Topanga Mountain School

knowledge naturally

A unique and innovative program that provides for a solid academic foundation in core subjects, inspires a love of learning and cultivates compassionate, well-rounded citizens.

Mountain Mail: 1/8/19

Hi everyone – we’re back!!

I hope that everyone had a restorative winter break. This year the theme for many seemed to be to keep things simple, including myself. My time was spent relaxing at home with a brief four day Christmas celebration in San Francisco. I have reached that wonderful (st)age where I am now hosted by my own children and get to experience, once again, the joy of a Christmas with small (grand)children still full of believe and wonder.

Art Show and End of Year Party

Our own end of the year TMS celebration and the Art Show set the stage wonderfully for this joyous holiday season. It was such a pleasure to come together as a community, something we have had little chance to do this year. The students created an inspiring art show/workshop. Thank you Kristine for, as always, elevating and generating real conversation and action around the medium, as well as providing the space and guidance for the children to produce such stunning thoughtful art.

Thanks to all of you for bringing great food and great energy. Thanks to Lori Mellman for always making sure the party happens and shepherding us all along.  Special thanks to Geoff Seelinger and John Coy for supporting Kristine in curating the show. Thanks to Lise Lauer for making the place look so festive and to Angela Lindvall for helping her with the set up. Thanks to Cindy Hitchcock and Bobby Espinoza for always cleaning up and making the end of the day an easy one for us, and once again to Geoff for staying with me to the bitter end.  And thanks of course to Liz who is there through out making sure it all gets done.

Finally, the biggest gratitude to all of you for honoring the work the staff has done this year with your kind words and your incredibly generous gifts. Thank you, thank you.


2019!! Happy New Year!!

It has been great to get back to school. This two weeks leading up to our trip to Big Bear the students are engaged in a special unit on Awareness and Navigation. I hope you have all had a chance to check out the booklet for the unit. The children are spending a great deal of time outside and are off campus most days doing field work relating to what they have been learning in the classroom.  

Tomorrow, Wednesday will be a full day hike (Calabasas Peak)

as will Friday (Stage Coach Trail, Simi Valley).

Please make sure your child has a couple of full water bottles, snacks, a good packed lunch and of course appropriate footwear and clothing for both days.

Drop off and pick up all week is at school at 8:15 and 3:30 respectively (regular carpools).

Here are some photos from our first week back….

Big Bear Winter Retreat!

On Wednesday the 16th we will head off on our adventure in the snow – and there will be a ton of it!!

This is a very different kind of trip for us. Instead of rolling out our vans we rent a bus to take us collectively, instead of sleeping in the open air we stay in warm cozy cabins and instead of cooking all our own food we get fabulously well fed by the staff at Alpine Meadows.

We spend our time playing in the snow, sledding, building snowmen, having snowball fights and we get to adventure on a rock climbing and high ropes course. In the evenings we gather around the fire playing games. All of this made even more exciting when done in exquisite flurries of snow. Truly a magical trip.

Please make sure your child comes well equipped to enjoy the snow. Being dry and warm makes all the difference. Water proof pants and boots are essential.

I know not everyone has all the gear – but maybe we could help each other out? If you have items to share I would love to hear from you. If you desperately need something let me know. Hopefully I can do some match making.

All the information for the trip can be found here.

Letter with cost and logistics.

A packing list.

Release - Please sign and return

Mark Your Calendar:

Thursday Jan 9th Director’s Tea – Room 10. Please RSVP

Sunday February 3rd Monthly Community Hike. Nike Missile Hike, Reseda

Monday 21st – NO SCHOOL Martin Luther King Jr Day.

Other things to know….

No Study Hall next Tuesday.

Check out the video on the “Our School” page of the website.

Mountain Mail: 12/17/18

Dear Friends,

Here we are in the last school days of the calendar year. Despite all the challenges of this last month we made it! As this year comes to a close another year full of its own adventures will be waiting for us! Bring it on 2019!!

My last epic Mountain Mail never made it to the page and instead this photo heavy montage will tell the story. I am looking forward to seeing you all Wednesday where I can thank you all in person for all you do.

Wednesday - our last day of school for 2018!!

During the day student will be at campus full of festive spirit. There is no mesa so regular times and school carpool hours apply for Topanga.

Gift Exchange ~ Students will also exchange gifts. Please make sure your child remembers to bring theirs so everyone has one. Presents should be wrapped and then placed in plain old bags so we can't see who shows up with which. Remind your child not to write their your own name on the gift. A huge part of the fun is guessing who brought it for you!!

Wednesday evening: Art Show and Holiday Party ~ 6pm onwards

Canoga Park Youth Art Center ~ 7222 Remmet Avenue, Canoga Park. 

I hope you all have received the Potluck Sign-up Genius from Lori and have added your name. The art show and party is a lovely way to round out the calendar year. So looking forward to seeing everyone there.

Winter Break: Thurs Dec. 19th - Wed Jan. 2nd.

School resumes Thursday January 3rd.

The last couple of weeks in photos…..

Friday: Hammer Museum and The Fowler!

Plenty of rainy lunch time fun - inside and outside!! Jumping in puddles, dancing in the rain, board games, cards and puzzles!!

Delicious food - a perfect lunch for warming hearts and feeding bodies!!

Community Potluck - such a great time!!

So grateful for such GENEROSITY.

Thank you for your gifts to give back and your spirit to uplift.

Final Wednesday on the Mesa - Toasting with our mugs we made in ceramics

Final friday: annenberg space for photography

Well candid TMS photo taking wasn’t happening at this exhibit - but everyone took a photo kissing their favorite animal. Ask your child to show you theirs - they all sent them to their gmails. We’ll finish off with a picture of our lovely Liz and a hippo!

Mountain Mail: 12/4/18

Hi Everyone,

Happy Hanukkah to our celebrants. I hope the flames of the holiday are shining brightly for you and continue to shed even greater brilliance as the week unfolds.

Today we got in the spirit at school as Deborah had prepared a delicious, traditional Hanukkah feast. Thanks to her and Wendy Hecht (Aubrey’s mom) for the festive repast!!

Today we also had prospective parents visit the school for an open house. More thanks are in order to our parents who made sure we had great refreshments on hand - thank you to Kathy (Trevor’s mom) and Caitlin (Will’s mom). And to those parent’s who came to talk about their TMS experience - thanks again to Caitlin, Geoff (Gwyneth’s dad), Cindy (Max’s mom) and Laurel (Finn’s mom). It is always inspiring to share what we do at TMS with others and especially to hear our teacher’s so eloquently explain the richness of the program.

This upcoming week we are preparing for more weather! The rain has already brought a lushness that has transformed our local hills. Thankfully, last week the students were able to fit in a hike to Eagle Rock and enjoy the beauty that only this time of year can bring. Here are some photos of the day.

We also started this week with our 5K. Not too many images but a few to mark the occasion!

And some of sports on the field and art on the patio thrown in for good measure!!


Wednesday - tomorrow - Rain stops play.
We are canceling our classes on the mesa, all except Ceramics which we will transport the students to from school, one class at a time.

All students should come to school for 8:15am start. Regular weekly carpool times apply.

Friday - The Hammer Museum, UCLA and The Fowler

Packed lunch, snacks, water bottle and appropriate attire needed.

Drop off and pick up at school normal times.

Saturday - Please come!!!!




TMS - SATURDAY DECEMBER 8TH - 11:30 - 2:30

Bring something to share and we’ll supply the plates, cups and utensils Main dishes, desserts and drinks needed. Lets see if we can do this without a sign up. Simple and easy.

We’ll throw in some music and games and enjoy each other’s company.

We also ask that you bring something to donate to a family in need. New or lightly used: a toy for Christmas or Hanukah, toiletries. clothes, shoes….

RSVP to appreciated.


Student Gift Exchange

Your child may have come home taking about “Secret Santa” and you may be wondering what this is all about! On our last school day of the calendar year we traditionally celebrate with a gift exchange. (Once again apology for the moniker - still waiting for suggestions for a good alternative!) 

In this gift exchange students secretly pull each other’s names from a bag and then gift that particular student. Gifts can be homemade or bought but there is a $15 limit and it is more about the thought and effort that goes into it than anything else.  They should know who they are gifting tomorrow - please help them keep it a secret, its the best part of the fun!!

Friday 14th - Annenberg Space for Photography

Always such a treat to go to their exhibits - this time National Geographic’s PhotoArk.

Wednesday 19th - Art Show and Holiday Party

Canoga Park Youth Arts Center 6pm - 10pm. Such a great way to celebrate before we all head in different directions for the holidays.

Winter Break

Thursday December 20th - Wednesday January 2nd - school resumes Thursday January 3rd.

Hawaii Vacation Photos and Information

Here are some photos of the main house and the bay. I don’t have any interior of the studio but it is the tall house on the beach to the right in the last photo. If I get any I will upload here and let you know.

The main house sleeps a maximum of six plus a child under 4. The studio sleeps two adults (not recommended for small children). The walking distance between the two properties is five minutes. There is a golf cart at the main house. The main house also has a pool.

There is a cleaning fee.

As of right now both properties combined are available from mid July through the end August.

If you wanted to add additional days that is possible through owner.

Let me know if you have other questions.

Mountain Mail: 11/27/18

Hi everyone,

How strange a break this has been from regular Mountain Mails. It is good to be back to a Tuesday with no drama.

I hope everyone still managed to have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you have now found your way back into a normal rhythm.

I do know we still have two of our immediate community that are displaced. Marcelle is staying at her inlaws and looking at options for the future. Eden’s mother’s house in Malibu is also badly smoke and ash damaged and they cannot return home. This has been way too long for anyone to stay in hotel - rockstars notwithstanding :) We wish both families godspeed for a positive conclusion.

It was such a pleasure to connect with so many of you at Parent Conferences. Thank you for sharing your wonderful children with us. It is easy to see why they are so great when we get to sit down with you!

A special shout out to Deborah Ackrich who made a feast of feasts for the entire staff on the Tuesday of conferences. It was so deeply appreciated. Thank you!

Upcoming event

We know that there are many struggling in the aftermath of the fires and we wanted to do something where we could come together in an attitude of thanks and to find a way to help those less fortunate.

To that end we have decided to combine all our cancelled events into one. So please join - along with alumni families - for a TMS Harvest Festival, Community Hike, Mesa Picnic alternative!!!




TMS - Saturday December 8th - 11:30 - 2:30

Bring something to share and we’ll supply the plates, cups and utensils

Main dishes, desserts and drinks needed. Lets see if we can do this without a sign up. Simple and easy. We’ll throw in some music and games and enjoy each other’s company.

We also ask that you bring something to donate to a family in need. New or lightly used: a toy for Christmas or Hanukah, toiletries. clothes, shoes….

RSVP to appreciated.

Before we move into the coming week here are a few photographs from the last field trip before chaos ensued. TMS students enjoying the wonderful California African American Museum.

Coming Up - this week

Wednesday - Tomorrow

Back on the Mesa - business as usual!

Friday - Eagle Rock hike

Students will be starting their day at school so please drop off at the regular time (carpools as usual).

Mid morning we will be leaving for Topanga and taking a hike from Trippet Ranch to Eagle Rock. Students will need a packed lunch and water bottles, as well as appropriate footwear.

Pick up at end of day at either Trippet Ranch at 3:15pm or back at school at 3:30pm.

Coming Up - next week and beyond

Tuesday December 4th - Prospective Parent Orientation 9:30am

Please let me know if you are interested in attending and sharing your experience at TMS.

Wednesday December 19th - Art Show and Holiday Party

Canoga Park Youth Arts Center 6pm - 10pm Please mark your calendars. Our Annual art show and party is s wonderful opportunity to gather together and celebrate your children and the season!

Winter Break

Thursday December 20th - Wednesday January 2nd - school resume Thursday January 3rd

Other Happenings

Wednesday - Tomorrow 6pm - 9pm

Fusion Academy Woodland Hills has a screening of LIKE - a documentary about the impact of social media on our lives. Could be Illuminating! Check it out.

Mountain Mail: 11/6/18

Dear Friends,

The election is behind us - now the work begins! With love and consideration I am sure we will see positive movement; I am grateful for all those who make that hope possible.

This last week also saw good things happening at TMS! Last Friday our students visited the Marciano Center checking out art installations, on Sunday we had a lovely turn out at our second community hike, and on Tuesday students went to see The Hate U Give as a culmination of their reading. It is always good to see the counterpoint of book to movie adaptation - especially after you’ve finished the book!

Photos of all the happenings this week are below. BUT FIRST…


I am heading out of town again tomorrow (there will be no Director’s Tea on Thursday) but I will still be working away on our Harvest Festival.

There is much to do - and very little time. WE NEED YOU.

Thank you to all our wonderful generous sponsors and to those who have already signed up - but unfortunately there are huge swaths of jobs that need doing, and that no one has signed up for. Look for your sign up genius from Lori Mellman and add your name. Don’t get stuck with the worst jobs - everyone will need to do something!

The Harvest Festival is a great way for you to fulfill your required 20 hours of volunteerism before time is up at the end of this calendar year.


If you can’t make the event there are many other ways to support and volunteer. We thank you for recognizing what is needed for this little school to pull off these big happenings.

Fun things to whet you Harvest Festival appetite - just a taster - lots more fun

Our Musicians: Highway 27 Blues Band, East of Lincoln, and acoustic set by Selena Moon.

Salad in a jar, hair braiding, silk screens, button making, face painting

Pie Eating contest, Cake Walk

Lola Babalon, tarot readings

Children’s play area, and Watering Hole Cafe

Bouncy, slide and dunk tank…




These are fabulous gifts - huge thanks to Wendy Rissman and Shannon Meyers for their generosity. Look out for details coming in a separate email.

And finally,


Clothing Swap:

Our 8th grade run our clothing swap. It is a great way to clean out your wardrobe and maybe even find that perfect new item!

Clothes are displayed and anyone can take anything.

You can leave your items (clean and not torn) in bags by the back gate up to next Friday’s cut off date.

Nevada has designed and drawn this beautiful poster to inspire you to participate. Thank you Nevada!



Here are some photos from last week




Mountain Mail: 10/31/18

Happy Halloween!

It is hard to believe that just a week ago we were deep in the quiet and beauty of Montana de Oro, immersed in nature. The surrounding beaches, sand dunes, bays, hills and trails are all part of the magical moments that this trip never fails to deliver. Though it was a little colder than in past years, I think we all enjoyed the respite from the dry heat of Woodland Hills.

With out fail we come home from this trip particularly dirty! It does give the children fresh appreciation for the comforts of a shower, flushable toilets and of course their luxurious beds. I also hope it leaves a trail of restorative connection to the simpler, truer part of themselves. They really do play and imagine, create and discover.

Thank you for allowing us to spend such quality time with your children. It takes trust and belief in us and in the benefits of what we do here at TMS. You are trailblazers as parents - one day your children will really recognize that!!

Here are a few more pics of them this past week. I’m using this format now so that you can click on the photo for a full image

More news and information…

Thank you for signing up for the Parent Conferences and for our Harvest Festival.

PARENT CONFERENCES: There are still a few families who have not yet claimed a parent conference time. Please hit the link on last week’s MM to do so.

HARVEST FESTIVAL: Thanks to those of you who have taken on a coordinator responsibility! We will meet asap to get you rolling. We only have a couple of weeks to go and I have two vital jobs left to fill.

Raffle Coordinator - and - Vendor Booth Coordinator.

This coming week everyone will be asked to participate as signup genius for desserts, working the booths, helping with set up and take down, and a myriad of other jobs will be coming your way.

Coming up - this week

Friday Nov 2nd - Ai Weiwei Exhibit, Marciano Arts Center

Students will be once again discovering what great art Los Angeles has to offer. Kristine as organized a stellar tour of two different installations of some very important work.

Drop off and pick at school at regular times. Snack, packed lunch and suitable attire.

Sunday Nov 4th - TMS Community Hike, Malibu Creek State Park

Hope you can join us for this month’s hike. A more leisurely stroll in this beautiful setting. Meet at the farthest day parking lot of the main park entrance at 8:45am.

Coming up - Next week & NOVEMBER

Tuesday November 6th - VOTE ~ VOTE ~ VOTE

And find someone else who might not go to the polls to take with you. Leave no stone unturned. Check on your neighbors, ask your friends. Do this for your children and come by and give me a high five afterwards. Tuesday is ACTION & HOPE day. Who knows what Wednesday will bring.

Monday Nov 12th - NO SCHOOL Veteran’s Day

Friday 9th - California African American Museum

Tuesday 13th - 5K run 9:30am - Temescal State Beach

Want to run (or fast walk) too - or come and cheer them on? We will be down at Temescal beach for some cool ocean breeze. More info and morning drop off options later.

Tuesday 13th - Prospective Parent Meeting 7:00 - 9:00 pm

If you know anyone who would be a good fit for our program have them come and find out more! RSVP required.

Harvest Fest 2018.jpg

Sunday Nov 18th - HARVEST FESTIVAL,

Trust Ranch 11:30am - 4:30pm.

The most fun we have all year!


Dunk Andrew in the dunk tank, dance to some foot tapping live music, chow down on some great BBQ, drink Muddle and Wilde cocktails, show off your skills in the pie eating contest, make crafts, buy goodies, decorate a cupcake, and so much more!! Oh and watch me fall over in the three legged race - happens every time!

Monday 19th Wednesday 21st - Parent Conferences - NO SCHOOL

Thursday 22nd - Friday 23 - Thanksgiving Break

Happy Halloween!!!!


Dear Parents,

This special edition was coming live from Montana de Oro; past tense as I am now back in town! I returned yesterday with a couple of sick kids :( I am sure you are missing your children, but please know they are all having a fabulous time. On Tuesday we explored the sand dunes and walked along the beach. The children ran and played and made sand sculptures showing off their incredible creative spirit. Wednesday morning they climbed Mt Valencia why I took a break in town with those unable to make the hike. On Wednesday night we did a silent night hike to my favorite sand dune and circled under that glorious bright moon. Truly magical.

Your children will return looking incredibly dirty and worn so expect long showers and an appreciation for their beds this weekend!

Here are some photos of those first two days. More will follow as everyone arrives home and we can upload and add.


We have a couple of action items for you.

Please take the time to sign up for our Parent Conferences.

Also we need YOU to volunteer for our Harvest Festival. Check out the job descriptions and get on board to make this annual event a great success for yet another year. We only have three weeks to make this happen!!

Mountain Mail 10/16/18

Dear Parents,

This week we are prepping for our first full week of camping!

The outdoor program at TMS is at its best when we can truly take students away from the busy and connected world they live in for an extended time - away from cell phones and computers, away from the responsibilities of their schedules – and fully immerse them in nature. Sleeping under the stars, finding community around the campfire, playing and exploring different landscapes, all bring a grounding and authentic connection that heals and gives nutrients to their minds and bodies.

This upcoming trip to Montana de Oro has been a perennial favorite for many, many years. It is a beautiful place that I hope you can visit. It always brings me pleasure to see the students return with their families. I had a great text exchange this summer from last year’s graduated, Ilias, who was on the beach with his family, showing them the spot where the kids worked together to push a washed up boat up a sand dune. That collective enterprise the students engaged in last time we were there was a real reminder of why we do what we do. Collaboration, ingenuity, comradeship, and lots of laughter, make for the best experiences.

Friday’s visit to the Santa Barbara Museum of Contempory Art.

Big thank you to Kristine for organizing such an awesome experience!

This year, we are exploring the intersections between public and private art, while deeply discussing the relationship between fine art, graffiti, and activism. This past Friday TMS was lucky enough catch a viewing of Barry McGee's work on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Barbara. Barry's work feels familiar and oddly approachable. The exhibition featured collections of found artifacts, patterns and ephemera gathered throughout his travels and experiences. Barry is a collaborator and works hands on with other artists to curate his museum exhibitions.

The students spent the morning pondering his work with the assistance of the museum education interns at MCASB. During our visit we had the opportunity to interview the educational staff and experiment in the art lab. Thank you to the educators at @mcasantabarbara for their support as we explored the arts as a platform for activism, a means to connect, a place to ask questions. Kristine Lee - Art Coodinator

Coming up - this week

Friday 19th

Drop off and pick up at school as usual. Students will need a packed lunch.

Students will be on campus all day as they prep for camping.

Small “family” groups of 6 or so children come together for their camping experience. As a group they come up with a name as well as a song to sing round the campfire and a themed skit, which they will perform at the campground!

In their families they also have business to attend to. They need to prepare a menu for the week and build a shopping list, making sure it meets their budget and has all they need to make balanced meals that satisfy everyone’s palette. As a parent we know how hard that can be, but watching them make collective decisions is heartening and the personal investment in what they get to eat usually makes for successful meal times.

Each family also has a full camping set up which includes a tent and a fully equipped kitchen; before we go students must make sure their equipment is in full working order.

Finally, they will help pack up the cargo vans with all their collective items.  

Coming up – next week

Monday 22nd – Friday 26th - Camping, Montana de Oro

No carpool – all students should be dropped off at school at 7:30am.

On Monday morning students will bring all their personal gear and it will be packed in the vans at that time.

The drive to the campground takes around three hours.  We stop in San Luis Obispo where they shop at Trader Joe’s, as well as pack their food into ice coolers and containers.

Students must have snacks and a packed lunch with them. They will not be fed until dinner that evening at 6pm.  Students may not buy lunch at Trader Joe’s.

Hopefully next weeks MM will be live from Montana de Oro! Or at least the local coffee shop in Los Osos!!

Other things to know

While we are away….

Check out this evening at USC. Visions and Voices.

I actually reserved two seats…. is anyone is interested in taking them on?

Mountain Mail: 10/9/18

Dear Families,

I hope you are enjoying the subtle change of weather. I do believe fall is on its way!

I hear so much about the lack of seasons here in California, and true we are not experiencing masses of autumn leaves to stomp in or the need to huddle around a fire on a crisp cold morning, but over the years I have learned to appreciate the nuances of a Southern California fall. I am always fascinated by how my mind grabs at the small cues and dusting off my boots and shaking the mothballs out of my sweaters seems like the order of the day. It may not yet be time to wear those things but my perspective shifts and with it come thoughts of the holidays that define these coming months.

But first I need to return to this last week! Two great hikes made for a good work out….

Last Friday we hiked to the Nike Missile Site, which offered a look at a fascinating piece of history, along with beautiful views of LA. It was a hard day for me personally, the weight of the political climate left me feeling untethered and impotent, but the kids ability to work together and face any discomfort of a long tiring hike, was a good antidote of hope.

Our first ever TMS Community Hike on Sunday was a real delight. What a pleasure to see current families, and alumni students and parents, coming together to enjoy the beauty of Topanga State Park as well as a community of like minded people.

Next month Community Hike is Sunday November 4th @ Malibu Creek Sate Park - hope you can join us!

Here at school it is time to prepare for our fall activities and holiday celebrations.  Our traditional line up is in place with camping in the Central Coast, Halloween magic, Harvest Festival fun, Parent Conferences and then of course the opportunity to reflect and give thanks as we spend time with friends and family for Thanksgiving.  And that is all before we get to December!!

 Coming up - this week

Thursday 11th - Director’s Tea 2pm - Room 10

Refreshment and conversation. Hope you can join us - please RSVP.

Friday 12th – Museum of Contemporary Art - Santa Barbara

This week’s field trip will take us to SB for an awesome interactive art experience.

Drop off and pick up at school at normal times. Carpools as usual. Appropriate attire, snacks, packed lunch and full water bottles.


Coming up next week - and beyond 

Friday 19th - Camping Prep - remaining on campus.

Monday October 22 – Friday 24th - Camping Montana de Oro.

So excited to be off on our first full camping trip to one of our favorite spots! For those of you at Back to School Night I hope you picked up your camping package. For those of you who didn’t make it, a package was sent home with your child today. Everything you need to know as a parent is there, including a packing list and a release for you to sign and return.

Monday November 12th - Veteran’s Day - NO SCHOOL

Sunday November 18th - Annual Harvest Festival - Trust Ranch 11:30 - 4:30

This year we are moving our Harvest Festival to the Sunday. This fun filled family event is well loved by the community. Invite your friends and family to enjoy: live music, delicious barbecue, full bar, races, games, pie eating contest, craft booths, and local vendors.

We need all hands on deck to pull off this day - we are grateful to all our current families for their hard work, but also to our many alumni families who still return year after year to help make this happen. Information, volunteer and sponsorship opportunities will be coming your way soon.

PMonday 19th - Friday 23rd - NO SCHOOL- Parent Conferences & Thanksgiving -

Monday 19th — Wednesday 21st. Parent Conferences.

Thank you to those at BTSN for signing up for your spot. For the of you you did not yet do so, a sign up will be sent in a separate email so that everyone can find a time to meet.

Other things to share

Here’s more info

Here’s more info

A suggestion from Max’s dad…..

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Mountain Mail: 10/2/18

Dear Families,

This last week life showed itself in its full complexity, with the legal system taking the spotlight in both my personal and the public arena. On a personal note, I appreciated the opportunity to spend critical time with my own family as we navigated this largely unknown territory. In the public arena I am saddened and scared for our country as we seem to plunge deeper into dark times, the guiding light of compassion and integrity growing dim. It reminded me that it is more vital than ever that we model and uphold values for our children to see clearly the importance of human decency. 

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This last week was also a reminder of “why TMS?” It is rare for me to be exposed to the public school system up close, but I had ample opportunity to experience it in action as I watched my own granddaughter navigate 1st grade.  Acknowledging that not all schools are created equal, it was still apparent that students are been fed a diet of conformity, boredom and a lethal dose of teaching only to pass standardized testing. To watch a 6 year old suffer from anxiety and fear from not meeting some perceived norm, not playing, imagining, creating, and instead bubbling over and over on worksheet after worksheet, was soul destroying. (Needless to say we checked out the local Waldorf and we await the outcome!)  

I have always felt that in elementary school there must be some modicum of holding a sacred space for our children to grow, to be just that, little children. But I am convinced more than ever that a system where compliance is valued over curiosity and originality, is truly broken. TMS is an antidote, a healthy dose of loving, caring, nurturing for the mind, body and soul; this is the kind of shot I can get behind every child having!

As we move into another busy week here at school, I hope you can join me in a moment of gratitude that we have the resources and options not afforded to so many to do all the things we do.

Last week - overnight at Thornhill Broom.

Students had their first taste of camping this year - and they had a blast! I am sorry I missed the fun, but thankful for such an amazing staff that work so hard to make everything happen.

It is always hard for parents to send their children off and not to be part of the experience, hopefully some photos will bridge the gap!

Coming up - this week

Wednesday - tomorrow on the mesa

This week we are expecting rain! I am so excited!! But it does mean we need to be on our toes as we approach all our outside programs. As it presently stands the rain is light in the morning and so we will be on the mesa as usual. Please make sure your child has a rain jacket and good shoes tomorrow. We will be back on campus in the afternoon and able to stay dry as the rain picks up. Drop off, pick up, carpool and everything else as per last week.

Thursday - Back to School Night

Refreshment from 6:30pm. Program starts at 7:00pm

Please join us for this informative evening where you get to spend time with each teacher and find out what is happening in the classroom.

This is a parent only event, though as always, if it is difficult for you to attend because of child care, please let us know so we can help.

Friday Hike - Nike Missile Site, Reseda.

Greek gods and goddess scavenger hunt! Please make sure students have full water bottles, snack and packed lunch. Good walking shoes a must.

Drop off and pick up at school, normal times. Carpools as usual.

Sunday 7th Community Hike - Trippet Ranch to Eagle Rock

Meet at Topanga State Park, Trippet Ranch parking lot @ 8:45am. Hike at 9:00am


This is a wonderful opportunity for all our past and present families and friends to join us.

Casual and fun. Come one, come all.

These hikes will happen monthly. Stay tuned for locations and times!

Coming up - next week / October

Tuesday 9th - Study Hall starts - every Tuesday after school from 3:45pm - 5:00pm. Students may stay to get their homework done and to get help as needed.

Thursday 11th - Director’s Tea. 2pm in Room 10. Come for refreshment, community and info!

Monday 22nd - 26th - Camping Montana de Oro

Other things to share


One of my favorite books of this year. It is powerful and thought provoking and seems even more relevant as each day passes. Check it out — make sure you read all the way to the end!

Check out this video Liz shared with me - another reminder of “why TMS?”


Mountain Mail: 9/18/18

Dear Families,

The school year is now truly underway. Students are following their schedules and diving into their academic classes. The energy has shifted from the more collective team building and exploring of the new school year that dominated last week, into a purposeful and focused rhythm.

Now is the time to start asking to see your child’s homework planner and to check in with them about their classes. Your child has their schedule in their binder and this will give you a sense of what to expect when. Things to take note of:

What day does your child have “sports”? Make sure they are wearing the right gear, or have it with them, so they can fully participate.

Once a week classes like Geography and Spanish often need an extra reminder to bring in homework etc.

Remember our schedule only has Monday, Tuesday and Thursday on it. The Wednesday “Mind and Body” schedule which will start on the 26th will be on next week’s MM.

Keep reading there is a lots to cover… but first, here are a few photos of our first full week!

GRATITUDE - a great thing to start and end every day with! Thanks to Steve Ackrich who stealthily came in while we were out hiking on Friday and made our wood patio table look like new!!


Our LUNCH program is underway and Deborah Ackrich provided us with a wonderful repast today. Deborah will cook for us every Tuesday.

The parent provided lunch has now changed to Thursday. Look for a sign up genius from Lori Mellman - thank you Lori for taking this on. Please sign up for your date of choice. If you signed up at Parent Orientation you will need to add your name again and confirm that Thursday works for you.

Follow Up on Kid's’ Brains and Screens

Last night Liz and I attended the talk at New Roads School. We were disappointed in the evening, the speakers were not particularly engaging nor shared any information that we did not already know. As always what we did hear confirmed that we have it right at TMS. However, I do think the conversation about smartphones, games and all things related is a very necessary dialog for the well being of our children and one that we should engage in together. There will be a lot more on this subject in weeks to come.

Parent Volunteer Opportunities

There are still some key jobs that we need your help with. Now you have settled down into the school year are you ready to volunteer? We really need to fill our Hospitality as well as a Harvest Festival Chair spots. Maybe call a friend and sign up together. We need you!!

This is also the time when we pick up steam and there is lots of information to share.

Coming up - this week

Wednesday - Tomorrow

NO SCHOOL - Yom Kippur

Thursday - Director’s Tea #1 @ 2pm Room 10

We all the happenings at the beginning of school it seemed logical to move this month’s tea to this week. Please join me (RSVP requested) for a simple get together: afternoon tea, coffee and light refreshment will be served. We can come up with subjects we would like to cover over the year, think of speakers we would like to engage, and generally get up to date on life in school and at home. Subjects already on the table to cover - diet and technology. Parenting isn’t always easy - but it helps when we do it together!!

Friday field trip - The Getty

Drop off and pick up at school. 8:15am and 3:30pm respectively. Please make sure your child has a full water bottle, healthy snacks and packed lunch.

Coming up - next week

I will be out of town from Saturday through Wednesday. I will still be answering emails but school will be in the capable hands of our amazing staff. Please turn to Liz for anything pressing.

Thursday 27 - Friday 28 Camping at Thornhill Broom.

We are so looking forward to our first overnight adventure with this stellar bunch of kids! Look for the email later this week with all the camping information. There will be papers to sign, a packing list and all your questions answered.

Mark your calendars for these October dates

Thursday October 4th @ 7pm - Back to School Night

Sunday October 7th @ 9am - 1st TMS Community Hike - Topanga State Park. Stayed tuned for details!

Thursday October 11th 2pm - Director’s Tea #2 Room 10

Tuesday October 16th - Prospective Parent Orientation 9:30am - Room 10

Monday 22nd - Friday 26 - Camping Montana de Oro

Mountain Mail: 9/11/18

Hi Everyone,

Last week we had a wonderful start to the school year. The group quickly bonded and found their stride. It feels like they’ve always been together!

Wednesday was spent on campus finding out fun facts about the staff, as well as mapping where we all live and important places in our everyday lives. Thursday took us out and about in a scavenger hunt of Woodland Hills and Topanga checking out those places, and Friday we hit the town, traveling on the Metro, exploring downtown Los Angeles and experiencing the city we live in.


Now we are back on campus and settling into routines.


We had a wonderful lunch provided for us today by our first parent chef! Thank you for a delicious and wholesome meal, Shannon Meyers (Eden’s mom).


Students supplies were also requested for today. Many students did not bring in the items on the list. Please make sure you have all your supplies at school asap. We all use them, we all share them, and it is important for everyone to contribute to the whole. This collective and community approach is at the core of TMS, please make sure you have contributed fully.

TMS Required Supply List 2018-19

Please bring the following to school on Tuesday September 11th (not before).

1- 2” Three Ring Binder2- Pack 5 Tab Dividers
1 – (5) Pack Black or Blue Report Covers
1- Pack College Ruled Paper
1- Basic Calculator
1- Pencil Case (for Three Ring Binder if desired)
2- Boxes of #2 pencils or mechanical pencils
2- Box of Colored Markers / Colored Pencils
1 -Pack assorted highlighters
3- Erasers
1– 12” Ruler
1 Sketchbook (minimum 50 pages, minimum dimension 6”x 8”) – NEW STUDENTS ONLY


Tomorrow - Wednesday

A day in the classroom.. TMS tenets, technology use, mentor & mentee luncheon: bring your own packed lunch. And much more!


More time on campus. Intro to classes, Spanish, math placement, intro to council. Hot lunch: Thai take out!

Friday- SolsticE Canyon.

Students will hike in beautiful Solstice Canyon. 8th grade lay a Scavenger hunt for 6th & 7th graders as we head out on our first hike of the school year.

Packed lunch, snacks, 2 full water bottles, sunscreen, and appropriate footwear is a must.

Start the day at either School at 8:15am or Pine Tree Circle at 8:45am.

Pick up at end of day Pine Tree Circle 3:15pm or at School at 3:30pm.

Happenings in our community

I wanted to share with you a couple of events that may be of interest to you or your children.


On Monday 17th I am attending a talk at New Roads school hosted by Paula Poundstone titled Kids’ Brains and Screens.

The more we know, the better equipped we are to guide. Here is the link if anyone is interested in joining me.



Our local TYS is once again hosting a talent show. TMS students have had a lot of fun with this in the past. And thankfully now we won’t be camping for show date!

Mountain Mail: 9/3/18

Dear Families, 

I hope you all had a wonderfully relaxing weekend and didn't do anything that even vaguely resembled labor!!  

Before we know it Wednesday will be upon us and this school year will start in earnest. If last week is anything to go by I am sure we are going to have loads of fun and lots of great times. Your children came together so seamlessly at beach day, it was really a delight!



I am so glad many of you got an opportunity to get to know each other at Ann and Vince's home. Thank you to that lovely pair for their generosity and graciousness. And added thanks to Deborah Ackrich for leading the fun and games! 

Thanks are also in order to all of you for your patience  on Thursday evening; it is a long winded affair but hopefully many of your questions were answered - and maybe some new ones were generated. Remember, we are always available, don't be afraid to ask if you need any clarifications.

Gratitude is definitely in order for the hardworking crew that showed up ready and willing to get things done on Friday. You really made a difference. Many, many thanks! 

Now lets get to the moment we've all been waiting for, the first week of school! 


Please enter school by the gate on Oxnard Street. This is our main entrance for drop off and pick up. The gate on Shoup is locked when school is in session. 

The Oxnard gate will open at 8:00am. 

Circle begins on the patio at 8:15am.

Liz and I will set up a booth by the parking lot and be available to collect forms and answer questions between 8:00 - 8:15am.  

Please remember - bring all completed forms with you that morning. We need to compile emergency packets before we take your child out and about on Thursday.

Students should not bring any of their school supplies until Tuesday 11th. 


Topanga: Andrew will start carpool Wednesday. Meet at Pine Tree Circle outside Waterlily, carpool departs at 7:50am with a stop at Santa Maria road at 7:55am. Many of you may prefer to take your child to the first day - and that is fine. We will formalize, collect payments and confirm spots later. You won't lose your spot if you don't use it on this first day. 

Valley: Katie will not run carpool this Wednesday but will start on Thursday. She will be writing to those interested to define pick up locations and times. 

Lunch Program

We will NOT be serving a hot lunch for these first three days of school. Please make sure your child brings a good lunch from home, snacks and their full water bottle.

Lunch program will begin  on Tuesday 11th and lunch cards can be purchased from the office:     10 meals = $100.  Cards will be kept at school and punched as used. 

First Three Days

These first three days of school are spent getting to know each other and our environment. This is an important time as we set the tone for the school year and get the children comfortable with each other, their teachers and our program. 


We will be on campus all day. Scavenger hunt, map making, teacher interviews and portraits and lots of other good fun! Pick up at 3:30pm.


We will be exploring some of our often frequented haunts in Topanga and Woodland Hills.  We will end our day at Warner Ranch Park, Woodland Hills at the corner of Califa and Owensmouth. Califa runs between Topanga Canyon Blvd and Canoga. Owensmouth runs parallel and between them. 

Please pick your child up at Warner Ranch Park at 3:30pm.  

Students will purchase their TAP cards ready to ride the Metro the next day, If your child has one have them bring it with them. Each student needs $5 so that they can load their card.


We head out to experience the delights of LA's public transport system and explore downtown LA. 

Drop off is early at Warner Ranch Park at 8:00am (Thursday is a good trial run!) We take the Metro from the transit center on Owensmouth. The early start is necessary in order to make our connections in time. 

Students may bring money (max $20) to buy lunch - or they can bring their own packed lunch. They will not be allowed to spend money on anything other than lunch.

Pick up is at Warner Ranch Park at 4:00pm. (Extend time is needed in order to make our day). 

Please make sure your child has a full water bottle, good footwear, light weight clothing, sunscreen/hat etc. 

Peace ~ Joy

Mountain Mail: 8/26/18

Hi Everyone, 
Here we are in our final days of summer vacation! I know for many of you with children in other schools you are already adjusting to the pace of a new school year. I hope those transitions have gone well for your family. And that your TMS students are prepping and excited about returning too. This is my last official day of summer break; as a staff we return to campus  tomorrow. I know it will certainly require an effort on my part to get myself up and moving in the early hours!

There are a few things I would like to address before this week is over in order to give us all time to organize for next week. 

Summer Reading

As summer comes to an end now would be the time to check in with your child and make sure they are on track to complete their summer reading requirements. As part of the online forum for their Restart reading I have seen much of the discussion that students have participated in and it has been a pleasure to witness their engagement.  I also know though that many have yet to join in. Help your student get off to a successful start by encouraging their involvement.

Click here for the .pdf with details and book lists


A new updated calendar will be in your Parent Handbook that you will receive next week, but until then please note this important change. 

Montana de Oro Camping
Monday October 22nd - Friday October 26th

Calendar dates for this upcoming week

This upcoming week we will have several opportunities to spend time together!! I am so looking forward to connecting. 

  • Wednesday - Student Beach Day and Parent Get-together. (See below)

  • Thursday - Parent Orientation Meeting.                                                                    Refreshment served from 6:30pm.  Meeting starts at 7:00pm.

  • Friday - Campus Clean-up and Beautification Day. 9:00am onwards

An email will follow next week with more details of Thursday and Friday's events but before then we need to get organized for our first two events on Wednesday.

Please read all the information that follows and then answer these questions and submit this form:

Name *

Student Get-Together/Beach Day
Wednesday 29th 1:00 - 3:30pm

Topanga State Beach

  • We will gather at Topanga State Beach just north of the canyon.
  • If dropping off, there is a parking lot (opposite The Reel Inn), but also plenty of free street parking. 
  • You will find us at to the right of the bathrooms at the bottom of the stairs from the parking lot north of Topanga Canyon Blvd. You can't miss us - the beach is small there and we will have awnings up for shade. 
  • We will supply healthy snacks and lemonade.
  • Water bottles, ready filled, are a good idea. 
  • Students will need sunscreen/hats and beach-shoes (the sand can be very hot).
  • We need you to sign in and give contact info as you drop off your child (school and beach).
  • If you need your child brought from the valley, vans will be leaving school (Oxnard parking lot) promptly at 12:15pm. There will be limited seating so please RSVP (see above) if your child needs a spot.
  • We will circle up at the beach no later than 1:15pm. Please do not be late. It makes it more difficult to comfortably join in once we have begun and can create anxiety for the child. 
  • TMS offers a shuttle for your child to the Lombardo’s house or back to school at the end of beach day. However, we  do need to know how many vans we will need - so please RSVP (see above).

FYI - this is a time for your children to meet and play together at the beach, students are not allowed in the water during their time with TMS. Parents sometimes will come for pick up to supervise their own children's ocean cravings!

This event is for TMS students only - you get your own party!


Parent Get-together
Wednesday 29th 1:30pm - 4:30pm

The Lombardo’s Home
21324 Hillside Drive
Topanga 90290
(310) 455-2006 

After dropping off your child at the beach or school, TMS parents are invited to come together at Ann and Vince Lombardo's home (Lucy's parents) in Topanga. Directions attached.

This is not only a wonderful opportunity to meet everyone, but for some of you it may the first drive up to the Mesa where we hold our Wednesday classes. For those of you who haven't been before it will be great to have tackled the drive up to the mesa now - because it won't be your last time!

Parking is limited in the Lombardo driveway so please park on Hillside and walk in. Make sure your car is off the road as much as possible. Carpooling is always a good idea! I will send directions next week nearer the time. 

Thank you Ann and Vince for opening your home to us once again. Refreshments will be served. Find out about our parent organization The Mountain Movers. Kirsty Iredale, our ceramic’s teacher will be there for you try out the clay too. 

Don't forget to answer the question above! Thank you. And see you all next week.

Peace ~ Joy







Topanga Mountain School  |  5920 Shoup Ave., Woodland Hills, CA 91367  |  818.346.8355