educating: to do

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Infant & Baby Classes
At first it may seem kind of silly to sign your baby up for a class.  We started a music class at 9 months with our first child—she liked hearing the songs and playing with the egg shakers.  I liked having a place to go with her that was different than the living room or a friend’s house.  By the time the class was over, in the summer, she was almost a year and a half and she really enjoyed the class, actively.

Toddler Classes
Taking classes with your toddler gives you and your toddler something fun to do between naps.  Again, you get a chance to meet other parents, toddlers, and caregivers.  If you have a nanny, classes are a good place for her to meet people.

Look for classes that are about exploration, enjoyment.  Any classes purporting to teach would be ones I’d stay away from.  Toddler classes expose children to some classroom structure, but not every child will be able to sit in a circle at the right time, and this shouldn’t be expected.  If your child is being incredibly disruptive, a quick break outside the room should help.

Nursery School
We looked for a nursery school with a nurturing environment, with trained teachers and support staff, and a philosophy based on supporting children explore their interests. 

If you are in New York City, the application process is intense.  You need to begin the application process the September one year before your child will begin.  Victoria Goldman has written the best guidebook , The Manhattan Directory of Private Nursery Schools. Ask friends, decide which schools you think you want to apply to and visit their websites and call them in the spring to ask about their application process in the fall.  Ask (even if you’ve read it in the book) how you get an application, what day you can call for that application, if they hand out a limited number of applications so you know.

Interview advice:  be yourself, support but don’t overwhelm your child.  You don’t have to prove to the school “how great” your child is or what he or she can “do”.  I’ve hear people say, “I don’t know what they are looking for!” They are looking to see who your child is—a full class needs many personalities.  They are also looking at your interaction with your child and the other parents, if applicable.  I was with one of my children at an interview in which a parent was aggressively asking another parent questions about the racial makeup of her child.   

Kindergarten-- Private School
Some people don’t have to make choices about ongoing school—if you have chosen your apartment or house because of the local schools and plan to send your children there, the decision is made.

If you have to apply to public and or private schools, you have a lot of research to do.  Private pre-K and Kindergarten can be even more involved than preschool.  Some schools require tests, all require playdates and some also have parent interviews.

Take the application seriously.
There are usually questions on the application that allow you to write about who your child is, and what kind of education you envision.  Be thoughtful, and grammatically correct.  Type your application questions and attach, or rewrite what you’ve typed so you say what you want to say.  Send thank you notes that are truthful. 

If your school accepts a “First Choice Letter” (a letter in which you let the school know this is your most favorite) you should definitely write one.  Schools want to accept people who are going to accept them.

about choosing a school that is right for you and your child.



What to do with all that artwork?!
Most children produce more artwork, notes, sculptures, and collages than you can keep in a house, let alone an apartment. What works well for me and everyone I've suggested this to is the following: have one portfolio that you fill throughout the years with very representative pieces of flat art (first faces, particularly powerful works, and anything you have a real connection to). With the others, take good photographs-- get a camera with a white balance so your colors are accurate, and drag all those photos into an album on your computer when you take them.

Once or twice a year, order a photobook-- taking advantage of the pages you can add and picture titles, if you want to include some description. Once you photograph the work, throw it away. Your children will thank you later when they don't have to go through it all, and you are still honoring their creations as well as modeling good use of your own family's living space.


After School Classes --Children 4-10 years old
Most important:  you child likes the class and doesn’t feed judged—ones where he is encouraged to participate.  Classes can be about fostering creativity, giving your child a place to explore, or be about acquiring specific skills.

Most classes have a trial period, others you need to sign up for before.  Ask friends and acquaintances about specific classes and teachers-- ask on message boards, in the playgrounds, and ask to visit classes the semester before you might want to sign up.

The biggest challenge that all these classes face, is having teachers and staff who are trained in age appropriate projects, behavior expectations, and language— sometimes the people with the best skills are not the best teachers. 

Helping Children Learn About Money
Spending, saving for something special, giving money to causes that are important to you and your children-- there is so much to understand about money and finances. One place to start is to open a bank account with your child.
Maine to Florida along the east coast
Money Savvy Pig
Prosperity4Kids Money Mama
These at home banks offer different compartments and come with literature, sometimes games, and tips to start conversations with your child.


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