Thursday, December 31, 2015

Making New Year's Resolutions for the Entire Family

Some people think that New Year's resolutions are doomed to failure.  But statistics show that making resolutions can be effective in moving you closer to your goals.  Why not make setting New Year's resolutions a time for reflection and a family tradition

"Resolving to Write More - a Worthy Thought" by Carol VanHook

Every family member can put forth a few ideas for both personal and family improvement.  To keep it positive, reflect on things achieved along with what needs improvement.  Keep resolutions few and simple for younger kids, and make sure resolutions are realistically achievable.   Anticipate hurdles and strategize in advance about how to deal with them.  Write out goals (for the littlest ones, use pictures) where the whole family can see them, and create a chart measuring progress toward practicing a new habit. 

There are unlimited resolutions that one can undertake, but below are five that families can do together, and the ways to go about them.

1.  GET FIT TOGETHER

Take a simple stroll to school or around the neighborhood together.  Incorporate a family stroll into your dog walking routine. Plan a family hike.

"Walking/Strolling in the Cold" by Jim Larrison

Look for opportunities to be active together Make a list of national parks to visit, or in Massachusetts, Trustees of the Reservation lands.  Don't forget that Parent Talk offers retail discounts to gyms, dance classes, and other activities.  The Charles River YMCA provides kids with a supervised space to tumble and play while parents use the gym equipment in a room viewable through a window.  And if you attended PT's Preschool and Kindergarten Fair, you might have picked up a coupon to Energy Fitness which lets parents have a cardio workout for free while they watch their child's gym class through a glass wall.

Other creative, fun ideas I have come across include: (a) joining in a family game of hop scotch; (b) family play at the playground (as long as it is safe, climb up that climbing structure and slide down that slide!); (c) ice skating; (d) family swims; and (e) going on a treasure (scavenger) hunt.

2.  SCHEDULE MORE FAMILY TIME

"Give Thanks to Family" by OakleyOriginals

Eat together.  Nowadays, it is not uncommon for family members to eat at separate times because everyone has an individual schedule.  However, research shows that children of families that regularly eat together are less likely to get involved in substance use and physical violence when they become teenagers.  Make a commitment to dine in (or out!) together one or more days a week.

Be entertained together.  Put on some music, bring out a few board games, and have a weekly/monthly family game night. Pop the popcorn, and cozy up on the couch for a regularly scheduled family movie night.  Take a field trip together to a museum, park, or historic site.  Start a family hobby that is suitable for all ages.

"Chicken Cobb Salad" by Nan Palermo

3. START HEALTHIER EATING HABITS

Cook together.  Little ones love to mix and measure ingredients.  With lower fat and sodium content than restaurant food, home cooked meals can be healthier.   If, like me, you have not been in the practice of cooking, do a search for quick, easy five-star recipes and try them out one or more times a week.  Your cooking will get more efficient over time and you will soon have a few quick go-to recipes to choose from!

Include a vegetable and/or fruit with every meal. Frozen and canned options that are low in fat and sodium can help create a balanced meal given a time crunch.

Prepare healthier snacks (like cut fruits and vegetables) in advance and keep the refrigerator stocked with them.

4.  BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR

Once a week, have your family select a person to give special attention.  Bake cookies, send a handwritten card, help with shoveling snow or other chore, and take some time to provide a listening ear.

"who stole the cookie. . ." by Kiran Foster

Volunteer together.  Visit a senior with a meal and bring some cheer to shut-ins.  The whole family can help at Spread the Bread or a homeless shelter or soup kitchen (but check for minimum age requirements).  If going onsite to the location is not an option, find a church or other community organization that sponsors such efforts to which you can contribute.  There may be a coat or clothing drive for the homeless at which your family can drop off donations.

Discuss with your kids the idea of donations, and find something to donate. It is not for everyone, but  kidscangivetoo.com is an interesting option that asks kids to have guests donate money instead of giving a traditional birthday gift.  The donations are then split between the birthday boy or birthday girl and the charity of his or her choice.

5.  UNPLUG

Have everyone take a break from screen time and cell phones a couple of hours a day or week, or one or more days a month (whichever you can handle!).  Reducing kids' screen time can help avoid associated risks of sleeplessness, problems of attention, anxiety and depression, and obesity.

I hope you counted many successes and celebrations in 2015.  Here's to finding many more of them (with a little resolve) in 2016!


About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently, blog coordinator for Parent Talk.





Sources

1. http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/News/NewsAndFeatures/Pages/Family-New-Years-resolutions-Top-five.aspx

2. http://www.parents.com/holiday/new-years/resolution/8-ways-to-help-kids-make-new-years-resolutions/

3. https://uk.style.yahoo.com/new-year-resolutions-for-the-family.html

Monday, December 14, 2015

New Years Eve Balloon Drop at Jammin' New Year's 2016!!

New Year's Eve is coming soon!  Are you having a hard time figuring out how to usher in the New Year with your wee ones? 

Kids huddle around a magical campfire to "roast" marshmallows at last year's Jammin' New Year's Eve bash.


Your present situation doesn't lend itself to a couple's night on the town (good luck finding a babysitter!).  And staying up until the stroke of midnight with a baby and/or toddler is simply not going to happen.

Not to worry.  Parent Talk has got you covered with a terrific option that lets your whole family celebrate the new year together -- Jammin' New Years 2016!!

On the last day of 2015, head over to the Wellesley Jammin' With You Performance Center for music with Josh and the Jamtones, Jimmy Jamz, puppet shows, karaoke, crafts, and even a balloon drop!



Balloon drop!


Where else on New Year's Eve can your child draw on the wall, do crafts, hang with friends and family, listen to good kid music, dance, and eat yummy food (pizza and drinks are available for purchase) all in one place, and possibly all at once?  At Jammin' New Years 2016, that's where! 

The cost of such fun is only $30 per family.  There are even two options to make it easier to attend -- one party beginning at 10:30 a.m. and another party beginning at 1:30 p.m.  Lastly, parents who register and volunteer will earn a free slice of pizza and a drink for their kids who attend!  Volunteers can sign up at http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0b4eaaad23a4f58-jammin.

These kids are happy doing crafts, but if they tire of that, they can simply turn around and draw on the wall!



My family is already signed up.  Still need to register?  Just click here . . .  and see you there!

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently, the blog coordinator for Parent Talk.


Friday, December 11, 2015

DIY Kid-Crafts for Heartfelt Holiday Gifts

My 3 year old receives a lot of gifts throughout the year, and the holidays are no exception. But he does not have as much experience with giving gifts.  I purchase the gifts"from" him, wrap them, add his name on the cards, and encourage him to pass the items along to another person. Does my child really understand the concept of giving when I pretty much orchestrate the whole thing?

This year, I want to give my little guy a chance to be generous on his own.  What could my son give as a gift that does not look like it came from his dad or me?  My mind was blank until I realized that I was concentrating too much on things that could be bought.  Then the obvious hit me.  One of the best gifts an adult can receive from a child is a gift that is made from the heart!

Painted, personalized plate that has has been placed back in its original packaging.
I took a trip to the local craft store to give my child the materials and opportunity to make some gifts for his family. While the results are not perfect looking, I think that the family will love these gifts for what they represent.  He was truly thinking of each family member as he completed each project.  Here are the results, along with a few more ideas for your own crafty kid, below!

PICTURE FRAME

The picture frame was my favorite of the three crafts.  All of the crafts were very easy, but I thought this one had the prettiest result.  Along with a plain wooden picture frame, my son used non-toxic craft/acrylic paint, mosaic glass tiles and stones, craft or school glue, plastic dish with Q-tip for glue application, and a sponge paint brush.


Items used for this craft are spread out on my son's play kitchen table, which doubles as a craft table.  
My son used the sponge brush to paint a plain 5" x 7" wooden picture frame the color of his choice, while I held the frame so he could get most nooks and crannies.  There were still some blank spots, but I resisted the urge to fill them in myself.  I was not going to make any adjustments because I wanted it to be truly his own creative project.  After the paint dried, he applied glue to the frame with a Q-tip and then stuck on pieces of colored glass.  The pieces were applied somewhat crookedly, but I held myself back from making any "corrections."

Painted wooden frame with glass mosaic stones and tiles.

We will add a nice photograph of him, and then send it to the grandparents as a present over the holidays.  Total time:  10 minutes to paint; 4 hours to dry; 20 minutes to glue on decorations; additional drying time for glue.

PLATE

Almost everything we needed for this project, from plate, paint, and brushes was included in Creatology's Personalize It Plate Kit.  The only added component is an oven for setting the paint onto the plate.


Personalized, painted plate which has been baked and set, and is safe and ready to be eaten from.

The manufacturer recommends this as a project for 8 years and older, and an older child might have created a cleaner outcome, but my 3 year old did just fine with it (I took care of the step of baking it in the oven, though).  Total time:  15 to 20 minutes of painting followed by 30 minutes to bake, plus time to cool off.
 
WREATH

At our local craft store, I let my son pick out a number of items to bring home for decorating a plain, green wreath.  At home, he placed the items in whatever arrangement he wanted.  I attached the decorations for him, doing my best to keep them exactly as he had placed them, including the big red bow.  Total time:  after shopping time, about 25 minutes.

Wreath hanging from a doorknob, against wall and cabinet.
In the past, we have also visited Make Meaning at Dedham's Legacy Place, and made pretty soap arrangements.  Walking through a craft store like Michaels has also been the source of some ideas, and it even has kid crafting classes

Hopefully, this post may give you some ideas for embarking on your own crafty holiday, if that's what you want to do, too!  On behalf of Parent Talk, cheers and best wishes to you and yours for a happy and heartfelt holiday season.  See you in the New Year!


About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently, blog coordinator for Parent Talk.




Saturday, November 28, 2015

Give the Gift of Parent Talk

It's that time of year, and finding just the right presents for your loved ones can be challenging!  Did you know that you can give the gift of a Parent Talk membership?

For a friend, family member, neighbor or co-worker with kids, membership in PT will mean so many things -- access to museum passes, PT events, lectures, playgroups, retail discountscommunity support and more.  You will also be giving the gift of memories-in-the-making.


Kids and parents alike enjoyed Elmo Story Time at Parent Talk's Playspace earlier this year.

Just email businessadministrator@parenttalk.info with "PT Gift Subscription" in the subject line.  You will receive an email response with a form to fill out with various payment options. Send in your reply and relax a little, knowing that at least one item on your gift list has been taken care of!

Along with shopping for gifts, another thing that typically happens at this time of year are requests for charitable donations.  And every year, you dig deep and give to a few good causes as budget allows, while you leave a bunch of remaining requests "for next year."  Parent Talk may have fallen into the second category of "maybe next year" giving.  But donating to Parent Talk need not take an extra penny out of your pocket.  

AmazonSmile will give 0.5% of the purchase price of qualified items to the charity of your choice.  When you think of all that Parent Talk has done to enrich the lives of you and your family, why not make PT your charitable choice?


At Parent Talk's annual Barn Babies event, children have an opportunity to hold and touch baby animals, such as at the duckling Touch Tank.

Just go to smile.amazon.com.  Under the search box at the top of the page, there is an option to change the supported charity. Choose Parent Talk, then shop as usual!  Your shopping experience will stay the same, including the price.  Well, one thing may change -- the added satisfaction that comes from making a contribution that supports PT!

About the author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently, blog coordinator for Parent Talk.





Saturday, November 21, 2015

Giving Thanks for My Parent Talk Village

"It takes a village to raise a child." - African proverb


my babies.JPG
My babies, Kiera and Padraig, in 2011.  Photo credit: J+R Photography 

I remember when the first wave of panic set in. My husband told me that he had a five day work trip right after we closed on our new Needham home. Images of eight-month pregnant me, sitting defeated on our living room couch next to our 21-month-old daughter, surrounded by countless unpacked moving boxes, filled my mind. Thankfully, my godmother from New Jersey swooped to the rescue and stayed with us that first week and helped me unpack. But it made me wonder, what had we done? Why did we move away from our village in New Jersey?


Moving had never been an issue for me before. I moved from Singapore to Illinois for college, then to New Jersey upon graduation, and then to Massachusetts for my husband’s work. But the move of merely 9.1 miles with 1.5 kids, from the South End in Boston to Needham, was terrifying. Aside from a few of my husband’s colleagues, we did not know anyone (or, technically speaking, I did not know anyone). Yes, people comforted me with, "You will meet people when your kids are in school." But how was I going to survive being isolated in the suburbs for the next three years before our firstborn entered kindergarten?


“You need to join Parent Talk,” my husband’s colleague’s wife stated matter-of-factly. So I did.

spooky 2011.jpg
The 2-year-olds from our playgroup with friends, nicknamed the "Bigs," at Spooky Walk in 2011.

It was a slow introduction to Parent Talk, just because getting out of the house with two kids (a 2-year-old and an infant) by myself was almost impossible. So, as a start, we attended PT's family events (e.g., Frosty’s Festival, Story Time with Elmo) to maintain the critical one-to-one adult to kid ratio. Then, we graduated to the PT parenting lectures which gave us a few more tools to add to our parenting toolbox. And the YMCA discount for Parent Talk members was phenomenal! It pretty much made up for the membership fee, assuming we made it to the gym. And then we hit the jackpot -- Playgroup.


We were arbitrarily assigned to one of several playgroups based on our daughter’s age. This meant that we were coming into a playgroup that had started two years ago, and had grown to include 20 to 30 families. Not intimidating, right? But after I sent the initial awkward email introduction about our family, there was an immediate response. "Hello. Welcome to our playgroup. Like you, we are all in the trenches. It does get easier. We meet at the Playspace or Perry Park every Friday morning. Join us."


Spooky walk 2015.jpg
The "Bigs" a few years later with younger siblings, the "Littles," at Spooky Walk. in 2015.

The relief I felt was palpable. No pressure to host others, no pressure to attend every playgroup gathering. Come as you are, when you can. After my kids and I got into the swing of these weekly Friday playdates, an interesting thing happened. These were not just playdates for my kids, they became my playdates too.  

What an incredible group of moms, dads, caregivers and kids -- generous, kind, fun, creative, organized, intelligent, and honest. This group was a source for vacation ideas, contractor recommendations, recipe swaps, and sharing parenting ups and downs. This was group parenting at its best, as we exchanged candid and valuable information. We worked at Parent Talk Sales together, attended family events (Memorial Day Picnic at DeFazio Park, Spooky Walk), volunteered for meal trains, socialized at Moms’ Nights Out (and Away!), and there were even a few poker nights for dads. Through life’s best and worst moments, we have been there to support each other.

Portland group.jpg
Mom's Night Away, Portland, Maine, 2015.

It has been a little over four years since our family moved to Needham. We honestly thought we would head back to New Jersey when the appropriate job opportunity for my husband came up in the New York or New Jersey area. The PT playgroup changed that trajectory. Our playgroup has morphed into our extended family. My husband and I no longer feel the need to move. We know in our hearts that Needham is home and this is where our family can grow roots. And it all started with Parent Talk.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful to Parent Talk for helping me build my village.



About the author
Joyce McCafferty is an unexpected stay-at-home Needham mom. She is so glad that her husband chose to relocate to Needham because that one choice set into motion so many wonderful events


EDITOR'S NOTE: This Thanksgiving holiday is the perfect time to take a moment to consider and share all of the things we are thankful for. If you have your own story of gratitude for the Parent Talk village, an experience, PT's offerings, events, or anything else, please share it with us with the Comments section below. Or join us on on Facebook and Twitter, beginning your story with "I am thankful to Parent Talk for . . . " and tag it with #Thankful4PT.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gift Guide for Needham Winter Marketplace

Local shopping, quality products and home-grown businesses all in one place and just in time for the holidays.  What could be better?  A gift guide, of course!  The Needham Winter Marketplace is a great way to get ahead on your holiday shopping list, and this gift guide will help you plan your shopping trip so that you can make the most of your visit.


Women in Your Life (Sisters and Best Friends)


Beautycounter's Lip Sheers are bestsellers for this clean cosmetics company.  Twig is my sister's favorite shade for everyday wear.

"look at me :-)" by Rosemarie Voegtli

B-Buckled's sparkly belt, made with elastic to change the look of a simple black dress, is an ingenious solution to the "too many parties, not enough outfits" problem of the season.

Hamilton Grace offers gorgeous, hand-made jewelry like its medium-stone drop earrings.  This is the perfect pair for my statement-piece-loving best friend!


Other Women in Your Life (Daughters, Nieces, Tweens and Teens That You Love)
 
Rebeccah J's leather bracelets are a great addition to your favorite girl's jewelry box -- not too edgy, but not too subtle either!

Do you know any kids who are missing camp or who are just looking for some cozy and cute winter wear?  Camp Headquarters has you covered, with adorable PJs, lounge pants, hoodies and other items adorned with cheeky prints.  I am getting my niece the doughnut print pajama pants!


Stella & Dot table display by Ricki Benjamin

Try the Stella & Dot pave wishing bracelet for a teenager you love.  It is classy enough to steal for yourself, and the delicate setting is perfect for any girl.


Parents and Grandparents


Hughes Photography offers portrait sessions for families, and the photographer knows how to work with kids, so the pictures turn out perfect.  You can surprise your in-laws with a portrait of the grandkids or gather the whole clan for a photo shoot for the ages!

If you want to honor your parents with an adorable memento, you can go to The Kids' Place to personally decorate a serving platter, and even use your kids' own hand prints.  This is a gift they can actually use when you celebrate special occasions together!

 
"Wibble, wobble" by tiffany terry


Men (Husbands, Fathers, Brothers)


Golfers will love the golf carry-all and travelers will appreciate the tie case, both by R. Scott and featured by Ame & Lulu.


My husband has sensitive skin that reacts to a lot of products.  I am thinking of buying him Rodan + Fields' sensitive skin treatment from its Soothe line this Christmas.

My dad likes to throw everything in the dishwasher, which results in a fair number of rusted or warped kitchen utensils.  I might take pity on him and pick up the Cutco can opener for his stocking.  It's a dishwasher safe, ergonomically designed can opener with a lifetime guarantee that makes me feel like even he can't break it. 


Your Friend with a New Baby


Barre3 offers amazing classes that are perfect to build up the core of a woman recovering from pregnancy (and to de-stress moms and kid-free women, alike)!



"training" by teammarche

The Artful Educator features stimulating and gorgeous alphabet wall art, while Inklings creates delightful pillows for a nursery or kid's room as well as personalized note cards (I am itching for the watercolor baseball design).  

How I wish I had known about myBibzy when my twin droolers (and spit-up champs) were born two years ago.  Its onesies with built-in three layer bibs minimize laundry and outfit changes and streamline life when you need it the most.


The Younger Set (Kids under 10 Years Old)


Needham's new toy store and meeting spot, Architrave, has high-quality wooden trains and accessories that are a must-have for any growing collection.

Books about empowerment from Inspire Our Kids are sure to bring out the good cheer in our little ones.  I am also planning to scoop up the Yoga Pretzels card deck for my aspiring yogi first-grader and the Tales from Old Ireland book with accompanying CD for our endless hours in the minivan, both from Barefoot Books.


"Eagerly" by mliu92

Ribbon Candy's DIY necklace and bracelet kits are the perfect gift for your creative boy or girl, especially during the winter months when crafts are the ticket to getting through your day!

Treat your daughter to Madley's coordinating mother-daughter necklace sets.  My daughter and I have the red and white plaid set for the holidays, and I have my eye on the Hailey for an elegant all-seasons alternative.  The Evie is perfect for anyone who cannot wait until summer!  Also, there is now a new offering for moms and their boys -- matching necklaces and ties.


Madley's accessories for kids, designed to match with Mom, also look good on their own.


Gracious Hosts of All of Those Holiday Parties and Family Gatherings


I have given Zinnia Designs' simple but brilliant zip code dish as a coin or key receptacle. Perennial Designs' gorgeous flower arrangements never grow old and are the perfect addition to any host's table or entryway.  I am coveting Westborough Wick's Home for the Holidays candle, always hand-dipped in a mason jar for a classic, rustic look and scent.


About the Author

Joanna Noon is a Brookline native who loves living in Needham with her husband and five children.  She worked in education before becoming a stay-at-home mom.  Joanna is a longtime member of Parent Talk and is excited to serve on the Parent Talk Board as Membership Co-Chair.



Thursday, November 12, 2015

Light Up the Holidays -- Make a Lantern for Needham Lights

Come join Parent Talk and friends this Sunday and create lanterns for Needham Lights!  A lantern-making workshop will be held in the Dover Caryl Community Center on November 15, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and again on Saturday, December 5, 2015, at one of Parent Talk's craft tables inside Needham Town Hall.  

Child at Parent Talk's craft table during last year's Needham Lights lantern-making event.

Light is something we cherish in the winter and something we use in our holiday celebrations, so it is only appropriate we come together in early December for the annual Needham Lights event.  Many of us are trying to create holiday traditions for our children -- not only to give them something to look forward to, but also to imbue the season with meaning.  

Needham Lights offers us an opportunity to provide our children with both a fun and entertaining activity and a symbolic one.  By coming together as a community, we are showing our children that they belong to something greater.  By taking part in the Luminary Stroll, they can see for themselves the beauty of many lights joined together in one effort.  This may seem abstract for little ones, but let's not forget how impressionable and perceptive they are!


Crowd gathers outside Needham Town Hall for 2014 Needham Lights.

We hope you will include Needham Lights in your holiday tradition this year.  The multi-faceted event takes place on Saturday, December 5, from noon through 8 p.m.  Parent Talk will have craft tables inside Needham Town Hall from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and there will be live entertainment and a fire show outside.  There will also be promotions at local shops around the town center, and finally, the chance to light up the town during the luminary stroll!  

About the Author
Liza D'Hemecourt is the Community Relations Chair for Parent Talk, following her previous role as Blog Coordinator.  She taught kindergarten and first grade before becoming a stay-at-home mom in Needham to her two children.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

Creativity and Flexibility Can Help Work-Life Balance

Never in a million years did I think I would want to leave the world of full-time work to be home with my kids.  "Yes, I'll be back.  I am not the type to stay home,"  I would tell friends and co-workers before my maternity leave.  Well, we all know how perspective can change after having children, right?!

After working in university admissions for six years, I had my first child.  I went back to work full-time, but I started having second thoughts.  I approached my supervisor about a part-time schedule.  Unfortunately, my plan was rejected.

I started to loathe the stress of dropping off my baby at daycare and commuting to work.  I was feeling like my priorities had dramatically changed.  Thoughts such as, "Why am I sitting here at work when I could be hanging out at the playground?" frequently went through my head.

"Morning  Commute - 43:365" by diveoffice


Around that time, I put my head together with a colleague who was in a similar situation and we proposed a job-share.  Through various tweaks, compromises and shifting responsibilities, we convinced our manager that we could effectively implement the arrangement.

With three days in the office and two days at home, I loved living in the worlds of a stay-at-home and working mom.  However, although I felt lucky to have such a fantastic job-share, I still wanted even more flexibility.  After having my second baby, I bumped into a grad school acquaintance who was working as a college counselor.  This career had always been attractive to me due to its part-time flexibility.  She connected me with the company owner and a few months later, I took on my first clients.

"Meyer Gate, Harvard Yard" by Ik T


My first year as a college counselor was a whirlwind.  Not yet ready to leave my admissions job, I was driving to and from Harvard Square three times a week, picking the kids up at daycare, and then going back out at night and on weekends to learn the ropes of college counseling . . . all while nursing a baby.  I no longer had the patience for office politics and my priorities shifted to spending even more time at home.  So, halfway thorough the year, (and with much angst) I let my job-share partner know of my plan to go full steam ahead with college counseling.  Leaving the security of a guaranteed paycheck made me nervous, but my desire to own my schedule trumped my concerns.

Three years later, I have never looked back.

Sometimes, I feel like my life is crazier now.  It was so efficient when my work fit nicely into three full days at the office, versus now having to fit my work into what seems like tiny time slots throughout the day.  An hour of TV for my kids equals time to answer two parent emails and edit one student essay.  Other nights, after spending my whole day as a stay-at-home mom, I have to head out for two student appointments at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., only to arrive home at 9:30 p.m. and get back on the computer.

"@ Work @ Home" by Dylan


Even though it can be crazy, I truly do have flexibility to make my own schedule.  Last week, I volunteered in the lunch room at my kindergartner's school.  And on a day when my three-year-old daughter's school is closed, I can take her to a play date and go to work at night.

On top of all of this, I have added another job to the mix.  You see, college counseling is very quiet from January through June.  So, last February, I got the itch that I needed to be doing something more.  I signed up as a Stella & Dot Stylist, which I love.  The beauty of this new gig is that I can put as little or as much time and energy as I want into the business, all while feeling very entrepreneurial and empowered.

Ricki Benjamin with her two children, Sage and Jonah.

Now I have three jobs -- College Counselor, Stylist and Mom.  And while I don't think that I have found the magic formula for work/life balance, I do know that I am never bored, I have work that is fulfilling, keeps me on my toes, and snugly fits into a "flexible schedule," while spending significant quality time with my family.




About the Author
Ricki Benjamin lives in Wellesley with her two children (aged three and five), husband, and dog.  She would love to connect at any time on college counseling/admissions, Stella & Dot, advocating for a job-share or creative schedule, and finding time to work out with a young family.  You can say hello to Ricki at her Stella & Dot display at Parent Talk's Winter Marketplace this month.


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This is the first of a Parent Talk Matters Blog series on parenting styles.  Keep your eyes open for future blog posts that we hope to share from the perspectives of parents who have different approaches to finding a balanced life with kids.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Why Choose Homeschool?

Do you want to spend more time with your kids?  Is the cost of your child's schooling getting you down?  Do you want more control over his or her education?

Without knowing much about it, I used to think of homeschooling as backwards and a little antisocial.  I thought it was something only "kooky" people do.  Now, as a parent, I understand why families may choose to educate their children at home.

The number of those choosing to educate their children at home is growing.  In 2007, there were 1.5 million kindergarten through grade twelve home-educated students.  In 2011, that number rose to  almost 1.8 million.  One estimate of homeschoolers in 2013 found 2.2 million home-educated students.

"Homeschool Days at Zoar Village" by Chiot's Run

Why are more parents choosing to homeschool?  A U.S. Department of Education survey of homeschool parents found that
  •  91 percent are concerned about school environments;
  • 77 percent want to provide a moral education;
  • 74 percent are dissatisfied with schools' academic instruction;
  • 64 percent want to provide religious instruction; and
  • 44 percent want a non-traditional approach to education. 
Parents in the homeschooling community also often mention a desire for more family time.  Other reasons include the high cost of a private school education, special needs, and the ability to customize lessons for better learning.


"Crowned Conchs" by FWC Fish and Wildlife Institute

My husband (who has an Ed.D. and works in education) and I discussed many of these reasons while deciding how to educate our three-year-old child.  I now homeschool my son during the week, and take him to a language school on Saturdays.  I love our time together, and would not change it for the world.  He seems happy, smart, and is developing on pace with, or ahead of, developmental milestones for his age.  That said, my husband and I will likely enroll our son in a preschool next year.  We view these early years as time to experiment and learn what works best for our family in the years to come.

With homeschooling, I enjoy the freedom to decide when, how, and what to teach my son.  I am constantly amazed and amused to see the world through his eyes.  I feel privileged to spend this time with him.  We grow our bond as we learn and create new memories together.

"Homeschool Fun" by Chiot' Run

Wondering if homeschooling is for you?  Check to see if the questions at the beginning of this post apply to you.  In addition, here are a few more:

  • Is your child missing something in his or her current education  that you think is important ? (Example: particular philosophy, morality, religious point of view, unconventional lesson)
  • Does your child have special needs, physical or mental issues that are better addressed at home?
  • Is your child being bullied or experiencing unhealthy peer pressure at his or her current school?
  • Is your child's school is unsafe?  (Example: security issues, drugs)
  • Do the instructors at your child's school treat him or her fairly?
  • Is your child making adequate progress in his or her current learning environment?
  • Is your child being adequately challenged?  If not, would he or she benefit from a more customized education?
  • Do you want your child to have more one-on-one instruction?
  • Can you afford to send your child to the school of your choice?  If not, are you happy with the available alternatives? 
  • Do you want more opportunities to bond with your child?

Your family will probably have additional, unique considerations to think about, that make sense for you.  Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts is a good place to start looking for more information.  Also helpful is Metrowest Homeschoolers, which runs a listserv for homeschooling parents to share advice and organize group activities. 

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home-mom, and most recently, blog coordinator for Parent Talk.


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