Common Core – – Ruining Education?

Came across this article and thought it was worth sharing…

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/01/13/report-requiring-kindergartners-to-read-as-common-core-does-may-harm-some/

I taught HS, so I can’t comment as an early childhood educator, but as a mom of a kindergartener, this article struck a nerve.  I have very strong feelings about education and I feel passionately that common core standards are taking the “learning” out of school and making it more about drilling information into our children.  People used to move to suburbs like Long Island for the wonderful schooling.  Now our tax dollars are going to confused teaching practices and disgruntled teachers struggling to find a balance between doing what they know is right (appropriately educating our children) versus what is mandated (teaching to the test).

I remember kindergarten being about discovery and social learning.  We played and used manipulatives and did projects. I fondly look back on my first grade experience and salute my teacher for doing so much more than forcing me to learn to read and write with dittos and rote practice. We learned about money and implemented those skills by going food shopping as a class. We celebrated holidays like Thanksgiving with big feasts where we cooked the meals and costume parties. My first grade teacher taught us about healthy living and scared us out of smoking cigarettes when we got older by demonstrating it’s affects. As I moved into the higher elementary grades, I learned about business through student run businesses within our school building. School was more than just reading, writing, arithmetic for testing purposes.

My son is blessed to have a wonderful kindergarten teacher that truly cares about her students and remembers what teaching was like in the old days. She constantly says that “the kids are doing first grade work.”  Yes, that sounds great – our kids are advancing, but the truth is they are missing out on so much more that they deserve in the early grades. My son shouldn’t be coming home worrying about college in kindergarten!   The kids are already under immense pressure. My son complains of “too much homework” and “too many dittos and writing the same thing over and over again.”  He fondly talks about life lessons he learned in pre-k. I pray those things stay with him as he matures.

I’m strongly thinking about ways to get involved in helping to get education back to what it should be, when kids were allowed to be kids and worked on age appropriate tasks in meaningful ways.  If you know more ways to get involved, please leave a comment.

Happy Saturday – the day of cartoons and no homework!

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The Most Magical Place On Earth

My husband and I are truly the least spontaneous people – two Pisces swimming in indecision.  When it’s time for date night, if we don’t have specific plans set, we are at a loss for where to go and what to do and we usually wind up in an argument. So when he asked me to help him plan a Disney World trip within two weeks time, it still shocks me that I enthusiastically agreed.

While he handled the airfare and hotel arrangements, I was charged with the tasks of planning our days in Orlando, ordering and shipping food and diapers, and packing everyone, including my husband.  You know, the easy stuff!

But I had to be sneaky about it all.  We decided if we were going to do it, we would surprise the kids. So when my five year old saw me putting his clothes into a suitcase and started questioning me, I would ramble something off like, “I’m just packing summer stuff for storage,” and then I would shove him out of my room.

I turned to Facebok for advice on planning our days at Disney and boy did I get a lot of great advice.  So many helpful tips.  But that’s not to say I didn’t get a little additional anxiety too.  Most of these past Disney travelers had planned their trips for an entire year prior to going.  They warned that I wouldn’t get reservations at good restaurants and I most probably wouldn’t get my first choices with FastPass options (FastPasses allow you to reserve spots on rides or at shows to reduce your wait time on lines).  I scrambled to organize last minute, panic setting in, questioning if we were crazy to go…all for naught! I got every FastPass and reservation I wanted!  Woohoo!!!  One step closer to enjoying our time at “The Most Magical Place on Earth!”

During the first half of winter break, I kept my kids home and isolated in hopes they would stay healthy before our trip.  I planned and a higher power laughed.  Fever viruses, ear infections, and stomachaches wreaked havoc on my children just days before our trip.  And then I succumbed…bronchitis and a bacterial infection. All I wanted to do was stay in my bed and sleep for a week, but oh yeah, #1 – I am a mom and we don’t get to do that, and #2 – I still needed to pack, organize, and get a bikini wax!

Somehow, I got it all together.  I went to bed early on NYE, giving my husband a hug instead of a NYE kiss (couldn’t risk spreading any additional germs), and woke up at 4:30 am on New Year’s Day to get ready for our flight.

We snuck into our oldests son’s room first – “Wake Up!  We’re going to Disney!”  We handed him a pair of Mickey Mouse Ears and he said, “Are you serious?!?!  I think I am a little too tired.”  Not exactly the response we were hoping for, but we knew he was excited. Our middle was confused, but excited, and the baby was enthusiatic at seeing us all wearing our Mickey ears. We got into the limo, strapped the kids into their car seats, and we were off.  And that’s when it hit me…We were about to embark on our first real trip as a family of five.  It was the first time my middle and the baby would be on an airplane. I was freaking out a bit on the inside, but managed to stay calm on the outside, all wonder-mom-esque, baby wearing, pushing a stroller, calmly doling out snacks. The flight went smoothly without incident and we arrived in Florida all clean and in one piece!

Looking awesome at 430 am with bronchitis!

Looking awesome at 430 am with bronchitis!

 

We had an amazing trip, but what I learned about Disney is that in order to truly enjoy the experience you need to just go with the flow.  I went armed with tons of advice and recommendations, much of which I implemented during our trip, but we learned along the way that what may have worked for someone else’s kids, didn’t work for ours.  Character meals were not a big hit.  Even with naps, my kids couldn’t stay awake for late night parades and fireworks.  My kids were happy to swim at the hotel, so we changed some of our plans around.  We didn’t want our Disney experience to leave us exhausted and needing another vacation just to recuperate.  We went with the flow, we swam, we ate gourmet meals at the hotel (with our kids).

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

I have to take a moment to applaud our hotel, The Four Seasons Orlando, and all of the Disney restaurants we visited.  Each was extremely thoughtful and accommodating when it came to allergy concerns.  I’ve never met so many chefs in my life! I ate so well and so did the baby.  It was amazing.  I got to try chicken and chorizo paella (which I’ve since made at home – yum!).  The baby tried salami and pulled pork and sorbet (oh sorbet, his new love!).  We both got to eat delicious omlettes.  Dreaming of vacation food… YUM!

Of course, our trip was not without incident, mostly at the fault of my dear husband.  He put us on the wrong bus and we wound up stranded at night at Fort Wilderness with no taxis in sight.  We had to beg a Disney employee to drive us back to the hotel.  My husband also lost his wallet at Animal Kingdom and we were stuck there for an extra hour and a half and down two hundred stolen dollars.  But we were able to laugh and continue to smile through a lot of the craziness, which is truly a testament to how far we’ve come as a couple.

Overall, the entire experience was one I will treasure for the rest of my life whether my kids remember their first trip to Disney or not. Seeing their faces on the rides, at the shows, peacefully sharing a hotel bed was priceless.  Quality family time without life’s distractions, precious.

This trip taught my husband and I that spontaneity is sometimes just what we need.  We learned to work better as a team and we learned to show compassion and empathy for each other on a whole new level.  For more reasons than one, Disney truly is the most magical place on Earth.

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Boys Will Be Boys…Although They May Like Pink

I intended to write about a completely different topic tonight, but thinking of a title, the phrase, “Boys Will Be Boys,” kept popping into my head.  For years, I’ve given this phrase a lot of thought.  What does it mean exactly?  What do we expect from boys?  They’ll be tough? They’ll be strong?  They won’t cry?  They’ll be wild?  The list could go on and on… As a society, we place a lot of emphasis on what it means to be a particular species of person – Boy, Man, Father – Girl, Woman, Mother.  We scream injustice about prejudice, bias, and stereotypes, yet from a very young age, we tell boys they have to be a certain way and girls are expected to be a completely different way.

When my first son was born, the eldest, considered a blessing for a man to have his son, I was overwhelmed with joy (of course!), but also an overwhelming sense of fear.  Was it possible for me  to be a good mother to a boy?  I wasn’t sure.  I equated mothering a son to being knowledgeable about and interested in sports, cars, action figures.  I was the polar opposite – I loved dresses and dolls and all things feminine.  I cried to my cousin, “Will I be a good mom to a boy!?  How can I be?”  I was overwhelmed by the stereotype of what it means to raise a boy.  I lost sight during those confused moments that I didn’t need to be a “tomboy” type girl to be a good mother to a son.  Being a good mother to a son meant loving him and showing him how to love.  It meant feeding him and cuddling him and reading to him.  It meant being a passionate and engaged person and teaching him to find beauty in life.  It meant showing him it is okay to embrace all parts of his personality.

So when my son turned one, I asked my parents to buy him a toy kitchen play-set.  My friends balked — “A kitchen set for a boy?!  That’s so girly!”  “My husband would never allow that.”  “Why not get him a tool set instead?”  I was truly shocked.  I actually momentarily questioned myself – was I so disconnected from the meaning of raising a son that I had the audacity to think a kitchen set would be a good imagination play toy for my son?  I quickly dismissed the swirling in my head and went ahead with the kitchen idea.  I wanted my son to feel confident in the kitchen.  I didn’t want him to grow up unable to make himself an egg or relying on a woman to cook for him or thinking it was okay to rely on a woman to cook for him.  Some of the best chefs in the world are men.  My son would have a kitchen and haters step-aside.  So my parents bought the kitchen and guess what, he loved it!  And so did all his friends.  So much so, that many of his male friends got kitchen sets for their birthdays and the holidays.

Pregnant with my second “we don’t know the sex baby,” I secretly hoped for a baby girl to dote on, but when I heard my husband shout, “I see balls” (yes, I know, I waited nine whole months of not knowing the sex of our baby to hear, “I see balls,” – haha), I was equally secretly relieved.  At this point, I was confident I was a good mother to a son and I would continue to grow into an even better “mom of boys.”  I was so happy for my oldest son to have a baby brother and just as happy that my baby son would have an older brother to look up to.

One day, my dad came over, and commented, “It’s incredible to see these guys in action.  They are just so wild!  We [he and my mom] didn’t have this with you and your brother.”  Of course, my brother and I did get wild with each other, but two boys took it to a whole other level.  My dad said had he had a son first, things may have been different, but because he had a daughter first, he had a calmer son, one that actually liked to color and sometimes play dolls, etc.  And not because he was a feminine boy (although for anyone that knows me and my family knows we would FULLY embrace that), because he just wanted to play with me (his older sister), and he would do anything and play anything if it meant we got to be together (even if we were punching each other and screaming while we “played.”).  He didn’t really want to have his own Ken doll, he would’ve much preferred to get GI Joes, but I forced him into getting a Ken doll for when we played Barbies together.  And so he did.  And I wound up playing with the Ken doll and he brought his GI Joes into my room and they interacted with my Barbies.  Everything I know about sports, I learned from watching my brother play basketball and from happily and willingly playing “Madden Football” with him on whatever gaming system he had at the moment  (always loved a good “Hail Mary” play).  I like to believe that what I know about boys and what now makes me confident that I can be a good mother to boys is the time spent with my brother.  Because he turned out alright having a very feminine mother and sister.  And he’s a good man that loves a good beer, a good game, and he knows how to do the laundry too! Bravo brother!

Adding a third son to the mix and watching them grow as individuals and brothers, I continually learn that boys will not always JUST be boys.  My boys like sports, but sports are not their only priority.  They love art and science and cooking and picking out Daddy’s ties and playing in Mommy’s makeup drawer.  They cuddle with dolls and they show affection.  When my oldest son came home and said, “Ugh why did Daddy send me a pink fork to school with my mac-n-cheese?” I couldn’t help but laugh because “gender-specific” stereotypes are so far removed from our radar.  My husband will wear pink and purple happily.  He applauds them helping around the house and embraces the fact that maybe soccer just isn’t my oldest son’s thing, but that science is.  We allowed my two-year old son to paint his nails like Mommy.  Not because we want a daughter and we’re trying to turn one of our sons into one (trust me we’ve heard things like that!), but because we embrace their right to be curious.  My boys spend the majority of their time with me while my husband works.  So of course, they are going to show an interest in things their mom does.  And I love that.  I love that they help me cook and clean up.  I was teased when I said I wanted to get them a little toy cleaning cart to add to their make-believe toys.  But you know what, they LOVE it.  They love helping me and it’s even more exciting when they get to use their own tools to do it.  They know about my Barbie dolls.  They like FROZEN.  They like dancing.  And I’m cool with that.  I love it.

I grew up in a very liberal household where sexuality wasn’t a sticking point.  In the 80s, my brother had long hair and one pierced ear like my dad.  My mom polished one of his nails when he cried because mine were polished and his weren’t.  My parents taught us to be comfortable being whoever we wanted to be and to love whomever we wanted to love and they allowed us the freedom to grow up in an environment where it was okay to cross the stereotypical “boys will be boys” and “girls love pearls” lines.  So while I can definitely relate to the wild and crazy chaos of raising boys and the “Boys Will Be Boys” mentality (because trust me, my boys are beating the crap out of one another daily and tearing my house apart to build forts and castles, and using pretend weapons to defeat one another or the bad guys that pop up in their imaginations), I am finally beginning to understand that being a mom of boys means teaching them to be themselves, whomever they might be today, tomorrow, and in ten years from now.

XOXO

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Reflecting on 2014

Let me start off by wishing everyone a wonderful, happy, and healthy New Year.  2015 baby! Excited to see what this new year will bring.  The new year hit and my oldest truly seems older and wiser, my middle has stronger determination and a stronger vocabulary, and the baby got teeth and started walking.  I’d say that’s a pretty nice start to a new year, considering 2014 ended with stomach viruses, ear infections, and bronchitis (thanks a lot winter!).

2014 was a life altering year.  I started the year with a new baby, my third, and my heart and mind were at two very different places.  My heart was deeply in love with baby M and my mind was a hormonally charged mess of highs and lows.  I was sleep deprived, dealing with three small children, struggling to find a balance.  And then wham, just when I was getting the hang of the mom-of-three identity, making homemade pizza with my big boys, baking, doing art projects, etc., I was hit in the face with bloody poop (well, not literally, but it was still early in the year).  The baby was diagnosed with a dairy and soy allergy, coupled with an intolerance to eggs and nuts and I was catapulted into the world of allergies.  In order to continue breastfeeding, I had to revamp my entire diet, immediately cutting out all the culprits.  And lo-and-behold, it wasn’t so bad.  I actually liked my new diet and the baby was doing well.

And then my husband and I decided we should move to a bigger house.  We needed more space.  The kids weren’t sleeping well sharing rooms.  We were tripping over toys and being over-run by small boys.  So we began our search.  And I began packing.  Being somewhat of a hoarder, packing was no easy task.  I cried as I threw some things away and donated others.  I grew a set of balls and packed up tons of old clothes I had been hanging onto for ridiculous “sentimental” reasons, some of which I donated and some of which I hope to sell at a tag-sale this spring.  It was a hard job, but someone had to do it and that someone was me…with a new baby and two other small kids.  I was exhausted, but we were getting our dream house and that was thrilling.  I tutored non-stop.  I stayed up long after all the kids were in bed, emailing back-and-forth with college bound high-school seniors writing their college essays.  I felt elated to be doing work I loved.  I missed the feeling of personal success and tutoring and connecting to students and writing brought back a ton of positive emotions.

2014 my oldest graduated pre-K and started Kindergarten.  My middle went on a bus to big-boy camp and started nursery school.  The baby continued to grow and thrive.  We moved.  We did work in our new home.  We hosted holidays and birthdays and dinners and playdates.  We were busy in that good, but I’m exhausted kind of way.

We had our tough moments.  We all do.  My husband and I struggled to find time to be a couple.  We fought, we made up, we changed, we grew.  The kids fought and made up and changed and grew.  I yelled, the kids cried, I cried, we hugged, we made up, we learned from our mistakes. I was diagnosed with a whole host of allergies that once again threw me for a loop and made life more difficult.  Adding a third baby and a new house to our already busy and stressful lives was a game-changer…But once we got to the next level of the game (aka in our groove), things started to improve.

As I sat in bed on NYE, hours away from our first airborne vacation as a family of five (more on that later), downing as many antibiotics, tylenols, and squirts of Affrin I could get my hands on to combat an infection and bronchitis, I reflected in a delirious, but actually very productive way.  2014 was a VERY busy year.  I tried my best to soak up all the small, yet important moments.  But there was just too much going on, all the time.  So for 2015, I am challenging myself to slow down a bit.  To try to live in the moment just a little longer.  To be a little more fun and spontaneous all around. To try to go with the flow.  I don’t need to run errands every single day.  I don’t need to rush the kids to bed early every night.  So what if the kids get an extra snack for the day.  So what if I get an extra snack for the day.  And so far, it’s working.  I’m checking social media way less.  I’m lingering in the moment a little more (for the most part — I’m still working on it!).  I even stayed in my PJs most of the day today, napped and watched TV while the baby napped instead of doing busy-work around the house.  I took some much needed me time.  I’m hopeful that even though 2014 will be hard to beat on the “wow, amazing things happened this year” chart, 2015 will have some great things in store for us too!

So again, from my home and heart to yours, Happy 2015 (even though it’s been 2015 for a few weeks!).

XOXO

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Happy New Year Peeps!

New recipes and blog posts COMING SOON!

xoxo

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