Parent Supplements

Parents will occasionally ask me, “What can I be doing at home to help my child prepare for gifted testing?” or, “What can I be doing at home to best supplement what my child is doing at Cortland?” or, “What can I be doing for the first few months of my child’s new public school environment, where he or she may be ahead of the group and bored?”

Create an environment that supports provocative learning is the best honest answer I provide. We can work toward creating an intelligently chosen, thoughtfully curated school and home environments that encourage and support higher levels of curiosity, “grit” (tenacity over time), and critical thinking. While I continue to maintain that hands-on, exploratory learning that is child-led is still the best and highest form of synaptic connection building, here are more concrete suggestions:


Home environment–Does your child have a workspace (desk or table) that supports extended work times?
Seating or standing that promotes the development of spinal strength and good posture?
Has appropriate task lighting (they all really like the clamp lamps at school and are used to working with them, IKEA, about $15.)
This space needs to allow for projects to stay out at times (create a “revisit zone” for one or two projects that your child wants to return to over many days.) Storage that your child can access and be in charge of? This area can serve building, tinkering, art, writing, science, etc. and will get your child off onto the best foot for in-home, purposeful creation, work, and exploration.

If you need help creating a child-friendly home workspace that will serve your child’s needs until graduation, talk to Ms. Amy. She has highly-skilled craftsmen as friends and might be able to make a referral.


EARLY Reading–Guided Reading, which levels books AA, A, B, C, D and up based on word count, difficulty, frequency, etc. is important. We recommend Newmark Learning for a series of Math, Science, Social Studies, or Classic Tales that will pad your home library and introduce your child to the concept of the “easy” or “guided reader” in a very intelligent way.

(Note: At present, there is no standardized leveling of books for publishers–typically, they don’t like to get too specific on level because then less people will buy it. If you are uncertain of a book’s level, for example, it says Level One on the cover, check the back cover for the Guided Reading level. Not there? Check inside, the first or last few pages. Not there? Google it. “Lego City: All Hands On Deck guided reading level” for example. has a pretty extensive list. Still not sure? Compare the word count and difficulty with a book of the level you are looking for. If it is too hard, save it for later. Guided readers are aimed at getting your child books that set up your child’s early reading success. They should be “just right” and not be too hard or frustrating.)

READING INDEPENDENTLY PAST THE Guided Reading LEVEL J–Most children won’t be reading J and above level books until second grade, but sometimes children read really early, and read with full comprehension and enjoyment. If your child isn’t to this level yet, no worries. He or she will get here when the cognitive time is right. These are still great suggestions for your future toolkit.

Advanced readers need to keep reading for pleasure and for purpose, and find series that he or she really connects with, which sometimes takes a little time. Be patient, and try to tailor books to your child’s interests du jour. Series that children really enjoy in the classroom or during tutoring sessions include:
My First Little House–great historic fiction based on the show you and I remember
Iris and Walter
Young Cam Jansen, a detective series with strong female lead
Jump Into Genre, a great set with lots of different fables, folktales, and classic stories, this is the second grade level but stronger readers would do fine

Mercy Watson Series and Bink and Golly Series (Kate DiCamillo)

Writing and Handwriting–The Handwriting Without Tears series is (in my opinion) the best for consistency and for continuity from home to classroom. and
To keep your child writing and inventing give him or her an area of the house with envelopes, cool paper and stationary, graph paper, fun pens and pencils, stickers, notebooks and journal books, post it notes, etc. Children love to create when given so many fun options. You can also get wonderful ideas from the Alphabet Glue series–you buy it, print it, and use it! Inexpensive and WONDERFUL content!

Journals and diaries become important in Kindergarten and First Grade. I like writing an answer to a child’s question, and then asking a question that a child answers, back and forth, as a shared journal to start.

As much as I like to limit screen time, Khan Academy is pretty amazing for building the math skills. You’ll need to set this up and get your child going, but this is a resource that can give exponentially and over a long period of time. Try it. It’s really amazing, and many say, the very future of education.


Scratch Garden on youtube — look it up and play these short, awesome videos at home
Bedtime Math Book Series — great fun for pm students, you can get a good math lesson in any time, not just bedtime (the covers glow in the dark tho!)
aMag — VERY SMART and cool architecture magazine / online resources for developing all kinds of brainy-ness
Our Facebook and blog — yep, good old Cortland Preschool’s blogsite has good stuff, you know how to find us on Facebook
Menomonee Club — this not-for-profit boasts stellar instruction, fair prices, ample parking, and over 60 years of experience
Just play simple games like duck duck goose, follow the leader, parachute — play and practice the classics so that your child knows these skills
Cat and Mouse Games — love this store on Armitage, near Damen, they have excellent materials and we talk often about what I want them to carry!
Kumon brand — really, any Kumon workbook is good. Sometimes kids really like workbooks.
Singapore math — again, workbooks, but these should be done with an adult. You can develop killer math skills with these.


The state of Illinois Learning Standards for Language Arts, to get you started, you have to click around a bit to get the detailed list, but this takes you through all of the standards for each discipline and grade level. Knowledge is power!

Please find attached:
Preventing Reading Difficulties — This is the full list from Latin and a wonderful checklist to mark progress through the next year, it really is more about what children should be doing and not about reading difficulties preventing_reading_difficulties
What Are Dolch Sight Words — You should read this to understand what the expectations are, again, this is age five and up, generally What are Dolch Words
Dolch Sight Words — I’ve included the entire list for you, this goes pre-k through 3rd grade Dolch_full_list

Have fun learning in as many ways as you can. Hands-on is always the way to go. One last article, this talks about how to ask better questions to develop critical thinking skills. Over and out from Ms. Amy M. Ewaldt, MAT

Sizing Up Your Child’s Feet

Sizing Up Your Child’s Feet
Written by: Dr. Andrea L. Peach, DPM


Examples and Measurement Tool
As a Podiatrist, and a mom of 3 adorable children under the age of 5, I am often asked questions concerning children’s shoe gear, shoe choices, and how to measure a child’s foot.

I am an advocate for barefoot walking, as long and as much as possible, before needing to stuff those cute little fat feet into shoes. But what after that?

You need to remember when choosing proper shoes for your child what sort of activity your child will be engaging in. What do you think of when you close your eyes and envision a fun-filled day of learning at Cortland? What variety of movement do you see? How comfortable and practical should your child’s feet be?

Little feet need to be protected, supported, and fitted properly. Exposed feet, loose fitting shoes, or “fancy shoes” have little place at the playground or school; flip-flops, crocs, and dress shoes should be reserved for the beach, back yard home play, and special occasions, respectively. A good athletic sneaker is your best bet for an active school-aged child.

Some brands to consider might include: Stride rite, New Balance, Saucony, and Umi. (**check websites for discounts, specials and free shipping. The best time for discounts is normally around a holiday. Try online discount websites like as well. Stride rite also offers some amazing sales around Black Friday! I normally order a few sizes up for my kids around that time and stock up for the upcoming season.)

Your feet are the foundation for your whole body. Proper shoe gear is important for pedal development, balance, gait, protection and muscular movement. The younger the child, the faster the feet will grow. Did you know that it is recommended for a child under the age of 3 to have their feet measured every 2-3 months for new shoes? After the age of 4, growth tends to slow down a bit, and you can typically have a pair of shoes last 6-8 months until a new pair is needed.

What to consider when purchasing new shoes for your child:
1. A child may not complain about shoes they have outgrown. If you notice a change in your child’s gait, or excessive wear pattern on the back of the shoes or inside lining, it is time for new shoes.
2. Children’s feet sweat more than adults. It is important that a child wears clean cotton socks for breathability. Canvas, leather, and other natural fabrics are better materials for shoe gear for the same purpose rather than synthetic materials. Avoid plastic shoes in little ones, as they do not breathe, cause a child’s foot to sweat more, and can cause friction rubbing and blisters.
3. If you are looking at using hand-me-down shoes, or consignment shoes, check the back heel of the shoes for wear patterns.
4. Shoes that are too small tend to cause blisters, pain, and even ingrown toe nails. Shoes that are too big can cause a child to trip over their own feet.
5. It is always best to have a child try on the shoes and check for proper fit. Make sure the back part of the shoe does not slip out while walking. Also, with the shoe on the child, make sure you have a small fingertip space from the tip of the big toe to the tip of the shoe.
6. Keep in mind when ordering on-line, that shoe sizes vary from company to company. Even with using a sizing guide, read reviews to check if a brand runs small, large, or true to size. Always have the flexibility to return and exchange a pair of shoes if necessary.

How to measure your child’s feet for those new shoes.
1. Whether at a shoe store, or at home, have your child’s feet measured at the end of the day. A person’s foot tends to swell as the day progresses, so a measurement in the morning would tend to be narrower and possibly smaller than at the end of the day.
2. When you measure your child’s foot, have them wear a normal pair of socks, to make sure you get a more accurate measurement of the bulk needed inside of the shoe gear.
3. To measure your child’s foot, have them stand with “full weight” on a sheet of paper. Make a mark at the back of the heel and a mark at the tip of the longest toe. Measure the length between the center of the heel mark and center of the toe mark.
4. Measure both feet, as normally one foot is longer. Always use the longest measurement when purchasing a size for your child’s shoe.

Remember that little ones will grow right before you in a blink of an eye. Let’s give our little ones a great foundation for growth, development, and safety by sending them off to school best-foot forward.

Fun and Funky Ideas that Encourage Literacy in Your Home

Written by Amy Drost

From Ms. Amy: This info came about from a photo that Amy Drost emailed me. I recognized the refrigerator poetry magnets that were so popular when I started college…except in this photo, they were huge, and in scale with the magnetic letters placed just below by a child’s hand. “Magic” is right, Cody! Fun learning magic. I hope you’ll enjoy this info, and thanks again to the Drost family for the great ideas.–AE


My son Cody was extremely resistant in the language arts areas for a long time, but is now really taking an interest. Here are a few things we do at home that have worked for us to jumpstart Cody’s willingness to participate in early literacy building activities. (Me again. I want to jump in and mention that these active, kinesthetic experiences help children explore when they are cognitively ready. Don’t push if your child isn’t quite there yet, just set the scene for exploration.)

Huge Magnet Board
We bought an aluminum “oil drip pan” for under $10 in the auto section, and spray painted it with chalk paint. We attached it to our wall, at toddler height, using adhesive Velcro strips (Hey there, or you can pre-drill and screw through it and into a stud.) The drip pans are about 2.5′ x 4′ so your child has a huge working area. (Mrs. Alexa did a similar project in her unused fireplace–ask her about it.)

I started by randomly choosing 5 or 6 words from the magnetic poetry tin that I thought would pique his interest and put them on the board.

We already had the magnetic letters kit and, without prompting, he began using the magnetic letters to spell the words I put on the board (see photo.)

From that point, he began asking all kinds of questions about the words, and we have started making sentences together. Lots of great conversations have started this way, and his interest in books and reading has exploded–this is a kid who almost never wanted to sit next to me and read. Now, it has become a favorite activity.

Also, after many failed attempts to get him to write, I discovered a website called that has really awesome printable activity packs. There is a “tot pack” and a “kindergarten pack” and they come in different themes. The theme we chose to laminate, and use (w/dry erase pen) on a daily basis is Octonauts! There are other tv show, and non-tv show themes as well. We bought our hot/cold laminator at Costco for $20 and it came with 100 thermal sheets in various sizes. It’s small and easy to store.

Another writing tool that intrigues him is a stencil board of capital letters that includes the arrow instruction for each letter. It is made by School Rite and is also available in lower case, cursive and numbers. ( We use this with laminated surfaces and dry erase pen, too.

(In closing, I think I can speak for Amy Drost when I say that it is exciting when you strike upon ideas that make your child light up and want to learn in new ways. Experimenting is key–these ideas use kinesthetic/tactile feedback to help teach a skill. What is a kinesthetic learner? Read more here!)


Classroom Magnetic Letters Kit: (also available on Amazon)

Magnetic Poetry Words for Kids:


Written by Elizabeth Salahuddin

You’re moving. Now what?!

A dream home in the suburbs is calling your name. A job relocation to another coast is tempting you away. You’re ready for a new lifestyle or change in environment. There is a solid chance a move with your family is in the future.

Last summer we moved from our cozy little nook in Chicago across the country to the Ocean State. It was a huge life re-route for my husband (new job), my kids (new school) and me (new everything).

There were a lot of things I got right and there were a lot of things I could have done better. To help you and your family make smoother transitions, I’d like to share some friendly insight, tips, and advice from my own experiences.

* Keep the people close to you (especially your kids) in the loop as much as possible. Even if you’re resisting the change, open communications with your support network are essential for dealing with the upcoming transitions and navigating the new path ahead.

* Find a doctor, dentist, and therapist for everyone in the family as soon as possible. Our son suffered from multiple ear infections in the first month we arrived in Providence. Ask around, tour, and interview multiple physicians. I had great luck in asking the teachers at our new school for referrals.

* Regarding school admissions, if anyone tells you that you’ve missed a registration deadline, there are no spots for your child or calls and return emails are not happening as frequently as you’d like – don’t listen and don’t give up! Get to the highest level admissions person possible. Call every day, multiple times. Send emails to everyone on the school board. Stalk parks, cafes and shops around the school, chatting up friendly faces. Persistence pays off big time.

* Sign up the kids and yourself for at least one activity, sport, club, or class to ease the transition and stay busy. This is also a great way to meet people in your new ‘hood.

* Look for a “new to the area” neighbors or friends group. Most communities have some sort of established network of newbies for play dates, social gatherings, sports or family outings.

* Lastly, whether you’re on board with the move or not so much (as was my case), it’s going to be okay. Maybe not right away, but you will be in time. There are great people out there to help and guide you along the way. Let them in. You never know what life has in store for you and it’s a great thing to be open to the possibilities.

I’m happy to report that six plus months after our move, we’re adjusting as best we can to our new digs here in Rhode Island, meeting great people and realizing that we love all things seafood! If you’re ever out this way, please look us up!

–Elizabeth Salahuddin
formerly of Logan Square, Chicago, IL and the East Side of Providence, RI
now residing in quaint but quiet Barrington, RI

January Author Study Expands to NYC

LPS-451-New-York-Big-AppleAh, New York city, cooler older sibling to Chicago…we interupt our regularly scheduled monthly author study to bring you these hot tips from NYC transplant (and stellar Cortland mom), Libby Levandoski Wilhelm!

Libby was a teacher for many years in NYC, and I asked her to recommend some beloved authors from her experiences to further extend our Ezra Jack Keats study this month. We will carry these authors over in February as well, but thought you may want to check them out too.

Libby’s List of NYC Authors:

Mo Willems (Knuffle Bunny takes place in Brooklyn, but I think he may now live in MA.) You guys have already done an author study on him, but always worth checking out. *Cortland students love Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, anything Elephant and Piggie, and of course, the PIGEON! A shared pigeon book will be in our take-home special collection soon, photos courtesy of the Drost family, story courtesy of our 3-day class!

Donald Crews – think he now lives in upstate NY

Nina Crews (daughter of Donald – lives in Brooklyn) O.W. LOVES Below by Nina Crews.

Photos of Jack in this book were taken in Brooklyn. Jack is her nephew. He attended my school in Brooklyn.

The sequel is:

Miriam Cohen (lives in Brooklyn – stories about Jim are her better ones, in my opinion)

Ezra Jack Keats (born in Brooklyn)

Thanks, Libby! I’m sure there’s a bookworm and Big Apple joke to be found somewhere, but for now, I cannot wait to familiarize myself with some new urban authors.

Cortland Cookbook 2014


You can print your own Cortland Cookbook by using the .pdf file

I’ve combined last year with this year, so everything is there. You’ll see three section pages (savory, sweet, family traditions), a front and back cover, and a page at the end for notes.


Love from Ms. Amy and Angela Mead

Cortland Preschool Cookbook_2014

P.S. This didn’t make it into the cookbook this year as it was buried in a pile of my paperwork, but students made this with Ms. Alexa, and it is a fantastic Ranch Dip Recipe:

1/3 cup buttermilk powder
2 Tbsp parsley
1.5 tsp dill
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chives

Mix to combine, stir in plain, whole milk yogurt (small tub) to complete!

Book Club #1…The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius


Cortland Book Club #1
Hosted by the Mead Family
October 24, 2014

We came, we saw, we talked, laughed, cried, and noshed. Our Cortland Book Club is off to a wonderful start.

Parents suggest the books, anyone from the Cortland community may read along and join in the club. Those in attendance vote for the next read. Families volunteer to host if they feel comfortable. Everyone BYOBs. Cortland teachers provide childcare at the preschool for ages 2+. We build a sense of community while engaging in a supportive and friendly discourse. Next meeting in late January, book TBA on the eNews and Facebook.

What will we remember to take away from this read?

-“Maybe I’ll ask (for help) next time.”

-“Keep ties with your community.”

-“All children are amazing and special.”

-“I need to foster my daughter’s love of art.”

-“Don’t expect everyone to be the best at everything. We all have strengths and weaknesses.”

-“Helping and guiding my children—helping them be the best people THEY can be.”

-“Be your child’s advocate, no matter what door is shut in your face, be their advocate.”

-“Recognize that thing in every child that is so special.”

-“Don’t accept limits anyone wants to put on your child. Remember the tree house analogy.”

-“Notice what your kids are good at, what lights them up.”

-“Create a culture of support. Help your child engage in long-term projects he or she is truly interested in.”

A special thank you to Ms. Karen Louis, for a fun-filled Children’s Book Club of Go, Dog. Go! and for generously giving her time to the cause.

A special thank you to the Mead Family for graciously and warmly hosting, and for the delicious treats!

A special thank you to the many Cortland dads, grandparents, friends, etc. who babysat so that Cortland moms could have this night. I am truly grateful–this was a great night for all of us to be a part of.

Hope to see you at January’s meet. Stay tuned.

–Ms. Amy Ewaldt

Indian Boundary Park

Indian Boundary Park
Written by Heather Bruce Boran

More than a hidden gem or a respite from the usual city hustle and bustle, Indian Boundary Park is a destination in its own right. Parents and caregivers looking for something a little outside of the usual are in for a treat. Spanning over thirteen acres and situated just northwest of the Western Avenue and Devon Street intersection, Indian Boundary Park boasts an expanse of picnic-worthy green grass, climbable trees, and a beautiful lagoon from which we spotted numerous ducks, a turtle, and a few jumping fish.

Park-goers also can enjoy a new-this-year water spray feature and splash area, a brand-new nature center and surrounding nature play area that is as peaceful and welcoming as it is beautiful, and — our family’s favorite — a large wooden fortress of a playscape with plenty of room for imaginative play along with gross motor challenges for the toddler, preschool, and elementary school-sets. Our kids would happily spend an entire afternoon (and then some) hiding, sliding, balancing, and, as Sawyer puts it: “climbing up and up and up and up!”

The park’s historic tudor-style field house also houses painting, piano, dance and voice lessons for kids and adults alike, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago — in residence at the park — offers free concerts throughout the year. For upcoming events including a Make Your Own Nutcracker on December 6.10653639_712648825479392_6690452587977754944_n

Cortland parent Heather Bruce Boran is a self-proclaimed, “corporate-lawyer-turned-part-time (adjunct)-law-professor-and-full-time-mom.” (6 photos)

Talking About Standards

Parent: What kind of standards do you use to inform your teaching? What can I expect my child to focus on in one full year?

Cortland: Many parents want to take a more active role in understanding what the State of Illinois Early Learning Standards are and how we (and every Illinois preschool) use these standards daily in our classrooms. You can print a full copy HERE for your records and better understanding, and I would encourage you to read them and share them with your caregivers as well–you can augment classroom learning experiences at home in a unified manner while enjoying a better understanding of age-appropriate learning.

State-mandated standards articulately and intelligently speak to all of the learning domains we work on at school daily (in our daily lesson plans) as children develop up to Kindergarten. Teachers have a separate set of standards for Kindergarten, and each grade following thereafter. Preschool standards have always been available on our blogsite (see the Standards tab above) but you can always google them (State of Illinois Learning Standards, insert grade level here) and follow along each year as the children rise through each grade level. This will help you better connect with them as students and also better connect with their teachers, as you’ll be aware of the expectations and benchmarks for learning development.

Parent: Some programs guarantee that my child will be reading or doing math to a certain level by a certain age. What’s that all about?

Cortland: We would be wary of any program “promising results”–every child develops cognitively at a different rate and uniquely. While there are baseline “norms”, all children have “dips and spikes” in different areas, depending. A real-world example: a gifted child may be reading at a 5th or 6th grade level at age 4 (and with demonstrated comprehension) but may find it difficult work to hold a pencil or other implements and write his or her name or draw / trace precisely (low fine motor.) The spike is the reading / phonic/ decoding ability, the dip is the fine motor.

As teachers, our job then becomes what is called “differentiated learning”–identifying each child’s academic “dips” and working to boost these low areas, while feeding the “spike” and keeping them challenged in above-average areas. This is what makes what makes teaching dynamic and exciting! We work to unite a child’s particular love-passion-interest with the work of the standards, so a genuine love of learning is fueled (and rote seat work is kept to a minimum.)

To better inform our older 3-day families and our 5-day families, you’ll see at our next round of conferences that summer is a time where we focus on math and language arts assessments. You’ll have a better picture of your children’s strengths and achievements, and also where they stack up when compared against State Standards.

Parent: What can I do to be involved in my child’s schooling? I don’t feel like I’m connected.

Cortland: It’s important to remember that preschool, like elementary school and beyond, is very much an equation–the time you put in connecting to your child’s education, you will get back in results of equal or greater measure. At Cortland Preschool, resources for getting / staying involved include:

-reading eNews and notes sent home
-regularly reading and sharing the classroom blogsite with your child
-Facebook posts at Cortland Preschool and Tutoring
-attending parent-teacher conferences
-reading parent handouts
-learning about the State Standards online, on your conference forms, and/or by asking for more info
-attending parenting sessions and events (GRASP Group, Tertulia, Book Club, etc.)
We provide these opportunities for busy parents to stay connected and better informed. It is important to find out what each new school will provide and/or expect parents to regularly attend to.

You will continue to be your children’s greatest advocates for excellence in schooling by continuing to ask questions that help you gain greater understanding. As you move forward, continue asking great questions–What can I do to support my child’s learning in the home? Where is my child struggling? Excelling? What kinds of experiences can support my child in these areas? What resources do you recommend? Good teachers work with parents as a team and want to work in complementary ways. What is your child excited about? How can we all work together to support your child’s self-directed interests and ideas?

We are always happy to talk with you at length, provide supporting articles or documentation, etc. with regards to the education of preschoolers. Thanks for asking great questions!

Nanny Shares–Our Experiences

Nanny Shares–Our Experiences
written by Cortland mom, Megan Canty

Selecting the right child care situation for your family can be overwhelming, and living in a city like Chicago, the options are very different from what my husband and I experienced growing up (we both basically went to a neighbor’s home.) We had our first child before anyone else we knew well in the city had children (and neither of us is from the Chicago area), so we were on our own in navigating this process.

After visiting and researching day care center options, we decided those would not be best for us, considering there were none very close to our current home or offices, and since neither of us drive to work; taking one or more children on the CTA to one destination and then heading to work and doing it all again every evening sounded like a poor option. We knew our actual time together as a family would be limited given that we’d be spending so much time commuting every day.

Next we looked into having a nanny. Having in-home care and one-on-one interaction sounded great but our two concerns were first, the cost, and second, the lack of exposure to other children.

My research led me to where I found message boards, informational posts, and actual events, like one we attended on child care options, where we first heard about nanny shares. This sounded like a great option for what we wanted—a home environment, another child for our son to interact with as he got older, personalized attention, and not as expensive as paying for a nanny on our own.

I can say we have been so happy and fortunate with both nanny shares we have been in. Our first share lasted for two years, and we are still friends with our “share family” and our nanny. We found the share family through the NPN message boards, where many people post child care classifieds.

Once we found a few people who lived in our neighborhood, we communicated over email to discuss what everyone was looking for in a nanny and in a share, and eventually met with
this family. We hit it off right away and hired a nanny together through an agency. Agencies charge a fee to help you and it can be pricey, but that way we knew everyone we interviewed was ok with taxes being withheld, had the kind of experience we wanted, etc. Agencies do all of the reference and screening work for you, which is nice, and I felt like everyone we interviewed was a strong candidate.

The first share wasn’t without its bumps in the road–we had two nannies who did not work out until we found our amazing nanny, but having a great relationship with our share family
made it all work out. I think it’s incredibly important to make sure you take the search for a share family as seriously as you take the search for the nanny, since you are making a lot of decisions together and your children are spending so much time together. A family whose ideas about raising children are in stark contrast to your own is not going to be a good fit, so you want to essentially “interview” each other. For that share, we walked our son the few blocks to the share family’s home each day and picked him up, which worked out very well.

We are now on our second nanny share–we moved when our son was two just before having our second child, and unfortunately our new home took us out of our neighborhood, so our first share ended. We were so sad to leave that share and wondered if finding another would be hard.

The second time around, it took us many tries to find a family we were comfortable having a share with–we had been incredibly lucky to find the first family so quickly, but eventually we found another great family. This time we wanted to host the share at our home, as my husband had recently changed jobs and would be traveling a lot more, and I wanted to make my commute each day as simple as possible since I would be on my own fairly often.

This time, we actually found our nanny through the NPN web site as well as our share family. Sometimes families will post about how great their nanny has been, and how they want to help him or her find a new job if the family is moving, children no longer need full time care, etc. Nannies will also sometimes respond to a classified you might post, which is what happened in our case. Also, sometimes you find a family who already has a nanny and is just looking for a family to share with, so you can interview both the family and their nanny at the same time and see if it is a good fit.

Since we did not go through an agency the second time, we had to do the screening and
paperwork ourselves, but it was not difficult and we once again have a great nanny share.

Overall, we love doing nanny shares–our children have regular interaction with other kids, they get a home environment for child care, and they have very close attention from our nanny. We’ve also gotten to know some great families through our experiences.

The main advice I have on nanny shares is this:

1. First, make a list of your needs. How many hours do you need? Do you want to host some days or every day or not at all? If the share will be in your home, what do people need to know (for example, do you have a dog?) What are things about other people’s homes that you would want to know if a share will be hosted there? These basics help to rule out situations which simply won’t work out because of differing schedules, or an allergy issue,
aversion to smoking, etc.

2. Next, decide on financial issues–how much can you afford to pay and how much are you willing to pay? (Most nanny shares split the rate in half between the two families, but if one family has more children than the other, that ratio will change. Simply, if you hire a $20/hour nanny, a fair split is $10/hour for each family.) How will you handle taxes? Are you willing to pay an agency fee for help with a nanny search, or is that not in your budget? Once you have a nanny, do you have a budget for outings or classes for the children etc.?

3. Next, decide what you want in a nanny and what you want in a share family. This includes both the qualities you are looking for and the type of relationship. In terms of finding a share family, is this going to be purely business or do you hope to befriend another family and have your children spend time together outside the share? It’s best to be clear upfront.

4. Once you’ve answered these questions, you can really start your search since you know what you are looking for. Make sure to keep in mind that there will always be new questions and some problem solving to be done as families’ needs will change over time. The most important feature of a nanny share, in my opinion, is communication–between you and your share family, and between the two families and the nanny, making sure the nanny is getting clear and consistent information from both families, and making sure everyone is comfortable with the share situation. I hope you’ll consider the nanny-share option for your own family!