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Your NYC Neighbor Alina Adams, NYT best-selling author of “Getting into NYC Kindergarten”

Your NYC Neighbor – is a way of introducing New Yorkers to a rich community of savvy parents and business owners. New York is a diverse City bustling with all kinds of families and personalities. We also love to grab tips and recommendations from moms and dads in certain neighborhoods and throughout the 5 Boroughs, and especially people who have created a product, service or site that helps new parents. Meet Alina Adams a mom of 3 and a successful author.

 

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Tell us about yourself

I was born in the former Soviet Union, went to school in San Francisco, and accidentally ended up being an NYC mom when I moved here for work – and married a man who isn’t completely sure there’s life outside the island of Manhattan. My background is writing fiction. I published numerous romance novels, as well as a Figure Skating Mystery series based on my years covering the sport for ABC/TNT/ESPN. I also worked in soap-operas for many years, first ABC Daytime, then “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns,” and finally “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” during the attempted web reboot. At first, I just went through the NYC Kindergarten Exmissions process as a civilian. Then I was hired to do it at River Park Nursery School on the Upper West Side. Then people started asking me to speak about it to groups. Everyone said, “You should write a book, you should write a book, you should write a book.” So I… wrote a book.

 

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You’re a NYC mom of 3. Tell us how you feel about the NYC Kindergarten process?

After three kids, I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what your child learns in preschool. It matters very, very much how they learn it. You want to pick a preschool that will make your child excited about the process of learning new things – and then applying that information. You want a school that will teach them the skills – patience, self-control, communication, cooperation – that will make them successful once what they are actually learning takes precedence. And that does not necessarily need to be the school with the largest play-space, the newest technical gadgets, or the biggest endowment. And it certainly doesn’t need to be the one with the best name recognition. Parents are always asking me, “What’s the best school?” And my answer always is, “It’s the school that’s best for your child.” Don’t take someone else’s word for it. Always look for yourself, and try to imagine your child in the environment you’re looking at. If you can visualize your child there, you are on the right track!

 

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How much personal work-time went into your book: “Getting into NYC Kindergarten”?

Well, technically, it all began when my oldest (now a sophomore at Stuyvesant High-School) was four, and we began looking for a school for him. My second child was a little easier to place, since he went in as a sibling, but my third child, a daughter, couldn’t attend the same all-boys’ school as her brothers, so we did the process all over again three years ago, this time applying to a completely different set of schools, running the gamut from public to private to charter to religious. I’d also been writing the NY Gifted Education Examiner column (http://www.examiner.com/gifted-education-in-new-york/alina-adams) since 2009, and by that point I was ready to do this professionally. The book itself is an ongoing process. Because the NYC Department of Education has a tendency to change rules arbitrarily – sometimes even in the middle of the admissions season! – I deliberately made the book electronic, so that I could instantly make changes as they happened. In addition, you can subscribe to an email list inside the book, where I will send parents notifications if something has changed. In that sense, it’s perennially being (re)written!

 

What are the biggest issues facing first-time parents?

I am a huge believer in school-choice. But it is very difficult to make a choice if you are unaware of all your options. I wrote “Getting Into NYC Kindergarten” for two reasons. One) So that parents will be aware of what’s possible (and I inject it with enough reality to make clear what’s probable). And Two) Because not everyone can afford a $10,000 private admissions consultant, or a preschool with a director connected enough to pick up the phone and get you into the school of your choice. I believe that information about the school process (as well as how to work it to your advantage) should be available to all NYC parents – without breaking the bank. Most people guard what they know like it’s a state secret. I want to change all that, and this book is, hopefully, a start. I think of it as: Admissions secrets for the rest of us.

 

How can parents of different ability children determine the best preschool choices for their family?

As I said above, preschool does not need to be about academics. As a result, preschool should be for children of all abilities (and, in fact, it’s better for it). I have seen children with special needs incorporated beautifully into classrooms with typically developing children. Some preschools are more academically-oriented (and much more likely to prep children for Gifted & Talented tests), while others are play-based. There is, however, very little evidence that a more rigorous preschool curriculum leads to better academic outcomes. Any effect is usually evened out by 3rd grade, and performance is much more contingent on the quality of the elementary school.

 

Any quick tips for new parents starting their preschool search?
Teachers, teachers, teachers, teachers. Nothing is more important than the quality of the teachers. At River Park Nursery School, for instance, where all three of my children went, the teachers have all been there for over 40 years. When we walked out of our first visit, I said to my husband, “There is nothing our son could possibly do that they’ve never seen before.”  If the teachers are good (and experienced; the best Ivy League credentials in the world got nothing over hands-on practice), absolutely nothing else matters. Except maybe…. location, location, location. You are going to be traveling with a 2/3/4 year old. Do you want it to be within walking distance? Preferably short walking distance. Or do you want to be packing up a stroller and dragging them onto a bus every morning? Think long and hard about your commute. And don’t just imagine it on a lovely spring day. Think about 7 am. In February. And then make your choice.

 

 WIN THE BOOK

 

About the author

Alina Adams, a NYT best-selling author and NYC mom who’s been through the Kindergarten admissions process three times and currently has children in a variety of public, private, gifted and religious schools, decided to change all that.  She wrote “Getting Into NYC Kindergarten” specifically for parents who can’t afford the consultants, but still want to make the best choice possible for their children.

Says Adams, “There are books on the market about how to get into private school, how to prep your child for intelligence testing, and lists of NYC’s top public and private schools. But absolutely nothing covers all of the options, not to mention gives you a timeline for everything you should be doing in the 18 months prior to your child starting Kindergarten. In addition, when it comes to NYC schools, what may have been true today is not necessarily true tomorrow. I deliberately made “Getting Into NYC Kindergarten” an ebook so that I could instantly make changes as they came up. Plus, the book is full of links to studies parents have questions about, such as the true value of a gifted program, whether it hurts or helps to keep a young child back a year, the upsides and downsides of a longer school day, and, of course, links to all the forms you’ll need to fill out. It’s a one-stop resource unlike any other!”

“Getting Into NYC Kindergarten” is available now on:

Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/NYCKBook
B&N: http://tinyurl.com/NYCKBookBN

 

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