Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wake-up Call

Photo by Ksugirl126

Today at the pool I was watching some of the kids play in the water while an older girl fumbled around in her mother's pool bag aimlessly for minutes on end only to end up empty handed.  It was evident that she didn't fit in the with the other kids, played either by herself or spent most of the time with the adults present but not engaged in conversation or activity like the other kids her age.  It seemed as though her mother was annoyed by her mere presence and though the girl didn't seem to notice, I can't help but wonder if deep inside she sensed the annoyance that her mother wore all over her face and with her body language.

I sat for a while and pondered how I react and respond to my children when they are on my last nerve.  I know that at times I can be short tempered and don't always remember to hold my tongue...and then I wonder why my children respond in the same manner to each other.  How can I expect them to respond to each other in a Godly manner when I don't always model for them love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, and gentleness?  I guess that means I'm not always filled with those things and I should be. 

So for a while I plan to spend time really trying to figure out what is causing me to not always be so "fruitful" and I need to weed those things out.  In that process, I hope that I am able to start living out the fruit the God intends for me and to share with my kids so they can start to grow and tend their own fruit.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Maddie's Room

Maddie has decided she wants to ditch her bubblegum pink room for something more hip and stylish. Teal seems to be the common theme, so in an effort to try to wrap myself around something artsy for her, I made this...

What do you think? I was thinking of a darker shade of the teal in these flowers. She has a gray solid beadspread, so I figured some fun pillows in lots of bright colors would be good and then maybe a canvas of this somewhere (if it's not too dorky for an almost 7 year old's taste).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It's About Time!

Several friends have mentioned that they stopped linking my blog to theirs because I haven't written in such a long time. Well...I'd say that 14+ months does fall into the "long time" category.

It's been a long and eventful 14 months. We have had our ups and downs and with God's grace, we keep plugging along at full speed ahead.

In that time, Buddy had tubes put in his ears and his adenoids removed. He started walking, qualified for First Steps due to a speech delay (b/c of his ear issues), was released from First Steps b/c he basically caught up before he really got started, he actually started gaining weight and hit a whopping 3% on the height and weight growth chart (not 5% is when the scale actually begins). The true test will be at his 3 year check up to see where he is at now (yes, I said 3 year...sniff, sniff).

Boo graduated from kindergarten and has had a wonderful year in a pre-first grade class with the same teacher. She has blossomed socially and with confidence and is reading, writing and drawing like a mad lady! The girl can make art out of junk and I have to hide recyclables so that she isn't dumpster diving for her newest inventions! She is a huge help and is a wonderful big sister. If I had a big sister, I'd want her to be at the top of my list.

Bear has really grown and changed a lot this year. She has lost her "budha belly" and has shot up like a weed to where she is wearing clothes that Boo wore last year! She has lost her toddler look and as she starts to approach #4, she is blossoming into a big girl! She has an amazing imagination and is such a sweetheart. Bear has struggled for months with her sleep, and after an adenoidectomy and tonsillectomy, we haven't seen the kind of improvement we'd like, so I think we are on the path towards a sleep study. In the meantime, the king sized bed we bought last fall is coming in quite handy!

The King of the house has enjoyed our new basement renovation and finds it to be a place of solace and hobby. He has a beautiful space where his love and passion for wine has been able to grow and he actually has a place to store and serve it! We are enjoying the "man cave" as he calls it, and it has afforded us many more opportunities to entertain friends...and the 60 in. plasma helps too!

I have had an interesting 14 months myself. I have enjoyed teaching and realize again how truly blessed I am to have the opportunity to work and be home with the children. My colleagues are outstanding teachers and friends and have been a tremendous support to our family as we have plowed through health and sleep issues over the past 12+ months. We are excited to be opening Faith Montessori Preschool in Noblesville in the fall and I will continue to teach while Bear and Buddy get to reap the benefits of the best early childhood program in Hamilton County!

I have also had a chance to grow personally this year. I had the pleasure of being introduced to and inspired by an amazing woman who is in the business of changing lives of children and families in Indianapolis. Amanda Byrd is the Executive Director of The Indianapolis Early Learning Center. Amanda has opened an amazing school in a part of Indianapolis that a lot of people don't want to talk about. IELC is a Reggio inspired school and as an early childhood educator, when I enter the building it's like I've stepped into Disney World. To see the learning opportunities created for children and the potential they have to become intrinsically motivated learners is amazing; especially when many come from homes where education is not at the top of the list of needs. When research shows that children who do not participate in an early childhood experience are 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18 , we're on to something. If a child that hasn't caught up socially by the 3rd grade has a 50% chance of graduating from high school - we need to do something. That "something" is being done at IELC. If you have some time, I'd love to share IELC with you!

I have more to write, but as many of you know I like to ramble. So I will ramble on some other day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just My Opinion...

I remember as a teenager my father distinctly saying to me one time, "Talking is not a virtue." For some reason, that comment has stuck with me throughout life and yet, I catch myself time and time again rambling on when I just need to learn to keep my mouth shut! Unfortunately, it's a behavior that has been passed down from my maternal side of the family and I pray that somehow it skips a generation with my kids. See what I mean...rambling.

If you know me well, you know that there are a few things that I'm truly passionate about and if you get me started in conversation, it's hard to get me to stop. For the past few weeks my wheels have been cranking after a community talk with some of the local Hamilton County kindergarten teachers regarding their expectations for children academically and socially as they prepare to enter kindergarten. It's only been 10 years since my first kindergarten teaching job and boy have times and expectations changed. I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in the community talk because I think that there are so many parents out there who are misinformed or not well-informed as to what they should be looking for when choosing a preschool program for their child.

After talking with several friends whose children participate in several different programs, I am surprised at the variety of options for children who are preschool aged. Many programs are strictly social where academics are kept to a minimum and many kindergarten teachers are finding that children are falling short of the necessary academic readiness skills that are needed to be able to keep up with the rigourous and demanding standards that are in effect. Some state that they have a good balance between academics and socialization, but when asked about curriculum have stated that they don't have a strict curriculum and instead follow bits and pieces of a curriculum that is not developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.

Ten years ago if a child entered kindergarten able to write part of his name it was considered success, let alone being able to identify half of the letters of the alphabet. Today, children are expected to come to kindergarten not only recognizing and writing letters (not all) and identifying sounds, but also to be able to participate in many phonemic awareness activities. Some preschool programs assume that because the standards have increased that the only way to teach is to hand a child some crayons and a worksheet. If a child comes home with more than one worksheet from preschool PER week, it's too much. Let me explain what I mean by "worksheet." WOWKITS WEBLOG says it best :

  • Worksheets are an abstract way to present a concept. Young children learn best through concrete, hands-on experiences. In fact, abstract ideas make no sense to children unless they have had related concrete experiences to think about and draw upon.
  • Worksheets don’t engage the whole child. Instead they limit children to visual stimulation and fine motor practice. This is stifling for children, but more importantly, it represents a lost opportunity to encourage a child’s development in a host of other important areas simultaneously (large muscle movements, language, musical, social, emotional, creativity, problem solving, etc.)
  • When a child is required to do worksheets, programs run the risk of creating self-esteem and behavior issues. This narrow approach to teaching goes against what we know about how children learn and does not suit the temperament of most preschool children.

When worksheets are presented as a choice, programs run the risk of enabling children to be passive learners, taking the easy way out. After all, the children most likely to choose worksheets are those who find the narrow task comforting.

Crafts - I just heard a preschool parent describe her daughter's preschool class a day with calendar, snack, play time and craft. "The parents love the crafts," she said. What's the point of the craft? Was it a learning opportunity where the end goal was for the child to follow a listening or visual instruction? Was the goal for them to practice their cutting skills or sequencing or was it just to have something cute to hang on the wall that will eventually end up in the trash? Crafts are cute and are wonderful keepsakes, but crafts in preschool should have a purpose other than to look nice on the refrigerator. Trust me, enough crafts are made at my house in one week out of recyclables and other junk to take care of a lifetime of preschool crafts.

What is your child's program doing to promote phonemic and phonological awareness across the curriculum? Do your child's teachers even know what phonemic and phonological awareness are and how to use them in their classrooms? Do they just read a story at circle time and then on to craft and snack? Do they participate in shared reading and writing activities? Are they introducing and providing opportunities for children to experience language in a way that promotes developmentally appropriate practice?

If you're still reading, you're probably wondering why I'm on such a rant about preschool right now. Education is something that I feel very strongly about and I feel as though every parent should know what they are signing their kids up for when it comes to preschool. If you want your child to have a chance to socialize, the Y has great recreational programs and has good wholesome core values. Mom's Day Out programs are great ways for your child to socialize, but don't expect that if that's all that your child attends before kindergarten that they will be in the same ballpark as others. But, if it's preschool that you're signing up for, I challenge you to really think about the purpose...yes, it is so that your child has an opportunity to socialize, but it's also so much more. For the longest time I've said that I worry more about Johnny being able to play well with others and trust that the skills can come later. I've changed my outlook on this after reading and spending time with teachers who are in the trenches with the kids that we really worried more about learning to share than to develop the necessary skill to prepare them for the next stage in their educational career. I'm sure some readers will want to throw a book at me with what I have to say next, but I feel very strongly about it, so hopefully I'll have a chance to duck and cover.

The NAEYC Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs states:

"Teachers who are knowledgeable about child development and learning are able to make broad
predictions about what children of a particular age group typically will be like, what they typically will and won’t be capable of, and what strategies and approaches will most likely promote their optimal learning and development. With this knowledge, teachers can make preliminary decisions with some confidence about environment, materials, interactions, and activities." They go on to say, "A hallmark of developmentally appropriate teaching is intentionality. Good teachers are intentional in everything they do—setting up the classroom, planning curriculum, making use of various teaching strategies, assessing children,
interacting with them, and working with their families. They are able to use a variety of strategies. Intentional teachers are purposeful and thoughtful about the actions they take, and they direct their pedagogy toward the outcomes the program is trying to help children reach."

Duck and cover...

Yes, I am saying that our preschool teachers need to be knowledgeable in child development (babysitting when you were 12 doesn't count) and need to be trained in developmentally appropriate practice. What is your child's preschool teacher doing to stay current in developmentally appropriate practice? If your child's preschool doesn't have licensed teachers, then please make sure that they have a lot of experience before you pay the big bucks to send your child to their program. The crafts may be cute, but I can guarantee that they can make cute stuff at home.

Yes, we are talking about preschoolers here and not 4th graders. I know that you're thinking that I'm nuts and expecting too much from a 3-5 year old. Think it now, because when that child is in 1st grade and struggling to read it's too late. We can plow ahead but we can never go back and setting our children up for success is too important. Literacy is the foundation for every other academic area your child will experience during his educational career. If he can't read, he'll struggle in math, science, art, social studies, and the list goes on.

Just remember that preschool is only a few hours a few days a week - you're not signing your child's life away, so make those few hours during those few days as meaningful and fruitful for your child as possible. As you plan for the fall and start to think about preschool, please consider the costs...and I don't mean tuition.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Save Handmade

Click on the bear to read about the future of handmade children's items in the U.S.

Maybe not...

For some reason, the thought of sleeping in this morning crossed my mind...right. Gone are the days of sleeping until noon on a day off! I guess I need to start going to be earlier if I want to catch some extra shut eye. So instead, we spent the morning cutting up a cardboard box for the dog to have a "cave" to sleep in...good luck with that one kids.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Does it really have to be winter?

I've finally gotten past fall and have forced myself to admit that it's finally winter...UGH! I've lived in Indiana for 16 years and still have the desert rat in me. There's nothing better than 60 degree weather in Phoenix for Christmas! Gotta love those desert holidays! I remember our last Christmas in Phoenix was cold (may 50 degrees) and our first Christmas in Evansville was colder than a well diggers bu$$ (as my dad would say). "It rarely snows in Evansville," he said. Yeah right...we missed almost a week of school and I learned how to sled by the river without getting hit by cars or arrested...

Today was my first day off for Christmas Break (I can call it that since I teach at a Christian school). We spent part of the day playing with friends and then came home to a clean house for naps/quiet time and then playing in the warm basement. Tonight I had a chance to update my personal and A. Ashley Designs blogs and my Etsy shop.

Tomorrow will be a relaxing day of play, laundry and coffee!