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parenting

How to Foster a Relationship With Your Child’s Teacher

Ever wonder how to get your child’s teacher to communicate more frequently? It all starts with laying the groundwork for a positive relationship.

If it ever seems like your child’s teacher does not contact you enough think about this:

Teacher’s of elementary have 20-30 per class; if all families are “conventional” (2 married parents) each family is a 3 person unit for the teacher. If a family is “non-conventional” the family unit could be made up of 5. The total number of people, per  20 pupil class, the teacher may need to communicate with (including the child) ranges from 40 to 60. Single subject teachers in higher grades increase this ratio because these teachers are seeing well over 100 children on a daily basis bringing the numbers to a possible 400 (including the child).

Teachers typically don’t play favorites, but they’re much quicker to communicate with parents who’ve made it a point to be positive, show interest and show kindness. No one wants to listen to an irrational rant by a dissatisfied individual, and everyone wants to be praised-teachers included.

As former middle school teacher (and a child of divorce), I have 3 tips to help you get your child’s teacher to reach out:

  1. Reach out early and kindly offering your assistance and understanding. Own up to your child’s imperfections in this first communication. And ensure the teacher you are part of your child’s educational team and that you’ll listen before reacting and refrain from attacking when you don’t like something. An example of a way to make this clear is: Thank you for all you do for my son. He really likes when you do projects in class. I know he has lots of energy. I wanted to reach out and let you know that we are here to support you. I’m sure you’ve noticed that our son is full of energy; we often try to give him tasks at home to release it before doing homework, we find if he unloads the dishwasher he can sit for 20 minutes.  If you have any tips for us, please share them; we are eager to learn other ways to help our son excel and feel good about himself. And we’re here to support you; please let us know if his energy is ever a distraction to others and we’ll happily work with you. 
  2. Call a few times a year to compliment the teacher- tell the teacher you don’t expect a call back, you just wanted to share how much you liked a recent unit of study, project or assignment and you wanted him/her to know you’re there anytime and you hope he/she has a great day
  3. Let go, and allow your child to be the main line of communication.  And even allow your child to fail. It’s hard, I know, but failure leads to better learning and satisfaction from one’s own achievements. Plus, your child’s teacher will appreciate that you take a step back and let it happen; kids can only learn if we let them and too much assistance (running home for the forgotten homework, complaining if your kid was caught cheating rather than allowing for a teachable moment, or doing their homework when they struggle) is counterproductive because kids learn they’re incapable, above the rules or don’t have to try because you’ll step in rather than learn how to be learners. . Any educator will tell you that the most successful learners know how to recover from setbacks. While those who have mom and dad preventing failure struggle both emotionally and academically. True Story: My son forgot his rain coat at school; he’s in kindergarten, it’s his first week. My mom instinct was to pull over, unload both kids including my starving, screaming preschooler and head back in to get it. But I refrained, instead making it a teachable moment that I hope sticks with him, allowing him to accept consequences and serve as a reminder to be responsible for his stuff. So, rather than tiger mom it, I calmly and kindly reminded him that he’s responsible for himself and his stuff, and since he left his coat at school he’ll just have to wait until he goes next week to get his rain coat (my fingers are crossed we get no rain over the long weekend). It’s a small failure, but it bothered him enough for him to be show concern, and hopefully it’s a building block towards greater responsibility in the future (because I don’t plan to have my kids living with me forever).

Reach out, infrequently and kindly, throughout the year. You’ll be surprised how often the teacher reaches out to you with positive feedback and any concerns about your child.

-Just one mom who remembers what’s it’s like being on the other side of the classroom, Jess

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Back to School Buying Guide: 3 Tips for Seamless Shopping

We’re well into August and let’s face it, you’re practically being hit in the face by back to school ads; in fact they started about a week after your kids got out of school if you live in the North East. As a former teacher, I loved this time of year; it signaled a new beginning, but as a parent I’ve come to find it to be among my most stressful times of the year.

I’ve been around the back to school block quite a few times and although I have not mastered the balance of enjoying this final month of freedom, I know a lot about how to make the leg work for the first day relatively seamless. If it’s your first go-round with the back to school shopping extravaganza or you could use a few tips to keep sane read on.

1. Stick to the list your teacher sends home

Seriously, buy what’s asked for and nothing more; you’re teachers know what your kids need and there’s no extra credit for extra stuff; in fact it may be prohibitive to your child’s organization as  more stuff = more mess and more mess means more chances of important items falling by the wayside.

So, put that cute package of Hello Kitty crayons back on the shelf, along with the really cool erasers for the pencils your kid does not need and move on.

2. Think practically & long term

Do not purchase expensive items covered in your kid’s favorite character. Today, my kindergarten age son loves Star Wars before that Super Heroes . Today, one of his best friend balked at taking his Ninja Turtles back pack to camp while my son insist the sports back pack that’s in perfectly good shape only be used for sports. Notice a trend, they are fickle little beings who commit to trends for short periods before moving on to the next super cool “it” thing.

Instead stay neutral, let your child choose a color, skip the flashy prints and buy a quality product with a great warranty. This way you won’t have to replace what they refuse to use because it is no longer cool come December; maybe it will even last more than one year.

And speaking of the following year… I’m a big fan of LL Bean: free shipping, fast product delivery and they offer hassle free returns if need be. Avoid the junior or x-small backpacks- nothing fits inside especially if you’ll need room for snow pants and boots.

3. Hold off on replenishing the wardrobe

Back to school is the worst time to buy clothes for your kids. You’ll find stores packed with fall attire that’s pretty much a month or more ahead of what your kids will need to wear. Wait until post Labor Day (or if you can Columbus Day) when prices fall before stocking up on cool weather wear. You’ll save and your kids will be wearing their new clothes when the weather is in line with the styles. My kids are still in summer clothes through most of September, so if you need something new and cute for the first day choose something summery that’s on sale because you can get it super cheap and they can still show off their new school clothes.

Then mix yourself a cocktail because you’ve mastered back to school shopping with 3 simple tips.

-Mastering the back to school mayhem, Jess

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The Terrible Two’s Are Holding Me Hostage

I write this in a state of delirium. Countless nights have passed without quality sleep. Countless battles have been fought,  and lost as my sweet, two year old has waged war against me. Sleep is our main issue, she’s declared both going to sleep and staying in bed beyond 4am impossible. Yet she’ll nap in random spots, at random times when I cannot. I am now a fragile shell of myself who is set off by the slightest struggle, unable to rationalize and too tired to be productive.

This is not a blog of complaint; it’s a realization. Honest, and open; I know I’m not alone. Many have felt this way before me and come out the other side of the age 2. Many are in it with me.

I’ve come out the other side once before, but right now, in this state, the world is tilted. Jagged bits of self remain; mixed in I find who I’ve become and I’m not her biggest fan: a sad housewife who can’t seem to fulfill her job requirements (cook, clean, shop, provide 24/7 care to others, do laundry…) or pretend to enjoy it. I catch glimpses of the other side of 2 and know how great it will be; how I will became myself once again. But right now, I’m a hot mess.

I beg, cry and yell. None of these tactics work on a strong-willed two year old who responds, when locked in her room to clean the mess she inflicted in protest, by intentionally wetting her pants. I melt, truly just melt, into a heap on the floor hating myself for yelling-again, and frustrated that my sassy little lady won’t confirm.

But I’m also proud that she has strong convictions because her spunk will serve her well later in life; so I try not to crush her spirit all the while keeping mine. The contradiction astounding, but real and important in helping us both get through the toddler years.

While I sit here, my cute little lady requests, or should I say demands, yet another snack because beyond refusing sleep she also only eats snacks, not her meals. And I let her because I’m so tired of fighting. Her breakfast, that I consumed moments ago, hours after serving, was deserted just as many meals before.

Now she sits, quietly consuming a bag of sugary cereal (courtesy of a well meaning grandparent). Her teeth unbrushed, her hair wild, because I just don’t have the energy to fight right now. She’s watching  a movie at 9:30am, because playing with her seems like an impossible, miserable experience and I’m trying to avoid her.

I feel like a bad mom; in my irrational head a good mom would have rules she maintains without fail. A good mom’s  kids would behave with her well-planned warning system.  She’d have meal times and snack times set, and she’d be in control of her emotions at all times. Her two year old would sleep.

In moments of clarity I glance at my amazingly helpful, thoughtful, mature (beyond the potty talk) 5 year old son who did most of the caregiving when my husband and I were sick a few days back, and see things for what they are.

This is a stage; it’s called the terrible two’s for a reason. She will outgrow this stage; I may even survive it. And then in a few (not so short years) I’ll enjoy everything quite a bit more. She’ll become the helpful caring kid he is now, and maybe she’ll even let me sleep. Then I’ll look back and be thankful I have no more terrible two’s to get through.

-Keeping motherhood real in a world where perfection is expected, Jess

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Kidgits is Calling All Young Foodies for 1st Annual Lil Chefs Event

Kidgits

The Simon Malls Kidgits Club is whipping up some creative cuisine and loads of fun with this first annual event for Lil Chefs. On Saturday, May 16th, 2015 from 12pm – 2pm, children will experience, hands-on, the endless possibilities of food pairing. At the end of the day you can expect a new generation foodies to emerge. Hosted in the Macy’s Center Court at the South Shore Plaza (250 Granite Street, Braintree, MA), there will be a variety of food focused activities including:

Never too young to learn to cook
Never too young to learn to cook
  • Healthy Snack Ideas
  • Decorating Desserts
  • Food Samples
  • Disney and Lego Activities
  • Design your own Chefs Hat Craft
  • Kidgits Club Members will receive a Free Chefs Hat & Apron

All Kidgits are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to the event to be donated to The Braintree Food Pantry to help those in need.

The Kidgits Club, which recently launced at the South Shore Plaza, is a fun and interactive program that focuses on health, wellness, education, safety and entertainment for children ages 3-8. For more information on how to become a member, visit www.simon.com/kidgets.

The Perils of Public Restrooms with Kids

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There are 7 words I dread more than anything when out in public with my kids, “I have to go to the potty”.

My first experience with taking a kid into a public restroom was a major fail. I was in my early 20’s and watching my younger cousins overnight. I was excited to be trusted with their care and planned two days of fun (more about those failings in another post). One was 14, the other 4, both boys.

While the older went to baseball practice, I took the younger to the local mall where I thought a visit to Friendly’s and a toy purchase would catapult me to favorite. A brilliant idea, except I did them in the wrong order and as we walked through the major department store that anchored the center to get to our car I was told, “I have to go potty” about 100 times.

With the mall only a few minutes from their house, I told him to hold it. Simply because I did not know:

  1. where there was a bathroom
  2. if I could take him into the ladies room
  3. if I could send him into the boys room solo
  4. that when a kid says he has to go, he has to go NOW

Needless to say, an accident ensued, complete with yelling at me for making him pee in his carseat and a huge mess for me to clean up. Not only did I not become his favorite cousin, he was angry with me for quite a while after that.

Fast forward about 10 years… I have kids of my own and public restrooms are both the best and worst part of my day.

When my kids were in diapers, a changing table was the best thing about anyplace I visited. Those establishments that opted out (why aren’t they ever in men’s rooms?) set me off on rants about human dignity, rights of babies and getting laws passed that required every public restroom to have ample changing tables for families. Needless to say, sleep deprivation and changes in my children’s potty use status put a stop to that crusade.

When my son potty trained, he was still an only child. It was July and we ran around the yard naked for a week until he got the hang of it. Then we left the house only when desired, visiting only places within a short drive of my house, with appropriate restrooms.

I brought him into the women’s room, with no doubts. And praised the Natick Mall to anyone who would listen because they actually have bathrooms with child-sized toilets (I exclusively shopped there for years because of their child friendly bathroom amenities).

Once he mastered timing and control, I bought a portable potty seat to put in my car, we’d pull over anywhere and let him use it; it saved us from countless car trip fiascos.

My daughter opted to potty train in January. We live in New England and this was not ideal as anytime we left the house we were bundled in more gear at once than most people in the south own. And use of a portable potty seat in the elements was risking frost bite.

With two kids and schedules to keep:preschool for him, ice skating and swim for both, ballet for her (all bad decisions on my part in regards to potty training), I was a bit less flexible as to when I left the house and where I went.

Four months into diaper free days, the weather has warmed, and we head out more often, but inevitably those seven awful words always pop up. If we make multiple stops, we visit multiple public restrooms.

When I’m alone with the kids I take two into every public restroom. My son wavers between helping, including offering to wipe for her (not allowed), and torturing her by insisting on peeing first, while she cries that she must go first (he refuses to go in his own stall). She may never be able to get to the toilet first because let’s face it, in the bathroom arena guys have it easier, but soon he won’t be by her side as she attempts to navigate the perils of the public restroom.

Making three stops today, and three public restroom visits, I was met with varying conditions. The first, a wildlife sanctuary, was surprisingly clean. The second, a national seafood chain restaurant, was a little gross with urine covering the seat, but manageable with a wipe (Clorox Wipes To-Go are a favorite) and a nest of toilet paper to sit on. The third, in an ice cream shop at a lifestyle center, was the worst I’ve seen in a while. The stench made me gag and the seat was coated in caked on poop.

With a two year old who had to go, and flashbacks of my 20 something self causing my cousin to wet his pants, I knew there was no way around it. I picked up my 30 plus pound girl, her tutu delicately resting on my forearms, while she used her third public toilet of the day. Then we washed our hands twice before finally escaping and making our way into the fresh spring air.

Maybe it’s just coincidence that I’ve been sick since mid-February with cold after cold settling into my head and chest and my daughter has had two stomach bugs, but I blame it on our increased visits to public restrooms. From the tidy to the downright disgusting, I’ve seen more in the past few months than I thought I would in my entire lifetime.

I know there are still many more to come, but when I glance into my future I see two kids old enough to go into a public restroom alone and I smile.

A Tasting Fit For Kids With Jelly Belly

My foodie cousin always comes up with some really creative ways to entertain my kids when she sees them.  Often involving food, Saturday’s activity was no different.  She came to our house equipped with an assorted pack of Jelly Belly jelly beans.  As soon as she asked them if they wanted to play a game that involved eating jelly beans, both kids, without hesitation, ran to the table and patiently waited for the game to begin.

As a sensory based activity, she encouraged the kids to pay attention to each flavor they were tasting and describe it in their own words.  I couldn’t believe that my 2 and 4 year old sat there at the kitchen table engaged for over an hour (this is unheard of especially when there is sugar involved).  Their excitement and anticipation over what jelly bean flavor was next in line really was fun to watch.

My 4 year old son correctly guessed at least 90% of the flavors that he tasted. I didn’t realize his palette had already matured so much (clearly this was a learning experience for me as well).  My 2 year old daughter wasn’t quite there yet but she was thrilled to join in on the fun and get a new jelly bean when everyone else did.

body photoWhy not put your kids Easter candy to good use this Sunday?  All you need is an assorted pack of Jelly Belly jelly beans and your kids.  With 50 distinct flavors (49 included in the assorted pack), this game is something you can do with your kids more than once. The kids get a treat, they learn about their sense of taste and you are able to keep their attention for an entire game.  What’s not to love about this simple activity.  Game on!

Pi Day at the Charles Hotel – Enjoy 31.4% off Room Rates – Sale Starts 3/13

Enjoy 3.14159 Day on 3/14/15 with 31.4% at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. March 14th is Pi Day, a time for math lovers, and those who like any excuse for a party, to celebrate. 

Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159. Get in on the Pi Day action by taking advantage of a great hotel deal.

In recognition of Pi Day, The Charles on Harvard Square is holding a one of a kind FLASH SALE.  The sale takes place on Friday March 13th from 9am-5pm. What a better way to celebrate 3/14 than to be in Harvard Square with scholars and intellectuals alike at the Charles Hotel; the ‘smart’ place to stay.  Not available to spend Pi Day at the Charles Hotel, no problem!  This offer is available for travel dates:  March 14th – May 11th ensuring you get your stay at Pi Day prices.

To add a bit of fun trivia, 3/14 was also the day Albert Einstein was born.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.”  – Albert Einstein

Experience the Charles and follow the pattern; make a smart decision to book a stay at this smart hotel!

Waterville Valley Resort + Kids = Rewarding Family Ski Vacation All Around

For most of us with young children, vacations aren’t really vacations at all.  It is a lot of work to pack up a family and relocate.  On top of that, you are dealing with schedule changes (especially for little ones under 5) and unfortunately most of the time you likely end your days with screaming children and a big pounding migraine.

A ski vacation is braving it especially with subzero temperatures, lugging ski equipment, getting  the children to and from the car and answering the endless chorus of are we there yet from the back seat.  Most sane people would avoid this at all costs.  Even though it’s a whole lot of work,  (and more if, like the AM team, you choose to head to the mountain mid-week, packing 4 kids in one car,  while your husbands stay home to work, meeting you for the weekend)  you will have fun at Waterville Valley.

After a whole lot of huffing and puffing, and equipment lugging,  Waterville Valley Resort made it all worth the trouble, placing smiles on all of our faces (including the husbands who joined us at the end).

Check out Waterville Valley with your  family:

Mountain

011a2ac2d1b3a0b84c3ad44724be8a9e0c162bed6cOnly a 2 hour ride from Boston, this quaint mountain resembles an idyllic vintage-esque ski mountain and village.  With 50 trails, this mountain has it all. Most of its trails are attractive to the intermediate skier, about 15% is dedicated to beginners and 22% is geared towards the advanced skier.  There really is something for everyone.  Best of all, lift lines move at record speed, eliminating the long waits that you’ll find at larger mountains in the north east, and allowing you to do what you’re there for-ski.

The mountain is extremely manageable with children. Drive right up to the base of the mountain and leave your car for a few minutes while you get your ski gear and family situated.  Everything that you need is located at the base of the mountain-lift tickets, kids camps, daycare, lodge, ski shop, and bar. It is very easy to navigate to and from the buildings there with entrances that allow you to set up your gear closest to the lift you are interested in riding.

There is a real community and family feel to this mountain.  You won’t find a bunch of hot shot 20 something’s buzzing down the mountain after a few too many; instead you’ll find yourself surrounded by parents just as eager to keep their kids safe as you are with yours. Everyone is helpful, and lifts on the lower mountain are slowed regularly to assist new skiers as they get on and off.

Staff

The staff at this mountain is incredible and really adds to the experience.  Everyone is very friendly and always showing a smile on their face (hard to come by anywhere now a days). Even when the temperature plummets to -34 with the wind chill, everyone is happy to help.

I most likely should not bring my phone skiing, but it is always by my side and is my lifeline when my kids are not. Of course, each day I had phone issues that the staff of Waterville pleasantly helped me with.

Day 1 – My phone was running low on battery and the wonderful staff at the bag check/info desk were kind enough to let me charge my phone up to full power as my son was in ski school and I really wanted power in case of an emergency.

Day 2 – While managing my hungry kids and husband, I misplaced my phone in the cafeteria.  Again the wonderful staff really came to the rescue to help me locate my phone.  Even after I gave up hope, they came upstairs to find me to offer another suggestion.  Luckily, I found it; in a pocket that I had previously checked (thanks mommy brain).

Ski School

Two mom’s who have not seen skis in 3 and 5 years = rusty skiers in need of a full day to regain some confidence. So, we put our boys (ages 4 and 5) in a  full day of ski school and let them have fun without us (while we did the same).  It was wonderful.  They really enjoyed skiing with their instructors, hot chocolate in between runs and meeting/playing with the other kids in their ski group.  They were actually asking to go back to ski school for the rest of the trip.  I personally despised ski school when I was younger, I couldn’t wait for my parents to pick me up.  So the fact that 2 boys wanted to go back to Waterville’s school even after skiing on the coldest day of the year was proof enough for me.

Private Lessons

Mike Furgal Business Card

One name, Mike Furgal!  Mike was rated top 100 ski instructors for ski magazine.  This is the second time that I have done a private lesson for my 2 year old with him.  Seeing as how 2 year olds do not have much of an attention span at this age, it is a miracle that Mike can keep her engaged and happy for an hour session.  Introducing her to the sport and allowing her to get comfortable on skis at a young age is allowing us to get out of the house for a fun family winter activity.

Rentals

We popped into the rental shop so Jess could rent skis for her 2 year old.  Everyone was super helpful and quick.  We were in and out of the shop in 10 minutes.

Apres Ski Entertainment – All Ages

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Happy Mommas!

Head to Buckets for Apres Ski, especially on Saturdays when the live band allows the adults to unwind with a few spirits and snacks while kids can grab a seat in the adjoining room for complimentary movie night as well as s’mores on the deck overlooking the mountain.  Our 2, 4 and 5 year olds were splitting their time between the movie and the dance floor.  After a long day of skiing, our kids were happy and distracted instead of miserable and tired.  Allowing us to hang out until 7pm when we could pop them in the car without worry of sleeping en-route home. And we all know that happy kids = happy parents!

Specials

Check out some fun deals that Waterville Valley is featuring in the month of March and April.

Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17th – $17 lift tickets.

April Fools Day, April 1st – $1 lift tickets (and this isn’t a joke).

Helping you find some family fun outdoors even in the middle of winter, Thia

How to Get Your Kids to Eat: Let Them Join You in the Kitchen

When I had one child we made magic in the kitchen on a daily basis. I invited friends to bring their kids for make your own pizza playdates. Then I had a second, and with a close to 3 year age difference, I found myself fumbling to pretty much accomplish anything, let alone cook with them.

Vivienne assisting in the kitchen
Vivienne assisting in the kitchen

Cooking went from being a passion to a chore and there was nothing magical on our plates. I avoided any assistance from my children, opting for hours of TV over the mess I knew they’d make and I’d have to clean. Needless to say, I felt pretty crummy at the end of each day when we sat down to dinner.

Mealtime went something like this: they wanted to continue watching TV (insert yelling, & acting like a crazy person to get them to sit), refused to eat the meal I cooked (insert threats, charts, rewards & the occasional crazy person rant), ran around the house like maniacs (insert time-outs, rewards for sitting, and lots of yelling) then the food went into the trash can (insert cursing, lots of cursing). Not only had I sacrificed time playing with them to make the food they tortured me with, but we were tossing money into the trash every night.

So I attended workshops, read countless tips and met with our pediatrician multiple times for ideas to get my kids (especially my super skinny son) to eat. No one had an idea that worked.

Through lots of trial and error I created one: I cook with my kids. The reward: they actually (usually) eat what I make-no matter what it is.

I’m not whipping up pate or crispy skin fish, but I’m making family friendly, healthy meals we can all eat and enjoy. We have a grass fed burger with a sauce you’d usually find on a Big Mac, and we have breakfast for dinner. We also have delicious recipes I find in my favorite food magazine, Cooking Light But I always make it a point to  ask my kids what they want before I head to the grocery store, and I always incorporate their requests into our weekly menu.

I ask them to join me every night, but on the nights I’m not serving a meal they’ve chosen, I make sure they come into the kitchen. At the end of our cooking time, they’re so excited to serve what they’ve made and tell their Daddy how they contributed, that they often eat most of what’s on their plate.

My two year old is amazing at mixing and pouring. My five year old is learning basic knife handling. They’re my taste testers, and my five year old loves describing the flavors based on the tastes he’s learned in preschool. I’m teaching them a lifelong skill, and helping them develop a healthy relationship with food.

So, when we pull chairs into the kitchen, assign jobs, and take turns creating a meal (and a giant mess) each day. I sigh with frustration, we waste an egg or two, but when we sit down to dig in, we’re ending our day on a happier note.

Breakfast for dinner in our Pj's
Breakfast for dinner in our PJ’s: note giant mess in the background

-There’s no magic formula for picky eaters; offering an option that works for me, Jess

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Full Day Kindergarten- For a Fee

Deciding between full and half day kindergarten can send any level-headed adult into a tailspin. And I’m one of those who went off the deep end.

When the thick envelope of forms required for enrolling my son into our public kindergarten arrived I got giddy. Truly giddy. He loves school and I know he’ll be the king of kindergarten.  But let’s be honest, mostly I was excited because I’d avoid the expense of preschool for two (which would clock in somewhere around $10k, for 3 hours, a few days a week).

When I looked at my “options”  I was slapped in the face by figures as outlandish as those of our optional private preschool. My first thought, how can they charge for public school? Our school system, like many others, has found the loophole (a full day option is a requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act), and offers full day kindergarten as a choice, so the system does not have to cover the full cost of the additional time. Saving them lots of money while parents are forced to shell it out.

Did I want to pay for public school to gain a few extra classroom hours that clearly are not that important in our district since they’re offering a choice and not transitioning to a full day only model like many area schools?

My head began to swirl with questions:

  • Is my frugality a bad reason to choose half day?
  • Will half day kindergarten mean no chance at going Ivy?
  • Will my son feel like he’s not as smart because he doesn’t go to school all day and some of his friends do?
  • Will he have friends he already knows in his half day class?
  • Is the transition to a full day in first grade going to be a struggle?
  • Will he be on par with full day peers the following year and for years to come?

Once I stopped downing copious amounts of wine and ranting to my husband about the injustice of the paid public school. When I stopped fantasizing about writing a bill, starting a charter school, or asking who we sue to eliminate such an income based inequity in our public education system, I began to explore the difference between the two programs.

A former teacher myself, I started with my teacher friends, all of whom assured me that if I were working full time that full day kindergarten would be ideal. But I’m not, so their thoughts were all the same: do what worked best for my son and our finances.

Then I consulted the educational expert on my son- his preschool teacher; she has taken the time to get to know, nurture and love my child. This woman is my hero; her opinion the gold standard in my eyes. When she talks, I listen because wisdom pours from her mouth.

She knows pre-k kids better than anyone I’ve ever met, and she’s honest.  A kick ass combination in a women who influences kindergarten plans. Honestly, I often think about calling her for advice on weekends.

So, when we sat down to chat about the possibility of the impending academic doom I was associating with half day preschool, I found myself calm for the first time in days.

We talked about my son, and his needs. He’s a good student, social, without any identified special needs. He could listen more and talk less; he often rushes through his work; he needs constant feedback to feel he’s doing ok; he likes hands on activities and he loves to play outside; he’s almost reading. He’s ahead of many peers.

Pacing is the prime difference between full and half day kindergarten, and he picks things up quickly, and does not require a slower pace.

What I held onto from that chat was this, he’ll be fine, no matter what choice I make.

I’m 99% sure he’ll head off to free half day kindergarten in the fall, along with many of his friends who have a parent at home. I’m 95% sure I’m ok with half day kindergarten, and 100% sure my family is happy to hold on to the more than $4k for the few additional hours he’d have in the classroom. I know he’ll thrive as long as he puts forth the effort needed to succeed.

I’ll use the extra time to let him do things he loves after school for this one last year. He’ll have time and energy for skiing, skating and swimming; he can try something new, have playdates, and just run around outside. He can be a kid and enjoy it, because let’s face it, we’re cooped up and on a clock most of our lives, why rush it if you don’t have to?

Even though I’m doing what works for my kid and my family; I still believe there’s an inequity associated with paid kindergarten. I believe public school systems should not offer extras for those who can pay, but rather only one choice that’s covered by our taxes. Strong unions are needed to push for funding of full day programs, and eliminating paid options in general education.

Although I partially pick half day out of principal, ultimately, I come to this decision as a stay at home mom/freelance writer with no need for traditional hours of childcare.

“Learn as if you were to live forever.”-Mahatma Gandhi

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