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How to Connect with Other Moms

HAPPIFAMLI

How to Connect with Other Moms

HappiFamli, Senior Mom Friend Correspondent

October 28, 2019

I remember the first few months of being a stay-at-home parent. It was just me and my baby boy, all day. If the weather was nice, I would push him up and down the street in his stroller. We’d go back inside and nurse. When he was about six months old, we would go around the house and I’d let him flip the light switches on and off. This was the most exciting part of our day. All this being said, the baby and toddler stages can be incredibly boring. It wasn’t until I found my neighborhood mom’s group that I felt like I was alive again. If you’re looking for a way to connect with other moms, here are a few useful resources that can help.

MOMS Club International: Without this organization, I don’t know if I would have survived that first year of motherhood. MOMS Club allows you to find age-appropriate playdates, events, and even MOMS Night Out shenanigans with other mothers your area.  With chapters all across the world, you can use the MOMS Club International website to help you find the closest one to you.  

Peanut App: If there’s Tinder and Bumble for friends and dates, there has to be an app for mom friends right? Right. The Peanut app works in a similar way, where you upload your picture and other information and then look through other profiles to find mom friends that fit you. When your matched up with another mom, you can connect via chat in order to plan play dates and get-togethers. Take advantage of modern solutions like Peanut app to help you navigate through the hardest years of motherhood!  

Facebook: It may seem silly to post a personal ad on Facebook looking for mom friends but that’s how I found my best friend! Five years ago, she posted on our neighborhood Facebook saying that she was a stay-at-home mom with a five month-old and she was looking for friends in a similar situation. I was, in fact, in that exact situation with my five month-old. We met at the neighborhood park and we’ve been best friends ever since. Therefore, if you are tempted to post or reply to a personal ad for mom friends, go for it! Just make sure that you first meet at a safe place. 

Meetup.com: Yes, another website, but it’s 2019! It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for mom friends or an underwater basket weaving club, Meetup.com has a group for you. You can narrow your search down by your location or specific preferences (ex: moms of toddlers). Plus, joining is free and super easy. 

MOPS: MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) is another worldwide organization that provides gathering opportunities with other mothers at a location near you. Even if your kids are no longer preschoolers, they now offer MOMSnext groups for mothers of school age kids. Go to their website in order to find your closest MOPS group!

 

 

 

HappiFamli Staff’s Best and Worst Parenting Advice

HAPPIFAMLI

HappiFamli Staff’s Best and Worst Parenting Advice

Laura Standefer, Senior Parenting Correspondent

October 21, 2019

As soon as you share the news that you’re becoming a parent, expect to get advice from literally everyone. I learned this as soon as I started showing with my first and randomly started being interrogated and lectured by a random woman at H-E-B.

Most of the time, people are just excited and trying to make conversation. They want to just talk about themselves and relate to you by sharing their own experiences. However, you’ll come to find that all advice isn’t good advice because every child, family, and situation is different. Recently, I sat down with HappiFamli’s staff to discuss the best and worst parenting advice they’ve received. Here’s what they had to say.

Worst Parenting Advice:

    • “Sleep when the baby sleeps.”  Have you ever laid down and told yourself, “I need to fall asleep right this second in order to get some rest.” How well does that work? Trying to sleep whenever the baby sleeps is just like that. It’s too stressful and sometimes there’s simply just too much to do. 
    • Advice regarding sleep training. Some people will tell you to let the baby cry it out and some will tell you to never let the baby cry ever. But at the end of the day, YOU are the one that knows what your baby needs the most. 
    • Anything from your mother or MIL that begins with “Well back in my day….” It’s hard for our mothers and mother-in-laws to accept that times have changed. We have more information on how to feed, transport, and nurture our babies. They may have experience and they always mean well, but it doesn’t mean that you need to take all of their advice.

“…At the end of the day, YOU are the one that knows what your baby needs the most.

Best Parenting Advice:

    • Pick your battles. If everything is a big deal, then nothing is a big deal when you need it to be
    • Taking care of a baby is HARD, so give yourself some grace and forgiveness.  Do your best but don’t beat yourself up when things aren’t perfect.
    • Laugh.  It’s a simple and amazing tool for when you have grumpy kids or want to make a memory even more memorable.
    • Trust your instincts. Listen to yourself, not everybody else.
    • Start as you mean to go on.  Be consistent right from the beginning
    • As parents, be on the same page. Try not to contradict each other in front of the kids. 
    • This too shall pass.  It seems like sometimes kids will never get out of a certain phase.  But I promise they won’t use a pacifier or only eat chicken nuggets, or never sleep through the night when they’re 16.

How to Look for and Evaluate Preschools

HAPPIFAMLI

How to Look for and Evaluate Preschools

Laura Standefer, Senior Preschool Investigator

October 14, 2019

Recently, I had to make the difficult decision to pull my son out of his beloved preschool. There was nothing wrong with the school itself, the days and times available for the pre-kindergarten program just didn’t work for our family. We spent the entire summer touring schools and programs, and I spent many sleepless nights wondering if we would make the right choice. We finally made a decision after weighing the pros and cons of each school and doing as much research as possible. If you are in the process of looking for and evaluating preschools, here are some tips and resources to help you out.

Looking for a Preschool

Nowadays, we have substantial access to word-of-mouth recommendations due to the many outlets of communication we have with other parents. We now have access to online reviews and discussion boards on social media. However, an online search can be incredibly overwhelming and relying discussion boards may cause you to miss out on a school that could really work for you and your family. HappiFamli’s Preschool and Childcare Guide is an excellent resource that includes an extensive list of schools in the Austin area and it can help you find exactly what you’re looking for. 

Once you see the amount of options for preschool and childcare options available in the guide, you may want to determine what type of school is best for your child based on your priorities for your children. HappiFamli’s guide lists and describes the most popular types of schools, including:

– Montessori schools, which are based on the idea that children learn individually at their own pace and teachers are there for guidance. They also emphasize the importance of children being responsible for and taking care of their own belongings.

– Language Immersion schools, where most of the class is taught in a particular language in order to help the students begin to understand the language and encourage them to speak it on their own. 

– Play-Based schools, which is based on the belief that most of children’s learning comes from free play and encourages the students to participate in age appropriate activities.

Play is the most essential tool for children to have in their early childhood development.

Evaluating a Preschool

When I was obtaining my master’s degree in Family and Child Development, we used the NAEYC as a primary source to obtain the most up-to-date philosophies and research information to apply to our future experiences in early childhood education. You can visit the NAEYC website to learn about all of their expectations for early childhood programs, but a few of them include:

 – Promoting a healthy and safe learning environment

– Using diverse and developmentally appropriate teaching approaches  

– Employing educationally qualified, knowledgeable, and committed professionals 

– Implementing strong policies to encourage high quality experiences for staff, students, and parents

HappiFamli’s guide also provides a list of things you should take into consideration when touring schools and childcare programs. For example:

-Do the children have various types of experiences throughout the day?

-Is there a strong connection between home and school?

-Will they be monitoring the child’s progress and adjusting teaching methods on an individualized basis?

These are questions that can be asked before making a decision in order to make the best choice when you are finally ready to enroll.

Many choices will be narrowed down by cost, hours of operation, and location, but the amount of things to consider when choosing a school may still seem overwhelming. I know that I felt an immense amount of stress and pressure when it was time to finally make a decision on my son’s pre-k program. But what helped relieve some of my anxiety was when I remembered the number one thing I took away from the years I spent in my graduate program: Play is the most essential tool for children to have in their early childhood development. This doesn’t mean that the other areas of assessment are not important (obviously, please make sure that the program is clean and safe). However, with the wide variety of philosophies and learning styles available, I personally believe it is most important to find a program that recognizes that each child is an individual and allows for that child to learn by doing what children are meant to do: play! 

Halloween Family Fun

HAPPIFAMLI

Halloween Family Fun

Laura Standefer, Senior Halloween Correspondent

October 7, 2019

The weather is getting cooler and Halloween is just around the corner. Halloween is probably the best holiday ever. There’s no obligation to make a fancy dinner or buy each other presents. You can dress up as your favorite character or food condiment, and guess what? No judgement. And if that wasn’t enough, there is free candy everywhere. If you love Halloween as much as I do, then there are plenty of activities in the Austin area to celebrate. Here’s a list of frightfully wonderful Halloween activities for everyone in your family.

Select Dates from 10/4-10/26: Boo at the Zoo at the Austin Zoo. A spooky train ride, a haunted mansion, and silly shows for the kiddos can all be found at this amazing event. Make sure to call and grab your tickets before they sell out! 

Weekends through 11/3: Barton Hills Farm in Bastrop will be holding their fall festival and pumpkin patch all month long. With corn mazes, a giant jumping pillow, and, of course, so many pumpkins to choose from, this is an amazingly traditional way to celebrate the fall/Halloween season.

10/19: Little Land Play Gym’s 5th Halloween Spooktacular will be held at their north Austin location. Are you a member? If so, then this event is free! Call or check back on their Facebook event page for additional information on everything this spooktacular event will entail. 

10/20: Halloween Monster Mash at The COOP, presented by Keep Austin Young. Come for spooky arts, crafts, and treats. Make sure you get your tickets beforehand!

10/26: Fable Fest at Elizabeth Milburn Park. Come in your favorite costume to one of the best parks in town for magical events and storytelling. 

10/26: Halloween Hootenanny at the Thinkery. We all know that the Thinkery knows how to put on fun events for adults and kids alike. Get your costume and buy your tickets for some Thinkery-style Halloween fun. 

10/27: The Halloween Children’s Concert at the Long Center. Enjoy music from the majestically talented Austin symphony. The fun starts at 3pm. 

10/31: Fall Fun Fest at Old Settlers Park. If you’re looking for an event specifically for preschoolers and toddlers, head to Old Settlers Park in Round Rock for a free event put on by the Parks and Recreation Department. 

Public, Charter, and Private Schools: How They Compare

HAPPIFAMLI

Public, Charter, and Private Schools: How They Compare

HappiFamli, Senior School Correspondents

October 5, 2019

Choices in schools have certainly changed a lot in the last generation or two.  Today education is a complex topic with questions about school quality, accountability, curriculum, and teacher training.  What this means for you, as you try to decide on the best school for your child, is that you have to educate yourself on all the choices available.  Unfortunately, doing that is no longer as straightforward as it once was.

To help you make your decision, here is a general description of and comparison between public, charter, and private schools.

Public schools are schools that are maintained at public expense for the education of the children of a community or district. They are part of a free public education system receiving tax dollars.  

Charter schools are public schools that are independent of school districts through contracts with state or local boards.  They are independently operated public schools started by parents, teachers, community organizations, and for-profit companies. These schools receive tax dollars, but the sponsoring group may also come up with private funding.  Charter schools usually challenge standard education practices and sometimes specialize in a particular area, such as technology, the arts, gifted or high-risk children, or adopt a basic core-subjects approach. 

Private schools are non-governmental schools that are not administered by local, state, or national governments. Because they do not accept public funding of any kind and instead use tuition charged to students as their source of funding as well as grants, donations & endowments.  Private schools are autonomous at the federal level but must adhere to basic state guidelines (such as agreeing to teach reading and math and adhering to building codes). 

When it comes to private versus public/charter schools, there isn’t a right answer to the question, “Which is better?” But given the different qualities of each type of school, there is a right answer to which one is the best fit for your child.