what we tell them. So sure. It's nice. If your child can start at a school, stay there through the tenure of that school. But life changes happen. So financials change, moves happen, family dynamics change, children change. So if one path got everyone into Harvard, then everyone would want that path, but that's not the case. And so we really make the decision with our families or guide them to make those decisions based on the right now.

Meredith Kremmel (12:21):

I really like that because so often, especially being a specialized school or therapeutic school we often have to tell families, you know, maybe we're not the right environment at this moment, but that doesn't mean that as your child progresses and changes, that they'll need something different, which could in turn be us. So that's really great advice to remind families. Cause I think a lot of, I mean, I'm a parent as well. We get caught up on, oh my gosh. If I make this decision at kindergarten, is that gonna affect their whole life trajectory? You know, but it's nice to remember that things change things in your control and things out of your control change. And you know, that doesn't project one way or another, how your, how your child's life will go.

Dee Dee Halpin (12:58):

It does help that for Julie and I being two different generations that we have different perspectives. So I, I now know what the end game was for my three children in their school, careers and Julie's starting out with two young children. I also have grandchildren, so I'm watching them too. But but it helps to have both perspectives when we're, when we're working with families

Julie Blumberg (13:25):

And, and Meredith something that you said that I think is helpful too. You said it's helpful to tell parents, you know, maybe not right now, we're not the school for you, but in the future we may be, I think there's some hesitancy sometimes to go towards those therapeutic schools and help families understand, Hey, this is for now to help you achieve your end goal. Should that be where your child's path takes them?

Meredith Kremmel (13:50):

Absolutely. We hear lots of parents say things like we're so glad we took that leap and sent our child to The Parish School and they were two or three or four and did that early intervention because they truly believe that it opened these doors for a more mainstream education later in their child's life. So that works. And I'm sure you guys do a lot of counseling with families when you meet a child. I, I, I'm wondering if you meet families who are looking for more of a mainstream traditional classroom, we're you end up having to counsel and guide them towards a more specialized environment and what that looks like,

Julie Blumberg (14:21):

And that's really become a large piece of our local business.

Dee Dee Halpin (14:26):

Yes, we're obviously gonna be honest with families when we talk to them. But we don't like to narrow it too much and, you know, make them feel like they don't have that option. We feel like the process will probably do it for them. And we tell families all the time that admissions directors are really good at knowing which child is going to fit in and Excel in their program and be successful. They don't like to take children. They off the bat don't think will be successful at their school. So we often tell families to say, thank you and schools say no. It's hard to do been there as a parent, but you know, it, the truth is that if a school tells you, they don't think your child will be successful there, that's not the right place for your child right now. So sometimes the process just helps get, get us there, but that's, that's why we ask for as much history as we can, because most of the time these parents have already been given information. They're just not listening to yet. And you know, we may be the one last person that can suggest again that they need something different than a mainstream school.

Stephanie Landis (15:44):

Or sometimes you get so much information as a parent from like this specialist and this specialist and that person. And then this feedback from the teacher and having one person that's looking at all of it to help you like Wade through it and understand it and find out what it means for your family instead of just from their perspective or this perspective can be very extremely helpful for a parent and give them more guidance. Because I've seen kids come through our school where each specialist, the report came from, like told them to pursue something slightly different, a little bit the same, but also a little bit different here and a little bit different there. And as a parent, you're just Googling everything and wading through the muck yourself that it's, it's gotta be helpful to have somebody kind of guide the ship and steer with like a larger look at things.

Julie Blumberg (16:39):

Definitely, definitely.

Meredith Kremmel (16:41):

So what about families that might come to you who are leaving a specialized therapeutic school and looking about transitioning to more of a mainstream traditional school? Do you guys support a lot of families with that change as well?

Dee Dee Halpin (16:53):

That's probably one of the biggest groups that come to us, you know, they're, they're now ready to move on and they don't know where to go. And we do have a pretty good relationship with most of the schools in our area and we know what they're looking for and what they offer. And so we know there are some schools that are a lot better about helping with that kind of transition than others that offer more services that are really welcoming for children who have had a need in the past and, you know, to look at where they are now and rather than just taking their history into account most of the schools are requiring some kind of testing. They're requiring some kind of observation and that's great because, you know, report cards don't tell at all obviously. And so, you know, that part of the admissions process, I think helps, helps families as they go through it, to see how their children are actually performing. But it also tells us something about where to go next. So if you know, there's a halt to a process at a school that says, oh, no, you know, this is not gonna work. We work. We, and the admissions directors work with us too. They may say, you know, I don't think our school is the right school, but what have you considered this one in this one, in this one, we don't mind having that input.

Julie Blumberg (18:27):

And I think it's helpful. We're very lucky to have had so many clients that sometimes their profiles will overlap. And so we've seen where a child has been successful or where a child's coming to us leaving and needing a new school from because they're not successful. And so we can kind of put that puzzle together too, of this worked really well for a child with a similar profile. This did not work, and that's really helpful for us as well.

Dee Dee Halpin (18:54):

Sometimes we, we ask families to to get an evaluation done too. I, if there hasn't been one recently and we really think that up to date information would be important in making this decision. Then we we refer them to professionals who can then do an evaluation. I, my, I have a background as an educational diagnostician and I don't do testing myself anymore. When I really took this on full time, I, I enjoyed it more, but but I we're happy to, you know, help families find the right person to get that evaluation done. And then I do feel like, you know, I have the expertise to look at those test reports and really, you know, read between the lines sometimes and figure out exactly where a child might, might fit in. So both ways when they're moving into a therapeutic environment or coming out of one.

Stephanie Landis (19:52):

So looking at coming out of a therapeutic environment, a lot of the, just websites that I visited of private schools, they all seem to kind of say the same thing. Are there any key things that you like, maybe buzzwords or phrases or little things that you have parents look for when pursuing websites or calling a school that gives them a feel for whether this might be a good fit for their student or not? Or is it just based off of purely your past experience?

Dee Dee Halpin (20:23):

Well, I think there's there's a lot that can be learned from a school's website and looking at what services they offer right off the bat. You know, if there are tutoring services, if there is a counselor, if there even just a school nurse, there are things that you, that you know, are more, gonna be more important for one child than another. If none of that is mentioned, you might presume that it's not a school that offers anything beyond the, an a rigorous academic program. And that's rarely the type of school that a child needs when they're making that kind of transition. They might eventually fit there, but

Julie Blumberg (21:08):

Dee Dee's always given the analogy of looking at a school online, like looking at a hotel. And I kind of like that, and you don't really know what you're getting until you go. So I think that you really, you know, you peruse the website, you check the location and those kinds of things, and, and the few things Dee Dee mentioned, but then when you determine, yeah, we need to move forward and check this out. You've really gotta go look at it, to see all of those things and that;

Dee Dee Halpin (21:35):

And like I said, if they've gone through us, we've narrowed it already. So we're hopefully not, they're not, you know, not just grasping at straws and looking at every school that every neighborhood child attends.

Stephanie Landis (21:49):

Yeah. That was gonna be one of my other questions is, do you, you know, you said you encourage parents to kind of ask around, but is there a point where you're like stop asking or like only ask your friends that have similar experiences there? How do you navigate that?

Dee Dee Halpin (22:03):

You know, you don't even really have to ask. It's sometimes what everybody's talking about. If you've got a fifth grader, every birthday party, every parking lot conversation, you know, is about what are you gonna do? What are you gonna do for middle school? What's coming next. And so, you know, it's really not even about parents having to go seek other people's opinions. They're going to get, they're gonna hear other people's opinions. It's just happen. It's but we just want parents to put it in perspective that those people don't know your child, the way, you know, your child and parents like to call us the experts. But we always tell them that they are the experts in their child and no one else can take the place of, of what they know about their child.

Stephanie Landis (22:53):

I think that's, I think that's beautiful. I mean, thinking back to it, when my oldest was in, in pre-K, even in September of her pre-K year, every birthday party, every classroom get together, that's all the moms talked about, or sometimes the dads. And I remember the first birthday party that we were all talking about that and my husband walked over and he was like, I don't understand why it's a question. Like, we're just gonna go to the school. And I was like, oh honey, he has no idea. And we did go a slightly different route nine out of the 12 kids, all moved on to one school and my daughter went to the other and there were quite a few times where I had to just smile and be like, well, this is what's gonna work for our family. And, and I wish you all the best that we got some looks, but it's, it's hard to stand in that decision.

Dee Dee Halpin (23:40):

I've had that exact experience.

Stephanie Landis (23:43):

I'm standing in it right now. And I'm, I'm actually the other side. Not, not so confident. I don't know, I haven's confidently made my decision yet when I do, I'll be confident. I haven't yet.

Dee Dee Halpin (23:57):

I have been counseling Julie all along,

Stephanie Landis (24:00):

And I do this for a living. So it's complicated, especially when it's your own child, or, you know, most, most certainly when it's your own child.

Meredith Kremmel (24:09):

I love when you said, you know, you are the expert in your child, which is absolutely true. And you know, the way that I look at the admissions process working as an admissions director is, you know, you're the expert in your child and I'm the expert in the parish school. And together we can make this decision on whether or not we think this is the right place for your child, if either party does not think that it's the right place, then it, it probably is not the right place. But again, hard to hard to keep that in mind, as you're going through this with your own child, you know, nobody wants to feel quote unquote rejected, but that's what it feels like. And even if it is in the best interest of the child, it does feel like that

Dee Dee Halpin (24:44):

It does,

Meredith Kremmel (24:46):

Especially when you're looking into therapeutic programs, which is a whole nother layer. And we're just so fortunate in Houston have so many options. And some of us do some of the same things or have some overlap. So I'm really thankful. There's a place like you guys who can help guide families because sometimes the differences between programs can be so nuanced. And if you don't know education or you don't know special education it's very hard to understand why one school would be a better fit for your child than another

Julie Blumberg (25:13):

Well, and it's so interesting. And I, I went through this with a very dear dear friend, not even a client who really wanted one school, really wanted one school. And the school said, you know, we're not the best fit for you. Right, right now. And so I, you know, as a friend helped her towards another school and she won't leave, like she could not be happier. It was meant to be. And that's just really what we try to, you know, tell our clients that school was doing you a favor. You know, he was gonna be the oldest by almost a year with all these young children. And that wouldn't have been a good environment from him for him. But Hey, had he been applying the next year, it might have been the perfect class and you just don't know, but you take the information that you have right now. You take what's happening in the school right then and there. And it, it really does work out. I know earlier Dee Dee said, you, you tell the school, thank you almost if, if they say it's not gonna work, because if they don't think they're the right fit for you, or you don't think you're the right fit for them, then you're doing the child of favor in the end, as hard as it may feel at the time,

Stephanie Landis (26:20):

It's almost like dating.

Julie Blumberg (26:22):


Stephanie Landis (26:23):

And it is,

Dee Dee Halpin (26:24):

It is matchmaking. Yeah.

Stephanie Landis (26:27):

And I really, like you said that sometimes we hear this from parents from time to time, especially Meredith when she's giving tours, but sometimes families just come through our campus and they either get a feeling of like, yes, this is a place where we belong. Or like, mm, no, I don't know. It just, my child doesn't look like they fit and we've even heard it from students more so in the elementary side, but even some in the early childhood that like, after they've come and visit for two days, they've been like, like, that's where I wanna go. Or like, I don't wanna go back to that other school. Or, you know, I think that having, if there's a school that has an option of doing a visit, like kids just, just really know, I've spent a few years working in the elementary with kids who were getting ready to transition out because of age and other things. And they go and visit and they come back and it's so telling, like we talk to them about their experiences and they can tell which schools that they really enjoyed being in and which ones they were like, I don't wanna go to that one. Or I really like that one and, and talking about it. So I love that with your older kids, you, you bring in the kids and get their input and their, their side of it too, because kids are intuitive

Dee Dee Halpin (27:42):

And there's a lot more than, than just academics that goes into whether a school fits for a child. So socially, you know, do they feel comfortable there? Is if they are mu into music, is there any kind of music offered? If they're an athlete, you know, can they find their niche in their, you know, their place in the school socially? So the, the school is already has a leg up in terms of this child really wanting to be there. And then they're more willing to put in the work to do the academics. So there there's so many pieces to it. And, we do think that older children have a, you know, have a real good sense of what they need. They may not have a sense of what they need academically, but they do have a sense of what they need socially.

Julie Blumberg (28:30):

A and, and we tell parents to listen to that. It is important, but ultimately it is the parents making the decision. Because you know, they can go on those visits and see the really cool snack bar and that's the school they wanna go to. Right. But

Dee Dee Halpin (28:45):

We know on tours that the playground can have a lot to do with what a younger child wants. So

Meredith Kremmel (28:52):

Absolutely the two recesses a day at The Parish School are always a selling point for my elementary visitors. They're always so excited about that. A little bit of a, a change of topic, but do you guys run into the issue of having families come to you where they're trying to place two different children with very different needs and how do you support families with that decision to come to? You might have two different schools for two different children or three different children.

Julie Blumberg (29:16):

Sure, sure.

Dee Dee Halpin (29:17):

We actually focus our search on the individual child. So if a family, say a, family's moving here. I mean we've had families move here with four and five children. We look at each individual child and do a separate search for them and where those things can dovetail and work together. We know that it's easier for families. I very rarely had my three children in the same school because they were far apart in age. So, you know, I had preschool, elementary and middle school and you know, so on. And they also, by the time they got older, had very different interests and some of them had different needs. So we were, we tried a lot of different schools. I kind of say, I've seen 'em all because I've been had children and all of them, not really true, but in a lot more than, you know, most families would expect, but we, we work with families to identify a school for a child and we let them know that that's our philosophy, even though we know, although we know that it is easier for families, if they're putting all of their resources into one school.

Julie Blumberg (30:28):

And, and I think that's sometimes when families do turn to us because they have all their kids in one school, it's not working, it worked beautifully for one, it's not working for another. And there just really is no better feeling than having your child in that right school. Even if it means placing them in different schools from their siblings, we're just really lucky in Houston to have so many different therapeutic schools like The Parish School. And some of these therapeutic schools have really narrow definitions of the population of learners they serve and then others have a much broader definition. And so, you know, it, it really depends on each child of where they're gonna fit in that puzzle. But yeah, we definitely support the, if needed of having siblings at different schools.

Meredith Kremmel (31:16):

Yeah. I know that can be really hard for families, especially when they're going down the, the path of, of a therapeutic school for one of their children and you know, that kind of vision and dream they had of having all their children at their local elementary school is, is not really panning out the way that they expected. So I'm glad that there's support for that as well. If, if they're using someone like you guys to help guide them.

Stephanie Landis (31:38):

And the reality of all of the time spent in Houston traffic,

Dee Dee Halpin (31:41):

They really are logistics. I, I mean there, and sometimes, sometimes it's not just a distance, but it's cost. You know, there, there's just a lot of things that affect these, these decisions. And you know, we do ask families to let us know what their parameters are. And we often have families say they want a school they can walk to. And we talk about how in Houston, there's maybe one school that your child could walk to. You know, other, other families will come to us in other, you know, coming from other places where they had to drive for an hour to get to school. So a 20 minute drive is no big deal to them. So, you know, we do talk about all of those real nitty gritty, you know, parts of the decision making process. But we also tell families if you knew your child's right school was 30 minutes away and the wrong school was 10 minutes away. That 20 minute extra 20 minutes will be worth it. And we, we can assure them of that.

Stephanie Landis (32:47):

When a person is then going on these tours of the schools that you've sent them on, do you guys give them a list of specific questions or what do you have them ask the schools during the tours?

Julie Blumberg (32:58):

So we do kind of have a guide to school tours that we will send to families if they're, you know, asking for it. But you know, most schools arrange for regularly scheduled group tours. So we want families to take advantage of these group tours by all means because you can get other parents' perspectives. You might ask, they might, I'd ask a question that you hadn't thought about and that's really helpful. But we do remind families that a group tour is not the time to ask about a child's specific needs. So, you know, if an individual tour cannot be arranged, we do recommend to our families that they set up an individual tour for a different time or a conversation in a follow up visit. And they can be open and honest and transparent about their own child's needs, abilities, interests, but in either setting, individual or group you wanna ask about the school's curriculum, you wanna know about their approach to learning their behavior policies, any special offerings or classes the school has services that they offer. Is there a lunch program, before or after care for many children it's important to note if they have a counselor or therapy services extracurriculars or activities of interest to your child, clubs it just really depends what's important to you, your family and your child.

Stephanie Landis (34:24):

Those are great. That's good that you give the them like guided questions that will help them seek through like, you know, even if they don't plan on using some sort of service for now, like, as we've said a few times, you just never know what the future is gonna hold

Dee Dee Halpin (34:39):

And that it's really true. Yeah.

Julie Blumberg (34:41):

We, and we tell parents to be honest. I mean the, the group tour is probably not the time to be honest about your child and you know, that's what we say. Don't speak all their secrets on that, that tour, you know, they don't, no one else wants to hear it, but be honest and be open about your child and their needs so that that decision can be made of if it's right for your family. And if the, the school thinks, see your family's right for them. So

Dee Dee Halpin (35:04):

Yeah, we do get asked a lot how much to share and what to share. And, you know, we tell parents they have to be comfortable with what they share. So a lot of schools will ask for the report, you know, of an evaluation report. It usually has a section of a small history, you know, child's history and to just, you know, to share as much as they're comfortable sharing.

Stephanie Landis (35:28):

I think that's the hardest part. And as a parent too, and we know that I've talked to parents that sometimes they're like, well, I didn't wanna share that because I didn't wanna to skew your view of the child, or I didn't wanna share this because of these reasons. And as a parent, I, I get that guardedness, I mean, it's your, your child, your heart, and you want what's best for them, but I appreciate so much that you encourage them to be open and honest as possible because that's how you can get the best fit for your particular child in the right now. And I recognize that it's hard, but it seems like, you know, you're encouraging of parents to be open and honest and have an open mind is really like the best advice we could give parents as they're going through walking through and navigating school choices and options.

Dee Dee Halpin (36:19):


Stephanie Landis (36:21):

All right.

Meredith Kremmel (36:23):

Well, thank you guys so much for, for joining us and sharing all this information. I think Stephanie, you wanna ask your very last question.

Stephanie Landis (36:30):

Sure. And both of you can answer, or you could pick one, but at the end of every podcast, we ask our guest, if they had one piece of advice, what would they give? You've given so much advice already. So it can be on this topic or it could be just like general life advice. You know, my favorite is always listen to your mother, but if you had one piece of advice, what would you give? I have two. So do you, you give yours first and then I'll

Dee Dee Halpin (36:56):

Well, I, I, they might be the same, but I was going to say, at least one is to choose a school where it feels like home, where you're comfortable and your child will be comfortable.

Julie Blumberg (37:09):

And I'll say, remember that this is not a life path. This is a right now path. So make the decision that feels right for right now. And man, nothing is more relevant than, than right now in life with all of the changes that keep happening of like, well, this is our decision right now.

Dee Dee Halpin (37:29):

We're in right now.

Stephanie Landis (37:30):

Yeah. And tomorrow it'll be totally different. Yes. We'll have new information tomorrow. Well, I appreciate you. Guys' time and expertise so much. And I appreciate what you're doing for families out there in Houston, I think it's a wonderful, wonderful thing you're doing.

Dee Dee Halpin (37:47):

Thank you. We love what we do.

Julie Blumberg (37:49):

Yeah. Thank you guys.

Meredith Kremmel (37:54):

Thank you for listening to the Unbabbled podcast. For more information on today's episode, please see our episode description for more information on The Parish School, visit If you're not already, don't forget to subscribe to the Unbabbled podcast on your app of choice. And if you like what you're hearing, be sure to leave a rating and review a special thank you to Stig Daniels, Amanda Arnold and Stella Limwell for all their hard work behind the scenes. Thanks again for listening.