AWNY Mums and Dads Update, November 2017

By Helen McWilliam

I have a few things for you this month: my tips on how to cope with being stuck inside for days on end with sick kids, a recap of our Women of Letters Event and some details about our last event for the year, the upcoming AWNY Mums’ Christmas Dinner.

Sickness
I’ve been at the doctor’s office weekly, sometimes twice weekly for the last four weeks.  My kids and I have had colds on and off since school started in September. With nearly 5 years’ practice, I feel like I have become skilled at entertaining sick toddlers as well as keeping myself sane.  So here are my top tips!

  1. Preplanning: Since my eldest was about 6 months old, I’ve always put away a box of rainy day toys, usually the really noisy ones that drive you nuts but your children love.  It means you can sit and have a cup of tea or get something done whilst they play with the “new” toys.
  2. Baking: It can make such a mess, especially the flour but it takes a lot of time to measure, mix, bake and eat.  It also helps that my two children love vacuuming!
  3. Books for ideas: I’ve read a few different ones but the best book I have found is  “150 Screen Free Activities for Kids”.  It is full of ideas that keep children entertained for a decent period of time and I can generally find the ingredients for the more popular slimes in the house.
  4. Facetime: The time difference is perfect at the moment for a chat with the grandparents in the afternoons.  It keeps all three of us occupied for at least an hour.  It is so nice to have an adult conversation as well!
  5. Fresh air: I also scope out quiet parks/play spaces for outside time when they start to feel better but are not quite ready for general population.  Our favourites are the DeWitt Clinton Park on 53rd and West End as well as the train near the river in Riverside Park South at about 61st.

Although sickness does lead to more time at home, it is a fantastic time of the year to be out and about in the city.  For festive tips, have a read of a recent post by AWNY Mum, Nakia Gordon on enjoying the festive spirit with children.

Women of Letters
Our event for November was a group visit to “Women of Letters” at the City Winery.  Women of Letters is a monthly literary salon which aims to revive the lost art of letter writing.  I have to admit to being an addict and haven’t missed a show in the two years since I have lived in New York City.  We had a great turn out of Aussies and enjoyed some inspiring letters on the theme of a “Letter to my Creation”.  The next Women of Letters is in January 2018, check the City Winery website for more details.

wol2

AWNY  Mums’ Christmas Party
Finally this month, Amanda has found us an amazing deal at new Restaurant Coarse NYC in the West Village. For $49 (plus tax and tips) we will be treated to a 3-4 course meal with wine pairings!   RSVP via the event on the Mums and Dads Facebook page or by emailing AWNY.

Enjoy all that the silly season has to offer and we hope to see you at the Christmas party!

Helen and Amanda

Event: AWNY Mums’ Christmas Dinner

Join us in celebrating Christmas in New York with fellow Aussie Mums over a fabulous dinner at Coarse NYC in the West Village.

New restaurant Coarse will surprise us with a delicious spontaneous chef’s tasting meal with wine pairings, highlighting great seasonal produce for just $49 (plus tax and tip)!

Event Details:
Date: Monday December 11th
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: Coarse NYC, 306 West 13 th Street, New York
Cost: $49 plus tax and tip
RSVP: Please RSVP as soon as possible, via the event on the Australian Mums and Dads in New York Facebook group or by emailing AWNY.

Hope to see you all for a fun filled night celebrating Christmas in NYC with great food, wine and Aussie company!

Event: Women of Letters NYC

Women of Letters is everyone’s favorite literary salon!

What is Women of Letters NYC?

Each month, host Sofija Stefanovic introduces a lineup of six women, from various walks of life.  The most interesting and acclaimed writers, musicians, actors, comedians and politicians appear together on stage, in an intimate setting, with the purpose of celebrating female talent and the lost art of letter-writing.  The shows are funny and sad, and never recorded or filmed – part of the magic is that they exist in the moment, and the events are a safe story-telling space.

Women of Letters veterans include: Molly Ringwald, Jean Grae, Kathleen Turner, Margo Jefferson, Martha Wainwright, Aparna Nancherla, Siri Hustvedt, Edie Falco, Elaine Welteroth, Susan Orlean, Emma Straub, Alexis Okeowo, Sonia Manzano, Eileen Myles, Suki Kim, Tavi Gevinson, Yael Stone, Amber Tamblyn and many more.

This Month’s Theme:

“A LETTER TO MY CREATION” is hosted by special guest, Angela Ledgerwood (of the Lit Up podcast) and features, together on stage for the first time ever:

  • Esteemed writer of essays, fiction and humour, KASHANA CAULEY
  • Eminent storyteller and author of Burn Down the Ground, KAMBRI CREWS
  • Award-winning poet, actress and playwright, DAEL ORLANDERSMITH
  • Beloved cult comedian and chanteuse, LADY RIZO
  • Legendary singer, songwriter, performer, author and actress, SUZZY ROCHE
  • Acclaimed author of “The Interestings”, MEG WOLITZER

Event Details:

Date: Wednesday, November 29th.
Time: Doors open at 6 pm for an 8 pm start
Location: City Winery, 155 Varick Street, New York.
Tickets: Purchase your tickets through City Winery. Women of Letters is a very popular event and regularly sells out so please get your tickets soon if you’d like to come along. Ticket prices range from $20 – $40
Promo Code: Use the PROMO code AWNY at the checkout and receive a $5 discount.

Join the Aussie Contingent:

There’s an Aussie contingent sitting in seats 270-276 so sit nearby if you are coming along. Please feel free to contact Amanda and Helen, through the Australian Mums and Dads in New York Group, to arrange to meet up.

Stick around afterwards as we have been invited to grab a drink with the organisers and letter writers of the night!

How to: NYC Nursery School Admissions

Updated by Angela Tohl from a previous post written by AWNY

Important Dates

Private Nursery School

  • Applications Open: September straight after Labor Day for most nursery schools
  • Applications Close: vary depending on the school, usually by October/November

Public Pre-School (“Free Pre-K”)

Check the NYC Department of Education site for exact dates and sign up for email updates.

  • Applications Open: mid January
  • Applications Close: mid February

Summary of Options

NYC offers the following options for children turning 4 during the calendar year for that school year (which starts in September):

  • Private (Nursery School), and
  • Public (Free Pre-K)

Overview of NYC Nursery School

If your baby is 9-12 months old and you’d like to think about a program for nursery school, Labor Day is the time of the year to begin. Most nursery schools will begin taking applications right after the holiday – and if you’re going to apply you may as well do it on time.

You might have heard stories from friends who wrote six ‘essays’ – or more – so their two year old could sing, paint and glue. Or you might be happily unaware of such boring tales. But it always sounds worse than it is – there are lots of great schools to choose from and the process is really not a big deal as long as you know how it works.

school5

Photo credit: freeimages.com/Fran Gambín

Selecting the Nursery School

Close to home works for most! But some travel too – either way the best place for the list of all the options is the Parents League and then check out each school’s website for more details on the age of acceptance (usually between 18 months and 3 years depending on the school).

The Nursery School Applications Process

Each private nursery school has their own and 90% are online the day after Labor Day, but some require you to call and request it. Either way, a lot of the questions are basically the same for everyone. They want to understand as much as they can about your family, your child and how you think about education and parenting. It’s worth understanding the school’s philosophy before answering the questions! And if you’re serious about some of the tougher schools to get into, it’s worth preparing the answers before the applications open so you’re ready to fill it out on the day (it doesn’t usually vary much from the year before).

NYC Nursery School Deadlines

All schools will have their own and it’s usually about month or two later, but really the best time to submit them is as soon as possible; even if they have an October deadline they may close it early if they receive too many.

Playdates and Interviews

Once you’ve made it through the “lottery” for the applications, you’ll be invited to an interview and tour for the parents – all of this might sound ridiculous, but actually seeing the school and the teachers interacting with the children helps you solidify your own preferences. Your child may also be invited to a “playdate” so the teachers see how they interact – it’s not to judge your child so much as to try and balance the personalities in the class, so it’s nothing to worry about. And most of the kids seem to love it – an AWNY member shares that her daughter left the first one and had so much fun she asked when there would be cake (she thought it was a party!).

Nursery School Acceptance and Waitlists

You’ll hear back in February where you got in (all on the one day). If you got into more than one school, obviously let the school you don’t want know as soon as possible so they can offer it to another child. If you didn’t get in to the school of your choice, don’t panic, email them immediately and ask to stay on the waitlist. You never know.

Public Pre-school: Free Pre-K (For 4 Year Olds)

Importantly, don’t forget the free Pre-K option available in NYC. Public Pre-K is now available for New Yorkers so if your child turns 4 before December 31st they’re eligible to start a Pre-K program in September of that year. Not every school has them but you can learn about the Pre-K program on the NYC DOE site.

Public Pre-School: Free 3-K For All (For 3 Year Olds)

The City recently introduced Free 3-K For All, which is for children who turn 3 before December 31st. The program is currently available for School Districts 7 (South Bronx) and 23 (Brownsville, East New York, Ocean Hill), with the goal of bringing it to every community school district in NYC.  So check the NYC DOE 3-K For All site regularly for updates.

Have tips to share? Or need help?

Those are the basics but if you have any questions or additional tips, please let us know in the comments section. If you’d like a first-hand perspective, check with other Aussie parents via the Australian Mums & Dads in New York Facebook Group.

Stay tuned as we have more “School Series” guides to come.

Good luck!

 

How To: NYC Kindergarten Admissions

Updated by Angela Tohl from a previous post written by AWNY.

Overview of NYC Kindergarten

In this post, we’re looking at the admissions process for Kindergarten in NYC.

Firstly, let’s clarify the terminology.  In Australia, “Kindergarten” (aka “Kindy” or “Kinder”) depending on the state, can either refer to the year of pre-school preceding prep/reception at primary school or the very first year at primary school. In the US, “Kindergarten” is part of the K-12 educational system and refers to the very first year of elementary school preceding first grade.

There are three different approaches depending on whether you are looking at Kindergarten at private, public or gifted and talented schools.

Private Schools

Kindergarten at a private school is a whole other ball game. Your nursery school will help you with everything you need, so this part will be brief. But if you’ve just moved and you’re looking to start at a private school, the best thing to do is find a consultant. The city is full of them and they know all the schools (and the schools mostly know them). A quick assessment of your family’s needs will help them guide you to the right places. They’ll also know where it might be possible to get in. This is one – http://www.nyadmissions.com/ – but there are plenty of others if you google them.

Luckily, if the process, cost and everything else that goes with it isn’t your thing, most of the city has fantastic public schools.

Public Schools

Important Dates For 2018 Commencement:

  • Eligibility: To commence Kindergarten for 2018-19 school year, your child must turn 5 during 2018 calendar year, i.e. your child was born in 2013.
  • Applications Open: Tues Nov 28, 2017
  • Applications Close: Fri Jan 12, 2018

Overview

The NYC Dept of Education site has a good overview of elementary schools admission. The DOE offers open houses and events, where you can visit elementary schools and learn about the admission procedures. Applications are accepted between Nov – Jan. You can choose up to 12 schools in order of preference. An offer is sent in March. In April you can accept the offer and pre-register at the chosen school.

school7

Photo credit: freeimages.com/Rohan Baumann

Details

Two years ago, Ella Colley of Inside Schools wrote us a post covering An Inside Guide to NYC School Applications. Not a lot has changed since this guide was published, and Inside Schools is the best website that goes into great detail on each school. They have photos, info and all the stats, ranging from how the kids do in tests to how much the parents and teachers recommend the head of the school.

New York City’s roughly 700 public elementary (generally K-5) schools are divided into 32 districts (six of them in Manhattan). The schools within each district are strictly zoned.

Generally admissions priority for a particular school is given to students who reside in the school’s zone. However some schools will still need to wait-list kids who live within their zone, when they receive more applications than they have places available.  Conversely some schools are able to accept students from outside their zone, subject to availability of places. An AWNY member personally knows of a few families who fall into this category, so it never hurts to contact the school Principal directly.

The subject of school zones and school choices, is complex and extensive, and we are planning a follow up story on this. If you have any questions in the meantime, drop AWNY a line via email or Facebook page DM.

Admission into any public school requires proof of address (rental agreement, utility bill etc.) and the child’s birth certificate. The high demand schools – like 234 and 41 will take admissions from the previous November. But you can walk up to any admissions on any day and enroll your child in the school (if they have a place), even after term has started.

Gifted and Talented Programs

Important Dates for 2018 Commencement:

  • Eligibility: children entering K through Grade 3 in 2018 can sit the test
  • Request For Testing (RFT) for G&T Test Opens: early Oct, 2017
  • Request For Testing (RFT) for G&T Test Closes: apply online by 11.59 pm Mon Nov 13, 2017.

Overview

The NYC Department of Education site has a good overview of the G&T (Gifted and Talented) program.  The G&T program follows the same curriculum as the general education classes but at a possibly accelerated or enriched pace.

The program is available for students entering K through Grade 3 in 2018. In order to be offered a place in the program, the child must sit the G&T Test and meet the qualifying score.

District G&T programs: are located within district elementary schools (i.e. there will be a G&T class for students enrolled in the G&T program, along with classes for all other students taking the general education curriculum). These programs give admissions priority to students who live in the school district.

Citywide G&T programs: are located within a school dedicated to the G&T program (i.e. all students at this school are enrolled in the G&T program). These programs give no admissions priority to students who live in the school district. The Citywide programs are highly sought after and there are five schools: three in Manhattan – Anderson, Nest+M and TAG. There is also one in Queens – 30th Avenue School, and one in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn School of Inquiry.

Details

The process begins at the G&T website. In mid-October, registration opens for testing (RFT) and it closes mid-November. You need to register your child to be tested, and you want to do it early to get a convenient test centre. Testing takes place largely in January.

Students scoring 90 or more can apply to District G&T Programs.  Students scoring 97 or more can apply to District and Citywide G&T Programs.  However in reality it’s more like above 99 to get into a Citywide program. There is a high demand for places in the G&T program and regardless of the child’s test score, there is no guarantee a student will receive an offer.

In addition to the practice questions in the G&T handbook provided by the DOE, lots of parents prep their children further for these tests. It’s totally up to the individual – you can prep them and they may get in. But if they don’t get in on their own, they may have a tough time once they’re there. So while some test prep – so they know what to expect – is important, lots of the educators don’t recommend doing too much. Which sounds good to me, it’s expensive and time consuming so I’ll take the advice!

And then, of course, last but not least there is Hunter Elementary which is a school for gifted and talented students, administered by Hunter College, of the City University of New York. It has a very low acceptance rate, despite the $400 cost to test for it, and you can’t prepare. They take 25 girls and 25 boys in Kindergarten, with more admissions in high school. It’s only open to people living in Manhattan. Famed New Yorker, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton” is a graduate of Hunter College High School.

And that is it!

Do you have any NYC Kindergarten tips or tricks?

Let us know in the comments section, and enjoy the school year!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts in our “School Series”.