Category Archives: Family

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.

5 Must Have Parent Apps

Life is all about technologies these days.  Having an iPhone for texting and pictures is awesome but there is so much more apps can do.  As a busy tech mom, with busy active kids, here are the apps that I have used to make my life easier.  Especially as my kids have gotten older, the amount of activities/practices have grown exponentially and I need something to keep my head on straight!

#1 – Cozi – Family Organizer  – Free   We have tried it all.  No calendars – my husbands asks me 10 times what we are doing this weekend.  White board calendars – Duplicating data in 2 places.  Google Calendars – Not adding events so calendar isn’t up to date.  Introduce Cozi.  Cozi is almost perfect.  Why I love it?  I can add iCals from other sources (school, soccer) and it automatically updates my calendar.  Each member of my family has it own color and can easily take a look at their calendar for the week with a shared password.  Added bonus of synced grocery lists.  All of this on the free app.  Definitely a must have.

#2 – Baby Connect – Activity Logger

 Especially when I had a newborn, leaving my baby with anyone gave me anxiety.  Is he getting enough to eat?  Is he sleeping?  How much did he drink?  In order for me to breathe a little easier, I had my nanny log his activity in the app which would automatically synchronize with mine.  Not only did I know what my baby was doing, but also gave me the added bonus to look at history if needed.

#3 – Baby Monitor for IP Camera

 If you add the word baby to any product, you can mark up the price 2x.  Some of the top baby monitors can be upwards of $200+.  Regular IP Cameras (cameras that connect to your home wifi) cost half the price and allow you to use any smart device/PC to view even when you aren’t home.  This app is a nice add on because you can set limits to what noise level it should turn on for and give extra notifications when needed.  You can also add more cameras as need if you want to add one to the playroom too!  Easily converted to a security camera when no longer needed.

#4 –  Carpool Kids

 As the amount of activities/practices are increasing , so do my driving responsibilities.  It took me a while to figure out what a godsend carpooling is but once you realize that for 5 extra minutes of getting to other kids houses, only having to drive a portion of the time is AMAZING!  Carpool Kids makes organizing the process much easier.  You simply put in all the riders and dates, and when you can drive plug yourself in so you aren’t trying to remember last minute who drove last week.

#5 – Bank of Mom of Dad

 I highly believe in  teaching kids financial responsibility.  My kids perform chores to earn their allowance but I never have enough cash on hand.  When they do finally get the cash, they rarely remember to bring it with them when heading to the mall.  Bank of Mom provides a way to track their allowance along with the expenditures easily.

 

How to Share Christmas Wishlists

Everyone knows that my girls are into crafts.  They have been for years.  That means that for years, our family has gifted every single type of craft kit available.  Many times a 3rd or 4th of the same type of kit.  My girls LOVE them.  The problem is now we have so many kits that we still have not had a chance to complete, that we have completely run out of storage room.

In order to avoid trying to find more room in the house to store all their thoughtful kits I create an amazon wish list.  I have trouble coming up with enough unique ideas to give a couple to each family member so this way I don’t have to and still avoid duplicates.  If the item is not on amazon (or you found it cheaper somewhere else), you can easily add items from other websites to the list as well.  You can even add ideas but let family shop for it themselves.

Watch this video to learn how to:

  1. Create a New Wish List
  2. Add Amazon Items to the List
  3. Add Ideas to the List
  4. Add the “Add Item to List” button (I am using IE 10 in the example)
  5. Add an Item from Another Site
  6. Share the list (I copy the link)
  7. How your friends and family mark items bought for other websites.

Happy Shopping!

Dads are from Mars, Moms are from Venus

We have all heard that Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus when it comes to relationships.  How about when it comes to parenting?

Getting a Haircut

Mom: I am going to schedule a hair appointment at 6, will you be able to watch the kids today?

Mom:  Where have you been? I was looking for you.

Dad:  I went to get a haircut.

Dinner Time

Kid:  Mom, I’m hungry, can I have a snack?

Mom:  We are about to have dinner, just wait a few minutes.

Kid:  Dad, I’m hungry, can I have a snack?

Dad:  Sure, eat a few of these donuts and you’ll be fine.

Time to Leave

Mom:  We need diapers, wipes, snacks, and a bottle.  Did you wash your face?  Where is your other shoe?

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Dad: You guys ready?

Putting Kids to Sleep

Mom:  Come on kids, let’s get ready for bed.  Make sure you brush your teeth.  What book would you like to read?

Dad:  Go to sleep.

Weekend Getaway

Mom:  I need some time to myself.  The girls and I are planning a weekend in 6 months.  Will you be OK watching the kids by yourself?

Dad:  Sure, let me check if my parents are free.

Dad:  Hey I forgot to tell you, me and the boys planned a guys trip this weekend.  I’ll see you on Monday.

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.

Young Entrepreneurs – Rani’s Treasures

My daughters have been begging me for years to let them sell something.  They enjoyed reading the book, The Lemonade War, and loved the idea of opening up their own stand.  We live on a tucked away cul-de-sac so waiting on foot traffic seemed pointless.  Then they learned how to make rainbow loom bands, along with 2 million other kids in America and wanted to sell that crap.  No thank you.  My kids have been so enthralled with starting their own business, that if I said no this time, it would just be crushing their spirit.

For my daughters 9th birthday party, each guest learned how to make a custom tote bag.  The girls enjoyed making the totes, they look phenomenal, and are extremely practical.  The girls finally found the right product.

First came picking a name.  Combining Avani and Aria gave us Avia and Arani.  Rani means princess in Hindi which seemed like a perfect fit and Rani’s Treasures was born.

Then the girls had to come up with their own ad and model the product.  Since they are too young to have social media accounts, I have been posting it for them.

Hi our names are Avani and Aria Bharadwa. Maybe you need something pretty to hold your stuff to dance, or swim, or anything else. You should check out Rani’s Treasures then. We are selling totes from November through December. They are also awesome gifts to give to your loved ones for Christmas. There are different colors and designs. The colors of the tote are different tones of purple. Thank you for reading, please tell us if you want one at avanibharadwa@gmail.com.

IMG_0050Guess what?  The girls got their first few orders.  Time to get to work.  The girls are quickly learning what it means to have their own business.  First step is buying their materials, including paying for supplies that we already have in house since this is a business after all.  The girls have been using all of their allowance money as their investment to get their business off the ground.

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My younger daughter has not been too thrilled giving away the money and not getting anything back (yet).  My older daughter is learning the ups and downs of hoping business comes in, getting an order, and then all the work you have to do to actually come through!

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Since I don’t want the girls to bite off more than they (or I since I am ultimately responsible for them) can chew, I told them they can only accept up to 10 orders.  Interested?

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*Mom’s Notes – Rani’s Totes are made from 12.5 x 13.5 x 6 professionally manufactured canvas totes that my girls tastefully decorate.  Most notably reviewed as a great grocery bag or library bag and is durable enough to hold several books.  The girls are charging $20 per tote and $30 with initials.  Additional customization options are available.

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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?

 

 

 

10 Steps to Hosting a Sleepover Birthday Party

My baby girl turned 9 yesterday.  While I try not to spoil her, I also would do anything to make her happy.  For my oldest daughter, Avani, it is actually easy because she is an EXACT copy of me.  From our looks to our personality/interests and everything in between.  Good and bad, she is my mini-me.  So to determine what I could do to make her feel special for her special day, I just thought about what I would have wanted for my 9th birthday and did that.

Follow these steps to throw your daughter a birthday sleepover she will always remember!

1- Pick a Theme – Anytime up until a week before the party.  Do you need one?  No but it makes it easy to decide on the rest of the stuff like invites, décor or cake when you have one.  For her 9th Birthday, we didn’t want anything too babyish but still pretty and pink so went with roses based on one of crafts (see #4).

2- Pick a Date – 6 weeks pre party.  Make sure she doesn’t have a big event the next day as she will probably be half asleep.  Check the school calendar to ensure there are no school events.  (Unfortunately my daughter’s soccer game was moved up last minute so we had to leave at the same time the girls were supposed to be picked up in the morning….oh boy).

 3- Invite her closest friends – 6 weeks pre-party.  Try to get your invitations out well in advance.  That way her BFFs (as there may be multiple of them) are more likely to be available to share that special day with her.  I would recommend 6 weeks in advance.  Don’t invite too many, there is a possibility that everyone can come so you don’t want more than you can handle.  Don’t invite any “trouble makers” as they will be in your house over night, so you don’t want to have to be on constant alert.

4- Plan an activity – Anytime up to 2 weeks before the party (to order supplies online)  If this is not your forte, hire this out.  There are plenty of professionals out there (artists, chefs, nail techs, etc) that you can pay to do all the heavy lifting for you.  If you are a little braver, you can plan the activity and hire your babysitter to run it.  You can save yourself some money this way but have help at the same time.  If you are really brave (aka crazy like me) you can do it on your own.

I selected 2 activities that I thought would be pretty simple for the girls who would be attending (ages 7-11) would be able to do.

Apple Roses – I saw this posted on one of my friend’s Facebook wall and although I really can’t cook, it looked simple enough that even I could do it.

I broke them up into 4 groups to work together.  It was actually pretty easy and even the ones that weren’t perfectly shaped, tasted delicious. (see results below)

No-Sew Tote Bags – I have always put a lot of thought into what guests take home from a party.  I hate giving out junk.  Junk costs the host money that the guest ends up tossing or cluttering up their home unnecessarily.  For the last 2 birthday parties we did for my younger daughter, Aria, she choose to donate the money we would have spent on the junk instead.  Avani is really into crafting so we spend the goody bag money into making a fantastic craft.  Something that is useable, you don’t through away, unique for this event, and cool!  These DIY tote bags are beautiful and just required some cutting and gluing, easy peasy. (results below)

Supplies Needed for Project

Relax…you don’t have to worry about this for a while..

5- Order Cake – 1 week pre party.  Honestly, the kids don’t really care where you bought your cake.  Cake is cake so if you want to make it easy on yourself, just go the local grocery store.  I went with Jewel where you can order as little as 24 hours in advance.  Some bakers require a longer lead time so check with where you plan on ordering before procrastinating to the last minute.  If you live in the Chicago burbs, several of my friends swear by Jarosch Bakery and will go out of their way for it.  I have also used some local moms who bake from their home for some truly unique cakes.

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6 – Order Food – 1 day pre party.  Pizza?  Yes, simple.  If you ever get tired of pizza, there are also lots of other easy other options as well.  I have used Noodles & Company, Portillos,  Potbellys, Qdoba, and Panda Express which are all just a bit more and pretty easy.

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7 – Decorate – Day of Party – Using some stuff you already have in the house you can actually make something pretty special.  Concentrate your decorations into one area instead of spreading them out.  Then you have one spectacular area instead of just a piece here and there.  I just to decorate the basement where the girls would be sleeping.   I used some Christmas lights, bed canopy, quilts, hanging lanterns that I already had.  Buy a couple packs of command hooks, which are pretty awesome, to hang things up and you have instant setting.

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8 – Don’t Forget Snacks!  – Day of Party – While out buying tableware, plates, candles, bagels, and juice  (notice the grocery list), don’t forget a late night snack for those hungry girls who will no doubt be raiding your kitchen in the wee-hours.

9 – Monitor – Day of Party – Where did I put that baby monitor???  Well you better figure it out because it comes in handy.  Instead of having to sleep near the kids, or trek up and down the stairs 10 times, stick your baby monitor down there.  Let the kids know that it is there and if there is any misbehaving, you will not hesitate to call their parents to have them picked up.  Luckily I have never had to make a call but the threat enough seems to do the trick ’cause who would want to leave this awesome party?

10 – Bedtime – Night of Party– After all the activities have completed.  Have them wind down by watching a movie after changing into their PJs, brushing teeth, and in their sleeping bags.  Arrange their sleeping bags for them in a circle, heads in, so no one feels left out.  At a reasonable time, let them know its lights out and time for bed.  Expect some chatting after you leave.  30 minutes later, enforce by staying there until a few are sleeping, they will be so exhausted it shouldn’t take long.  Quietly leave while the rest of the girls follow suit.  Don’t forget to check your monitor!

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Good luck!

Pictures from Apple Roses and Tote Bags:

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Minkey – Product Review

Last soccer season during a few games, we had some bitter cold weather.  While I had blankets and gloves to try to keep my baby boy warm, try as I may I could not keep his hands covered.  He would toss everything off and hate to have the blanket on top of his hands.  His hands would just freeze and there seemed little I could do about it.

Then over the summer I happened to find this cool invention for just this problem.  I hadn’t had a chance until the absolutely crazy weekend we just had to try it out.  A soccer tournament with 2 players meant 8 games in 2 days and top it off less than 50 degree weather and rain.

I had no idea what we were signing up for when we had our girls try out for the travel soccer team.  We luckily didn’t have to drag our little guy to all of the games but he did make it to 2 where the Minkey got it’s first test.

The Minkey is a replacement for a hat, scarves and gloves in 1 article of clothing.  It completely worked and even better I love the story behind it.   Like me, a mom of a 2 year old was not able to keep her little girl warm and so came up with her own solution.  As her daughter wore her invention she called the Minkey, people asked where they could get their own and so she started selling them.  FullSizeRender

It is easy to get on under his jacket.  There is no way for him to pull off any of the 3 areas by himself either.  Not only is functional, his head, hands, and chest stayed covered the entire game, and it is absolutely adorable.  He caught the attention of all passerbys.   For only $25-$30, a complete life saver.

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This seems to be the only one suitable for boys but girls have a few more patterns and choices.  Not that I am getting any kick backs (maybe I should be ) but I do highly recommend you pick one up for your own babe here.  http://shop.theolie.com/t/the-minkey.  Happy Fall!