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Jan 13 2012

Teacher’s Skirt is on Fire

By at 11:52 am

fire extinguisherEven by the standards of Waldorf School emails, it was serious. Something called “The Garden of Light” was coming. And to prepare for it, “children were not to wear loose flowing dresses and long hair should be tied back.” My daughter is pretty much basing her identity on long flowing dresses and her hair at this point, so this was not going to be an easy sell.

In addition to the ominous email, I was asked several times by Ronia’s teacher if I was going to be able to go. In general I feel like a slacker Waldorf parent, so any opportunity to curry favor is good. Plus it’s nice to see my kid during the day.

Before I left, I reread the email one more time. It was more ominous than I even remembered, directing us to sit apart from our children to maintain a festive atmosphere. My enthusiasm dimmed a bit; this would mean I would be sitting with other parents. Also, it seemed to imply that I should have dropped Ronia off as normal, instead of keeping her home and cooking pancakes to the 9:40 drop off time. Fortunately the previous Garden of Light was running late, I was able to get Ronia to class and hurry up to the queue of parents. I sat down on the only available chair and checked my smartphone email.

When the appointed time came we were led into an auditorium lit only by candles. The floor was covered in a spiral of pine branches, or as the email got me thinking, kindling. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 12 2012

Bribing My Way Through Potty Training

By at 3:05 pm
jelly beans

Is it bad that potty training has turned into bribing with candy?

My nearly 3-year-old daughter, D, finally made the declaration shortly before Hanukkah: she was done with diapers, ready for her Rapunzel undies, and no one–NO ONE–was going to prevent her from putting them on.

Naturally, I was overjoyed. Two kids under 3-years-old had long meant two kids in diapers, and with every purchase of a new box of size 5s, I hoped and wished that this box would be our last.

I wasn’t really sure where to start. Friends had successfully managed their toddlers through “potty boot camp” and the hard-core approaches to making the transition. We navigated the onslaught of near-misses and misses, accidents and successes, in our own way, and found that the reward system that worked best for our kid was not in the more preferable forms of stickers and stamps, but in gummy bears and jelly beans.

That’s right, Tiger Moms. I have been feeding my kid a straight, steady stream of sugar for two weeks now. It is all at once horrifying–because yes, like you, I once insisted that the only treats that would pass my kid’s lips would be for special reasons or on special occasions:  Shabbat dessert, birthdays, special holidays, etc. And dammit all if those treats weren’t either in portions controlled by yours truly, or at least had some kind of kosher, organic symbols on them to make me feel somewhat comforted. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 3 2012

From the Tooth Fairy to the Truth Fairy

By at 10:21 am

tooth fairy crossed outThe wait for Joseph’s first tooth to fall out felt like an eternity. Children regularly start losing their baby-teeth at 4 or 5 years old, so Joseph has noticed that at “6 and three quarters” (his words) he still has a full set of pearly whites. By contrast, most of his first grade classmates look like vampires or NHL players.

With each day the anticipation kept building, so much so that I had considered passing the time by writing “What to Expect When You Are Expecting Your First Tooth to Fall Out”.

A few weeks ago we were swimming in my in-law’s pool in Florida. Joseph and Benjy, his 3-year-old brother, love the water, especially when they dive and generate a big splash.

In the midst of our aquatic playtime, Joseph enthusiastically emerged from the water with a wide smile. Something, however, seemed strange. He looked different. He was bleeding.

My first reaction to the blood was alarm. Did he hurt himself doing the cannonball? Then I noticed that the blood flowed from his mouth, and that there was a gaping hole in his beautiful smile.

“Joseph, you lost your first tooth!”

Despite the blood, Toothless Joe was overjoyed. Hallelujah! Julie and I rushed over to give him a big hug. I had just started to imagine fulfilling our Tooth Fairy duties, when it occurred to me that something was missing. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 2 2011

What My Daughter Learned at Jewish Preschool

By at 10:08 am

hebrew letter blocksA few months ago, I was freaking out over my daughter starting preschool, not because I didn’t want her to go but because I can’t believe she’s old enough for it. After a few weeks of adjustment (mostly on her part; I found the additional free time quite easy to adapt to), Ellie is a happy student at the school in a Conservative temple.

The thing is she already knows more about Judaism than I do. I attended religious school at a Reform temple from first through 12th grades, but much of what I remember is the socializing. (No comment, please, Mom.) When Ellie came home from her second day of school and said “boker tov” (good morning) to me, I thought perhaps she had sneezed.

Sometimes when she says a word I can’t make out, I wonder if it’s Hebrew for something. I know her teachers give the Hebrew as well as English names for things.

All of this has made for interesting, if not at times awkward, conversations. At home, Ellie has asked to kiss the mezuzah (we have several) and at Yizkor on Yom Kippur, she was ready to rush the ark, shouting “See ’em Torahs?” during a moment of silence. At school, her teacher asked how our Sukkot was, and I said, with downward-cast eyes, “Very nice, thank you.” We hadn’t done much to celebrate it at home. OK, we hadn’t done anything to celebrate it at home.

When I was a kid, we celebrated the Jewish holidays with the traditionally appropriate festivities: seders, break-the-fasts, latkes, challah, matzah, etc. But we didn’t keep kosher or learn to converse in Hebrew.

I love being Jewish and part of the Jewish community, and I am glad I chose a preschool where Ellie can learn more than I can teach her. That’s the point, after all. It just so happens I will get more for my money than I bargained for when I enrolled her. I’ll get an education, too.

Nov 22 2011

Getting into New York City Kindergarten

By at 2:11 pm
kindergarten finger painting

Kindergarten looks great! I wonder if we can get in.

Three separate intelligence tests. Multi-page applications. Essays. Interviews. Tours. A list of achievements. Letters of recommendation. A one in 12 acceptance rate.

Ivy League university admissions?

No. New York City private school kindergarten.

And the public school process is no better.

Local, zoned schools are overcrowded to the point where even long-time neighborhood residents can’t be guaranteed a spot and are put on wait-lists that stretch into August. Unzoned schools hold lotteries due to overwhelming demand and turn away hundreds. Citywide Gifted & Talented programs last year saw over 1,000 children qualify for only 250 seats spread out over five different boroughs.

Getting your child into kindergarten in NYC is a year-long job that kicks off 12 months before they even enter the building.

And I am smack-dab in the middle of it.

You’d think, since I’m on my third child, I’d be an old pro at this by now. Why can’t my daughter just go to the school where her older brothers go? Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 5 2011

Sending My Kids to Jewish Preschool

By at 11:01 am

Four short years ago my entry into the back-to-school game began. I was sending my oldest to preschool, and I was excited for him, while enjoying this great milestone for both of us. Two and a half weeks ago my youngest, A. (2.5) had her 1st day of preschool just like her two older brothers. I spent all day walking around the school saying, “this is my last first day of preschool ever.”

Let me back up just a little. Although my husband R. was raised as a Reform Jew, he proclaimed to me from the day I met him that he is agnostic. Religion just isn’t anything he wants to be a part of. He did say that he had no problem with his children identifying themselves as Jewish and practicing Judaism, it just wasn’t imperative to his life. I wanted my kids to feel and identify themselves as Jewish. Given his feelings, and respecting his point of view, I took it upon myself to expose my kids to Judaism.

When it came time to look for a preschool for J., I immediately began looking at Jewish preschools. I went to the Jewish Community Center (JCC) for preschool, and I went to Yeshiva for 6 more years after that. I wasn’t intending to send my kids to Yeshiva, but I loved the idea of a Jewish preschool. My husband, however, not so much…

When it came time to find a preschool, he suddenly felt hesitant in putting our child (and future children) into a religious school of any kind. I would not let it go, though. I wanted my little man to learn Shabbat songs and have a Hanukkah performance. After we toured one amazing Jewish preschool, R. was still not swayed. I was even more determined. Once he saw our local JCC and their facilities, he thought we had found the right place for our child(ren). Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 4 2011

Back to (Home)school

By at 2:13 pm

My older son, Miles, will be 6 this month. He is technically “in kindergarten” although we are not part of any structured academic school, curriculum, or “plan.” Like a few million other parents in the United States, we choose to homeschool our children. Miles nor his 3 year old brother, Fred, have ever been to preschool or daycare and we love homeschooling so far. We are part of a large, colorful, secular homeschooling community here in Los Angeles that offers classes for free, classes for fees, and a variety of social and field-trip activities that keep us rarely at “home” as we homeschool.

(There is also a terrific Jewish homeschooling community in Los Angeles that I teach higher level science classes for. They offer opportunities for religious families to satisfy both secular academic and religious academic goals in a homeschooling setting which is amazing!)

Our homeschool community holds its classes and weekly get togethers along the same academic calendar that conventional schools do, with spring break, winter break, and summer breaks falling at the expected times. During the summer, our field trips generally involve beaches, water parks, and other such outdoor activities. As a homeschooling family that tends to favor the unschooling approach to education (encouraging child-directed selections of learning and not generally subscribing to one particular academic philosophy and/or curriculum), our whole year kind of feels like summer in a good way, since we love the laid-back approach we can take to life by homeschooling.

Here’s what we did over the summer which we will continue with more regularity now that the school year is upon us:

1) Piano, Geography, and Hebrew (reading and writing) – I teach these to Miles.

2) Basic math, telling time – my husband teaches these.

3) Miles acquired a penpal this summer who lives in Florida and we have been learning about letter-writing: form, content, how to address envelopes, select the appropriate number of Star Wars LEGO stickers for envelopes, and the like.

4) Use every possible day as a potential to see how the world works, how society functions, and how people interact. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 13 2011

Come Jam With Kveller in Brooklyn

By at 8:34 pm

One of the stars of our new weekly singalong, Joey the Kangaroo.

Most of the things we do here at Kveller are online. We are a website, after all.

But recently we got to thinking…what would Kveller look like in person? So here’s one idea. Starting THIS THURSDAY, September 15, we’re hosting a weekly drop-in singalong for parents of kids ages 0-4 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. (Many apologies to those who don’t live nearby! But it will be worth the trip.) It will be led by the phenomenal Ora and Yoshie Fruchter, a Brooklyn-based guitar-playing and puppet-acting duo. (Want a puppet sneak peek? Check out our Purim video).

A little music, a few stories, and a lot of fun for parents and kids. We can’t wait to see you there. For more info, email info@kveller.com.

Where: Two Boots Brooklyn, a great local pizza and Cajun food joint. 514 2nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.

When: Thursdays from 10:00 – 10:45 am (We will meet every Thursday between September 15 and December 10, except for September 29 and October 13.)

A Special Uniform for my Special Needs Son

By at 2:31 pm

We recently moved to Florida from Brooklyn. I grew up down here, so coming back shouldn’t feel like such a major adjustment. But it does, and I’m guessing that’s because all of my parenting experience up until now has been in New York, and I spend a good 80 percent of my time parenting these days.

I’ve been trying really hard not to focus on the things I don’t like about our new life, such as, for example, the eternal carpool pick-up line at my son Zack’s school. (Two-hundred SUVs and minivans idling for 45 minutes, every day? Really? They can’t come up with a more efficient system?). Instead I’ve been concentrating on the things I do like. High up on that list is the ubiquity of school uniforms.

Uniforms, generally khaki or navy shorts and a polo shirt, are required pretty much everywhere around here as far as I can tell—at public schools, private schools (including Zack’s Jewish day school), and even at my older son Benjamin’s tiny special ed program.

There’s a lot to love about these preppy little outfits, in my opinion. Not only are they totally cute, but they make getting out the door in the morning about a hundred times easier and wearing them means children have fewer opportunities to show off and compete. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 7 2011

Mama Can’t Wait for the First Day of Preschool

By at 11:42 am

If your friendship circles are anything like mine, your Facebook feed is probably filled with status updates about little ones starting preschool, bigger ones heading off to kindergarten, and the biggest ones of all holding back their tears and trying not to imagine their babies going off to college one day. I can’t keep track of how many pictures I’ve seen of back-to-school haircuts, new clothes, and Dora backpacks. One of my friends even went so far as to tape family pictures on the inside of her son’s lunch box; it was such a simple yet sweet thing to do, and I was totally impressed.

Such a thing would have never occurred to me.

I totally understand where these parents are coming from; my older daughter is starting preschool on Friday, and my little one will head back to daycare next Monday. I too have had those weepy parental feelings, that overwhelming sense of nostalgia for a moment that hasn’t even passed. Just not about my little girl’s first day at preschool. I know, you’re probably thinking that it will hit me when we head out of the house that morning, or perhaps when we walk into her new school, or perhaps when I leave with the baby.

I don’t think so.

I know from experience. Twice. The first time was when I left my then 3-month-old at daycare for the first time, and the second time was with my second daughter, also then 3 months old. Both times were just for an hour, a trial run before the real first day. Based on my friends’ reports and the numerous anxiety-ridden posts on my local Mommy list-serv, I was waiting for the worry and the guilt and sadness to set in; I was expecting to spend my free hour going through a box of Kleenex while clicking through the hundreds of baby pictures we had stored on the computer. But as I walked out of our daycare, leaving my happy, calm daughters behind me, I felt… relief. I went to the gym. I watched crap TV while I was on the elliptical. I got myself a cup of coffee, and just sat. Quietly. It was AWESOME. And I was thrilled to see my girls at the end of the hour.

Yes, my babies are growing up, and yes, I have those moments when I’m just not ready for it to happen. (I still struggle to let my big girl walk down the stairs alone. I know, we all have our meshugas, right?) But my girls heading off to school (or daycare or whatever) doesn’t trigger the tears for me. The truth is, I’m not SAHM material (although I am endlessly impressed by my friends who are) and I need a break from them. In addition, I loved school as a child, and my girls do, too. They’re happy at their second homes. I trust their caregivers and teachers, I like their friends, and I know they’ll be safe. And I’ll be sane.

So, Friday’s coming, and my little girl will be going off to school. I’ll pack her a lunch the night before (UGH), and we’ll probably pick out a special outfit for the big day. I might even take a few pictures that morning, and they’ll most likely end up on Facebook. But don’t kid yourself—after 11 days with no childcare and a vacation that was cut short by a feverish and vomiting toddler, I won’t be the one crying at drop-off.

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