Archive for February, 2009

Getting in…to kindergarten

February 25, 2009

So, Charlie won’t be going to kindergarten until September 2011, but I have been continuing my research on schools. (Hopefully I won’t have to change the sub-title of this site to Adventures in NYC Education.)

I have found several interesting public school options, as well as a few pie-in-the-sky private programs that I plan to tour, probably next fall since many of the tours ended in February.

Currently, the plan is to find an excellent public school that fits our family and move to that school zone. (First question on the tour: Do the kids watch TV? Second question: Do parents volunteer in the classrooms?)

But just because I’m a freak who craves as much information as possible about any topic I care passionately about, I added this blog, NYC Private Schools Blog to my feeds. You know, in case I win the lottery and can get Charlie into some place that costs more than the annual salary I received when I first moved to the city.

But just so I can share more of my neuroses with all of you who don’t live in the Big Apple with a child, below is a ten-minute clip from a documentary produced by Pamela French Films. I’m pretty sure we won’t end up at private school, just because of the cost, and still this video sent a rush of adrenaline through me.

The narrator references the parents with a “crazed look in the eye.”

Well, I’m one of ’em.




February 25, 2009

It can clean anything!

I will never buy crazy kitchen cleaners again.

With only a little baking soda and vinegar, I got rid of ages-old grease on my stovetop. I am in awe.

Why didn’t anyone ever tell me about this all the times I was using disgusting Comet to scrub out the tubs?

If you add just a teaspoon or so of vinegar to a cup of water, along with a drop of soap, it doesn’t even smell. Use a spray bottle; avoid the cleaning aisle; never worry about your kid getting into the vinegar the way you worry about him finding the Clorox.

It can disinfect surfaces, get rid of grease, and de-yuck dirty drains.

Vinegar freakin’ rocks!

A snapshot

February 12, 2009


I found this cool tool, Wordle, which will create an image of the words in your blog from your RSS feed. I have a feeling the one above is based on my most recent blog posts.


February 9, 2009

I remember when we first moved to Brooklyn. I was volunteering at the library toy sale, and the ladies there couldn’t stop talking about neighborhood schools.

Where are you zoned?

When is the application deadline?

Are you thinking about private school?

What about pre-K?

Have you thought about ANY of this, they asked?

Um. Charlie is only one.

They looked at me like I was crazy.

Well, now I know why.

As the deadline for pre-K neared, (Charlie is almost three, and pre-K starts at four) I began to consider our options. Keep him at Fedkids? Look for a public school pre-K? Move him into a private program so we could secure a spot there for elementary school?

Last week, I went to a meeting held by a very informative school consultant, Joyce Szuflita. I learned that for us, public pre-K was better left undone. (No guaranteed seats, only a half-day program because we’d only be eligible–most likely–for our zoned school, which doesn’t do full-day.) Fedkids has a good pre-K program. Done deal.

But for kindergarten…

The process isn’t too complicated, really. Just apply at any school you like, with the hope that you might get in to the one you want.

Our zoned school is safe, and I’ve heard good things about their program. But I’ve also heard the kids watch Hannah Montana instead of doing PE during cold weather because they don’t have a gym, and the principle is opposed to parent involvement in the classroom.

So, we’ll just find another school, I thought.

But a friend, a public school teacher, said, “Oh, all the public schools have the kids watch TV. Monsters, Inc. The Lion King. During lunch, as crowd control.”

This isn’t just a special movie for holidays or parties or to help the kids visualize the stories they’ve been reading. There is no discussion of commercialization, merchandising, or even what went on in the movie. This is every day, TV babysitting. When did school become screen-zombie time? Can’t they play board games at PE, or just freakin’ socialize at lunch?

That was when I realized I was not as laissez-fair about this education thing as I had once thought. (Quote from me, pre-Charlie: “Public school was good enough for me. I turned out fine. Public school it will be.”)

Math and reading are all well and good, but what about the other aspects of learning that make a well-rounded person? Art? Music? Physical education and games? Creativity and critical thinking? Getting outside and exploring the world, both man-made and natural? (Honestly, my fondest memory of elementary school is me picking honeysuckle from the bushes in the forest just down the drainage ditch from our playground. We’d drink the nectar and smell the flowers. To this day, the smell of honeysuckle does something to me.)

Okay, I thought. Maybe we’ll go the private route. We’re already paying out the wazoo for daycare. We’ll just take that money and funnel it into a private school. And boy do they have cool schools in Brooklyn. Campuses with fields and pools. Curricula that include hands-on science, field trips, art, music, drama. Except…

The cheaper end of private is still almost TEN THOUSAND dollars more per year than we’re already paying. And that doesn’t include the price we’ll have to pay for fall, winter and spring week-long camps, after-school programs that last until we get off work, and a summer program or summer nanny for July and August.

So back to public school searches. There are a few that sound really promising. But they are all in Manhattan, in zones filled with multi-million-dollar townhouses and tiny apartments running thousands per month.

At that point my stomach was starting to hurt, and I was glad I had begun to consider this nearly TWO YEARS in advance.

I’ll need that much time to either: 1) Make an appointment with Joyce, talk to all of my teacher friends, tour every public school I like, find an apartment in our preferred school zone that doesn’t bankrupt us and move there before January 2011, or 2) Research, develop and found a working co-op home school with other like-minded parents who think that NYC has too much to offer to keep a kid chained to a desk all day, watching TV.

Besting New York City Education = my new hobby

Domestic Bliss

February 3, 2009

A big paint and crayon masterpiece, created an hour before, stood drying in the foyer.

Books were splayed across the wooden floor of the living room, where we’d left them when we decided to paint a picture for Daddy, Maryn and Patrick.

At the kitchen counter, I cleaned kale and chopped onions for a supper that would soon be steaming on the stove. Cheddar cheese biscuits warmed up from Amy’s Bread, sautéed kale, baked beans, fried salmon and mashed potatoes. For dessert, a pear-sauce spiced quick bread.

Charlie sat on the floor, feeding his caterpillar (a long chain belt from my closet) and working on his table (a wooden tool set brought by Santa Claus on his Georgia stop).

Our two big kitchen windows were filled with winter white, from the sidewalks to the treetops. A consistent shower of small flakes fell all day, cocooning us inside. Beautiful from our kitchen because we knew we didn’t have to commute today through the slushy streets.

Quiet, harmony, peace.

My home.