Friday, April 18, 2014

Representation




Hans is becoming more interested in drawing, writing, and creating, presumably because Freddie has been spending a lot of time writing at the table and Hans wants to join.

What he had to say about this piece:  This is the music from "the Huggy Dance." (Huggy is from Hans' favorite show WordGirl on PBS.  He's a gorilla that dances at the end of each show to the same tune.)  So interesting to see what and how he chooses to represent his world.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Egg Hunt



Hans' playgroup had it's second annual egg hunt.  The weather was crisp, not unlike last year, and we even had some snow the night before.







Hans didn't really want to take his hands out of his pockets, but conceded and collect some eggs once he realized there was chocolate inside some of them.



Freddie scrambled around and filled his basket.  He was most happy to see some friends.


They were both so tickled to find out what was in each of the eggs.  Stickers, tattoos, bouncy balls, and chocolates got a squeal with each egg they split open.



A great start to some Easter fun over the next few days.





Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mama in Preschool



I got a chance to visit Freddie's class.  I was a guest reader, and I LOVED it.  It was exciting for me to see Freddie with all of his friends and get a chance to spend some time with the kids he spends his days with.  It also felt good to feel like a teacher again.  There's something about being with kids and in front of a class.  I miss it.


Freddie picked the book the night before, and sat quietly while I read.  I wondered if he'd try to be in charge or expect a bit more attention because Mama was there, but he didn't.  He raised his hand, waited his turn, and even accepted when I didn't call on him to share.



And then later in the week there was Hans' class.  It was pajama day so I got to wear my pjs too!  Hans was excited about Mama in her pjs in his classroom.



Reading in Hans' class was pretty funny because Hans, unlike Freddie, seemed to think he could do as he pleased with Mama in the room, and I'm not exactly sure why.  Well, I get it, but the kid doesn't get to act like a jerk when we're together on a regular basis.  He wasn't exactly a jerk, but he wasn't happy when I picked others to answer questions or turn the page.  He figured it out within the first few minutes though that he better get with the program.


I'm hoping to do this again before each boy leaves his class and I should probably plan on doing it as often as possible before they deicide having Mama at school isn't so cool after all.  Freddie's teacher let me know she thinks Freddie is a sweetheart and so affectionate and loving that he'll probably be ok with having mama around for longer than I think.  We shall see.

Monday, April 14, 2014

My favorite part of the weekend...


I've got to tell you *loved* sitting at the baseball diamond in Central Park on Saturday.  I'm not a fan of schlepping to swim team so I wasn't exactly sure how baseball would go.  The weather was glorious…warm and sunny…so that helped, but watching Freddie and his team play just really made you feel good.  They are all so little, so eager, and so excited!



The coaches helped each player with their form and made sure they were able to get a hit.  Those who had trouble getting a hit got to use the tee.  Freddie managed to give it a hard smack each at bat and didn't need the tee.  He may need a smaller helmet though.  Ha!  He held on to that thing any time he started running so he wouldn't lose it.


There were all of the usual little league game antics.  No one knew which base to run to, all the kids in the field chased the ball and then didn't know what to do with it once they got it, and the discussions while standing on base were so deep that they missed the ball whizzing by and kept on chatting.  Freddie occupied himself in the outfield by looping the drawstring from his pant waist around his helmet bill.  All great stuff.  Lots of random folks and tourists sat for a while to enjoy the game.  Endless entertainment.


In the two hours they were out there the kids did drills for an hour and managed two full innings in the second hour.  They ended the game surrounding the coach, piling their hands on top of of one another and doing a cheer.  No surprise here, but I cried!  I am so proud of Freddie for getting out there and making friends and trying something new, and where has the time gone that he is now able to do things like throw a ball, run bases, take instruction, and play baseball?

Strike 1 (He did manage to get a hit though)
He made fast friends with all of this teammates.  I love how easily he finds a few buddies.  I loved hearing them call for him across the field.  He loves it too.  All smiles from him out there.  He even managed to blow me a few kisses.

(I'm sorry I didn't pull out my camera to take photos, but thankfully Charlie snapped these with his phone.  Hopefully next week I can get some better shots.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Details


Lots of details showing up in his pictures, and the content is expanding.  I love watching his writing and drawing develop.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kindergarten Search: G&T "Options"

School A:

  • 30 minute commute with a tram ride and a train ride.  The train ride isn't exactly a comfortable one as the 6 train is packed, but still not a horrid commute.  And the school is close to the metro station which is good.
  • G&T school, so all students must have qualified for G&T, there are no general ed spots.
  • Heavy hitting academics, and lots of parents asking questions about the academics…how does math program compare to what is offered at School X?  where do kids go on to middle school?  do these high standard middle schools report kids coming from your school are prepared?
  • Curriculum is accelerated, with about 40% of the material being presented being above grade level.  While this is NOT a big priority to me, I do think it is something that would be appropriately challenging for Freddie and something he'd benefit from.
  • Principal was great.  Young, well spoken, handled all the questions with ease.  She spoke a lot about considering the whole child and really working to appropriately challenge individuals and nurturing all of a child's talents and abilities.
  • PTA reports spending about $1500 per pupil each year to provide several enrichment programs.
  • Standard 25 kids in each kindergarten class (increased to 30 at 1st grade) but the PTA funds assistants in each of the classes. 
  • When we left I looked at Charlie and he said "Freddie would do fine here.  I still like Private School B better."
  • There are 50 seats for kindergarten in 2 classes, but 19 of those seats will go to siblings who have priority.  That leaves 31 seats and with 400 kids in our district scoring 97+ percentile and 200 scoring 99th percentile I don't have a whole lot of hope that Freddie would get a seat with his score of 97.  
School B:
  • This is our local public school.  I wrote about it before here and here.  But to recap the facility is beautiful for a public school but it is definitely feels like a "poor" school without many resources beyond the budget provided by the DOE.  That being said I know many families have been pleased with prekindergarten and kindergarten experiences, but beyond that not many families seem committed to the school.
  • The G&T program is new and not really developed.  
  • The kindergarten classes are full with 25 kids.  There weren't enough kids to make full independent classes for grades 1 and 2 so there are 3 "bridge"1st/2nd grade combo classes.  I think combo classes can be great given the appropriate teacher, but overall I think they can be difficult to run well and effectively.  
  • The low enrollment of the program lead me to ask wether the principal considered the program to be "stable" and/or "growing".  The principal didn't think what was happening in this school as far as attrition to be much different than many other NYC public schools.  I get the general feeling that many families leave after the early elementary years, and I am not sure if this is true of NYC as a whole or if it is just this particular G&T program.  Does this speak of the G&T program and school or is this part of the transient nature of our community?
  • The G&T program is new, only 5 years old, so it isn't well defined and doesn't seem very differentiated from the general education program.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because General Education teachers can do great jobs challenging all students, but it would have been nice to hear about ways the school philosophy of gifted education plays out in the classroom.  But, I don't think they are at the point of having a school philosophy regarding their G&T program.
  • Pluses for this school are there will be people in the neighborhood in the classes and it is a five minute walk from our building.  There's a lot to be said for that.
  • There are 50 G&T seats.  It is also not a highly sought after program so I am confident Freddie could have a seat in this program.
  • Charlie didn't visit with me since he had been on the general education tour.
School C:
  • This would involve about a 35 minute commute.  A train ride and a walk.  The train ride isn't bad, but the walk would be a bit much with a five year old (and a three year old in tow) especially in inclement weather.
  • The neighborhood isn't very good.  The general education sector of the school draws from a rather impoverished area.  I feel pretty confident this is why the principal was very clear about the fact that the G&T students are self contained and have different schedules from the general education students.  Parents definitely wanted to hear this.  She said it was in the name of the G&T teachers being able to be on the same schedule and have the same prep times in order to effectively collaborate.  
  • The principal was ….quirky?  Not the best speaker, but I suppose I shouldn't let over shadow the other aspects of the school.
  • G&T program is only 5 years old.
  • The principal said the general G&T philosophy is to work one grade level above in academics and she wants RIGOR.  And engagement.  And active hands on learning.  
  • There was one G&T teacher present from each grade and I must say it was an amazing group of young women.  Obviously bright, dedicated, hard working, well developed teachers.  All young, but with some experience under their belt.  I think the success of this school is entirely due to these teachers.  We also came across almost all of the other G&T teachers still working in their classrooms.
  • The evidence of teaching and learning in the classrooms (student work samples and instructional supports) was impressive.  There did seem to be a high level of rigor and a huge push to really challenge each student on the part of these teachers.  
  • It is a "poor" school.  There was a parent present who gave her story of coming to the school:  product of NYC G&T who went on to Harvard and Harvard law who forfeited the 80% private school tuition payment she had made for her daughter to attend this school and she in no way regrets that decision.  It seemed as though she was trying to develop a very active parents group.  While the parents group isn't raising lots of money for extras the teachers seem very active in finding grants and funding and ways to bring experiences to their students.  The teachers seem to do a whole lot with few resources.  They also really, really, really want parent involvement.
  • 50 seats.  Principal said she hadn't a clue if any siblings would be taking those seats.  
  • Charlie didn't go on this tour.  He stayed home with the kids so no opinion from him here.
School D:
  • I will start by saying this would be our absolute very first choice for Freddie (and Hans) without a doubt of every single school we've looked at.  Both Charlie and I LOVED this school.  This school is exactly what we think school should be…excellent and free.  I wish we had moved into their zone upon moving to NYC because we'd both be thrilled to have the boys in their general education program. I seriously would consider moving to be in the zone to attend this school.
  • Commute would be a train ride and a walk.  Similar to School C as they are relatively close.  A walk that would not be fun with both boys in bad weather.
  • The principal is amazing.  He is an excellent speaker, very professional, and has a clear vision for his school.
  • He very clearly states that the curriculum for G&T and General Ed kids is the same because he thinks G&T pedagogy is just good teaching and all kids deserve access to good teaching.  He referenced some of my favorite gifted research. Several parents had a huge problem with this.  They wanted to hear that the program was accelerated or their child was somehow getting something more or was going to be able to do more.  He spoke to the importance of looking at kids as individuals and meeting them on whatever level they are on regardless of a G&T label.  He felt confident they were meeting the needs of every child in that building and pushing every student to their maximum potential.  
  • The school has an extremely active parent group.  The amount of "extras" in the school are amazing.  The classes are full and moneys are not spent on teaching assistants (there is a lot of research that says PTR (pupil etcher ratio) doesn't greatly impact student achievement) but the parent group pays for so many extra programs and teachers in the school….right down to paying for olive oil to be used in the cafeteria rather than the refined oil the DOE pays for. 
  • The parents volunteer their time and talents and are hugely involved in making this school a success.  This is what school should be like.
  • Both Charlie and I left there saying this was the school we wanted for Freddie.  But, only 50 seats, 15 going to siblings so only 35 available.  I don't think we have any chance of getting one of those seats.  
And so that's that.  My baby boy scored in the 97th percentile.  I am very proud of him.  He is exceptional.  On a different day it may have been a 99 but it's a 97 and that's most likely not enough to get into 3 of the 4 schools we considered as options based on location.  That frustrates me immensely.  

A note about numbers:  14,600 kids tested in all five boroughs of NYC and 1900 scored 97 or above.  Those 1900 kids are eligible for "citywide" programs which are open to all five boroughs but there are 300 kindergarten seats in these schools, so they all go to kids with 99s.  In our district (one section of Manhattan) there are 400 kids who scored 97 or above and it is those 400 kids who have first dibs (after siblings) on the top *district* schools we looked at.  Unfortunately of the 400, 200 scored 99 so assuming Freddie is the first name "pulled from the hat" of those scoring 97 there will have already been lots of seats filled by 99s and 98s.

Next steps:  Think, discuss, and I ain't going to lie there will be some crying…why is this so emotional for me?…rank schools, submit to the DOE by next week, wait until the lottery is complete and he is offered a spot on May 26th.  

Lovin'

Meeting Daddy at his work for lunch after gymnastics.
He loves gymnastics but I think he loves his lunch date even more.


  • Lunch dates with Dada
  • "I love all three as you as big as the world" said at least daily by the best 5 year old ever
  • Spring clothes
  • Packing away jackets and fleece
  • Budding daffodils
  • Random creations taped all over the apartment walls
  • Curls, curls, curls on Hansie's head
  • Watermelon appearing in the fruit aisle
  • Planning beach trips
  • Shutterfly photo books as bedtime stories
  • Looking at wedding photos with the boys
  • Little baseball uniforms

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Number 6




Freddie's playing baseball!  He had "try outs" on Saturday morning in Central Park.  All morning long as we were getting ready he kept saying "I'm so excited."  He was giddy.


We had lots of rain Friday and through the night so the fields were soaking and couldn't be used.  The coaches did some drills with the kids before assigning them teams.


Freddie did really well considering we haven't had much time to throw around the ball yet since the weather still isn't providing sunny warm days.    Some of the kids were really, really good and must play in some of the year round indoor leagues and there were some kids who have obviously been practicing (with their parents shouting out directives for proper form from the side).


Freddie's a part of the purple team and he's number 6.  He was so excited to get his uniform, especially the socks.  I mean, he LOVES the socks.  Next Saturday he'll wear the entire uniform and I think we'll hear more about being excited.


Afterwards he had a big smile and said "I LOVE this, Mom!"  So sweet.  I am glad he's so interested in trying something new and without any of his usual buddies.  I tried to get a few friends to join, but in the end I think the experience of him doing something new all on his own is a good one.

Hans was cheering "Go, Freddie, Go!"

Saturdays through June will be spent at the baseball fields.  The coaches provide an hour of practice, drills, and instruction before an hour long game.  Number 6 has requested that Saturdays also be days for Gatorade and pretzels as an after baseball treat.  Sounds like a perfect Saturday.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Intrepid

It was difficult to convince the little boys that this was a real ship.  SO BIG!


Another rainy "spring" day in the city.  We bagged our plans to do an double decker bus tour and headed to the Intrepid.


The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum consists of a huge aircraft carrier (the Intrepid) with several planes, a submarine, and the space shuttle Enterprise.



We got to get out of the cold and explore the ship.




And check out the space shuttle inside the pavilion.


This little boys loved trying everything out….






Hans is still too small to explore the submarine so we hung out inside the ship while the big guys checked out the USS Growler.



A fun afternoon, but I think we all agreed we wouldn't want to live on a ship or submarine.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Good Times, Day and Night



Baseball season started this week so we took the boys to Citi Field to see the Mets plat the Nationals.



It was a beautiful day, really the first warm day of spring.


Everyone should note that our boys are not really yet ready for baseball games, especially together.  The game is long, and not exactly action packed.  But I enjoyed the sunshine and the people watching.

To Cousins, Cheers!
After supper and sunset one evening we ventured out to see the city from a different perspective…on Top of the Rock, the observation deck at Rockefeller Center, 70 floors up.


Freddie and I visited here before, with Papi, not long after we arrived in the city.  Freddie was too afraid to be near the edge then and he is still afraid of heights and wasn't interested in peering over the edge.



The other guys wandered around the deck for some photos and to pick out buildings and neighborhoods.



Definitely something to see to really appreciate the city.