Care-Sharing and Other Novelties

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

My adult life has been full of lucky breaks. I met the right woman when I was 20 years old. I bought a house in 2000, right when the real estate market here went from hot to you've-got-to-be-kidding me. I had two healthy babies.

Up there on the list of lucky breaks is a woman named Hope. Hope has a daughter about the same age as my eldest, and we were caught together in the same uncomfortable position when our girls were infants: We both wanted to work part-time from home. We were both creative types (a writer and an architect), so the working-from-home part wasn't the issue. The trouble was with finding part-time care. Daycare centers, by and large, required a full commitment, even if I only wanted a couple of days of care. And the cost (and scheduling) of nannies wasn't something either of us were eager to take on.

So we began care-sharing -- Hope took the girls two days a week, I took them two days. It was not an arrangement without anxiety or complication, and we spent a lot of time figuring out ground rules -- Who would make the lunches? (The hosting parent.) How sick was too sick? (Only the stomach flu was allowed to scuttle the day's arrangement.) How much shuffling of schedules was permissible? (Next to none, lest the slope get too slippery.)

But it all worked out, and it worked out for years. It's the kind of arrangement that I'd love to wholeheartedly tout as a solution for these complicated times, where part-time care is either impossible to come by or impossible to afford. But there is a lightning-in-a-bottle thing aspect to this: finding another parent with close-enough values and another kid who can play nicely with yours for 30-plus hours a week isn't exactly a sure bet.

Despite my enthusiasm for the concept, I've seen very little written about care-sharing, which is too bad. I know it won't work for everyone, but it seems that the more options we can throw out there as possibilities, the better work-family balance solutions will be available. Has anyone else found other care solutions that go beyond the usual at-home parent/daycare/nanny/grandparent realm?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  August 24, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Childcare
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Great work on this balancing act. Lightening in a bottle for sure... care to let us know any of the challenges, issues anecdotes that came up?

I would think that as the kids got older and had activities that the carpooling situation could get gnarly. With our three getting older has made life more and more complicated especially with our mix of age, boy, girl and toddler girl.

Inconceivable!

This bwessed awwangement sounds like really only viable for families with few, and under 3 aged kiddies.

and wuv, twue wuv...

anybody watch Princess Bride lately!

My name is Inigo Montoya, you kill my father prepare to die!

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 7:52 AM

Great blog topic! I'm actually really excited because I just met another mom who works part-time from home and ALSO has a one-year-old. We're spending more time together and letting the girls get to know one another to see if we can do some care-sharing. I don't think we'll get to as many hours as Brian is talking about, but even trading 5 hours for 5 hours each week would be a huge help! I'll try to let everyone know what happens.

Posted by: VAMom | August 24, 2006 8:11 AM

Since other peoples' children bore me to death, this arrangement won't work out for me.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 8:21 AM

This also sounds like a great way to get the kids socialized. This is more than a playdate, these kids need to learn to live with each other, share, wait their turn, and make friends.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | August 24, 2006 8:56 AM

No one can love a child the way a mother can and mothers should be present for those precious first moments in their children's lives.

Posted by: Elaine | August 24, 2006 9:03 AM

Jeez, we're starting the snarking awfully early today, huh?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 9:05 AM

There are 7 kids my older daughter's age (4) in our tight-knit neighborhood, so she had childcare swaps every afternoon last year. It was great for her, since she could play with her friends, and it was actually easier to watch two kids than one, since they would play with the other. We didn't have a similar swap for our younger daughter but she had her naptime so my husband could still have some time to himself.

The other thing that has really worked for our family is a meal swap. We found two other families on our street that cook in a similar manner. We bring them a three-or-four course meal on a tray on Tuesdays, and then at dinner time two other weekdays we get a delicious home-cooked meal delivered to our door. I can tell you, food has never tasted better. And cooking for 3 families is not that hard-- we usually just double the recipe, so it's adding more ingredients but not adding more cleanup. It's a whole lot easier than cooking 3 meals-- and we end up having some nice family time when we would normally be working to cook dinner.

Posted by: Ms L | August 24, 2006 9:05 AM

Don't feed the trolls!

Posted by: Reminder | August 24, 2006 9:17 AM

Great solution! I hope to work P/T eventually, so I am looking for any ideas.

My current private at-home provider does take in P/T'ers but timing is an issue with her. And her current P/T'ers are my childrens extended family.

FO3 - great movie! LOL, thx.

Posted by: RBD | August 24, 2006 9:19 AM

This is a great idea! Seems like the "newfangled" version of when families lived close together and could "care swap." Excellent blog topic today - people have been requesting ideas that work, and this is certainly one I would consider for the future.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 9:22 AM

I think care sharing has gone on for a long time. I do think a lot of lower income people do care sharing as well. Maybe working different shifts to cover child care needs.

Posted by: Lieu | August 24, 2006 9:24 AM

We've done something similar and used a shared sitter, which worked very well for our family as we went through the various stages of kids growing up and needs changing. Our oldest was a very quiet and undemanding baby --- sucked her thumb quietly instead of crying when she was hungry --- and it didn't seem to me that she would do well or get enough attention at the good local daycares I visited, she would always be overlooked in favor of the much squeakier wheels demanding instant attention. So we used an in-home sitter with her, and were very lucky to hire one who bonded wonderfully with her and our family. Neighborhood moms would often comment to me about seeing my daughter and sitter in the park and how wonderful our sitter was with her.

When she hit about 15 months I started seeing a need for more socialization in her, enjoying and being drawn to other kids. She started 2 mornings per week preschool the following year, but in the meantime I learned of a neighbor with a 3.5 yo who was interested in shared care for him in the afternoons, after his 5 morning per week preschool was out. So he started coming to our house, which was wonderful all around --- it gave my dd a playmate/quasi-older brother, built connections to another family in our neighborhood, and let us supplement our sitter's income. That lasted 1-2 years, I think, before the other family outgrew us/schedules changed. Meanwhile, we had our second child . . . We stayed with just our family for a while, the oldest becoming more part-time as the preschool days ramped up, but the baby needing f/t care (esp with some medical issues that needed responsible record-keeping and attention). The youngest eventually started 2 morning per week preschool too, and we started sharing with another neighbor with a toddler, who had struggled with health issues in daycare. It was a nice mix, still in our house . . . The great advantage was that, when we went on sabbatical (we're professors) with our 2 and 5yo girls the next year, and they had a second child, they kept our sitter and we were able to come back to her after a year away. And that was great, not only the continuity of a loving sitter, but it becomes very hard to keep your sitter as your kids age and need fewer and fewer sitter hours - because they're at preschool which also costs money. Being able to share the expense, to gradually shift roles as the younger family becomes the primary employer and you the parttime supplement is great, because whatever your needs are, your sitter needs a f/t income, which grows through the years.

So we continued sharing, now at the younger family's house 4 doors down, til our youngest went to K. Oldest came home on schoolbus; for the others, we parents divided up the midday preschool pickups and delivered the kids back home. We've always handled all carpooling/classes/activities ourselves (we chose to live in a great school district which is also walkable to work, a real help in balancing kids and work). Carpools for preschool drops and pickups have been really helpful, though they often are only stable for about a year, then different families' schedules change.

Anyway, once the youngest started K, and finally both girls were at the same school, same f/t hours, we graduated from our sitter and began using a good aftercare program that picks up at our school. By then the girls really appreciated the aftercare environment, crafts undisturbed by toddlers, same-age friends . . .

On our sabbatical year, our oldest was in K and we sent her to a great in-school aftercare program, and our youngest was 2 and did f/t daycare --- we felt the adjustment to one new caregiving situation was enough. These options worked well for us too.

It's hard to project how your caregiving needs will change as your children age and show their quirks and individual needs. I didn't consciously realize with my first newborn that hiring a sitter was really only setting the baseline cost for her care, that we would need to add preschool and classes as she aged to round out an enriching and vibrant world for her, all of which add cost without reducing the need to pay her sitter. Sharing really helped us afford to evolve with our kids' needs.

It helped that we had such a great sitter, who raised 4 kids within a 5-year age span and can manage/juggle exceptionally well. She's also known and coveted by our neighborhood mom network! We missed her when care moved to the neighbors' house, both because the girls missed daytime access to their own playroom, and because even juggling 1-3 kids at different times of day, she managed to do much of our laundry and toy cleanup.

So, just one case study of 'novelty' childcare!

Posted by: KB | August 24, 2006 9:39 AM

Anybody get this strategy to work for boys?

- or unable to get the risk damage waiver signed before handoff?

doubt it.

Bueller, Bueller, Bueller..?

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 10:10 AM

I'm involved in a nanny-share arrangement on a two-day a week basis right now, and it seems to be working well for all. It's cheaper for us than having our own nanny, and the nanny gets a higher wage than she could otherwise. The two boys are close in age (2) and get along well. My son is in daycare the other 3 days of the week, so he gets a nice mix of environments.

Posted by: Erin | August 24, 2006 10:13 AM

[it was actually easier to watch two kids than one]

MS L, I second that one.

There is a mother in our neighborhood who regularly asks to "borrow" my favorite daughter when she does those non-child activities like errands or nursing home visits. Many times, she also treats my daughter to things like Mcdonalds, movies, and dinner at her place. However, she never lets her daughter out of her sight, which means that I never get to return the favors, which is OK with me. The problem is that when she is with the gossip ring of women at the park, she tells all her friends that she is always taking care of my kid.

This infuriates my wife. She thinks that she is looked upon by all the mothers in the neighborhood as constantly sluffing her childcare responsibilities off on other parents. then when any trivial defect is exhibited by one of our kids, like not wearing a helmut when riding a bicycle, we get branded as the couple that had more kids than we can take care of. then come the "You need to use birth control" taunts...

Sheesh! I can certainly understand why my wife wants to move out of here!

And I found out yesterday my favorite daughter failed the reading portion ofVirginia's infamous Standards of Learning (SOL) test. don't let Fairfax County Public Schools fool you Northern Virginia folks into thinking that they have the best education system in town, because they don't.

Posted by: Father of 4 | August 24, 2006 10:17 AM

At the risk of provoking a food fight, Fo4, who DOES have the best education system in town? I don't mean this in a nasty way (dangers of writing rather than speaking to someone) but as a long-time lurker I am reminded of your offense at your kids being required by their school to read during the summer. Would embracing that requirement not have helped here?

(Only a mild tangent b/c public school teachers provide care sharing for us all.)

Posted by: Uh-oh | August 24, 2006 10:29 AM

Alert Alert... Danger Will Robinson!

"The problem is that when she is with the gossip ring of women at the park, she tells all her friends that she is always taking care of my kid."

Sounds like time to cut all ties with this neighborhood mother - but dont say anything - kill with kindness. Blackhawk Hellicopter moms like this are "armed and extremely dangerous."
- Oh, I am so sorry, FD cannot come over today she has a MENSA meeting. SO sorry, not today, studying for bible group, sewing circle, book club, brewing society, young kegerator repair club of America etc.

See - very difficult to root out ALL forms of oppression and evil in our midst.

Nice to hear that Child Share worked for boys without forcing insurance deductibles to go up.

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 10:34 AM

'Since other peoples' children bore me to death, this arrangement won't work out for me.'

good one!

Posted by: experienced mom | August 24, 2006 10:36 AM

Fo3, all of the swaps we did last year for our daughter were with little boys. My husband learned quickly to tell when he had to include huge amounts of physical activity in order to have them stay managable. But it was fun for him, since he had only brothers and really "gets" boys... and we have only girls.

Posted by: Ms L | August 24, 2006 10:39 AM

WDC. Your brother wasn't the favorite son, just the smartest.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 10:46 AM

Father of 4: are we to assume that you have three boys, and only one girl, thus making her your "favorite daughter" by default? Or do you really prefer one daughter over the other(s)?
No judgement, just curious. I was always convinced that my parents considered my brother to be their favorite son. Seems inevitable, really.

Posted by: WDC | August 24, 2006 10:47 AM

We have shared a nanny with our kids' cousins for 2 years and have found it to be wonderful. The kids get more socialization, the cost is lower, and there are four parents to manage sick days, ensure the babysitter gets out on time and to cover her vacation and other needed time off. It is just like extended family, but since we all work full time, a care-share arrangement like this just wouldn't work. But we like how we do it very much!

Posted by: NYMom | August 24, 2006 10:49 AM

Isn't Fo4 also the one who complained that his kids were "overburdened" with homework?

AS far as the birth control advice - what a switch!

My mother was pregnant every year for the first 10 years of her marriage. In 1961, when my mother hadn't popped out a baby for 2 years, the parish priest came over (uninvited) to our house to lecture my parents about the evils of birth control. My father tossed this joker out of out house by the seat of his pants! Hooray, Dad!!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 10:52 AM

(Totally off topic)

Did you know that the actor who played Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) is in a commercial for Crestor?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 10:53 AM

Inconceivable!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 11:07 AM

Crestor makes the best toothpaste. Seems to have had the added benefit of unclogging my arteries!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 11:08 AM

am thinking about caresharing with my sister in law, whose son is 2.5 months younger than my 4.5 month old son. i'd LOVE to have the cousins spend lots of time together. but not sure how it will work - she wants to go back to work almost full-time (well that is all her job will let her do), but i only want to work part-time. argh. i doubt i can spend five days a week, several hours a day taking care of both... i like the suggestion of two days a week turns each. we'll see...

Posted by: careshare? | August 24, 2006 11:10 AM

Hilarious comments today.

I am a WAHM, and have hired 4 sitters to watch my son at varying times while I work. Most are retired neighborhood grandmas with grandchildren of their own (but young grandmas who still have the energy to keep up with my 13-month-old).

I think tapping the "retired" market is really a great thing. These women have raised their own kids and have lots of wisdom. They've been great.

Posted by: Rebecca | August 24, 2006 11:13 AM

I believe Fo4 wasn't complaining about the volume of homework, but the timing (summer vacation, when last I checked, schools don't have any authority over the children) of the homework.

Re: care sharing - 5 years ago, I formed a babysitting co-op with some friends. It's small (has varied from 8 to 11 parents), but allows more flexibility than a care-share arrangement with just two people. Of course, it also requires more "scheduling" and is more for the non-regular things and not regularly-scheduled work times - but some of the moms have used it so they can work part time.

Posted by: momof4 | August 24, 2006 11:15 AM

Bringing the Crestor post back on-topic:

Did you know that the author of this book

Mom's Life http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0380763613/sr=8-1/qid=1156432539/ref=sr_1_1/104-4425524-0301540?ie=UTF8

is Mandy Patinkin's wife?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 11:19 AM

Since I just found out that 4 years olds can't wipe themselves properly, no,I won't be watching anyone else's little darlings.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 11:21 AM

If you can get it worked out, and have jobs that are flexible enough that sounds like a great idea.

I like that you had some things off limits - like trading hours. I also liked that your 'sick' policy was loose.

I had a PT job but the location wasn't always the same so the commute varied and fixed hours wouldn't have worked. We paid for full-time care and just used the slot PT.

Posted by: RoseG | August 24, 2006 11:39 AM

I used to care share with Mandy Patankin. I became worried when he began opening pistachios with nothing but the heel of his shoe. I wanted to put an end to the care share arrangement but was apprehensive because then my exceedingly boring children would be underfoot all day. I bet if my husband were faced with such a decision everyone would applaud the fact that he was considering it because, hey, men are heroes when they consider the needs of their children.

I became so consumed with this issue that I turned to popping Crestor and reading books by Patankin's wife. Nothing helped. I would have gone to see a Psychiatrist, but I felt guilty that other people in my HMO had not been using their medical benefits, and I would not have wanted to wrong them by "opting in" to using a benefit that they didn't take advantage of.

Then it hit me..."opting in." I could just go back to work! Linda Herschman would be so proud of me! I could use my Ph.D. for the forces of good! I could go work on Wall Street for $275k per year! Except that co-workers would resent me when I have to leave early to take my kid to the doctor.

I guess there is no resolution. This Mandy Patankin is evit.

Posted by: Uh-oh | August 24, 2006 11:39 AM

evil!

Posted by: Uh-oh | August 24, 2006 11:40 AM

Thanks, Brian. You're spot-on in your assessment. We live in a cohousing neighborhood. I swear the motto should be "it's not a commune!"

www.cohousing.org

Posted by: Ms L | August 24, 2006 11:49 AM

To Fo3: At the time, both girls were only children -- I don't know how well throwing in an elder sibling would have worked. And we always too to heart the warning to avoid the classic blunder: we never got involved in a land war in Asia.

To VAMom: A 5 hours for 5 hours swap is probably a great way to start.

To Elaine: I don't love my kids at all like a mother. I love 'em like a father. And that's pretty cool.

To Ms L: Sounds like you live in a neighborhood like mine -- it's like a commune without the hemp clothing.

To Lieu: Unlike a lot of the ideas thrown around ($1,000/month daycare, $15/hour nannies), caresharing is something that is doesn't require money to play. That's probably it's greatest virtue.

To KB: Thanks for reminding that it doesn't have to be simple if it works for you. You must have a family calendar the size of a throw rug to keep track of all of that.

To careshare?: Keeping the arrangement manageable for everyone is key. I lived in a constant state of (unrealized) fear that my fellow care-sharer would change her work arrangements or otherwise choose to bail. She didn't, and it was only because we had been so straightforward about our expectations at the outset that I didn't lose any sleep over this.

To Uh-oh: Thank you for summing all On Balance discussions so tidily. I don't think there's a need for any more commenting. Probably ever.

Posted by: Brian Reid | August 24, 2006 11:51 AM

Best to have a set of beginner foils and masks to allow these Indigo's to practice everyday:

http://www.zivkovic.com/item.jsp?web_id=611

No home is complete w/o safe weapons for the aspiring swordplayers. Kits comes with protective masks. En garde!

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 11:53 AM

Oops, it's doing the time-stamp thing again. Grr.

Posted by: Ms L | August 24, 2006 11:56 AM

My husband, a SAHD, has swapped sitting with several moms in the neighborhood for years. DH uses this approach to cover his doctor appointments, big trips to the Home Depot, volunteer commitments, etc. At least one of the moms has her own business and uses her hours to work in her store; another uses her time to make it to yoga classes.

The huge benefit is that no money changes hands -- which is great for all us broke parents. And yes, we swap with both boys and girls, and yes kids are easier to deal with when they have friends to play with.

In Chicago the Northside Parents Network has a formal babysitting swap program that lets people "bank" sitting hours for later use. It shows that caresharing can be done on a broader basis.

Posted by: jen | August 24, 2006 11:59 AM

I took fencing lessons in high school - worst I ever got beat was by a kid about 6. Fencing's a really good sport for anyone, especially kids, if you can afford the equipment. Apparently it has one of the lowest injury rates of all the sports out there.

Posted by: SEP | August 24, 2006 12:01 PM

Poker has pretty low injury rates. Unless you get caught cheating the neightborhood bully out of his jellybeans.

Posted by: To SEP | August 24, 2006 12:25 PM

Yay, great topic!

Thanks for pointing it out- you're so lucky!! Having neighbors you KNOW about, CARE about, TRUST, can work through issues like MATURE ADULTS, and kids who are fine with going out of the house and playing together...that's like winning a sweepstakes!

And it's a great idea that I think many people should try to embrace. Heck, even trying it with the one you chose to pro-create with would be an amazing start for the majority of the world.

Posted by: Liz | August 24, 2006 12:31 PM

Shuffler's Thumb

ouch.

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 12:32 PM

This is a good idea, it sounds a little bit like the blue collar shuffle that many working class families and neighborhoods do. Whoever is available usually is the person who gets the kids.

father of 4,

there is room for you out here in MO with me! I'll even have a picnic and let you get me a beer, oops, I can't drink it, okay a pop.

Posted by: scarry | August 24, 2006 12:34 PM

Off-topic alert!
The following post is rated for the folowing items:
[x]Expression of Opinion
[x]collaberation with other posters on the thread
[x]Ranting
[x]Personal Family Experience
[x]Bafoonery

If you find any one of these catagories offensive in nature, please skip to the next post without reading. You've been warned!

Scarry,
Hmmm... Irish and can't drink beer?
I would love to get you a pop. What flavor? Glass, plastic, or can?
Umm, uh, caffiene-free perhaps?
Are you going to be a Kansas City fan?
Um, uh, I'm trying to think... Let me see...
Are you pregnant?
Just kidding...

[who DOES have the best education system in town?}
My answer: the homeschooling community

My problem with the schools in Fairfax County is that I feel the system is pushing far too hard a lopsided academic curriculem. The kids are stressed. They are getting fatter and fatter. The standards keep creeping up to the point that they are literally separating the winners and loosers based on academic achievement. Something tells me that somehow that tests scores are getting linked to school funding and it has the teachers cracking the whip on the backs of the children in order to receive higher salaries. I have also seen little 2nd grade Jonney drug to the point where he can't get up aout of his desk as to help him sit and stare at the chalkboard all day. It gives me the creeps, especially when it's the boys that are the target of medication and women are predominately the educators. I have no solution, but I just don't think that every student needs to have an education of a rocket scientist to make valuable contributions to society.

As far as my favorite daughter goes, the reason she gets the "favorite" label is because, when based on a moral standard, out of my 4 kids, she is the one I'm required to rescue first. An occasional, and very fun dinner time conversation will be when each person makes a top-down list of who their favorite family member is. We pretty much all agree on it, and each one fits in somewhere. By the way, I'm my oldest daughter's favorite.

Care Sharing:
be careful of who you let take care of your kids. They may pump your child for personal family information you might not be willing to divulge. Kids are notoriously honest and usually will answer the following questions:
Does your mommy fart?
does your dad walk around in his underware? Naked?
and my personal favorite...
Has your Mom and Dad ever had a fight?

Posted by: Father of 4 | August 24, 2006 12:52 PM

Not only are the kids getting fatter and fatter, so are a lot of the moms. What gives? Aren't there mirrors in some of these communites? Why is obesity tolerated?
I stopped going to Walmart because of the deluge of fat people. Affluent fat parents with their fat kids buying crap - yuck!

A woman in my office has to book 2 adjoining airline seats when she travels for work because she is so fat.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 1:05 PM

I don't have kids so I don't care share, but when I was in college I did someones care sharing for them.
I used to nanny for a family that had the most adorable 2-year-old daughter and I loved, loved, LOVED her. A lot of the times if I was going to take her to the zoo, or the pool, or just anywhere fun I would bring her best friend along. (who was also very good and I also loved, loved, LOVED!) The family would then just split the cost for the day so it was cheaper for them, but the same for me. I had a great time and thought it was easier with the two of them cause they would entertain each other.
Now my little care share babies are 4 and I've moved and have an office job so I don't see them as often, but when I'm back in the area I will still take both of them to the park or something and give their parents a break.

Posted by: Melissa | August 24, 2006 1:07 PM

Is anyone else amused by the fact that Virginia's test acronym is SOL? I mean, isn't it how the program leaves a lot of kids?

I think it's so great when parents can make care sharing arrangments, and I totally concur with those who say two is easier than one - defintiely true with my son and his "best friend" - we spent many, many days with my best friend and her son who was the same age as my son, and it was great.

Posted by: Megan | August 24, 2006 1:17 PM

"Affluent" people don't shop at Wal-Mart.

Posted by: To no name: | August 24, 2006 1:21 PM

"Affluent" people don't shop at Wal-Mart."

Not sure about that, but there seem to be a lot of fat people who have money.

Posted by: June | August 24, 2006 1:21 PM

Processed foods with half lives for shelf life.

If the hydrogenated oils have very long shelf life cuz they dont break down naturally over time, how hard do you think it is for your body to digest them?

Turn off the TV.

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 1:23 PM

Effluent for the Affluent?

Falling Prices!

Wal*Mart kills main street and abuses suppliers and employees.

Boycott.

Posted by: ???? | August 24, 2006 1:26 PM

The definition of affluent - having an abundant supply of money or possessions of value; "an affluent banker"; "a speculator flush with cash"; "not merely rich but loaded"; "moneyed aristocrats"

i.e., not the average American with extra money from last week's paycheck looking for the lowest of low prices in a "big-box" warehouse store.

Posted by: To no name: | August 24, 2006 1:33 PM

"Thanks for pointing it out- you're so lucky!! Having neighbors you KNOW about, CARE about, TRUST, can work through issues like MATURE ADULTS, and kids who are fine with going out of the house and playing together...that's like winning a sweepstakes!"

Thanks, Liz! I do feel really lucky. Cohousing is not for everyone but it really works for our family. Our kids are happier and healthier than they were before we moved in, and being a parent is SO much easier. Humans have been living in small villages for millenia, and I think it's hard to live with the isolation that's common these days.

Posted by: Ms L | August 24, 2006 1:37 PM

Sorry to hear about your daughter's SOLs, Fo4. I definitely agree with Megan on the irony of the SOLs.

So are you interested in homeschooling instead?

Posted by: Ms L | August 24, 2006 1:45 PM

I'm well-off and I shop at a big box store (Target, though - WalMart is chock full of people who hit their kids in public). This: "The standards keep creeping up to the point that they are literally separating the winners and loosers based on academic achievement" is absolutely hilarious. If education doesn't separate between winners and losers, let's just give everyone a high school diploma at birth. Ha!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 1:52 PM

Any problems, yellow flags etc to be leery of in a child share arrangement?

We will be helping out with a niece this year as Sis-in-law a SWOHM is moving to town.

Any advice on ground rules?

Everybody's friends now and Id like to keep it that way.

Posted by: Fingers Crossed | August 24, 2006 1:53 PM

For ground rules, I think talking through issues about discipline, food/treats (lollipop after every meal?), and TV watching (none, or constantly? PBS or MTV?) is essential. Some of these things you may already know about each other, but others you'll want to talk through.

Posted by: Ms L | August 24, 2006 2:01 PM

I don't know about affluent people being fat. They usually tend to be thinner than the small town hicks.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 2:02 PM

Regarding "Care-Sharing" -- I had multiple arrangements for years that are now considered "care-sharing." I belonged to a babysitting co-op, which was filled with 30 families within a very specific location boundary. We used a token system -- 30 minutes per token during the day (regardless of the number of children, boys or girls) and 20 minutes per token at night. Everyone started out with a balance of 40 tokens. I used the co-op during the day for work or errands or at night for going out with my husband. I even used them when I needed to spend some one-on-one time with one of our four daughters. I loved that co-op because with 30 families, I could almost always find someone to sit my children. We had SAHM, WAHM, and part-time workers (like me). We all liked each other. Each person had to be "sponsored" to get into the co-op, so while we didnot have background checks, you needed to be a friend. Best of all, if you didn't like the way a person babysat for you (too much TV for the kids, for example) or you kids didn't like their kids, you just didn't call them again. The co-op I belonged to is more than 40 years old. It is still going strong, and there is a waiting list to get in.

I also used "multiple" childcare swaps at various times -- for example, when my youngest was 2, we belonged to the Tuesday morning club with 4 other families. We rotated care (once every 5 weeks) for 3 hours for 5 two year olds. When it was my turn, it was a tough morning, but I loved having every other Tuesday morning off. It was a great time to schedule meeting with clients (I was a freelance writer and editor). That same year I had a Wednesday and Friday afternoon group for my 4 year old.

It may not be for everyone, but childcare swaps really helped me in so many ways -- I met friends, my children met friends, and I could work or just go out without the expense of daycare. I could count on good care for free! This is not to say I never got the short end of the stick or stuck cleaning up vomit from a sick kid (not my own), but overall it really worked for my family.

I am now back at work full time (my oldest is 18, my youngest is 10). Prior to my youngest entering kindergarten, I worked part time at home for 13 years, and almost all the childcare I had was through care-sharing. Once she was in school, I didn't need to co-op anymore.

Posted by: Kids Older; Back at Work Now | August 24, 2006 2:04 PM

Fo4,

I had pancreatictis and can't drink anymore, poor me, at least I am alive. I'd love to be pregnant, but my husband has us on a schedule, so I have a few more months to go.
Darn engineers! What is that SOL test for anyway? My goodness, I feel for your daughter and all the kids, and you are right everyone doesn't need to be a rocket scientist. We need a good mix of everything and kids should be encouraged in the courses they like to do or subjects they are interested in.

On topic.

My new neighborhood is full of kids, so I am hoping that maybe I can loosen up and get into an I'll baby-sit yours if you baby-sit mine type of situation. That's how it was where I grew up.

Posted by: scarry | August 24, 2006 2:04 PM

If kids are getting "fatter & fatter," it is because their parents let them.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 2:10 PM

Isn't anybody else worried about the kooks? Maybe the key is finding a care-sharing parent who you trust. That's a big hurdle for me, being relatively new to my neighborhood.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 2:11 PM

"We need a good mix of everything and kids should be encouraged in the courses they like to do or subjects they are interested in."

Not sure if this will prepare kids for adult life. Don't kids pretty much already get good grades in the subjects they like?

Fo4's child failed the READING portion of the exam.

Posted by: Elaine | August 24, 2006 2:15 PM

Not to be unsympathetic, but how many of your daughter's classmates (her school or countywide) also failed their SOL? If it was a lot blame the school (or the test) If not maybe your daughter needs to look at her study habits.

Posted by: to Fo4 | August 24, 2006 2:20 PM

I just meant that kids shouldn't be made to feel bad becasue they aren't good at everything. Like me, I sucked at math, but was great at English, no one picked up on that or pointed it out until I was in college. That's all, they need to know how to balance a check book or read street signs, but do all kids really need algerbra? I didn't.

Posted by: scarry | August 24, 2006 2:28 PM

I assume if its the reading section, it is Comprehension via multiple choice torture. Doesnt mean that DD doesnt Looooove reading.

Standardized tests rate a student's ability to take standardized tests.

Go with B.

Doesnt teach free thinking or critical thinking.

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 2:31 PM

I'm blessed -- I have one six-year old daughter who is very social and always has a "best friend" -- and fortunately, she chooses best friends with cool mommies. From the time she could talk, I've bonded with her friends from preschool's moms, and we've helped each other out. I am self-employed -- have an office but also work from home sometimes. Today, my daughter is playing with her friend while I work at the kitchen table; the other mom is also working at her house and will probably stop by in a few hours to take them both to the pool.
I chose a neighborhood that's loaded w/ other professional moms, and if I hadn't, I'd be in a fix. All the time.
When my daughter was an infant, a neighbor and I shared a nanny. That also was a great experience.
I am not a social butterfly, but when I meet another cool mommy, I'm a happy gal.

Posted by: Charm City | August 24, 2006 2:32 PM

"I was great at English"

Wasn't this reflected in the grades you received on your assignments and your report cards in grammar school and high school?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 2:33 PM

I put my children in private school because of the stupid "no child left behind". I pay a lot of money and make sacrifices elsewhere, but it is worth it. Public schools have too much gratuitous homework and tests. I think the kid's needs get lost in all of this. Creativity is lost and all kids are made to learn the same way (rote memorization, sitting at desks being lectured at) when it is clear that children learn in different ways.

And even though I don't entirely agree with everything Fo4 has said, he is right that schools tend to neglect our boy's needs in early elementary school. An anecdote--I have a boy and a girl. My son is extraordinarily gifted--very very bright. But he couldn't even hold a pencil until he was in the 3rd grade. He was an early reader but I was told over and over again by his teachers that they thought he either had a learning disability or ADHD. This despite discussing these issues with his pediatrician AND having him evaluated up the wazoo (he was found to be way above grade level in all subjects and have a high IQ). Anyway no LD, no ADHD and he's an A student at an academically rigorous school. On the other hand, my daughter has thrived in early elementary school. She has the "perfect" handwriting, does as she is told, is good all around. But she is not anywhere near as intelligent as my son, but of course no issues and she is "perfect" (notice the quotes, no, she is not perfect). She is just easy to teach. Teachers need development education. It seems that medicating kids who may be a little different is the knee-jerk response of schools.

The moral of the story is, some boys don't get up to speed until later. Maybe the schools push kids way too early (homework for 6 year olds? Give me a break!) And go with your gut, you know your kid. Be polite, but ask lots of questions and get back up from people who actually know something about child development.

Posted by: Mother of 2 | August 24, 2006 2:35 PM

Father of 4's comments on children pumping for information, and the anonymous poster (re "kooks") remind me of a visit I made to a friend's house when I was little. This girl's father believed in and did indeed walk around naked. I was shocked when I saw this. After staring at him, I commenced to whispering a series of questions to his daughter: "Why is he doing that? Does he always do that?" She played it off as if a father walking around the house buck naked in front of a neighborhood kid was the most normal thing in the world. I left very soon after that and I don't remember visiting again.

So, hey, I think the "does your father walk around naked" question is fair game --LOL!

I would think that with care-sharing, there has to be a LOT of trust and a sizeable capacity to overlook some things that you may not approve to totally but aren't really harmful or traumatic to your kids.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | August 24, 2006 2:38 PM

On Balance Topic Suggestion

Strategies for Balancing the demands on Parents/Working Parents of their child's schooling:

managing biased teachers
managing sexist teachers
managing racist teachers
managing bullies/meanies
managing tracking
holding back boys for pre-K
(helps for sports in HS dontchaknow)
What you need from your district?
tutoring suggestions
homework strategies
private vs public vs home

- School Opens Soon: Drive Carefully!

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 2:41 PM

Continuing on off-topic thread of testing...

I'm 26 and came of age in MD's testing regime. I was pretty much the perfect student (AP classes, all As, extra curriculars, scholarship, etc etc) and I know how to test well. But I also knew that a large chunk of the reason I tested well was because I know how to decipher TESTS.

I understanding having some basic skills testing for everyone, but the number and time it takes for so many of the OTHER tests is completely ridiculous and really tests NOTHING but how well you can take the test.

They take students for WEEKS just to prepare for tests that won't mean anything except for those road blocks who want easy numbers instead of real results. After freshman year of college, NO ONE cares what your scores were. It's insane how many people make them mean something before that.

I feel so sorry for the kids who don't test well- who are brilliant, have great life skills, but aren't mentally attuned to the testing system.

And I felt sorry for myself for caring so much about test scores at one point.

Posted by: Liz | August 24, 2006 2:41 PM

"but do all kids really need algerbra? I didn't."

Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. If homework pushes towards the "have it" side, then I say, "more homework."

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 2:43 PM

Mother of 2, you're singing my song. I have a son with ADHD as well as social/emotional delays. He's very bright. The social/emotional issues bring out behavioral problems that keep me from putting him in private school. So I strive daily to make sure his strengths are not ignored or disregarded because he can't sit "criss-cross-applesauce" the whole school day. He's improving, which is good. I know that he needs a small class size, which is next to non-existent where I live. People are so afraid of the public school system here that they cram their kids into private schools that have 35 to a class or some such nonsense. Frankly, I'm not really impressed by the private schools in my county, either. They are not the greatest; they don't have to be because parents will run and put their kids there to avoid the public schools.

I

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | August 24, 2006 2:43 PM

Liz,
I completely agree with you. Testing kids every year is ridiculous. In private schools, testing is done in 3rd, 5th and 8th grades and the results are used to either remediate poorer performing students and to adjust curriculum. Of course one would hope that teachers would be able to pick up on the poorer performers without having to do all of this testing.
Basing funding (or teacher's incentives or anything else) on a school's test scores leads to gaming the system---to cheating and teaching to the test.

Posted by: Mother of 2 | August 24, 2006 2:49 PM

Don't worry now congress is looking at how to enforce "standards" on college education - so that we can remove free thinking and critical thinking from that venue as well!

Posted by: academic | August 24, 2006 2:51 PM

Class Struggle has very insightful/inciteful articles about education in the Washington Post Online...

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 2:52 PM

Every "smart" kid now has: LD, ADD, ADHD, or, my personal favorite - ODD. How on EARTH did we survive all these years before bratty kids could hide behind classifications? F04 - if there are too many women in teaching, please feel free to balance it out by offering your own skills.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 2:54 PM

Maybe Jay Matthews could be a guest columnist on balancing/managing the demands of educating children?

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 2:56 PM

No, it wasn't reflected in my grades because no one took the time to think that I was good at anything. They just figured that I would work in a factory like all the other poor to lower middle class kids or get married and have babies. I did work in the factory for a while until I met my husband who encouraged me to go back to school, where I won an award for English, graduated and got a good job. Now I am working on my master's degree. Before that the teachers told my mother that I really couldn't o to college because I wasn't smart enough. Gee, now I make more than they do-yeah Scarry.

My point is that some kids just aren't good at some things, and just because they can't do everything doesn't mean that they are "throw" away kids. Maybe they are creative and need to be taught differently or they are smarter and need more stimulation.

This has nothing to do with father of 4 daughter, it's just kids and schools in general.

Posted by: scarry | August 24, 2006 2:56 PM

"private schools that have 35 to a class"

Boy, am I'm glad I live in a fly-over city where there are usually 28 students per class in the private schools!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 2:57 PM

"but do all kids really need algerbra? I didn't."

Well...they should at least be able to spell it. ALGEBRA..not algerbra

Posted by: MeAgain | August 24, 2006 2:58 PM

What a refreshing change of attitude today! Need the laughs along with the input/opinions/feedback, I mean - come on.

How would you go about looking for caresharing when you don't like/trust the neighbors? Craigslist has some but any other thoughts/ideas? thx.

Posted by: RBD | August 24, 2006 3:00 PM

Well...they should at least be able to spell it. ALGEBRA..not algerbra

So, sorry I misspelled it. Maybe you should go be a teacher and belittle children too!

Posted by: scarry | August 24, 2006 3:04 PM

"How on EARTH did we survive all these years before bratty kids could hide behind classifications"

Not all kids with these diagnoses are "bratty". My son was considered "spacey" and therefore "must have ADHD". He was BORED and his teachers sucked. Once we put him someplace more challenging with teachers who were interested in teaching (not teaching to a test), he has done very well.

"Mother of 2, you're singing my song. I have a son with ADHD as well as social/emotional delays. He's very bright. The social/emotional issues bring out behavioral problems that keep me from putting him in private school"

I feel your pain. I often wonder if what is normal for many boy's behavior is considered as "abnormal" or somehow deviant. Even though this is not true of all boys, many boys need to move in order to learn. Some need more physical things to do in order to learn (work with objects, get up and walk around, etc). I certainly believe that LD and ADHD are overdiagnosed (and underdiagnosed). I can understand that it is a challenge to teach kids of differing learning styles, but the answer may not be drugs and therapy. This merry-go-round of tests, evaluations and therapists give kids the impression that the problem is with THEM when I believe often it is the schools and school systems.

Posted by: mother of 2 | August 24, 2006 3:06 PM

Every "smart" kid now has: LD, ADD, ADHD, or, my personal favorite - ODD. How on EARTH did we survive all these years before bratty kids could hide behind classifications? F04 - if there are too many women in teaching, please feel free to balance it out by offering your own skills.

-------------------------------------
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In days gone by - many "smart" kids never made it up the educational ladder because nobody devoted the needed resources to them. I think our current system of attempting to value more students is a good one.

I realize that in some case you do have affluent parents shopping for testing advantages - but I have to believe that is rare, and is outweighed by the good that comes from helping many students with genuine issues. Granted I only see the kids who made it through it to college, but the learning difference students I have worked with are an impressive group, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn about learning from them. (I was in the group that seemed to score higher on tests than I really should have.)

My nagging concern is that students with such obstacles are lost if their parents don't REALLY value education. But that is a topic for a different blog.

Posted by: academic | August 24, 2006 3:10 PM

"but do all kids really need algerbra? I didn't."

Ack! Please let people (especially Richard Cohen who wrote an article about this in this paper) STOP the anti-math insanity! I use algebra all the time in my daily at-home life. If you have it, you use it. Math is an incredibly powerful tool to have and having an ill equipped tool box will cost you time and money later in life.

Also, I want to stress that a person without math skills (algebra and above) is barred from a huge number of careers. The US is slipping behind the rest of the world in science and technology, so yes, many of these kids could be using that algebra (and calculus). If they don't have math, they're going to write off being an engineer before they even realize how cool a job it is.

Don't limit your children by telling them math is hard! Anything really worth doing is hard. Anything worth understanding is a struggle.

Posted by: Running | August 24, 2006 3:10 PM

Ok, if "many boys need to move in order to learn. Some need more physical things to do in order to learn (work with objects, get up and walk around, etc)," how were they able to succeed when rooms were ordered in rows, lessons were plainly outlined, 'rote memorization tests' were the norm? Basically, school before (about) 1970?

A question of logic: how can something be both over and under-diagnosed?

Posted by: NCLB | August 24, 2006 3:14 PM

Two other comments--

1) I would not pay tuition to a private school that had more than 20 kids to a class. I can get the zoo for free at public school.

2) Yes, you need algebra. The problem with schools is that they put kids into the "honors/gifted" category and then everyone else. Schools have low expectations of the "everyone else" and that is why they (the schools) suck. Kids can do more than what is expected and we should have high expectations of all children. While you may not be able to see the practical value of algebra (there are, like figuring out a mortgage among other things), learning it gives the mind practice in thinking and problem solving skills.

Sorry, but if I were in charge, all children would take math through calculus, science every year until graduation and at least one language. PE every year too for those who don't care for obese kids. And you would need to know how to write a 2 page essay in order to graduate. And we would have public preschool too! Ok, I'm done :-)

Posted by: mother of 2 | August 24, 2006 3:16 PM

More math: I'm sure there's plenty of talk in the kiddie world about Pluto being dropped from the list of planets. Do you know how astronomers find new planets, moons, and asteriods? They watch how other known objects move and mathematically determine if another heavenly body's gravity is acting upon it. It's beautiful (albeit complicated) mathematics that could be a great teachable moment. Carl Sagan has some great videos about space, though they are a bit old now.

Alright, I will now step down from my soap box.

Posted by: Running | August 24, 2006 3:17 PM

...if "many boys need to move in order to learn. Some need more physical things to do in order to learn (work with objects, get up and walk around, etc)," why don't boys in India and Japan (and for that matter the male offspring of many Asian immigrants here) have that need or problem?

Posted by: And in fact | August 24, 2006 3:17 PM

Mother of 2 - good suggstions! Math & gym should definetely be required through HS graduation!

Posted by: JAT | August 24, 2006 3:19 PM

running,

I didn't say kids didn't need math. I said all kids don't need ALGEBRA; do I get an A this time, me again?

I'm a writer and I am just not good at math. I married and engineer who is, so I basically just meant that if some kids aren't good at one subject it doesn't mean that they can't be good at something else. I just used ALGERBRA as an example.

Posted by: scarry | August 24, 2006 3:19 PM

Once we put him someplace more challenging with teachers who were interested in teaching (not teaching to a test), he has done very well.

----------------------------------
----------------------------------

I think some conversations quickly become to harsh on the teachers. Politicians talk about "teacher accountable" and this translates directly to test scores. If the measure of a teacher is going to be how the children in the class do on a standardized exam than you are giving the teacher a pretty clear mandate on how they should be spending the class time. It takes someone with seniority / a maverick to break the rules.

I am very fortunate to teach at a level where it is about the subject matter and where the students are accountable for doing their part. If I have a group that is struggling I can cut a few extra topics or if I have a group that is excelling I can add an extra challenge. The lack of trust in our high school system takes some of the freedom to be a good and responsive teacher away from the teacher.

Posted by: academic | August 24, 2006 3:19 PM

Anyone who says that Math is not important needs to take the GMAT. The only time that I used Algebra and Geometry entensively in my adult life was when I was studying for the GMAT. Thank god that I took it seriously during grade school. I would've hated to have to learn it as an adult. So, if you want to get into a top graduate school, then you need to learn math sooner or later.

Posted by: MeAgain | August 24, 2006 3:20 PM

To NCLB
Back when boys were "ordered in rows,", they had recess, PE, played outside afterschool and got plenty of exercise. The only exercise they get these days is with their thumbs--playing video games and watching TV.

"A question of logic: how can something be both over and under-diagnosed?"

Very logical. In the more affluent areas, kids tend to be overdiagnosed (peer pressure, school pressure to succeed, access to evaluation and treatment, parent pressure, etc.). In less affluent/educated areas, kids are underdiagnosed. They have less access to therapy and parents that don't push for it (less time, education, differing expectations, etc.).

Posted by: mother of 2 | August 24, 2006 3:21 PM

Anyone who says that Math is not important needs to take the GMAT. The only time that I used Algebra and Geometry entensively in my adult life was when I was studying for the GMAT. Thank god that I took it seriously during grade school. I would've hated to have to learn it as an adult. So, if you want to get into a top graduate school, then you need to learn math sooner or later.

Posted by: MeAgain | August 24, 2006 3:23 PM

"The only exercise they get these days is with their thumbs--playing video games and watching TV"

I don't think we can blame this on the schools. This is parenting (including monitoring your daycare) issue.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | August 24, 2006 3:23 PM

I think it is pretty obvious as a statistician, I think math is a good subject to learn. Now if I could have just learned to spell, I would do better on this blog.

Posted by: Lieu | August 24, 2006 3:23 PM

mother of 2,

What would you do if you had a kid who just couldn't do advanced math? Or better yet, teachers who couldn't teach kids who couldn't do advanced math? I'm just wondering?

Posted by: scarry | August 24, 2006 3:29 PM

My comments about my son's issue were just that--about his issue. He consistently tested in the 99% on standardized tests which surprised the school counselor and his teachers. It was his teachers who lacked understanding of ADHD and child development. One of his teachers pushed so hard for the diagnosis, that I actually put him on medication until an astute psychologist advised me that it was that he had an unskilled teacher (based on class observation). I didn't feel the need to go through all the details on this blog.

But I do agree with you that the no child left behind thing is too school and teacher focused. The issue of academic achievement in this country is complicated. Schools can only work with what they get and if many schools get kids whose parents do not/cannot provide the groundwork while they are preschoolers, kids who are hungry and tired all the time, then the school cannot work miracles. There was a recent study that showed that preschoolers from poorer areas are exposed to many thousands fewer words than wealthier counterparts. This in of itself puts these kids at risk at the start of kindergarten. In many of our neighborhoods, most of the kids are reading by then. This is because they are read to, exposed to more vocabulary, preschool and any other enriching thing money can by.

If this country were serious about improving this country's academic achievement, it would take all the money used for gratuitious testing and invest it in head start, public preschools and parental support programs so that all kids are ready for kindergarten. Then we can hold teachers accountable.

Posted by: To academic | August 24, 2006 3:32 PM

A few comments -

(1) Taking algebra early is a key indicator for future financial success (how well you do is not as important.) This goes to Class Struggle's repeated calls for challenge being important.

(2) In the US (at least in the middle and upper class) we have an education system that is much more forgiving than elsewhere. For example, you do not have to be on the math / science fast track in grade school to end up a math prof. You can have an education system that is much more efficient (see India) but I can not imagine that would appeal to most U.S. parents.

(3) One positive of our system vs. those abroad is that we seem to succeed in encouraging optimism and inquiry. Many foreign grad students are a bit shocked about the cockiness of U.S. undergrads and the manner in which they challenge profs - but I think this is great.

(4) Keep the calls for more math coming!

Posted by: academic | August 24, 2006 3:32 PM

I think raising expectations early in a kid's schooling is important so that by the time advanced math comes, the kids are prepared. Do you think kids in Japan and other very highly achieving countries are really "smarter" than our kids? Probably not. But we are always at the bottom of the achieving list when it comes to math and science.

Posted by: To scarry | August 24, 2006 3:33 PM

"The only exercise they get these days is with their thumbs--playing video games and watching TV."

Whose fault is that? What do these kids do when they're out of school every day? Recess in my elem. school in the 70's was 20 minutes a day (plus 5 minute corridor travel time each way). They aren't understimulated because this 20 minutes is missing. Don't let them play indoors after school!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 3:34 PM


There are a LOT of posters on this blog who have taken a Bar exam. The preparation for this exam is incredibly intense & boring. In fact, most of the courses in law school are a complete waste of time. I went to the "wacky" law school. A lot of the courses had requirements of one project (not necessarily a paper) at the end of the semester and attendance was optional. One girl turned in "magic brownies" for her project and received an A for her efforts.

Anyway, we were in no way prepared for the bar exam and had to work like heck to prepare for the exam. A lot of REALLY smart people fail the exam on their first try.

THE SYSTEM IS SET UP FOR FAILURE! IT'S NOT THE ONLY ONE .

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 3:39 PM

"Don't let them play indoors after school!"

I went back to my old neighborhood in Florida recently. When I was a kid, we were outside all the time, year round. I stood outside with a neighbor when I imagine it was after school. I didn't see one kid in a neighborhood supposedly full of kids.

I also remember having PE everyday which has been stricken from schools. It seems that those kids who like sports do it after school and everyone else sits at home. Since kids are in school much of the day, it would be a good thing to put PE and recess back.

And think about this--there are a lot of places where it isn't safe for kids to be outdoors. So perhaps we need more neighborhood afterschool programs in these areas (these areas tend to have the most overweight and obese kids).

And lastly, our eating habits have changed markedly over the last 20 years. More eating out, fast food, the advent of transfat, more advertising to kids of bad foods. There was a 20/20 (?) program last week about insidious marketing to children. All of these factors together have led to the overweight problem. It's tougher for parents these days.

Posted by: mother of 2 | August 24, 2006 3:45 PM

" Something tells me that somehow that tests scores are getting linked to school funding and it has the teachers cracking the whip on the backs of the children in order to receive higher salaries."

As someone whose HUSBAND just lost his job due to low test scores of his low achieving high school students, I can assure you that teachers are cracking the whips (if that is what they're doing) NOT in order to receive higher salaries, but to KEEP THEIR JOBS!

I have often wondered whether the Congress could pass most of the tests that high school kids must now take on a yearly basis.

How do you think an exterminator from TX, or a baseball owner from TX would fare?

Methinks not too well.

Oh, and by the way, have you seen the wasteful NCLB awnings or door decorations that once were attached to the Ed. Dept. in DC?

What a complete waste of our taxes!

P.S. I wonder why the government thinks it needs more and more money to win a war, but when it comes to funding education, more money is never the answer?

Posted by: Anonnie | August 24, 2006 3:47 PM

I think raising expectations early in a kid's schooling is important so that by the time advanced math comes, the kids are prepared. Do you think kids in Japan and other very highly achieving countries are really "smarter" than our kids? Probably not. But we are always at the bottom of the achieving list when it comes to math and science.

----------------------------------------
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I had the opportunity to look at a question by question breakdown of one of these and was pleasantly surprised to see that our students did worse on the rote questions and better on the "harder" word problems.
(Though NCLB may be changing that!)
Testing comparisons are tricky in all of their different variations. I think we do a reasonable job up through junior high. The really trouble I would argue is in the high school years when students devote so many more hours to sports & work than other countries (and fewer to academics). European friends are shocked by how much hw is given during elementary schools and how little in high school (a few private school, honors, and AP students excepted here).

Posted by: to to scarry | August 24, 2006 3:47 PM

How do you think an exterminator from TX, or a baseball owner from TX would fare?

Good one!! Snort

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 3:47 PM

My husband the lawyer has said the same thing. Hated law school, felt it was a waste of time.

He passed the Bar exam the first time despite this.

I think lawyers should take more math--kidding.

Posted by: To anonymous at 3:39 | August 24, 2006 3:48 PM

No way, I don't think they are smarter, but I also think that some people are just better than others at some things. I'm going to be honest, which will lead to smart remarks I'm sure. I failed every math class until 9th grade. In 9th grade I took basic math and got a C. In college I failed basic algebra twice. The third time i dropped it and took French instead to get out of the math requirement.

Now, my husband is a chemical engineer, so he has had tons of every kind of math, and he really thought he was going to strangle me during these math classes. I just can't get it.

Posted by: scarry | August 24, 2006 3:50 PM

"More eating out, fast food, the advent of transfat, more advertising to kids of bad foods. There was a 20/20 (?) program last week about insidious marketing to children."

OK, I don't want to be too, too hard on parents, but seriously - children don't have cash independent of their parents (high-schoolers may from jobs, but by then eating habits have established). Eat out less, or eat healthy food! Eat less junk food! Advertising to kids? Again, they aren't independently wealthy. Think of it as your job for their health to just. say. no.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 3:52 PM

"How do you think an exterminator from TX, or a baseball owner from TX would fare?"

That is toooo funny!

Posted by: Mother of 2 | August 24, 2006 3:53 PM

Easier said than done. When both parents work, cooking dinner becomes a difficult chore and so a lot of us bring food in or cook what is easiest. Stocking the refrigerator with healthier foods is a start, but it's hard. Healthier foods cost more than the less healthy ones. You can't discount cultural influences either. Sure parents can say "no" to sugared cereals and other "bad" foods, but it's easier for some than others. The food industry spends lots of money to influence our food choices so perhaps we can be a little less judgmental of parents.

Posted by: To anonymous 3:52, | August 24, 2006 3:54 PM

Don't feel bad about math, Scarry, it is my weak point also. I got as far as trig in high school, and took statistics in college. I could get by by I never enjoyed it. These days, I find I use basic arithmetic a lot. I don't think I remember enough of anything else to apply it.

Posted by: Rockville | August 24, 2006 3:57 PM

Thanks Rockville,

Maybe I have an undiagnosed learning disability or maybe it is because I went to a poor school. I've made up for it in imagination. I hope my daughter get the imagination and the math skills.

Posted by: scarry | August 24, 2006 3:57 PM

I was incredibly bored in elementary school long, long years ago. My parents taught me how to read long before I was in the 1st grade, and by then I had already read our encyclopedias! Fortunately the current "he's bored; must be a disorder, let's medicate him!" attitude didn't exist, and my teacher figured out I was reading at a 5th grade level and got me books to keep me interested.

In math, OTOH, I was definitely just an average or just above-average student. So, am I an English teacher or literary agent? Hardly; I'm an engineer where I use math every day!

It all comes back to what the parents encourage the child to do when he's not in school. If they encourage him to learn, he'll learn and do well in school. If they are disinterested or against learning, the child will pick up on that too and progress accordingly. All IMO of course.

Posted by: John | August 24, 2006 3:59 PM

No.
"Easier said than done. When both parents work, cooking dinner becomes a difficult chore and so a lot of us bring food in or cook what is easiest." That you can't take an extra 10-15 minutes a day to stave off heart disease, diabetes, etc. long term for your child is bogus. If you want to "bring food in" how about getting salads (WITHOUT THE DRESSING) from Applebee's, or plain grilled chicken with veggies, etc.?

"Stocking the refrigerator with healthier foods is a start, but it's hard. Healthier foods cost more than the less healthy ones." Think of a trade-off - you trade $20-$50 a week for food that will help your child live longer, be healthier, etc. Seems like a fair price to pay.

"You can't discount cultural influences either. Sure parents can say "no" to sugared cereals and other "bad" foods, but it's easier for some than others." Um, what?

"The food industry spends lots of money to influence our food choices so perhaps we can be a little less judgmental of parents." No. If you can't "stand up" to actors on tv and models in magazines, I really pity your kids.

Now I've heard everything: "I am not to blame for giving my kids diabetes and heart disease. The 'food industry' made me do it."

Posted by: I was 3:52 | August 24, 2006 4:00 PM

Still don't understand why the kids are fat. Don't the parents notice that they are buying really big clothes for their kids?

I told my kids that McDonald's and other fast food was poison and I never bought it for them. I'm sure they snuck it once in a while, but it was never a regular part of their diet. DD (with no encouragement from me)is a vegetarian. My mother used to tell me that certain foods (chips, soda, etc)would make my teeth fall out. Coffee makes your breath stink. Case closed.

WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE? THE KIDS OR THE GROWN-UPS?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 4:04 PM

I do think that different people are intelligent in different ways. Writing was always easy and fun for me. I loved English and history and languages. Math and science were really hard. My husband is an engineer and he is the opposite. He can do math and physics seemingly effortlessly, but hates writing reports. Left brain right brain I guess. Isn't this what the president of Harvard got in trouble for saying?

Posted by: Rockville | August 24, 2006 4:05 PM

Rockville, what the president of Harvard got in trouble for saying wasn't some people are left brain and some are right brain, but assuming that women are one and men are the other and that women's failure to enter science in the some numbers as men is inherent and may not have anything to do with those expectations that were talked about earlier in the blog (or work life balance issues, etc.)

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | August 24, 2006 4:17 PM

OK, I can't comment much about science but I am wondering if math phobia has something to do with the way math is presented in grades K-12. The difference between mathematics and other subjects is that you really need a strong foundation in basic mathematical skills before it actually gets interesting. I personally did not like mathematics till I took linear algebra. And it did not become fascinating till I progressed into the more abstract mathematical subjects like real analysis or abstract algebra. It took me till I was around 19 to realize what I love about mathematics is the sequences and patterns. I know this is probably boring as heck to some people. But I do understand why kids do not like mathematics. Who wants to sit and memorize a bunch of stuff that do not seem to apply to anything in the real world. I have seen very few hands on mathematics lessons that seem interest. There are a few. But how many capture recapture lessons with gold fish can you do. BTW, I think the kids just wanted to eat the M&M and Gold fish. Or how many check balancing lessons can kids go through. Mathematics is useful and necessary. I just wish some of the creative minds could link up with some of the analytical minds to make it more interesting. I, myself, can not come up with an interesting and creative way to teach math. I wish I could. We so desperately need it.

Posted by: Lieu | August 24, 2006 4:19 PM

I loved English and history and languages. Math and science were really hard. My husband is an engineer and he is the opposite. He can do math and physics seemingly effortlessly, but hates writing reports. Left brain right brain I guess. Isn't this what the president of Harvard got in trouble for saying?

-------------------------
-------------------------

While I think the response to his comments was a bit overwrought, this is NOT what he got in trouble for saying.

He got in trouble for essentially dismissing all other factors contributing to the gender divide as not as important.
Dismissing sexism irks people when you have a few of the OLD guard stil walking the halls. Also the tenure system, particularly in the sciences at competive universities, frontloads your career in a way that makes women often have to choose family OR career. It is a similar situation to the law firm partnerhips - though there nobody seems to attribute the gap to females just not intrinsically having the brain type for law partnerships. Well at least I haven't heard that, but perhaps a few of the lawyers can pipe back in here...

Posted by: academic | August 24, 2006 4:22 PM

"Every "smart" kid now has: LD, ADD, ADHD, or, my personal favorite - ODD. How on EARTH did we survive all these years before bratty kids could hide behind classifications?"

Believe me, if you knew how much an ODD or any of those other diagnosis can mess up a kid (perpetually viewed as a problem), you wouldn't think call it "hiding." There are too many quick diagnoses by professionals who should know better. Diagnosing kids as young as 3 or 4 even! Kids who are wired differently aren't necessarily bratty or raised poorly or impoverished. They are wired differently and are misunderstood.

I personally would be happier (and my son would be too) if he didn't have one of those acronyms (ADHD) applied to him.
Once your "different" child begins to attend school, you find out exactly how good that school is.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | August 24, 2006 4:25 PM

"It is a similar situation to the law firm partnerhips - though there nobody seems to attribute the gap to females just not intrinsically having the brain type for law partnerships."

WOE TO THE PERSON WHO TRIES!!!!!!
THEY'RE MESSING WITH THE WRONG PEOPLE!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 4:26 PM

As someone who has care-shared, let me see if I can respond to the questions of "how to get started if I don't know anyone very well" and "what about the kooks"?

A good care-sharing arrangement is almost always going to start life as a long round of play-dates. Go with your kid to the friend's house, and stay. Stay and talk to the adult at home the whole time. Follow the kids to where they play (is there a play room? are they playing in the living room?) and see how it's set up, how safe it is, where it's located. If the kids are sent outside to play, can an adult easily see them? Is the TV the focal point of the play room? You should visit this house, and they should visit your house, at least 3 times each before you move on to care-sharing.

Remember that your kid will not want to go to the house of someone they don't like. If your kid doesn't get along with their kids, that's a pretty big red flag that it won't work. Oddly my kids also seem to have "kook radar" -- they often dislike people that I later find out have some sort of issue. But I also ask my kids lots of questions when they come home from someone else's house. What did you do today? What games did you play? What did you eat?

On the topic of finding people in a new neighborhood, that's a tough one. I had great success meeting people at the playground and thru church. (Note that I am not an evangelical -- liberals also go to church and bring their kids.) There was also a neighborhood play group that we went to, where I followed up with some of the families that my kids seemed to really like. But it's just going to be harder for you if you generally feel like a fish out of water in your town/neighborhood. The more at home you feel, the easier it will be for you.

Good luck!

Posted by: jen | August 24, 2006 4:34 PM

It's a good thing that I'm not as judgemental as some of you seem to be when it comes to kid's diet. Let's see how some of my conversations with my patients would go:

Me: Your kid is obese. Stop feeding him fattening foods. It's all your fault. Just say no.

Patient's family: We'll see someone else.

This is actually one of my areas of research and I assure you the issue is more complicated than parents just saying no. We have created a culture, a society where food is used as a reward, where less quality foods are easier to make and heavily advertised. Many of my patients live in the inner city where it is difficult to find fresh food and sending their kids outside is not a possiblity because of crime. McDonalds and their ilk are rampant and serve cheap and easy food filled with fat and sugar. It tastes good too. So it is easy for you with money out in the burbs with access to organic food, supermarkets with fresh produce and the money to buy it, to judge others, but I choose to educate families and to promote regulation of the food industry. And think about this--if any of you have tried to lose weight, you know how hard it is. So a little less judgment and more understanding is a better approach to the issue.

Posted by: mother of 2 | August 24, 2006 4:36 PM

"The only exercise they get these days is with their thumbs--playing video games and watching TV"

Wait... seriously? I don't have kids so I honestly don't know. The schools don't have outdoor recess any more??

We were forced outside, in all weather! And I'm not even very old!

Say it ain't so...

Posted by: WDC | August 24, 2006 4:45 PM

You know, Mandy Patankin is not a very healthy eater.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 4:45 PM

"What would you do if you had a kid who just couldn't do advanced math? Or better yet, teachers who couldn't teach kids who couldn't do advanced math? I'm just wondering?"

Talk with the school and see what resources are available. Often teachers will work with students outside of class and/or schools will offer mathlabs where students can go for extra help. Find a good private tutor who will work one-on-one with your child and cater their teaching/lessons to your child's needs and learning style.

"Healthier foods cost more than the less healthy ones."

If you comparison shop and plan your meals ahead of time, cooking with healthy ingredients (chicken breast, low-fat ground beef, vegetables, fruit, milk, etc.) costs SO much less than eating out even at McDonald's. Buying organic is nice but not necessary. Preparing healthy foods can be pretty quick too. Use a crockpot, make and freeze healthy casseroles, and study up on 30-minute meals.

Posted by: MBA Mom | August 24, 2006 4:46 PM

McDonalds and their ilk are rampant and serve cheap and easy food filled with fat and sugar.

Believe it or not, fast food places are starting to offer healthier foods (salads, yogurt, baked potatoes, etc) so even if kids are "forced" to go there they DO have better choices!

Posted by: grimace | August 24, 2006 4:48 PM

"And think about this--if any of you have tried to lose weight, you know how hard it is."

And it is just as hard (maybe even harder) to make healthy choices and carve out time for exercise. Waking up at 6 AM to go for a run or eating salad instead of a big mac isn't fun or easy!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 4:51 PM

On the obesity issue, others might want to check out this article on Slate, summarizing research showing that obesity can be related to many things other than diet/lack of exercise:

http://www.slate.com/id/2145689/

Posted by: Megan | August 24, 2006 4:55 PM

Dr. Mother of 2:
Sorry, that's BS. I live in the inner city, and I'd never dream of paying the premium prices that Whole Foods charges for their organic nonsense. The only shopping available in my neighborhood is small community markets, patronized by hispanic and black families. There are three within walking distance. I have NEVER gone to one of these stores and found that they had put potato chips in the potato bin in the produce section. I might not always find four colors of peppercorns and 28 varieties of olive oil, but I've never lacked for basic, healthy vegetables.

As for cost, heck, when I eat at fast food restaurants, it's because I want to SPLURGE, not because I'm trying to save money. The cheap eats is lentils, beans and rice, homemade salads and quesadillas... I could go on.

Claiming that poorer families can't eat well and monitor their own health is incredibly insulting, and you do your patients a disservice by allowing them to hold that belief.

Posted by: WDC | August 24, 2006 4:57 PM

Believe it or not, fast food places are starting to offer healthier foods (salads, yogurt, baked potatoes, etc) so even if kids are "forced" to go there they DO have better choices!

Have you ever tried the healthy choices from fast food restaurants? I was forced to stop at one during a long road trip and took the salad. It smelled of a dirty refrigerator and tasted like cold styrofoam. The fast food places don't try too hard to make their healthier choices palatable. It is mere lip service to a media that has been criticizing them of late.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 4:58 PM

Even if there are reasons related to the society/culture we live in that contribute to obesity (or even genetics) Isn't my responsibility as a parent to at least try feed my child properly to minimize their chances of being overweight? This can include the occassional treat, but only as a treat.

I can understand the peditrician's focus being on educating not critzing, but the first poster who was just offering excuses missed the point we are the parents and we have to try even if we are tired and it costs money and we have to say NO.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | August 24, 2006 5:04 PM


Many people value their time over quality meal preparations. Even posters here have acknowledged how they would rather get take out or frozen food in order to spend more time with their children.

Organic groceery are new phenomenon. Regular-old grocery stores have been stocking veggies for some time now.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 5:08 PM

"Have you ever tried the healthy choices from fast food restaurants? I was forced to stop at one during a long road trip and took the salad. It smelled of a dirty refrigerator and tasted like cold styrofoam. The fast food places don't try too hard to make their healthier choices palatable. It is mere lip service to a media that has been criticizing them of late."

So because of one bad experience you come to the conclusion that ALL of the healthy food served in EVERY fast food place in the entire country must be bad. Brilliant conclusion (but guess it does give you an easy excuse to keep shoveling garbage into your mouth)

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 5:08 PM

"Even posters here have acknowledged how they would rather get take out or frozen food in order to spend more time with their children."

Why is this an either-or? When I was growing up, my parents kept us with them while they were preparing meals. If we had homework to do, we did it at the kitchen table, so that between stirs and chops Mom could look over our shoulders, answer questions, etc. If there was no homework, then we were in the kitchen, learning something about how groceries turn into meals. We ordered pizza about once every six weeks, and it was a huge treat. Ditto for eating in a restaurant. And we NEVER had fast food. It just wasn't an option. I don't recall it being an issue; my parents just never had any trouble saying no, and meaning it.

Posted by: WDC | August 24, 2006 5:17 PM

well, clearly WCD, you and your parents are perfect and the rest of us shmoes are crap. It's certainly not possible that other people have different circumstances than you and your parents that might make that ideal solution a bit trickier, is it? Clearly not.

Posted by: huh | August 24, 2006 5:25 PM

Off-topic- fat families/fat kids

You know, people love to get angry at someone for being fat.

I'm shocked that in this day and age anybody really thinks it all comes down to not keeping Twinkies in the house.

It might be an unpopular view, but I think that the first step to having fewer obese children is taking their parents' eating disorders seriously. I'm the only healthy weight person in a family of fat women, and boy are people cruel!

Above all else, the worst thing to do is to make nasty, snide comments about someone's weight in front of their kids. That kind of self-rightous ranting doesn't help anybody.

Posted by: Silver Spring | August 24, 2006 5:28 PM

It amazes me how people think it is okay to insult people who are overweight, for no reason other than that they are overweight. That's a very ugly attitude to carry around. Uglier than excess weight.

Posted by: Rockville | August 24, 2006 5:30 PM

Right on, Silver Spring, thanks for putting in a sane word. Obesity is more complicated than people think, and being nasty about it does nobody any good, especially kids. I've never understood people's rage at other people's weight.

Posted by: Megan | August 24, 2006 5:32 PM

Two Obese Patty's
Special Ross
Let's us Cheese
Pick'in Bunyons
on the Sesame Street Bus

On Balance Topic:

1/2 hour healthy menus for balanced lives?

Posted by: Fo3 | August 24, 2006 5:35 PM

Huh - WDC was just saying it is possible -never said it was easy just doable. Why are you so defensive?

I know enough not to assume because a child is overweight that it is the result of bad eating and exercise habits, but I also have observed that this is the case quite often.

We do have issues with weight in this country. And for all you parents of young daughters, wait until the teen years when even the ones who are healthy weights complain about being fat.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | August 24, 2006 5:37 PM

Magazines, television and film promote an unhealthy, unhappy anorexic lifestyle which oppresses my people.

It is not our fault America has more obesity genes proportionally to the rest of the world.

There should be laws to protect the rights of the non-skinny.

We cannot be forced to diet or exercise more than we feel we can, and have the American born right to three airplane seats and your health insurance dollars.

Suck it up. We shouldnt have to suck it in.

Fat is Fun - damental to Liberty!

Benjamin Franklin was fat,
Santa Claus is fat,
Fat Albert is fat,
Rerun is fat.

The American ideal is fat.

QED


Posted by: Fat Americans Unite! | August 24, 2006 5:44 PM

I don't think people are angry that someone is overweight. Personally, it's the same reaction that I have when someone says, "My kid failed school. The school and the teachers must suck."

I think the reaction/anger comes from (what feels like) shifting individual responsibilty on to someone else.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2006 5:58 PM

Not only are the kids getting fatter and fatter, so are a lot of the moms. What gives? Aren't there mirrors in some of these communites? Why is obesity tolerated?
I stopped going to Walmart because of the deluge of fat people. Affluent fat parents with their fat kids buying crap - yuck!

A woman in my office has to book 2 adjoining airline seats when she travels for work because she is so fat.

Posted by: | August 24, 2006 01:05 PM

I'd say there's some anger in that post, and it's not the first time I've heard people rant like that. Why do you care if the person you work with needs two seats, I'm pretty sure she's not happy about it either. Yes, I agree that we (Americans) have a tendency to not want to accept responsibility for a lot of things (not just our weight), but fatness seems to evoke animosity and meanness on its own, regardless of whether that individual is trying to change or not.

Posted by: Megan | August 24, 2006 6:06 PM

My wife is overweight, but has health issues that keep her from exercising enough to actually make inroads in losing the excess pounds. Eating less won't work; a woman's body can adjust to fewer calories unless you force it to do more work by exercising.

Of course, as everyone ages they tend to put on more weight too. I managed to lose over 40 pounds by walking 3 miles a day and cutting down on sugary foods and drinks, but it's taken 2 years and I have to keep up the exercise or I'll put it right back on.

Posted by: John | August 24, 2006 6:27 PM

There were a few interesting posts: I shall review:

Ahem. 1--educating Johnny, public v. private, zoo v. nest.
There is a lot to learn in this here day and age, pilgrum, so you had a better take that there algerbra if you know what's good for ya. There are only four things you need to know how to do in order to do it: add, subtract, divide and multipy. Make that 5--pay attention. and 6--do the homework.

I am a teacher who loves to teach, mainly, because I rather like the hormonally challanged little creatures. I can take on a class of 35, no problem, because I know their parents, I know where they live, I go to their church and since I don't have to teach to the test, I can do interesting things that are time consuming. Keeping their interest up while they are growing at the speed of light, are dehydrated, just lost a parent through death or divorce, etc. is a sport. I am not a gold medalist, but I get by. My kids go to the zoo. Are the SOL's just in VA?

Homeschooling is the best? Ask some former homeschoolers. Like the parallel universe, it depends on the homeschool. (Those poor kids just can't catch a break. And I have read a lot on the subject, thought about doing it and decided that a life sentence for murder just was not for me. Some people can make it work.)

2. Fat v. thin kids. Sometimes it IS because of poor nutrition. If you have an internet connection, and I know you do because I saw your post, then maybe you could educate yourself on eating well and cooking well. I cook only a few times a week, and we usually eat healthfully. Granted, I am rather limited in my repertoire of recipes, but they are all good and do not necessarily contain trans fats or fried stuff. You can make enough to cover several days, which is why I cook only a few times each week. And it is much cheaper. The biggest hurdle to cooking at home is organization. That being said, there are websites to help you through it, step by step.

I have 2 kids. One is thin, one is fat. They have been active all of their lives (if you want a definitive list of all of their activities, too bad). We eat the same foods (and don't ask about hidden eating, etc. I checked, keep checking). One has a slower metabolism, which she got from her FATHER, while the other one has the normal one kids have. It is hard for me to see the one suffer, and while I think I do all of the right things, (limit junk, healthy meals, lots of physical activity, yada etc. ad nauseum) the kid keeps gaining. I don't make a federal case out of it, because I have experienced several bouts of anorexia. I cross my fingers that a major growth spurt is coming, but in the meantime, I severely limit sugar--(see the cavities in my teeth, baby? u don't want that), talk about how vegetables make you beautiful, smart, rich, and do unnoticeable physical stuff--first to 100 at jumprope wins! let's go catch frogs down at the creek a half mile a way, or let's ride our bikes and see where that path goes, let's swim. I think you get it. It makes me sad, but what the hey, she is a happy, smart, test-excelling, algebra-acing little maniac. We all have burdens. Apparently mine is diarrhea of the mouth.

"True love."--got that too!


Have fun storming the castle!

Princess bride is a family cult classic.

Posted by: parttimer | August 24, 2006 6:38 PM

To WDC,
You seem to be very angry--that's how your post comes across. If you think people can change their eating habits just like that, then I feel sorry for you. You have no empathy and I hope you are not in any field where being non-judgemental is important.

"Claiming that poorer families can't eat well and monitor their own health is incredibly insulting"

I am certainly not insulting and have never been accused of that by any patient. I see plenty of families who do not have the knowlege of what constitutes healthy foods. That is a fact, not a judgement. They tell me so. I will say that almost universally, families are open to suggestions and do make efforts to improve the health of their children. BUT IT IS HARD to change behavior. Just because you can do it doesn't mean that everyone else can. And you eat healthier because you were brought up that way. People tend to fall back on what they know and how they were brought up.

As others have said, there are a whole lot of reasons why people gain weight and can't lose it. Blaming people serves no purpose. Sure, there is some personal responsibility involved, but to not acknowledge the societal, emotional and economic factors that impact on this phenomenon is naive.

I'll give an example---one family came to see me. I spent a little time discussing the issue with a mother of an obese boy. The mother was overweight too. She was very open to my suggestions--how to decrease snacking, increase healthier choices, how to incorporate physical activity, etc. Well, she came back a month later and SHE had lost weight, but her son was still the same. Apparently he was asking for and getting extra servings of food at school. So there are ways that others can sabotage a parent's best efforts. If I were judgemental like some here, I suppose I could have gone off on her for not watching every bite going into the kids mouth.

And for those who say "well gee, we were outside all the time as kids"....communities have changed, a lot. Many neighborhoods do not have sidewalks so that it is safe to walk from place to place. We are set up to drive everywhere. And my patients (in the inner city) tell me that they do not feel it is safe for their kids to go outside to play (gunplay is very real in some of these neighborhoods). I try to find neighborhood rec programs, but they are few and far between. The DC area is rich in these types of programs, but many other areas of the country, these are not the norm.

Complicated issue. No easy solutions.

Posted by: mother of 2 | August 24, 2006 6:43 PM

"I managed to lose over 40 pounds by walking 3 miles a day and cutting down on sugary foods and drinks"

John, that's really terrific. Walking is not so tough so you have demonstrated that it can be done if one is persistent. One recommendation--it's always good once in a while to "change it up" or take it to another level. Have you tried to add running or biking? And there are some terrific swim programs around for people who may have the health issues your wife has, have you checked those out?

Posted by: mother of 2 | August 24, 2006 6:52 PM

We've sort of moved past the off topic math discussion to the off topic food discussion, but I just wanted to offer an anecdote about math & life and the GMAT:

"Anyone who says that Math is not important needs to take the GMAT. The only time that I used Algebra and Geometry entensively in my adult life was when I was studying for the GMAT. Thank god that I took it seriously during grade school. I would've hated to have to learn it as an adult. So, if you want to get into a top graduate school, then you need to learn math sooner or later."

I find myself using basic algebraic concepts quite often in every day life. Not so sure about geometry - I haven't done a proof since sophomore year in high school. ;o) But I remember "needing" the Pythagorean Theorum within the last couple of years for something so I guess even geometry comes in handy sometimes. I'm a SAHM so it's not like I'm solving the world's problems with math or anything, but I certainly don't feel that it's useless in adult life.

But when I took the GMAT 9 years ago, I hadn't had a math class since trig my senior year in high school (dating myself, I graudated in 1983. I was worried about it until I started studying for the test and discovered that the "advanced math" on the GMAT was algebra and geometry. And when I actually *took* the test, it was mostly algebra.

I'm not sure what my point is other than I was surprised at the *low* level of math skills required for the GMAT & MBA programs. I expected to have to go back and study advanced algebra and trig and maybe even calc (which I hadn't ever taken).

Posted by: momof4 | August 24, 2006 7:51 PM

GREs assume you avoided all math classes in college... Why these are required for engineering graduate school admission is a bit confusing to me.

Posted by: academic | August 24, 2006 8:22 PM

"Even posters here have acknowledged how they would rather get take out or frozen food in order to spend more time with their children."

I agree with WDC. Making healthy meals does not preclude spending time together. I had some of my best talks with my mother while she cooked and I helped set the table, grate, chop, dice, etc. When I prepare meals, my son is always in the kitchen playing and chatting with me.

Posted by: MBA Mom | August 24, 2006 8:38 PM

I'm coming in kinda late, but there are a couple of things I wanted to respond to.

First, Scarry and Rockville --
I know exactly how you feel about the math thing. I had so much trouble in 8th grade algebra that I almost failed, and the worst part was that all the kids around me seemed to totally get it. It wasn't at all hard for them, and I felt like a real loser.

As an adult waaaaay beyond those years, I now find myself wishing that I could have understood it better. Not because I would use it, but because people are always talking about how beautiful theoretical mathematics is. Feel like I've missed something.

Like you guys, I was good in English and followed that path. But I still felt totally stupid in any math and science courses I took. (I once got a D on a chemistry lab where all we had to do was measure the mass of dirt!)

Another thing I wanted to comment on is the obesity issue. It really is true that people seem to feel hostile and mean-spirited toward overweight people, as though they're disgusting instead of just overweight. Someone mentioned the word "rage," and that really is how some of them come across.

But why should someone resent someone else's weight? And why do they think it's ok to browbeat overweight people?

My mother-in-law was telling me just this evening that her daughter's husband has been hiding all the sweets that come into the house because she (the daughter) has a little "belly." This woman is 60 years old, still looks like the model she once was (not to mention not a day over 40), has always been fantastically thin, and is one of the loveliest women you've ever seen. And even if none of this were the case, what right has he to dictate to her how she should look or what she can or cannot eat?

Finally, I can personally attest to the fact that eating healthfully needn't be expensive or time-consuming. I follow a vegan diet, and my husband, while not a vegetarian, is happy to eat what I cook at home. I usually don't get home until after 6 or 6:30, but it doesn't take more than half an hour to get a veggie stir-fry and rice ready, or spaghetti with bottled sauce and a salad, or veggie franks and beans with spinach on the side. I buy a lot of frozen veggies, as they tend to keep more of their nutrients than does fresh produce. They're not expensive if you're not buying the sauced and gooped-up versions. And beans, lentils, and grains are among the cheapest foods there are. Beans are a great protein source, too; lots cheaper than most meats.

I find that, if I keep the staples stocked, I don't even need to do much planning ahead.

Lest anyone think I'm pushing a veg agenda here, let me assure you that's not the case. It's just that, because of the diet I've chosen to follow, I've had to find a variety of inexpensive ingredients for our meals, and I've had a lot of luck doing so.

That's all, folks. G'night.

Posted by: Pittypat | August 24, 2006 11:00 PM

Mom of 2:

I took up the walking (at 3:30am, nonetheless!) because the weight lifting and other activities I was doing just weren't making the weight go away. I'm fairly active but find the walking did the trick; now all I want to do is keep it off, not lose any more. I have a weight machine and use it a few times a week in addition to the walking. Down to 173 lbs, which I haven't weighed since probably the 80's!

Posted by: John | August 25, 2006 7:14 AM

Mom of two - as a physician, then I assume you are aware that less then 2% of overweight individuals are overweight as a result of causes beyond their own control. I'm not talking about inner city kids and disastrous families that, if their child is hurt, the ER doctor is the most important person, but you go to a primary care physician, and all of a sudden medicine doesn't matter. Did you read the NYT series a few months ago on urban diabetes? How appalling was it that after "getting the sugar," parents kept feeding their kids food that would make them sick! Anyway, I was talking primarily about middle and lower middle class communities in the suburbs where kids have 3-20 ounce Cokes a day, their parents feed them CRAP and they're overweight. Being overweight is one of the few medical conditions people have control over - and parents ESPECIALLY have control of it for their children. Kids don't grocery shop - if the pantry is stocked with crackers & fruit instead of Doritos, they have to eat it. The kid who was asking for extra helpings at school - that kid was screwed up by his mother already for years of bad eating habits. Of COURSE he was looking for a fix at school. I am sick and tired of reading about how the obesity epidemic is going to cost us billions in health insurance and medicare payments over the next 60 years and it is totally avoidable. People aren't "conned by the food industry." They are weak and we shouldn't have to pay for years of bad habits.

Posted by: I was 3:52 | August 25, 2006 9:16 AM

When I was in school getting my teaching certificate, one of my classmates was particularly annoyed by a woman who (btw, was at the higher end of appropriate height/weight standards) did a presentation on how important it was that teachers watch their weight, because we were examples to the next generation. (I agree--it sucks to be fat. There are so many ways to gain weight in the US--lack of sidewalks, buses, cars, long commutes, cheap, yummy food that is very bad for you, and a limited amount of time/places to workout. I really feel for the inner city kids who aren't allowed out because it is too dangerous. If you have ever been in a faculty room or a nurses break room, you would not believe the stuff available! If the teachers and nurses in this country got together and donated that stuff on a daily basis, there would be no hunger problems. But all of the formerly hungry people would be really overweight. Some of the teachers at my school--most are thin; there are a couple of chunky ones, but nothing outrageous--eat their lunch in their rooms in order to not be tempted by the garden of pastries that is calling them from the faculty room!) Now most of us were in our twenties. Weight just wasn't a huge concern--'I need to lose five pounds! I can't believe I ate that candy bar on break. I am going to go walk the stairs at next break". Many of you know that once you hit 30 you have to be a little more careful. Anyway, the guy's mother WAS obese, she WAS a teacher, and had a lot of kids who loved her.

If you think about all of the important people in your life, are they all models? Do they all have perfect bodies? Are some of them overweight, or obese? When I do this little exercise, I see a lot of old, fat people. I see some old, thin people, fat babies, people who are more than their ideal bodyweight but who dress so well that you don't notice. If you put all of my relatives on the beach in swimwear, I kid you not, the thinnest ones are the meanest, most abusive and most detested family members. This may be unique to may family, but I can never move to Oregon because one of those people lives there, and that state isn't big enough for the both of us.

Posted by: parttimer | August 25, 2006 10:31 AM

"You know, people love to get angry at someone for being fat."

Yep. I also get mad at able-bodied people on welfare, and idiots who ride motorcycles without helmets. If I can work hard, eat right, wear my seatbelt, why should the fruits of my labor (taxes for state-subsidy medical care) go to support those who are too lazy or self-righteous to do the same?

We mandate helmets on motorcycles because when you go careening into a brick wall, society is responsible for your widow and orphans. Why not mandate a little attention to long-term personal health?

To shift the debate to a similar issue which is somehow less personally charged: smokers. It's ok to hate smokers. It's ok to walk past them with a sneer or hold your nose or insist that they stand out in the rain with that dirty habit. Why? Because it's a choice. At first, anyway. And because the associated ailments are an ENORMOUS drain on our limited medical resources.

Tell me, how is this different from obesity caused by overeating and lack of activity? (NOT the folks with medical conditions that are an immediate cause of weight issues. They are a clear and separate minority.) Smokers either didn't know or don't care that it's dangerous and addictive. Ditto for fat people. I could make many comparisons, but the short story is, both are lifestyle choices, and both can be overcome with hard work and good will.

Clearly, I'm not advocating legislation to kick people out of restaurants after 1200 calories. My point is that personal responsibility was the first casualty of this litigious society, and it's past time for a serious turn around.

Posted by: WDC | August 25, 2006 10:49 AM

Speaking of self-righteous!

You know what, smoking and obesity do have a lot in common. So what? I would never say it is easy for someone to quit smoking, any more than I think obese people are just too "lazy and self-righteous to do the same" [as WDC].

What a load of hyper-critical crap. I'm calling for understanding and a little common decency. I'm not saying that obese folks can't benefit from taking responsibility for their eating. Just that some might need more than that. Some might have to keep trying after binges and setbacks, and all kinds of hurdles.

Anyway, my post was really about how complicated these problems are in families, and how difficult it is for children to endure random nasty comments from the self-nominated fat police.

Posted by: Silver Spring | August 25, 2006 3:14 PM

"If I can work hard, eat right, wear my seatbelt, why should the fruits of my labor (taxes for state-subsidy medical care) go to support those who are too lazy or self-righteous to do the same?"

Your main problem seems to be the idea that everyone can be you. We all have our own lives, different circumstances, likes and dislikes. You cannot presume that everyone can do everything that you do.

The difference between a smoker and an overweight person - you don't have to smoke to live, but you do have to eat. Completely eliminating something from your life is much easier than controlling it, especially when there are things that come to play that you only have limited control over - cost of food and money available to spend on it, personal taste (I can't eat something that will make me vomit, no matter how good it is for me), cooking skills, nutrition knowledge. I'm 50 - talk of trans fat is fairly recent in my lifetime. The food pyramid is new, it was the basic 4 food groups when I was a child. White bread was seen as a good thing, not evil. I fed my kids the way I was taught. And forgive me if I don't have enough hours in the day to read and be informed in all the latest regarding food, nutrition, health, medications, school issues, work issues, family issues, etc. Most of us are truly doing the best we can and hate doesn't help. Understanding and suggestions would go a lot further.

Posted by: to WDC | August 25, 2006 3:49 PM

Wow, how did the care sharing developing into attacking over weight people? Oh yeah, some one was annoyed at over weight people at Wal-Mart and someone thought schools were contributing to over weight children. True confession: When I was young (even up to my college years), I thought very little of over weight people. I am sorry for that. I contributed my ignorant behavior to being young, stupid and basically self important. I don't think I need to say more here.

Posted by: Lieu | August 25, 2006 3:52 PM

School issues - I think I understand what Fo4 means about the winners and losers. My daughter went to a very highly rated public school with a big push on gifted/talented and AP courses. While there is really nothing wrong with this, the children who are performing on grade should not be made out to be losers. Why is there something wrong with being on your proper grade level? AP is a college-level course. That's great if you have that ability, but there is nothing wrong with taking high school level courses in high school.

She also hated algebra and actually failed and had to take it for a second year. She could have passed, but she hated it and basically refused to do homework which ultimately led to poor test scores and failure.

After extensive time micromanaging and fighting about it, we left her alone to fail by herself. Nothing we were doing taught her that she had to be responsible for her work. The failing grade truly showed her there are consequences to your (in)actions.

I hold her responsible for her actions, however, I wasn't pleased with the school support. I asked repeatedly for suggestions on how to motivate her, and the only thing the teachers would say was that we should check her agenda-book every day and look at her homework every night. This did not motivate her, it caused extreme family tension when she would say that she did it and left it in locker, or turned it in early, or left at a friends house etc.

Too many people forget that these are children with brains that are not completely developed and not miniature adults who reason and respond the way we do.

The push for AP hurt her in some ways. She knew that no matter how hard she worked she would not reach that level in math, so she decided that she would rather not work at all and have fun. If there was more focus on each child reaching their own potential and not just AP status, it would be better for everyone. You shouldn't be considered a loser just because you're not a superstar.

By the way, she was another no math/science but loves English/language/writing. She did take AP English and did very well. On grade math, and all different levels on her other subjects.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2006 4:05 PM

"And forgive me if I don't have enough hours in the day to read and be informed in all the latest regarding food, nutrition, health, medications, school issues, work issues, family issues, etc."

Um, eating right is not exactly rocket science. Pizza, hamburgers, sodas have always been bad for you and fresh fruits and vegatables have always been good - this has not changed since you were a kid, no matter how old you are.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2006 4:54 PM

Actually, pizza and hamburgers have not always been bad for you. Pizza with meat topping hit all four food groups - bread, meat, dairy (cheese), and vegetables (tomato sauce). Hamburgers were a source of protein. Sodas were bad.

Eggs have been both good and bad. Hi-protein, low-carb have been in and out of favor. Nutrition labels weren't even on food when I was a kid. And, as someone else pointed out, eating habits develop while you are growing up. Some people consider all meat bad for you (vegetarians) and some feel otherwise. There really aren't enough hours in the day to research all the latest on health and nutrition especially when there are so many different opinions by so-called "experts"

Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2006 5:31 PM

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