Monday, July 28, 2008

Teaching Methods

I thought we had it all planned out. DD was going to go to a Waldorf Pre-School and Kindergarten which is in walking distance. (There is not a Waldorf grammar school in the city.) Then she would go to a Progressive Learning School in Buffalo, we would then take a bus. But now my husband has introduced the idea of Montessori Pre-K which I did not realized existed and was only a few blocks from our house. I wounder if it would be a better fit for DD's needs? The main goal is to fine the right fit for our child. A school that compliments her style of learning. Every child learns differently; kinesthetic, visual, auditory or is tactile. Plus there are other ways of learning. It is up in the air until I learn more about these schools and how my child bests learns.

I honestly think that different people have different needs and wants. One school may work better for one person and not another. As DD develops I am looking at her strengths, weaknesses, what the future world will be like and what school offers her the greatest chance of being satisfied in life.

Now I am dealing with three teaching methods. I am looking into different styles of teaching methods first. Then when I am satisfied with a teaching method I will look at the various schools that offer the method I choose. (This second part can be tricking. There are many schools that "teach like" but are not associated with the parent school. Often parent schools will have a certificate for associated schools. Or at least be registered with the parent school.

Three methods

Progressive Learning: Progressive Learning is a principal championed by John Dewy as a starting point as a teaching method. This system is an American Method that treats children as little scientist, developing hypothesizes, exploration, critical thinking and problem solving skills. I noticed the three most popular clubs at the Local Progressive Learning school were Ecology, Mock Trial and Model United Nations. The preschool is housed in a cottage and the children are kept together. Subjects like geography and science are introduced in Pre-School.

Waldorf: The Aurora Waldorf School in West Falls NY with a satellite Pre-K in the City of Buffalo is based on the method developed by Rudolf Steiner in Germany. They encourage creative make-believe play with all natural (no plastic) toys. They often teach the little children through story telling. The schools here in WNY also have kids knitting, cleaning and imitating adult activities like shopping in a home like environment. They also create a journal where they keep all their lessons learned. This was the biggest thing that attracted my attention. The journals are for all subjects and are a combination of writing, graphics and pictures. I thought this as a great learning tool. Though subjects like geography and science are traditionally introduced at about 7 years old.

Montessori: The Montessori Method was developed by Maria Montessori in Italy. It seems to be a combination of the creative play from Waldorf and the problem solving/science way of learn in Progressive Learning. They seem to use Modeling creative play more so then make-believe. Montessori has been known to introduce subjects like geography and science in pre-school.

I am booking a walk trough of the Waldorf, Montessori and Progressive Learning Schools this fall, 2008. I also will schedule a walk through of the Olmstead Public School & Tapestry Charter.

So, far everything I know about these schools is through the internet and recommendations.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Prekindergarten and Beyond

There are many choices for Prekindergarten. I have spoken with a few parents that recently had children graduating from Pre-K and entering Kindergarten. What was interesting was what different parents saw as being beneficial. All the parents saw social skills as being important. But from there the parents began to shift. The biggest determinant seemed to be foresight. How far out into the future each parent was looking to create opportunities. For some "good enough" was all they wanted. Then you have the other side where the parent will "do the best they can do". Other concerns playing a role were balancing cost for Pre-K, grammar, high school and college.

One of my neighbors said they looked at several schools. (Both parents are very active in their children's lives.) They are educated people with two girls, two dogs and a gorgeous Victorian home with gardens. In addition they are fun and caring. And they got lucky ! Well, It wasn't luck. They were smart and found a balance.

They sent their oldest to a respected private Pre-K that also happens to be a NYS Universal UPK program. (UPK is a state funded Pre-K program that is provided to communities though a variety of forms. A church, private, public, community or independent nursery school can become a UPK. Though, UPK sets the minimum. It is up to the nursery school to build on the minimum. So all UPK's are not equal...caveat emptor.) Having gotten things started by going to a high quality nursery school their child then applied to Buffalo's Olmstead School a public school. She was excepted into their Gifted and Talented program. This program is a feeder school for City Honors a public school. City Honors is in the top 5 schools in all of the United States. Now that their kid is "IN" they can focus all their school savings on University.

They sound like they have a very satisfying life. They have earned it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Buffalo Charter Schools

Here is a Google map showing where all the charter schools are. It is focused on Buffalo but if you zoom out you can see where all charter schools in the U.S. are. Map

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Transportation Electric Pods

In 2008 London's Heathrow Airport (terminal 5) started using electric pods to transport people and their luggage. It is not on a rail but instead follows a small road and are driverless. The pods are called on demand the average wait time is 12 seconds.

See video here.

Vaccines - Post II - NYS Religious Exemption Form

You can find the NYS Religious Exemption Form here.

The Drive to Grammar School

Well, We picked the local Waldorf School for our DD to attend but it is only Pre-K and Kindergarten. After that she will attend another school but it is on the other side of the city. We would have to be up at 4am and transit 3 times on our buses to get here there.

On the other hand I like driving. My father is a driving instructor. And I can't help but wish I could drive my DD to grammar school in the trike below. It is light weight and I am sure it gets good mileage. Note the 3.5 sec from 0-60. She would never be late to school!

Aptera The Electric Car

I have been a popular mechanics buff since college. I also am totally into innovative, energy efficient and if possible chic new products. So, let me introduce the is an incredible car and long over due.

You can check out the Popular Mechanics Video here.

Below is the Aptera Add

The main features are 120miles/charge, streamline body, light weight, plenty of space inside for a larger man like my hubby, 360 vision using three video screens on your dash, and a computer touchscreen for GPS, music, etc. It is a two seater. The Type-1 car will be in production in 2008, or now! A second alternative version will be a gasoline/electric hybrid with a whopping 300mpg. This is also called a Tpye-1, will be in production in 2009. And a five seater on a four wheel chassis is on the design board now. The Type-1 will sell for $30,000 or LESS.

I do not know how well it would do in a two feet of snow. Not that any car moves in Buffalo without the streets plowed anyway. Though, thanks to the global warming we rarely get snow for Christmas anyway. We have had green grass Decembers and Januarys for 5-6 years now. The late fall snow storm that we are famous for drys up in a few weeks. And the sun often comes out. Well this talk is for a different day & post.

We do plan on putting $25 away each week to save up for the five seater. We figure that it will be two years before the five seater is for sale... 104 weeks times $25 = a down payment.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

NYC - Thank You

I am unbelievably impressed with how kid friendly NYC citizens are !

We went for 4 days and stayed with a friend who has a condo on the West New York, NJ side. (Great view of the Hudson. ) Though I think our Stokke Explori Stroller would of done well in NYC we would of never been able to get it on the plane. So, we stopped off at Babies R Us and picked up a highly visible yellow Chicco folding stroller with a sun visor. The wheels were larger then the $20 stroller and I believe did a much better job getting around town. Though while in the store I saw several of the Explori on display and it made me miss mine. The steering on the Chicco was what I expected normal for a less then $100 stroller BUT the easily swiveling front wheels did get the job done. Also if you are a fast or long stride walker you will step on the back wheels. But hey, it was $60 and it meant not hauling our tall stroller on the plane. (We were worried about it getting banged up when checked at the gate.)

Our Britax Diplomat car seat traveled better then I expected. It was recommended to me by used it in the car to and then on the plane. We were going to leave the car seat in a locker at JFK airport and take public transport. Then we found out that the wedding (in NJ) was a 40 minute drive from where we were staying. NJ does not have the easy transportation that NYC has. We expected to have to travel by car so we took the car seat with us. As a side note we bought the Diplomat due to easy of use, ease of installation in multiple transport vehicles, and side impact protection. Many car seats do not have side impact protection. We live in an area that gets icy roads and many cars slide through stop sign & red lights causing side impacts.

I have a pull along suitcase that has a strap to attach other pieces of luggage to the front of it. I saw the horizontal bar on the back of the car seat. I thought I might be able to attach the seat to my suitcase. I attached the strap to the car seat first the clipped it to my suitcase. Voila It worked! Wasn't perfect but it stayed on. I grabbed my suitcase's handle and the car seat lifted up and laid on the suitcase. Off we went to our friend's condo.

We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and our baby went nuts. She insisted on stopping and see every statue. We turned the corner into one of the Egyptian rooms and she was beaming, screeching and laughing. She kept pointing and saying "LOOK!" I was worried we would be bothering other patrons. But that was not the case. People actually turned towards her smiling saying that it was a good thing to see someone so young get so excited about art. I went from being worried to bliss. She made friends with the security guards in two of the Egyptian rooms, the Japanese, Korean and Indonesian arts departments. She kept walking up to them smiling, taking their finger and pointing to all the art she liked. Luckily they were genuinely happy and made a point of showing her a couple pieces they really liked too.

We took planes, trains, rail, taxis, and buses and we had friendly people everywhere. The taxi driver was exceptionally great. He had 12 grand children. Even the ladies who looked exceedingly upper East side at the Met were very soft on DD.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vegetarians Live Longer

A German study says that vegans, vegetarians and low volume meat eaters all show a reduced tendency for disease and allow a higher quality life. Article on

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Life Subculture

Different people choose different life styles. This is obvious. I use to be under the notion that if someone was socially conscious that they would also be environmentally conscious and vice versa. But this is not true. This is unfortunate.

I recently have noticed another life style almost subculture in its own way. I do not know how to describe it in 1 or 2 words but...the only variation within this group is to what extent an individual will choose to adhere to the shared ideals that brought everyone together. I have a hunch that this Buffalo group is not the only one.

I would describe this group, one that I recently found myself unintentionally in, as being very comfortable to be apart of. These people share all the macro ideals I do.

1. environmental consciousness / and does something to help
2. social consciousness / and does something to help
3. child education / 1950's institutions are just not going to meet our requirements
4. attachment parenting
5. organic and locally grown foods
6. renewable energy wanted now
7. wanting our children to be healthy, happy, well educated and to "think out-side-the-box"
8. mixed feelings about vaccines / some people due to faith, some to health
9. There is no prejudges against ethnic heritage or partner chooses / we like diversity
10. Of the people I know, I am the most up-tight. They are more relaxed. / I like that. I need to relax.

It is really a great thing to meet people that are individual thinkers, fun and well educated (whether by school or self thought). I think I am most surprised at, and should not be, is that we all migrated to the same living area. The west side of Buffalo and the area surrounding Delaware Park. Not everyone in this area is the same but this subculture is concentrated here. I think the plethora of cafes, museums, art galleries, treed park space, beautiful old homes and urban family friendliness has made it one of the only diverse areas of Buffalo.

If you are imagining a girl in a hippy skirt, bare feet, dreadlocks and a baby in a sling you have a 1 in 20 idea. There are a few and they are welcomed but that is a small fraction of the people involved. There are classical musicians, architects, artist, baristas, shop owners, teachers, attornies, CEOs, COOs, computer programmers..etc. There are Itialian leather shoe and sandle warers. There are people driving volvos, riding their bikes, walking or busing. Some are from Pennsylvania, Boston, England, Belgium, Italy or born here. The ethnic diversity is good and could be better. But there is a number of stay or work from home dads.

So, there is a pattern. I am not sure what to call this lifestyle...Fun, Satisfing, Sustanable, Reasonable, Socially-Green Living & Parenting?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wanted ! Fat Baby, Thin Kid - Part 1

I took our 15mo. old to the doctor this week for her standard wellness check up. Our usual doctor was not available and we got one of the senior members in the office. His verdict...she is exceptionally tall and a bit fat.

Now, what I want to know is how can body mass index be a good predictor of infant (under 2 years old) obesity? Would not lean body mass be a much better assessment of health. Body mass does not distinguish between over fat babies and muscular babies. Whereas lean body mass measures how much fat vs. muscle a person has. Plus, do not genetics, exercise and nutrition play a part in obesity?

One web site, CBC News , reviewed three articles in the June (2008) issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The articles draw attention to weight gain during critical periods of growth and later adult obesity.

France - Two Critical Periods Influence Obesity
1st Report: "researchers from the health research organization Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale in France followed children from birth to age 5, identifying two critical periods in which early-life weight gain appeared to influence later obesity risk. The first critical period occurred in the first few months of life and the second occurred after age 2. Between these periods, growth seemed to be preferentially directed towards height and not weight," researcher Marie-Aline Charles tells WebMD.

London - Critical Period in First 6 months
3rd Report: "Rapid weight gain during the first six months of life was found to increase obesity risk later in childhood. Researchers from London's Institute of Child Health investigated the associations between weight gain during different periods in infancy and later body composition in 105 boys and 129 girls living in the U.K."

- Critical Period After Age Two
2nd Report: "Researchers found little evidence of an obesity link associated with rapid weight gain before the age of 2. But rapid weight gain after the second birthday was found to be a risk factor for obesity later in life. The study included 885 Finnish men and 1,032 women between the ages of 56 and 70, whose childhood weights and heights were known from medical records."

"Rapid weight gain before age 2 was associated with increases in lean mass while rapid gains later in childhood predicted higher body fat in adulthood."

Harvard University:
"Obesity prevention researcher Matthew W. Gillman, MD, of Harvard Medical School tells WebMD that rapid weight gain after age 2 or 3 is now generally recognized as a risk factor for later obesity. He adds that there is "mounting evidence" that the same is true for rapid weight gain in the first few months or even weeks of life, but the link has not been proven."

My conclusion after reading this article is that if my baby rapidly gains weight (faster then height gain) during the first few months and even more critically after two years old that her obesity chances in adulthood are increased. But if she is a fast grower in general before 2 years then she is more likely to be a leaner person.

Dr. Sears has a few more things to say about child obesity. Including if your parents are lean (or were when they were younger) then you have a lesser chance of being obese. Body type, metabolism, temperament and eating habits all influence ones chances of becoming obese. He also includes fat intake, parent's habits and TV watching.

He also states, "Lean parents have only a seven percent chance of having an obese adolescent. If one parent is obese, there is a forty percent chance their child will be obese. If both parents are obese, the probability of the child's being obese may be as high as eighty percent. Genes may actually be a more powerful determinant of obesity than diet. Studies on adopted children show that these children's body weight tends to be more like their biological parents than their adopting ones."

Other important info: "One study showed that nine out of ten obese infants became lean by the time they were seven. Yet, obese infants are still three times more likely to be fat at age seven than infants who have been lean from the start. Studies have also shown that forty percent of obese seven-year-olds are likely to become obese adults, seventy percent of obese preteens are likely to become obese adults, and around eighty percent of obese adolescents are obese as adults. The fatter children are in the first few years of life and the longer they keep their excess fat, the greater the likelihood they will remain fat into adolescence and adulthood. "

Now this doctor I saw with my baby made me rather terrified by the time I walked out of the office. He at one point asked if I saw all the news reports about children getting shots for their diabetes. He mentioned a pharma chemical that she would end up having to take because she was fat. While he spoke I was trying to understand how my child, who comes from a family that has rather plump babies and thin kids & teens, suddenly be the first obese kid or teen in our family? How could a vegetarian baby who's parents take her to the park 7 days a week for running, climbing, lifting and pushing become an obese child & teen?

I gave it some thought...a few times a week she gets gelato from the baker/gelato shop. And 1-2 times a week gets a carrot muffin from the cafe. We can cut those portions in half.

The second thought was this new doctor never did a history other then asking what does she eat and can she walk. I said she can dribble a soccer ball across the play ground. But he doesn't know our family has plump babies & stick thin kids/teens. He doesn't know her paternal side does have a few people with high body mass but a very high number (meaning very lean) lean body mass. He doesn't know that we rarely watch TV, and love walking and sports.

I think what happened was he walked in. Didn't realize how much she weight by looking at her. Saw the weight number in the book and panicked. I am now even more concerned that he was referencing news paper articles and not research papers when speaking with me.

Yes, I believe due to research currently being done that the children who watch too much TV, don't exercise and drink too much soda/ juice have a high tendency to be over weight and obese. But I don't think due to research papers I am reading that a child under 2 years old should be put on a diet or the parent scared into believing that they caused their one year old to a life time of obesity & diabetes.

I will take my baby to a nutritionist to check her lean body mass just to have a record to compare to. I will also tract her food & exercise over the next 3 months until her 18 month check up. I have to admit I feel like I am on a mission to prove I am right. But I will have collect observed data & more research papers to prove my point.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cry Baby, Cry !

These are the top five reasons you should always let your baby just cry it out. If she is hungry but you want her on a schedule, cry it out. If she won't sleep just let her cry it out. According to 19 research papers you would of accomplished all the dreams you ever hoped for her ....oops...had a type-o there...I meant to say SUBSTANTIAL....developmental delays & disorders !

1. According to researchers at Harvard Medical School and Yale University a young child can alter the brain’s neurotransmitter systems and cause structural and functional changes in regions of the brain similar to those seen in adults with depression simply by experiencing intense stress early in life. 17

2. "Research has shown that infants who are routinely separated from parents in a stressful way have abnormally high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as lower growth hormone levels. These imbalances inhibit the development of nerve tissue in the brain, suppress growth, and depress the immune system. " 5, 9.

3. "Dr. Bruce Perry’s research at Baylor University may explain this finding. He found when chronic stress over-stimulates an infant’s brain stem (the part of the brain that controls adrenaline release), and the portions of the brain that thrive on physical and emotional input are neglected (such as when a baby is repeatedly left to cry alone), the child will grow up with an over-active adrenaline system. Such a child will display increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence later in life because the brainstem floods the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones at inappropriate and frequent times." 6

4. Infant developmental specialist Dr. Michael Lewis presented research findings at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, concluding that “the single most important influence of a child’s intellectual development is the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby.”

5. Dr. Rao and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health showed that infants with prolonged crying (but not due to colic) in the first 3 months of life had an average IQ 9 points lower at 5 years of age. They also showed poor fine motor development. (2)

(The referenced material is number as in the original article)

2. M R Rao, et al; Long Term Cognitive Development in Children with Prolonged Crying, National Institutes of Health, Archives of Disease in Childhood 2004; 89:989-992.

5. Butler, S R, et al. Maternal Behavior as a Regulator of Polyamine Biosynthesis in Brain and Heart of Developing Rat Pups. Science 1978, 199:445-447.

6. Perry, B. (1997), “Incubated in Terror: Neurodevelopmental Factors in the Cycle of Violence,” Children in a Violent Society, Guilford Press, New York.

9. Kuhn, C M, et al. Selective Depression of Serum Growth Hormone During Maternal Deprivation in Rat Pups. Science 1978, 201:1035-1036.

17. Kaufman J, Charney D. Effects of Early Stress on Brain Structure and Function: Implications for Understanding the Relationship Between Child Maltreatment and Depression, Developmental Psychopathology, 2001 Summer; 13(3):451-471.


Sarcasm aside...

These are three examples from an article on Ask Dr. Sears web page. He has compiled 19 research paper from over 9 ivy league schools that all agree that young children who experience stress including separation & crying develop abnormal developmental problems. Much of it seems to be due to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol & adrenaline. These hormone do affect the brain. Prolonged exposure such as when a child it left to cry it out can cause problems like developmental delays. On the other hand attachment parenting which does not allow for crying it out have children that develop early including walking early.

I do know that attachment parenting has been a good experience for me. The great thing about it the more I improved my skills the more I understand my child and have an easier time relating & working with her. Even our sleeping patterns have improved. She also has great motor, verbal and problem solving skills for her age. I think much of it is due to attachment parenting. I think had I just left her to cry it out she would not be the caring yet independent toddler she is. She eats her asparagus for gosh sakes...I can live with that.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Buffalo Charter Schools

While at the park this past season I heard many parents conversing rather loudly and hoping their child would be excepted into Tapestry Charter School. Then later int he season the conversion changed to how happy they were to be excepted. I have heard this school is one of the better charter schools in the area but I could not fine any real ranking lists. Local schools are often ranked according to their enrollment and student/teacher ratio. Personally I think there are many things to judge a school on including if my child is happy there.

I have had three other people ask me what schools I liked. But I was not sure.

I looked around on the net to see if anyone did a comparison on something other then student/teacher ratios. I found 2 so far. I do not know how great the data is. It is based on test scores in different subjects and is adjust for reasons described below. Here is an example:

Tapestry Charter School

" school rating (weighted overall 2006 test average compared to other schools in New York) from 0 (worst) to 100 (best) is 68.
(Our score takes into account sex and racial score differences and it is weighed according to the number of students taking the test)"

Putting them in order from 100 (best)-0 (worst):

68 Tapestry Charter School
58 Westminster Charter School
40 South Buffalo Charter School
29 Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School
27 Buffalo United Charter School
24 Oracle Charter School
21 Global Concepts Charter School
19 King Center Charter School
05 Kipp Sankofa Charter School
04 Pinnacle Charter School

Elmwood Village Charter School - There was no info

To give my readers a comparison.

City Honors, City of Buffalo, public, scored an 89. It is ranked # 4 in the nation.
Hutchinson Central Technical School, City of Buffalo, public, 62.
Orchard Park High School, small town suburb, public, had a score of 81 and is in the top 5% in the nation.

I didn't find any ranking for private schools on this site.

To give you a different raking with the same schools I found the School Digger list.

In order of ranked in all of the state and over all NYS assessment test.

1294 & 144.7 Tapestry Charter School
1488 & 135.7 Westminster Community Charter School
1796 & 116.0 King Center Charter School
1857 & 110.7 South Buffalo Charter School
1882 & 108.3 Global Concepts Charter School
2069 & 092.0 Buffalo United Charter School
2226 & 063.0 Stepping Stone Charter School

O.k. That is good enough. The rank is out of 2274 total school and the NYS assessment test is out of 200.

Either way Tapestry and Westminster are the winners for Buffalo charter schools.

I think this should be taken further and compare the charter schools to the Olmsted schools for gifted and talented. Olmsted is known to be a feeder school for City Honors. And that is more then good enough.

750 & 163.0 Fredrick Olmsted #64, public

I would like to point out that math and English language skills are not the only thing kids should be learning in school. Foreign languages, public speaking, music, art, physical/nutrition education, even how to balance a check book are all important skills. When I was in 5th grade my teacher showed us how to fill out a check. I took classes in Spanish, Latin, architecture, drafting/CAD, public speaking, advanced art, world literature, ecology, astronomy and even a Canadian Studies class in high school. Were these all important? I think so. I would not be successful and most of all happy with my life if it were not for my teachers.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gardening - Part 4

I learned something about growing plants together these past few week. It is very important to read directions. I said this in a previous post, did I not? Well, it seems that I am not a through reader. I planted my pumpkins, sunflowers and pole beans all at the same time. Well...The pole bean grew up the sunflower, now 3 feet tall, but the bean vine is a foot taller. The end of the vine just waves around in the air laughing at me.

So, not all vines were taller then their supportive sunflower. But for the beans that are out growing their sunflowers I had to unwind their vines and re-wrap them around thin branches I pressed into the grown. Now the vines have a make-shift trellis.

On a separate note I found this site that has some home remedies for garden pest.
Garden Pest