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Nov 20 2014

The Surprising Reason My Son’s Kindergarten Teacher Called

By at 2:26 pm

The Surprising Reason My Son's Preschool Teacher Called

Nearly two weeks ago, I received a phone call from my son’s kindergarten teacher that has stayed with me. My first thought upon seeing the school’s number on caller ID was “Uh-oh, who did what now?” Though I am generally a positive person and I have been blessed with children who, for the most part, seem to thrive in school, for some reason, a call from that number always makes me think the worst.

Even after the teacher reassured me that, “Everything is OK,” I still found myself holding my breath, anxious to hear what was coming next. I was pleasantly surprised when she said that she was calling because my son had done something in class that brought her, the other teachers, and the rabbi great nachas—the Hebrew word for pride. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 13 2014

School Lunches Are the Enemy

By at 12:47 pm

School Lunches Are The Enemy

School lunches are my enemy.

Well, not the actual lunches, just the process of making them. You see, my kids go to a Jewish Day School, which means that their lunches must either be parve or dairy. I have no problem with that, as we keep kosher and therefore won’t make the mistake of accidentally sending in shellfish or a ham sandwich. Rather, the issue I have with lunches is that my kids constantly tell me how they no longer eat this or no longer like that. They change their minds as often as a new parent changes a diaper.

My kids eat perfectly well at dinner time, despite sometimes saying that they don’t like something my husband or I are serving. But lunch is a different story. Things that they would normally eat at home or even order in a restaurant are somehow off-limits when they come out of a lunchbox. I don’t get it. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 11 2014

My Daughter, The Hebrew School Dropout

By at 11:57 am

Hebrew school dropout

“My daughter, the Hebrew School dropout.” Those weren’t exactly the words I had in mind when I enrolled Hannah in Hebrew school when she was in kindergarten. And all went well for a few years…until there were some rumblings in 5th grade. But I gamely ignored them, and we soldiered on.

And then middle school hit like a tsunami. Hannah was normally a fairly calm, methodical kid. Not anymore. Her anxiety levels spiked as her secular school workload increased. She placed high expectations on herself, expecting straight A’s every marking period. I remember begging her, “Get a B. Just get a B in something and you will see that the world won’t end.”

Add in a long drive to Hebrew school and an extra two hours of class once a week, and Hannah was on the verge of cracking. When she came home from Hebrew school she would sob in my arms. She didn’t connect socially with her peers and she wasn’t learning anything new. She would stay up late at night to finish her homework and then do cartwheels and handsprings in her bedroom to calm her nerves. It was wearing both of us out. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 5 2014

Why Won’t My Kids’ School Email My Husband, Too?

By at 9:45 am

Why Won't the School Email My Husband, Too?

It’s the season again—my children, ages 9 and 11—are in a hundred thousand different activities between them. That’s my own fault—I accept full responsibility for the daily scheduling insanity that is my Google calendar. But what I don’t get—maybe someone out there can shed some light for me—is why, why when I ask my children’s teachers, coaches, and activity leaders to kindly (I always use the word “kindly” in my request) email both my husband and me with their frequent updates, these seemingly competent people seem unable (I won’t go so far as to call it unwilling) to add a father’s email to their distribution list?

I’m the kind of parent who wants to play with you—we’re trying to do the right thing in our home. I will sign up for snack and remember to bring it, and with god as my witness, it will be nut-free. I will make sure my daughter brings in a recyclable container to make a new home for an insect without ever questioning whether it is better for the insect to remain outdoors. I will bring my son to his special needs soccer practice an hour early for group photos, to run around the field with the Philly fanatic, to partake of a special snack from our local food co-op—whatever damn thing you want the kid to do, he shall arrive on time for it and do that thing!

But I can’t manage to make the magic happen on my own—I need that guy, my husband Fred, who is my partner in co-parenting our kids, to get the reminder, too. We work best when our aging brains can act as wonder-twins and remember that this is the night that the piano teacher’s benefit is happening and all of the students are strongly encouraged to attend. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 2 2014

Hate Crime in the Classroom

By at 2:41 pm

hate crime in the classroom swastika

In the middle of an exhausting, first year of teaching in a public high school in southern Massachusetts, I, like most teachers who come in contact with hundreds of students every day, contracted a virus, and took my first sick day. In the middle of that sick day, I got a call from the gym teacher, who I hardly knew.

“Are you OK?” He sounded reluctant to ask. Something had happened in my classroom while I was out, but he wouldn’t say what. He was shocked that no other staff had called me. He wished me well and got off the phone quickly.

When I returned to school, I demanded to know what had happened. My department chair said it was “an unfortunate incident,” and that I should talk to the principal. I finally wrangled it out: a student had spray-painted a swastika on my classroom floor and etched another swastika on my chalkboard. Something about Jews had been scrawled but only partially erased, probably so that no one would be able to identify the handwriting.

Both the chalkboard and floor were scrubbed clean before I returned.  Read the rest of this entry →

Back to (Not Very Jewish) School

By at 1:21 pm

back to (not very jewish) school

School just started here. With my boys starting first and fourth grade, I’m reminded of when I moved to this small town in 1986, when I was 7 years old. We moved from East Brunswick, New Jersey to Lake Mary, Florida.

Lake Mary is a charming, beautiful suburb of Orlando. It was recently named one of the top 10 places to live for families in Family Circle Magazine. I have no complaints about my parents’ decision to move here. But we might have been among the first Jews to move in. My Jewish family up North was so certain that we were being moved to the actual “Bible Belt” that they mistakenly referred to it as “Saint Mary.”

Although my parents aren’t very observant, they were acutely aware that it would be a bit of a culture shock to move from a state where Jews were everywhere to a place where we had to travel 30 minutes to find a theater that played the latest Woody Allen movie. Looking back, I think they handled it really well. Read the rest of this entry →

When “Meet the Teacher” Night is Scheduled on Rosh Hashanah

By at 10:12 am

when "meet the teacher" night is scheduled on rosh hashanah

Sitting at my rising 6th grader’s middle school orientation, I was reminded, once again, that rearing our kids in a secular society can be a tricky proposition.

There it was, up on the PowerPoint slide: “Meet the Teacher Night: Wednesday, September 24th, 2014, at 7:00pm.”

September 24th…September 24th. Sounded familiar. A frantic check on my iPhone confirmed it; September 24th is the first night of Rosh Hashanah this year. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 7 2014

Five Reasons to Stop Saying the B-Word

By at 9:36 am

bullying-eraser

When I received a call that my 5-year-old son was being a bully at camp, I felt as if I had failed as a mother. Outrage quickly followed the humiliation, as I imagined a scenario in which my child would intentionally bother another child. By the time I arrived at camp at the end of the day to collect him, I had worked through an entire spectrum of emotions, but I vowed I would listen to his explanation and try to contain myself. There is always another side to the story after all, and at the risk of sounding defensive, I know my child. And he is not a bully.

From the conversation I had with my son, I gleaned that there was an altercation during a soccer game and both boys had been aggressive. When the other child tried to take the ball my son lashed out and was sidelined. He was remorseful and assured me he would try harder to get along with this particular boy in the future. Together we reflected on alternative ways that he could have reacted to the situation and how he might control his anger going forward. I then informed him of what the repercussions would be if I ever heard another discouraging report like this again.

Now that I have had several days to ruminate on the situation, I realize that the main source of my angst is the word bully itself, and I think it is time we reevaluate the usefulness of this term. Below are five reasons I think we should stop using this word so haphazardly. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 17 2014

Free Stuff Alert: Labeling Packs for School & Camp from Label Land

By at 2:03 pm

label land camp/school pack giveaway

Attention all organized parents (and those who desperately wish to be organized): if you’re sending your kids away to camp this summer or to school in the fall, labels are your best friend. Repeat: labels are your best friend.

Label Land is a leading provider of customizable labels, offering labels that are clear, can iron or stick on in a snap, stay permanently affixed, and are easy to read in any situation. From clothing to bags to shoes, they’re here to make sure your kids’ stuff winds up back at home and not in the lost and found.

The good news? We’ve got three of Label Land’s School/Camp Packs to give away to three lucky winners. The School/Camp Pack includes:

– 100 iron on labels (white label with black text)

– 30 medium waterproof labels

– 2 bag tags

– 14 shoe labels

To enter the giveaway, fill out the form below and we’ll choose a winner this Friday, February 21st. Good luck, and happy labeling!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dec 16 2013

Christmas is Why We Send Our Son to Jewish Day School

By at 5:03 pm

christmastime in the UK

I am not a practicing Jew, but I don’t celebrate Christmas either. My husband is a lapsed Christian and a loather of all things Yule. Late December has always been an uncomfortable time in our house. Until, that is, we decided four years ago to send our kids to a Jewish school.

It was a surprisingly easy decision, made for a host of sound reasons, exactly the ones you would expect to figure into a choice about the expanse of your children’s education. But it also solved the problem of Christmas for us and this has turned out to be one of its most wonderful virtues.

I spent the holiday season as a girl in small Jewish niche towns–Great Neck and Boca Raton–where the passing of Christmas was marked in its own ritualistic way, with Chinese food and a trip to the movies. So many happy memories. When I moved to the United Kingdom 14 years ago, however, Christmas became a dark and almost unbearable period, something to escape, not to indulge in. It triggered in me a strong desire to flee homeward and back to a place where there is still a life to be lived on the 25th of December that doesn’t involve a decorated pine tree. Read the rest of this entry →

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