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Over 450 elementary school students have already signed up for the 15th annual Young Writer’s Workshop to be held on March 20th. Students in grades three throuogh five will have the opportunity to choose two courses from a list of 46 offerings that will be presented by talented writers.

This year’s conference features a celebrity line-up including author and athlete Tim Green, who will give the keynote address and offer signed copies of his new book for young readers, The Rivals. Green’s book The Dark Side of the Game is a New York Times bestseller and he is a news commentator and an NFL star who played for the Atlanta Falcons for eight years.

Acclaimed author, wife, mom, sister and friend Carol Weston will lead a master workshop on writing first person fiction. Sometimes call the “Teen Dear Abbey” many know Weston for the advice column she has written for Girl’s Life Magazine for 25 years. Her books include Diary of Melanie Martin and Girl Talk and she will offer insights on telling a story, creating conflict and suspense and bringing characters to life.

The amazing Peter Lerangis will lead a workshop called “So You Want to Be An Author, REALLY? He should know what it takes as over 3 million copies of his books have been sold. He is the author of two books in the series The 39 Clues as well as books in the well-known series The Babysitter’s Club, the Drama Club, Abracadabra and Spy X.

Also on the program are representatives from the world of film and stage, sports, television and radio and the web. The line-up is impressive and here are just a few of the offerings…many of which sound exciting for people of any age:

In “Pitch it,” Literary Agent Scott Waxman will show students how to present their book concept to an editor or publishing house.

At “Good Evening, Here’s the News!,” veteran television producer Lee Hoffman will discuss the essentials of writing an attention-grabbing story.

From the world of blogging, Beth Feldman, the found of RoleMommy.com will instruct students on how to create their own blogs in her workshop, “Blog It!”

In her session, “Get the Story Write/Right!,” former People Magazine reporter Brooke Stahhyra offers her advice on writing a piece on a celebrity or public figure using very few words.

Representatives from the Picture House in Pelham will discuss film criticism, producing a commercial and adapting a written work to the screen.

There ‘s something for every aspiring writer, media mogul, poet or filmmaker. So make sure your child participates in this wonderful event.

Students are asked to bring gently used books to donate to the Childcare Council of Westchester, Inc. The goal is to collect 2010 books.

To learn more about the Young Writer’s Conference and to sign up go to http://youngwritersworkshop.eventbrite.com/


Coping with a child who cannot consistently manage his anger is one of the most difficult aspects of parenting. Some parents may feel trapped in an endless and pointless argument or power struggle. Others may respond with more anger of their own, precipitating a dangerous spiral of rage that can actually damage the parent-child bond. I believe that the cornerstone to raising children who can manage anger and frustration appropriately is to do so ourselves and to recognize that managing anger is a learned skill.

Whether we like it or not, our children observe everything that we say and do, and then model their own behavior accordingly. What is your child learning in your home about how to express and manage anger? What do you need to change in your own behavior to raise a child who can manage his anger and emotions? Take a quiet moment to reflect on how you speak with others whose behavior may have annoyed you; anyone from the traffic guard, to the person bagging groceries in line at the store, to your mother-in-law, your spouse, or your child. If your child follows your lead, will you be proud of his character, ability to tolerate frustration, or his level of compassion for others?

Model healthy expressions of anger: Let your children hear you express anger in a calm voice, highlighting the difference between assertiveness and hostility. Show your child how you might use deep breathing, yoga poses, music or journaling to help manage your anger. Don’t be afraid to show your child that you are a person with feelings too. This helps our children to see us as the real, three-dimensional beings that we are. The key is to let our children know that we have the ability to control our own emotional states, as do they, and that it is our responsibility to do so.

Acknowledge your childs efforts to manage his or her anger and praise genuinely and specifically:
You might say something like, “I am so proud of the way that you stayed calm when your little brother knocked over your block tower, I know you felt angry but you did a great job of staying in control.” Later, at the dinner table, you might mention the story to the whole family and let everyone know how proud you were.

Ignore irritating behavior when possible: For example, sometimes the best thing to do when faced with a child who has thrown himself on the floor in a screaming fit of rage is to simply walk away. Obviously it is important to keep safety in mind at all times, but a tantrum without an audience is like that falling tree in the forest. Does it really make a sound? Usually, it just picks itself up and moves on when the tantrum ceases to be effective.

Love unconditionally and hug often: Sometimes all an angry child (or adult) needs is a really big hug that communicates love and appreciation. An angry child is not a bad child, simply a child who is struggling to manage their inner state. I know some will argue that the hug simply reinforces bad behavior, but that has not been my experience at all. Making eye contact, hugging gently, and mentioning that you know how hard it is to feel out of control, can be extremely effective in ending an angry outburst. I also like to send the message that your love does not shift with your child’s mood, and that when your child is out of control, they can still turn to you for help getting back on track.

Provide plenty of opportunity for physical exercise: Kicking a ball, shooting baskets, jumping on a trampoline, doing jumping jacks, punching a punching bag, and skipping are all excellent ways for children (and adults) to relieve anger and frustration. As you observe your childs anger rise, silently and gently lead him to an activity involving exercise. The key here is to avoid any verbal exchange or a continued argument. You might just take your childs hand, lead them to the activity that works best, and get them set up. You might also say that you two are like mini detectives and you want to count how many punches, jumps, whatever, it takes to make the angry feelings go away.

Maintain clear boundaries and know in advance when to say no: Boundaries are not a form of punishment, but a clearly understood set of rules. When rules are based upon our core values, children recognize the power behind the rules and are ultimately less likely to test them.

Provide as many opportunities for success as you can: Not surprisingly, children who are frequently reprimanded, may view themselves as inferior to their peers and siblings. The best way for a child to feel successful is to succeed. In most situations there is a task that your child can do well enough to earn sincere praise. When a child sees that sparkle in your eye, and hears your specific and sincere praise, he learns many lessons. He learns that he is not all bad, that he is not defined by his poor choices in the past, that he has the ability to be important and useful for his family. Most importantly, he learns that he can please you and the other central people in his life.

Elizabeth Pflaum lives with her husband and four children in Westchester, New York and provides individual parent coaching to clients and their families. She offers parenting classes and workshops throughout the tri-state area, is a frequent guest parenting expert on WABC’s Eyewitness News and other television shows and writes articles about all topics relating to parenting and childhood.

Elizabeth is especially excited to partner with Robin Gorman Newman, noted author and founder of Motherhood Later...Than Sooner to present a series of Teleseminars, beginning the first Wednesday in March.

Topics will include:

  • Authentic parenting and effective discipline
  • Taming temper tantrums, back talk, and promoting respectful behavior
  • Keeping it all together: taking control of our emotions, our stuff and our time so that we can spend these most precious resources in a way that enhances the life we wish to lead
  • Juggling our own needs with those of our family, career, and home as we achieve our goals
  • The power of positive parenting and the successful use of it in any parenting situation
  • Back to Basics  Implementing routines and schedules to manage lifes daily struggles and chores with a smile

For more information on this or similar topics, or to register for the series, visit Elizabeth Pflaum on the web at

"You LIED!"

"You're LIARS!!"

My son stormed into the house, tears streaming down his reddened face.

The tirade continued--

"You said I could grow my hair as long as I wanted to during the school year. That's what you said! Does this look long? NO! I look like a toddler. A DORK! You're never touching another single cell on MY body!"

Stifling a giggle I tried to explain, "Sweetie, that was before your uncle was getting married. You're the ring-bearer. You have to look nice..."

"NICE! This doesn't look NICE. This looks STUPID. I'm going to wear a hat!"

"It's a wedding, you can't wear a hat."

"I'll wear a top hat! People wear those. And anyway you broke your promise! You always do."

"I do not!"

"Yes! You said you'd get me a Brett Favre jersey months ago. You didn't..."

"Well, actually that was Dad." (Sometimes saving yourself means throwing your spouse under the bus)

My husband mercifully interceded.

"Ok, you're right. We did say you could grow your hair, but these are extenuating circumstances. Do you know what that means?"

"Yes, that you lied!"

In your family maybe you would have scooped your child up in your arms, quieted his tears and tried to explain why it was important to look nice for a special family occasion. Or maybe you would have sent your child to his room for a time out until he calmed down.
In our family we handle disputes like this a little differently.

We drew up a contract.

Here it is:

Read more from Gray Matter Matters:

The Junior League of Central Westchester (JLCW) will host American Girl Fashion Shows®, fun-filled events for girls and their families, friends and favorite dolls, on March 20 at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm and March 21 at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm at Doral Arrowood in Rye Brook, NY. Each show will feature local girls ages 5-12 showcasing the current offerings from the American Girl Fashion lines. It is a great way for girls and their families, friends and favorite dolls to spend time together and view the clothing from American Girl characters of yesterday and today.

The JLCW is currently seeking models for the shows. To be eligible to model, children must fit in a size 6x (Bitty Baby outfits) or size 10 (Historical and Just Like You outfits). Model applications must be postmarked by February 19, 2010. Complete information and downloadable applications are available at www.JLCentralWestchester.org.

The funds raised by the American Girl Fashion Show® support the JLCW’s children's programs. The JLCW is a nonprofit women’s organization committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. The JLCW invites women of all races, religions and national origins who are committed to volunteerism to become a member.

Tickets for the American Girl Fashion Shows® are on sale at www.JLCentralWestchester.org

The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple” – S. Gudder

Westchester Math Lab is a new math enrichment program for children in grades 1-8. Founded by three local mothers who wished to share their passion for mathematics, the program helps children achieve a deep understanding of mathematical concepts. Below please find some background on their philosophy, and the specifics of the program.

Please introduce yourself to our audience and tell them a bit about your background

We are three local parents and professional women who have children in elementary, middle and high school. All three of us received our elementary though high school education in Russia and continued our higher education in the U.S. Our combined backgrounds include teaching, finance and computer science.

What lead you to start the Westchester Math Lab?

We believe that the level of math education in many of our public and private schools should be higher and that the subject of math is not afforded as much importance as in many other developed countries, where children’s math skills are much superior to their U.S. counterparts. We found that oftentimes, elementary school students are lacking basic math skills that they need to successfully move to more advanced math topics in middle school, high school and college. As a result, many kids begin to dislike math as a subject and do not want to choose professions that require advanced knowledge of math. We spent a lot time searching, unsuccessfully, for a good math program to enrich our kids, strengthen and advance their math skills, teach them to analyze and solve mathematical and logical problems, and give them the confidence they need. As a result, Westchester Math Lab was born.

What is the mission of the program?

-To offer children an opportunity to achieve a deep understanding and superior mastery of grade level mathematical concepts.

-To develop and nurture talent by offering advanced material to children looking for more challenge.

-To create a stimulating environment that will awaken children’s curiosity and spark genuine interest in math through a combination of a systematic and disciplined approach to teaching and an effective and proven curriculum.  

-To conquer "math phobia" by building confidence in mathematical skills.

-To adequately prepare students for high school and college mathematics by building a solid foundation in math that will make children competitive with their counterparts around the globe.

What is the age/grade of your students?

We currently offer classes for students in grades 1 through 5 but will be starting classes for higher grades as time goes on. We have a few kindergartners in our first grade class.

How does the program complement the material students learn in school?

Our program is based on Singapore Math which is currently one of the best math programs and is being implemented by many schools in New York and across the country. The material covered in this program is not exotic. Most of the topics are the ones covered in regular school. However, the difference is in how the topics are presented and in the role the teachers play in the process.

Many math programs used by schools tend to jump between different topics, making it difficult for students to learn the concepts well. Singapore uses a logical progression of topics and plenty of practice, so the kids gain confidence before progressing onto the next topic. Some of the topics like algebra, fractions and geometry for example, are introduced much earlier than in the regular school. Important material, such as word problems are introduced very early on and are integral to each lesson in every grade. Word problems are missing or paid very little attention in many schools, including ones that implemented Singapore math.

We also supplement the program with material that develops analytical skills. Our students solve puzzles and do math games, practice Math Olympiads and participate in math contests. Our lessons are always fast paced and fun. We pay special attention to the qualifications and experience of our teachers. We think that one of the weak spots of schools when it comes to math is the way many teachers approach teaching the subject. All our teachers have extensive experience teaching math and many have advanced degree in math.

Is the program purely for enrichment or does it also help students who need help with their math to strengthen their skills?

Our program does both. For some grades we offer more than one level of difficulty, so the kids with stronger foundations focus more on enrichment and others focus more on learning the concepts. The program will certainly strengthen student’s skills as material is very coherent, connected and presented clearly. Practice is an integral part of the program and students will get a certain amount of homework each week What is also extremely important is that besides just following the Singapore Math curriculum, we are offering students a range of other material, mostly more challenging material, comprised from many different sources. Mental calculations, challenge problems, puzzles and games are all part of our lessons and help stimulate quick thinking and offer the opportunity to employ previously learned skills.

What do students do during their time at the Lab?

We are convinced that the most important part of any learning experience is teacher instruction. Our teachers spend the entire lesson in front of the class interacting with students. We have a very specific lesson structure followed by all the teachers. There is time allocated to review of homework, presentation of new material, brain teasers and word problems. Students work independently and occasionally in groups and they earn points for their participation. Our lessons are fast paced and dynamic.

Anything else you wish to add?

We feel there is a lot of demand for what we have to offer in Westchester. We have almost doubled in size since we started our program in September. We have an extremely diverse group of students, coming from different school districts and family backgrounds. We invite everyone who is looking to supplement their child’s math education to come for a trial class. All trial classes are free of charge and parents under no obligation to join the program.

When and where are your classes held?

Classes are held at Our Lady of Victory Academy in Dobbs Ferry on Mondays and beginning in February, on Saturdays as well.

How can parents get in touch with you to learn more about your programs?

To learn more about the Westchester Math Lab, please visit our website at http://westmathlab.com , email us at info@westmathlab.com or call 914-559-8111.

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