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Conversations in Oak Park/River Forest

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By Laura Maychruk

For those of you I have not had the pleasure to meet.  I thought I would introduce myself!  I am Laura Maychruk.  I have lived in Oak Park and River Forest for almost 19 years.  My husband and I own Buzz Cafe and have 4 children.  I was asked to blog for the Wednesday Journal about issues in our two villages and I am looking forward to bringing a broad range of issues to light. 

I have a broad range of the types of things that I might find interesting.  Food, Children, Parenting, Business, Politics, Government, and Real Estate, just to name a few!
I am a curious person by nature but it was my experience as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune that probably led to my increased interest in news, but it was my experience as a small business owner in a small town that brought my focus to the street-level. 

I have developed a passion for local news and have made it a personal goal to encourage other citizens to become involved and knowlegable about what is going on in their town. In order to achieve that goal I have hosted "Informed Vote" events where all of the candidates for local offices are invited to speak and debate the issues of the day.  I have also hosted "Cafe Conversations" which is an event where I invite an important and interesting person in Oak Park to be interviewed by me in front of an audience of citizens. 

In addition to running a restaurant:
I am passionate about healthy, organic and local foods
I have been married for almost 19 years.
I am a resident of River Forest,
I am a mother of 4 children ages 10,7,5 and 3. 
I am a PTO volunteer at Lincoln School and District 90 on the Green Committee. 
I am a Real Estate Agent.
I am a commercial and residential building owner.

With all of that said, there is a fascinating conversation going on in both Oak Park and River Forest about education.  A group of women in River Forest got wind of an independant film called "Race to Nowhere:  The Dark Side of America's Achievement Culture".  This film will be featured at the Lake Theatre on October 2nd at 10am, followed by a Q&A.  The buzz about this film is that it can be a catalyst for change.  From what I can gather the film addresses issues about homework, over scheduling of our kids, grading, and the over-all pressure that is on our kids to achieve.  More info is available at www.racetonowhere.com.  I am hoping to see the film for myself this Saturday and form my own opinion. 

At this moment, I can tell you that I do have some opinions on our education system.  All of my children have started their educations in an Montessori environment which stresses the importance of independant thinking and internal motivation.  There is no homework in a Montessori environment because the philosophy stresses the need for balance in the child's life.  Once school is over their time should be spent playing, with their families and relaxing.  Once my children were old enough for 1st grade we switched them into public school.  The difference is stark, and I am not sure it is the right decision, but finances and a firm belief in public education make the decision for us.  I can now see, after haveing spent 3 years with my oldest daughter in public school, that the over-arching goal of the school is to do well on the ISAT and maintain a high rating.  This means pressure on our kids to perform, especially at test time.  I am totally opposed to homework and if any change happens as a result of this film, I hope that is it.  I have precious few hours of time with my kids during the school year and when they have homework that time is taken up arguing, crying, screaming etc..over homework or projects that need to be completed. 

I am looking forward to seeing this film and discussing it.  There will be a discussion of the film at Buzz Cafe on Oct. 7th at 7pm.  I hope to see many of you there!   Keep an eye on this blog to hear what I thought of the film and what issues were brought forth at the Q & A!!

Reader Comments

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Libbey Paul from Oak Park  

Posted: October 5th, 2010 8:02 AM

LauraGlad to see your voice here! I am very interested in the conversation started by the movie "Race to Nowhere." Coming from a business background, I believe firmly in measuring/rewarding what you want to achieve. I think we need to continue to have high standards and measure against them, but need to take back the definition of metrics. ISATs are both too low and too narrow. As for homework, I don't feel my girls have too much at this point in their education. What am I missing?

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