Boarding school life: What are the advantages and how do I prepare my child?

Q&A with Mehgan Dorman, Residential Life Academic Coordinator, North Broward Preparatory School

Q: How will boarding school and life away from home benefit my child?

A:  Providing your child with a boarding school education has many advantages. For example, most boarding schools have small class sizes and very personalized learning approaches in the classroom, which allows students more one-on-one time with their teachers and classmates.

In addition, learning to live away from home at an early age gives students a real sense of independence, not only in the classroom and dorm, but in everyday life. For example, North Broward Preparatory School has students from over 35 different countries and with such diversity in the dorm, boarding students are exposed to different cultures, languages, and ways of life. As a result, boarding students tend to be more prepared emotionally for their college experience than their day student counterparts. 

Q: As a first-time boarding parent, what are some things I can do to prepare my child?  

A: Time management tends to be something that new students struggle with.  While dorm parents help students adjust to new schedules and develop routines, starting at home is key. Also, while it may seem obvious, make sure your child is knowledgeable about everyday activities. For example, how to do laundry, what can or can’t go in the microwave, nutritious foods as part of an everyday diet, and managing an allowance are simple, yet important things will help with your child’s transition into boarding school life.

Q: What tips or advice do you have for new boarding students to help them feel at home?

A:  Once a student arrives, we strongly encourage him or her to join an athletic team or school club. These are great ways for students to meet new friends, become an active member of the school community and find something that they are passionate about. For parents, understand your child’s daily schedule, and create a communication routine for your family. Skype, phone calls, and emails are great tools to keep in touch and stay involved in your child’s life.

Q: How can I track my child’s academic progress?

A: A great way to keep up with your child’s academic progress is through a Student Information System (SIS). For example, at North Broward, we use an online system called Skyward, which is a password protected, web-based service that enables parents with access to vital school and student information at any time, day or night, through a computer or mobile device. Report cards, student attendance, class schedule, and messages from teachers are just a few examples of the important information parents can access.

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Summer Learning: Why Go It Alone?

As a parent, no one wants their child to move backwards academically, but keeping his or her mind sharp over the summer can be a challenging task. Even if you do have the time and the know-how to create a summer learning program, children are frequently reluctant to dive into their studies when they know they could be out playing instead.

Luckily, parents need not rely on their own resources to provide summer enrichment activities. There are plenty of external learning sources parents can tap into, and often these resources are accessible in their own neighborhoods and communities. Interested? Here are some ideas for making your child’s summer vacation a learning experience without wearing yourself out:

  • Discover Your Local Library

When was the last time you or your child darkened the doors of your local public library? If it’s been a while, it may be time to stop by, or at the very least, check out their website for information on summer programs. Many public libraries are becoming quite creative and generous in their summer offerings, going beyond the usual summer reading lists and encompassing new activities such as teen book clubs, photography classes, science demonstrations, and more.

  • Seek Out Private or Group Classes

Has your child expressed an interest in learning to play an instrument or honing his or her art skills? Professionals often offer private and/or group classes during the summer months when they know that kids will be out of school. While these types of “extracurricular” activities may not help your child retain spelling or math skills, they will keep his or her mind active while exploring a new interest.

  • Look for Tutors

If your child has been struggling in a specific academic area, you can be certain that the problem won’t correct itself over the summer. In fact, it will likely get worse unless you take some steps to help fill in the gaps before school starts again in the fall. The summer months provide the perfect opportunity for your child to catch up with the assistance of a private tutor. Educators often offer tutoring services over the summer to supplement their salaries, so look for a certified teacher in the area your child needs remediation in, and schedule a weekly or biweekly lesson.

  • Consider  a Comprehensive Program

If you feel your child needs more enrichment than a simple lesson or class can provide, consider a more structured summer program offered by an established school or university. These comprehensive programs often last a week or more and can give your child the opportunity to study a topic in depth or sharpen skills in a particular area. For instance, Meritas’ annual summer seminar, entitled Meeting the Challenges of Democracy, will provide students with the opportunity to travel abroad while studying one of the most important topics of our time. If you would prefer something more local, you may consider some of the summer programs offered by our individual schools, such as Henderson International School’s Summit Ridge Day Camp or one of the many summer enrichment opportunities hosted by Rancho Solano Private Schools. For information on all of our schools’ summer programs, visit our website and click through to each school’s individual site.

As you seek to provide your child with the stimulation he or she needs this summer, don’t feel as if you need to go it alone. Instead, keep your eyes open for learning opportunities in your local area, and choose those that best suit your child’s individual needs and interests.

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Prepping for College with Heidi Teplitz: Part One

Q&A with Heidi Teplitz, Director, College Advising, North Broward Preparatory School

Q: At what point in the college decision-making process are seniors right now?

North Broward College-Bound GradsA: May 1st was the national deadline to pay a tuition/enrollment deposit. For some students, it’s a very exciting time. For others who had a hard time choosing between one or a few colleges, it can be stressful.

Q: Once a decision has been made, what are the next steps?

A: After the student has ‘deposited,’ I would suggest the student go online to their college/university and search information for admitted students. Each college/university will have a list of things that need to be done – create a college email (all of the school’s correspondence will be done through the student’s college email), sign up and pay for freshman orientation, housing and roommate selection, and take placement tests, if necessary. Students must remember to always check their college email for important postings and information.

Q: What would you say to a student who didn’t get into their top choice?

A: I would say that sometimes, life takes you in a direction that at the time, you don’t necessarily want to go in. Some larger life lessons that can be learned is how to bounce back, persevere, and be flexible.  Many times, students in this position experience an initial feeling of disappointment, but then end up really liking their second choice. Often, they feel in hindsight that it’s where they were supposed to be all along.

Q: Do teachers typically see some plunges in classroom engagement after students have put in their acceptances?

A: Most students continue to go to class, do their homework, study for tests and finish the year strong. However, some seniors may fall a little behind in their studies in anticipation of beginning college. My advice to students who are anxiously awaiting graduation is to see the bigger picture and look beyond graduation. Graduating from high school is a huge accomplishment but it is not the end. In fact, it is only the beginning and starting college on a sour note may not be the best way to begin the next stage of your life. So I would say to all seniors to take a deep breath, get your focus back and re-align your priorities. With only a few more weeks to go, stay sharp and finish strong.

Stay tuned for our next edition of Prepping for College with Heidi Teplitz – coming out later this month.

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Essential Teaching Protocols for 21st Century Learning

By Nikki Morrell, English Teacher, Lake Mary Preparatory School

I spent a semester of college staring at a William Butler Yeats quote that my professor proudly posted on her bulletin board:  “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

Nikki MorrellOf course, I grasped the basic meaning of the phrase and thought I understood its significance, but it took me years to fully realize exactly why those few words were so important to her.

Never did I imagine how vital they would become to me as well.

In my twelve years of teaching, I’ve come to understand that education is not instructing students what to think; it is about showing them how to think.  It will never be about filling their minds with facts, but about instilling a thirst for knowledge.

At Meritas, our approach to “the lighting of a fire” is demonstrated through our four essential teaching protocols:

  • Essential Questions
  • New Vocabulary
  • Differentiation
  • High-Order Assessment

It is through use of these protocols that teachers are able to remove the focus on memorization and allow our lessons to come to life.  As a result, our students truly interact with and understand the material.

The following outlines some of the ways I incorporate the Meritas teaching protocols into my classroom:

Essential questions

I begin each unit by writing my essential questions on the board, and as the class progresses through the material, students are expected to continually respond to these questions, which have no yes or no, right or wrong, answers.

Recently, in a study of non-fiction graphic novels, students were asked to consider how historical events affect the individual and to apply their answers to our reading of Maus and Persepolis.  Another question I posted invited them to reflect on how the medium might change the impact of the story or, as in the case of Maus, the validity.

It is my hope that my essential questions will encourage students to apply what they are reading/studying to their everyday lives, to other classes, or to our study of literature as a whole.

One way that I assess each learner’s comprehension of the essential questions is by use of an “exit ticket” at the end of class.  I do this by using Socrative, a free iTunes/android app, which students download onto their smartphones or use on their computers.   The exit ticket asks three questions: 1. How well did you understand today’s material?  2.  What did you learn today?   3. Can you answer the essential question on the board?

The exit ticket requires a couple of minutes to complete, and it discloses how well my learners understood what we covered that day.  Exit tickets are a terrific way to evaluate whether my students are grasping the essential questions, understanding the vocabulary, and benefiting from differentiated instruction.

New vocabulary

While there are many ways to teach vocabulary, I prefer teaching it in context with each lesson.

One way in which I incorporate the vocabulary of literary devices and rhetorical strategies is by separating students into small groups and having them race to find as many examples as possible in a text. With this form of assessment, students are not cramming to remember vocabulary words, which they will forget the minute the quiz leaves their hands; instead, they are utilizing the words, interacting with them.

Many students struggle with new vocabulary, particularly those who are kinesthetic or visual learners. I often work with these students one-on-one or in small groups.  A simple technique that works wonders is to teach students how to create a visual representation of the word. Teaching students to create their own mnemonic devices helps them to move past the memorizing/knowledge acquisition phase faster and more successfully, so that they can move on to the higher orders of thinking. This is also a helpful differentiation strategy.


I firmly believe that most teachers differentiate, even when they are unaware of it; I attempt to make it a visible part of my courses because not only does differentiation help with student engagement, it also aids in retention of material.  There are a variety of options for differentiating English, from using a side-by-side translation of a difficult text to requiring rewrites of particularly complicated passages.

A recent example of differentiation in my classroom is a Twitter assignment I created. Each student chose a character from Hamlet, created a twitter account, and then tweeted as that character throughout the play. It is one of the most successful assignments of my career, particularly in terms of student engagement.  All four of my English IV classes, with all levels from standard and ESOL to honors, were able to interact on Twitter, and this forum allowed my students to write at their own level and pace, with more advanced learners employing a variety of rhetorical strategies.  You can read more about this assignment by visiting

High-order assessment

Most assignments given in my classes require some form of analysis, synthesis, evaluation, or creativity.  One of my favorite methods for assessing student comprehension of a text is by assigning a reaction paper. These writing assignments are primarily based on higher order reasoning, but must include textual evidence to support any idea that the student introduces.  I find that requiring quotes from the original text forces each learner to once again interact with the book or essay.

Another of my favorite activities involves student-teaching components, where I ask my students to take turns presenting sections of an assigned novel.  At the end of their short presentation, they must lead their class in a discussion of two higher order reasoning questions (which they can find on the flip chart in my room).  By the end of the first semester, the students have many of the questions from the chart memorized!

In conclusion, Meritas’s four essential protocols are not foreign concepts to most teachers. Perhaps we’ve not used the same vocabulary to describe these procedures in the past, but by giving us a “common language” for learning, Meritas is fostering an environment that will truly benefit each student.

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Helpful Tips to Prevent Summer Learning Loss for Younger Students

According to studies conducted over the past two decades, students lose an average of a month’s worth of instruction over the course of each vacation, with the most significant deficits occurring in the areas of math and spelling. Teachers often spend the first several weeks of school remediating students and re-teaching skills introduced the year before. According to a recent report issued by the RAND Corporation, summer enrichment activities have the potential to reverse this summer slide.

To combat summer learning loss, Meritas recommends that parents find creative ways to integrate learning into their children’s summer routines.

Here are a few helpful tips to prevent seasonal learning loss for younger students:

Make a Photo Album

Prevent Summer Learning LossUsing a digital camera, make a photo album and share stories with your child about the photos. Labeling the photos (online or in a scrapbook) builds vocabulary, literacy and social-emotional skills.

Explore Your Backyard

Make a science connection to the plants and insects in your backyard or community garden. These experiences use the language of measurement (compare/contrast/classify) and inspire children to graph the growth patterns of the insects and plants.

Get Creative

Have your child create a project that highlights a character or a favorite event. The project can be highlighted through writing, music, art or even a journal.

Mix in Some Math

Numbers are everywhere! Make a habit of pointing them out, and practice some spontaneous math wherever you go. Ask your child to spot numbers on a billboard. See if he or she can figure out how many days there are in a month, or compete to see who can guess the grocery bill to the nearest whole number. The possibilities are infinite!

Spell It!

Board games are a must-have staple for summer vacation. Sneak a little spelling action into your child’s play by choosing games like Scrabble or Bananagrams.

Read Out Loud . . . Together

Choose a children’s literature classic (“Aesop’s Fables,” “Tales of Mother Goose,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”) and read it aloud together. Parents often stop reading aloud to children too early. By reading aloud, we model fluency and voice, and we improve listening comprehension. It’s also a great way for parents to either reconnect with a story they loved in their youth or read a classic piece they haven’t read before.

Meritas has made it its mission to provide global, life-changing opportunities that enable each student to reach his or her highest potential. As a result, Meritas students become lifelong learners who go on to their top-choice colleges and universities. For more information about the Meritas Family of Schools, or to discover the nearest Meritas school location to you, please visit or call our team at 1-877-MERITAS (637-4827).

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Helpful Tips to Prevent Summer Learning Loss for Older Students

With the current school year nearing its end, many parents are thinking of ways to keep their children’s minds occupied during the lazy days of summer. While some students may prefer to spend those days watching television or playing video games, Meritas suggests that they invest a portion of their vacation doing activities that foster continued, enjoyable learning.

“Learning shouldn’t consist of boring worksheets and rote memorization. Learning is all around us. The key is to find something your child is genuinely interested in and build an activity around his or her natural curiosity,” said Meritas Chief Academic Officer David Hicks.

Tips to prevent seasonal learning lossTo jump-start each child’s summer learning experience, Meritas team members have unveiled a few of their favorite summer learning activities.

Here are a few helpful tips to prevent seasonal learning loss for older students:

Become a Bookworm . . . or an Expert

Start by reading Eric Greitens’ new book ” The Heart and the Fist .” Greitens used his summers to do amazing things. His book will show you how extreme summer opportunities can be.

Or, make yourself an authority on one topic, such as the novels of Anthony Trollope , the life of Theodore Roosevelt , the plays of Harold Pinter or the operas of Verdi . Choose an author and read everything he or she wrote.

Make a Movie

No, seriously! Write a screenplay, grab your video camera or iPad, and make a movie. Virtually every film director began making movies at a young age. Invite your neighborhood to view the final production on “opening night.”

Become a Beethoven

Learn to play a musical instrument. If you already play one, find a piece of music that really challenges you, something you’d love to be able to play brilliantly, and go for it. Practice hard every day. Nothing worthwhile was ever achieved without strenuous effort.

Meet Someone from a Different Culture

Whether you have the opportunity to travel abroad or simply connect with someone online, meeting someone from a different culture can be a mind-blowing experience! Talk to your new friend about how he or she spends free time. Ask him or her to share some favorite recipes with you, and try them out with your family. Return the favor, and share interesting information about your own culture as well.

Challenge Yourself Abroad

Participate in an intellectual study abroad program, such as the Meritas Seminar at Oxford University. This year’s seminar, titled “Meeting the Challenges of Democracy,” will be held July 30 through Aug. 11, 2012, and will grant students the opportunity to travel abroad while learning the principles and problems of democracy at one of the most prestigious colleges in the world. Interested parents or students can find out more about the seminar and download an application form at

Get In Touch With Your Inner Artist

Are you the next Manet or Monet? You’ll never know unless you explore your talents. Grab a canvas and some paint and create something — anything! It can be real or abstract; just go with your gut. Don’t know where to start? Study the techniques of some of your favorite artists and see if you can imitate them.

Meritas has made it its mission to provide global, life-changing opportunities that enable each student to reach his or her highest potential. As a result, Meritas students become lifelong learners who go on to their top-choice colleges and universities. For more information about the Meritas Family of Schools, or to discover the nearest Meritas school location to you, please visit or call our team at 1-877-MERITAS (637-4827).

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Visible Thinking: A Learning Technique to Ensure the Development of Critical Thinking Skills

What do you think you know about creating a culture of thinking?
What questions or puzzles do you have?
What does the topic make you want to explore?

Over 40 administrators and faculty from the Meritas Family of Schools recently gathered to answer these types of questions and dig deeply into the topic of “thinking” in education. The conference, “Creating a Culture of Thinking in Our Classrooms and Schools,” was hosted by North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Fla. The administrators explored, collaborated and reflected on thinking and learning in much the same way Meritas’ students are compelled to approach new topics in the classroom every day.

Visible Thinking

How do we know when we’re thinking? What does thinking look like? Can we, as educators, consciously improve our students’ abilities to think, and can we see improvements in their abilities and achievements?

Visible thinking is a relatively new area in education that has origins with the Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s educational research group Project Zero. Shari Tishman, Director of Project Zero, co-wrote an article that explicitly defined visible thinking:

“Visible thinking refers to any kind of observable representation that documents and supports the development of an individual’s or group’s ongoing thoughts, questions, reasons, and reflections.”

Another view of visible thinking, by Tanya Lynch, a Grade 3 teacher at North Broward Preparatory School, makes this textbook definition more tangible:

“When we ask students to make their thinking visible, what we really want them to do is take their internal thought process and present it in a tangible way that is accessible for their fellow classmates and teachers to see, interpret and utilize.”

As Ms. Lynch explained, at Meritas, we want our students to engage with material through an observable thought process to promote the development and growth of critical thinking in a nurturing environment. Through powerful visible thinking techniques, our students become more critical, creative and expansive thinkers.

Critical Thinking: A Skill All Need, Few Possess

As a recent study published in the book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” showed, there is a dearth of critical thinking skills in our current and upcoming adult workforce. The study followed 2,322 traditional-age college students, and the authors found 45 percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called higher order thinking skills.

Any inquiry into what employers seek in job candidates today always returns a laundry list of soft skills, with critical thinking at their core. A student in today’s global society must possess critical thinking skills to succeed. The earlier the technique of visible thinking is used to encourage critical thinking, the greater the effects will be on a child’s thought process development, the results of which will last a lifetime.

The Meritas Approach to Visible Thinking

At Meritas, we place student thinking at the core of our everyday instruction. Our teachers educate our students using visible thinking routines in a nurturing, yet challenging environment. They approach each lesson by asking themselves, “What are the thinking skills I want my students to take away from this lesson, and how am I going to teach this lesson in a way that helps them?”

In turn, our students explore ideas without fear of “the wrong answer” and are empowered to share their thoughts and ideas.

As educators and education enthusiasts, we should commit to engaging students in visible thinking exercises to ensure they are prepared to become productive members of society. We should worry about a generation who cannot think critically or engage in high-level thought. As an international network of 10 schools around the world, we take this matter seriously, and we believe our friends and partners in education should as well.

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“One Student at a Time” – Meritas Family of Schools featured in Education Week

Commentary featured in Education Week by Meritas Family of Schools Chief Academic Officer David Hicks regarding personalized education

personalized-educationArticle ToolsI oversee the education of more than 11,500 students in a family of 10 schools spread over three continents—North America, Europe, and Asia—but 35 years in education has taught me that there’s an irony in getting preoccupied with numbers: It’s best to forget how many students there are and focus on just one at a time.
This concentration on the individual is nothing more and nothing less than the natural goal toward which we all strive in one way or another as educators. Whether we’re in a strong economy or, as now, in an anemic one, we need to educate each student as an individual, meeting his or her specific needs to prepare for whatever academic and life challenges lie ahead.
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At Léman Manhattan Prep, Critical Thinking is Key

Leman Manhattan_2

Pre-K through 12th grade immerses students in globally charged curriculum

By Anam Baig

Léman Manhattan Preparatory School, part of the Meritas group of international private and boarding college prep schools, promises a dynamic, culturally aware education for all of its pre-kindergarten through high school students.

Formerly known as Claremont Preparatory School, it was acquired by the Meritas Family of Schools, a conglomerate of prep schools, last April. It was renamed Léman Manhattan Preparatory School after its sister schools, Collège du Léman in Switzerland and Léman International School in Chengdu, China.

Read the full article on Léman Manhattan Prep on the Our Town Downtown website.

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Meritas Family of Schools and Feeding Children Everywhere Announce Five-Year Partnership

NORTHBROOK, Ill., Jan. 19, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates 925 million people are undernourished; more people are going hungry than the populations of the U.S., Canada and the European Union combined. More alarming, FAO reports, “Every five seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases.”

Recognizing the scope of this global issue, The Meritas Family of Schools and Feeding Children Everywhere today announced a five-year partnership in an effort to help put an end to worldwide hunger. The Meritas family includes 10 internationally recognized K–12 independent schools that collectively educate more than 12,000 students in Europe, Asia, Latin America and North America. Feeding Children Everywhere (FCE) is a nonprofit organization that empowers and mobilizes people from all walks of life to help meet one of our basic human needs: food.

Over the next five years, Meritas students at each school are committed to raising funds and participating in packing events that will create and deliver millions of meals to hungry children in the U.S. and in different regions around the world.

“At our network of global schools, our students have the unique ability to collaborate and help children in need with a larger impact than any single school can, which is very exciting,” says Mac Gamse, CEO of Meritas Family of Schools. “Community service is an integral part of our students’ experience and we feel a responsibility to set our students on a path to becoming compassionate global citizens.”

Students will also have additional opportunities to be involved with FCE. They can distribute FCE donation boxes, collaborate with faculty to create other school-specific fundraising and educational initiatives, and purchase FCE apparel. The FCE team will travel to each location to direct the packing events, and the food boxes will be sent to the school’s country of choice.

“We could not be more thrilled to work with Meritas students and families,” adds Don Campbell, executive director of Feeding Children Everywhere. “Meritas is doing so much more than a fundraiser for our charity. They — the students, teachers, administration and families — are putting their hands to the plow. In other words, people become the bridge between donations and the children they reach. Together, we are Feeding Children Everywhere.”



Meritas is a worldwide family of college-preparatory schools that provides highly personalized education to more than 12,000 students at our 10 schools across the globe. Meritas schools are comprised of top-performing teachers who challenge each child to make optimal progress, both academically and socially. As a result, Meritas students go on to their top-choice universities with the critical-thinking and complex problem-solving skills needed to excel in life. As a collaborative global network with schools in some of the world’s most influential nations, Meritas is focused on developing the world’s next generation of leaders. For more information, visit


Feeding Children Everywhere (FCE) is a nonprofit organization based in Orlando, Fla. The FCE concept was launched in 2009. The driving mission is to mobilize individuals from all walks of life, empowering them to answer the need to end hunger through their own personal actions. Packing events show fundraising groups that they are having a tangible impact on the hunger crisis, as their involvement makes distribution possible. The food is provided at no cost to local organizations in the U.S. and in different regions around the world. To date, the FCE team has mobilized 30,000 people and shipped more than 5 million meals worldwide. Please to learn more.


Allison Grenesko, Meritas Family of Schools

Don Campbell, Feeding Children Everywhere

This information was brought to you by Cision,c9209209

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