Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category

Grandparents’ Day at Greene Hill School

May 8, 2011



Winter Break

February 26, 2011

Charlie and Nevin

Monday: Charlie and I saw the Sesame Street Live show. We ate popcorn, sang all the songs we knew and then met his dad for hamburgers and ice cream.

Tuesday: Charlie stayed at Nevin’s house. They went to the Children’s Museum and played with Toy Story dolls.

Wednesday: Nevin stayed with me and Charlie. We went to Bounce U, ate pizza, saw sea creatures at the Chinese grocery store, bought pastries at the bakery, played at the playground and flew a kite. They only managed to pull out about half the toys in the house.

Thursday: Our dear friend Ruth watched Charlie. They started at our place, and made their way to hers. They made raspberry pancakes. We forgot to leave a key, so I had to go home at lunch and drop it off. Then she forgot to ask him to go to the bathroom before their walk…. I told Ruth that everyone who watches kids gets pooped and peed on at least once.

Friday: Ruth watched Charlie again, at her place, but it was raining and they stayed inside all day. There was a lot of TV, some pop-up books and a hammock. They made smoothies, a bagel face and a helicopter. Ruth was worn slap out. I tried to reassure her that indoor days were hard for everyone, and I brought her thank-you flowers. I still owe her a bottle of wine.

Saturday: A morning at home with Legos followed by an impromptu trip to the Lego store with Dad for more little men, and a search for some pop-up books at the Strand.

Sunday: We’ll try to gear up for school on Monday, though I don’t think any of us are ready.

Changing schools

September 13, 2010

Fedkids teddy bears

This fall was really hard for me, and maybe for Charlie too. It was hard to see through my tears.

He moved from Fedkids, where he had been since the age of 4 months, to Greene Hill School.

There was a graduation day at Teddy Bears class. I have many long videos of the procession and the songs, but I’ve just inserted a small clip of his enthusiastic eating of a cupcake.

Greene Hill School has gotten off to a good start. Charlie has made some new friends and we’ve entered the world of play dates. My social calendar has never been so packed.

Greene Hill School photos:
on the bus

Play date with Nevin at the Bronx Zoo:
Zoo with Nevin

Old teachers, new teachers

September 1, 2010

Yesterday was Charlie’s last official day at Fedkids. I almost made it through the day without tears. It was only saying good-bye and giving hugs that brought crying at the last minute.

After sitting down last night to draw pictures for Maggie, Jackie and Ryan–his Teddy Bears teachers–he said, “I think my teachers are going to miss me because I’m going on vacation.”

Yes, I said, we are going on vacation. (If I can ever get us packed and out the door–maybe tomorrow.) But we won’t be back to Teddy Bears for a long while. We may visit in a few months.

He nodded his head, then said, “I think Matrice [my boss] will miss you when we’re on vacation. And my teachers will miss me.”

I’m sure they will, I said. Vacation is a lot more understandable than graduation, I guess.

Then this morning we had a home visit with Charlie’s new teachers, Sally and Sharyne, from Greene Hill School. They were extremely gracious and welcoming. We had to fill out an information sheet for them to take back with them, and one of the questions regarded Charlie’s interests. I try to pay attention to what he likes, but sometimes I get it wrong. I wrote down several things, the top two being music and animals.

He really hit it off with his new teachers, telling them all about his Sesame Street dolls (the whole lot of them), about how we were going to cat-sit for our friend Hudson’s cat, about his puzzles and Legos. When they asked what he liked to do in his play room, he said, “Play music.” And when they asked if he had any questions about his new classroom, he asked if there would be pets.

I was glad to see I’d written down the right things!

Greene Hill School’s raw space

June 17, 2010

A few photos from my spring tour of the new Greene Hill School space on Adelphi Street. They’ll be renovating (painting, cleaning and decorating—the woodwork and windows stay) over the summer.


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.


More of the movie Getting In…Kindergarten

October 24, 2009

I posted part one of “Getting In…Kindergarten” a while back.

For those who have an interest in seeing more parents confront NYC private school admissions, parts two, three, and four are now available on Youtube.

The emphasis on testing in this film and in the whole school process is especially interesting in light of a book I just read, Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It seems that IQ is very flexible and can gain or drop 15 points from the age of 4 to the teenage years, and many really smart kids don’t actually have fully developed intelligence until they are 11 or 12, way beyond the time that schools test for that kind of thing.

(Of course that also means that those IQ tests I took in first grade, to get me into the gifted program, are null by now. I could be 15 IQ points less intelligent than I was in kindergarten. Hmm. It does kind of feel that way sometimes.)

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.


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