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, 
gators, (We even wrestled them!)


sting rays, 

killer whales, 
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


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!

My friend died

 I learned a hell of a lot from Dan Hodgins.  He was mentor, a friend, and a "bone shaker" for many of us in the field of Early Ch...