Monday, May 16th

"You LIED!"

"You're LIARS!!"

My son stormed into the house, tears streaming down his reddened face.

The tirade continued--

"You said I could grow my hair as long as I wanted to during the school year. That's what you said! Does this look long? NO! I look like a toddler. A DORK! You're never touching another single cell on MY body!"

Stifling a giggle I tried to explain, "Sweetie, that was before your uncle was getting married. You're the ring-bearer. You have to look nice..."

"NICE! This doesn't look NICE. This looks STUPID. I'm going to wear a hat!"

"It's a wedding, you can't wear a hat."

"I'll wear a top hat! People wear those. And anyway you broke your promise! You always do."

"I do not!"

"Yes! You said you'd get me a Brett Favre jersey months ago. You didn't..."

"Well, actually that was Dad." (Sometimes saving yourself means throwing your spouse under the bus)

My husband mercifully interceded.

"Ok, you're right. We did say you could grow your hair, but these are extenuating circumstances. Do you know what that means?"

"Yes, that you lied!"

In your family maybe you would have scooped your child up in your arms, quieted his tears and tried to explain why it was important to look nice for a special family occasion. Or maybe you would have sent your child to his room for a time out until he calmed down.
In our family we handle disputes like this a little differently.

We drew up a contract.

Here it is:

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The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple” – S. Gudder

Westchester Math Lab is a new math enrichment program for children in grades 1-8. Founded by three local mothers who wished to share their passion for mathematics, the program helps children achieve a deep understanding of mathematical concepts. Below please find some background on their philosophy, and the specifics of the program.

Please introduce yourself to our audience and tell them a bit about your background

We are three local parents and professional women who have children in elementary, middle and high school. All three of us received our elementary though high school education in Russia and continued our higher education in the U.S. Our combined backgrounds include teaching, finance and computer science.

What lead you to start the Westchester Math Lab?

We believe that the level of math education in many of our public and private schools should be higher and that the subject of math is not afforded as much importance as in many other developed countries, where children’s math skills are much superior to their U.S. counterparts. We found that oftentimes, elementary school students are lacking basic math skills that they need to successfully move to more advanced math topics in middle school, high school and college. As a result, many kids begin to dislike math as a subject and do not want to choose professions that require advanced knowledge of math. We spent a lot time searching, unsuccessfully, for a good math program to enrich our kids, strengthen and advance their math skills, teach them to analyze and solve mathematical and logical problems, and give them the confidence they need. As a result, Westchester Math Lab was born.

What is the mission of the program?

-To offer children an opportunity to achieve a deep understanding and superior mastery of grade level mathematical concepts.

-To develop and nurture talent by offering advanced material to children looking for more challenge.

-To create a stimulating environment that will awaken children’s curiosity and spark genuine interest in math through a combination of a systematic and disciplined approach to teaching and an effective and proven curriculum.  

-To conquer "math phobia" by building confidence in mathematical skills.

-To adequately prepare students for high school and college mathematics by building a solid foundation in math that will make children competitive with their counterparts around the globe.

What is the age/grade of your students?

We currently offer classes for students in grades 1 through 5 but will be starting classes for higher grades as time goes on. We have a few kindergartners in our first grade class.

How does the program complement the material students learn in school?

Our program is based on Singapore Math which is currently one of the best math programs and is being implemented by many schools in New York and across the country. The material covered in this program is not exotic. Most of the topics are the ones covered in regular school. However, the difference is in how the topics are presented and in the role the teachers play in the process.

Many math programs used by schools tend to jump between different topics, making it difficult for students to learn the concepts well. Singapore uses a logical progression of topics and plenty of practice, so the kids gain confidence before progressing onto the next topic. Some of the topics like algebra, fractions and geometry for example, are introduced much earlier than in the regular school. Important material, such as word problems are introduced very early on and are integral to each lesson in every grade. Word problems are missing or paid very little attention in many schools, including ones that implemented Singapore math.

We also supplement the program with material that develops analytical skills. Our students solve puzzles and do math games, practice Math Olympiads and participate in math contests. Our lessons are always fast paced and fun. We pay special attention to the qualifications and experience of our teachers. We think that one of the weak spots of schools when it comes to math is the way many teachers approach teaching the subject. All our teachers have extensive experience teaching math and many have advanced degree in math.

Is the program purely for enrichment or does it also help students who need help with their math to strengthen their skills?

Our program does both. For some grades we offer more than one level of difficulty, so the kids with stronger foundations focus more on enrichment and others focus more on learning the concepts. The program will certainly strengthen student’s skills as material is very coherent, connected and presented clearly. Practice is an integral part of the program and students will get a certain amount of homework each week What is also extremely important is that besides just following the Singapore Math curriculum, we are offering students a range of other material, mostly more challenging material, comprised from many different sources. Mental calculations, challenge problems, puzzles and games are all part of our lessons and help stimulate quick thinking and offer the opportunity to employ previously learned skills.

What do students do during their time at the Lab?

We are convinced that the most important part of any learning experience is teacher instruction. Our teachers spend the entire lesson in front of the class interacting with students. We have a very specific lesson structure followed by all the teachers. There is time allocated to review of homework, presentation of new material, brain teasers and word problems. Students work independently and occasionally in groups and they earn points for their participation. Our lessons are fast paced and dynamic.

Anything else you wish to add?

We feel there is a lot of demand for what we have to offer in Westchester. We have almost doubled in size since we started our program in September. We have an extremely diverse group of students, coming from different school districts and family backgrounds. We invite everyone who is looking to supplement their child’s math education to come for a trial class. All trial classes are free of charge and parents under no obligation to join the program.

When and where are your classes held?

Classes are held at Our Lady of Victory Academy in Dobbs Ferry on Mondays and beginning in February, on Saturdays as well.

How can parents get in touch with you to learn more about your programs?

To learn more about the Westchester Math Lab, please visit our website at , email us at or call 914-559-8111.

Based on the size of the crowd that came out on a frigid night to the PT Council’s program on stress, anxiety must be running high in Scarsdale. The program included a panel of experts who work with children from elementary school to high school. On hand were Heathcote Psychologist, Jennifer Turetzky, Dr. Sara Levine, specialist in adolescent medicine, SHS Psychologist Ernie Collabolletta and Sue Peppers, Assistant Principal of Scarsdale High School.
These experts shared their thoughts on both the sources of anxiety and what parents might do to alleviate it.
According to Ms. Turetzky, stress manifests itself in two ways; good stress encourages us to do our best while negative stress derives from a failure to cope and causes students to feel overwhelmed.  At the elementary school many kids strive for perfection and have difficulty accepting anything less than a perfect grade. She recommends that parents give children more freedom and feels that parents should let children fail from time to time. Also, refraining from intervening will teach children to learn coping mechanisms.  Parents should share their own failures with their children so that they see that no one is perfect. By over-protecting children, she contends, we actually make them feel more fragile.

In addition, since children at this age are often highly scheduled, she sees a preoccupation with timing, schedules and logistics. She recommends giving children a feeling of control. By sticking to a concrete and dependable routine, children will feel secure about what time they will be picked up, eat dinner, and go to bed.

Through her work with middle school children, Dr. Levine finds that the main source of stress at this age comes from physical changes. As she explained, if she walked into a second grade classroom, it would be pretty obvious that the students were in second grade. However, in a class of seventh graders she could not tell the age of the students because some would appear to be ten years old, while others would appear to be fifteen. Middle school-age children yearn to be at the same physical stage as their friends but the reality is that everyone matures at different paces. 

Dr. Levine suggests that the best way for a parent to relieve the stress of a middle school-aged child is to pay attention to their children’s complaints and questions and to support their child’s growth. For instance, if a child often complains of headaches and stomach aches this may be a sign that they are feeling stressed. It is important for parents to know what is going on with their child so they can help. And lastly, a well balanced diet and enough sleep are crucial for children, especially in their middle school years.

According to Ernie Collabolletta, there are four main sources of stress for high school students: parents, teachers, peers, and students themselves. To many Scarsdale parents, a grade of B+ isn’t good enough and a “B” is almost as bad as failing. By their peers, students are often asked, “what did you get on the test?” Added to the pressure from parents and peers is the stress that students put on themselves to perform.

Like Dr. Levine, Mr. Collabolletta advises parents to emphasize positive problem solving and coping skills and to let their child learn how to fail. Most importantly, he believes that parents should teach resilience and demonstrate close and supportive relationships. Children who have strong relationships with their families are less stressed than those who do not. And, according to Choice Theory Psychology, people become depressed when they lack good relationships.

Mrs. Peppers then updated the group on some measures SHS faculty and school government are taking to reduce stress in the high school environment. Just this year, the school experimented with a new freshman orientation program, a homework help center, and a new protocol. The protocol states that if a student has a problem within their academic classes, they should seek help from their dean. To give students time-off from schoolwork, teachers are required to refrain from giving homework over vacation. And to make the work load manageable, the school has instituted a mercy rule. This new rule gives a dean the power to reschedule one assignment if a student has three or more tests or large assignments due on one day. There are many more ideas the high school is looking forward to testing in the near future. One is to eliminate testing days for one quarter and see how this affects students stress levels.

The discussion ended with an invitation to the audience to contact the panelists with their questions, thoughts, and ideas. Since the first step in solving a problem is acknowledging there is one, we commend the PT Council for devoting a session to addressing student stress in the community.

Arielle Shemesh is a senior at the Scarsdale Alternative School and she is currently doing an internship at

Citibabes of Manhattan is now open in Scarsdale. Their beautifully designed space includes over 9,000 square under the Popham Road bridge.  But what is Citibabes? A children’s play space? A pre-school? A family center?  A gym? A café? A retail store?  The answer is all of the above and more.  The center offers parents and caregivers of young children a place to go to enjoy themselves, either separately or together.  Kids as young as 2 months old can attend, and will be minded by qualified caregivers. There are classes for children up to the age of ten and they can choose from instruction in art, cooking, science, music, ballet, movement, or language.  Regularly-scheduled entertainers, such as musicians and magicians will provide fun throughout the day. The facility includes an indoor playground, computer stations and four classrooms that open up into a 1,250 square foot space that’s ideal for birthday parties. The bright décor designed by Edwin Schlossberg‘s renowned eco-friendly firm, ESI Design, make the site safe and attractive.

While the children are busy, parents and caregivers can visit the healthy café, shop at the hip retail store or use the gym which offers yoga and spinning and a full schedule of group classes. The spinning classes are run by “SoulCycling” an indoor cycling studio based in Manhattan.  There are pre-natal programs and personal trainers are on hand.  Educational workshops on parenting are also included.

What’s the price tag?  The annual membership fee of $2,100 allows all family members, including grandparents and caregivers to use the club and access its facilities.  If you are interested in touring the club and learning more, go to their website  to learn more.

I know we all love to praise our children incessantly...oops, I mean give positive reinforcement, but I've wondered before whether as a result of all those gold stars and pats on the head we're actually creating praise-crazy monsters?  Raising their expectations to the point where they will be disappointed if they don't get gold stars from their professors and smiley faces on their business reports? On the other hand, is it kosher to criticize them?

Today my son told me that his class was asked to write about anything they wanted. He wrote a paragraph about how he couldn't think of anything to write about.

I was disappointed in him.


Angry even.

He is a terrific, creative, imaginative writer and I couldn't believe that was the best he could come up with.

"What about how you just learned to rollerblade? Or, how you had a great visit with a friend you met at camp last summer? Or about the horrificly bumpy flight you had back from Florida when you threw up in a ziplock bag?" I questioned.

Then, I said it.

"You know what. What you did was a cop-out. It just wasn't good and you're capable of better."

Was that a terrible thing to say?

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