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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer is the Season for Organizing!

Eleanor Traubman, professional organizer to busy Brooklyn moms, is offering this special:
* 3 hours of professional organizing services for the price of 2 hours
* Offer runs from now until July 31
* Bonus half hour if you book your appointment by June 30
* 9 hour package honored through August
15 hour package honored through September
This is the perfect service for the mom who wants to.......................
* Sit down to a clear desk top
* Fnd any paper document in 30 seconds or less
* Clear out the clutter to start a new business or project
* Open a closet door to find the clothes you feel good in and love to wear
* Experience more serenity and focus in your daily live
To chat with Eleanor about your organizing goals, call: 917-499-7395
You can also check out Eleanor at her blog, Creative Times:
Eleanor is a wonderful organizer and has inspired me. She helped me make order out of my very cluttered workspace and gave me great advice on how to move forward with my photography business. I highly recommend her to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by clutter and needs to clear the decks.
- Julie Markes, PS 321 parent/ children's book author / photographer.

Here's a creative tip: find some other moms, join forces, and go in on a package deal together!

Monday, June 22, 2009

You all must have heard by now, that is having financial difficulties. If you are the parent of a school aged child you know how much they are worth. If you are the parent of an infant or toddler, trust me, New York City is a much tougher place without them. I like to refer to them as the "consumer reports" of NYC public schools but they are so much more; friendly reminders, an active forum, and accurate almost immediate updates on anything school related.

It is very easy to donate.
You can go to their "donate" page
or you can give through paypal.
Please send them a little something for all the good they do everyday. Many people have suggested that they charge a fee. A big part of their mission is to provide accurate, easy to use advice for all parents, including the ones that may not have the funds to pay for it. Please do what you can.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No Citywide G & T at PS 20 in Brooklyn

PS 20 will no doubt weather its troubles, but it is sad news for children who tested into the citywide gifted and talented program. One less option is always a sad story. Many parents saw the placement of a citywide program, which would consist of a single class on a grade, into an existing school as a curious move on the DOE's part. Considering the three citywides in Manhattan are full schools (although petite) it enables the teachers and administrators to build school wide programs especially designed for this end of the special needs spectrum. I would imagine that the school wide staff development geared to G&T would be invaluable and help produce fine and sought after programs.

The city has for years placed single G & T classes in general ed schools and although the talented teachers that lead these classes have toiled in solitude (one on a grade) they have done a fine job. It seems to me that the citywide program is serving a different purpose. I believe that was the thinking of the many parents that left their northern Brooklyn neighborhoods in droves to seek out Brooklyn School of Inquiry. Insideschools has reported that because of the huge popularity of the school that they will be adding a third kindergarten to the school and only opening one first grade class.

So, were Principal Keaton's troubles the reason that the program has closed? Was it the fact that it looked like this program, that had been given special development and attention at other schools, a seeming afterthought at PS 20? Was it a lack of focus and expertise in gifted and talented education that put parents off? We won't know. The DOE has a challenge finding the resources, the location and the educators to pull off this kind of program. I think that they have made a great bet in Donna Taylor and Brooklyn School of Inquiry.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

DOE Summer HS Info Talks are Here! Hurray!

The DOE has just announced their terrific summer high school informational talks. For those of you that couldn't make my "Navigating Public High School Choice" talks this month the DOE does a great job with this series of Tuesday Night Talks at Brooklyn Tech and Stuyvesant. Check out the June 30 "First Steps: Understanding my HS Options". They have panelists and the information is snappy and targeted, just the kind I like. I wouldn't miss the July 7 "Eight Specialized Exam High Schools" or the July 14 "Performing Arts HS: Preparing your Audition/Arts Portfolio (this one is a must see for families that are planning on looking at any arts high schools.

Tuesdays at 6:30pm throughout the summer starting on June 30 at Brooklyn Tech and ending on August 11 at Stuyvesant. The complete list is on the DOE website under "choices and enrollment/high schools/calendar and events.

And then you can come to my "Public High School Short List Workshops" on July 13 at 7pm or August 1 at 10am. For more information
or write to me at

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


The words every mom of a teen is fearful to see in a text, "I got the baby!" These were not so ominous because she only had it for 24 hours, so I texted back, "awesome!" and waited for Robobaby to arrive.

My daughter, as a sophomore, has had "Health" this year instead of gym. It has been a terrific class, which the teacher gleefully describes as having one goal - making sure that none of them gets pregnant. It is much more than that. This class has been so enlightening that I think of it akin to the salad making scene in "To Sir, With Love". Ms. B. is getting them ready for the real world; they rolled the dice to get a job or career (so far, so good), they planned their weddings, wrote vows, made a yearly budget ("why do I have to pay for my husband's deodorant?!"), watched videos of real births ("like, 15 times! disgusting!") assembled their layettes, and finally she brought Robobaby home for a sleepover.

First the school had us sign a paper saying that if anything happens to Robobaby we are responsible for the cost, $350. (I imagine my husband at 2am going at Robobaby with a phillips-head, trying to disarm its crying mechanism.) The kids get the baby for a day (no raw eggs or bags of flour for Murrow!) They have a key that is attached to their wrists with the kind of unbreakable tag that you get at amusement parks so that you can't hand responsibility over to someone else. The key disarms the crying mechanism. The baby records how many times you neglect it or don't support its head. My daughter had to get special permission to delay her baby because she was in a play. For a split second she could tell, Ms. B was thinking, "well, what are you going to do if you had a REAL baby?" and she thought better of it. (Nobody crosses the Murrow Drama Dept.)

So, yesterday afternoon she arrived and was promptly placed in the darling hand painted cradle that held the stuffies and cowbaby. Of course as a new mother, my daughter checked her every 10 minutes because the baby wasn't doing anything. (She had been told it was programed "colicky"). I said, "just wait", and yes, at midnight Robobaby started to cry at irregular intervals until the three of us made my daughter and her progeny sleep on the sofa where we couldn't hear them scream. I am sure that she will get a good grade. She is a very attentive mother. Mostly, I am thankful that she can now stick to a budget, that she knows how much her cell phone costs, that she is thinking about her 401K and that she will make her husband buy his own deodorant.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Aris Parent Link

I got my letter from the DOE welcoming me to the ARIS Parent Link tool, so I thought that I would try it out.
I logged in at with my student's id# and the temporary password that was sent in the letter. If you don't know your child's id#, check on a report card. It is the same nine digit number that follows them all the way from kindergarten. I have a file that I keep school documents in (report cards and test results) and I write the number on the outside of the folder along with the phone numbers of the Parent Coordinator, Guidance Counselor and main school phone number. When my kids only had one teacher I would put the teacher's contact info there too for easy access. Now they have too many teachers to keep track of and I have to do an excel spreadsheet if they are inclined to give contact information.

It was easy to access the website and I didn't see anything that I didn't expect. The Regents scores were there and the days we took her out of school to visit our friends in Brazil. The 3rd - 8th grade standardized scores were there also, as well as her grades. I appreciate that I can access the information online to check that it is correct, and if I had a different child that wasn't always waving printouts of her "permanent record" in my face I would see things that might be new to me.

I am curious to hear from 4th grade parents to find out if the current ELA or Math scores are listed on their reports. It would be a helpful site if parents could have fast access to that information. I have to say that the most helpful sites have been two from my high school student's school. One is an email listserve that sends oneway messages from the school. As an incentive for signing up we recieve our student's report cards as a email a day early. I love that, because I might never see it otherwise. The other was an experimental site that a teacher set up that had accurate and timely grades listed throughout the semester; what homework was missing and how the essay or exam went. I find that often the report cards are too late to help with finding a tutor or contacting a teacher with a problem. When I knew how she did on the big test before she got home it helped me prepare - "congratulations!" or "I've cancelled soccer so that you can study" or to the teacher "is there a reason that the grades are all over the place?". For the most part, I didn't say anything. I didn't want her to think that I was tracking her every move, and I wasn't, but it was good to be prepared to help when it was needed. I am sure that it was a lot of work for the teacher to enter the many test and assignment grades, but I really appreciated it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dual Language Programs

Thanks to Karen at for helping me to come up with interesting topics to co-post about.

Parents often want to know if an elementary school has foreign language instruction. Unfortunately, it is rare for a public elementary to have a designated foreign language teacher. Occasionally there may be songs in other languages taught through the music or social studies class, or there may be some language classes through an after-school program. A teacher who is fluent may work a little foreign language awareness into her classroom, but it is not an ongoing program. In middle school the children will be offered language classes usually beginning in the 7th grade, and some may take the proficiency test at the end of 8th grade so that they can enter a slightly more advanced HS class in 9th grade. Often in the smaller middle school programs, Spanish is the language that is offered. A few of the larger schools are able to support a French class as well as a Spanish class. When your child gets to high school depending on the size of the school, the offerings can become very diverse, including Arabic, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Mandarin, Russian and Sign Language.

The exception in elementary school is a dual language program. This is a language immersion program in which half of the class is made up of native speakers in one language and half is native speakers in another language. The day is split with language instruction in both languages for the full class (morning in one language, afternoon in the other) with the goal of creating students who are fluent in both languages. There is a great effort made to be consistent and separate the two languages (each consistently written in its own color ink or on different colored paper). In some schools the same teacher teaches the full day in both languages, in some, two teachers switch off teaching in their own language. The regular on grade curriculum content is covered using both languages. The full immersion may start in kindergarten or 1st grade depending on the school.

District 15 has several dual language programs; the Spanish/English program at PS 24; Spanish/English and Chinese/English at PS 94, and the new French/English program at PS 58. PS 1 has had a program in the past but they were not able to get back to me with current information before I filed this story. Children are assessed for their fluency to be considered for the program. Sometimes a few children from outside of the zone may be allowed to participate to fill out the class. These programs are very popular and there can be waiting lists or lotteries to gain a seat.
For more information:
PS 24
427 38 Street Brooklyn, NY 11232
Parent Coordinator: Tamara Estrella
Phone: (718) 832-9366
PS 94
5010 6 Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11220
Parent Coordinator: Diana Leon-Gonzalez
Phone: (718) 435-6034
PS 58
330 Smith Street Brooklyn, NY 11231
Parent Coordinator: Joan Bredthauer ex: 3
Phone: (718) 330-9322
There is also a lot of information on their website:

The interest in and richness of these programs is getting attention in other districts as well. PS 307 in district 13 has been studying the Spanish/English and Mandarin/English programs and has been doing community outreach all year in the hopes of opening their classes in the fall of 2009. Call them and speak to Ms. Davenport, the Principal. She is a great spokesperson for the program. PS 46 is also looking into dual language and having a meeting for interested parents on Monday, June 8 at 5:30pm. A group of parents in district 14 is working with the French Embassy to find a partner school for a French/English program there.
P.S. 307 Daniel Hale Williams School
209 York Street Brooklyn, NY 11201
Principal: Ms. Roberta Davenport
Phone: (718) 834-4748
P.S. 46 Edward C. Blum School
100 Clermont Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11205
Phone: (718) 834-7694
Interest meeting, June 8, 5:30-7pm

District 14 parents (or any parents) interested in a French dual language program in Williamsburg should email
and if you feel comfortable include this information:
parents’ name, child’s name, year entering K, email address, phone, zone, district, exposure to French (Anglophone, half-francophone or Francophone)

She's talking about High School again

I will be giving a free talk tonight, Wednesday June 3, called "Navigating High School Choice" at the Carroll Gardens Library (Union St./Clinton St. Brooklyn) in the auditorium downstairs at 6:30.
If you can't make it tonight I will be giving it again on Tuesday June 16 in the Park Slope Library branch (6th Ave./9th St.) at 6:30.

Sometimes called, "Public High School for Private School Parents" this talk is great for all incoming 7th and 8th grade parents. Everybody who is mystified by this process will benefit from this clear and calm approach to some crazy information. Students are welcome.
For information contact

Public High School Short List Workshops
Bring the big DOE High School Directory and come away with a folder containing a short list of schools so you can face the fall with confidence. Joyce Szuflita leads you through the directory with a pair of scissors, information, strategies and tips on keeping it organized, helping your child engage in the process and keeping your wits about you while finding a good fit school for your child.
Monday, July 13, 7-9pm at Hootenanny Art House 426-428 15th St. Prospect Park stop on the F train
Saturday, August 1, 10am-noon at the Brooklyn Creative League 540 President St. 3rd Floor, between 3rd/4th Ave. M, R train at Union St. stop
Saturday, Sept. 12, 10am-noon at the Brooklyn Creative League 540 President St. 3rd Floor, between 3rd/4th Ave. M, R train at Union St. stop
Tuesday, Sept. 16, 7-9pm at Hootenanny Art House 426-428 15th St. Prospect Park stop on the F train

$40. for parents, $10. for students
Bring your Directory and I will supply everything else.