Heart Stopping Independence

Waving goodbye to my daughter at John F. Kennedy Airport was one of the more gut-wrenching experiences of my life. Not just any airport, I was dropping her off at one of the most-traveled intersections on the world.

If I could have stayed to see her off, to be certain that she made it on the flight, I would have. But, as luck would have it, my own flight was to take off from LaGuardia Airport a scant hour after hers. All I could do was to watch her check her bags curbside, give her one last precious hug, and watch her walk away through the glass doors.

There was little concrete reason to worry, but it was the idle, nameless fears that had my stomach in knots.

Would she make it on the flight? Would her flight make it to her destination? Would her grandmother meet her flight? And what will happen in a month on an island full of sun-kissed teenage boys?

And then there is the fear that I hesitate to name: would this experience signal a new independence, a severing of the apron strings?

It is inevitable, I know. With each necessary step toward independence, my daughter takes a step away from me and toward the wide-open vista of adulthood.

I would not halt this progress; instead choosing to encourage her toward becoming the fierce woman that she is meant to be.

No, I would not hold her back, but I will take a moment to acknowledge that I miss the closeness that we once shared when every waking moment, and many nights as well, my daughter was a fixture on my hip or breast.

That was a long time ago, practically another lifetime ago.

Today, I’m in transit, headed to a conference of my peers, taking a step toward my own independence, because, you know, there is no expiration date on becoming the woman that I was meant to be.

If I Can Do It, You Can Do It

Hey Sis,

More than halfway into the Freihofer’s Training Challenge, I have yet to discover my inner runner. Every time the iPhone sounds the morning alarm, an epic battle ensues behind closed lids over who will win – the sneakers or the pillow.

Look for me about 20 seconds into the commercial.

On Nike’s side is the public nature of this endeavor. Not only have I signed up to blog about the Freihofer’s Training Challenge, I have even gone on record in a TV commercial for the the race to declare that “If I can do it, you can do it.”

Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if I dropped out now?

In case you missed it, here is the running journey so far:

Con Cariño,


A Blogging Farewell

Hey Sis,

My days as the teen columnist at Kids Fun Plaza have come to an end. It was a good run while it lasted. The magazine gave me my first publishing credit, even as it gave me a chance to experiment with article formats.

But it wasn’t a good fit for me. I found it difficult to keep up with the demands of writing weekly blog posts on top of my own blogs, but even more challenging was the focus on writing about parenting teens.

As you know, I realized earlier this year that my children’s stories have ceased to be my story. I can’t freely write about my personal experience with teens, and in any case, I would prefer to stick to writing about family travel.

So that’s it, I resigned from the Kids Fun Plaza publications, but here, in case you missed them, are my posts on the Kids Fun Plaza blog:


Con Cariño,


Family Travel for Social Good / Familia de viajes para el bien social

Siempre ha sido mi sueño de compartir una vacación de voluntariado con mi familia.

Así que cuando me enteré de que LATISM, la organización de los latinos en los medios de comunicación social, estaba planeando proyectos de desarrollo sostenible en la República Dominicana este verano, me parecio que este programa va ser perfecto para nuestra primera vacación de voluntariado

Ana Roca-Castro describes the LATISM Sustainable Development Projects

Me enteré de LATISM de Ana Roca-Castro, editor de Kids Fun Plaza y fundador de LATISM, . Un líder de la comunidad, Ana es el que me llevó a pensar en los emprendimientos sociales. Ella me ayudó a definir una idea que habíaestado lanzando en mi cabeza que es para crear un cambio social con los principiosempresariales (más sobre esto otra vez!)

Proyectos de desarrollo sostenible LATISM son tres: un campamento de verano, la construcción de una sala de informática, y la conexión a través de Libros Mamá Mamá. Ese es el que realmente me emociona porque creo que las herramientas de medios sociales ofrecen oportunidades sin precedentes para contratar y para permitir a las organizaciones de base a través de un modelo ecológico hiper-conectado de comunicación.

Si bien tengo muchas ganas a la tutoría una bloggera, a mis hijos ya están planificando varios talleres que esperan al plomo. Hasta el momento, se habla de los talleres se centró en los cómics, hacer videos, y skimboard.

No estoy exactamente seguro de lo que nos estamos metiendo, pero sé que será una aventura!

Interesados ​​en aprender más sobre Sostenible LATISM de Proyectos de Desarrollo? Haga clic aquí para obtener más información.

Incluso si usted no puede asistir a la República Dominicana este verano, hay un númerode maneras de participar en este proyecto. Aquí están algunas ideas en el blog LATISM:

  • Organizar una colección de útiles escolares, juguetes y ordenadores portátiles usados​​,cámaras flip y cámaras digitales en su Tweetup LATISM siguiente, en la iglesia, sutrabajo, familia de la escuela, o en cualquier lugar donde usted tiene influencia.
  • Alquiler de las mamás y los adolescentes campamento entrenará prestación de servicios cibernéticos.
  • Comprar los productos de la LATISM Sostenible de comercio electrónico cuando esté listo a finales del verano

Family Travel for Social Good

It has always been my dream to share a volunteer vacation with my family.

So when I heard that LATISM, the nonprofit organization of Latinos in Social Media, was launching sustainable development projects in the Dominican Republic this summer, I jumped right on it.

I first heard about LATISM from Kids Fun Plaza publisher and LATISM founder, Ana Roca-Castro. An inspiring community leader, Ana is the one who got me to thinking about social entrepreneurship. She helped me define an idea that I had been tossing around in my head which is to create social change using entrepreneurial principles (more on that another time!)

LATISM’s sustainable development projects are threefold: a summer camp, building a cyber room, and connecting through Mama por Mama. That’s the one that really excites me as I believe that social media tools offer unprecedented opportunities to engage and enable grassroots organizations through a hyper-connected ecological model of communication.

While I’m looking forward to mentoring a bloggera, my kids are already planning several workshops that they hope to lead. So far, there is talk of workshops focused on comic books, making videos, and skimboarding.

I’m not exactly sure what we’re getting ourselves into, but I know that it will be an adventure!

Interested in learning more about LATISM’s Sustainable Development Projects? Click here for more information.

Get Involved:

Even if you can’t make it to the Dominican Republic this summer, there are a number of ways to be involved in this project. Here are a few ideas from the LATISM blog:

  • Organize a collection of school supplies, toys and used laptops, flip cameras and digital cameras in your next LATISM Tweetup, at church,  your job, family, school or anywhere where you have influence.
  • Hire the moms and camp teens we will train to provide cyber services.
  • Buy the products from the LATISM Sustainable e-commerce when it’s ready at the end of the summer

More Spanish Friday:

Snow Ice Cream

My son has been dying to make his own ice cream, but I’ve been stalling. It’s messy, and who wants to eat ice cream in the winter? Well, he does, and he isn’t alone. Cold temperatures and even snow are not a deterrent to hardy ice cream lovers. A blizzard may even provide ideal conditions for a childhood favorite, Snow Ice Cream.


With eighteen inches of fresh snow, and more on the way, my son tested out a recipe for Snow Ice Cream that I found on the Albany Mommy blog:


* 8 cups Fresh Snow (liquid measure)
* 1 cup Sugar
* 1 cup Milk
* 2 tbsp Vanilla


* Put approximately 8 cups of fresh snow into a large mixing bowl.
* Add the ingredients – first 1-cup sugar, then 2 tablespoons vanilla and finally, 1-cup milk.
* With the help of a wooden spoon, mix all the ingredients well.
* Continue mixing till the ingredients are well combined and snow attains the texture of ice cream.
* Serve immediately, since snow cream does not hold well in freezer.


The product was disappointing. It was more liquid than expected, and the vanilla gave it an odd taste. I’m not sure if he put in too much vanilla, or if it was the wrong kind of vanilla, but it had an unpleasant, almost bitter, flavor.

With all the snow on hand, I think he needs to try again. I printed out a few alternative recipes that I think look promising.  Too bad we don’t have sweetened condensed milk on hand to try out Paula Deen’s Snow Ice Cream!

More Snow Ice Cream Recipes:

From SAHM to WAHM: Opening a Bank Account

I took a step forward yesterday. A small, but significant, step toward advancing my freelance writing career.

Late in the afternoon, I finally did something I have been planning to do since August. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s one of those important items on my bucket list that somehow always gets set aside for more urgent matters.

On my way back from yet another mommy chauffeur trip, I stopped at the credit union and opened a bank account. No big deal, you might say, but it was a big deal to me.

I haven’t had a personal bank account in at least fifteen years. Early on, possibly before we were even married, my husband and I pooled our money into a joint account. But I was in charge of the finances until a couple of years ago. Dealing jointly with our finances has been a bumpy ride, but I never regretted having a joint account. Not even when I handed over the financial responsibilities to my husband a couple of years back.

And yet, when I met with a service manager to open my new account, it was a little scary and even a little embarrassing. Here I am, a strong advocate for girl empowerment, and I didn’t even have my own bank account. Never mind what we would find when they pulled up my credit report, or worse yet, what they wouldn’t find.

I guess it was those subconscious fears that had me procrastinating what was truly an easy matter. All I needed was $1 and a driver’s license to open up a savings account at SEFCU. The whole process took about thirty minutes. Easy peasy.

Even better, I deposited my first freelance writing checks. And I don’t mind admitting that there is a HUGE satisfaction in seeing that bank balance. I earned it myself, doing something I love to do.

How awesome is that?

Assessments and The Homeschooled Student

Do your students have to take the same standardized tests as mine? If so, how much test prep do you do each week? Teacher, Revised

Testing requirements and practice for homeschooled students differ by state and by family, much like they differ by state and teacher in the public schools.

Some homeschool families may satisfy their assessment requirements by doing absolutely nothing, while others may devote a significant part of their day to test prep and/or testing itself.

I’d say we’re in the middle.

New York Homeschool Assessment Requirements

In Grades 1-3, homeschooled New Yorkers are not required to take an assessment test.  They can satisfy state requirements with a written narrative that:

  1. Uses the regulation’s required phrase: “[Child] has made adequate academic progress this year.”
  2. Lists two or three “highlights of the year”, as insurance against claims that the “narrative” isn’t really a narrative.
  3. Ends with, “See the previously submitted quarterly reports for details.”
    (Thank you, John Munson, NYHEN-Support Yahoo Forum)

This narrative is to be written by a “certified teacher, peer review panel, or other person, who has interviewed the child and reviewed a portfolio of the child’s work…[and who] shall be chosen by the parent with the consent of the superintendent.”  Parents can also prepare this narrative, with prior approval of the superintendent.

Last year I didn’t understand the nuances of this requirement, so I just filled out our End of Year Assessment, and I included the link to my son’s blog, thus effectively fulfilling the portfolio requirement.  This year, I’ll do the same, assuming that these meet the “superintendent’s approval,” unless told otherwise.

In Grades 4-8, homeschooled NY students are required to file an annual assessment from the list of approved tests. (See below.)  This is also to be administered by a person approved by the superintendent.

However, on alternate years, homeschooled students in Grades 4-8 can submit a narrative instead of an assessment test.  Thus, a homeschooled student can postpone taking a standardized test until 5th Grade.

Why bother with assessment tests if you don’t have to?

As a Third Grader, Alex is not required to take an assessment test, but I’m a proactive kind of mom.

Generally, we don’t do much testing at all.  I can tell from looking at his work product, or discussing the subject, whether, or not, he understands the material.  In recent months, we added weekly Spelling tests, but that was as an incentive to memorize the words.

Since we’re not required to file an assessment test, it’s actually a good time to investigate our options, and take these tests without any worries.

Taking Standardized Tests Anyway

In midyear, I printed out the NY State Tests (for Third Grade) that all 3rd Graders in NY public schools took in 2008.  Unlike the students in public schools who take the Language Arts Test in January, and the Mathematics Test in March, Alex took all the tests in one week.  In the home setting, it just wasn’t the stressful, big deal that it is in school.

We hadn’t done any prep, as the test itself was a preparation, and there was nothing riding on the outcome.  Not surprisingly, Alex did incredibly well on the Language Arts sections, but he missed questions on the Math sections.  I found out that he didn’t have a strong grasp of Time or Money, but those were topics he hadn’t gotten to in the 3rd Grade Singapore Math sequence. Again, not a big deal.

Last week, I pulled out the 3rd Grade Test Prep book that I ordered along with the CAT-E test, and gave it to Alex to work on independently.  He delighted in an easy week, where he got to practice his bubble-filling skills.

This week, I administered both the PASS Test and the CAT-E Test.  A bit much, I know.  This was not the highlight of our homeschool year, but now I have a good idea of what we’ll use in the future.

We decided that we did not like the PASS Test.  We found some of the questions to be poorly written, and it was a lot longer than the CAT-E, 150 vs. 100 questions.  Now, we know that when we are required to submit an assessment test, we’ll choose the CAT-E.  However, we won’t bother with this again until we have to in 5th Grade.

What We Got Out Of The Standardized Tests

It was reassuring to know that Alex was meeting state standards; actually, it’s gratifying to know that Alex is performing well beyond these minimum standards.  Even though he is doing exceedingly well, the tests also showed us that there were topics or skills that needed review, and reinforcement.

For us, the tests are a safety net.  Next year, I’ll just have Alex take the free NY State Tests at home, for our own edification.

As a homeschool educator, I’m able to use these tests in a way that never happens in the schools.  I can see the results right away, and I can use that information to help Alex strengthen weak areas.

Not a Fan of NCLB Testing

Just in case you’re wondering if I’ve suddenly had a change of heart regarding NCLB, let me be perfectly clear.

Although I’m using the same state tests that schools give to comply with the No Child Left Behind laws, I’m not a fan of mandatory testing in our public schools.

As it stands, these tests are for the benefit of the schools, not the students.  And, I don’t see the schools deriving much benefit, either.

In the public schools, teachers don’t usually see the results until late in the school year, months after they administer the test.  Although it is always possible that there is a teacher somewhere who looks at the individual student results and uses that information to help that student, that has NOT been my experience.

I’ve found that the information is not used in the current year, and it’s unlikely to be used the next.  My kids seemed to have teachers who preferred starting the year with a blank slate, with no undue influence from prior records.  I don’t know this for a fact, but my daughter’s teachers didn’t seem to know much about her at the beginning of the year.

State tests are an excellent assessment tool in the homeschool, not so much in our public schools.

These Standardized Tests Work For Me

I like using the State Tests as an assessment tool.  It works for us as it doesn’t demand much of my son, and it comforts me to have empirical evidence that he is doing at least as well as his public school peers.  If I were a more confident homeschooler, or one with years of teaching experience, I’d probably wouldn’t bother with them at all.

For now, the test results are potent ammunition when I get those pesky questions from friends and strangers asking me how do I know that my homeschooled son is doing well academically.  Well, the test results show that he is, at a minimum, “maintaining and doing as well as before.”  (See Can It Be Any Clearer? to find out why I’m laughing sardonically.)

NYHEN Homeschooling Requirements:

Standardized Test Providers For The Homeschool

State Tests

  • K-12 State Testing – Links to Sample or Past State Tests from most US States.
  • Grades 3-8 New York State Tests – Links to tests given in previous years to all students in NY public schools in the following subjects:  Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science.

Sample Letter of Intent In New York

Homeschooling is a decision that we make each year.

In New York, it’s not really a choice.  You have to send a Letter of Intent by July 1st as stated in Part 100.10 of the Regulations of the Commisioner of Education.

This first homeschooling year has been a bit of a roller coaster ride as we discovered what worked, and what didn’t work for us.   Overall, it’s been a fun ride, and we’re doing it again.

Here is our generic Letter of Intent sample:

Parents’ Names


June 20, 2008

Re: Notice of Intent to Homeschool

Homeschool Coordinator

School District Administration Address

Dear Sir/Madam:

We intend to homeschool our son/daughter, ____________, who will be entering 3rd grade, for the 2008-2009 academic year.

We are sending this letter of intent as required of Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education.

For your records, the student is:

Name of Student



Phone Number

Email: ___________________



Sandra Foyt