Public, Charter, and Private Schools: How They Compare


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.

School and Child Care Philosophy Overview


School and Child Care Philosophy Overview

HappiFamli, Senior School and Child Care Correspondents

October 4, 2019

Once you see the amount of options for preschool and childcare options available, you may want to determine what type of school is best for your child based on your priorities for your children.  Below is a high-level overview of the types of educational philosophies included.

  • Cooperative:
    • Parents who know their own children’s needs can best guide a preschool toward excellence and integrate home and preschool life through significant, required parent participation in the preschool
    • Can follow any preschool philosophy or a combination
  • Emergent:
    • This philosophy prioritizes active participation, relationship building, flexible and adaptable methods, inquiry, and play-based learning. 
    • Curriculum is child-initiated, collaborative and responsive to the children’s needs.
  • International:
    • Most are dual-language programs.
    • Focus on development of critical thinking skills.
    • Can follow any preschool philosophy or a combination
  • Language Immersion:
    • All or most of classes are conducted entirely in the new language.  
    • Can follow any preschool philosophy or a combination
  • Montessori
    • Based on underlying idea that children are individual learners with teachers as guides.
    • Fosters personal responsibility by encouraging children to take care of their own personal needs & belongings.
    • It stresses the importance of adapting the child’s learning environment to his or her developmental level, and of the role of physical activity in absorbing academic concepts & practical skills
  • Reggio Emilia
    • Based on several principles:
      • Children must have some control over the direction of their learning
      • Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing 
      • Children have endless ways & opportunities to express themselves
    • Emergent curriculum content and activities developed collaboratively by teachers and children 
    • Children expected to learn through mistakes as they are considered equal learners
    • Emphasizes creativity & artistic representation
  • Waldorf
    • In the Waldorf method, learning is interdisciplinary, integrates practical, artistic, and intellectual elements, and is coordinated with “natural rhythms of everyday life.” 
    • Goal of system is to develop the child emotionally and physically as well as intellectually
    • Emphasizes creative learning
  • Play-Based:
    • Primary principle is to promote participation in age-appropriate activities 
    • Children can develop full complement of cognitive, social, emotional & physical skills best when most of the day involves free play with material that can be used individually or by small groups.

How to Help Your Elementary Student with Homework


How to Help Your Elementary Student with Homework

Krista Anderson-Hill, Senior School Correspondent

September 30, 2019

HOMEWORK!!!  Just the word makes some of us, kids and parents alike, cringe. At its best, homework helps teachers identify what skills and knowledge students are absorbing in class and homework can help students develop independent study skills. At its worst, it can fuel meltdowns from tired kids and breakdowns from parents who simply cannot understand the “new way” of teaching math.  If you are already starting to sweat just thinking about your kids and homework, hold on. Here are a few simple tactics to make the process of homework less painful for everyone.

1. The 10 Minute Rule 

One of the most helpful tips I received from an elementary school teacher was the 10 Minute Rule.  The 10 Minute Rule is a generally agreed-upon guide among educators regarding how much homework is healthy and productive based on grade level.  According to the Rule, students should spend 10 minutes per night, per grade level, working on homework. That means if a student is in grade 1, they should spend 10 minutes on homework per night; if they are in grade 6, they should spend 60 minutes per night.  This rule gives parents a guideline of how much time should be devoted to homework and when to advocate for more or less homework.  

2. Make Time 

As a  parent, one of the most helpful things we can do for our elementary school-age kids is to set regular homework time.  For the most part, it should be consistent, at the same time each school day. Many experts recommend giving kids a 30-minute break after they walk in the door for a snack and time to unwind and then it is time for homework.   

3. Create Space

Once you have the homework time set, devote a special homework space.  Some kids like to do homework independently in their rooms, others like to be front and center at the kitchen table. Regardless of where it is, this space should be relatively quiet, free of distractions, comfortable and allow for easy access to homework supplies (pencils, markers, paper).

Focus on helping your kid develop problem-solving skills and when needed, how to ask for help from his or her teacher.

4. Stay In Your Lane

When it comes to homework, your role as a parent is a supporting one.  You are there to motivate, guide, support, and love: provide praise, help with directions, answer basic questions, review work for completion and encourage breaks.  RESIST the urge to provide the right answers and complete your student’s assignments. Focus on helping your kid develop problem-solving skills and when needed, how to ask for help from his or her teacher.  Most teachers make themselves available for extra help and highly encourage students to seek out support. And, here is a little secret …most teachers can tell when the parent is doing the homework for their kids!!

5. Recognize the Warning Signs

Problems with homework can serve as a red flag or warning sign.  If there are continuing challenges with homework like routinely exceeding the 10 Minute Rule, having meltdowns, constantly forgetting homework, these could be a warning sign that something else is going on under the surface.  Reach out to your kid’s teacher and share the homework struggles. The two of you can work together to uncover the source of the difficulty. Homework stress could be as simple as your kid learning and practicing organizational skills. Or, it could indicate the need for a learning evaluation to rule out or diagnose a learning difference.

Talking to Kids about Growing Bodies & Puberty


Talking to Kids about Growing Bodies & Puberty

Alison Macklin, Guest Blogger

September 23, 2019

You want to know what? Being a sex educator, I had these fantasies about how I would have conversations about sex and sexuality with my kids. They would go something like this: My son and I would be reading an age-appropriate book about sex and sexuality and we would go through the book while he sat quietly in my lap asking questions and me, explaining, in my educator language, the scripted “perfect” response. He would nod in understanding and we would snuggle in and he would know everything, and I would pat myself on the back and…” then I woke up. I had my children and with all things that comes with having children, what you imagine when having children isn’t quite the reality.

Instead of my dream scenario, I’m having conversations about sex in-between ordering food at the fast-food restaurant drive-thru in-between chauffeuring my kids between after-school activities, while trying to referee a disagreement between which Pokémon would win in a battle, and instead of answering my question about whether they want combo number 1 or number 3, my 8 year old son asks me, “mom, auntie didn’t choose to be gay, right?” Now, this scenario might phase me, if I didn’t remind myself that talking about sex, especially with young kids, is actually pretty easy. 

I know, I know. You are probably thinking I am being ridiculous but stay with me here. Young children are curious and not ashamed of their bodies and they don’t pass judgement. We are teaching them all sorts of rules for how to be in the world, this is a great time to teach them some rules that have to do with sex too (in an age-appropriate way). Use simple language. Use short answers. If there are follow-up questions answer them again using short basic simple language. Once the kiddo has heard enough they are going to let you know. Here’s the thing, it’s usually us, the parents who get embarrassed. Our kids are the ones running around naked without a care in the world. If you don’t make it a thing, it’s not a thing.

So, what does that even mean? 

  • When kids ask about what their body parts are, use anatomical language. Call a vulva a vulva (or at least use the word vagina) and a penis a penis. They aren’t bad words, don’t make them bad words. If a kiddo says, “look! There is a baby in that person’s tummy!” Gently correct them and tell them it is in the person’s uterus, not the tummy. Depending on the age and the kiddo, some will take that answer and you are done. Others will want to see the organs and understand what the uterus is and how the egg grows. All of that is fine! You can say something like, the sperm come from a penis and the egg comes from the ovary. Remember, keep it basic!

  • Remind kiddos that no one can touch their private parts without their permission and this is called consent. Practice consent in your house when it comes to bodily autonomy. Did grandma come over and want a hug and your child wasn’t in the mood? Respect your child’s wishes and don’t make them give a hug if they don’t want to. They are the boss of their body and make sure they know that.

  • If there is a parent in the house who has a uterus and has a menstrual cycle, don’t hide it. It’s OK to explain that you get a period once a month and that it doesn’t mean that you are hurt, but it means that your body doesn’t need the egg anymore. Also, make sure that kids understand the blood comes out of a different hole than the pee. And here’s an idea, if you are in a heterosexual, two-parent household, push gender-roles and have dad purchase period gear for mom. 

  • If you see a same gender couple, explain how people are attracted to different kinds of people and that love is love and that’s OK and that different families look different.

  • If you see a person who is transgender, and you child asks about them, talk about how that person maybe has a penis but didn’t feel like a boy on the inside so they decided they wanted to be a girl and now they feel much better and are much happier. So, we are going to respect her and help her to be happy because we love our friends and want them to be happy.

So, Alison, what happened in the drive-thru? “We’ll take two number 3’s, Charizard will definitely beat Digglet, and yes, Auntie was born gay.” My son’s response? “I KNEW Charizard would win!”

Alison Macklin is the author of Making Sense of “It”: A Guide to Sex for Teens (and Their Parents, Too!) and has been working in sex education for over 15 years and believes that all people deserve to have honest and accurate information about their bodies and sex so that they can make the best decisions for their life. She believes that all people deserve to have healthy, consensual and pleasurable sex when they are ready free from stigmatization and shame. Alison also believes that life is best lived with sarcasm and heavy intakes of coffee.

Currently the Vice President of Education and Innovation at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Alison lives in Denver, Colorado and is the mother of two children, 3 dogs and a cat that believes he is a dog.

2019 Best Of Camp Awards


2019 Best Of Camp Awards

HAPPIFAMLI, Senior Awards Correspondent

September 16, 2019

Thanks to everyone who participated in the voting for the 2019 Best Of Camp Awards.  We appreciate all of your feedback and were overwhelmed by the response.  We are so excited to announce this year’s award winners.




BEST ART CAMP: Creative Side Jewelry Academy

BEST DANCE CAMP: DANZA, Center for the Arts

BEST FILM CAMP: Austin Film Festival Summer Film Camp

BEST LANGUAGE CAMPLive the language

BEST MUSIC CAMP: Band Aid School of Music




BEST SPORTS CAMP: All Star Sports Camp

The Ultimate Checklist for Baby Prepping on a Budget


The Ultimate Checklist for Baby Prepping on a Budget

Emily Graham, Mighty Moms

September 9, 2019

The baby is coming soon, and to say you have a lot on your mind is an understatement. You have checked the boxes off some of the common to-dos. The car seat is secured (studies show potentially up to 84 percent of car seats are installed incorrectly). You’re stocked up on the essentials, like diapers, baby shampoo, and formula. Your meal train is set and out-of-town visitors have made accommodations. You are almost ready, but there are other important considerations. Read on to learn more about what else you can do to complete your baby prep while sticking to a budget.


Try Prenatal Yoga

Not only will yoga help you build the mental strength you need to become a mother, it will also help prepare your body to manage the pain and discomfort of delivery. Taking a class is a great way to connect with other moms and be part of a support network, but you can also do prenatal yoga classes at home by using free YouTube tutorials or other free online videos.

Take a Babymoon

A babymoon is your chance to enjoy your partner, take it slow, and savor this last vacation. Keep it budget-friendly by looking into vacation rentals in the Austin area. Staying in a home with plenty of amenities—like a stocked kitchen and quick access to exciting activities—can make even a staycation feel special. When taking a staycation in Austin, you can choose a vacation rental in an area that allows you to explore new neighborhoods, like trendy Rainey Street or SoCo, or you may prefer to find a home near one of Austin’s many lakes where you can enjoy swimming and boating.

Wait on the Nursery

Nesting is a big part of preparing for your baby, but there are other ways to nest outside the nursery. Most mothers-to-be put a lot of focus on decorating the nursery, but many children never sleep in there for the first three to six months—and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting even longer. By the time you start sleep training, you will have learned some of your baby’s likes and dislikes, and can decorate the nursery based on his or her personality.

Take a Birthing Class

If you want a better understanding of what labor will be like, how to get your newborn to latch properly, or how to make your own baby food, then take classes. Often your health insurance plan will cover some if not all of the costs of child prep classes. If that’s not the case, check your local libraries and hospitals. Many offer these classes at no cost as a way to improve public health.

Ask Your Mom Friends

You’d be surprised by how many people are still holding on to the clothing, toys, and accessories that belonged to their now adolescent and teen kids. Reach out to your mom’s network to see if anyone has anything they would be willing to sell or give away. Always offer to pay something for the item; chances are your friend won’t charge you much or will straight up give them to you. Hand-me-downs are a really sensible way to save costs on both small-ticket and big-ticket items. From onesies to shoes, bottles to bassinets, and strollers to cribs, you can cut a lot of costs by accepting gently loved items from people you know.

Pre-Register at the Hospital

If you plan to deliver in a hospital, find out if you can submit your admission paperwork ahead of time. This will save you ample amounts of time and stress. Instead of having to fill out these forms in the midst of painful contractions, you’ll already be on file and ready to go straight into triage or delivery. Filling out your admission scores ahead of time doesn’t typically reduce any fees—but it doesn’t add any, either. For those who want to, you can also pay a portion of your projected fees upfront. 

There are a million things on your mind right now, which is why using this checklist can help you feel less overwhelmed and more accomplished. Having a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. Be patient and compassionate with yourself and stay focused on a healthy delivery.

For more parenting tips, visit www.mightymoms.net