All the questions and answers come directly from Smart Love Solutions in Early Childhood-A Handbook for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers by Drs. Martha Heineman Pieper and William J. Pieper.

Q: My daughter hates school, and she is only in the first grade.

My six-year-old daughter started first grade this fall, and she has been coming home and says that she hates school. At first she refused to talk about it, but I gently persisted, and she finally said that she is the worst at math, that all the other kids know their addition and subtraction and she does not. They have something called a math minute; they have a minute to see how many addition and subtraction problems they can do. She says that other kids get scores of more than twenty out of twenty-five, but she almost never gets more than six or seven. I have tried to reassure her by telling her that first grade is the place to learn math, but she says everyone else already knows it. I feel really badly for her, but I do not know what to do to help. I never knew that children had to know math by first grade. What do you suggest?

A: We have heard this kind of understandable frustration from many parents who discover too late that there are schools that expect children to enter first grade with both reading and math skills. Many kindergartens do not believe in teaching math and reading to five-year-olds which is fine. Rather than realizing that with instruction they can catch up, many children measure themselves against their peers and conclude that the problem is that they are not smart enough. These children often respond by disliking reading, math and school. In this way children like your daughter are needlessly being discouraged and made to feel inadequate.

Talk to your daughter’s school and see if they offer after-school help or other enrichment programs to enable your daughter to catch up in math. If you have a computer, there are many math programs for first graders that children find enjoyable. Most important: continue to tell your daughter that the problem is that she was not taught math in kindergarten, not that she can’t learn it, and that you are totally confident that she has the talent to become an excellent math student.


Buena Park Open Day celebrated its third-annual neighborhood festival with an “At Home in the City” theme. The festival highlighted why our neighborhood motto is “Good Living by the Lake.”

The festival’s hub was at the Smart Love House at Clarendon and Buena where visitors signed up for architectural tours, participated in family friendly activities, shopped the new Bazaar on Buena, listened to live music and took a break at the pop-up café.

“We are extremely satisfied with this year’s festival,” said Buena Park Neighbors President Lisa von Drehle, “because we think it represents all the best that our neighborhood has to offer. Plus, there was something for everyone from urban aficionado, architectural maven, families looking for a special outing, or people like us who just want to have some fun on a summer afternoon.”

Many thanks to our generous sponsors who make BPOD possible: Thorek Hospital, SSA34, Reside Living and the Chicago Cubs.

For more photos of the event click here.

All the questions and answers come directly from Smart Love Solutions in Early Childhood-A Handbook for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers by Drs. Martha Heineman Pieper and William J. Pieper.

Q: There is an increasing trend for starting three-year-olds in preschool. Is it necessary? Are there any educational gains? Will my daughter be behind if she waits another year? Thanks.

A: The purpose of preschool is not to teach your child any particular content, such as colors or numbers, but to introduce her to the school setting and show her that it can be enjoyable. If your three-year-old likes to play with other children, uses the potty and is comfortable separating from you for a few hours, she is probably ready for a good preschool. She will be able to enjoy it and have a positive first school experience. On the other hand if she tends to squabble over toys, isn’t potty trained or has difficulty separating from you, there is no reason to put her in a school situation. Doing so may leave her convinced that school is frightening, painful or otherwise unpleasant. There is every reason to wait a year until she is ready.

If you conclude that your child is ready for preschool, but you are a stay-at-home parent who wants another year to enjoy her full-time, do not worry about keeping her home. Missing the first year of preschool will have no educational significance for her and she will have the deep pleasure of spending her days with a parent who loves being with her. Not much is at stake either way, as long as you do not send your daughter to school before she is ready. If you do enroll her, choose a preschool where the director and staff understand that its most important job is to help children feel comfortable at school rather than to socialize them or teach them anything in particular.

Chicago, IL, June 20, 2015. If it is summer in Chicago, then one thing is for certain: It is also neighborhood festival season. This year, Buena Park Open Day celebrates its third-annual neighborhood festival July 19, from noon to 5 pm. With an “At Home in the City” theme, the festival highlights why the neighborhood motto is “Good Living by the Lake.” Long considered a hidden gem at the south end of Uptown bordering the park and Lake Michigan, Buena Park boasts a vibrant and diverse cultural scene, architectural masterpieces, a laid-back vibe, and that all-important X factor: Longtime residents who are eager to share their pocket of the city with the rest of Chicago.

The festival’s hub will be at the Smart Love House, a neighborhood landmark located at Clarendon and Buena. That’s where people can sign up for architectural tours, participate in family friendly activities, shop the new Bazaar on Buena, listen to live music or take a break at the pop-up café.

“We are extremely excited about this year’s festival,” says organizer Lisa von Drehle, “because we think it represents all the best our neighborhood has to offer. Plus, there is something for everyone—from urban aficionado, architectural maven, families looking for a special outing, or people like us who just want to have some fun on a summer afternoon.”

Programming and Events

  • Bazaar on Buena: Featuring Etsy quality arts and crafts, plus a neighborhood rummage sale
  • Sidewalk tours of the architect George Maher’s historic homes on Hutchison St. These 30-minute tours focus on the exteriors of this Prairie School architect who some consider to be as influential in the Midwest as Frank Lloyd Wright. Tours are every half hour between 12:30 pm and 4pm.
  • Open house and tours of St. Mary of the Lake Church, 4200 N. Sheridan Rd. This nearly 100-year-old church, designed by Chicagoan Henry J. Schlacks in the Italian Renaissance style, features Carrera marble work from the same quarries used by Michelangelo. Tours at 2:15 pm and 3:15 pm.
  • A Pop-up Café—fueled by a bevy fabulous food trucks, including Cupcakes for Courage, Husky Hogs and Meatloaf-a-Go-Go located at Clarendon and Hutchinson Streets.
  • Family fun all day long: Exotic animals, bouncy house, games, sing-alongs, face painting, police horses, a visit from a fire engine, story time with the Alderman, hula hoop fiesta and more.
  • Music all day by the Wolf Street Bloodhounds, a popular local bluegrass/rock band
  • Exhibits and activities showcasing neighborhood organizations and businesses, including the always popular Gingko Gardens, an organic community garden with a mission to provide fresh produce to Uptown organizations that serve low-income and homeless people.

Know Before You Go

  • Festival entrance is located at the corner of Clarendon and Buena at the Smart Love House.
  • $5 suggested donation includes program. Children under age 12 are free.
  • Public transportation: Take the #36, 151 or 146 bus to Buena (4200 north between Irving Park and Montrose). By El, take the Red Line to the Sheridan stop, which is just 4 short blocks away from the festival entrance at Buena and Clarendon.

For more information: Contact Festival Coordinator and Buena Park Neighbors President Lisa Von Drehle.

The third annual Buena Park Open Day has been generously funded by neighborhood businesses, Thorek Hospital, SSA34, reside living and the Chicago Cubs.

All the questions and answers come directly from Smart Love Solutions in Early Childhood-A Handbook for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers by Drs. Martha Heineman Pieper and William J. Pieper.

Q: Mom who feels ignored

How do I get my 3 ½ –year-old son to listen to me? How do I manage to control my temper when he ignores me? I usually have the toughest time with this during transitions. For example, when we are getting ready to leave the house I will ask him about 400 times to put his shoes on. By that time when I have gotten my one-year-old daughter ready to go and in the car, my patience is pretty much exhausted with my son. He ignores me until I raise my voice, or I say, “Mommy is getting very angry with you for not putting on your shoes.” Then he will sort of meander over to his shoes and tell me he cannot put them on, etc.

Another example is after preschool. In the car on the way home I always ask him what he did at school and who he played with. He frequently ignores me. I used to say things like, “Mommy doesn’t like it when you don’t answer my questions,” or “It’s rude not to answer questions,” which, of course, did nothing. Now I just ask questions and shut up when he does not answer. I feel frustrated and angry when he ignores me. Do you have any suggestions?

A: The reasons for your feelings of being ignored in the two examples you give are quite different, and so we will discuss them separately.

In the first example, the problem is less that you are being ignored than that you are expecting too much of your three-year-old. The result is that you are frustrated when he does not respond as you wish. Three-year-olds normally have great difficulty with transitions and need lots of tactful help to make them peacefully. This is especially true when there is a one-year-old sister getting all the attention and assistance that the three-year-old still needs and wants.

We suggest that instead of simply telling your son to put his shoes on, you get his shoes, put him in your lap, and help him on with his shoes while you sing a song or talk about the fun he will have at the outing. If he says he wants to put his shoes on himself, do praise him but don’t expect that he will want to do this himself the next time. If you take his true emotional age into account and help him now with shoes, jacket, etc. in order to make possible a calm and comfortable transition, you will not feel frustrated and ignored, your son will experience the warmth of being understood and cared for and your relationship will immediately become closer and more enjoyable. When he does begin to do more for himself it will be out of pleasure and a feeling of competence and not from feelings of shame or worry about your displeasure.

A lot of the frustration you describe in your second example is the result of not realizing that three-year-old children hold conversations very differently from adults. Children that age often are speechless when asked general questions, such as, “What did you do today?” Moreover, if something went wrong at school they often dislike discussing the discomfort they feel. So, if you ask your son who he played with and things did not go well with his friends, he may not feel like answering.

If you consider his silence as the result of immaturity rather than rudeness, you will have taken a big step toward being able to have a conversation with him that is appropriate for his age. Try asking questions that you think will allow him to relive activities he enjoyed. For example, if he likes animals, ask him how the hamsters were feeling today. If you know he enjoys art, ask if he worked with clay or painted a picture.

Most important, do not get angry with your son, if he does not answer a question. When children that age do not know what to say or do not want to talk about something, they frequently remain silent. Your son is not deliberately upsetting you; he is just acting his age. When you get irritated with him for not answering you make it more difficult for him to be outgoing and responsive. If you bring up topics that your son finds enjoyable in a relaxed and non-pressured manner, you will be amazed at how much of his day he will want to share with you.

All the questions and answers come directly from Smart Love Solutions in Early Childhood-A Handbook for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers by Drs. Martha Heineman Pieper and William J. Pieper.


My 2 ½ year-old used to be a good eater. Now, he only wants to eat bread, butter and jelly. I thought it was a phase, but it’s been going on now for three months, and I don’t see an end in sight. I have tried telling him he can’t have this butter and jelly sandwich, until he eats some meat and vegetables, but he throws a complete tantrum and doesn’t eat anything. Some days it seems like all we ever talk or think about is what he is eating. I am at my wit’s end.

A: The first step is to consult your pediatrician and find out what foods besides jelly sandwiches, vitamins and milk your son needs to eat to stay healthy. Then take your son to the pediatrician and let him hear the doctor tell him what additional foods he needs every day.

Choose one meal, and make sure your son eats the added foods before he gets his jelly sandwich. If he cries, wait him out without becoming angry or isolating him. Eventually, he will be hungry enough to eat the necessary food and move on to his favorite dish. The point is that you are not arguing with your child over food preferences, you are only using the same principle as when you give him medicine or put him in his car seat; there are certain things that have to happen to keep him safe, and those are not negotiable.

In general it is pointless to go to war with any child, especially a two-year-old, over food preferences. If you begin using punishments or rewards for eating, you open a door you don’t want to go through, because you will be stuck with the consequences for years to come. Hardly a meal will go by without your having to use threats or rewards to get your child to eat.

So remain firm, consistent and caring. Within the limits of preserving his health, let him eat bread, butter and jelly to his heart’s content. At some point he will outgrow this food fad and move on and will outgrow it sooner rather than later, if you can avoid making a power struggle out of it.

A new attraction at the Buena Park Open Day on Sun., July 19 is the Bazaar on Buena. Half of the Bazaar will be devoted to selling your arts and crafts, and the other half will be for selling your items in a community rummage sale. The Bazaar on Buena will be in the Smart Love parking lot on Clarendon, just north of Buena. The cost for a six-foot table and two chairs is $20. Space is limited. The registration deadline is June 15. (Registration is now closed.)