A Tale of Two Sisters
Grads Sydney and Isabelle Meyer tell their story as Alumni of The Children's School
Websites, tours and pamphlets can tell you about The Children's School, but when you meet our alumni, you'll see why we're so proud of what we do.
Sydney Meyer 5th grade graduating class of '13 on the left, and sister Isabelle Meyer, class of '11 on the right
Meet Sydney Meyer
Sydney Meyer attended The Children's School (TCS) from first through fifth grade, graduating before our middle school program opened. She went directly into Julian Middle School, a large public school, and is now a senior at Oak Park River Forest High School.
"When I first started at Julian, I was definitely very scared coming from a class of eleven to classes that had 20 or more kids, she remembers. In academics, I definitely think in writing, reading, and talking about literature, I was well above the others in my class. It's still helping me out today. I'm so grateful."
Sydney is also grateful for life skills she feels she gained at The Children's School. I think learning the value of hard work is something that was cemented into us at TCS, and learning how to set goals. Around conference time we would sit down with our teacher and go through what we'd been working on and to set personal academic and social goals. A lot of people don't establish that routine of setting goals early on, and that's something that stuck with me through my educational career. It helps me stay in the moment and do what is helpful to me.
"Socially, TCS taught me how to be inclusive and accept everybody and how to be a good solid person," she says. "I remember in first grade we studied the Titanic and built our own version of the Titanic in the cubby room. My friend and I were the waitress and the chef, and we journaled about what it was like to be our characters on the ship. When the ship sank, our two friends who were supposed to die in the event didn't want to drown, so we let them on the lifeboats. That's TCS in a nutshell. We can learn while we're doing all these projects, but also take time to bend the rules includes everyone and have fun while we do it."
"My time at TCS taught me how to be a good friend to people and support people: how to put myself out there and be confident in who I am. I'm still in touch with so many people in my class. We had such a great bond as classmates. We studied so much of what we were interested in and it kept us engaged."
"The things that really stuck with me are all the projects we did," says Sydney. "They aren't what you'd experience in public school setting. In second grade we studied medieval times and built a castle out of cardboard. We created a short film where we all dressed up and had food from that time period. We also built this teepee that reached all the way to the ceiling and the whole class could fit into it. When we studied Alcatraz, we did math by figuring out how many cells we'd need and then spent the day as inmates in Alcatraz."
After she graduates from high school, Sydney plans to major in theater education in college. "My goal is to teach theater to kids no older than middle school and possibly use it as a form of therapy for kids with special needs. I'd love performing if the opportunity ever presented itself to do theater professionally."
Theater is one of Sydney's passions. Over the summer, she did a theater-intensive program at the New School in New York. Last year she was a featured dancer in the musical Mary Poppins, as well as an assistant stage manager and assistant director of Oak Park River Forest High School's student-directed productions in Black Box Theater Studio 200. Outside of school, she works for The Actors Garden, a professional theater workshop for kids. There, she's been a summer camp counselor and also assists with classes for both elementary school and high school students.
In addition to her theater interests, she is also a member of the high school show choir and participates in "Best Buddies," a program that connects high school students with special needs students. She plays flute in the high school band every day and plays piano as well.
What's Sydney's advice to other TCS kids worried about the transition to high school? "Know that you have the tools from TCS to succeed. In a lot of cases you are far ahead of other people, so know that you can do it. High school is not as scary as you might think. Everybody gets through it. Find what you're passionate about. TCS is a great place to get in touch with that."
UPDATE ON SIDNEY:
In 2022, Sydney graduated Magna Cum Laude from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in theatre arts and child studies. She was very active at SCU, where she acted in, stage managed and directed multiple plays, sang in an a cappella group, was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, was a peer educator and freshman seminar leader, played intramural soccer, and served as a SCU Student Ambassador. She was accepted into Alpha Sigma Nu (Jesuit Honor Society), Kappa Delta Pi (Education Honor Society) and Alpha Psi Omega (Theatre Honor Society).
After graduation, Sydney arranged to spend a year of service in Boston through the Jesuit Volunteer, teaching 5th and 6th grade students in a dual language public school. Ultimately, she plans to teach Kindergarten after attending graduate school.
Meet Isabelle Meyer
Isabelle Meyer, like her sister, Sydney, attended The Children's School (TCS) from Kindergarten through 5th grade. She is currently a sophomore at Oak Park River Forest High School.
"When I transitioned to Julian Middle School in 6th grade, I was definitely a little scared, to say the least. I was nervous about how many more kids were going to be there, as well as the different learning environment -- especially the tests!" says Isabelle.
"For the most part, though, I felt socially prepared. It took me a little while to get used to the size, but TCS gave me a lot of skills in making new friends and finding people I had common interests with. I had all the academic skills I needed and very rarely felt behind my other classmates, but it was definitely an adjustment to get used to taking tests."
Isabelle Meyer (center), and two classmates enjoy their tea house
in a class project on Japaen
When she remembers TCS, one particular project stands out. "One of my favorite memories from TCS is from second grade when my class decided we wanted to study Japan," she recalls. "We built a life-sized Japanese tea house in our classroom, we sewed our own kimonos, we made clay tea bowls, and we had a Japanese-style tea party. At the tea party, we all presented something that we had studied individually, and then we just ate Japanese tea cakes and drank tea. It was one of my favorite projects."
"Another favorite memory is playing 'capture the flag' or kickball at recess. About half of the kids would gather at recess every single day to play one of the two games: kickball if the infield wasn't too muddy, and 'capture the flag' if it was. I loved getting to run around with everybody from all grades, and it really felt like a community event. It was always one of the best parts of my day."
What benefits did Isabelle take away from a progressive education? "Academically, I definitely attribute nearly all of my writing skills to TCS. I have always felt confident in my writing because of the amount of it -- creative and otherwise -- we did at TCS"
"I also think TCS has helped me be more adaptive, both in school and in life," she reflects. "The way we learned at TCS showed me how many ways there are to study different topics. I have taken that knowledge into the rest of my academic career by being able to recognize when I need to approach something differently in order to make it work for me. Whenever I am not understanding a topic or lesson, I always look for other ways I could go about it. I got that versatility from TCS."
"TCS has helped me most in my social skills. I feel very comfortable talking to new people and making new friends, and I know that came primarily from the focus on the social-emotional aspect of learning at TCS.?"
Isabelle's advice to other kids getting ready to change schools is to not be scared, and to "Just go for it. It will be easier and a lot more fun if you put yourself out there and find your niche. Moving to a new school environment can be very intimidating, and it's a lot better when you find something at the school that you're passionate about. It's also a great way to make friends with similar interests." Since leaving TCS, Isabelle has found her niche in music and theater. "I play two instruments, sing, and participate in as many school plays as I can. I have been taking band in school since I left, and I have also participated in an all-state band twice. I am also in show choir, which is a combination of dancing and singing."
"Once I graduate high school, I would like to go to college to study theater performance. I would love to be a full-time actress at some point. If that doesn't work out, however, I would also really like to be an English teacher."
We're proud of Isabelle, and even more proud of her words of wisdom in summing up the value of a progressive education: "TCS really gave me a love for learning, and if you can instill that in someone at a young age, they are going to be better off for the rest of their life."