Stephanie Gerber

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As students gear up for school, here are four picks to help parents make the most of their child’s education, from preschool to college.

THE RIGHT START
The subtitle of Jenifer Wana’s preschool primer says it all: “The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Getting Into, and Preparing for Nursery School.” Type A moms everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief because How To Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child will save you loads of time navigating essays, interviews, applications and recommendation letters. Beginning at least a year before your child starts school, Wana offers organizational tips for researching, visiting and enrolling in preschool. This process might seem straightforward—your little tyke is only three after all—but the to-do’s are daunting.

Wana helps you determine what’s most important to you and your child in choosing the right preschool (location and cost are biggies for most families). To help you narrow down the options, she includes helpful overviews of different preschool types (Montessori, play-based, Waldorf and others) and comprehensive instructions on researching and evaluating schools.

Wana provides lots of questions that will make you look smart to the discerning admissions officer and even offers acceptably pushy tips on getting off the waiting list. Once little Susie is accepted to the perfect school, a countdown will get the whole family ready for the big day.

KINDGERGARTEN SUCCESS
Regardless of whether they attend public or private school, most children will be given some sort of IQ test by the age of five. Author Karen Quinn has written a comprehensive guide to this secret world in Testing for Kindergarten. It’s a process foreign to most parents, and these early test scores don’t even correlate well to later success. However, the tests have enormous impact on whether a child will get into a competitive private kindergarten or a free public gifted program.

Quinn turned herself into an expert on the topic after her son Sam was faced with developmental delays caused by hearing problems. At age three, he scored in the 37th percentile. After Quinn’s intervention, he scored in the 94th.

Testing for Kindergarten shows how every parent can improve their child’s abilities and scores. First, Quinn explains the most common IQ tests and the seven abilities they measure. Then she helps parents refocus the way they interact with their child to start sneaking learning into everyday life. Daily Life Lessons are easy ideas, like what to do while setting the table, and there are loads of games and activities.

Quinn keeps the overload factor down by focusing on the most important things you can start on day one (dialogic reading, talking to your child constantly). Don’t miss this empowering guide.

SINCERE SLACKERS
As most parents know, boys are different from girls when it comes to organization, time management and study skills. Author Ana Homayoun outlines her specially designed organizational system for preteen and teenage boys in That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week. This professional tutor says boys’ struggles in school are rarely due to difficulties with the class material. Instead, disorganization is the root cause.

To get boys back on track, Homayoun outlines a practical plan that focuses on building skills rather than just improving grades. She identifies five factors that add up to chronic disorganization: trouble with multi-tasking, over-involved parents, technology distractions, sleep deprivation and fear of making wrong choices. Parents play a key role in implementing change, starting by identifying their son’s dis-organizational style (the overscheduled procrastinator or the sincere slacker) and helping their sons set three academic and three personal goals.

The specific to-do’s are geared for maximum efficiency. Prepare an organized binder for each class. Don’t do homework in the bedroom; instead try the dining room table. Turn off the music, and put away the cell phone and computer. A five-week strategy for implementing the straightforward advice helps parents and boys see results fast.

COLLEGE BOUND
From the author of the bestseller The Naked Roommate comes The Happiest Kid on Campus, a practical parents’ guide to helping your child get the most out of the emotional and tumultuous college years.

Author Harlan Cohen writes with a wise, funny point of view. He’s young enough to understand kids these days and help parents avoid major eye-rolling on touchy subjects like sex, drugs and alcohol. Pretty much any topic that parents are embarrassed to talk about with their kids is covered with sensitivity and common-sense advice.

Cohen also helps tech-illiterate parents navigate the muddy waters of texting, Twitter and Facebook. He says email is out of date, so if you do want to keep in touch, learn to text. But limit it to twice a week.

Cohen has plenty of advice on practical matters, including handling orientation, packing, move-in day and the basics of financial aid and, of course, dealing with difficult roommates. This handy guide will help parents survive the first few months until your child finds his place on campus.

As students gear up for school, here are four picks to help parents make the most of their child’s education, from preschool to college. THE RIGHT START The subtitle of Jenifer Wana’s preschool primer says it all: “The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Getting Into, and Preparing for Nursery School.” Type A moms everywhere can breathe […]
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Every woman facing motherhood asks herself a million different questions: Who will I become after having children? What if I never have children? How will life change after a baby arrives? As Mother’s Day nears, two novels offer very different portraits of motherhood, allowing readers to see themselves reflected in these honest and moving stories.

The Sunshine When She’s Gone, Thea Goodman’s debut novel, explores what happens when everything in life is suddenly divided into “before” and “after.” The big event? Having a baby.

When Dad bundles up the baby for an early morning walk, an impulsive whim takes him to the airport and onto a plane bound for Barbados. It’s a rash decision compelled by his desire for his wife of “before” to reappear—maybe rest will do the trick? As a father who “had never done anything without first asking [his wife] Veronica” struggles with a sick baby and a search for a complicated goat-milk formula, he begins to better understand his overwhelmed, overtired wife.

Meanwhile the new mom finds herself unexpectedly free from child and husband for a weekend—an eternity!—and she revisits the woman she was before becoming consumed with naptimes and nursing. But her impulsive actions take her down a path as misguided as her husband’s.

This dreamlike story is told from the alternating points of view of the young couple, whose life-altering decisions can only be attributed to sleep deprivation. You may laugh at their absurdity, but author Goodman brings compassion and humor to the domestic struggles of new parents trying to come to terms with the changes to themselves, their spouses and their marriage “after baby.”

ADOPTION AGONY

Told with brave humor by acclaimed author Jennifer Gilmore, The Mothers is the raw story of one couple’s seemingly endless journey to become parents.

After abandoning IVF attempts, Jesse and Ramon decide to pursue domestic open adoption. And the process is bureaucratic, baffling and often heartbreaking.

The author, who wrote about her personal struggle to adopt a child in Vogue, said she turned to fiction to make the process “interesting instead of just emotionally devastating.” And she succeeds. Both brutally funny and honest, Gilmore confronts Jesse’s “obscene wanting” for a child: The hope that never ends. The anger, self-pity and panic. When friends try to tell her that motherhood “doesn’t solve everything,” it does nothing to diminish her need. Yes, Jesse is stubborn, but Gilmore gives her compassion and optimism, even as her world is reduced to pregnant bellies and babies that can’t be escaped.

The path to adoption forces Jesse and Ramon to confront issues of race, drug use and mental illness. It exacts an unknown toll on their marriage even as they forge unlikely friendships with other prospective parents. The process becomes even more tortured when Jesse attempts to build relationships with the birth mothers. She talks for hours with women who may or may not “choose” them—and who might not even be pregnant!

The novel is filled with such keen insight that the ending of this intimate ride is abrupt. Perhaps the author, who hasn’t reached the end of her own story, can’t quite give it to her characters either.

Every woman facing motherhood asks herself a million different questions: Who will I become after having children? What if I never have children? How will life change after a baby arrives? As Mother’s Day nears, two novels offer very different portraits of motherhood, allowing readers to see themselves reflected in these honest and moving stories. […]
A thriller about a librarian? Have no fear, best-selling author Brad Meltzer soon gets you hooked. After a somewhat slow start, The Inner Circle quickly becomes a fast, fun thriller. Once the twists start coming, Meltzer proves his prowess with the Washington D.C. political thriller and soon it’s impossible to resist the lure of the next page. Meltzer cleverly disguises who’s telling the truth, making the reader question if there’s anyone they can trust.
 
An unlikely leading man, Beecher White is an archivist at the National Archives. Buried in history every day, he makes a living by finding answers to arcane questions. “Mysteries are my speciality,” Beecher says with nerdy pride.
 
When Clementine Kaye, his elementary crush and first kiss, asks for his help in finding her father’s identity, Beecher can’t resist showing off his research skills. He’s been sleepwalking through life since his fiancée left him, and a chance to reconnect with this woman is a much-needed wake up call.
 
An ordinary day of a guy trying to impress a girl quickly goes wrong. Beecher and his security guard friend show Clementine the secret vault where the President comes to de-stress by reviewing old documents. An accidental coffee spill unearths a torn-up old dictionary hidden under a chair. One that belonged to George Washington. One that may be used to send secret messages to the most powerful man in the United States.
 
Soon the security guard is dead and Beecher and Clementine are on the run. As they try to stay ahead of who might be after them, they have to solve the puzzle of the book. The more answers they find, the closer they get to the President and a secret that he and his inner circle are determined to keep buried.

As the book picks up the pace, Beecher comes alive too, shedding his naive, nice guy persona as he uncovers the layers of conspiracy. And as he uses his librarian sleuthing skills it’s impossible not to root for the little guy going up against the President. Meltzer’s ending leaves the door open to future adventures for Beecher. Let’s hope we see him again. 

 

A thriller about a librarian? Have no fear, best-selling author Brad Meltzer soon gets you hooked. After a somewhat slow start, The Inner Circle quickly becomes a fast, fun thriller. Once the twists start coming, Meltzer proves his prowess with the Washington D.C. political thriller and soon it’s impossible to resist the lure of the […]

Love in a Time of Homeschooling is the story of one mom’s ambitious decision to give her 10-year-old daughter a school sabbatical during fifth grade. Author Laura Brodie decided to banish boring worksheets and tedious hours of homework for a year of homeschooling focused on her child’s passions, lots of writing, field trips to museums and parks and French lessons with Dad.

Despite Brodie's dreams of schooling utopia, conflict was inevitable. Mom turns into a drill sergeant (and earns the nickname “the Volcano”) while Julia develops a gift for whining. The more teachable moments Mom crams in, the more her free-spirited daughter rolls her eyes.

Brodie doesn't give herself an A on her homeschool experiment, but her lyrical and poignant take on her head-in-the-clouds daughter and their clashes is both tender and brutally honest. You can't help but admire how she takes on the enormous task of helping her daughter recapture her love of learning.

If you've considered homeschooling, Brodie's frank account of the highs and lows gives you a realistic picture rather than simple rosy assurances of success. And if homeschooling is not for you, Brodie’s book still offers valuable insights. She shows that it's every parent's responsibility to take a closer took at their child's curriculum, understand how their child learns best and add valuable learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

Love in a Time of Homeschooling is the story of one mom’s ambitious decision to give her 10-year-old daughter a school sabbatical during fifth grade. Author Laura Brodie decided to banish boring worksheets and tedious hours of homework for a year of homeschooling focused on her child’s passions, lots of writing, field trips to museums […]

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