an existential educational crisis: montessori vs. homeschool vs. public school

momnivore's dilemma

I feel like I’ve been told there’s no such thing as Santa. Everything I thought I knew about children has been turned on its head.

I’ve spent the past two weeks observing the most incredible scenes of early childhood education in two private Montessori classrooms here in Chicago.  I’m just coming up for air.  And what better place to sort out my thoughts, than this here blog.

What I observed: children engaged, happily moving about their business-without disruption, without chaos. Frankly, I cannot think of any public or private school classroom I taught in that even came close to what I saw in the past two weeks.

In particular, the school I saw today, was basically the gold standard of what education should look like.  Natural light, natural materials, children given the freedom to move, explore, create, and be.

I mean, we are talking chills up my arms, choirs of angels singing-that good.  So, good, I’m considering selling an organ.

The problem?

The price of course.

But, something in my stomach, says, the money will appear somehow, magically in my bank account, and poof, this educational pipedream can become a reality.

Now, a quick digression-

I’m happy with Moose’s placement for this year, his teacher is far beyond my wildest hopes.  Someone needs to make a movie about this woman running Moose’s class.  She’s like Jen from I Heart Organizing meets the most brilliant special education guru ever.  I’d love to really know how she does it all:Manage 10 IEPs with such grace, patience, and persistence.

It’s not the Moose I’m concerned about, dear readers.

It’s this little fella in my house.

Monkey.  My defiant-booksmart-wild-all boy-Monkey.  Who according to CPS guidelines, is supposed to start kinder when he turn 5.  Late July.  Just before school starts.  Moose started kinder at nearly 6.  5 is just so young.

momnivore's dilemma

Issue being:Monkey is really taking off in terms of his academics. He started reading last week.

At age 4.

I know I can challenge him at home.  I’m mean, duh, come on.  I’ve taught every age, grade, level, reason, and season.

My toughest student is Moose, but that’s another post.  But Monkey, he loves to learn.  He’s easy to work with.  And direct.

But, it’s the methodology that’s in question here.

I learned quite a bit of my observations at the Montessori schools I visited.

And me thinks these Italians are onto something.

It’s truly eye-opening.  So, eye-opening, in fact, I will not shut them until I’ve read every book on Montessori.  Every blog.  Ever article.

I want his education to be self-directed, not the hellish experience we had at his school in May.  Public schools here in Chicago are presure-cookers of teaching to the test and common core and classrooms of 35.  Not ideal for a kid with some sensory struggles.  His academics are well-above where they should be, but in a big ocean of a class of 35, I think all hell will break loose.

No, I know it will.

See Moose escaped that pressure cooker.  His class has ten kids.  He has a sensory room.  His teacher is the cat’s meow.  I’m blessed.

Monkey’s in a decent spot now for PreK 4, but man, I’m talking the bigger picture here.  It’s a lot to chew and consider.

Frankly, in public school differentiation of instruction is a unicorn.  Sure, all teachers try their best, but in all reality: YOU HAVE A CLASS OF 35.  Out of those 7 hours, how many minutes are really getting into your child’s head?  Truly, consider that.

In a Montessori classroom, differentiation is EVERYWHERE.  Today, I saw a 4 year old working on multiplication boards at one table, one little boys working on identifying nouns in a magazine with a cut and paste activity, and two little girls working together on a massive geometric solid task that would have had 6th grade teachers applauding.

I wanted to rise and give a standing ovation at the end of observation.

Not to say all things are evil and bad in traditional school settings, but we all have the same end goal, just VERY different ways of attaining it.

As a parent, I take my role as “teacher” or “directress” in Montessori lingo, very seriously.  In fact, teachers will come and go, but as their mother, I am the force.  The OG.  The CEO.  I’m the first in line when the excrement hits the fan.

Long before I was a mother, I understood this in my early 20s, fresh out of grad school, ready to change the world!

One thing I will always cherish from my teaching career was a professional development session I attended headed by author Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook.  Out of the many insightful things he said during those hours: this stuck with me the most nearly a decade later:

Jim Trelease quote

And frankly, I cannot go back to my notions of leaning and education after seeing the gold standard.  Montessori has taken my brain and given it a nice talking to.

Even if I can’t send my boys to private Montessoris that are more than my mortgage, it’s time for momnivore to hit the books and shake things up-educationally speaking around here.

And of course, my friends, I will share.

My best,




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Step Away from the Drive-Thru… (free printable)

I made this printable ages ago, in hopes of inspiring you all to make changes in your diets and lifestyles.  I never posted it.  If you want to make a lifestyle change, this is where I suggest you start.
Pretend the drive-thru doesn’t exist.
It’s healthy for your body and your pocketbook.
Simply drag to your desktop and save.
As a part of Project Graveyard, the month
where I post what’s been sleeping in my draftbox.
In health,
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Meet 2013’s energy vampires! {Home Goals}

Dreams deferred from 2012

because of money, time, or plain old laziness…

Home Goal #1

Backsplash.  Needed a backsplash in 2009.  Still need backsplash in 2013.

Home Goal #2:

Replace these awful sofas with something leather.  Formal.  My boys are too rough on anything in the fabric department.   These red monsters are nearly 10 years old.  It’s time to break-up…


And move on to something more Don Draper…
Jacob Charcoal Leather Chesterfield Sofa




It’s already distressed! Perfect for the frat house.


The room needs a whole new feel.  My white curtains are also covered in boy goo and fingerpaint.  I did repaint in fall of 2012, but I swear the walls need a refresh already.

The good news?  The “fronch room”closet overhaul is coming to a blog near you soon! It’s 90% done!  It’s the ultimate in toy organization.  If you have kids…stay tuned!

Home Goal #3

Do something about our god-awful front steps.  They look like squirrerls have eaten away at them.  Maybe they have. It’s either that or the previous owners skim-coated and took the cheap-o route. This can’t be taken care of until spring/early summer due to our weather.


There’s more to come…but I’m going to shoot for the stars, first.  When you live in a home built in the late 30s…it’s always a home in progress.

My best,


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Slaying 2012’s Energy Vampires {Home Edition}

energy vampires-001

Ah, January, the time the blogging world takes its collective, “le sigh”, amid round-up posts, words of the year, goal setting, and big, fat, shiny hopes.

But, I missed the boat.  It’s March, and I have been so busy with the kids and my other site, The Classroom Creative, that this draft has slept in my to-do list since the new year.

Nonetheless, 2013 is going to be a BIG life changing year for my family and for my business ventures.

Before I delve into the new year’s tabula rasa, allow me to indulge in what did get accomplished here at the our crumbling money pit.

Interested in the 2012 Energy Vampires post?…It’s here.

energy vampires-001

Energy Vampire Academy Award Winner from 2012:

Hideous, right?  Otherwise known as the “honey-do-list don’t get done” or the gaping hole.

5 years.  It took the King five whole years to fix this bad boy.  A mere 5 years for Le King to beg his carpenter-in-crime, Joe, whom he swaps work with to come by and help.  It took them an hour.  The King fixes his heating/HVAC issues, and Joe, is our bartering wood-chuck.

Five years of misery, gone.

Joe, I love you. Thanks for making my dreams come true.

I present to you…the after.:

finished! after 5 years


This back entryway takes a beating from my boys, and has been repainted every spring. And given that spring is a few weeks again, these walls are crying for a new face.

Other Vampires Slayed:


Home Goal #1.1:  Riding of the white beast.

We ran out of funds when remodeling our kitchen after the epic disaster of 2008, so our white beast stayed.  Which drove me mad each time I walked in my kitchen…the Sesame Street song, “One of These Things Looks Not Like The Other” replayed on repeat in my head over the past few years.

We finally purchased a stainless refrigerator on Black Friday, because my God, the deals! Frankly, we never eat out and cook more than you can imagine, so our bitty white beast was way too small for our ravenous family.

To the tune of $1200 to Home Depot.  Hooray for 0% financing!

perfect. shiny. new


The beast began freezing food in the fridge, so the King told me to “get over my cheap attack” and just buy the damn fridge already.

So, yeah.  I kiss it nightly.  Not a day goes by that I don’t want to clean it.  And it’s been three months.


Home Goal #4

Recreate a functional gallery wall for my kitchen/dining area:

Here’s a sneak peek…

kitchen gallery way sneak peek


Home Goal #6:

Repaint front room in a grey tone- DONE!

Bye peanut butter walls! Want to see the before? Stop here. 

front room

hey girl meme 1



Goals half-baked:

Home Goal #1:Make a big boy room for the gremlins

Yeah, I repainted it.  But it looks as sparse as a Montessori classroom.  Two beds with their mismatched blankies.  A dresser.  A bean bag.  Two bins of books.  No toys.  All toys will go in toy closet downstairs.  It needs TLC, but Moose’s ABA therapy is in there 5 days a week so working on it is impossible.

boys room 2013-001

I find Monkey sleeping on the floor most nights.  Apparently, he’s ready for college.


How about you?  Any energy vampires driving you mad in your home? Life? Career?

Do tell.


Stay tuned for the belated 2013 list of energy vampires deferred from 2012, and new goals,



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Finding the Funny

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Re-Vinylized: A New Documentary {and my own nostalgia}

Nearly 20 years ago, at the age of 15, I was offered my first job as a clerk in a record store.

Universal Music Group paid my college tuition as a part of a scholarship program. {Yet, even in my early 30s, I still have tons of school debt!}  From that scholarship, I worked the powers-that-be into my first internship and first job as a college marketing representative.  My last two years of college were spent promoting new bands in record stores and college radio stations.

Yes, it was everything you probably thought it to be and more.  Lots of fun.  Free tickets.  Tons of free music.

At 22, after 9/11, after I had an epiphany that I need to Do More, I left the industry to become the all-American teacher in Chicago schools.  Napster hit, and I watched the music business collapse.  Many of my colleagues lost their jobs.  Well into my second year of teaching, the Universal office here in Chicago shuttered its doors.

This short documentary Re-Vinylized by Chicago filmmaker John Boston showed up on my facebook feed this afternoon.

It brought back memories of many of the stores I frequented on the other side of the business, as a part of the “major” labels.

So much has changed in the past twenty years, but the love of the tangible product, in a world of digital and virtual spaces, still holds its place.  Just like I have a Kindle and thousands of real books, there’s a difference in ownership.

This documentary made me rethink of how I consume music these days.  How markedly different it is from my 80s childhood of records, to 90s of cassettes and cds, to now where most of my collection is digital.

Enjoy this short documentary.  It’s only a half hour.


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i love you, katy perry…

Take a moment to watch this…

This little girl living with autism, Jodi DiPiazza, was once non-verbal. Struggling. Then, she found music.

A friend with a daughter with autism just shared this at facebook. I had to share it with you.


If you have dry eyes after seeing this, I’d be shocked.

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Halloween: Moose’s costumes over the years

moose newborn halloween 2007

It’s been 5 Halloweens.  Wow.  Here’s a look back at Sir Moose.



2007 {Moose…just shy of a month}

2008 { 1 year old}

{as a puppy}

The proverbial pumpkin patch shot…


 2009 {2 years} SuperMoose!

2010 {3 years} Cookie


2011 {4 years} The Caped Crusader


Okay.  Now to cry at the years gone by…

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Halloween: Monkey’s costumes over the years…

Monkey Halloween 2009 -2

After some massive iPhoto searching, Facebook digging, and Shutterfly excavating, I’ve managed to round up a few shots of my little Monkey, from Halloween’s past.

This proves that I need to manage my digital photos much better. I will tackle this asap.  Perhaps, a mini-31 days project in the future?  Any suggestions in organizing 10,000 photos???

2009 {age 2 months}

I had a few get-ups for him.  Nothing too original.  I was exhausted.

Okay.  The face alone…it’s one of my favorites.

He may have lived in this skull sweatshirt all October long…

2010  {age 1}

He lives up to his nickname in this warm get-up…

2011 {the terrific 2s}



Contenders for 2012 costumes…

Any guesses on this year’s costume?  We have a major costume contest at a cousin’s birthday.  I thought this would be hilarious…


I would.  If they’d keep on the aviators and headbands. I don’t watch much TV: just Mad Men, and wait for it…The Jersey Shore.  The show flies in the face of my hipster and intellectual self, thanks to my husband who forced me at gunpoint to watch it.  Now, I’m hopelessly addicted. The secret’s out.

I’m Italian, so is the family that we’d be seeing…Maybe,this year I could be pregnant Snooki?  {Despite the fact, she had the kid}

Or perhaps…


Monkey said he wants to be a fire truck, which is not happening, because he won’t wear a box.  That’s just a tantrum-in-the-making…

Moose just wants candy.  Cookies.  Cake. PIE…

This appears to be the last year, where I decide their fate.  Bwaaa haaaa….

It looks like orange is the theme, right?


Stay tuned for Moose’s time in the spotlight tomorrow,


p.s. Ideas?


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hauntingly beautiful…


Music haunts me.  A song will come on the radio, and suddenly I’m taken back to age 16.  19.  25.  29…

This song, from a local band here in Chicago called Farkus {yes, aptly named from that evil character in A Christmas Story}, will forever remind me of this year.

Take a listen.


Here it is on iTunes. This Happens Everyday by Farkus. It will be the best 99 cents you’ve ever spent on music this year.

Happy Halloween,


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