Preschool: Essential or Expendable

Being a Kindergarten teacher with extensive coursework in child development and prior to that a full time professional Nanny I get asked childcare and education related questions a fair amount. I love this, like truly love it, being able to use my knowledge and experience to help make someone else’s life easier makes me super happy.  So when I notice that i’m being asked the same type of question alot I think it’s worth sharing here. The question today is on the usefulness of preschool.

Should I enroll my kid in a preschool, and if so what should I look for in the program?

Ok, let me preface this by saying that now that I am staying home my own son will be “home preschooled” and I have had many amazingly successful kids who did NOT go to preschool.

There is no one size fits all answer so you know your child and you will make the right choice for them. However, there is a one size fits most answer and for most kids I think that is preschool.

If your child is obedient to authority, involved in a lot of structured teacher led activities with peers (storytime, sunday school, dance, gymnastics, etc) and they do well with that (not disobeying the teacher, sitting when supposed to, not regularly having difficult interactions with peers, etc) then most likely they will do fine without preschool.

If your child doesn’t do these things alone (you sitting with them does not count), struggles with them or doesn’t have these experiences at all then preschool is for you.

 

Now, if preschool is for you then read the next part very carefully, it’s my advice on how to find the right program! 

  • Does the classroom have rows of desks or tables where the kids spend more than 25% of their time writing or doing worksheets? 

Move on. It’s not developmentally appropriate.

  • Do the kids need to take academic tests before, during or after acceptance or attendence? 

Move on, it’s not developmentally appropriate.

  • Is there a lot of handwriting work? 

Move on, most children have underdeveloped fine motor skills at this age and should not be doing much, if any, pencil writing yet, if there is optional writing occasionally great. (Just make sure they are using a proper grip its good for their fingers and will be a bad habit to break later if not).

  • Are there lots of opportunities for gross motor and fine motor development? 

Sweet, kids needs to exercise the large muscles and the small muscles to develop the stamina and coordination needed for tasks like writing or playing games in gym later!

  • Are there multiple chunks of unstructured playtime? 

Excellent, this is where your child will hone their social problem solving skills.

  • Is there storytime and/or calendar time everyday? 

Fantastic, this is where your child will learn to sit for small chunks of time and listen to a teacher. (20 min should be the maximum sitting)

  • Is there exposure to letters, numbers, days or the week, colors, animals and all those other child concepts? 

Terrific, this is where your child will be introduced to the world of learning, they really don’t need to master any of this but they are like sponges and likely will pick up most of it! Don’t put a lot of emphasis on these academic aspects.

 

For most children a preschool program, that is not overly academic, for 1 or 2 years before school is going to make a huge impact in their overall success not just in Kindergarten but throughout elementary school.  Find a program that fits with your philosophies, life and budget then go for it!

 

If preschool is not in your budget, doesn’t work with your life, etc don’t worry, your child can still succeed but you need to be proactive, get them to storytime regularly, start sunday school  or another teacher led environment and expose them socially and start teaching them independent life skills (self dressing/ appropriate restroom behavior/ etc.)

 

[ My Kindergarten class can often be found playing 🙂 ]

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The Most Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie Possible. (Do Not Read This Unless You Want to Gain Weight, The End.)

So my husband and I love McDonald’s Chocolate Chip cookies. They are one of the best kept secrets in my opinion because, not only are they super delicious, but they are cheap.
Anyway, recently I have begun baking from scratch so naturally I went in search of a copycat recipe.
Then I was devastated.
Why?
Because I couldn’t find one.
Dejected I looked for recipes with pictures that looked similar to McDs and crossed my fingers.
Were they good cookies? Yes, but they were the fluffy, puffy kind of cookie and that’s not what we like.
We like the thin melty deliciousness with just a bit of crisp and browning on the outer edges.
So I played around with some recipes like a mad scientist, making it up as I went, until I hit on this, it’s as close to McDs as I can imagine only it’s better because its dark chocolate and that makes it better.
Like shut the front door this is freakin delicious and I want to eat them all before anyone finds out they are here good.
Not Donna Reed’s Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie Deliciousness 
Ingredients: 
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened (I melt mine to liquid form in the microwave)
1/2 c. brown sugar 
1/2 c. granulated sugar 
1 egg 
2 c. all purpose flour 
1/4 tsp. cornstarch 
3/4 tsp. baking soda 
1/4 tsp. salt 
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips (If you like alot of chips double this) 
 
Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  In a bowl blend your sugar and butter together until a thick creamy pile of pure bliss.Now add egg and blend in.
3.  Mix in flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt (I recommend doing just a cup at a time if you aren’t using a mixer). Stir in chocolate chips.
4.  This dough is a bit sticky, use your fingers or a tablespoon or one of those snazzy cookie scoop deals, drop dough onto a prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges.
5.  Let cool on the pan for five minutes.  Remove from baking sheet and let cool completely.  Makes 1.5 – 3 dozen depending on size.
Your Welcome in Advance.
Also I meant to post a photo but, no joke, I ate them before I could. Not kidding.
12-09-07-chocolate-chip-cookie-mcdonalds

You Made the Choice to be a Single Mom.

For 80% of you, you are a single mom as a direct result of your choices. Maybe you were having sex outside of marriage and got pregnant, maybe you based your marriage on the things the world says matter and it fell apart on you, maybe you are a teen mom, whatever the circumstances that led to you walking the parenting road alone for the vast majority the fork that led to this path was one you chose. You probably didn’t know what was coming when you chose it but you still are responsible for the choice. (The other 20% you didn’t choose the road, it chose you but you are choosing to walk it with strength. Maybe your spouse died. Maybe you were a victim of abuse. Whatever the case you are on this road now and you can hold your head high).

But you chose to have your child. To stay with your child. To raise your child.

This is important because there were other choices. Choices people make all the time.

You didn’t choose to terminate your pregnancy, you carried that baby and for many of you your were already alone by this point so you did it without a partner a feat I can not myself imagine.

You didn’t choose to give your child up. They are not a ward of the state, or grandma, or your whoever. They are yours.

And for the majority of you (not all because there are some rotten apples in every orchard) you did not choose to mail it in and use single parenting as an excuse for any shortcomings you have. You are out there everyday on the front lines of parenting. I see you in the pta meetings. I see you at soccer. I see you waiting for the library storytime. You are Mom and sometimes you are dad too.

Some of you have help from your child’s father. Some of you don’t. None of you have what you and your child deserve, a loving supportive father there to help every single night with tuck ins and bathtimes and nightmares.

Some of you have financial support. Many of you don’t. None of you have enough of it because it is always a sacrifice to live on one income and for you that sacrifice probably wasn’t a choice.

No matter what choice led you down this road there is one thing I can say for you sure. I respect you. I’m sorry you feel judged sometimes, overwhelmed sometimes and exhausted all the time if it makes you feel any better I feel all those things  for different reasons.

Here’s to you for making the best of a hard thing, I don’t think you get enough support and respect, so I wanted to say bravo.

Fear & the Digital Age Child

A reputable parenting mag looking for product testers on fb for a one time article was interesting but the comments below were what really caught my attention. To enter you had to send your name, kids ages and address to the beauty dept. and a few women were up in arms:

“Why do they need my kids ages?”, “I don’t feel comfortable telling someone my address and kids ages”, etc.

Being protective of your private information is always a good idea but in this case it made no sense.

Your kids ages? really? I did a quick 60 second glance at these women’s public photos and was able to discern the name, age and birthdays of their children (thanks to birthday pics), their preschools and kindergartens (posing with easily read diplomas) and multiple shots of their homes containing the house number in plain view. If I wanted to find these children they made it super easy just with the info found in the public pictures yet they were worried about submitting their AGES (all the mag asked for) to a magazine?

Here’s the thing, there is no such thing as “private” online. Telling yourself there is is really just fooling yourself. If you want to protect your kids you should just keep all info about them off of the internet but recognize that you won’t be able to do so forever.  If you do go this route though GO ALL THE WAY! You can’t just post everything and count on “privacy” settings that do little to protect your information.

For me I have decided that I can not build a digital bubble around my children so instead I am thoughtful about what I post, considering both their feelings should a friend stumble on the post/picture in 10 years and the safety, does this make my child more vulnerable than they are just participating in society? (For example ANYONE can legally take pictures of my kids when they are out in public and I can not stop them but that’s different than if I am posting like bathtub pics (which I don’t).

What limits do you have involving posts about your child and the digital world?

5 Dollars, 50 Minutes & a Free Picnic Table

When we moved in the previous owner had left behind this beauty of a picnic table (and bench)

2014-06-14 19.38.35

 

It may not be a looker but it was free and I rarely turn down free so I decided to rehab this table a bit.

The weathered wood was literally a splinter farm, the entire surface was rough and pokey so

Step  1: Dollar Tree pack of sanding paper. Yep, we don’t own a sander and I can’t afford to buy unnecessary items right now but I knew they had sandpaper at the dollar tree so I brought a pack home and used a whole lot of elbow grease to sand it smooth.

 

Step 2: Scrub the areas that had greenish algae build up.

 

Step 3: Leave to dry

 

Step 4: Stain

I picked up the stain from Ollie’s Bargain Outlet which meant the stain and application brush were $3.99

 

Now for five dollars and just under and hour of my life I have this much more presentable (and less painful!) splinter free picnic table.

2004-12-31 20.28.29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have All the Good Dads Gone?

Society has a tendency to portray dads as unintelligent, expendable goofballs who make a nice addition to a family but really aren’t necessary. But what does the Bible say and is it attainable?

I am by no means qualified to discern the primary responsibilities of a father from scripture so I am using going to share a list from Pastor Scott Harris of Grace Bible Church in NY, you can read the full context here. For my purposes I am pasting the list, I feel that provides a nice overview of the basics of a biblical father.

Now here is where it gets tricky. Is this attainable? I myself grew up in a home of multiple divorces from each parent so my relationships, not only with my father, but with my stepfathers also, were sporadic at best and they did not fulfill many if any of these items. Luckily I have a another personal guinea pig, my husband. So I am going to analyze his fulfillment of each one.

1. Provide for his family (Mt. 7:9-11 Tim 5:8)

I am now a stay at home mom, nuf said. He is willing and able to work enough that our family can exist with me home caring for our children. Even before this he has always worked and provided, not just our needs but most of our wants as well. When the bottom fell out of our economy and he was laid off for a year (before we had kids) he actively sought new work the entire time.

2. Instruct his children (Prov. 1:8)

My husband teaches our son everyday in direct and indirect ways. Directly, like when my son gets 3 year old frustrated and decides to speak angrily to me I know I will hear my husband step in lovingly  “Joel that’s not how we talk to Mama, you need to….” or indirectly, like showing him how to respond to people in need (running back across the parking lot to open the door for a man with a walker even though we didn’t see him until we were almost at our car because that’s the right thing to do and convenience should not be considered).

3. Exhort, encourage and implore children (1 Thess 2:11)

My son’s biggest fan may be Mommy but his biggest cheerleader is Dad. My husband is always there to encourage Jidge whether things get hard or he’s already excelling.

4. Punish unruly children (Dt. 21:18-21) & 6. Discipline his children (Heb 12:7)   *I am combining his two because they seem pretty similar to me. *

I am with our children more so I handle the day to day punishment (and honestly at this point in their lives our little ones still don’t need alot since the oldest has a usually teachable spirit and the youngest is an infant). But when the situation warrants or when I am not being given proper respect by a boundary testing preschooler I can count 100% on my husband backing me up, stepping in, whatever is needed.

5. Raise the children in the discipline and nurture of the Lord without provoking them or exasperating them causing them to lose heart (Eph. 6:4;Col. 3:21)

Without ever raising his voice or losing his cool he encourages and nurtures a curious, strong willed preschooler, enduring the neverending questions about God and life, laughing at the jokes that don’t yet make sense and gently guiding him away from paths and choices that would bring harm.

7. Love his wife (Eph 5:25,28,33)

I admittedly make this difficult at times I am certain and yet he unfailingly loves and me and reminds me with his actions of my worth as a redeemed member of the body of Christ. (Plus he makes me feel pretty 🙂 )

 

So I declare that despite the weighty list of responsibilities placed on a father I am seeing it lived out daily and biblical fatherhood is attainable and realistic. I am so thankful to have a husband who relies on the power of our heavenly Father to be a husband father.

 

Comment with why your husband or father  is one of the “good ones”.

 

Happy Father’s Day my dear 🙂

dada

Dis”organized” Youth Sports Or How to Kill Money Quickly

As I watched the batter hit the ball them dive into the dogpile to retrieve it himself before running to second base (not first) I became fully aware of the absurdity of my decision.

What decision you ask? To sign my 3 year old up for tball.

All the cool moms were doing it, his friends at preschool were starting to join teams, and I was feeling guilty over his shrinking social calendar thanks to me staying home so riding on a wave of fear, adrenaline and a pinterest high that convinced me I could be that mom I clicked register.

With that money I could have bought the tball junk and a shirt & hat at walmart then set it up in the middle of Times Square while giving him a lecture on the Alamo, he would most certainly have learned as much about baseball as he did tonight, plus i’d have $30 left over.

Let me set the scene for you:

You know those community baseball complexes where all the fields have baselines, dugouts, benches, and such…we were at one of those except we were in the little grassy area between two fields because of a booking error. So the bases were impossible for an adult to spot let alone preschoolers, there was a wall of parents assigned to intercept potential foul balls from a high school game going on next to us and 2 “coaches” for 24 three and four year olds who spent most of the time trying to figure out how to keep the kids in a line.

Speaking of which, 80% of the practice & game combo consisted of standing in line waiting for your turn to do something.

10% was trying to figure out where you were supposed to be since kids got lost or confused every 3 minutes.

5% was listening to the coaches talk.

5% was actually doing stuff.

After the game was over my son got to do what he wanted so much to do, run the bases, he channeled Pigpen and ran the now empty field next to us a dozen times, a little cloud of dust smiling ear to ear.

Will we give it one more try? Sure. Is next week possibly our last? My sources say yes. I don’t believe in letting kids quit once they are old enough to decide to start something but I think I as the parent jumped the gun here and i’m not afraid to admit it.

 

So if I try to click that youth sports registration button again before Kindergarten will someone stage an intervention!? Thank You.

 

 

P.S. I cried when I accidentally deleted the pictures from his game tonight while trying to move them to our external hard drive. I’m telling you this sports stuff is as much for parents as anyone.