The magical charter school – How to WIN the lottery despite the odds

The magical charter school – How to WIN the lottery despite the odds

If you’re having public school problems, I feel bad for you son, I’ve got 99 problems, but  a charter school ain’t one! haha… that certainly was not my war cry a mere year ago, as I sat on the edge of my bed virtually in tears at the thought of my kid attending public school; not that there is anything wrong with public school. I just believe that charter schools are an excellent alternative to under or low performing public schools.

So, lets start from the beginning. We are Jamaicans, born and raised we moved to America but at our core (my hubby and I) we yardies. Having said that we relish the idea of a structured, uniformed and academically focused education for our children. That is what we know and who we are based on our culture. I decided that a charter school would do exactly that for my daughter who was about to graduate VPK and venture into kindergartendom (made a new word!). I researched like crazy (yes, yes I did…I research pretty much everything, why would this life changing event, be any different). I read all the reviews about charter vs public school, etc.

During my research I found several charter schools that were in proximity to our home or close enough to commute. I read about the lottery and the likelihood of us “winning” a place. I applied to 5 schools and crossed my fingers, toes and eyes. I prayed and hope, because once I set my mind to something, damned if it doesn’t work out. Eventually lottery results rolled around and my daughter got into approximately zero schools based on the lottery drawings. Which brings me back to paragraph one above where i’m sitting on my bed bewildered and feeling like a complete failure as a parent about something I had absolutely no control over.

Eventually, my kid did get into a charter school…off the waiting list. When I got the email it took me 0.001 seconds to accept the place. Based on all my research and the stress of placing my daughter I learnt so much about the process. Despite searching all over the internet I barely found anything that would help me, help her after we were rejected (quite literally). Because if this, i’m providing a few tips for parents to help you so that you won’t become as helpless and overwhelmed as I was during the process. They are simple tips that may work or not, and really they are more like advice than tips.

1. APPLY EARLY. If registration begins at midnight on Jan 4th, apply at 12.01 (slight exaggeration, but you get my point, right? Why should you apply early? When you attend the charter school info sessions and introductory meetings they will tell you that the lottery is random (which it is), they will tell you that if you are not selected, you will be placed on a waiting list, which they say is random as well (but based on my experience, it doesn’t seem to be). I applied early to all the schools we wanted to get into. My kid got into 3 of them based on being on the waiting list. Coincidence? I think not. We finally settled on our second choice, but I think that we were at the top of the waiting lists because we applied early and they select people off the waiting list based on the order in which they applied. Makes complete sense right? I think so.

2.  APPLY A LOT. Don’t just select your favorite school, select and apply to as many that fits your criteria. Its a lottery! you may not be as lucky to get into the school of your choice, have options open. We applied to 5, we got into 3 off the wait list.

3. PUT THE WORK IN, YOU MAY ONLY HAVE TO DO IT ONCE. Siblings automatically get selection preference, so you may only have to do this once, if you have more than one kid. That’s a relief right? I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the best luck in general, much less attempting to pull off a lottery win more than once.

4. JOIN THE BOARD OF NEW CHARTER SCHOOLS. This far fetched, but what the heck. Charter schools are run by large companies, small organisations, parents, teachers, community groups, etc. Children of board members on new charter schools automatically get a place. Bad news is, this is mostly for founding members. Good news, your community may need a charter school that you can petition to be opened. It could happen.

5. BE PREPARED TO VOLUNTEER. Volunteering a lot of your time, could get you in with the right people at your desired charter school. I didn’t go this route, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try.

Parents want the best possible environment for their children, and the best possible head start on the road to college; charter schools, in my opinion does that by creating a bridge between a traditional public school and a private school.

Good luck and fingers crossed for the lottery!

 

 

 

 

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Summer is HERE!

Summer is HERE!

So its SUMMER! My little one just completed kindergarten. She loved it, although at times was quite bored and hated the homework. I’m pretty sure she’s stoked that it is summer time. What plans do you have with your family? vacations? out door play? pool? beach? So many things to do right?

Here are just a few fun ideas to get yah started!

  1. Make ice cream sandwiches.
  2. Volunteer at a nature center.
  3. Have a luau in the backyard.
  4. Visit the beach and collect shells.
  5. Make a fort out of cardboard boxes.
  6. Visit a farmer’s market.
  7. Have a picnic at a park.
  8. Make ice cream. my daughter has been begging me to make ice cream ever since she saw a video on youtube.
  9. Go canoeing at a local lake.
  10. Build a sandcastle.
  11. Clean up trash at a local park
  12. Have a backyard campfire…or just use the grill! Roast hot dogs on sticks, pop popcorn and finish off with s’mores.
  13. Make homemade pizza.
  14. Go for a walk and then make a collage from nature objects you find along the way.
  15. Head to a creek and look at the ducks. W have a canal right near our hose, so we will definitely be doing this one.
  16. Have a water balloon fight.
  17. Practice your origami skills and make objects to hang from the ceiling.
  18. Go biking on a trail.
  19. Interview an older relative about what life was like when they were young.
  20. Plan a picnic at a local park — or in your backyard.
  21. Print out a list of children’s book. Visit the local library throughout the summer and try to read as many as you can.
  22. Practice making interesting shadow puppets and then put on a show with your characters.
  23. Plant a garden of herbs and veggies.
  24. Make a sidewalk chalk mural.
  25. Have an outdoor painting party using huge canvases or cardboard.
  26. Plant a butterfly garden with flowers.
  27. Pretend to be pirates for a day — dress up in costumes and plan a treasure hunt.
  28. Turn the backyard into a carnival — set up a face painting area and games like ring toss.
  29. Make totem poles out of paper towel rolls and decorate them.
  30. Visit a museum you’ve never been to.
  31. Make a giant hopscotch or Twister game on the lawn (with spray paint) or driveway (with chalk).
  32. String beads into jewelry.
  33. Make a bird house out of Popsicle sticks.
  34. Learn about stargazing and identify as many constellations as possible — see if there are any local astronomy groups for kids.
  35. Create leis with wildflowers.
  36. Go fossil hunting near a lake.
  37. Make paper boats and race them in a kiddie pool using straws to propel them.
  38. Play mini-golf — or set up a course in your driveway by laying different size containers on their sides.
  39. Make your own colored sand and create sand art.
  40. Visit an amusement park or water park.

Happy Summer!

TV is good…sometimes

TV is good…sometimes

I have been weary of allowing my kids to have too much TV time, because the experts and naysayers think it might not help their tiny little brains develop well. However, I have to say in moderation TV has been a good experience, a learning experience for my kids, and even for me. There are a few shows that I cannot stop singing their praises, they really helped my child learn new and interesting things about the world. Here are my favorite three:

The Octonauts

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The Octonauts follows an underwater exploring crew made up of stylized animals, a team of eight adventurers who live in an undersea base, the Octopod, from where they go on undersea adventures with the help of a fleet of aquatic vehicles. I love this series because it teaches about marine life and marine animals. I have seen a few episodes with my children and the wealth of information each episode presents about different living creatures in the sea is invaluable. My daughter now knows that dolphins are mammals and also knows why squids squirt ink when they are afraid.

Team Umizoomi

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Math anyone? Team Umizoomi is an animated musical series with an emphasis on preschool mathematical concepts, such as counting, sequences, shapes, patterns, measurements, and comparisons. The stars are three mini superheros Milli and Geo and a friendly robot named Bot. I enjoy this show because it helps children develop their “Mighty Math Powers!” There is counting involved and shapes, and its done in a fun and colorful way so that they feel like the’re having fun while learning.

WallyKazam

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The show revolves around young troll Wally Trollman, who uses his magic stick to turn words into physical objects or occurrences, along with his pet dragon Norville and three friends. I love this serious because it helps children not only learn words but also focus on the specific letter each word begins with in each episode. Children learn words and their meaning and actions starting with that letter. Besides that the songs are also very catchy.

There you have it, my top three TV shows that I let my kids watch guilt free because I know they will come away with some great knowledge. Do you agree, what sort of shows do you let your kids watch guilt free?

What you talking about? Santa?

What you talking about? Santa?

I think as parents we live what we’ve learnt and parenting is no different. Growing up, we enjoyed Christmas, it was a fun time, but I don’t ever remember believing in Santa Clause nor do I ever recall being led to believe in him at any time. So, obviously now that I have my own kids I don’t see the point in having my kids believe in him either, right? *roll eyes* I actually wish it were THAT simple. Its not.

Growing up at my grandmother’s house we had a Christmas tree at some point, then after a few years we stopped putting it up. I don’t know why maybe if fell apart and we couldn’t afford to replace it, who knows? But, that didn’t make Christmas any less enjoyable for my sisters and my cousins and I. We had no gifts under the tree to unwrap and ohhh and ahhh at. We couldn’t afford that. That didn’t stop us from having fun on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. My aunt baked fruit cakes till way into the morning and the smell of the deliciousness fermented ever core of our house. We ate fruit cake well into January. My husband, had a nice tree and presents under it, and his memories were also great of Christmas past except the part where he believed that Santa brought him gifts.

Herein lies the debate, to believe or not to believe, he thinks there is no harm in letting our children believe in the magic of old Saint Nick, because Christmas is a cherished time of lovingness and giving and receiving presents. Children revel in the idea of Christmas when they think a mysterious jolly old man with a white beard brings them gifts on Christmas eve. They like the stories of Jolly Saint Nick and enjoy writing him requesting a long list of things they don’t have jobs to purchase themselves.

This same old man in red can also absolve parents of any potential blame for any heartbreak, melt downs and disappointments on Christmas morning when some kids don’t receive what they asked ‘Santa’ for. Santa sure gets a lot of blame around this time. I mean, there are benefits to using Santa as your front man. He see and hears all nice or naughtiness and acts accordingly, which clears parents of having to deal with disciplining kids atleast during Christmas time.The quickest way to get a kid to act right is to threaten a Santa strike and a lump of coal.

However, being the big pile of party pooper that I am I’m not sure I believe in lying to my children about someone that doesn’t exist. Also, I think I deserve some credit, Santa didn’t track down that Elsa doll by perusing twelve million websites. Where was he when I was pulling my hair out when sold out appeared beside every doll on each website. Where is my milk and cookies? How does Santa take credit for my hard work.

So, we are at a crosswords as Christmas draws nigh and the debate ensues. The Images of Santa Clause are so dominant, every five minutes on our TV, computer, everywhere! We are going to have to do something soon. I can’t even go to the supermarket without a giant sign reminding me how many days are left before Christmas. The pressure is too much, on one hand the commercialization of the season is nauseating, but on the other hand, its the season to don we now our gay apparel and traverse through snow, and if you don’t have snow then traverse through freshly fallen leaves. Everyone is sitting on Santa’s lap these days, should I deny them that? What will be next, the Tooth Fairy? the Easter Bunny? its a slippery slope you know…

Atleast I don’t have to worry about my one year old, he will unwrap a colander and play with the box it came in and be content until he poops. However, my three year old is quite precocious, she will unravel any lie with her famous twenty one questions. She is not easily fooled, she knows way too many words for her age. I don’t want to stamp on my kid’s childhood and ruin their potentially heartwarming memories by being the party pooper. I’m already quite notorious for restricting juice and candy, now I will surely earn the prison warden title my husband so lovingly bestowed on me. I cannot be the only mommy in this dilemma? I think I will just pretend that Santa does not exist and see if they notice him around town. Why bring it up huh? Ignorance is bliss, atleast for now, right?

Why can’t we have our “I just had a baby” excuse?

Why can’t we have our “I just had a baby” excuse?

So, this REALLY happened…One day when my son was about 6 weeks old, we ran low on diapers and supplies and my husband and I decided to take a trip to the store. While checking out the cashier decided to make small talk by asking me, if I was pregnant again. I mean, I was rendered utterly speechless because while I DID still have a sizable tummy pouch, it was clear had there was a newborn in a stroller right beside me. When she realized that she might have offended me, she laughed and told me, that I should strap my tummy down, to get rid of the ‘fat’. Now, with the lack of sleep and her insensitivity I just wanted to reach across the cash register and perhaps…straighten her out, you know? I fumed all the way home, of course, cursing my self for ever leaving the house in the first place. I mean I hadn’t been outside in a really long time and craved some fresh air and this is what I get?

Almost a year later I’m still struggling with the snares and comments from everyone around me, including friends, who gently remind me that ‘I just had a baby’ is no longer a viable excuse; or the in laws who ask if my family is big boned. Lets not forget the skinny models who post pictures on instagram four days after giving birth, looking like they just got off the runaway. Oh the struggle is real…

So, why is there so much pressure for mommies to loose that baby weight? What’s the big hurry? I guess its societal standards that are being forced upon us by Hollywood. We see starlets have babies and six months later they look like they were never pregnant to begin with. We normal folks feed into this pressure to look perfect not realizing that these people have personal trainers, camping out in their guest bedroom and private chefs making them egg whites and smoothies as their feet land off the bed in the mornings. Lets not forget the nannies, whom tend to their children while they get all this tucking and toning done. We normal folks are lucky if we can put a piece of toast in the toaster before the baby wakes up and the chaos begins.

What baffles me though is that these famous people in interviews proclaim, when asked how they lost the baby weight, that “oh, just by chasing after the kids, its really a great workout”. Oh, how I wish this were true, I’ve spent so much time chasing my kids that I would be as fit as Jamaican sprint queen Veronica Campbell-Brown, if that were true. Instead, I steal 25 minutes each day to heave heavily though my Focus T25 workout while praying that my infant doesn’t wake up before I get it done. As a matter of fact I was only more determined to loose the weight when I realized that I could either wear maternity clothes six months after I gave birth or endeavour to fit into ‘some’ of my clothes. I chose the latter, but with much stress and fanfare. Have you ever tried to work out on four hours sleep, it is not cute.

Also, after I lost a little bit of weight, about 15lbs, I had to deal with the added pressure to take it all the way, from those naysayers who kept hinting that I may or may not have another bun in the oven. Atlas, after loosing and gaining a little back and after almost a year I am down to my last 10lbs. The dreaded last 10lbs is clinging to my body for dear life; It refuses to leave, or maybe I refuse to put away the chocolate covered almonds, who knows? But i digress.. These days i’m lucky to get a work out in, because once you have two kids afoot, all hell breaks loose. Mostly my three year old insists that she needs to stretch too, and my son, he’s crawling all around my leg wanting to join the fun. Its a mess.

I guess what i’m rambling on about, is just how difficult it is for any mom, whether a stay at home mom or a working mom to get an exercise regiment going, let alone execute it effectively. We are definitely not starlets or supermodels, and we certainly almost never loose any weight by chasing kids around. We may loose our sanity, but never any weight. I  just think having said all that, we should be allowed to use the ‘i just had a baby’ excuse for as long as our hearts and hips and thighs desire. Its really hard to just bounce back, and people should understand and not give us any flack for it.

*Photo credit: http://www.essence.com (Getty Images)

I don’t see crocodiles anywhere mommy!

I don’t see crocodiles anywhere mommy!

Kids say the darnest things, don’t they? Last week, while I was driving my kids to the library, late again for our weekly story time session, my DD out of nowhere exclaimed “I don’t see crocodiles anywhere mommy!” She said it so innocently and seemed so utterly bewildered by the lack of crocodiles that I burst out laughing. Mind you, I don’t believe she’s ever seen a random crocodile on the street, the zoo perhaps, but never once on the street. I told her that it was highly improbably that we would run across a crocodile on the street, but who knows…My precocious 3 year old entertains me quiet often with her random gems. I have to say with mommyhood, there is never a dull moment.

This really got me thinking about the imagination of the average preschooler. These tiny people are so imaginative and honest to a fault, one cannot help but provide the avenues to nurture that amazing creativity. That is why its so important for parents to allow kids the opportunity to explore the many facets of creativity and talent that allows them to express themselves. Later in life, this will assist them in dealing with frustrations or other challenges in life that they may come across. A child’s brain develops and grows the most within the first 5 years of life. Parents often rush to entrust their children with the requisite foundations necessary that will contribute to their personal characteristics.

For my part I allow my kid to explore all facets of her imagination through art, music and especially dance. I used to dance myself and though I would  have enjoyed living vicariously through her, she, on her own has developed quite a love for dance. I’m glad for this because it allows me the opportunity to teach her what I know, and watch her blossom. She also enjoys painting, something her aunt  who is an artist helps to nurture. I mean, you don’t have to be an artist or a dancer to help your child develop their imagination, I say let them try it all, see what they like and pick something they want to focus their attention on. I believe in the long run it will center them and allow them to have an outlet. Its so important to be well rounded and try new things, that will give you the opportunity to express yourself without words. I can’t tell you how many times dance has done that for me. Of course sports and other outlets provide this as well, I say let them try it all… atleast once.

Mommies and Milestones

Mommies and Milestones

Let me tell you, there is nothing more fulfilling than watching your baby learn to do simple, yet amazing things we adults take for granted every day. The first smile, the first sit up, crawling, it’s all an incredible chapter in your baby’s book of life. This is one of the many things I enjoy about being a mom. I love to brag about how smart my daughter is because she can stand in her crib all by herself or crawl to me, when I ask her to. My friends with no children always roll their eyes and comment that these are normal everyday things. But to me, my baby is some kind of genius.

The first time my baby smiled back at me, I felt so accomplished. I tried taking a million pictures so that I could capture that moment in time. I was just so darn proud. Now I believe that my little one is above her developmental curve by atleast a month, and despite the fact that this may just be her normal development I really don’t care, I just enjoy watching her do new things and discovering new places and learning new tasks.

She has now mastered the pincer grasp and I’ve gotten so excited that I stopped pureeing her bananas and her mango and I now cut them up into tiny bits and drop them on her highchair table and watch her pick them up. I’m like a mommy coach training her to grasp the little pellets of foods and put them to her mouth. It’s so great to watch her smile at me, as I encourage her along, I think she patronizes me a lot and I thank her for that.

Sometimes, as much as I try to record all of my daughter’s milestones I never seem to be able to coax a second performance out of her when the camera has missed the first one. I’m always so thankful that I am always around to experience it the first time around. I clap my hands and smile like she’s the valedictorian at her college graduation. And she sometimes gives me a puzzling look like, what’s the fuss all about?

I’m such a proud mama, its fun to watch her crawl to me, all the while fussing that I seem to be moving further away as she approaches; she always dives for me when she finally reaches near, as if to say, gotcha. Em is tenacious and determined, never tell her that it’s not time for her to be trying to stand unassisted by herself at 8 months, she will cruise to a spot and let go and never worry that no one will be there to catch her. She never worries about falling. She is steadfast and determined to walk and I find her spirit so pure and endearing.

All these glorious milestones are to be nurtured and appreciated so that babies can enjoy them and encourage themselves to be brave in trying new things. Every child develops differently and at different stages but it sure is exciting to watch them grow up, even though at times you wish they would stay tiny and adorable.