Clara Hemphill on NYC Public Middle Schools

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If there is one human being who has done more for NYC parents trying to find a good public education for their children it is Clara Hemphill, the author of the the Best New York City Public Schools Series and founder of the indispensable website InsideSchools.org. Finding and getting your child into great public schools in New York City is one of the toughest challenges NY parents face. And it's made even tougher because it's so hard to know what the schools are really like when we have so little access to information.
 
Clara Hemphill's books on NYC's Best Public Elementary, Middle and High Schools are the only way any parent can get a straightforward, no-hype, objective, inside peek to all the best public schools. She and her staff personally visit every school and write a detailed description of the school from their expert eagle-eyed point of view. Each book details only the top schools in each borough as well as lots of other practical information parents need. In addition to her books, reviews of all the schools can be found and searched online at Insideschools.org.
 
I used her book on Public Elementary Schools like a bible to find our precious little elementary school and I'm glad to announce that she has just released a brand new and updated edition of New York City's Best Public Middle Schools: A Parents' Guide just in time for all us parents who are starting to freak out about middle schools right about now. I read the whole thing cover to cover and I have to say that after reading this book, I think that many parents will feel significantly assured that there really are many wonderful options for middle schools, even though middle school still has the reputation of being the black hole of NYC public education; that does seem to be changing.
 

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Clara Hemphill and ask her some questions; I'm happy to be able to share her responses with you. Read on to hear her tips for the one thing you should check out on a school tour, the most important way to be involved in your child's education, and some great schools that don't require top test scores to get in.

Think Outside the Preschool Box with these Creativity-Based Preschool Alternatives

Picture 12.pngThis is traditionally the week that competitive preschools open their application process, but more and more parents, tired of vying for the same few spots, are opting out of the preschool rat race and looking to preschool alternatives. At the same time, some dedicated parents are creating their own alternatives by starting co-operative neighborhood preschools.

Preschool is a magical time and a lot of that magic comes from the warm, nurturing, creative environment of the school. Little neighborhood preschools and preschool alternatives, whether started by parents or well established can make the preschool years the most magical ones of all.

Tugboat Races This Weekend

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Photo Credit: Downtown Express

Reading Downtown Express today, I stumbled on an event too good not to mention, so you're getting an extra post today. The 16th Annual New York City Tugboat Race is this Sunday, August 31st. Tugboats are one of those magical, anachronistic, secret microcosms of NYC that we so often forget about, but the more you learn about them, the more interesting they are.

At 9:30 about 15 tugboats will gather off the waters of W. 44th St and parade up t o 72nd St. where there will be a race and then a "pushing contest." Crews will compete in a line toss competition and there will be spectator competitions too. The event ends at 2pm. Check the Working Harbor Website for details on the the event, schedule, best places to view the events or to purchase tickets for a spot on the spectator boat.

Follow up this event with some Tugboat Children's Books like Little Toot which will paint a rich picture of the life of tugboats on the NYC harbor.

Best Family Friendly Outdoor Bars in New York

It's officially the last weekend of summer and Labor Day Weekend traditionally means barbecuing with friends. While I don't have a place to barbecue, I'm still in the mood to hang out outdoors and drink some beers with friends, while my kids play nearby. So I gathered up some of the best places to get that same backyard barbecue feeling at one of NYC's outdoor family friendly bars, where you can hang out outdoors with some friends, some beer and chow while our kids hopefully play contentedly in the child-friendly space available.

Here are the best family-friendly outdoor bars in NYC to share a beer with kids (well, don't share the beer with your kids, but you know what I mean):

Seneca Houses Children Still Need Your Help!

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A HUGE thank you to everyone who has donated to help the children of Seneca Houses get the basic school supplies they need to start this school year. Through the generosity of Mommy Poppins readers we have raised almost $1000 worth of school supplies! Wow, I knew you guys were awesome!

But there is still more we can do. Yesterday I received these wonderful letters from some of the children with their school supply lists as well as the Pre-K supply list. I have added the items these children are asking for as well as the Pre-K list that I received.

Also, a corporate donation that had been promised for 75 backpacks fell through, so I am now trying to get backpacks for the kids. I am looking for a business that might be able to help us get the backpacks at a discount or for free, but I don't know if this will be possible.

If you would like to buy a backpack for a child please pick one from the Amazon Wishlist or if you donate cash through the PayPal donate button, I will use that money to buy backpacks and deliver them myself.

If you haven't had time to donate yet, please take a moment to read their letters and buy something from their wishlists.

Back to School Fashion Finds for NYC Kids

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The great thing about shopping for kids clothes is A) Their whole wardrobe costs about the same as just one pair of your shoes. B) They look good in everything. C) You don't have to try anything on eliminating the worst part of shopping in my book. That's not to say that even shopping for kids clothes can't be a hassle, but seeking out fun clothes like these cool duds for kids makes it much, much more fun.

We had the experts at some of our favorite clothing stores for kids, tell us what the hottest items are this Fall for NYC kids. Here's what they said:

10 Cheap Labor Day Weekend Getaways for NY Families

Picture 9.pngYou don't need to burn a lot of dough or fossil fuels (meaning even more dough) to have a great Labor Day Weekend. We've got 10 fun family activities that you can enjoy for cheap or even free.

Labor Day Weekend for me is all about having one last hurrah for summer, so these activities all focus on getting outside, either with an easy day trip from New York or doing something in the city that makes you feel like you're not. This isn't like most of my free and cheap lists. Some of these activities cost a bit of cash, but I figure, if I'm staying in the city or skipping the hotel, it's worth it to pay a little bit to feel like I'm getting some vacationing in.

Here's 10 ideas that will take you away, without getting too carried away:

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