Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hypocrisy

"You talk talks...
and your walk talks...
but your walk talks louder
 than your talk talks."

Most of you know from my last post that I have recently quit my job. I just couldn't do it anymore. I was working long hours, a lot of which were on the road away from my family. I was burnt out, trying to work within a system for change, where I just didn't feel like I had the impact or the ability to advocate. I didn't feel as though my voice or the voice of my colleagues or the providers I was representing was being heard.  It was beyond exhausting.... sleepless nights, and I've been sick, really sick. Enough was enough..... 

You, see here in Michigan, we are about to "go live" with our new tiered quality rating and improvement system. I was working as one of the "quality improvement consultants." My job was to work with sites participating in this voluntary program to assist them through coaching and consulting to improve quality at their site. Now, I was super excited about his opportunity-- I had the chance to share what I knew and my gifts with other childcare providers beyond just a couple hour training. I could work with them on their goals to really improve things for young children. I was GEEKED, to say the least. I went in thinking that I was going to love this job.  But, you know the old saying.... If it looks too good to be true, it probably is....  

Well... reality sets in......

I could not ask providers to participate in a program that I myself did not partake in. I just couldn't do that, it would be outside of my integrity to do so. Thus, I completed the self assessment survey..... and guess what?

In the Michigan TQRIS - STARS rating program - - I am a 1.

I have a master’s degree in psychology,  (with at least 24 credits of early childhood development and education undergraduate credits, with the potential of more depending on if other courses count)

I run a developmentally appropriate play based program.

I was recognized nationally by the Academy of Arts and Sciences as one of the top 5 nominees in the area of home based child care programs.

I provide numerous training programs for other early childhood educators, parents, and interested consumers.  I do this mostly locally, but when I have time travel to other places in the country.

Well known trainers and experts in the field use my program as an example and utilize photos of my space.

I believe in providing the highest quality of care possible, and continue to learn and grow on a daily basis.

I have trained/assisted numerous interns and assistants who have moved on to run large centers and/or opened their own child care programs.

I have inspired change for many childcare programs through my blog and training programs.

I collaborate internationally to increase awareness and education in the field.

I have been asked to write a book to share my experiences and expertise.

AND I was hired to work as a quality improvement consultant to help increase quality.

YET, I am a 1.
(The program rates you from a level 1 to a level 5, 1 being the lowest on the spectrum)

Even though I provide a high quality program and care to young children, the current system only rates me with a 1 star. Would you like to know why? 

* The assessment does not take into account training or experience. It only gives you points for education, and my degree is not considered a related field because it is a psychology degree and not specifically an early childhood education or an education degree with at least 18 credits in early childhood. I have at least 24 credits in early childhood (more depending on which courses actually count), but they won't even look at my transcript because it is a psychology degree. Apparently, psychology is not a "related field." 

I was really worried when I started to look at this program closer. By asking questions, I was questioned. My ability as a practitioner and ambassador for the field of early childhood education was questioned. I really wanted this program to help providers, I really wanted this program to help young children, and I really wanted this program to assist parents in being able to find 'quality' for their children. 

Right now, it is all hypocrisy. 

Going in and out of programs, I felt like a HUGE hypocrite. How could I go into a site and assist them in moving through the tiers of rating when my own site was rated at the lowest level?  It just didn't make sense, I knew in my heart that our program here at Child Central Station is more than a 1. We may not be perfect, but we are definitely not a the bottom of the scale.  I needed to know more.....so, I started asking questions. 

I wanted to see the psychometric tests. After all, if a statewide program was going to be implemented and have so much impact on the providers and community, they would be held to the highest standards, right? Well, again I was wrong. The first assessment being used, the self assessment survey is based upon early learning standards which are research based, but the assessment itself has not been tested for reliability or validity. (If you are not familiar with psychometric testing, this means that the tool they are using to measure quality has not been tested to determine that it actually measures quality or that it is consistent in measuring.)
Yet, the assessment requires providers to use scientifically based curricula and assessments with children. Can you see where I am going here....... They want to enforce practices that they themselves are not adhering to. They are expecting higher standards of those in the field than they themselves are practicing. 

Needless to say, I was dumbfounded, I just don't get it! Honestly, I cannot tell you how many times this ran through my mind, How on earth is that possible? Who are these people? I started to ask, and ask and ask.. Who makes the decisions? For months, I was given one name and the phrase "the core team."  In the past couple of weeks, I finally uncovered that information. I'd been asking since June. Guess what? The core team that makes the decisions does not have a for profit director, teacher, parent or home based child care provider represented. The core team is made up of administrators and representatives from statewide agencies and boards. No wonder they don't "get it" they are not part of the day to day workings in the classrooms. They are lacking representation from all of the stakeholders, and the perspective of those being impacted. 

Wait.. there's more.... 

The program in our state has been touted as being "voluntary." However, on December 17 the public roll-out of the rating system is scheduled to happen, and guess what? ALL licensed and registered sites are going to be shown. If you have opted out of participation, you are shown with an empty star noting that your program meets licensing requirements.  Taking the words right out of a respected colleague, "It makes us look like a no-tell motel." It frustrates me to no end. A program that is voluntary, needs to be voluntary or if everyone is listed it aught to be mandatory. After talking to a trusted friend and researcher, I worry about this system, the confusion in communication, and the ethics. 

(For those of you reading who run childcare centers or homes in Michigan, know that this program is not directly connected to your license. Licensing is part of the core team, but at this time, this program is run out of a completely different office. Participation or lack of participation does not impact your licensing.) 

As previously indicated, this program is scheduled to be public information on December 17. Childcare providers have been given the verbiage of what is going to be published.  Again, I was dumbfounded. The state is going to publish information to the public that is misleading. For each of the stars the following will be published:

Clear unfilled star - Program meets state licensing requirements
1 star (blue) - Program meets state licensing requirements and is participating in Great Start to Quality
2 star (blue) - Program demonstrates quality across some standards.
3 star (blue) - Program demonstrates quality across several standards.
4 star (blue) - Program demonstrates quality across almost all standards.
5 star (blue) - Program demonstrates highest quality.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Except... It is not true! This does not reflect the current way in which a program is rated. If a program meets all criteria at the highest level, they are awarded a 5 star. However, if a program meets all standards at the highest level, but meets does not meet one standard, or meets it at a lower level... according to the above, they would be rated a 4, right???? Well, that's not the case. A provider or site is rated at the lowest level they attain in any one category. So, my program is rated at a level one because my education and training is not recognized, even though I meet all of the other standards to the highest level. 

Apparently, you will be able to click on the stars and see the points and exactly why a site rated at that level. This could be somewhat helpful, but I seriously question how many people will really look beyond the stars. When you are looking at products or hotels, do you look at those that rate at a 1 star? I know that I don't. 

So, what happens if you participate, are rated and you don't agree with the system or rating you have been given? Right now, well, there are not a lot of choices for you. The core team is working on an appeals process, but who knows how long that will take. I don't know if they intend to have that information available prior to ratings becoming public. 

This system scares me.... 
I have so many concerns, and I worry...... 

Here is the letter I addressed to the core team- (although it indicates my anonymity, I chose not to remain anonymous) 

Dear Core Team,

I am a home based child care provider. I’d provide you with my name, but considering your anonymity I too will keep mine.

I am frustrated, angry and extremely concerned. I appreciated the need for high quality care and early learning settings for young children. However, I do not believe that the current system is going to meet those needs or adequately support parents in choosing quality child care.

I question who you are, and what your credentials are to be making these decisions. With your anonymity comes a lack of integrity and responsibility, as if no one knows who you are, and are unable to contact you directly you do not need to be held as accountable for your actions.  I worry that your team does not have all of the concerns of all of the stakeholders at heart, and that you may be too removed from the day to day reality of the business. Do you have a home child care provider on the team? A child care teacher or director from a “for profit” center? What stakeholders are represented?

I worry a lot about parents, especially first time parents as they start to embark on the journey of choosing a child care facility. Leaving your child is a tough decision to make. I really worry about how much weight they are going to put on this system, being uneducated by what the star levels really mean.  I worry that children are going to be housed in programs that look good on paper, but really are not meeting the individual needs of the children.

 I worry that our community is going to look at child care as a whole and determine its worth or lack of worth of by the fact that so many places are not rated well in this system.  Will new families move into our community if they cannot find 5 star child care?  What is it going to do to the cost of care for those families who are looking at those sites at a higher level? Supply and demand almost always dictates higher rates, and meeting higher standards is expensive. Will ALL  parents be able to afford the higher quality care or just those who are financially better off?

Will there be even more regulations and concerns placed upon all of us in the field and pressure to move up in the stars system even though it is not fiscally responsible to go back to school?  How many people are going to go into debt, only to be paid barely above minimum wage? How many people are going to opt to provide care unlicensed and completely unregulated?( I know that this issue is already a problem as I have reported many sites already, and I worry that this is going to cause unsafe conditions for many young children.)  How much unnecessary stress is this going to be putting on providers, who in turn will not be giving 100% of themselves to the children because they are worn out and trying to meet all of the new demands? (Providers are not going to quit their job to go back to school, they will try to juggle both, and in the end this is going to impact the amount of time and quality of the care they are providing).

How can you say that only people with early child development and education degrees have the education and training to provide high quality care? What about those of us who are psychologists and social workers who have a solid background in child development and higher education than some of those folks? What about experience and training? If you know anything about adult learners, you will know that most of them will benefit more from just-in-time training that is relevant to the task at hand. I know from a personal perspective, I have gained so much more from many of the training sessions that I attended than I ever did from some of the college courses.  (AND there is a large body of research to back this.) I also know a number of people who have graduated with approved degrees. Education and training are important, but when you are working with young children, you either have “it” or you don’t.  What about all of those people who are born with “It”  and who work every day, as independent learners to continue to improve and provide high quality care, but don’t have a piece of paper to prove it? (Not to mention or get me started on my education rant, our educational system is not measuring up to those in other countries…. Or the facts that many people graduating with a degree are clueless when it comes to the real world application or even having the skills to connect with a young child.)

I worry about a 5-star system, as many people are familiar with it in other industries. I worry about the demand for child care and places going out of business. I know that as a consumer, I won’t even look at 1-star hotels.  I fear that parents will not even consider places that are not rated at a level higher than a 1, and I fear that their level of stress is going to increase even more as they try to find a place they are comfortable leaving their child.   I also fear that many home based programs will be faced with the potential of having to close their doors, as many home based providers do not meet the educational criteria and will not have the opportunity to move past a 1 star rating.

I am afraid that we are going to lose a lot of amazing providers, and that people are not going to choose to continue to go into this field.  I know that many programs at colleges and universities in our area have already been struggling with a decline in enrollment.

I fear that the stars are going to drive more competition and less collaboration among providers.
I also fear that a lack of credibility in the stars system when it first goes public could be highly detrimental to long term quality improvement goals, and I strongly believe that improving the quality of care for young children is essential.

I ask you to step back and consider all of the ramifications of your decisions wisely before moving forward.  In our culture, we are often quick to make decisions and implement programs without fully looking at the long term impact of our actions.  From what I understand, this program was pushed forward with the hopes of attaining federal funding. Now that the funding was not secured, perhaps it would make more sense to take some more time to work out the known issues before rushing to proceed.  

During one of my last days, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the members of the core team. She said that they are moving forward with publication because they told providers a year ago that scores would go live in a year. I can appreciate their concern to keep their word, but I think that there are far too many issues still not addressed to move forward. 

As parents, 
childcare providers, 
and experts in the field. 
I ask you to join me in advocacy. 

What is happening here in Michigan is wrong.  We all agree that quality is important, especially for our children. However, the system is flawed, and it needs to change! 

YOU CAN HELP!
  1. Take a couple of minutes to sign the petition.
  2. Share this post and the petition with others. 
  3. If you are in Michigan, call your local Great Start Office. Share your questions and concerns.
  4. Write a letter. You can find the contact information including email, fax, and mailing address here.
In the words of a very respected mentor of mine, "Together We Are Better." Educate yourself about the system, reach out to your fellow providers and educators. Let's make a difference!!!!! 

I know this post has been long, thanks for sticking it out! 
We have a long haul ahead of us if we are truly to impact change and a very short window of time to do it!  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Back to my "REAL" Job

The last six months have been a whirlwind. Are you kidding me, it's almost Christmas... how on earth can that be possible... I've been living in a time sucking vacuum... and I'm not getting any of that time back.

Most of you know that back in June, I opted to take a "real" job, because you know working at home as a child care provider isn't really a real job. (Insert sarcasm here).  Contrary to popular belief, working with children is probably the most real job that there is.... well, that and being a mom.

As a consultant, I had big hopes and dreams. I took a job too good to be true, that well wasn't true. In a rosy glasses kind of world the job was ideal. I really had the opportunity to influence change, to make a difference on a larger scale. To help mold the future in the field of early childhood in our state.  In reality, I had little power in my position. I worked long hours, and was continually struggling with my integrity. Although the goals of the organization were lofty, I really struggled with the process in which they were/are using to employ those goals. I have been miserable, on the road a lot, not sleeping at night, and sicker than I have ever been. Obviously, this "real" job was not all it was cracked up to be.

So, I've resigned.

I'm back to being "just" a child care provider. 
I'm looking forward to being back to the things that I love.
 To making a difference in the lives of young children, 
to making real connections every day,
 and to continuing to advocate for what I believe in. 

Maybe now, after I take some time for myself, my family, and catching up on all of the loose ends... I'll be back more. I'll have time to blog, to craft, to sew.... to create, and to develop! I  have high hopes for some brand new training adventures, and more opportunities to connect with all of you online. 

Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I kissed a dolphin!!!!

Yup.... I kissed a dolphin..... Little Hurley :). 

I swam with a movie star! Don't you recognize Cindy from Jaws 3? 

My not-so-baby boy turned 10.....

We spent the week in Florida. 

Lots of new experiences.
Time with family, 
dolphins, 
gators, (We even wrestled them!)

tortoises, 
tapirs, 

sting rays, 
giraffes, 

killer whales, 
manatees, 
Commerson dolphins, .........

Early closings because of inclement weather- 70 and overcast! Oh, well... We still had fun :). 

After all, you only turn 10 once!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let's Talk Tech Tuesdays - Tending Tots


Last week, I introduced you to my new weekly topic for posting on Tuesdays, "Let's Talk Tech Tuesdays".  If you missed that post, you can find it here! Last week, I spent a little bit of time sharing with you an app that I use for taking anecdotal notes on my iphone/ipad. This week, I have a computer program/app that is more universal for use as you can utilize it from your computer, iphone/ipad, or android phone.

This program allows you to track your daily information sheets through the program and to link individual children to their parents. Parents will then have the opportunity to receive up to the minute information on their child in care or opt to have a daily digest of information. You can log all activities including arrival/departures, feedings/meals/snacks, naps, learning activities, first aid, etc. You an also add photos and videos!

I know that many sites use paper versions of daily sheets. This app is handy because it saves paper, and there is a lasting record of the child's events. Sometimes the paper versions disappear, and having an electronic record comes in handy!

This program also allows you to track staffing hours, generate billing invoices, and send reminders/notes to parents.

The best part about this program.... not only does it do all of this amazing stuff... BUT it is also FREE! (Well, it is free for providers. Parents have the option of a limited free version, or they can pay for an upgraded version. (The upgraded version costs $5/month or $36/year). With the free version they are able to access the children's activities, but to see photos and send messages they must have the paid version.

(Please note, the opinions expressed in this blog post are solely my own. I have not been contacted by any of the developers or owners of the apps or programs I am sharing. I am not being compensated in any way for sharing this information. I opted to share this information about the above mentioned product because I have personally found it to be helpful in my work and/or personal life.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Perspective

Often times, our view is distorted based upon our perception. 
What is seen and experienced can often be simply only what is right in front of us. 
The pieces that are clearly at our level. Sometimes it is more difficult to see the bigger picture..... 
And sometimes, the bigger picture is so overpowering we forget about the little things....
We forget about the importance of looking at all perspectives......
Have you taken the time to really get down and look at the pieces from another perspective.
Looking at things from another angle or perspective might just surprise you....
Have you taken the time to really look? 

Looking at the BIG picture.....

can be important, but so is spending time looking at all of the pieces.....

It is important to work to find the balance....

What perspective are you taking today?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Introducing: Let's Talk Tech Tuesdays - Teacher Notes

If you've been following my blog or spent any time at our place, you know that the children in our care have limited access to "technology".  I try to encourage creativity and exploration through play, real unplugged play. 

We don't even have a television in the main area for our childcare. Out of sight, out of mind. As far as I'm concerned, children spend enough time watching television elsewhere, and it is not my place to make the decisions in terms of what is or is not appropriate for children to watch. (That is the job of the parent.)

That does not mean that the children have no connection to technology here. They have all become quite good at taking photos, and I use voice recording software on my phone and computer to record some of their stories and songs. We do spend time looking at photos and recalling previous activities and events. There are even a couple of programs on my computer that I allow the children to use. 

However, my primary focus in starting a weekly technology post is not to provide information in regard to the technology that the children use, but instead to provide some insight into technology for you: parents, teachers, and other child care givers. So, I have decided that Tuesdays will be Let's Talk Tech Tuesday here at Child Central Station. 

If you have a great post on helpful technology/apps/programs, etc. I'd love to hear about it!

For my first week, I am going to share an AMAZING app I found for my iphone/ipad call Teacher Notes. (I have not been able to find an android version of this app).



The free version of this app allows you to have up to 3 classes and you can record anecdotal notes for your classes based upon children, content areas, and domains. The text of your content areas and domains can be edited to meet your own labels and needs.



What I love about this ap is that with my phone, ipod touch, or ipad, I can create anecdotal notes and keep a portfolio for each of the children in my care. This ap allows me to file photos, videos, and voice recordings in addition to typed notes.  I can also sort my saved notes by child, domain or content area and email directly from the ap. I have also linked the ap through Drop Box so that I can access my notes from my computer as well! 

Taking anecdotal notes can be time consuming, and as a home based provider the question of storage and sorting the notes always comes into play. With this ap, I have no problem taking notes and recording learning moments quickly and easily! I can also easily sort the notes to look at areas that I need to encourage more exploration. 

You can learn more about this ap by visiting their youtube channel for tutorials and information. The ap is currently FREE for up to 3 classes. You can purchase an ad free version with unlimited classes for $4.99. You can also follow this app on Facebook for updates and tutorials!

Do you have a great ap or program that you use for anecdotal notes? Or do you have an ap/program that has really helped you personally or professionally? I'd love to hear about it!

If you try Teacher Notes, I'd love to hear how it is works out for you too!

Stop by again next Tuesday, when my focus will be on Tending Tots!

(Please note, the opinions expressed in this blog post are solely my own. I have not been contacted by any of the developers or owners of the apps or programs I am sharing. I am not being compensated in any way for sharing this information. I opted to share this information about the above mentioned product because I have personally found it to be helpful in my work and/or personal life.)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

18 Tips to Increase Culture in the Classroom

The children helped to create this postcard for an international post card exchange awhile back. We talked about what is cool about where we live, which included various aspects of our local culture. 

One of the areas we are working on as part of our Quality Improvement Plan is promoting more cultural competency in our classroom. As I have been working with a number of other sites to help them with their goals, it has become clear to me that the concept of culture is often misunderstood.

For many sites, when I mention cultural competency folks tend to think directly to the outer rings of the world with multiculturalism and diversity. This is wonderful if you live in an area with a lot of ethnic or racial diversity. However, for most young children in our community this is not true. We have very little diversity when we think of it in this realm. So, although having things like multicultural dolls and various skin color crayons/paints are important,  if you do not have that representative diversity of children in your program those types of things are not as relevant as looking at other areas of culture that are meaningful to the child.

Young children are concrete learners. They need to engage with materials that are relevant to them because of their previous experiences and personal contacts. That is why it is important to realize that when we are looking at cultural competency, there are various levels of culture we need to be aware of.

The most relevant area of culture for a young child is the culture of the child's family. This is an area that can easily be addressed in your classroom though very inexpensive means.  How do you bring the culture of each family into your learning environment?

 Here are a couple of ideas:



1) Family Photos - Ask the parents to provide photos of the various members of their family. Randomly posting photos around the space, putting the photos into an album, or allowing each child to create a place mat or poster. All families are different, so I would expect to see different types of family photos and it is not necessary to have a photo where all of the members are in it together.



2) Parents at Work or Play Photos. If you have an action photo of the parents at work or enjoying a hobby, you can easily print them out, laminate them, and turn them into movable pieces for the children to use in various learning areas. (We are in the process of doing this for the parents, but have already done this with the children in our care). All you need to do to complete them is use a binder clip! I adapted this idea from the ABCs of Crazy.  You can also do this with family pets, grandparents, etc....

3) House Photos - Children love to build things that are familiar to them in the block area. If you provide them with blocks that have photos of their homes, you will be encouraging them to recreate their neighborhoods! You can make these the same way that the people above are made or you can add some velcro to the back of your photos and to your wooden unit blocks to make this work.  You can also add photos of familiar places in your community. The places where parents work or frequent places children visit like parks, museums, and restaurants. (I have also heard about re-using cardboard boxes - like the Capri Sun boxes to create house/building blocks)



4) Children's Favorite Recipe Books - Ask parents to share favorite recipes from home. Include familiar recipes as meals and snacks for the children in your care.

5) Ask parents for old uniforms and hobby gear.  You can add parents for old work uniforms or hobby gear to add to your dress up area. I know in our area it is common for children to grow up in a hunting family. Having a bright orange hunting vest in the dress up area brings that culture into the classroom. We also have a child who has a dad who races dirt bikes. Adding a helmet or racing gear would be relevant to the culture of that child.

6) Empty food containers. If children bring in empty food containers from home, they can be used in the house area for dramatic play. Children are familiar with the containers and foods as they are those that they see and use at home.

7) Favorite Stories. Ask parents to provide you with the names of the books they read with their children regularly. Ask if there are any stories or books from their childhood that they would like to see shared in the classroom.

The next level of culture is the community culture. This is also relevant to the children in your care as they interact with their community on a regular basis. Taking note from some of the ideas above, you can expand the family activities to include those of the local neighborhood, town, community. This is where adding favorite places to visit, photos of local parks and buildings come into play.  Here are a couple of ideas in addition to those mentioned above to add your community culture to the classroom.

8) Event posters. If your community has regular events or places of interest, keep posters or fliers in your classroom.

9) Restaurant Menus. Bring menus from local restaurants into your play area. Families often frequent various restaurants and often restaurants represent a specific culture and are a very relevant way to connect children to that culture.

10) Local Maps. Add some local maps with places children are familiar  - biking trails, snowmobile trails, hiking, etc....

11) Community Helper Costumes. Adding dress up clothing for the children that reflect the helping adults that they come into contact with in their community. This could include mail person, fire fighter, police officer, doctor, nurse, etc...

12) Local Animals. Animals are a part of our community and the children's culture. Having puppets, pictures, figurines, wooden figures of local animals can also help to bring local culture into the classroom.. I

13) Other Local Items. What industries do you have in your area? What is unique about your community. How can you incorporate that into your learning environment? For example, in our area we have a lot of snow. Part of our culture involves snow removal. We have a child sized "yooper scooper" available to the children. We also live in a highly wooded area. We have logs and various wooden cookie blocks made from local wood.

The final level of cultural competency is the world. Expanding upon our local community. This is the most difficult area to make relevant to the children in your care. Again, as concrete learners the distance between areas and differences in cultures if not personally relevant or experienced can often be quite abstract. However there are some ways to bring the world to your classroom in meaningful ways.



14) Add maps or globes. Even though maps are an abstract representation, introducing children to maps can be helpful. Mark off where our community is on the map and add information at various locations where children have traveled or have relatives.

15) Use posters, dolls, dress up clothing, puzzles etc from around the world sparingly. Having a few items from outside the local culture but age appropriate for children will help introduce them to other cultures and traditions. (Having items that represent other cultures is important, but not as relevant as including pieces that are somehow connected to the children in care.)

(image from Amazon.com)

16) Multicultural books. There are oodles of books that are appropriate for various ages of young children. One of our favorite series are the Children Just Like Me books. They show real pictures of children all around the world and each of the books focuses on something different- stories, traditions, etc.

So far, the ideas shared have primarily been items to add to your environment. In our program, most of our learning takes place due to intentional placement of materials in the environment. The next couple of ideas involve utilizing parents and community members as resources.

17) Invite parents or community members to volunteer during your program. Have them share a tradition, hobby, or interest of theirs with the children.

18) Take field trips to places of interest. Allow the children to experience local places and events first hand.

Of course, each classroom is going to have different elements that are important because each place will have different children enrolled. Making sure to respect the differences in family culture and allow the children and families to share about their culture is important.

If you have any other inexpensive ideas on how to incorporate culture into your classroom, I'd love to hear about it! Please take a moment to link your ideas up below:








Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pounding Pumpkins


It's Fall here in Michigan, and the pumpkins are ripe!


 Fall pumpkins are perfect practice place for pounding.
The children have been using hammers and 
golf tees to dress up some of our pumpkins.


It takes a lot of practice to master pounding....


When we are first learning how to hold the hammer and the tees or nails, 
sometimes we use a clothespin to help us hold them in place. 
This is helpful when we are still working on our hand-eye coordination
 in order to keep our fingers safe.


Part of the joy of working with mixed ages is to watch the 
young children as they learn from observing the older children. 
This little guy picked up very quickly exactly what to do!
Although he didn't actually pound any tees in today, 
He was very quick to mimic the actions with the toy hammer and tees!

Perhaps tomorrow we will add some paint....
Perhaps we will opt to carve the pumpkins......
Perhaps we will pound some more tees......
Perhaps we'll use them as bowling balls.....
Or send the pumpkins flying with our giant catapult....

Maybe we will add it to the compost pile and watch it rot....
Maybe we'll cut it open and count the seeds....
Maybe we'll toast some pumpkin seeds for snack.....
Maybe we'll paint pumpkin seeds and use them in the art area....
Maybe we'll save some seeds to plant in the spring.....
Maybe we'll sprout some seeds in our indoor greenhouse.....

I guess we'll just have to see what child led discoveries tomorrow brings!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mammoth!!!!




This Halloween is bound to be a MAMMOTH one!!!

I actually finished Dane's costume a week early this year.... Which was perfect! He has had the opportunity to wear it twice already and Halloween is not until tomorrow :). 

For all of you who join in on all of the festivities, Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pumpkin Magnetic Discovery Bottles

It's fall here in Michigan. We've been busy...... It has been quite a wet and rainy season for us, but that doesn't stop us from finding some fun things to do, both inside and out!

One of our favorite books to read lately has been:

So, I thought...why not create a discovery bottle to go along with it!
We took an empty 2 liter bottle, and started to add pieces of pipe cleaners to it.



We added small clippings of green and we made 16 pumpkins:
To make each pumpkin, we took a short piece of green pipe cleaner and wrapped it with orange pipe cleaners until it looked right. (Most of the time it took 2 full orange pipe cleaners to give the pumpkins the shape we wanted.) I also added numbers to the bottle. After I printed them out, I added a paperclip to each number to make them magnetic. After we were all done, I sealed the top with some hot glue, and reinforced it with a couple of layers of duct tape! Viola- Magnetic Discovery Bottle. The children have been having a great time using our magnet wands to move the pumpkins and vines up and down the bottle!





This time of year, the children have also been buzzing about Halloween! They have had some very interesting costume creations over the past few days!



They've been dressing up and talking about their costumes for this year. (Mr Allan and I were fish a few years back, and the children love to use our old costumes for play!)

Are you dressing up this year?


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Oh yeah, I have a blog!

I apologize once again for my absence here. 

Life has been crazy, great things are happening. 

Good questions are being asked, and real life has seriously kept me out of the virtual world. 

There are really only so many hours in a day. 

So, with that..... I want you to know that I'm not disappearing forever, but you probably won't see much of me around the blogosphere.... However, you may start to see some new posts from my wonderful husband and business partner, Mr. Allan. In addition to a few posts here and there from our assistants!   AND... don't forget, we have archives and a wonderful blog list for you to check out! 

I've been writing a zillion blog posts in my mind when I'm on the road... So when the time comes, I'll have oodles of new things to share with you!   Until then, <3 .="." nbsp="nbsp" p="p">

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's a Watercolor kind of day......

We're busy painting with our homemade "smelly" water colors! (you can find our original post about them here: http://www.childcentralstation.com/2010/06/im-not-sure-that-i-will-ever-buy.html


We use these paints all the time.... It's hard to believe that it has been about 2 years since I made the first batch!!!! (AND we still have some of the original ones- and they work fabulous! That's what happens when you make monster batches of paint!!!!!)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Random Learning Fun!

I've been swamped, and we have been enjoying all of the craziness that life brings! So, the blog has been neglected. Life is still quite busy, but here are a few random moments captured with photos of some of our learning fun!!!

None of This is "Normal"

Let me start this off by saying a few things that I think are very important to share upfront. First and foremost, I try to live and ...