Friday, May 27, 2016

Weekly Lesson Plans? Shakin Bones

The research is out there.... If learning is not real and relevant to the child, it is pruned... almost immediately.  
This means that efforts to drive children's learning with predetermined themes and teacher/societal driven ideas is futile. Our brains don't keep that information... so keeping weekly lesson plans or hooking onto monthly themes and teacher driven lessons is pointless and in most cases not developmentally appropriate.
You can hear more about this from Dan Hodgins and I in the 7th episode of the Shakin' Bones podcast.

Dan and I are not saying that planning goes completely out the window. What we are saying is that planning needs to happen daily, and careful observation of the learning that is taking place and conversations with the children will yield more developmentally appropriate planning and encourage classrooms to thrive based upon the needs of the children right now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Fresh Coat of Paint Outside- Update Music Area and Sand and Water Wall

Every spring, out outdoor space needs to be evaluated. After the winter, many of our learning spaces need a bit of maintenance. Sometimes this is in the form of sanding or repairing... and sometimes they just need a little sprucing up with a fresh coat of paint!

Some of the spaces in our outdoor classroom need regular upkeep do to the effects of the weather. The children are happy to jump in and assist with giving everything a fresh look with a coat of paint!

If you are looking for the instructions or more information about our outdoor space and the various elements there, you may be interested in these posts:
A Sand and Water Wall
Making Music in the Yard (This is one of many posts on our outdoor music area)

Our outdoor music area has evolved a bit from the beginning. The posts from our banging post station started to rot, so the post was removed and we attached some of the items to our fence instead. As nice as the post was, the fence works just as well and provides a more open space for running and jumping!  Our tire drum has had a variety of different drum heads, but the one most durable and currently in use is made of treated plywood.

Our sand and water wall hasn't changed much since our original installation. The only thing we changed was to use 2x2 supports instead of the thinner garden stakes. The original didn't rot or break, we just wanted something a little but more sturdy.

Friday, May 20, 2016

"I'm Sorry!" The Get Out of Jail Free Card - Shakin' Bones

BUT, I SAID I WAS SORRY!!" after yelling this at me, she dashed off. Moments before, she pushed a child over and I was helping that child speak with her.  Was she sorry??? Of course not. Maybe she was sorry she got caught... but she definitely wasn't sorry that she knocked over the other child. She was too busy and too egocentric (which is clearly understandable and developmentally appropriate at 2 1/2 years old). She did learn quickly though... that if you say you're sorry then it is okay.... but really it is not okay.  But, for her saying sorry was like a "get out of jail free card."
I have heard a lot of different people talk about the importance of teaching young children empathy. Although I highly agree that empathy is important and is something we strive to assist in developing. I find it highly discouraging that the idea is out there that empathy can be taught. In my experience and observation, empathy is a characteristic that is developed over time and comes about after having experienced and witnessed empathy from others.
Simply defined, empathy is the ability to understand and feel the emotions/perspective of another. What we know from research and child development is that young children are egocentric. Simply defined this means thinking of oneself without regard of others.  Piaget noted that children generally are not able to see or understand the perspective of another until between the ages of 7-12. (Although there are many adults who sometimes seem to still have problems with this). So, is it really developmentally appropriate to expect young children to say that they are sorry or to expect them to understand the perspective of another?
So..... what do we do when a child is knocked over then?
First, I wait and observe. Sometimes I do nothing, because I trust that children are capable, and that they can solve their own problems. If it is clear that they need my help, I move in closer. I talk with the child who was pushed.  If they are hurt or have hurt feelings, I may say "I'm sorry you are hurt. How can I help?" Often my presence is enough.  Sometimes it is a hug, and most often the child wants me to help them talk to the other child. Typically the conversation goes like this...
Child who was pushed: "I don't like it when you push me. That hurt!"
Sometimes that is all. Sometimes if the other child continues to push, I need to remind them... "I heard her say she doesn't want to be pushed. Maybe you can ask and see if someone else wants to be pushed." Most of time, around here it is pretty easy to find a pushing partner, but if no one else wants to be pushed and this child has a clear need/desire to push, it is my job to help provide things that can be pushed.
Dan Hodgins and I talk more about this in the 6th episode of the Shakin' Bones podcast. (If you click on more episodes and choose episode #6 you can listen to our discussion).

Sunday, May 1, 2016

And... So We Evolve.....

I have been on the road a lot lately. Most often, I am either flying or the passenger in the van. (Mr Allan prefers to drive rather than be a passenger). When we travel for work, I am usually presenting and we have an opportunity to meet with and learn from other early childhood professionals. I know a lot of people have moved toward online versions of training and some people only attend conferences close to home, but I have found the greatest value to my professional development in traveling outside of my local area.

Coming from a smaller area, local trainings tend to consist of the same people. Even if a different trainer is brought in, the audience tends to be similar. As a trainer, I know that even though the trainer coming in can be an important piece of the puzzle, the opportunity to meet and network with other early childhood professionals far outweighs anything I have to "teach." (I honestly prefer to consider myself a facilitator rather than a teacher, but that is a whole different topic!) Having time to really connect with others in the field, to share ideas, and ask each other questions is invaluable.

Attending an amazing training and connecting with others gives me a chance to question my practices. Yes, I said question my practices. I believe that when you stop questioning your practices, if you truly think you are doing it all and you are no longer wondering if you are doing what is best for children, you need to get out of the field! This journey with children is not static, the world continues to change, and when we stop questioning, when we stop learning and working to do things just a little bit better, our programs suffer, and our children are far too valuable to let that happen.

Spending time with other professionals not only allows me to question my practice, but finding similar people and programs is also validating. It helps "give you permission" (for lack of a better phrase) to keep doing what you know is best for young children even with the outside pressures to push practices that are not developmentally appropriate.
I love gaining different perspectives and really having an opportunity to learn and grow. I love knowing that I have found my tribe and that I will continue to learn, to grow, and to change. I love to watch the change happen all around me, and I know that all of these connections and small changes at up, and this is truly how we all evolve....

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...