Musings of a REnewed, somewhat TIred EDucator and advocate

Laurie's Newsletter                                  March 2014 
Painting the beach to welcome Spring?
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Dear Friends,


While they figure out how to dye the frozen Chicago river green for St. Patrick's Day, I'm plugging away at my writing. It keeps me away from the polar vortex (is it over yet?) and the mounds of  snow. Since our clocks have sprung forward, can spring be far behind? In Chicago, yes!

Since my last newsletter, I have been published in the Huffington Post and The Forward. While that was a huge boost to my ego, I'm also pondering why my most popular post so far was about Legos?  In this month's article by my daughter, Alissa Chung, she explains why (contrary to what the educational-industrial complex and politicians think) child development is like baking a cake. If you've been reading my blog, you know how much I agree with her developmental perspective.


As always, please let me know what you think. Thank you so much for your encouragement, support, and thoughtful comments (even when we disagree!).


The snow will melt, right? 



P.S. If you haven't done so already, please subscribe to my blog and/or this newsletter, and/or "like me" on Facebook.  Feel free to forward this to anyone who might be interested. 


Child Development: Baking a Very Special Cake...
An Expert Mother & Daughter Team Reflect

Doing the research for my Huffington Post piece on ExceleRate Illinois, which brings the Race to the Top policies to the preschool level, I was struck by never seeing the words "developmentally appropriate practice" in anything I read.

In our kindergartens, children take standardized tests and are supposed to become readers. By first grade, they are doing homework and having limited time for recess and free play. By second grade, they are pushed to read and analyze non-fiction and do division problems without having learned multiplication. For these young children, education is mostly drill and test rather than a hands-on exploration of things that are meaningful to them. Fun, creativity, and socialization, things all children need to grow and thrive, are definitely low priorities.

In her analogy, my daughter, Alissa Chung, compares child development to baking a cake. She reminds us that learning is a process, not a product, from the point of view of a child psychologist and parent.


Goodbye Sochi, Hello Diaper Olympics

I'm neither a policy wonk nor a competitive person, so here's the thing: Will ExceleRate Illinois -- a new grant from the federal government to create a system for improving quality and rating all early learning and development programs statewide -- help low income children and close the achievement gap in our schools? Or will it devolve into The Diaper Olympics? When daycares and preschools go for the gold, will some of the well-documented problems associated with Race to the Top (RTTT) emerge?... read more

The Children Left Out of Judaism
A Lack of Inclusion for Those With Special Needs
My grandchild with special needs failed Sunday school. Actually, to be accurate, Sunday school failed her. Because the teacher had no idea how to include her in the class, even after her mother shared some ideas, she spent most of her time coloring with a teen volunteer. She was "welcome," but only in the sense that she could physically be present as long as she didn't disrupt too much. Needless to say, not much religious learning happened for her in that more  
"Life is a Test" - Really?

I applaud the parents and teachers brave enough to take a stand and opt out of the excessive standardized testing that takes place in our schools. I wonder if I would have been so brave when my children were in public school if they were under the same educational climate that exists today. I would like to think I would have kept them home, but would I have been willing to have their absence be unexcused? Or would they have been willing to attend school and refuse to sit for the test?... read more

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"Faith is taking the first step when you don't see the whole staircase."

- Martin Luther King