10 Topics of Conversation for Girls....Other Than Looks

I sometimes find myself at a loss for what to talk about with my two nieces, ages 9 and 11, since I haven’t yet experienced that age with my own children.

For those of you who spend time with young girls (and these are certainly applicable to boys too!), here are 10 topics of conversation to show them what’s inside matters most, and possibly inspire them at the same time:

1.     PROFESSIONS

To Ask: Have you thought about what you want to be when you grow up? What do you think would be the most interesting profession?

To Share: Talk about what you wanted to be as a child, what you do now, and if applicable, what you dream of doing in the future.

2.     BOOKS

To Ask: Do you like books? What’s your favorite?

To Share: Tell them about a book that moved you the most when you were their age. Talk about a book you’ve read recently and any lessons you learned from it. For example, I just finished Wonder by R.J. Palacio and loved the good rule of life - Be a Little Kinder than Is Necessary (originally from J.M. Barrie's, The Little White Bird).

3.     FRIENDS

To Ask: Do you have a best friend? How did you meet? What makes him/her special?

To Share: Here’s a great opportunity to talk about why friendships are important and how good friends have impacted your life. You can also talk about “mean kids” and "nice kids." My mom taught me a good rule when I was very young -- to feel sorry for the "mean kids" because if they have to make someone else feel like crap to feel good about themselves, they've got a lot of issues. That it had nothing to do with who I was, and everything to do with who they were. So instead of getting angry or frustrated, I just wondered what was going on in their brains that made them tick the way they did.

4.     SCHOOL

To Ask: What’s your favorite part of the day at school? Your favorite teacher? If you had to grade your school 1 to 10, 10 being the best, what grade would you give it? What would you change?

To Share: Tell them about your favorite teacher and what you liked most about him or her. Tell them about your favorite classes and what made them special.

5.     TRAVEL

To Ask: If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would it be? Where have you already been recently and what was your favorite experience?

To Share: Talk about your favorite places and the wonders you've seen.  

6.    MUSIC

To Ask: What type of music do you like to listen to? What instrument would you want to play if you could magically play it like a master?

To Share: Play your favorite music for them. Talk about what instrument you learned to play as a child, or share a memory of music from your past.

7.     MAGIC

To Ask: Do you believe in magic? What would you change if you had a magic wand and could fix anything?

To Share: What would YOU change if you had a magic wand and could fix anything?

8.     FREE TIME

To Ask: What would do you like to do most in your free time? 

To Share: Tell them what kinds of things you did when you were younger and how the world has or hasn't changed in that respect. Talk about what you like to do in your free time now. 

9.     SPORTS/ACTIVITIES

To Ask: What sports or activities are you involved in these days? Which is your favorite? 

To Share: This is a great chance to bring up the importance of being a team player. And why practice makes you better - that it takes 10,000 hours to master any activity (from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success).

10. FAVORITE MEMORIES

To Ask: What are some of your favorite memories?

To Share: Talk about some of your favorite memories from childhood. Share your happiest moments.

You Are Not Alone - Really

As we passed National Infertility Awareness Week, the fact that there's a week dedicated to infertility reminded me that we've come a long way. Resolve's theme this year was, You Are Not Alone. I believe that statement is more true than ever for the fertility challenged, and here's why:

Infertility is Being Talked About 

Infertility articles are being written every day. New books are out to share what it's like for men dealing with infertility, or guides couples can read together as they tackle infertility hand-in-hand. Even blockbuster movies are now touching on infertility. 

Celebrities who talk about their infertility are no longer being shunned for their revelations as they were in the past. They are being thanked by those inside the infertility community and supported by those outside the community. 

There is a better understanding that infertility is a disease, not a flaw - and more sympathy out there as a result. And when infertility is met with sympathy, instead of shame, more people will talk about it. The cycle is circular. The more sympathy and understanding, the more people will open up. The more people open up, the more sympathy and understanding will come. 

Encouragement from Support Groups 

Resolve and other organizations have peer-led and professionally-led support groups throughout the country to help those dealing with infertility. When you're trying to have a child, and can't get pregnant, it feels like nobody else could possibly understand the longing and the heartache you experience each month. From Resolve's website: Support groups help you feel less isolated, empower you with knowledge and validate your emotional response to the life crisis of infertility. I couldn't word it any better.

Social Media Helps

Even those who feel they can't open up to their family or friends about infertility, or don't feel comfortable attending support groups, can interact with other infertility warriors anonymously through social media. Infertility bloggers are keeping everyone in the know. When to see a specialist and what to ask. What to expect from a cost perspective. The ins and outs of fertility treatments and the choices out that are out there. 

Anyone experiencing infertility can create a Twitter account and find others who are experiencing the same roller coaster ride, with its ups and downs and shaky tracks that rattle you to the bone. There is someone out there to talk to and to listen to and to commiserate or celebrate with.

New Services are Available

Though in vitro fertilization is the treatment most often talked about when it comes to infertility, only 5% turn to IVF. There are new services like Conceivable that address the entire community of infertility patients. Conceivable is a personalized program on your iPhone that helps identify and address underlying health factors that may prevent conception or carrying a baby to term. As programs like Conceivable help more and more women successfully conceive, I envision the community of infertility warriors banding together even more.

So click your heels three times and say the words, "You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone." Because it is true.

Parent Tips: Allowance

If you're just starting out with allowances, or planning to in the future, I highly recommend the book Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats: Love and Logic Solutions to Teaching Kids About Money by Jim Fay and Kristan Leatherman. They also have a simple, step-by-step blog post on giving an allowance. 

Many of the experts, including the Love and Logic authors, recommend separating allowance from household chores. Chores are something everyone in the family does to contribute. They are part of being needed and valued by the family. They teach responsibility. They are not optional. If you tie them to an allowance, a child can decide they don't want to do their chores with the consequence of just skipping their allowance. Probably not an issue at age five, but I can certainly see it being an issue at age 15.

At age five, Sydney is the only one old enough for allowance in our household, but it’s made a world of difference in many ways.  She’s already learning how to spend wisely (and not so wisely) and the value of saving. 

One of the biggest benefits has been in our shopping experiences. Sydney was infamous for having meltdowns at stores. She’d spot something she wanted and the dam would break. Through tears, she’d be screaming, “It’s SO IMPORTANT! I can’t live without it! PLEASE MOMMY! I need it!” and that could go on for the duration of our shopping experience, with nearly every eye on us (and consoling smiles from the parents who’ve “been there”).

Once we implemented a weekly allowance – we pay it every Sunday – the nightmare shopping trips were (mostly) over. She must bring her money with her for any shopping trip. She can purchase whatever she wants with her money. I only ask that she wait until we’ve traversed the entire store before she makes a decision, and in several cases what she held onto for dear life at the beginning of the store has been tossed for something else she can’t live without by the time we're checking out. 

Sydney now understands that everything she sees has a price and that sometimes she can't afford it (that's why there's a "mostly" in the paragraph above - we've still had a few meltdowns when she's out of money or when something is out of her budget). I can see the wheels turning as she decides between two items and compares their cost and value.

It’s also made her a bigger helper around the house – she’s always looking for ways to earn more money. Being an American Girl Doll lover, she's started to ask, “How can I earn $100 Mommy?”

Hmmm…

Lessons Learned: Parenting after Years of Infertility

Photo by Melissa Glynn Photography

Photo by Melissa Glynn Photography

I haven't thought much about how our parenting was impacted by the years we spent trying to conceive, but looking back now, I realize there was a dramatic effect.

We ached for a child. We went through test after test, and treatment after treatment. I was finally pregnant with our first in vitro cycle, and then I wasn't. After our second in vitro, we were blessed with this beautiful baby girl in our arms. After more than four years of trying.

And so we lavished her with our affection and attention. 

And I mean lavished.

The sun revolved around Sydney Addison Miller. And so did our family.

Sydney never spent a moment by herself unless she was sleeping. If she fell asleep for a nap in the car, one of us would stay with her, no matter where we were or what we were doing. Even on Christmas Day. Chris literally ate Christmas lunch on a china plate, in the car, while Sydney snored on.

Speaking of the car, when Chris was driving, I rode in the backseat with her to keep her company. Always. I think back now at just how crazy that sounds.

As a baby, I would sing her to sleep nearly every night, slow dancing with her in the dining room where there was the least amount of light. When she climbed out of her crib at 18 months and moved to a "big girl bed," one of us would lie down with her for an hour until she fell asleep. 

We constantly entertained her, read to her, taught her and played with her.

The first time I remember Sydney actually playing on her own was at exactly two years old, three months before her little sister was due. She spent an hour lining up her collection of chapsticks. I remember being amazed just watching this feat. Not the balancing of the fruity sticks across the couch, but that she didn't require any attention for a full 60 minutes.

We had date night once a week, and I would feel so guilty as we walked out the door while Sydney screamed and cried loudly in the background to make sure we understood the depths of her disappointment and despair at our abandonment.

Now, I will caveat all of the above with the fact that Sydney was a fussy baby (at least in the opinion of this mom, who admittedly had very little experience with babies). Which is the reason we spent so much time with her. She cried often, and once she got going, it was hard to get her to stop (and still is today, at age six). She cried nearly every minute in the car unless we were singing Old McDonald Had a Farm. She cried at bedtime most of all. And cry-it-out, which I tried to brave at the four-month-mark when Sydney was still awake at 10pm, did not work for her. It just made her more, and more, and more riled up. To the point where she almost threw up. You know that hormone that gets released when children cry that makes them sleepy? That doesn't happen with Sydney for some reason.

I spent endless hours online researching why she was crying. I took her to the doctor five times as often as there was a fixable problem, like an ear infection. I changed my diet to make sure it wasn't my breastmilk that was making her colicky. 

As Sydney's grown up, she has gotten easier. As a baby, she was upset more times than not. As a two-year-old, we'd have four outbreaks a day. At three, she was down to two outbreaks a day. At four and five, she would have one spell a day or less. And at six years old, we can make it a few days straight without a "crazy" moment.

We do still tiptoe around anything that will trigger a "Sydney Spell." For example, Sydney used to get very upset when anyone held their hands to their lips to tell her to be quiet. And once she got upset, she would stay upset, squeezing her neck and gasping for air. For an hour or more. So instead of shushing her, we created a secret phrase to ask her to be quiet. Spell avoided.

Have other parents gone through these great lengths to keep their babies and kids happy? Maybe. But had we started trying to conceive, gotten pregnant in that first year, and had our little boy or girl without any complications, I think our attitude would have been different. And our attention a little less lavish. As is evidenced by our behavior with Sydney's younger sister Sabrina (3), and brother Luke (2), who received a lot less attention (as often happens with the second and third kid).

I believe they are the better for it. They are much more laid back. They are not as strong willed. They aren't nearly as sensitive. They are comfortable playing on their own. They are capable of entertaining themselves. They are happier more often.

Here is how I describe our three children to a new babysitter: If Sydney gets a shot at the doctor's office, she will still be crying an hour later. When Sabrina gets a shot, she cries for about 45 seconds, until she can pick her lollipop. When Luke gets a shot, sometimes he doesn't even cry out, but if he does, he stops as soon as the nurse says, "All done!"

Were Sydney, Sabrina and Luke simply born with their temperaments, and different actions would not have resulted in different outcomes? I honestly don't know the answer. But in the end, our lesson learned is that while attention is great, too much attention may not be.

Parent Tips: A Trick for Bad Dreams

Someone once taught me a great trick about conquering bad dreams that worked for me growing up, and now works for our young kids.

If they're scared about something BEFORE they fall asleep, then you can help them picture whatever it is as silly or funny. Take sharks, for example. My nephew started having bad dreams about sharks after watching Finding Nemo. Before bed, we talked about turning them into a huggable best friend, or a silly shark in boxer shorts who can't stop dancing. And, like magic, his bad dreams about sharks went away.

If your kids wake up in the night from a bad dream, the same process applies - tell them to imagine tickling that silly shark or playing hopscotch with him as they're drifting back to sleep. 

Apparently, the same process applies to bad thoughts too. If you can't stop thinking about something negative, you need to give your brain a new image to replace it with that makes you happy instead of mad, sad or scared. For example, if you've accidentally closed the door on your child's finger, and you keep going over that terrible moment in your head, any time the thought creeps back in, imagine her happy face after-the-fact instead.

Parenting Authors & Experts Interview: 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

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Q&A WITH KARI KAMPAKIS

Author: 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

Question: How did you first get into writing?

Answer: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but 8 years ago, while pregnant with my third child, I quit talking about writing a book and actually started to work on one. I began by writing essays on motherhood, then I spent five years writing three novels, all unpublished. It’s easy to consider all that unpublished work a waste a time, but I don’t see it that way. I needed the practice to hone my writing skills and find a voice that suits me. 

Question: How did your original blog post, 10 Truths Young Girls Should Know, turn into a book?

Answer: I published that post in July 2013 on my blog, and immediately it started getting shared all over Facebook and Pinterest. I knew from the emails I got (from moms, dads, and youth pastors) that the message struck a chord. It was two months after all the excitement calmed down, when everyone had moved on to other stories, that I heard from an editor at Thomas Nelson who expressed interest in expanding the post into a book. They wanted the book to release before Christmas, so the whole process - from me writing the book to them launching it - happened quickly and in a year’s time.

Question: If readers were to take away one key lesson from your book, what do you hope it would be?

Answer: The main thing I want my young readers to know is that God loves them, God sees them, and God has a plan for their life. I want them to know there’s more to life than junior high and high school, and by making good choices now, they set themselves up to thrive long-term. 

Question: For the moms out there like me, with young girls, what is the most surprising thing we should prepare for in the tween/teenage years?

Answer: The most surprising thing I’ve learned is how early the negative influences start.  After talking to parents, school counselors, psychologists, and others who work with adolescents, my eyes have been opened to the hard realities of teen culture today. For our kids to make good choices, we need to prepare them for difficult situations and have some uncomfortable conversations so they don’t enter this world blindly and follow the crowd simply because they’ve never been given alternative options to consider.

Question: Your #1 Lesson is Everything You Need to Find Peace and Happiness is Inside You. How did you teach your girls that truth?

Answer: I try to teach my daughters to trust their instincts. When something feels wrong, there’s a reason. When someone seems untrustworthy, there’s a reason. I’m a big believer in tuning into your conscience and what that inner voice says, because that’s God talking. Even at a young age, kids can understand that when they’re kind to others, it makes them feel good, and when they’re not kind, it creates unrest. The sooner they get a handle on their feelings, and develop some sort of emotional intelligence, the better equipped they’ll be to recognize cues that can help draw them closer to God.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kari Kampakis started her writing career with her first PR job out of college. She began writing fiction novels while pregnant, and played the chicken-and-the egg routine to getting an agent or publisher. Then the door opened when two community newspapers began carrying her column.

In 2013, she re-launched her website and began blogging. Four months later, her first blog post went viral. Titled 10 Truths Young Girls Should Know,  it caught the attention of Thomas Nelson, a major Christian publisher, who expressed interest in creating a book. On November 4, 2014, Thomas Nelson released 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, written for teen and tween girls.

Ella, Sophie, Marie Claire, and Camille are her pride and joy.

Book: 10 ULTIMATE TRUTHS GIRLS SHOULD KNOW

Facebook: Kari Kampakis, Writer

Twitter: @karikampakis

Instagram: karikampakis

Pinterest: Kari Kampakis

BITLY LINKS to books

·      Amazon: http://amzn.to/1AOH49X

·      Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1sltw0I

·      BooksAMillion:  http://bit.ly/1kz1izP

·      Christianbook.com: http://bit.ly/1qLPyrv

Infertility Authors & Experts Interview: Cindy Bailey, The Fertile Kitchen® Cookbook

Q&A WITH CINDY BAILEY

Co-Author of The Fertile Kitchen Cookbook®

Question: How did the idea for The Fertile Kitchen Cookbook® come about?

Answer: This book came out of our own experience. After trying to conceive for over a year, we visited a fertility specialist who gave us a 2% chance of conceiving on our own. Of course, I was devastated, but at the same time I refused to accept his grim prognosis. It was simply unacceptable to me that I don’t get to have a child, so I did a lot of research and put myself on a fertility friendly diet, among other healing regimens, such as yoga and meditation. Four months later, after I turned 40 years old, my husband and I conceived – naturally. During that time, what made the restrictive diet so much easier to follow was my husband Pierre’s cooking. He created a wide variety of dishes that were simple to make, yet full of flavor (you can’t tell these dishes contain no wheat, sugar or dairy!). Having those recipes kept us from getting bored and giving up. It made the diet easier to follow and helped us stick with it. Plus, it was a project we could do together, and we both felt empowered by the process. Naturally, we wanted to share what we learned and all the recipes with others in hopes that it might help them in the way it helped us.

Question: What is the goal or message of your cookbook?

Answer: Our goal is to spread the message that, yes, you absolutely can make a difference in your own fertility through diet and nutrition. And through our book, we aim to empower women and couples to do so.

Also, because we know first-hand how overwhelming and stressful going through fertility issues can be, we designed our book to be easy to use in every way. Dietary guidelines are painless to follow and recipes are simple, yet flavorful, to make.

Question: Are there specific foods women should avoid while trying to conceive?

Answer: Yes – any foods or drinks that overly tax or stress our bodies. These include overly processed foods, trans fat, processed sugar and artificial sweeteners. Dairy and wheat products should also be avoided or, even better, eliminated, because they are hard to digest. Also, many women have a sensitivity, intolerance or outright allergy to dairy or wheat, creating a lot of inflammation in the body and making them especially hard on digestion (as well as the body). We want to create less work for digestion so our body’s energy can be applied elsewhere, such as to our reproductive system, for healing and growth.

You also want to avoid alcohol, caffeine, sodas, coffee, iced or cold beverages (stick with foods closer to your body temperature), and fruit juices (too much concentrated sugar, although whole fruits are great).

Question: What types of recipes do you feature in your book?

Answer: We feature a variety of ethnically diverse recipes that are all simple to make. Women and couples struggling with fertility issues are often already overwhelmed. We didn’t want them to feel changing their diet would be another burden. We wanted them to enjoy flavorful dishes so they wouldn’t notice too much that they were on a diet. We feature recipes for vegetables, beans, rice and grains, meat, seafood, soups and salads, sides and sauces and breakfast dishes. We only feature a couple of desserts, as processed sugar is not allowed. Favorite dishes include: Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken with Portobello Mushrooms, Lamb Stew, Spicy Garbanzo Beans, Crepes Salée, Chile Con Carne (healthy version) and more. All are easy to make.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a former athlete, Cindy Bailey has a passion for good health and nutrition, and a commitment to helping others find natural, holistic ways of healing. In addition to giving workshops and talks on Eating and Fertility, she is a professional member of RESOLVE, the national infertility organization, and is on the Advisory Board for the International Academy of Baby Planner Professionals (IABPP). Her fertility story has aired nationally on NBC and CBS.

www.fertilekitchen.com  -  @fertilektichen  -  facebook.com/fertilekitchen

Child Development Authors & Experts Interview: Love & Logic Facilitator, Jessica Johnson

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Q&A WITH JESSICA JOHNSON

Love & Logic Independent Facilitator

Question: What made you decide to be a Love & Logic Instructor?

Answer: My husband and I took one of their classes, and right from the start we were taught techniques that we could implement at home with our children. We did, and they worked! I am a preschool teacher and I kept telling my director all about it. She suggested that since it worked so well with my family, I should consider becoming a facilitator.

Question: For those who aren’t familiar with Love & Logic, what’s the basic premise?

Answer: Love and Logic teaches parents to set firm but loving limits, to allow children to make mistakes in a loving environment, and to let them learn from their mistakes - not from parents lecturing, threatening, or warning them.

Question: What’s your favorite example of how Love & Logic has worked in your home or classroom?

Answer: One of my favorite books by the Love and Logic Institute is on chores and allowance, called Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats. By giving my children an allowance, I have eliminated the begging and tantrums that used to come whenever we went shopping. Now that they have their own money and can make their own purchasing decisions, running errands with them is pleasant again! And I am no longer deciding what is or isn’t important to them. For example, my son decided he wanted a $60 Halloween costume. I told him I would be happy to pay for half of it if he would pay for the other half. He had been saving his money for a video game and he told me he'd need to think about it. The next day, he let me know that the video game was more important to him and that he would just wear a costume he already had. I love that he had the ability to figure that out on his own, without my input.

Question: What’s your favorite Love & Logic tip?

Answer: My favorite tip or technique is called the Enforceable Statement. This technique teaches you how to word limits in a positive “I will” message, rather than a negative “you will” message. For example, saying, “I am happy to take children to the park who have finished putting away their toys,” instead of “I told you to put your toys away five minutes ago!”

Question: What kinds of skills can parents expect to walk away with after taking your class?

Answer: Parents will walk away with skills that will allow them to handle any situation their child can throw at them. My favorite thing about Love and Logic is that it truly gives you the language to effectively communicate with your children – to know what to say in any situation.

Question: For those parents in Austin, please tell us when your next set of classes will be. For those outside of Austin, how can they find a local class of their own?

Answer: I will be facilitating the Love and Logic Early Childhood Made Fun curriculum at Westminster Presbyterian Day School starting Sunday, October 26th and running through November 23rd. We will meet every Sunday from 4 – 6 pm for five weeks. Anyone interested can email me at jpriour@hotmail.com for more information on this or other classes. For those outside of Austin, they can call the Love and Logic Institute at 1-800-338-4065 to find a facilitator in their area. 

ABOUT JESSICA

Jessica Johnson graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with high honors and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She has been teaching toddlers at Westminster Presbyterian Day School for 10 years. She has been a facilitator for Love and Logic for two years. She lives in Austin with her husband Chris Johnson, and their son Brooks (age 9) and daughter Adelaide (age 6).

Website: loveandlogic.com    Email: jpriour@hotmail.com

Lessons Learned: Going with Your Gut

There is a lot of research that says it's not always right to go with your gut instincts. For instance, my 2-year-old is suddenly into painting and coloring. He runs into my office and proudly says, "Look Mommy!" and holds up a picture of 8 squiggly circles. My gut instinct is to say, "Wow Luke, that's awesome!" because I see the smile light up his entire face with praise. Instead, I say, "Look at all those colors you used!" or "Did you do that all by yourself? It looks like you worked really hard on it!" Why? Because I've read all the research about the pitfalls of "good job praise," and try to avoid it whenever I can. I've been practicing the "specific praise" for years. It still feels unnatural. And you can tell they just want you to say, "It's Beautiful!"

So as parents, our gut instincts are not always right, even when they feel right.

But when it was time to decide where my daughter should go to Kindergarten, I had no choice but to use my gut instincts (which apparently isn't some mysterious inner source, but a form of unconscious reasoning—one that's rooted in the way our brains collect and store information).

When our oldest daughter, Sydney, was three, she started preschool at a private Montessori in our neighborhood. The school is for 3, 4 and 5-year-olds, and ideally, children stay for three years, including Kindergarten. That last year is very important for leadership development, because the five-year-olds are setting the example for the classroom and helping teachers with the younger children.

Montessori is all about independent work and learning through repetition. The teacher presents a lesson once, and the child returns to that work over and over until she's mastered it. That's all great, until you have a child who doesn't want to return to something she's already done. She only wants more and more lessons on the new things. Sydney would drive her teacher crazy over lesson requests, even when she'd already had a new lesson, or even two, that day (keep in mind there is lead teacher giving lessons to 30 children in a class!).

Sydney learned so much in her two years at Montessori, probably even more than we can see at this point, but my fear was that she'd spend another year avoiding work she was already familiar with and never learn how to master anything. I thought the competition and camaraderie of our public elementary school, which everyone in the neighborhood rants and raves over, would suit her personality much better. She'd make friends who were reading at a higher level and want to read more. She'd run harder because there were other kids who were faster. I'm sure there's research that says fostering competition is bad too, but I'll worry about that another day.

When I asked Sydney where she wanted to go for Kindergarten, and briefly explained her two choices, she chose the new school. Which I thought was interesting and a little surprising, since she didn't know much about it and would be leaving the friends she'd made over the last two years. But that was the final kicker for me. She was ready for a new adventure, and this is our I'd rather stay home than go to the park or the pool kid. The child who rarely wants to do anything new. So we decided she'd head to the public school for Kindergarten.

How'd that decision turn out? Nearly every day this past year, Sydney replied to my inquiry about her day with, "It was the best day ever." She went to the doctor with an ear infection and the first question she asked him was if she could still go to school the next day. She had never loved school this much before. The environment ended up being perfect for her. And I hope she will stay this enamored with school in the years to come.

Now Sabrina, our three-year-old, just finished her first year at Montessori. Unlike Sydney, she loves perfecting a lesson and teaching others. It's very likely she'll stay for all three years and learn even more from a classroom and leadership perspective than she could from public Kindergarten.

At the end of next school year, I'll have to go with my gut again, and hope that I've made the right choice...