Saturday, May 18, 2013

Public vs. Private: Educating the Jacksons

School Days

Is private school better than public school? Yes and no.

When I had my first son, I knew I wanted to go back to work. First, my then husband and I could never have lived on one salary. But more importantly, I like being out and about, and an afternoon with Barney was not my idea of happy hour. So, all of my children have spent time in daycare centers.  However, being a teacher at that time, I knew they wouldn’t be able to show up to kindergarten without knowing some A,B, C’S and 1,2,3’s. Therefore, my kiddos began attending a local “church school” that started in Pre-K and went up to the 8th grade. This began their journey through private school terrain.  Honestly, I never intended for them to continue down this road.  The plan was that the Jacksons would attend this school until they could go to the local public school.  Then, I had dinner with a long-time friend who suggested I apply my oldest to the private school where her sons attend. Yeah, right!!!

Low and behold, “Thing 1” was accepted!! I was completely shocked. Who knew he was…well, smart. He certainly didn’t demonstrate any form of real intelligence at home. Anyway, once he was fully engulfed in private school life, I could see the horizons broadening, the opportunities for him to see and be involved in a wide variety of activities increasing. I liked it. So Thing 2 and 3 would follow in his private school footsteps.  I liked the idea of expanding their vision of what they could ultimately achieve in life.

I know what you’re going to say. I’ve had this argument, I mean conversation, with many of my friends and family. It’s no secret that private school tuition is no joke.  Monthly payments for their schooling tip the scales of a balanced monthly budget and cause many lean days. So why spend the money? Why do this when they could just go to public school and get an equally good education?

I agree. Public schools provide a great education.  The thesis for my Master’s in Education was on public school versus private school education.  The outcome was that no matter where your kid goes to school, if the parents are involved, the kids would be successful. I believe that. When I taught 7th grade English, those kids whose parents were always volunteering or fundraiser or visiting or even emailing were more concerned about their performance. However, they were far outnumbered by students who didn’t have much parent involvement. Every year, I saw students who went from being model citizens during the first month of school to becoming the classroom catastrophe.  Not because that’s who they were, but because that’s who they needed to be to have friends.

Am I saying that private schools don’t have their peer pressures? No.  I see it every day. The pressure to compete on an economic level is mind-blowing. My kids play soccer with kids who have private coaches.  What the What? They are in elementary.  They play chess with kids who have private coaches. They have play dates with kids who have “media rooms “and share vacation stories with kids who travel abroad for spring break. We went to Home Depot for spring break. I’m not hating…well maybe a little. But eventually, I know my kids will see they don’t stack up in terms of dollars and cents.  Let’s not even talk about my fears for them when they reach middle school and high school.  I know there are recreational drugs and alcohol that these kids have access to that I couldn’t even afford to buy! Did I mention that my two youngest are the only African-Americans in their class? I know that private schools have their diversity challenges. I’m just hoping the good outweighs the bad in the long run.

So is private school better than public school? Yes and no. My decision is that I want my kids to experience the exposure that private school offers.  I realize that exposure comes at a price. But doesn't

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What I Want for Mother's Day...A Nap!

Mother’s Day is the one day that mom’s get the recognition they deserve.  Be it a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers, the world stops and takes notice of the hard work moms put in on a daily basis. And we love it.  We want the Sunday gospel-jazz-bottomless-mimosa brunch, the dozen long-stemmed roses, and the tear-jerking Hallmark card to show all of our friends.  Am I right, or am I right? Well, when you a divorced mommy, the list changes a little. The only thing on my list right now…a nap.

This year, Mother’s Day falls on daddy’s weekend. So the kiddos will be with their father.  All of my married-with-children friends were aghast. “You don’t want to be with your kids?”  “What will you do?” “Will you be sad?” That is usually followed up by a litany of invitations to various activities with their families. I will admit, the first year I was divorced, holidays were hard. I dreaded the first Christmas without my children. I couldn’t even enjoy the holiday because I was so overwhelmed with grief. No kids on Christmas?!! You’ve got to be kidding me? That’s when a mature, aka older, female friend shared some sage wisdom with me.  She said to take these times to rest and rejuvenate. Being a single mom, I mean and divorced mom (sorry Toni Williams) is hard work.  You are a better mother when you’ve had some down time.

Guess what.  She was right. Because I am in the fast lane all the time with the kids, I get overheated.  And there are some days when I know the kids can’t stand me because I can’t stand myself.  So nowadays when they are away, I take that time to revive myself. Now don’t get me wrong, I do occasionally go out and shake a leg (aging myself),  but sometimes I just like to put on what the kids call a night-night shirt, turn on Law and Order, and just kick back in front of the TV.  It’s not exciting, but necessary when you are the primary caregiver for three little ones.

So don’t think I’m crazy when I pass on the Bloody Mary bar or afternoon matinee for Mother’s Day.  I’m just taking a little breather, and Mother’s Day is the perfect day to do it. Don’t you think?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kids and Kars: The Whole Kit and Caboodle

School is almost out, and you know what that means.  It’s road trip time! Nothing says summer like boarding the pets, packing up the kids and hitting the dusty trail to the nearest family vacation destination. When I was a kid, I considered road trips an adventure. You never knew what was going to happen. I lived with my grandma and when Momma Nancy traveled, she packed everything but the kitchen sink. You had to be prepared. There weren’t any cell phones, only the CB radio. Onstar wasn’t going to show up if you had a flat.  You had to have all of your tire-changing gear on hand when that Good Samaritan stopped by to help.  Momma Nancy packed the whole kit and caboodle.  Our car was filled with everything from band-aids to brake fluid. Turns out, it may be a digital world, but analog tactics still work. Take it from me; you don’t want to be stranded on the side of the road with children in tow.  Be prepared.  Here’s how:

1.       The first item in your road trip survival kit should be a fully-charged cell phone and car charger. Cell phones are probably the easiest way to keep from being stranded. You don’t have to count on smoke signals (aka-the busted radiator) to tell oncoming traffic that you are in distress. Help is just a phone call away.  Driving through rural America always makes fun. You lose your signal and your otherwise reliable tool of communication quickly turns into something that’s only good for telling time. Just remember. Even if you can’t get service, you can still call the police.  It’s as easy as 9-1-1.

2.       No one ever thinks of jumper cables until they need them. It happens. You are in such a hurry to get your little bundles of joy out of the car and into bed so you can have a little peace and quiet, you don’t even notice that little Timmy has turned on the interior light. It’s been on all night long when you try to start your car the next morning. Click…click.  Oh no! Your plans for the best sightseeing excursion known to man hang in the balance. Never fear! A good pair of jumper cables can put you on the road again. Don’t be alarmed if you need a new battery. A drained battery does not regenerate itself like a lizard’s tail. But every town has a Walmart, right.  Just remind little Timmy of this extra expenditure when he wants the $18 super freeze pop and stuffed animal at the theme park.

3.       One word-Flashlight.  Being stranded in the dark is no fun, especially with children.  A flash light can assist adults in changing a tire, as well as be a keep-the-boogie-man-away tool for the children.  Dual purpose…you gotta love it.

4.       Being cold is no fun either. Bring a blanket… or three.  If you’re taking the annual road trip to grandma’s house for Christmas, it can get pretty chilly on the way. Load the thermos with hot chocolate and the backseat with Snuggies. This will be the only time your kids will want to snuggle with each other without it turning into a wrestling match.

5.       My personal favorite is the Fix-O-Flat products. There I said it, and I’m not ashamed. I can change a tire, I just don’t want to. This instant tire inflater is quick, easy and will allow you to make it the nearest gas station. Your kids might even think it’s cool to see the “magic” that unfolds when you revive the tire.  Most times, someone will take pity on you and pull over to help you change a tire. But waiting is no picnic. Minutes can seem like hours with little people who are hungry, have to potty or are “bored.”

Take a little extra time to pack the right items. It can save you some heartache on the road. These are just a few tips that could take the stress out of roadside emergencies. Make traveling with your family and adventure. Be prepared.