A great place to find balance

Davina Small Landon School

In this blog post, Davina Small shares why Landon was just what her boys, seventh grader Grey '23 and fifth grader Gunnar '25, needed after the family spent three years living abroad in London. Davina has been a Landon room parent and is a frequent volunteer and "ambassador" who helps new families get acclimated to Landon.

My children Grey and Gunnar attended a traditional English school in London for three years. I found that it was much more structured than our previous experience with American schooling, and I really liked that for the boys. When we moved back to the D.C. area in January 2016, we looked around at new schools and chose Landon because it was structured, in some ways traditional, and also American. My husband Matthew and I wanted a school for our boys with clear expectations with respect to academics and behavior, and we wanted a school that would incorporate all the sports into the school experience. Landon was perfect. It has given us that balance, and I have been thrilled.

The best thing for us about the Lower School is its combination of warm guidance and excellent preparation for Middle School. Fifth grade is a great transition year because they have a homeroom teacher but travel through their other subjects, just like they're going to do when they move to the Middle School in sixth grade. We've had lovely teachers, and it's a really warm, friendly environment. I could not ask for a better head of Lower School than Randy Bednar. Last year was an especially tumultuous time for the country and the community, and I think Mr. Bednar did an outstanding job of keeping the boys feeling safe and keeping the community unified. I loved that. And the children are so kind to one another. And then there are the little traditions, like the Shrimp Bowl [football game], that have made my kids so happy.

Landon benefits from amazing heads of school. [Head of Middle School] Dana Krein is brilliant. I don't know what's going on in my middle schooler's brain all the time, but I think Ms. Krein does. She knows exactly how they operate, which is so important because sixth grade especially is a hard year. There is much more homework and it's a challenge academically — but I think Ms. Krein and the teachers know just the right amount to push the boys. Sixth grade was a good balance of pushing Grey's limits and giving him more independence, while maintaining a great safety net.

Sixth grade is a great laboratory for boys to learn how to be better students and more independent. Grey's teachers taught him so well how to take notes and study for a long, written test — because they take end-of-year exams in the Middle School. Many kids can graduate from college and really not know a great method for taking notes or studying for exams. To have them start that process in sixth grade can only be beneficial.

Both boys have studied classical guitar since they were 4 years old at Levine School of Music, but they are also in the choir at Landon. Gunnar tries out for the Lower School musical every year. He loves doing the musical and can't wait to take the theater class when that is an option in sixth grade. The emphasis on the arts is extremely important to our family. My kids practice every day, and I love that they are not alone in that. Every boy in the Lower and Middle School is devoting time to music and having a similar experience.

As far as sports, my kids were playing cricket two years ago. They attended an urban London school where the sports were limited and not American, so I am thrilled that they were able to jump right back in to U.S. sports that will provide a great foundation for the rest of their lives. Gunnar has fallen in love with football and lacrosse at Landon. And Grey does water polo in the fall and swimming in the winter. I think our boys must have challenging academics, they must appreciate the arts, and they must push themselves physically every day in athletics — Landon encourages all of these and makes it easy for our children to be balanced in a really beautiful way.

As for myself, when I lived abroad, I learned that just jumping in is the best way to learn things about a new school. I thought the same thing when my boys started Landon, so I first volunteered as a room parent, which was lovely, was not a time-consuming affair, and was a great way to meet other moms and provided a lot of insight into how the Lower School works.

I also helped with the Greens Sale running the Lower School Young Shoppers (used toys) section with Christina Dutton Fucci — we had a blast! I didn't technically sign up for anything in particular at the Azalea Festival, but I showed up and offered to help wherever they needed me. That was great because I met a bunch of Upper School moms that I probably never would have met otherwise because my kids are younger.

I also have been helping [Director of Special Events, Parent Programs and Volunteers] Cindy Peters as an ambassador welcoming new Lower School families. Being relatively new to Landon, I know that it's really important to have someone help you make that transition. Being available as a resource and reaching out just a few times to a new family goes a long way. And it's also great for me as a current parent to get to know new families who are coming in. Landon really does make every effort to be open, welcoming and warm, and that's really key to the success of all the Landon boys.