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Saturday, December 17, 2011

CPS Selective Enrollment, NYC Co-Ops and the Pre-K & Kindergarten Circus

In Chicago nearly every parent of a 4 or 5 year old is researching, considering strategies and praying for their child to be accepting into one of the city's gifted or classical schools for Pre-K, Kindergarten or 1st grade programs. These public selective enrollment schools offer your kid a coveted seat in some of the state's most exceptional elementary schools for free. The alternative is to place your child in a less rigorous neighborhood school, or pay out the wazoo for a private or parochial education where tuition ranges from $10,000 to upward of $25,000. Moms and Dads like myself have likely already invested anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000 in private preschools hoping to prepare our offspring for placement tests.

Test stress plagues us as we try to keep our children relaxed and unaware of how important it is to do well. But performance isn't everything. The newly employed "tier system" is organized so that every Chicago address falls within a specific census tract. CPS looks at five socio-economic characteristics for each census tract: (1) median family income, (2) percentage of single-family homes, (3) percentage of homes where English is not the first language, (4) percentage of homes occupied by the homeowner, and (5) level of adult education attainment. Lastly, they consider a sixth characteristic, the achievement scores from attendance area schools in each census tract. Based on the results of each of these six areas, each census tract is given a specific score; these scores are ranked and divided into four groups – or ‘tiers’ -- each consisting of approximately the same number of school-age children. The 4 tiers will each be given an equal number of spots in the remaining 60% of seats after top-scoring kids (gifted/classical) or neighborhood kids (magnets) get chosen. For more information on tiers visit

Last year, Chicago’s 39 magnet elementary schools received 13,678 applications for 2,097 slots for the 2010–11 school year; the well-known magnets include Disney, Drummond, Franklin Fine Arts, Hawthorne Scholastic Academy, Inter-American, LaSalle Language Academy, Mayer, and Stone. The selective enrollment elementary schools got 18,259 applications for 1,211 spots; these include regional gifted centers such as Keller, Bell, Edison, Lenart, and Pritzker, as well as the classical schools—Decatur, McDade, Poe, and Skinner North and West. Statistically it's easier to gain admission to Harvard undergrad.

Today I ran across an article in the New York Times written by a NYC Mom, Soni Sangha, who shares her anxiety, as well as her community's creative way of adequately (also kind of illegally) educating their children through parent developed co-ops. It was a great read, highly recommended to provide additional perspective on the Preschool circus that is the norm in our nation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tip-Toeing back to work, the internal Mommy War.

I've been fighting the internal Mommy war. It's been said the term "working Mom" is a redundancy. Clearly it takes as much skill and effort to manage a career as it does manage a household. Still many women are torn when asking themselves whether they should work in or out the home. There's lots to be considered; finances, personal goals & fulfillment, what's best for the kids. The truth is it's difficult to know what the answer is for yourself and your family. Every Mom has to take the time to consider the pros and cons. For me, like most everything else, it's about balance. Having one foot in the work world and one foot (along with my heart) at home. Being a full time stay-at-home Mom has left me filling a bit unfulfilled, that's part of the reason I've ventured into the blogosphere. But, I'm sure when I begin substitute teaching a few days a week I'll miss my munchkins. Here's to hoping having a life in both worlds is the best choice for this ShoMommy.

Inspired by

Couldn't have said it better myself - Don’t Lose Yourself In Parenthood Marriage by Tiya Cunningham-Sumter

I've never done this before, but I felt compelled to share an article I read on a fantastic blog

The author does a great job of reminding us "You are more than mommy and daddy. Part of giving our children what they need is also allowing them to grow up in a home where mommy and daddy don’t forget to be just the Mr. and Mrs."

Check it out at

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Best of the Best Mom Bloggers!

I wanted to take a second to applaud all of the fantabulous Moms who made Babble's Top 100! Kudos to you Momtrepreneurs, I hope to be amongst your ranks in a year's time. Bravo!
Click the link for the full article :-)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

5 Reasons to Chaperone Your Child's Next Field Trip

Nothing beats a field trip. I know we get busy with work, projects and other responsibilities, but actually seeing your child apply what they're learning in school is amazing. Life's most important tests take place outside of the classroom! See if you agree with my 5 reasons to hop on the school bus with your kid and their buddies.

5. Learn Something!

Did you know Pluto was now a star not a planet? Yup, me neither until my 4 year-old schooled me. Hubby and I tried to teach him "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas". He looked at us like we were crazy. True story. Don't even get me started on the new math... Taking part in field trips that support school curriculum keeps you in the scholastic loop. You have an opportunity to learn on your child's level, acquire some information for further discussion at home and make it fun!

4. Meet The Parents
Pick up, drop off, crazy birthday parties. Most of us get to know our school parent peers by their cars or kids' names. We do it all the time, "Tyra's Mom, you know, they drive the red Honda." You'd be amazed how easy it is to talk to fellow Moms or Dads after a few boisterous rounds of Wheels on the Bus. No business suits, no bluetooths just bonding over a semi-gross turkey sandwich in a museum cafeteria. Give it a go and see your play date network expand before your eyes.

3. Spy on the Teachers
There's no better time or place to find out what someone's made of than to take them out of their comfort zone, put them under a microscope and into organized chaos. How do the teachers' talk to the kids under stress? Are they phony in front of the parents and administrators? Is the trip organized or utter mayhem? You can learn who's the boss with a little observation.

2. See Your Kid at Work & Play

All children come home with anecdotes about their favorite buddies. The have the days they can't stop talking about how funny their friends are, or who always has the best show and tell. Sometimes getting them to recount what they've learned isn't so easy. Tagging along on a field trip is a great way to see how what's being taught in class is sinking in. It also provides insight into your little one's growing personality. Is your quiet kiddo, really a class cutup? Do they need a little push to assert themselves in large groups? How well do they interact with older kids? You might be surprised by unexpected displays of brilliance. During a trip to the Adler Planetarium my son looked at me and said, "Earth is the birthplace of the human race." I almost hit the floor, my boy's a philosopher! After some research I found out he was quoting one of Optimus Prime's lines from Transformers 2, but still ... pretty profound!

1. Be Their Favorite... at least for the day
I'm not sure about older children, but my preschooler would have me come to class with him everyday if I could. I'd have a cot, cubby, the works. Of course that will never happen so this is the next best thing. Nothing gets you cool points quicker than chaperoning a field trip. Imagine their joy. Riding a bus to a fun new place with their best friends, fave teachers and YOU! Interactive lessons, laughter and love - what could be better :-) Take full advantage of these days where they actually want you around (and enjoy holding your hand). Relish it! They'll be preteens asking you to drop them two blocks from school before you know it.