Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Away for a long while

January 1, 2012

I’ve neglected this blog, and will probably continue to do so. It’s not that Charlie hasn’t said really cute things or taken awesome pictures, but I have cut back on every extra hobby and task to focus on my family’s two priorities right now: my job (you know, so we can eat) and Charlie’s IEP.

The IEP began as a concern and a bureaucratic process. Then we added a stressful schedule of therapies, during and after school. Beginning in October, things escalated and have only gotten worse. Writing about it here feels too public to me. It’s a difficult, heartbreaking process and I don’t want to say anything that could be taken the wrong way and possibly burn bridges I don’t want to burn. So we’ve handled things privately and will continue to do so. The result? Not much to report on this here blog.

Consider us on hiatus, though I may have the stamina to add a few things now and then. In the meantime, find us on Facebook.


We got in!

March 2, 2010

(Photo courtesy of the GHS Web site, featuring GHS students actively learning in 2008)

We received an acceptance letter from Greene Hill School yesterday! This was our top choice school, and after nearly twenty school tours, I didn’t see a single other school that could compare to what’s on offer at Greene Hill.

On our list of what we want for Charlie’s everyday school life, this school hit all but two items. (Those two being: that it costs money and it’s located outside our current neighborhood–although we may end up moving closer to the school to take advantage of the neighborhood-centered aspects of the school philosophy. That is, if we have any money left after paying tuition.)

The progressive curriculum is not right for every family–I quickly learned during this school odyssey that every family has their own idea about the ideal education for their child. Some want long days filled with desk-work; we wanted something more open, more independent, more involved with the surrounding city. A day informed by creativity and narrative. Plus, some element of free time during the day, which is too-often missing in schools.

There is a long, long list of things we love about this school, that we think will help Charlie thrive and foster in him a sense of learning as something that’s fun. If I listed everything, you’d probably politely walk away. I’m used to that reaction from those not in the midst of school-mania since my conversation has been focused on the school search and education for too long. I’ll spare you the details right now. (If you really want to know, comment and I’ll fill you in.)

For us, for Charlie, Greene Hill School is our realistic ideal. I am so excited about this acceptance that I honestly don’t have the words to express it.


School schedules

June 30, 2009

Before we left on summer vacation (pictures to come, sometime), Jesse and I finally got the application in for our first-choice school. (Yes, we’re early. The application was for Fall 2010 early decision.) I was excited and relieved that it was done; it was the only private school I really connected to, and I do hope he gets in. It’s philosophy (and price) fit our family. Honestly, I wish I could go there.

However, I recently saw their schedule for next year. In addition to school holidays (a Christmas break, a winter break, a spring break and a summer break), the first week of school starts in mid-September, with a few days that end at 11 am. Every first Friday the kids get out at 11 am for a teacher work day. On the days of parent-teacher conferences, the school is closed. And, of course, the school day ends at 3:15 pm.

For all those breaks and after school, there are some options–camps, classes, paying for a grandma to fly up and play with Charlie, maybe drop-in care at his current school for the first year. But what about all those half days, and weeks when camps aren’t open? What about when he ages out of his current daycare or they don’t have space for drop-in? How do working parents acquire appropriate child care for all of those random times?

I have some vacation, and some flexibility with my part-time schedule, and still the amount of off-time seems daunting. Here’s hoping not all the families in the small school have a stay at home parent; maybe they’ve figured out some tricks to make it all work.

Who knew that daycare, with its 9-6 hours and only-closed-on-major-holidays schedule was so luxurious? I guess I’ve been spoiled and didn’t even know it.

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 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