Category Archives: Community

Private vs Public Schools

“How many kids are in her class”

“How much homework does he get every night?”

“How much is tuition?  Per child?!?!”

Education is #1.  It always has been and always will be.  Not only is it important to me, my religion (Arya Samaj- a type of Hinduism) revolves around it.  Your education is one thing that can never be taken away from you.  You can never lose it and no matter what you can always fall back on it.  That’s why whenever there is a conversation about schools, I am all over it.

Growing up I mainly went to private school, with the exception of 1 year.  I went to a range of private schools; a typical academy, a gifted school, and even a boarding college preparatory high school.  My kids, however, have mainly gone to public, with an exception of Kindergarten when my daughter was refused admittance.

What works for one family, may not work for another.  Here is how I see the differences:

Fees – Public School Tuition – Registration Fees around $150 per year (can be waived for financial hardship).  Private School Tuition – Religious-affiliated schools tend to cost less, generally less than $10,000 per year otherwise $15,000 – $25,000 per year per student.

Kids per Class –  One of the main decision makers for many parents. Undoubtedly there are fewer kids per class in a private school.  The advantages of having fewer kids are more one on one time, teachers are able to address individual needs when there are fewer needs to address.  On the flip side, having a larger class also brings more experiences and diversity.  Socially, your child is more likely to find other students to fit with since it’s a bigger pond.  Similar to the Montessori method of teaching, students can learn from some classmates while teaching others.

Teachers – By no means can anyone generalize and say that teachers are better on one side or the other.  It is important to note that public school teachers are required to have minimum certifications and specific degrees where private schools can have more flexibility so there is no guarantee of credentials.  Private school teachers generally earn less salary than their public counterparts.

Religious Affiliations – Depending on which area of the country you are from, you may find that some of the best private schools nearby also have a religious affiliation.  If they match your beliefs, great!  If not, be prepared.  For some it has had no effect for others, they come home confused and/or ashamed or their own religion.

Extra Curricular Activities –  At an elementary school level, private schools offer several extra curricular during or after school from the convenience of the school.  This can really be handy for homes where both parents are working.  For example, I learned Spanish starting 3rd grade as part of my regular curriculum.   Most public schools have very limited options.  At the middle school and high school level, many of these activities become part of public school and because of the amount of children, the amount of choices also are greater so you may have options that aren’t available at a private school.

Sports –  Similar to extra curricular in regards to the variety of choices.  Private schools strive to create well-rounded children and many require sports participation.  Public school sports have great teams for great athletes.  If your child does not happen to be one of those great athletes, they might not get onto that great team.  At private schools, your child has a better chance to make a team, regardless of their athletic ability.  As a result, I played 9 years of softball and basketball but was never phenomenal at either.

Parental Involvement – This should be the decision maker.  If you are the kind of parent that is going to be involved in your kid’s education, regardless of what school they are at, then your kids are going to come out great regardless.  If you are too busy to pay too much attention to what your kids are doing, you are better off putting your kids in private school as those big $$$ discussed in fees are expected to be put into use here.  If you have your kids in public school and don’t pay attention, your kids can easily fall under the radar on both sides, not keeping up or not being challenged enough.

Admissions – Some private schools require interviews and tests to gain attendance. Although some of those schools can usually be attended with the right donations.  Public school is determined by the schools and district your home falls into.  Everyone is allowed admission.

Education – At a good public school and good private school – Equal.

So what is the right choice?  It is different for every family.  Being an involved Hindu mom, in a great school district without stashes of money to spare, public school is a no brainer for us.  Comment below and let us know what you decided and why.

Did you already forget him?

A few short months ago on September 2nd the image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body on the beach went viral.  This was the first time I had really been made aware of the situation in Syria and the world was heartbroken.  I could barely hold back the tears.  When I looked at this picture, I saw a boy not much older than my own son, with the same dark brown hair, his tiny little shoes, and bright red shirt . I thought how lucky I am to be able to keep my own son safe.  His mom was not so lucky.

After the gruesome terrorist attacks on November 13  in Paris,  US Politicians are now wanting to refuse entrance to any Syrian refugees (even though they technically can’t). Included is the governor of my home state, Illinois.

While I am not into politics, I am into humanity.  Please don’t let terrorist accomplish it’s goal and perpetuate hate.  Judging the refugees is like saying Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber, or Charles Manson, or the KKK is representative of all Americans.  These are humans; men, women, and especially children who have done nothing wrong.  Remember that little boy on the beach and think about the families who are affected by these sentiments.

Images and captions from Buzzfeed’s article:  Where do Syrian Children Sleep from photographer Magnus Wennman.

Shehd, 7, on the Hungarian border Shehd loves to draw, but more recently all of her drawings have had the same theme: weapons. “She saw them all the time, they are everywhere,” explains her mother when the little girl sleeps on the ground alongside Hungary’s closed border. Now she does not draw at all. The family brought neither paper nor crayons with them on their flight. Shehd does not play anymore either. The escape has forced children to become adults and share concern for what happens in an hour or a day. The family has had difficulty finding food during their wandering. Some days they have had to make do with apples they were able to pick from trees along the road. If the family had known how hard the journey would be they would have chosen to risk their lives in Syria.
Ralia, 7, and Rahaf, 13, in Beirut, Lebanon Ralia, 7, and Rahaf, 13, live on the streets of Beirut. They are from Damascus, where a grenade killed their mother and brother. Along with their father they have been sleeping rough for a year. They huddle close together on their cardboard boxes. Rahaf says she is scared of “bad boys,” at which Ralia starts crying.
Walaa, 5, in Dar-El-Ias, Lebanon Walaa, 5, wants to go home. She had her own room in Aleppo, she tells us. There, she never used to cry at bedtime. Here, in the refugee camp, she cries every night. Resting her head on the pillow is horrible, she says, because nighttime is horrible. That was when the attacks happened. By day, Walaa’s mother often builds a little house out of pillows, to teach her that they are nothing to be afraid of.

 

Celebrating Diwali with Kids

Today is India’s biggest and brightest holiday, Diwali, the festival of lights.  Diwali is a 5 day holiday celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists.  The holiday represents the spiritual triumph of good over evil.  Historically, Diwali also represents the start of a new year.  There are several simple ways to celebrate with your family here in the states.

Teach – Why are we celebrating 

The story of Ram dates back many centuries ago (kid friendly video).

Lights – Light up the House 

Waiting for Ram’s arrival, houses in the city of Ayodhya were lit up to welcome him home.  Ever since, Indians have celebrated by lighting outside their homes or windows with diyas (clay lamps) and fireworks.

Alternative:   Grab some Christmas lights and hang them up.  Dig out any leftover sparklers you have from the 4th of July.

Decorate – Rangoli

People decorate their homes with design patterns called Rangoli using colored powders or sand.

Alternative:  Print out some rangoli designs and find some markers.

Visit – Celebrate with the ones you love

The various nights of festivities celebrate different kinds of relationships. The fourth day for example is dedicated to husbands and wives while the fifth day is devoted to the brother/sister bond.The best part of the holidays is being with the ones you love.  Visit family, share a meal, and exchange gifts.    IMG_8826Happy Diwali and a Happy New Year from my family to yours!

Opposite of Redshirting

In my town, there is a lot of conversation regarding holding kids back for Kindergarten. Specifically those who are born near the cutoff of September 1st and even well earlier in the summer.

Redshirting is the practice of postponing entrance into kindergarten of age-eligible children in order to allow extra time for socioemotional, intellectual, or physical growth. This occurs most frequently where children’s birthdays are so close to the cut-off dates that they are very likely to be among the youngest in their kindergarten class.

There are plenty of articles about the pros and cons of that practice.  I agree that children should be challenged.  If they are ready to learn, don’t let them stay stagnant or get bored.  Everything should not come easily as eventually things do get tougher and you should be ready to face challenge when you meet it.

Statistics on Children who are Held Back

The decision to hold their child back is a big one.  It is one that parents take very seriously since it will affect them for the rest of their academic years.  This decision is left up to the parents to make on their own and there is little interference from our school district.

My oldest daughter was born at the end of October.  For my daughter, the 56 days between September 1st and her birthday meant that even though she was ready for Kindergarten, she was refused admittance.  Our district does not have a Kindergarten readiness test, they only go by this magical date.  This decision was not left up to us, her parents, as it is for kids to be held back.  She was physically taller, academically advanced, and most important ready to learn, but they wouldn’t even discuss it.

Since she was ready for a full day’s worth of curriculum, our only choices was to put her in preschool for the 4th year or enroll her in a private school.  In preschool she would be required to rest for 2 hours according to state law (she hadn’t napped in almost 3 years).  We had to go with private school.  After excelling during her Kindergarten year, reading chapter books, telling time, we looked back to our local public school for 1st grade.  We moved to this neighborhood for the excellent school district and wanted to take advantage of it.  Only then did we discover that the Kindergarten we had enrolled her in, did not have the correct technical certification (it had the other) and after several phone calls, the public school said she must repeat Kindergarten.

We were at a loss.  Either another year of private tuition ($$$$) or have her learn her ABCs with the incoming Kindergarten class.  She was well beyond the required level of any incoming 1st grader.  I decided that I could not take no for an answer.  I scheduled an appointment with the local school principal, did not say why, and brought my daughter and all her supporting paperwork with me.  I asked him to meet my daughter, talk to her, look at what she can do.  Look at her as a person and not just a date.  With in minutes of her being there, he knew undoubtedly that she was ready for 1st grade.

After meeting with us, he then had to have it approved by the school board.  Since it had not been done in many years, he could not just let her in.  Then they returned with the decision that she had to be tested which she passed with flying colors.  Finally she could attend 1st grade. It was pretty clear with in weeks of school starting that we made the right decision since she had already surpassed most of the 1st grade curriculum as well.

I am happy to report that 3 years later, she is still doing excellent.  She received all Is (“Independent” – new common core standards) on her entire report card last year for each trimester.   She is at the top of her class.  She also has several close friends socially and is not concerned about being the youngest, in fact she is proud of it.

Perfect Report Cards from Both Girls

What I can’t understand is why I had to jump through so many hoops, with roadblocks at every turn, to have my daughter be looked at as an individual to be pushed ahead.   Parents who choose to hold back their children are allowed to do so without question and in this day even encouraged to hold their children back so they can be the “smartest and biggest” and in some cases it is done for all the wrong reasons. If they don’t hold their kids back, they are questioned about their choices.

Just remember that each child is different.  A date maybe a good indicator but not 100% reflective of their capabilities.  What is right for one child, might not be right for another.  Don’t let someone convince you that they know what is best for your child.  Finally, if you are convinced, don’t take no for an answer.

Definition of Success

I remember having a conversation with a friend in college about success.  Having to live on a budget was not something I had to deal with back then.  Although he was  younger than I was, he seemed more financially aware  because I had never payed for anything on my own, ever.  So I asked, “how much money do you have to make to be considered ‘successful'”?  His answer, “6 figures”.  Simple.

Ask most people and they will say that my father’s story is the epitome of success.  He came from a family of mediocre means in India and graduated as one of the top students in the country with a degree in Electrical Engineering.  After arriving in America with a new wife and only a few dollars to his name, he worked his way to owning a multi-million dollar conglomerate of companies as a result of hard work and intelligence.  He became heavily involved with Politics and was well known throughout the Indian community.

What you don’t really see is the sacrifices that he and my mom made to get there.  Both of my parents worked ridiculously long hours but my Dad would often leave before we went to school and not come home until 1 or 2 in the morning.  My mom had to go to far away cities for weeks at a time to help one of the companies get on the right foot.  They provided us with an extremely comfortable lifestyle and allowed all 4 of us to graduate from prestigious colleges debt free.  But they never had time to come to one of my choir performances, basketball games, or even a parent teacher conference.  To this day at age 67, for my dad, weekends do not exist.  Unfortunately, the result was we barely saw him growing up.  We barely knew him.

My father meeting with The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi

Now that my and my 3 siblings are all adults, we make decisions in our life based on our  own perception of what we experienced as a child.  One of my brothers often theoretically asks me “If you could make a million dollars and live in Chicago or make 10 million dollars and live in Timbuktu, what would you pick?”  He proudly answers his own question without hesitation.  He would do anything to achieve that type of success and would choose Timbuktu in a heartbeat.  Although I have neither option, I would choose Chicago on that same beat.

Me and my siblings

There is a study that says that magic number in which money no longer affects your happiness is $75,000.  No matter how much more money you earn, it doesn’t buy you anymore happiness.

At 33 years old, I have a stable career after being with my current employer for almost 5 years.  I make a decent living and even better have negotiated my way into working from home full time.  At this point,  it is pretty clear that my bank account will never be as full as my parents.  However, I work the typical “9-5” job which means my family eats dinner together every night.  I get to watch my children grow up.  I help them with their homework, volunteer at school when I can, and am at every single game.  I am around to mold them into the kind of people I want them to be, the kind of people who will contribute to society.  I am surrounded by friends who I love that hope to grow old with.  I am an active member of my community both locally and ethnically.

Obviously there are many different scenarios between me and my parents.  But my question to you is how do you define success?  Am I considered less successful because I make less money or more because of the enrichment that my life brings?

 

 

 

Raksha Bandhan

On Saturday, August 29th, my children celebrated Raksha Bandhan.  Also known as Rakhi, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated across India honoring one of the longest relationships in your entire life; the relationship between a brother and a sister.  This tradition dates back to mythological times and I have enjoyed celebrating every year since the day my brother was born.

Raksha meaning protection and Bandhan meaning bond is celebrated by the sister tying a thread around her brother’s right wrist.  Tying this thread, the sister is praying for her brother’s well being and her brother in return promises to protect her and gives her gifts.  It is one of my favorite Indian holidays, primarily because there is nothing like it in the US.  Now having both a son and daughters, this day became so special for our family.

The sister is responsible for preparing for the event with the required supplies and the brother comes to visit the sister if no longer living in the same dwelling.  IMG_8816Each girl starts by dipping her right index finger into sindoor, a traditional red cosmetic powder, and putting a tilka (dot) on her brother’s head.  The tilka is a signed of auspiciousness and typically starts the beginning of a religious ceremony.  Then adding a few grains of unbroken rice symbolizing steadfastness and peace.IMG_8850

She ties the colorful thread around his right hand.  IMG_8836

She then performs an “aarti” by moving a decorated plate called a “thali” with fire, representing God, in a circular motion in front of her brother  to pray for his well being.IMG_8842

She feeds him a sweet, often traditional Indian sweets like Jalabi or Barfee (which we didn’t have so had chocolate chip cookies instead), which ofcourse was my son’s favorite part.IMG_8847

Finally, the brother gifts his sisters as a small token of his appreciation.  My son gave both his sisters $21 (Indians always gift an extra $1 for luck).

It is such an important day in a family structure and so happy that the kids have a day dedicated to celebrating their relationship with each other.

IMG_8826

 

Friends Who Inspire Me

I enjoy what I do on a day to day basis.  I am very lucky to have found a job that I think is perfect fit for my skill set.  While I feel passionately that SharePoint and CRM can help people run their business more effectively, it was not something that spawned out of a hobby.

A couple of my Facebook friends have managed to find that unique mix of being able to pursue their passion and make their living doing it.

Saleha Beauty

Saleha Abbasi – Saleha Beauty – Saleha and I met when I was in college through a mutual friend.  We spent a summer together when she worked at my parents’ travel business and would go work out afterwards.  Even back then, you could tell she had a gift with makeup.  She would thread our eyebrows and help us with our make up but it was just something she did for fun.  Over the years, we lost touch however I have watched her on Facebook and I am amazed with what she has done with her talent.  Saleha took her hobby of doing make up and has become a world known makeup artist with her own makeup line (those are her lipsticks pictured above).  She is listed as a public figure on Facebook and has been featured in several magazines and articles.  We exchange a few messages every now and then and even bumped into each other shopping and I am happy to say that she is still the same sweet girl I remember.

Cotopaxi

Stephan Jacob – Cotopaxi – Stephan and I were best friends during his year as an exchange student from Germany in high school.  Even at 17, I knew Stephan was destined for great things.  Stephan dipped his feet as an entrepreneur at  Kembrel, a retail shop featuring upcoming designers.   About 2 years ago, he co-founded Cotopaxi, a retailer that creates innovative outdoor products that fund sustainable poverty relief.  Not only has he found a way to start a business around a lifestyle and products he is passionate about, but also giving back to the community at the same time.  Cotopaxi also throws events including a 24 hour adventure scavenger hunt called a Questival.  Sounds so amazingly fun and I couldn’t be more proud of him!

Reve.ology Events

Snehal Vara  – Reve.ology Events – I am proud to call Snehal family!  Snehal is married to my husband’s cousin so we are sister-in-laws.  Besides taste in men, Snehal and I have always had similar interests.  We both have that creative bone and enjoy interior design and event planning.  Snehal was able to take her business acumen and eye for design to create a highly esteemed event planning company.  Indian Weddings are extremely elaborate events, and Reve.ology does not disappoint.  The pictures of her events are to die for and I only wish she had been in the industry when I was planning mine.

Jade Lilly

Neha Chokshi – Jade Lilly – I met Neha through a playgroup that I started called Desi Babies.  Our kids are the same age and we had a few playdates together.  When I first met Neha she was still dipping her feet into a few different kinds of businesses.  It was very clear  to me then that she is very driven, had many creative talents, and a mom was her most important job.  Over the last few years I have watched her start a new skincare line completely on her own.  She does her own branding, websites, and makes each and every one of her products.  I am looking forward to hosting one of her product parties soon!

Subeena Z

Subeena Zubari – SubeenaZ – Another playgroup mom, Subeena and I connected by having our first born around the same time.  Subeena has always been so kind to me and trusted me to be her real estate agent in the beginning of my career.  Subeena was able to take her love of design into a being a celebrated fashion designer for Pakistani/Indian chic wear.  SubeenaZ’s gowns have been seen on several celebs and I am sure has an even brighter future ahead of her.

These 5 are just the tip of the iceburg.  I have so many successful friends and I love to see all their stories evolve on Facbook.  Because of them, I am inspired to always dream bigger.

 

What Racism Looks Like For Kids

Even though she is still young and lives a pretty sheltered life, my oldest daughter Avani has experienced her fair share of racism.  While I do believe the US is moving in the right direction when it comes to cultural awareness, we as Indian Americans are still minorities.  At the end of the day, we are different.  In the eyes of most children (and some adults) it’s as simple as what color crayon they should use to draw skin.  I remember when my younger daughter was describing her new friends after the first day of school, she would describe them as “peach skin”.

When Avani  was only in Kindergarten, 3 years ago, a classmate told other children that they didn’t like her.  When my daughter asked her why, she said “Because you are Indian”.

During 2nd grade, a classmate told my daughter that “[she is] going to hell because [she did] not go to church”.  I will always wonder if that was what her parents taught her or it was how they made sure their children went to Sunday School.  Proudly, my daughter handled these extremely difficult situations so much better than I ever would.  She simply told her classmate, “That might be what you believe, but that is not what we believe.”

What is the most amazing is her perseverance to stay proud of her heritage.  When I was little, I was embarrassed of being different and just wanted to fit in.  My daughter will be the first to tell you that she is Indian, want to wear traditional Indian clothes, and bring her favorite Indian dishes to school.  She is so much stronger than I ever will be!

Today marks the first day of a new school year.  Hoping that it is drama free for a 4th grade girl is probably unrealistic but hopefully any drama that does rear it’s head is not based on the color of our skin.

 

India’s Independence Day Celebrations

This weekend marked India’s 68th year since it became an independent nation.  In the Chicago burbs, it was the 1st year that a parade was held outside of the city in the beautiful city of Naperville, IL.  I like to take advantage of every opportunity that I can to expose my children to their heritage and since it was close to home, we decided to check it out.  Akash Indian Day Parade

Unfortunately we only saw a little bit of the parade.  From what we saw, there were lots of floats, with loud music, and  lots of people celebrating.  Kudos for being able to generate a buzz!IMG_8655

We went over to the pavilion for the program.  In true Indian style, they spent almost an hour introducing politicians, sponsors, and other important people.   After the speeches were done, they were several performances that my kids really enjoyed watching.IMG_8660

Finally we made our way over to the booths.  My girls can not leave an Indian event without Mehendhi/Henna so that was one of our first stops.  IMG_8662 IMG_8670

My husband and the kids chowed down on some samosas, bhel, naan, and more.  I did not want to use too many points from my weight watchers plan but my mouth was certainly watering.  Everything looked delicious.

IMG_8677 IMG_8678 IMG_8687

There were plenty of clothes and jewelry booths as well which is always fun to browse.  IMG_8690

Finally, I found the booth for Little Medical School the most interesting.  This is a program for kids ages 5-11 to get them interested in the medical profession.  Basically taking Indian’s tendencies to brainwash their kids to become doctors (yes I do this too) to a whole new level!  Gotta love our culture.  🙂

We will be back next year!

 

Results after 30 days of Blogging

Why am I blogging? The truth is I have no idea. I have been trying to figure that out myself for the last 30 days.   Honestly, you may have noticed, grammar is not my strong suit. (I can think of several of you who are probably shaking their heads while they read each post). I still thought it was worth trying and hopefully the content makes up for it.   While I am not sure where I plan on going with www.livelikeanj.com, I do think it is the first step to something great.

Here are my stats after 30 days and 23 Posts.Stats

The big dip being the week away for vacation.  Somewhat surprisingly, here are my top posts.

Live Like Anj

3116 page views doesn’t seem too shabby.  I guess everyone really wanted to know how to beat the common cold!

I have found several reasons why I think blogging is good for me.

  1. I feel I have more to offer the world then I currently am doing.
  2. I spent several hours cruising the web, Facebook, and watching TV after my kids went to sleep every night. I felt those hours could be spent more productively.
  3. It challenges me to improve my writing skills.
  4. It allows me to share my knowledge on topics that I have researched.
  5. I can share what is going on in my life with my friends and family.

I’d like to keep going. It takes way more time to create content then I would ever imagine but I also might be trying too hard. I’d love to hear ideas for new blog posts, ideas to boost traffic, or ideas for what to do with my blog.

If you have found any of my posts interesting or just want to show support, please subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page Live Like Anj.