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  1. Award-Winning Robotics, Coding, and Entrepreneurship After-School Program Opening in Lincoln Park! Here Are the Details: Memberships are month-to-month For their inaugural Founding Members, the first month is free! Membership includes classes once per week for 2 hours, community events with mentors, workshops such as 3D printing or creative writing, and virtual networking with members from 25 states, England, and Ireland Introductory Price of $385/month Tour and application are required prior to registration
  2. NPN Tareema

    What is ABA Therapy?

    Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can be an effective therapy for kids on the autism spectrum. For parents wondering how ABA works and whether it's right for their child, this live session will offer straightforward information and an opportunity to ask questions at the end. Speaker Rose McLean, pediatric physical therapist and owner of Chicago Pediatric Therapy and Wellness Center, will address: - The philosophy behind ABA therapy - Types of behaviors ABA can address - How to incorporate ABA into your child's schedule - How a child's progress is measured - And much more! About the Speaker: Rose McLean has been specializing in pediatrics since 2004. Upon graduating from Northwestern University with her doctorate in physical therapy, she began her career at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. In the creation of the Chicago Pediatric Therapy & Wellness Center, she not only wanted families to have a center where multi-disciplinary communication and therapist collaboration for each child was a priority, but she also wanted recreational and educational programs available for families to access outside of their one-on-one therapy sessions.
  3. NPN Lauren

    Gardening with kids

    Water, sunlight, soil. It’s what all plants need, and one of the first science facts that kids learn. So gardening is the perfect way to harness an interest in the environment and to cultivate future scientists. These steps offer suggestions that can be scaled to fit any size patch, from large outdoor garden to tiny indoor pot. Planning The winter seems rather endless in Chicago, so thinking of warmer times ahead is a wonderfully positive pastime. Once we get past new year we start to dream of a flower-filled garden. Last year we created mood boards (both as a collage on paper and digitally using Canva), to share our individual visions. Researching Looking up native plants, preferred growing conditions, and the necessary maintenance, makes great reading and research practice, while sparking a conversation about sustainable gardening and climate. We love going to the library either in person or digitally (using sites such as Epic which has a free basic plan). [Related: Family-friendly summer bike rides in Chicago] Selecting We’ve all read that children who spend time around nature are happier, better focused, and more empathetic to others and the planet. A trip to the garden center makes a lovely family activity. Assign tasks to keep things harmonious: who is responsible for the cart, the shopping list, keeping track of the time? Alternatively, purchase from any of the one-off plant sales that occur across Chicagoland (bookmark for next year). Some of these have the option to pre-order and then for drive-up collection, which can be convenient if you don’t fancy keeping a toddler in line. Planting You know how much children love to get their hands in soil. Seeking out smaller tools can facilitate the planting. Little ones will love the colorful options available, while older children will take greater ownership if they’ve chosen items that appeal to their emerging aesthetic. Readers can check that plants are finding their preferred piece of your patch, while new writers can practice their handwriting by labelling popsicle sticks – drawings encouraged. Watering Every small child loves to wield a hose or watering can. Use this as an opportunity to watch the weather forecast and talk about the seasons. Then formulate a coding-like plan for watering: if there is no rain, the temperature is between X and X, then water once in the morning, and so on. Create a chart (an opportunity to practice computer and/or graphic design skills) and assign responsibility. [Related: 7 things to have on hand for fun at-home activities with your kids] Harvesting If you can include something you can harvest in your plantings, this will hold everyone’s interest. Tomato plants with little green fruit will provide a quick reward, which is imperative with very little kids. Peppers and herbs are other vegetation that kids get excited about and can lead to some fun cooking activities, including the crowd-pleasing pizza. Assessing Of course, plants do not follow strict instructions and with even the most loving and zealous care do not always yield the desired results. Making a review of your "land" part of your weekly family time and having conversations around this can help children understand that as well as planning, problem-solving and flexibility are important skills to learn. Then encourage them to suggest solutions for you to try. With children’s affinity for the natural world, gardening is a perfect activity to involve the whole family. Whether you have a vast, outdoor space, or need to set up your greenery indoors, there is the opportunity to engage and converse. We hope that this shared interest will continue to bond us as a family as we navigate the years ahead together.
  4. As parents it is hard to imagine our kids as adults, especially if your child is developmentally different. Will they go to college, trade school or get a job? Are there employment opportunities and, if so, what type? Will they be able to live independently? The panelists on this webinar can help you prepare for the many different options for your child so they can live the most fulfilling life possible. PEERS Chicago will discuss their social coaching program for young adults and Urban Autism Solutions will present their residences, transition academy and farm solution program. We will also learn about Elmhurst University's Learning and Success Academy and Anixter Center will discuss their pathway to college and employment programs. Our esteemed panel consists of: Diane Gould, CEO & Owner, PEERS Chicago, Heather Tarczan, Executive Director, Urban Autism Solutions, Tim Ahlberg, Assistant Director of Admissions, Elmhurst University ELSA and Dina Donohue-Chase, Vice President of Growth & Innovation, Anixter Center
  5. Getting through elementary school is not always easy, but when families, teachers, administration, and staff work together, the educational experience can be amazing for everyone. In this session we explore the benefits of sticking with your school even when the experience isn't perfect, and how to positively impact your child’s school and school experience. We will also discuss typical school challenges that arise during the elementary years and give you tips on how to manage them. In this discussion we learn: -The benefits of sticking with your school -How to positively impact your child's school and school experience -Typical challenges that arise in elementary school and how to find resolutions Thank you to our panelists, British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park, Bennett Day School, Lake Forest Country Day School, and St. Josaphat School. A special thank you to our presenting sponsor: British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park
  6. NPN Tareema

    College Admissions 101

    Do you have a young child and you are thinking about their college career? Or do you have a high schooler and you need to figure out the college application process quickly? Either way, this is the session for you. If you wonder how to determine which colleges are a good fit for your child, where to start in applying for financial aid and scholarships, and how to approach standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, NPN can help. In College Admissions 101, presented by Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS College Search Guidance, you will learn: -How and where to begin your college search -What colleges look for in an applicant -The timeline for a smooth college application process Recorded February 2022
  7. NPN Tareema

    Preschool Philosophies

    Choosing the right preschool for your child can be an overwhelming task, especially in Chicago where there are so many options. With so many different preschool philosophies, how do you know which philosophy works for you and your family? In this discussion you will learn about a variety of preschool philosophies, hear examples of good questions to ask and things to think about when you are researching preschools, and walk away confident in your ability to choose a preschool that is a good fit for your family. Our esteemed school panel consists of Erin Woodhams, Director of Marketing, Admissions, and Communications, British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park, Meg Fitzgerald, Director of Early Childhood Education, Bennett Day School, Samantha Maxwell, Preschool Director, Bubbles Academy Arts-Integrated Preschool, and Andrea Shaffer, Faculty Director, Chicago Waldorf School We appreciate our Supporting Sponsor, Bennett Day School and a special thanks to our Presenting Sponsor British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park. Recorded February 2022
  8. NPN Jana

    Kids Online Block Based Coding Trial

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    Join us online for a free coding class where students will be working on MIT - Scratch Block Based coding. This is a free class and repeats January 22nd and January 29th. RSVP required. Please go here to register. This is an external partner event. Please contact the organization directly with any questions or concerns: info@younggates.com
  9. NPN Tareema

    Kindergarten Prep & Age Cut Off

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    Preparing for kindergarten can feel like a daunting task, and myths about the Illinois age cut-off abound. If you are wondering if your four year old or six year old can attend kindergarten, or if you want to know how to help your child prepare for kindergarten, this is the session for you. Our esteemed panelists will explain what teachers really want parents to know about kindergarten. We will also discuss the Illinois law around age cut off, answering all of your questions about this confusing piece of the puzzle. There will be time for Q & A at the end. You will walk away from this discussion understanding: 1. What it means to be kindergarten-ready 2. How to help your child prepare for kindergarten 3. The kindergarten age cut off law in Illinois and if there are any exceptions Our esteemed school panel consists of: Tiffany Wells, Director Enrollment Management, Catherine Cook School Meg Fitzgerald, Director of Early Childhood Education, Bennett Day School Georgia Burke, Admissions Director, St. Josaphat School Bonnie Ho, Principal, Pui Tak Christian School Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor: Catherine Cook School By registering for this event, you agree that NPN may share your name and email address with our presenting sponsor.
  10. NPN Tareema

    Kindergarten Prep & Age Cut Off

    Preparing for kindergarten can feel like a daunting task, and myths about the Illinois age cut-off abound. If you are wondering if your four year old or six year old can attend kindergarten, or if you want to know how to help your child prepare for kindergarten, this is the session for you. Our esteemed panelists will explain what teachers really want parents to know about kindergarten. We will also discuss the Illinois law around age cut off, answering all of your questions about this confusing piece of the puzzle. You will walk away from this discussion understanding: 1. What it means to be kindergarten-ready 2. How to help your child prepare for kindergarten 3. The kindergarten age cut off law in Illinois and if there are any exceptions Our esteemed school panel consists of Tiffany Wells, Director Enrollment Management, Catherine Cook School, Meg Fitzgerald, Director of Early Childhood Education, Bennett Day School, Georgia Burke, Admissions Director, St. Josaphat School, and Bonnie Ho, Principal, Pui Tak Christian School A special thank you to our presenting sponsor: Catherine Cook School
  11. NPN Tareema

    Kindergarten Philosophies

    Choosing the right Kindergarten for your child can be a daunting task, especially in Chicago where there are so many options. With so many different kindergarten philosophies, how do you know which philosophy works for you and your family? In this session, we learn about various kindergarten philosophies. You will learn about arts-integrated, inquiry-based, responsive, and differentiated instruction, how they overlap, and where they differ. You will walk away from this discussion understanding: 1. How to ask the right questions to figure out which philosophy and instruction is the best fit for your child 2. The benefits of each philosophy and type of instruction 3. What a typical day is like in each type of classroom Our esteemed school panel consists of Annessa Staab, Associate Director of Enrollment Management, Latin School of Chicago, Renata McAdams, Dean of Students & Lead Teacher 3rd - 5th Grade, Chicago Friends School, Melanie Ahmad, Director of Enrollment and Tuition Management, The Ancona School, and Allen Ackerman, Principal, Saint Andrew School A special thank you to our supporting sponsors: The Latin School of Chicago and Chicago Friends School.
  12. What is the difference between selective enrollment and choice programs? How many different curriculum programs currently exist within CPS high schools? Should I consider an academic center? How has the testing and application process changed? Going beyond the basic information given at our popular CPS 101 and 201 seminars, CPS 301 covers CPS Selective Enrollment High Schools, Choice programs and much more. This CPS 301 session, presented by Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS, includes: - Information about the different curriculum/programs within CPS High Schools - Guidance on the selective enrollment high school application process - Clarity on the points and selection process - How to manage acceptances, waitlists and principal discretion - Answers to questions from our live audience
  13. As a busy parent, achieving “peace and ease” may often feel outside of your reach. But with the strategic implementation of routine, you may find that they are closer than you think. Here are three simple tips to get started. 1. Start with one small routine. A homework routine is a great cornerstone routine that you can build upon. The first step is to ensure that your kids’ homework spaces are quiet and clutter-free. Next, establish homework rules. I suggest that kids come home, eat a snack, and get straight to work. Thereafter, removing snacks, devices or other distractions can really help to narrow focus. Depending on a child’s age and amount of homework, set a timer for an appropriate amount of work time (30 minutes for elementary students, 50 for middle schoolers and high schoolers). When the timer goes off, permit them to take a 5-10 minute break before resuming the work. Don’t forget that they will need you to impose the structure at the start, but they may not need that forever. [Related: Transition from summer to school year with these tips] 2. Experiment and build upon your successes. Establishing routine is a process, so don’t be afraid to experiment. For example, if your kids need more down time when they get home from school, give them that break. If you find this leads to late-night homework meltdowns, revisit that assessment and tweak it. Once the homework routine is second-nature, redirect your attention to another time of day that feels particularly inefficient, frazzled, or frustrating. Outline what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and what kind of time restraints are to be imposed. Make sure you communicate clearly with job charts, checklists, and/or to-do lists to ensure that your entire family is on the same page. Utilize alarms and device reminders as necessary to keep everyone on track. The good news is that once one routine in place, it is much easier to build upon your existing routines. You may even find that after some initial pushback, your kids crave and maintain the structure independently. [Related: Helping your anxious child handle homework] 3. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough. Routines are more of an art than a science, and they are definitely a practice. Some days the routine will be seamless, and other days, it will be a mess. That is OK. Use that data as feedback to make decisions about how to formulate or adjust as necessary. Continue to come back to the routine and to implement it with as much consistency as possible, but if you must stray or tweak it, don’t fret. The whole idea is that the routine should work for you — not the other way around. Personally, I don’t love starting new routines, but once a new routine is in place, I don’t know how I lived without it. Put in a little extra work at the beginning of this school year to establish those good routines, and I promise that in the end, it will make your family’s life a whole lot easier.
  14. The relationship a parent has with their child’s teacher plays a big role in their child’s academic success. When a child has a developmental difference, a positive parent-teacher relationship is even more important — as the stakes are significantly higher. To learn more about cultivating a good parent-teacher relationship, we sat down with Jennifer Rosinia, a developmental differences expert at the Erikson Institute. Why is a good relationship with my child’s teacher so important? A good relationship between parents and teachers has been shown to improve a child’s academic achievement, social competencies and emotional wellbeing. And, as it turns out, parents and teachers benefit from a good relationship, too! [Related: How to advocate for your special-needs child in CPS] When parents have a good relationship with their child’s teacher, they develop a greater appreciation for the important role they play in their child’s education, learn more about the school’s academic programs and how they can incorporate them into their home routines. For teachers, a positive parent relationship enables them to focus more on teaching and meeting students’ needs. What can a parent do to foster an effective parent/teacher partnership for a child with developmental differences? Dr. Susan Sheridan of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers three “Cs” for good relationships: communication, consistency, and collaboration. Communication with your child’s teacher should begin with the school year and continue throughout. Introduce yourself and let them know that you want to partner with them. Find out their preferred way of communicating, and then make sure communication is timely, and clear and open. Stay informed about what’s going on in school. Remember: The best communication in a partnership is two-way. Consistency might also be called “being on the same page.” An effective parent-teacher partnership sends a clear and consistent message to the child that they are working together to support their success. Collaboration between parents and teachers identifies and provides strategies to help your child achieve their optimal developmental and learning capacity. Share successes and concerns. Strategize ways to enhance and modify home and school environments. Collaboration means problem solving together, not blaming the other. [Related: Your child received a diagnosis. Now what?] My child has developmental differences. What is the first step I should take to ensure they will receive the support they need in the classroom? Forming an effective partnership with their child’s teacher should be the first step parents take to ensure their child will receive the support they need in the classroom. If a child has significant or complex support needs, parents might also want to seek testing to identify them. Schools are required to address needs revealed through academic testing.   How should I approach conflicts I might have with my child’s teacher about services my child needs? If parents have established an effective partnership with their child’s teacher, approaching conflicts should be relatively easy. The following suggestions might be helpful: ● Begin by talking with your child’s teacher. Starting with, “Can you help me with this?” can sometimes reduce the risk of a misunderstanding. Ask teachers for their perspective, opinion and suggestions, and try to avoid accusations. ● Remind yourself to listen. If you are focused too much on what you want to say, you might miss important information that could help resolve your concern. ● Schedule an observation. Spending time in your child’s classroom watching and listening could give you helpful insights about your child's relationships, activities and services. ● Seek creative solutions together. If you and your child’s teacher have established a good relationship and partnership, you are one step closer to working together to come up with a creative solution. Do not forget to include your child if they are old enough to participate. ● Respect boundaries. When in conflict, it’s easy to cross boundaries. Remember to schedule time to talk. If for some reason you dislike your child’s teacher, take care not to let your child know. You don’t want to disrespect the teacher’s authority. ● Still stuck? Speak with the principal. The principal will serve as a neutral party. They will listen to your concerns, gather information from the teacher, and then help resolve the conflict. If a child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that their parents are afforded a legitimate, authentic opportunity to participate in the decision-making process for their child, and should be encouraged to be active participants in their child’s educational plan. What other steps should I be taking with my public school district to ensure my child is getting the care they deserve/accessing all the available resources? At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. Get to know your teachers and administrative team. If you can, be active and involved: attend school board meetings, join the PTA, or spend time volunteering in your child’s classroom. Additionally, if your child has a developmental difference, know your rights under the law. To learn more, visiting the Illinois State Board of Education is a good place to start. Jennifer Rosinia is an occupational therapist and child development specialist. She is currently on faculty at the Erikson Institute as a senior instructor. She holds a master’s degree in early childhood education and a doctorate in child development from Loyola University and Erikson Institute in Chicago. Photo by Natasha Hall on Unsplash
  15. 2020 was truly a very difficult year with regards to the coronavirus pandemic. There is a lot we know now that we didn’t know at its start and still so much to learn. Scientists and medical researchers are working hard to develop therapeutic medications and vaccines to help protect us from the harms this virus can cause. Families everywhere have had to make sacrifices in their personal lives, work lives and the ways they enjoy sports and recreation, all the while trying to find new ways to stay healthy and active. While spectator sports are an exciting pastime in the fall and winter months, we have all heard over and over again about COVID infections and spread amongst professional athletes. These individuals have made personal decisions about participating in these sports as it is their job. Sports participation at the student level is clearly a different issue. The American Academy of Pediatrics values sports and physical fitness in their guidance of healthy living and good mental health during this pandemic. The safest sports last summer were noted to be golf, running, baseball and tennis — activities in which we’re able to maintain distance and minimize sharing equipment. Keep following the rules The underlying guidance across all activities is the ability to maintain social distancing, perform good hand hygiene, and wear a mask when you can’t maintain a 6-foot distance. For safety, masks may not be required in active elite level exercise, water sports, or where it poses a risk of getting caught on equipment, covering one’s eyes, or choking. Each athlete should have their own mask, access to hand sanitizer, and their own water bottles and towels. [Related: Free or cheap ways to entertain your kids on winter weekends] Recreational sports for young children can be challenging because mask-wearing may be difficult to enforce. Competitive or high school level sports for older children pose additional problems because the severity of coronavirus illness in children in their teen years may mimic that in adults. New information about the effects of COVID infection on the heart poses even more concern. Watch-outs: cardiac conditions The current recommendations by pediatricians and cardiologists include looking for signs of cardiac inflammation or myocarditis in athletes who had significant symptoms of COVID as part of clearing them to return to their sport. This can mean a minimum of a 2-3 week absence from their sport if they don’t have any cardiac concerns, or of course much longer if they have significant cardiac compromise. It is recommended to be in touch with your healthcare provider before making the decision to return to sports. What to avoid During sports practice or games, athletes need to avoid huddles, high fives, handshakes or fist bumps. They shouldn’t share any food or drinks with their teammates. Cheering each other on should be limited to when they are greater than 6-8 feet apart and they should always use a tissue when spitting or blowing their nose. [Related: Coat or no? Car seat safety during the cold winter months] Low-risk activities So the question remains, what can you and your children do to keep healthy and active and be as safe as possible? Here are some suggestions that allow social distancing, mask-wearing and minimal equipment sharing: Walking, hiking and running, fishing, golf, tennis, baseball, swimming and diving, dancing and yoga, and skating and cycling. Higher-risk activities The higher risk sports which involve more contact — soccer, football, basketball, gymnastics, cheerleading and hockey — should be undertaken only if you and your athletes, coaches and sports associations appreciate and follow the best guidance they can to minimize risk. There are no easy answers to the questions parents have about participation in sports. We know robust physical activity contributes to good mental and physical health. Knowing the risks may help you determine good options for your child. Of course, always consider discussing the health risks and benefits with your individual pediatrician. And while this may not be the ideal year for your athlete, we hope that there are good protective vaccines available in the near future which can help protect us all, and allow for a more active lifestyle again! Anita Chandra-Puri, MD, is a Chicago pediatrician with Northwestern Medical Group Pediatrics, as well as a mom and NPN board member. To ask Dr. Anita a question, email newsletter@npnparents.org with the subject line, “Ask a Doctor.”
  16. As a kindergarten teacher, I always believed my top priority was to help children fall in love with learning. The joy was getting them to enjoy school, to cherish the memories they make there and embrace the challenges. I felt that if each child could come to school excited for learning, that I would be setting them up for a lifetime of success. With school buildings closed and parents juggling their own work while also managing online learning and homework, I am afraid this priority of mine is in serious jeopardy. How can we, as exhausted and stretched-thin parents, keep learning fun for our frustrated and burnt-out children? How can teachers and the education system maintain rigorous learning while keeping the joys of learning intact? Now, it is more essential than ever to keep learning enjoyable by engaging the whole family in learning, and prioritizing organic learning through play. What exactly does this look like? Read on for some of my favorite ways to play and learn as a family. Play a family game Think of the amount of learning, thinking, and growing that happens when your family sits down to play a game. If they’re old enough, have your children read aloud the rules and repeat them in their own words. Then, as you play, count and describe your play out loud. Take turns saying “Your turn!” and sharing materials. Not only are your young ones benefiting from intentional family time, but they will be learning social skills, strategy, reading, and comprehension skills, too. [Related: Reintroducing playdates in a post-pandemic world] Take to the kitchen Some of the best learning can happen with a hands-on approach in the kitchen. Have your child help you write out the grocery list: encourage them to spell words out on their own or copy the letters from current packaging. Involve your child in the recipes you create by having them read the recipe card to you. All kinds of math takes place in cooking: fractions, conversions, and counting. And don’t forget science! Have your child help you discover the purpose of baking soda, or what happens to yeast in water. Spread some joy We all know someone who could use a smile. Have your child write letters to loved ones, make a book for a neighbor, or read to a younger sibling. Addressing and mailing the letters are half the fun! [Related: You can make eating out with your kids actually enjoyable] Follow their interests Does your child love building? Have them invent a new way to hang the towels in the bathroom or store items in the closet. Have an artistic one? Have them paint a picture, then write a note describing the image they created. Does your child love “search and finds”? Have them find and highlight sight words in a newspaper or magazine. Above all, encourage your children to find their own ways to follow their curiosities. Have them ask questions about things that matter to them, and work to find the answer together. We owe it to our youngest learners to keep this journey exciting for them. Their (and our) future depends on it!
  17. I can hardly believe it myself when I tell people that I have been a pediatric mental health therapist for 12 years now. I mean, that is over a decade of my life! I would say that I don’t know where the time went, but I do. A lot has happened since beginning my professional career. I moved to Chicago, got engaged, and landed my dream job. But what really makes time fly is having kids. Nothing in my life has made me realize just how fleeting life is more than raising children. One day they fit into the palm of your hand, and the next, they barely fit in your lap. There are a lot of expectations about what kind of parent I am and how I raise my kids. After all, I keep up to date on the latest research in child development and behavior. My passion is in supporting parents and teaching parents how to be connected and attuned to their children. So I talk A LOT with parents. I am often told by parents I work with, “I bet your kids are so well behaved,” or, “I bet you never yell.” (Yikes, the pressure!) Of course, I do have to practice what I preach, and while I try my best to be a playful, accepting, curious, and empathic mother…I am also a “good enough” mom. I am not perfect. Despite my training, my knowledge, my passion, and my love, I am here to tell you: if you only knew how I epically fail on a daily basis! Well, actually, maybe it would help. Maybe it would help you have some compassion for yourself, because I promise you there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and good enough is actually all you need (and this is backed by research!). [Related: This is how to travel with young kids during COVID] So in all my vulnerability, I will share with you my top 10 epic parenting fails during the COVID-19 pandemic: Becoming so frustrated and out of control with my own emotions when my 5-year-old refused to go to bed that I threatened to throw out her JoJo Siwa Bow. Feeling guilty about my (above) tantrum, giving in, and allowing my 5-year-old to stay up till 10pm watching Naked and Afraid. (This went on for a month.) Experiencing the full range of working-mom shame when my daughter named each family member’s hobby and declared, “Mommy’s hobby is work.” Begging my 5-year-old to “Just leave me alone for two minutes while I finish my Zoom call!” realizing that I actually did not mute my mic. Spacing out from exhaustion while the baby crawls on the lawn…and eats actual bunny poop. Logging in my kindergartner late to virtual school. Every. Single. Day. Witnessing her announce to her teacher, “Sorry I am always late. We like to sleep in.” Knowing pandemic guilt has turned me into a “Yes” mom, and I have a trillion stuffed animals to prove it. Thinking that brushing my kid’s teeth before dessert was OK. Hello, child’s first cavity. Being mindless while getting my children out of the car and putting my laptop on top of the car. Forgetting about my laptop. Finding my laptop smashed to bits on North Avenue. If a child therapist can’t get it right all the time, take some pressure off yourself to be perfect. After all, we are in the midst of a pandemic. We are all truly doing the best we can. And that is good enough.
  18. Juneteenth is the oldest celebrated commemoration of the enslavement of Africans in the United States. It has many names — Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day — but no other name has been used as frequently as Juneteenth. This joyous African American holiday began on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas. Many Americans have never heard of, nor learned about this historical event in their school textbooks. I, too, was once oblivious to this day. I can’t remember when I first learned about Juneteenth, but It wasn’t until the Black Lives Matter uprising of 2020 that it became significant to my family when I, among countless other Americans, began to see a shift in our country after the murder of George Floyd. [Related: What role should white parents play in Juneteenth?] Last year, in most Black households, there was a sense of reprieve from the endless supply of videos on police brutality when the interest of Juneteenth began to surface heavily online. A celebration of images expressing Black joy and honor around the country went viral. As a Chicago mother who celebrates Black history all year round, I found several virtual events scheduled during the month of June in which families could participate safely. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we were not comfortable attending any of the amazing in-person events we read about. Not to be outdone by the virus, we took our children on a driving and walking tour around the South Side and West Side of the city to learn and see the historical contributions made by Black freedom fighters then and now. During the tours, we stopped at Black businesses, such as Can't Believe It's Not Meat in Hyde Park for lunch. We talked about what joy our ancestors must have felt on that day. And we talked about what it must have been like for the men, women, and children who were forced into work that never provided them financial compensation, nor security in the right to stay connected to their families — something some of us are privileged to have strengthened during our months of quarantine. [Related: Can we build anti-racist communities?] Although the formal recognition of the abolishment of slavery (also known as the 13th Amendment) brought much joy to enslaved Africans at the time of its announcement back in 1865, June 19th wasn't recognized as a holiday until 1979 when it passed legislation in Texas. It's now a state holiday in 49 of the 50 states (including Illinois), but has yet to be recognized as a national holiday. In some areas, it is a day, a week, or a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for rejoicing, processing, and planning for the future. Some would say its growing popularity signifies a level of growth, maturity and dignity that's long overdue. The recent acknowledgment of the racial trauma inflicted on people of African descent is being displayed in cities across the country. People of all races, nationalities, and religions are now acknowledging 400+ years of legalized horror. Honoring those that built the wealth of this nation is an honorable place to start the healing process — especially in the city of Chicago.
  19. Last year, when Juneteenth was celebrated by so many major corporations for the first time, some joked that us white people would quickly turn it into another commercialized exercise of appropriation. This year, you might still be asking, what should us white folks do on Juneteenth? Here are three options: educate ourselves, educate other white people, or actively work to dismantle a part of our white supremacy culture. [Related: The importance of celebrating Juneteenth in Chicago] During the height of the pandemic and racial unrest, all the books on the New York Times best-seller list were about anti-racism and white supremacy. Hopefully, we read the books and learned that we have a long way to go, as a society but also as white people. Educating other white people is challenging as we have to leave our comfort zone and possibly offend someone. I am certainly not the best at it, too often biting my tongue when someone demonstrates their bias, or by doing the opposite and offending without educating. And too often than I'd like to admit, I'm the one that needs educating. I’m working on it, through regular participation in SEED and a local chapter of AWARE, both at our children’s school, Near North Montessori. The third option, challenging or dismantling a part of the white supremacy culture in our institutions and organizations, might seem even more daunting than confronting and educating another white person, but it does not need to be. [Related: How to become an anti-racist parent] Our children attend a private school, and I know there is hypocrisy in choosing a private school while claiming to be helping to dismantle white supremacy. I contend it is only incrementally different, if at all, to choices many white parents make since public schools mimic the segregation in our society, and many public schools are not diverse or safe for Black, indigenous, and people of color. This year, Near North Montessori has hired a new Head of School which, after an extensive search, chose Brian Corley who had previously been the Diversity Director at the school. Brian will be one of only a handful of Black Heads of School across all the private schools in the Midwest. This is good, but we can do more. Our school, despite having diversity, does not have enough Black educators. This is a dilemma for many schools, public and private. Our soon-to-be former Head has been working to fix the training options for Montessori teachers, which seems to be one of the most vexing obstacles, and HR has made shifts to address the pipeline. But they need more tools, and money is one of the primary weapons in our society. So, my wife and I are donating a fair amount to our children’s school to start a fund to recruit and retain Black teachers. Why is it important to have Black educators on staff? My former colleague, the late Principal Robert Croston, explained it best in an article he wrote: "If more White and affluent students were educated by Black men, many stereotypes about us would fall on deaf ears and more White and affluent Americans would be able to champion our plight. As a Black male educator, some of my favorite interactions with young people include those with non- Black students because they get to experience the love, care and intellect of someone like myself. They can rebuff the swirling stereotypes when they see and know a Black man as a principal. If West Pullman schools on the South Side of Chicago need Black men, then Wilmette schools on the North Shore of Chicagoland need Black male teachers even more.” So, this Juneteenth, ask yourself and your school’s leadership: Why aren’t there more Black teachers and administrators, if any? If the first response is, “They don’t apply,” then you might have to ask: Why don’t Black teachers apply (or stay) at your school? [Related: Can we build anti-racist communities?] The uncomfortable truth is, white people like us probably have a lot more work to do to ensure schools are welcoming, safe places for Black, indigenous, and people of color to work and thrive. Donating money is one way to dismantle white supremacy, but only if you couple it with educating yourself and other white people (I highly recommend an insightful podcast on this topic, Nice White Parents). This Juneteenth, celebrate by finding ways to challenge or dismantle a part of the white supremacy culture in your child’s school, be it public or private. I guarantee you it is there, and if you do not see it, you just might be an active part of it.
  20. As with all schools in Illinois, Chicago Free School had to close its doors in mid-March of 2020. Within a week, teachers had switched to online learning. We thought it might be temporary, but schools remained closed throughout the rest of the school year. To help save money, the board decided to furlough the teachers for the month of July. We had no idea what COVID-19 rates would be like in late summer/early fall. An Idea Is Planted As July progressed, I was thinking about what do in the fall. A friend shared an article about year-round open-air classrooms for children with tuberculosis in Rhode Island that were convened in the early 1900s. They were held in sheds with a roof and screens all around. I began to research other outdoor classrooms through the years, and that got my wheels turning. [Related: Nurturing your child's mental health in the pandemic aftermath] Reconvening The teachers came back together by Zoom in early August. We had to make a decision about how we were going to start our school year. None of us seemed excited about the prospect of teaching inside of a classroom. I said that I did not see a point in starting the school year online, and shared my research about outdoor classrooms as a way to be in person with minimal risk. Two other teachers immediately latched onto the idea. After more conversation, others agreed to give it a try, as well. Once the decision was made, we spent mornings hashing out our COVID protocols based on CDC and CDPH guidelines, followed by hours of research throughout the day and into the night. We found outdoor sinks with foot pumps. I spent at least eight hours researching flush camp toilets for an outdoor bathroom for my young students. I researched tent and tarping options until 2 a.m. on several occasions. I placed many orders for all the items we would need to make this work. I went on early morning shopping trips, filling my carts with big storage bins. I made daily visits to the outdoor spaces of the building where we rent, to see where we could each set up our classrooms — including my own classroom, in an enclosed backyard. I spent hours trying to figure out how to hang tarps for shade and rain protection. A parent helped me erect these under the hot August sun. [Related: Reintroducing play dates in a post-pandemic world] Executing the Plan On September 8th, we opened for the fall. I welcomed masked children to their outdoor classroom. The first hour was ominous, as there was a storm and we had to go inside the adjoining hall, but soon we settled into our routine. Each child had their own beach tent set six feet apart, with a mat or little floor chair and a lap desk. They each brought pencil bags with their own drawing and coloring supplies. We read stories and had our morning meeting. We worked on projects based on the children’s mind map that they created with their questions and things they wanted to do that fall. Afterward, they would have free choice. Each had their own bin of puzzles, manipulatives, games, etc., so that things only had to be disinfected when we switched them around at the end of the week. We went for walks around the neighborhood, ate lunch in the tents, and went to the playground before coming back to doing quiet activities until the end of our day. We passed the other classes in their various outdoor setups in courtyards and parking lots, all learning in the fresh air. Due to mild weather, we were able to be out there into the second week of November. We had some chilly weather the last week of October, even some sleet and snow, but for nine weeks, we only needed to go inside several times, and usually for no more than an hour. We were able to observe summer turning into fall. On beautiful fall days, it was a real pleasure. When the colder weather finally came, we went online, due to the COVID surge at the time. The children took their bins and materials needed for projects home with them. We still met on the playground for over an hour every day. We took a longer winter break and came back mid-January online, with the hopes that we could have more in-person learning if we extended the school year into summer. Now, some of us are back in person in the classroom. But I think we are all planning to return to our outdoor classrooms after spring break as it continues to be a year of adaptation and flexibility. Lisa Rademacher is a preK/kindergarten teacher at the Chicago Free School. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and other members of Sophia Community, an intentional community in Hyde Park that she helped found many years ago.
  21. As vaccines roll out by the thousands, the days are getting longer, and hope feels more tangible than ever. But how do we balance it with the pace of the past year? For a lot of families and couples, the pandemic's slow down period has been a blessing in disguise. This is not to say that it hasn’t been difficult in a million weird and unexpected ways. It has. However, not having to go to playdates, attend birthday parties, and uber children to multiple afterschool activities has allowed for more time together. For my family, we now have a standing Friday night pizza and movie date which we all really look forward to. So how will we remember to just relax and play when the world quickly plays catch-up? Don’t think of this as making up for lost time Time was not lost; it was slowed down. There is no need to go full speed. List the activities that each member of your family would like to do and only commit to one to two at a time. Same goes for summer camp: Keep in mind that kiddos are used to having down time, so we don’t want to overwhelm them by booking every week. Just because we can, doesn’t mean that it's the best option for our family. Keep at least two days/nights free of activities Preferably one weekend morning so that you can sleep in (if all the stars align). It is also nice to wake up and not have to run off to something. I find that on Saturday morning, my children are excited for the weekend and looking forward to playing and using their imagination for the things that they wish they could have done while in school. This also leaves room for spontaneity. Take turns Historically, my husband and I felt that we had to both attend birthday parties because it was a social event for us, but in the end we would be exhausted. One idea we’ve had since is to take turns with parties and activities. We also take turns working out, cooking, and cleaning. [Related: Self-care during COVID: Creating your own pandemic slowdown] Make time for yourself Pick something that brings you joy, and do it! For me, it was to take a pilates teacher training course so that I can learn and do something new. Another thing my partner and I do is that if I have plans to work out on a Saturday, then we make a plan for him to work out on Sunday. If you make time for yourself, you are more likely to help others make time for themselves as well. Be aware of the new social anxiety I am finding with myself and a lot of my clients that there is a sense of feeling awkward in social situations. Questioning the conversations when you get home and thinking that you talked too much are normal. We haven’t been socializing the way that we were used to. It might take time to find our groove and make new friends as adults, and this is a good reminder that our kiddos might struggle with this also. Ease back into life with one activity at a time and don’t forget that "No" is still an acceptable answer.
  22. Most of us probably have a good idea what it takes to get our young children to love reading. Snuggling up with a favorite book at bedtime, for example, sends a clear message about the value of reading. But what about a love of math? For many parents, it’s not so obvious how to help young children appreciate math — especially if they don’t enjoy it themselves or feel their skills in the subject are lacking. Yet parents are a powerful influence on how children feel about math. Feelings? Yes, research is clear that children’s mindset — their beliefs about what math is and who can do math well — helps determine their math achievement. So, if you’re a parent and don’t consider yourself a math person, there are still ways you can help your child succeed. First, try putting aside any pressure you feel to be their math teacher, and instead, think of yourself as a math cheerleader! With that perspective, following are five strategies you can use to cheer your child on and encourage their love of math. Be curious The concept of being a “math person” — or not — is a myth. But even if you don’t identify as someone who likes or is good at math right now, you can still model curiosity about the subject. You don’t have to have all the answers, but you can ask good questions. Two great questions to ask your kids: “What do you notice?” and, “What do you see?” Look with a math lens We use lenses all the time to help us see things differently: to improve our vision, to shade our eyes from the sun, to magnify microscopic organisms and to watch a 3-D movie. In the same way, we can use a math lens to help our children see the world differently. For example, you and your child might look at how eggs in a carton are lined up in two rows of six. You might notice the patterns on a checkerboard, or the symmetry of a building, shapes in the tile floor, height of a tree, rhythm of a song, etc. By pointing these things out, it won’t take long for your child to recognize the ways math is present everywhere they look. Picture books, too, are a great invitation to look at the world with a math lens. Visit your public library and check out these award-winning Mathical Prize books. Talk about math You’ve got chores to do: grocery shopping, washing dishes, doing laundry, straightening up the house. These tasks all offer opportunities to help your child sort, count, make comparisons and reason spatially. The Early Math Collaborative at Erikson Institute offers many practical ideas for math at home. Remember that language and math skills develop together. Take advantage of small moments to talk about math ideas as you move through your day together — think of it as the curriculum of life! Play games Children learn best through play. Games provide children with enjoyable math practice skills while also developing their logical, strategic thinking. Simple card games such as Uno and Memory offer opportunities for matching and comparing. Path-based board games like Parcheesi or Chutes and Ladders, in which children use dice or spinners to advance spaces, develop a sense of number magnitude. Strategy games like Connect Four and Mancala require children to plan their problem-solving by thinking a step ahead. Puzzles are also great for spatial reasoning. The blog Games for Young Minds is full of game suggestions and reviews to help you plan your next family game night that encourages your child’s love of math. Embrace effort Making mistakes and trying to figure things out is part of doing math. How you respond when you or your child makes an error can send the message that math is a process and that success comes from effort. As children move through school, there’s bound to be some struggle learning math — and you may be in the position to help with homework. In these situations, pause for a moment before offering assistance. This sends the message that it’s okay for them to not understand right away. As parents, we have to develop a stronger stomach for some temporary frustration. This is how your child will learn problem solving and perseverance — both crucial skills for life that math teaches particularly well. Jeanine O'Nan Brownell is the mother of three children. She works at Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative and partners with school districts, childcare centers, and agencies to design programs of professional learning for preK-3rd grade teachers.
  23. NPN Lauren

    Back to school…finally.

    When Mayor Lightfoot announced that CPS children would have the option of returning in person, I went into a slight panic. It felt incredibly different from when CPS announced that the 2020-2021 school year would begin virtually, since the pandemic was still raging and a second wave was expected in the fall. But this announcement? It brought forth a sense of panic. We’d adjusted to virtual learning since it quickly became our new normal, and accepted that our first-grader, Amara (pictured), may not go back to in-person this school year. Our youngest daughter returned to full-time daycare back in September, which made virtual learning easier with only one child to supervise. [Related: Anxious about the upcoming school year? Here's how to ease your child's fears — and yours.] Through virtual learning, we discovered that Amara would push every technology limit available. One of our first instances was during the first month of school when her teacher emailed us explaining that Amara mistakenly deleted some pages from her assignment. My husband and I knew that it was not a mistake. Later, she started changing the teacher’s directions. For example, if the assignment stated, “In your math book, complete pages 5, 6, and 7 and then write two sentences explaining why Jim received more apples than Johnny,” she would change it to read, “In your math book, complete pages 5 and 6,” to finish her work sooner. We ended up adjusting her screen time settings to be extensive, but also realized early on that she may do better within the structure of the physical classroom. Her first day back was incredible and her mental health improved almost immediately. Simply being in the school building seemed to elicit a positive reaction and a sense of normalcy. She met her teacher in person for the first time and saw a few friends from last year. She played on the playground during recess and had school lunch — all things we previously took for granted. It’s still very different; the children are spaced out in the classroom, proper mask-wearing is enforced, there are no before/after school activities, and of course, children only attend two days per week with a large virtual component. [Related: Reintroducing play dates in a post-pandemic world] The best part has been the mornings she attends in person. Getting ready for school those two days a week feels so close to the before times and gives me a glimpse of hope that we will eventually return. She looks forward to those those two days and always has an extra pep in her step. I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe, in-person return to school in the fall.
  24. until
    Kids and Teens K-12. Come get taught by a professional author how to write chapter one of your story. This is a repeating event, and will take place every Saturday 12:00pm to 1:30pm. Please go here to register. This is an external partner event. Please contact the organization directly with any questions or concerns: onceuponatimepublishing@aol.com
  25. until
    Starting preschool is a big deal for both parents and children. From separation anxiety to making new friends to learning new skills, there is a lot to consider and prepare for. Take this opportunity to learn from experts about how to make this a smooth and happy transition for everyone in your family. In this intimate live discussion, preschool experts will discuss how to prepare for the first day of preschool and beyond, how to handle separation anxiety and some things parents and children can look forward to during these special years You will walk away from this discussion with the following: 1. How to prepare your child for preschool 2. How to handle separation anxiety on the first day and beyond 3. What to expect on the first day Plus our experts will help you prepare yourself for the first day too, and there will be time for Q & A at the end! Our preschool panel consists of: Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph School Ancona School Lycée Français de Chicago Park West Co-Op Nursery School Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph School Email Meredith Marzano at mmarzano@npnparents.org with questions.

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