Notable News: Parents and Kids Occupy Wall Street, to Redshirt or Not Redshirt, Remembering the Man Behind Mac

Roundup of News and Links for NYC Kids and Families

It's been a while since we've done one of our link roundups. We'd blame the start of school for the delay but really, it's the days off that are killing us. I originally tried to start writing this on Columbus Day when my kids were home... bad choice.

It's been a very busy few weeks news-wise, and while most of it isn't specific to parents, everyone we know has been thinking about Occupy Wall Street and the death of Steve Jobs. Read on for some interesting tidbits on both of those big stories—including the scoop on NYC families who are spending time at OWS—the (possible) downside of redshirting and other cool media bytes.

Every time I power on my Macbook, I think about Steve Jobs, who died at the age of 56 last week. I learned a lot about the man behind Apple from reading The New York Times obituary, including the fact that he was adopted. After a bit more googling, I discovered that Jobs never met his biological father, although he did know his biological mother and sister. Perhaps the most insightful piece I read about Jobs was writer-performer Mike Daisey's refreshingly unsentimental Times op-ed on his life and legacy. Even my kids heard about Jobs' death. My oldest son learned about it at school, then he came home and asked me for an iPhone. Ah, youth.

The other thing teachers (and parents and political pundits and the world) are talking about? Occupy Wall Street. Regardless of your stance, the protesters seem to be there to stay. And over the past few weeks, a number of families have joined them. Babble and iVillage both ran first-person posts by moms who took their kids down there, and CafeMom talked to five families who joined the protest. This past Monday, four local moms who call their group The 99% School organized an Un-Columbus Day rally, which was covered on the Times' CityRoom blog. And a group called Parents for Occupy Wall Street had organized a family sleepover in Zuccotti Park for this Friday. However, the date is being moved due to Mayor Bloomberg's plan to clean the park on Friday (which some folks think will end OWS). Check the website for an announcement of a new date. We know a lot of people who have been down there, but no one who's slept over. Would you take your kids to spend the night in Zuccotti Park?

Activism is in the air, and not just on Wall Street. Last month, Donald Bartalo of Rochester, NY launched an online petition titled Opting Out of High-Stakes Testing that objects to all those tests NY public-school students are required to take. It's not clear who Bartalo is—teacher? Parent? Concerned citizen?—but he plans to deliver his message to Governor Cuomo. So far he's received 396 signatures; his goal is 400. While I personally have mixed feelings about children "opting out" of testing all together, I had a conversation with a teacher yesterday and was, once again, amazed at how insane and arbitrary the testing process seems to have become. There is certainly a need for reform of some kind, but this petition doesn't propose any alternatives. Update: The petition has been delivered and Bartalo has revealed the organization he is a part of: Save Our Schools.

In much lighter news, did you see the awesome designs for the Delancey Underground? No, it's not a new club. It's a proposed underground urban park on the Lower East Side. We really hope this unique green space comes to fruition but we think it's going to take a while. Maybe our grandkids will get to enjoy it.

And speaking of kids, neuroscientists Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt wrote an op-ed for The Times about the downside of redshirting kids (i.e. delaying kindergarten for a year so your child can mature a bit). According to the authors, the short-term gains do not hold, and that eventually these kids end up behind their peers in terms of achievement, academic and otherwise. They based their conclusions, in part, on a study of Canadian elementary schools. I wonder if they would feel differently if they had studied learning institutions in the Big Apple. Any parent who has dipped their toe into the murky waters of the New York City school system, public or private, knows that there are a number of factors that affect when your child starts kindergarten—date of birth, quality of the school, seat availability and, of course, a child's individual needs. I don't know what it's like in Canada, but I guarantee it's not the same as it is in New York.

When's the last time you visited your local library? You may have heard that you can check out e-books, but did you know that you can now read them on your Kindle or any device that uses Kindle reading software? Well you can, and the news gave our nerdy hearts a thrill.