Gearing up for the new school year? August is the new September.

We’re still in the dog days of summer and summer vacation is in full swing – kids are in camp, summer hours are in effect at the office and it’s hot -- real hot. If school starts after Labor Day there is still one month left of summer for the kids. So why am I seeing first day of school photos all over my social media accounts already? It seems like school starts in August ,or even July, in many parts of the country. Here in the northeast public school starts September 8th but most charter schools kids have either started school this week or will be headed back in the next week or so.

It's back to school time for some but not for others. When it comes to independent schools most, if not all, begin after Labor Day, the official end of summer fun. For the thousands of kids in pre-k this year who’s parents are considering private school for kindergarten the time to consider applications is now.

Applying to one of these schools is a multi-step process that involves completing written or online applications, screening tests, school tours, separate parent and child in-person interviews and financial documentation (if requesting financial assistance).

Consider these facts:

  1. Most people apply to 8-10 schools
  1. Between parent tours, parent interviews and child playdates, there will be 24-30 visits to schools during a roughly three-month period
  1. Including a modest 30 minute travel time, working parents will miss 56-65 hours of work during this time (not including time to complete applications and other required paperwork)

Our annual kindergarten admissions panel & school fair is a one-stop shop where you can meet admission directors and gather all of the information you need for a successful application. Some schools stop accepting applications early once they’ve reached a maximum number so getting an early start puts you ahead of the masses. The event takes place Monday, August 29, 2016, 6pm at Ephesus Church, 101 W 123rd Street. You don't want to miss this!

List of school fair participants:

Allen-Stevenson School

Bank Street

Brearley School

Browning School

Buckley School

Calhoun School

Collegiate School

Convent of the Sacred Heart

Dalton School

Elizabeth Morrow

Harlem Academy

Hewitt School

Hunter College Elementary

Manhattan Country School

Pono

Spence School

St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's

Town School

National Catholic Schools Week – January 29-February 5 2012

The theme for Catholic Schools Week 2012 is “Catholic Schools: Faith. Academics. Service.”  The annual observance starts the last Sunday in January and runs all week, which in 2012 is January 29 to February 5. Schools typically celebrate Catholic Schools Week with Masses, open houses and special activities for students, families, parishioners and the community at large.  This week also kicks off the enrollment period for September 2012.  Information about Catholic schools from Pre-K through Grade 12 in the Archdiocese of New York can be found on the bilingual website: www.BuildBoldFutures.org, or by calling the bilingual recruitment phone 212-794-2885.

The theme for 2012 focuses on three priorities that make Catholic schools stand out from other educational institutions.  Children are taught faith – not just the basics of Christianity, but how to have a relationship with God.  Academics, which in Catholic schools are held to very high standards, and help each child reach his or her potential.  Service, the giving of one’s time and effort to help others, is taught both as an expression of faith and good citizenship.

What happened in December

Happy New Year everyone!  I remember not too long ago that everyone was worried about the 2000 millenium bug and here we are, 10 years later already.  Wow!

We're back from a month long holiday break and rearing to go.  This year, I plan on expanding the blog's scope to provide updates on what is going on in education throughout the U.S as well as in our individual classrooms.  When I started this blog the intention was just to write about what our kids were doing in their individual classrooms.  But once you enter the world of education you quickly see that what is happening in policy affects what happens in preschool affects what happens in elementary and high school classrooms is intricately connected.   We'll bring you as much info as we can to keep you updated and informed.  Knowledge is power.

For now, I'll let you know what Lee was up to for the month of December.  The kids covered:

- naming and identifying letters Dd, Ee and Fk

- naming and identifying numbers 3 and 4

- living and non-living things

- Jesus and his birth

The month was filled with all sorts or activities from the Christmas concert to Santa's Workshop, where kids got to purchase donated items as gifts for their family and friends.  There were bake sales, holiday parties, fundraisers...my head was dizzy from all the activities.

At the end of January will be the end of the 2nd quarter and time for another report card.  This time I will scan the card and post it so that you can see all of the criteria used to evaluate the kids.

Report cards

October just zoomed by and here we are in Novemer and the day of my son's first ever report card.  I have a nostalgic love of report cards.  My mother still has all of my old ones from Grade 3 right up to the point I graduated high school, not that long ago 🙂

Despite getting off to a slow start and being sick for pretty much the entire time that he has been attending school (we've since found out that he has allergies), Lee is off to a wonderful start.  I won't get into any specifics, but I couldn't be more pleased than I am with the report card we received.  He's hitting all of his markers developmentally and turning into quite the social butterfly.  While he was at home with me, I tried my best to get him involved in as many opportunities for play with other kids as I could - hosting playgroups, going to music classes and early enrichment classes.  But preschool is like one big playgroup with someone else facilitating.  There's music, art, creative play, academics all while bonding with a diverse group of his peers.

This is one of four report cards that we'll receive this year.  It will be interesting to see how he progresses.  In the meantime, picture day happened last week, there are ongoing rehearsals for the holiday show, BoxTops collections (more about this later) and an upcoming school sponsored fundraising event.  It's going to be a busy month.

Book Fair

I just got back from volunteering at the Scholastic Book Fair our school is having this week.  This is another fundraising activity at out school and one that I whole heartedly approve of.  Anyone who knows me knows the passion I have for books, and children's books in particular.

The fair is set up in the gym throughout the week.  Each class takes turns coming down to browse and purchase books.   A letter was sent home last week in the orange folder, alerting parents to the upcoming fair and included an order form.  Some parents chose to fill in the form with specific books that they wanted their kids to purchase and sent a check or cash along for the total.  Others, myself included, put some money in an envelope and sent it in the folder.  When their child went to the fair he/she chose the books they wanted to purchase, within their budget.  As a volunteer, I helped the teachers/kids locate and select age appropriate titles to purchase.  The best part for me was getting the chance to share some of the books that Lee and I enjoy reading with the teachers and students.  I was pleased to see a few books illustrated by Kadir Nelson and titles such as The House In The Night by Susan Marie Swanson and The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney.

The teachers did a good job explaining to the kids how much money they had for their purchase, the cost of each book they selected and how much money remained for an additional selection or change.  A good practical lesson in money and spending.

It was really great to see how excited the kids were by the books and reading.  Nice job, parents!

Halloween candy buy back

I hope everyone had a safe and Happy Halloween.  This year's Halloween was the best yet since Lee was born.  The day started with a party at his school followed by our neighbourhood community association parade and festivities, then topped off with trick-or-treating.

The school party was the first parent association organized fund raiser for the year.  There were 3 separate events throughout the day - Halloween party for grades pre-k-2, party for grades 3-5 and a dance for grades 6-8.  I don't know how the other parties went but the pre-k party was tons of fun.  A big hit was a crawl through tunnel we fashioned out of cardboard boxes.  The kids loved it!  There was copious amounts of food for both adults and children and plenty of activities to keep the young ones entertained.

After the party at school we joined the festivities put on by our neighbourhood community association.  This year was the first halloween parade and festival.  The night was topped off with trick-or-treating and an exhausted boy by 6 pm.  I had to carry him the last couple of blocks because he just ran out of steam.

This year we are going to donate the bulk of our candy to the Halloween Candy Buy Back program.  Participating dentists buy your candy for $1/pound (or other treats) then send it to the troops overseas.  Just enter your zip code at the site to find participating dentists in your area.  Beats eating it all myself 🙂

How was your Halloween?

The orange folder

On the first (or second, I can't quite remember) day of school, Lee brought home an orange folder with his name on it in his bookbag.  The is the primary method of communicating with the teacher.  The concept is sort of like sending notes by carrier pigeon back in the olden days.  School newsletters, forms, menus, announcements, notes from the teacher, the work your child did that day, are all placed in this folder in the bookbag on a daily basis.  Conversely, I can send notes to the teacher, money for Lee to purchase items from bake sales, and return forms by putting them in the folder.  The teacher empties the folder each day and routes the contents to the appropriate place in the school or reads the note and acts on it.  It's quite an efficient system as long as the folder is emptied and returned each day by both parties, parents and teachers.

For the most part, I've been returning the folder daily, although there has been one or two days that it's remained on the dining room table.  What I did not do was to figure out a way to store all of the stuff that comes home in the folder, so it was accumulating into yet another pile of stuff to figure out what to do with.  I'm a pack rat and information junkie so it's hard to just throw things away.  This past weekend I finally got a large 3 ring binder and a pack of dividers with the months of the year tabs and set about filing everything away.  This was so simple.  Why didn't I think of it before?

I now have a chronological record of all of the orange folder communication.  Lee's coloring pages and artwork that are not displayed are currently in the pockets of the binder.  This is only a temporary solution because at the rate that he's been bringing them home, those pockets will be filled by the end of November so I'll have to think of another solution for them soon.  Perhaps they'll just get their own orange folder.

Do you have a storage solution for your child's artwork that you would like to share?  Please leave a comment with it below.

Fundraising

Time has just been flying by.  I've survived our school's first fundraising drive for the year and, I'm not proud to say, my sales were abysmal.  When your child enrolls in preschool, whether it's public or private, get ready for the onslaught of fundraising events.  Our school requires a $300 fundraising contribution each year per family.  There are 2 types of fundraising events, the ones that are school sponsored and ones that are sponsored by the parents association.  The $300 limit applies to fundraising for school sponsored events only.  This year, school sponsored events are for Innisbrook and World's Finest Chocolates (gosh, I remember selling those when I went to school).  This first event was for Innisbrook.  I sold products to a whopping 3 people, not even close to my $300 target.  I'm at a disadvantage because I'm currently not working and my family and close friends are in Canada.  The company does not ship there.  Darn!  That limited my pool of potential purchasers to the few moms that I socialize with.  I have to admit that I'm not the world's best salesperson and it really showed.  There are any number of reasons I can find to explain away the results, but the fact is that better organization and a lack of procrastination could've resulted in a much better haul this time out.  It's a lesson learned for next time.  I WILL reach that $300 target,  it just might mean firing up my own chequebook :).

Label EVERYTHING!

One of the most important thing they should tell new parents is to label absolutely everything that is not on your child's body, including coats, hats, shoes, anything they may remove.

It rained heavily during the first couple days of school this year so Lee wore his new yellow rain slicker that he is in love with.  When I went to pick him up that afternoon, the teacher greeted me with a most apologetic look on her face.  "I'm so sorry, but we accidentally gave his coat to the boy he shares a cubby with", she said.  The perfect storm of circumstances lead to this unfortunate mishap that left my child with no coat to wear home in the rain.  The other boy was picked up early that day by someone who was not his mother or father and couldn't have known that he did not own the coat.  The teacher handed over the book bag and coat thinking it belonged to the right child.  The other child's name was in his coat, but Lee's name was not.  I guess there was some confusion as to who was who because the wrong coat was left behind for Lee.  It was an honest mistake but try explaining that to a 3 year old who is just getting used to a new situation.  It was not pretty.  Luckily, by the time we got outside the rain stated to hold up so he didn't get very wet at all.  The coat was returned the next morning and all was well.

Since then, I've learned to put his name on absolutely everything that is not attached to him - clothing, sheets, blankets, pillows, utensils, etc.  I use the labels from Name Bubbles and they're great.  I especially love the shoe labels because they have a plastic protective cover that keeps the labels in place.

Staying put

I've decided to stay where we are and not change schools.  Our school is great and it just feels like a perfect fit for my boy.  He is learning and enjoys going to school everyday.  No sense in disrupting that at this early stage in the process.