March 2005



Is No Child Left Behind? In your February issue, Merry Mayer asks, “Are children still being left behind?” The answer is a resounding yes! In addition to the complicated issues mentioned in her article, more than 165,000 students in Illinois alone are being left behind not because they fall through the cracks, but because they hit the ceiling.

No Child Left Behind has no provisions for students who perform well above the normed standards for their age and or grade. Neither does the state of Illinois. Our legislature recently voted to end services for gifted students.

Just as, NCLB unfairly “asks disabled and limited English-speaking children to perform at the same level as everyone else,” it also holds high-ability learners accountable for meeting only those minimum standards. This does nothing to encourage such students to achieve at the highest possible levels, nor does it provide any incentive for their public schools to educate them to do so.

If our nation is to remain at the forefront of medical, scientific and technical innovation, our education policies must point in that direction. We believe NCLB was well intended, but it needs major revisions and increased funding to accomplish its goals. EVE KOCHMAN Aurora KIM MOLDOFSKY Skokie

Don’t forget daycare homes I just read the Smart Love column (February 2005) and I must comment on the answer to the question about choosing a daycare environment for a 2-year-old. The answer offered some good pointers on how to choose a childcare center, but completely overlooked family childcare homes.

I am a licensed childcare provider. A quality family childcare environment has much to offer that a center does not: mixed-age groupings, the ability to keep siblings together, learning through play and a home-like atmosphere.

Family childcare has a low ratio of children in care and the children are part of a smaller group. Children in a family childcare home form strong bonds with the provider and the other children in care; the children and their families can count on the consistency of one provider’s care rather than two shift changes each day and a more frequent turnover of workers in a large center. Licensed family childcare providers are CPR and first aid certified, as well as being required to take ongoing training each year.

More information about family care and a list of licensed providers is available from Action For Children at www.actforchildren.org or (773) 687-4000. NANCY JANDT Hanover Park

The unschooled can make it I had to laugh at Laura Doyle’s letter (February 2005, “Feedback”) criticizing unschooling. We unschooled and my son went to four years of college, staying on the Dean’s List all four years. He is now a police officer and on the SWAT team in Georgia. So, I guess she’s right, my son is doing an unjob—’cause it sure isn’t 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. My other son scored high on his SAT test and went on to a “job” in the real world! SURPRISE! CAROL MIDDENDORF Wasilla, Alaska

Homeschooling is valuable In response to Laura Doyle’s letter (February 2005, “Feedback”) belittling homeschooling, I’d respectfully suggest her positive experiences as a child in school are not those of every child. Also, her indictment of unschooling should not be extended to all homeschooling, where various other methods and philosophies are widely used. Frankly, however, her dismissal of child-directed learning reflects a lack of understanding of the value of allowing a child’s curiosity and interests to guide learning.

The value of homeschooling lies in its ability to accommodate each child, per his or her academic strengths and weaknesses. The one-on-one time I spend with my son far surpasses the amount of time he’d get in any school, public or private. Any teacher will tell you that there is simply no greater tool than one-to-one instruction, which is impossible in compulsory schools.

As for Doyle’s comment that the social skills she gained in a compulsory school shaped her life in a positive way, I would argue that the socialization in compulsory schools—with pecking orders, meanness, cliques and peer pressure—is the single most damaging aspect of public schooling. That behavior does in no way transfer to the adult world and is wholly detrimental to the development of a healthy human being.

The common criticism of homeschooling is that a compulsory school setting is the only sensible venue to socialize children, which is absurd. I learned how to treat others from my parents, not from anyone I sat next to in class or met in a schoolyard. GARY LARSEN Wood Dale

Barbie.com not that innocent Last week, my 7-year-old daughter sang out the line, “I’m not that innocent!” at the breakfast table. To me, this line has a sexual connotation. Concerned, I asked where she learned this. She replied, “Barbie.com.”

Yes, the Barbie Web site contains an “American Idol” section, with “contestants” singing song snippets. Barbie’s performance is of Britney Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again!” Virtually all you can hear is the last line “I’m not that innocent!” (Mattel also has a new doll singing the song, as well as a karaoke player.)

Adults might see the irony in all-American Barbie trying to prove she’s a bit of a bad girl, but most parents are disturbed by their daughters voicing such innuendos—especially since the Barbie demographic is mostly girls ages 3 to 8. According to Dr. Susan Linn, associate director of the Media Center for Children at the Harvard University-affiliated Judge Baker Children’s Center, “A disturbing trend [is developing] in which all sorts of companies are sexualizing messages to very young girls.”

Mattel now has to compete with Bratz and all the other “streetwise” dolls out there. Like it or not, sex sells and even toy companies are capitalizing on this.

When I complained to Mattel, the customer service center wrote back two lines of reasoning: First, the original song is about a crush and there’s no sex in it. And second, it’s one of Radio Disney’s most popular songs. To which I reply: The original context is not about a crush. A girl tells a boy that she’s tricked him into thinking she’s in love. She’s asserting that she’s no angel. (What a wonderful message for girls ages 3 to 8!) Regardless, the original song is irrelevant: at barbie.com, girls are learning and singing the line, “I’m not that innocent!” Does it matter what story is behind it?

So, parents, please don’t be naive. Mattel is “not that innocent” and the company is literally banking on the idea that it is cute or cool if your daughters sing along.

Please call Mattel at (310) 252-2000 or (800) 524-8697, send an e-mail at www.service.mattel.com, or write Mattel, Inc., 333 Continental Blvd., El Segundo, CA 90245-5012 to voice your concerns. ANITA BRUBAKER Wilmette

A few values suggestions Your January 2005 article, “Make 2005 a year your children will remember,” contained many worthwhile suggestions. But it is the sub-theme, “pass our values on to the next generation,” that caught my eye.

I agree that we should teach our children to “accept and appreciate” the multicultural world (February). Add to that forming and nurturing relationships with everyone we are in contact with—in the neighborhood, at school, at church and eventually at work—and it becomes much more well rounded. Include the word “serve” and we are there.

Further, it is through this serving and being served that we empower our children. Empowering is love in action. And the greatest kind of love is unconditional.

Next, whether caring for all creatures by owning a pet or visiting the zoo (July), or caring for our Earth through recycling (September), we are including one of the actions that defines family relationships: caring. Add others: loving, responding, disciplining, giving, respecting, knowing and forgiving, and we see characteristics that can be included in the process of parenting children—and very specifically—Christian parenting.

What are some other modifications I would make? Exchange “donating” for “giving” under Financial Responsibility. Giving speaks of something bigger, more encompassing and without strings attached. It includes what we as good stewards of God’s gifts do as Christians on a regular basis.

And let’s take a second look at the saving principle. Yes, there is certainly delayed gratification through saving, but the idea comes around full circle with an emphasis on giving. First fruits to God, with the remainder sufficient for our needs, not wants.

The month of March in 2005 is easy—it’s about Easter—and that’s all about Christ, forgiving and being forgiven. This is a time to clear out issues between family members. Relationships are such an important area of all our lives. Encouraging and modeling this to one who is young returns in kind to the whole world.

Not only is this a Christian value all on its own, but pair it with family communication and it leads to intimacy. To know and be known. For example: When I was growing up, dinner was spent together, every night. We talked about the day (both school and work), family plans and life.

Finally, November and December. Giving thanks and celebrating. Why wait until November to give thanks? Teach your children to say “thank you” every day. Compassion, generosity, caring and sharing are certainly seen in extra measure in December and are fine core values. Though not in presents or Santa or holiday spectacles. Instead, remember it is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. Period.  SUSAN ZIEGLER Burr Ridge

We’re growing, getting bigger and better. Chicago Parent Going Places, which you know as the annual bible of listings of everything there is for families to do or see in the Chicago area, is becoming a quarterly glossy magazine. In addition, we’ll take over the semi-annual award-winning Chicago Baby magazine this fall, when Mary Haley, the incomparable former editor of all three publications, moves onto her long-awaited retirement. All this new responsibility means we’re expanding—building new walls and adding new people—as well as promoting others. First, the editorial promotions. Editor Susy Schultz is adding the title of associate publisher, a symbol of her additional responsibilities and integral role in launching the new Chicago Parent Going Places quarterly. Cindy Richards becomes senior editor and travel editor. Next, our new staff members. Lorien Menhennett joins us as associate editor. She has been editor of the Forest Park Review, a weekly newspaper owned by our parent company, Wednesday Journal Inc. Beverly Mendoza joins us as calendar editor and will have responsibility for the calendar sections of Chicago Parent and Chicago Parent Going Places listings. Finally, to keep us all sane during this time, Michael Phillips joins us as assistant to the editor and all around Guy Friday. On the advertising side, Advertising Director Patti Minglin adds the title of associate publisher. And joining the expanded advertising sales staff are Kimberly Kutnick, who will sell on the North Shore; Dee Tremont who will be in Lake County; and Bronwyn Wright who joins the classified advertising department. Kutnick and Tremont come to Chicago Parent from the Chicago Tribune. Cindy Richards


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