Ah, fall. Is there really anything better after the brutal summer we had? For me, October in central Arkansas means several things: cool breezes on my face, fallen leaves crunching under my feet, enjoying Arkansas State Fair, the Pinnacle Mountain Rendezvous, Razorback football and Boo at the Zoo right before Halloween.

October also means the start of the admissions season for private and parochial schools. Parents looking for Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten -- and even elementary, middle and high school options -- need to start now. Schools will be holding open houses and other recruitment events throughout the fall, and many have early application deadlines in November.

With all the school choices in central Arkansas, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. That's why we put together our Annual Guide to Private and Parochial Schools. Our research and editorial team gathered all the key information on 46 local schools – enrollment figures, program overviews, grades offered, admissions contacts and even tuition ranges. We've presented this information in two ways: Acomprehensive list and also a handy side-by-side chart. Plus you'll find profiles on many of the top schools in the area.

We have two great contests going on this month. First, our Fall Family Photo Contest is happening online at LittleRockFamily.com from Oct. 1-13. Just upload the best photos from your early fall outings – whether you went on a harvest fest hayride or had a blast picking pumpkins at a local patch Our readers will be voting for which autumn snapshot they like the best. The top 10 photos will be featured in an coming issue of Little Rock Family and online at LittleRockFamily.com. The grand-prize winning family (the one whose photo receives the most votes) will win four tickets to each of the remaining six plays at the Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre. Make sure that after posting your photo, you share a link to the contest with your friends and family so they can vote for it and help you win!

Second, we're giving away passes to a backstage meet-and-greet with the cast of Shrek the Musical on opening night Oct. 28. Just send an e-mail with SHREK in the subject line to Info@LittleRockFamily.com. We'll notify a winner via e-mail Oct. 24. Only one entry per e-mail address, please.

Also in this edition, an article on the dangers of lead poisoning, advice for preparing for parent-teacher conferences and a special section on more than 35 fun family-friendly fall events and activities. We hope to see you out and about at one or more of them.