Posted in Uncategorized

Graceful Chaos

“Are you ok?!” an outside teacher said when she saw the chaos of my classroom yesterday. I was kind of taken aback by the true concern in her voice. 

“Yes, I’m fine,” I responded with a smile.

“Ok, it just looks a little crazy in here,” was her cautious response.

Truth be told, I had just been reflecting on that craziness before she walked in. I’m calling it graceful chaos.

See, on Wednesday my numbers are always at their highest. Inside time is always our craziest time of day. Because one of my children is truly unable to sit for any length of time, I let my students transition from the snack table directly to table choices as they finish eating. Today I set out the watertable, bristle blocks, and ocean animal painting for our sea life wall – two messy options and one unpopular option. Yes, I knew it was going to be a crazy day, so I embraced it. Bring it all on!

Tornado, first one to leave the table as always, headed straight to the watertable: water everywhere. 

Those who wanted to paint ocean animals had their shot and then Spiderman remembered that he wanted to paint a box black to be a bat cave. Well, then everyone wanted a bat cave! Out came the big brushes and black paint. 8 kids crowded around 4 large boxes at 1 art table. Some painted the insides, some the outsides. Some painted every nook and corner. Some painted each other.

 Black paint on the table. Black paint on the floor. Black paint on the chairs. Black paint on clothes, arms, and faces. Black paint all over me!

As the boxes dried outside, we washed. Black paint on the sink. Black paint on the mirror. Black paint everywhere! 

And of course Tornado needed another dip in the watertable with his black painted hands. 

The children couldn’t get the black off themselves, so I helped them at the sink. Those who washed first didn’t want to play in the now murky watertable or with boring bristle blocks, so they dumped all the soft items in pretend and had a makeshift pillow fight while I was busy in the bathroom.

At least there’s no paint on them.

But that other teacher hadn’t seen any of this.

What she saw was the kids now rallied. Pretend is clean. They play loudly, but happily, between 3 tables of small people, Legos, and Duplos, while I scrub, mop, and sanitize. Everything.

Yes. There was chaos. Imagine if she had walked in a half hour before!

But there was also fine motor development, creative exploration, increased spacial awareness, blossoming understanding of habitat, language development, problem solving, sharing, and kindness. 

So yes. Chaos. 

But at the same time, there is a certain grace to the way the learning just slipped into the mix. I didn’t plan bat caves. I didn’t sit us down at circle time and read a book about where bats live, although they might like me to do that now. A week or two ago the other preschool team learned ‘B’ is for Bat and made bats. And then some kids on my team thought that was pretty cool, and we’ve been talking about and making bats ever since. Bats aren’t even on the other team’s radar anymore!

But that’s what it’s like teaching preschoolers. Follow where they lead, and often the learning just slips in. Their curious natures are programed to learn. As teachers, we have to give them that opportunity. 

And that process really is a bounteous, messy, fruitful, graceful chaos.

I like it so much, I might need to rename my blog!

Do you often feel the same way as a teacher? Let me know!

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Posted in Early Childhood Education, preschool, Uncategorized

Race, Color, and Childhood 

I’ve had some experiences in the classroom lately that have me thinking about skin color, children, and my role as a teacher.

The thing is, I’ve always been unusually color blind. My father is Mexican and my Mother is Caucasian, so maybe that’s a piece of why. When I was very young I became attached to a baby doll, as many young girls do.Unlike most girls dolls, mine was a beautifully dark chocolaty brown color. I called her my black baby.  I’m not sure where I got the term “black” at age 3 years old or less, but the name stuck. I kept, loved, and slept with her till my dog chewed her to pieces when I was a young teenager.

My life was fairly free of racial tension land prejudice until I hit upper elementary school age while living in Arizona, where immigration tensions were high. People didn’t believe me when I told them my dad was Mexican because I had red hair and freckles. Kids at my elementary school would say things like, “You sure your mom didn’t sleep with the mailman?” Apparently half Mexican babies are supposed to be brown, and I was never dark enough for that part of me to be accepted by anyone outside my family, not even other Mexicans.

Luckily, I spent my childhood moving around the western side of the country, and I was exposed to many different people and perspectives.

My first encounter with another type of prejudice came in the 7th grade, when Jeremy, an African American boy, admitted between classes that he had a crush on me. My friends all wanted to know what I thought. When I told them I was flattered but too young to date, they were flabbergasted!

“So you like him?”

“He’s nice. I’d go on a date with him if I were older.”

“But he’s black!” one of them said to me.

“And my dad’s Mexican,” I reminded her. “He’s a nice guy and he’s my friend.” That’s really all that mattered to me. I remember trying to understand why my friends cared about his skin color, but I couldn’t.

I don’t know exactly where I missed the memo on skin color. I’ve made many a blunder over the years as a result (Do not touch kinky hair, no matter how cool it looks! And don’t even get me started on stereotypical food references. Fried chicken, mayo, oreos… Only have very trusted friends explain those to you!!!).

For some reason, my 305 year old students are so much more aware than I was. They don’t say anything outright, but I see it in their behavior, their preferences, and their comments. The thing is, I’m seeing a pattern where racial naivete in the younger ones progresses into shame and prejudice in the space of 2-3 short years.

Take my 3 year old daughter, Tutu (I’m using code names to protect my student’s privacy). She’s three – aware of different skin colors, but unaware of the baggage we older folk tend to attach to them. For example, one sunny day I took my class to sit under the tree in front of the school to read a story. In the distance, one of the children saw a man walking up the sidewalk. “Look! It’s Derek” she excitedly announced. Derek is the afternoon teacher. I observed the man as he approached. He wore a hoodie, sweats, and even had a beard like Derek’s, but it was not him. I informed them of the sad fact just as he came within earshot. Tutu yelled, “But he’s black and Derek is black!”. Thankfully, the man had earbuds in and didn’t seem to hear. It turned into a discussion about the similarities and differences between this man and Derek, but in the end we all agreed it wasn’t him.

Over the next few days I noticed the children pointing out their skin and eye colors, so I read them the story, ” The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz. It tells of a girl who takes a walk around town and puts beautiful names such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey to the skin colors of the people she sees. It wasn’t long before the children began looking for the names of their skin colors. One boy in my class, we”ll call him Sunshine, has skin that’s chocolate brown.

One of the other children said, “Look Sunshine! That’s your color!” when we came to that page in the book.

“No! I’m this color!” he said as turned the page to a significantly lighter skinned person.

The other children tried to disagree, but I could see Sunshine was getting upset, and not wanting to sour the experience for him, I told them not to bother Sunshine. The subject was dropped and we continued the story. Two pages later we reached a color similar to sunshine’s chocolate brown, though slightly darker. The girl in the book calls it bronze and amber, “like a beautiful jewel”. Acting on a hunch, I told the children that this had always been one of my favorite colors (and it really has!). Sunshine got a little smile in the corner of his mouth. When we reached the end of the book, the children all announced the color closest to their skin. Sunshine pointed to the girl with the chocolate brown skin and proudly said, “This is my color!”

Ever since this experience, I’ve pondered why he reacted the way he did to this book. Why did he think lighter skin was better before I said something? I’ve seen this in other children in my class too.

On one occasion we had only 4 children come to class. Spiderman’s usual friends were all gone, so he played with Tornado, a boy who looks like he could be Dominican and who has a speech delay. Spiderman, who is a tall caucasian boy, told me he didn’t used to like Tornado, because he has “fuzzy hair”. Then he said, “But Tornado is actually pretty funny. Like when you were digging with us and he put sand on your pants for a joke, that was funny”. He said this ponderously, as though processing something significant. He’s been kinder to Tornado, even under peer pressure from friends, ever since.

Tornado will only play with the light skinned baby dolls at school, despite the many darker shades we have available. Why is that?

How do we go from Tutu’s ignorance, to Sunshine’s, Spiderman’s, and Tornado’s preference for light skin and smooth hair? My guess is that the answer is all around us in conversations and in our media – our society.

But I am not concerned with pointing out every negative influence. That’s beyond the scope of what I can write just now. I think it’s more important to focus on what we can do to combat those influences.

In this age of political correctness, many people like to just avoid the subject of skin, stereotypes, and racism because it’s safer. But skin color can’t be taboo. Its a part of all of us, and silence doesn’t make it go away or turn us color blind. Rather, silence allows the existing racist messages bedded in society to continue on to the next generation, perpetuating the problem.

I used to think that if we stopped talking about racism, it would go away. I was wrong. The concept of different races is false. There is only the human race. But racism is so built into our history, our culture, and our institutions that it’s going to take continued conscious effort to get ride of it.

As I think back on the experiences of my childhood that shaped my beliefs on the issues of diversity, color, race, and prejudice, I remember interacting with people who were different from myself. I remember reading books that promote diversity, and having meaningful discussions about those books. I remember taking a whole class in high school called Cultural Diversity, where we learned about the negative impacts of prejudice and stereotyping, and how to speak assertively on issues like homelessness, sexual orientation, immigration, religion, and race. First and foremost though, I remember knowing at a very young age that all people on earth are children of God and that he loves them no matter what.

The relationship between all of these experiences is that in each one, barriers were explicitly broken down. It didn’t happen by itself. Teachers, friends and family went out of their way to shape my view of the world. Discussions about diversity were never taboo, and they were often emphasized.

So let’s break down some barriers for our children. Let’s undemonize the word “brown”. And while we’re at it, though this may make waves, I’d love to forget the terms “black” and “white” altogether. As Jerry Spinelli puts it in his book, “Maniac Magee”,

“For the life of him, [Maniac] couldn’t figure out why the East enders called themselves black. He kept looking and looking, and the colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and dark fudge and acorn and butter rum and burnt orange. But never licorice, which, to him, was real black.”

And again,

“Maniac kept trying, but he still couldn’t see it, this color business. He didn’t figured he wasn’t white any more than the East enders were black. He looked himself over pretty hard and he came up with at least seven different shades and colors, right on his own skin, not one of them being what he would call white (except his eyeballs which were not any whiter than the eyeballs of the kids in the East end).”

So why continue this black and white business when there is so much negativety attached, and when none of us is really black or white anyway?

I’d rather send the message loud and clear that we must embrace our diversity like we embrace the many colors in a bouquet of mixed flowers. There is no right or wrong color for flowers. They are just different. All are beautiful, and we call them the color that they are.

I think we can, and should, teach that concept early, in the moments like those I’ve been having with my young students. These are the teaching moments that can turn color from a source of shame and prejudice into a bouquet of beauty.

Because no child should feel like they are less than.

No child should feel less than beautiful.

No child should feel less than intelligent.

No child should feel less than capable.

No child should feel less than confident.

No child should feel less than loved and wanted.

And as I, my students, and others speak for the beauty of diversity, we may in time change the voice of society. I can only hope.

Posted in Uncategorized

Jedis, Death, and Life – Wisdom in a 5 year old

This morning I watched my son and two other boys play pretend Star Wars during free play. One of the boys threw himself down on the floor and lay still as he enacted his heroic Jedi death. The other boys must have thought it looked fun, because they promptly threw themselves down on top of him and declared that they had died too. The first boy said, ” No! You have to be sad that I died. Say, “Noooo! He’s dead!”

That moment got me thinking, and I think this 5 year old is on to something. We generally don’t like to think about our own death, but even a 5 year old knows he wants to he remembered when he goes. He wants someone to miss him. I think this feeling is a core part of each of us. We all want to feel like our lives have value, even if we don’t often think about it.

When I die, I want people to say that I worked hard and that I stood for what I believed in. I want to look back on my life and know that I gave it my very best shot. I don’t want to get to the end and feel like my life was a waste. I want to contribute some good to the world – a little light.

So the question is, am I living every day the way I want to be remembered when I go? Are you?

I love the quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. We can’t control anyone else, but we can control ourselves. If we live every day like we want to be remembered, the people that count will remember us that way. But we have to live it first.

What about you? How do you want to be remembered? What are you doing each day to make it happen?

Posted in Uncategorized

On The Issue of Feminism

My feed is blown up with feminist and anti-feminist rhetoric, and I find that I can no longer sit in the middle of so much controversy without pointing out what everyone seems to be missing. We’re all so busy arguing about whether gender equality is still an issue, but I don’t think we’re focusing on the right thing.

I personally have not labelled myself feminist or anti-fem for the same reason that I don’t identify as democrat or republican, liberal or conservative. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle on the issues. Lately I’ve been so confused about what the issues are that I’ve stayed silent, but this article helped shed some light on the subject and helped me find my voice.

It’s not about women’s rights.

You heard me.

Women’s rights are not the issue here. The point has been pushed by women, and maybe that’s where the confusion comes from. We’re all very proud of the strong feminist movement that gave women their voices, and so of course women are eager to assume the title. But this push isn’t about feminism as it began. We already have the ability to vote, to speak, to dress how we want, to pursue an education and career in whatever field we choose.

Yeah, yeah. I can already hear the voices exclaiming, “But I am pursuing a career in a male dominated field and I’ve had to fight for every little success I’ve ever had because I’m a woman!” Yes. I’ve heard it. In fact I’ve been there. Try joining the Navy at a petite 5’3″ and 115 lbs.

Everyone thinks you aren’t up for the job. You’re  going to sleep around the office. You’re going to get married or pregnant and quit. Whenever the job gets hard, you’re going to call someone for help instead of doing it yourself. Because you’re a woman.

Congratulations! You’ve been stereotyped. Guess what? So has everyone else.

And that’s my point. What we’re fighting here isn’t just a woman’s issue. It’s a human issue. For every hardship women are faced with in society right now, I can point out it’s equal opposite for men.

Instead of squabbling about who has it worse, let’s talk solutions.

Let’s get to the point and say that everyone is over-sexualized in America, and it’s toxic.

What if instead of complaining that we can’t wear anything we want without getting cat called or raped or judged by men, we treat ourselves with dignity and respect first. Don’t tolerate or buy into the way women are portrayed in the media. Don’t put half naked girls in music videos and act like that’s desirable or what women should look like. It’s not. We encourage our own over-sexualization by supporting that kind of media.

Don’t hang around guys who buy into that. News Flash: Men want women in their lives. If all the women walk out, the majority of men will follow. It might only be on the surface at first, but that’s a natural step in the transition. After the civil rights movement everything wasn’t peachy just because segregation ended was it? A lot of white people had to suck up their pride and bite their tongues because what they wanted to say or do was no longer acceptable. Fast forward a generation or two, and the majority of young white  people can hardly believe segregation was a real thing. So it is whenever society makes a conscious decision to change without a universal consensus.

And on the flip side, don’t give what you can’t take. Women cat call, grope, and sexually harass men all the time. Don’t try to deny it. I’m a woman and I’ve been there, remember? Women get away with it because “men like it”. It’s one of the not-so-great stereotypes men are stuck with. If they don’t enjoy women’s sexual advances, there’s something wrong with them. Replace “like” with “want” in that quote. Sound familiar? If you don’t want it said or done to you, don’t say or do it to them.

Let’s admit that American society is desperately trying to redefine familial roles and responsibilities, and our societal expectations need to catch up.

Remember that bit about the first gen of feminists paving the way for women to pursue education and careers? It’s in the law books people! It’s our expectations of social roles that need to catch up.

Feminists want more female CEOs and Managers. They want more women in the work force receiving equal pay. They want paid, extended maternity leave and extra time to pump breast milk when they come back.

Well, what about men? Where’s their extended paternity leave? When do they get kudos at work for spending time with their kids? I think single dads should get extra paid sick days for when their kids miss school. And what about the kids? Who is taking care of the kids while all of these men and women go chase their careers?

Here’s where it’s at:

More women aren’t in the higher positions, not because men are stone-walling them, but because most women aren’t willing to sacrifice their children and families to chase the mighty dollar. Men can’t stay home with the kids because then he’s Mr. Mom and his wife wears the pants (another of men’s glorious stereotypes). His masculinity is shot. Men are supposed to fill that role in our society. Or at least they were supposed to before divorce and single motherhood became a norm. Because kids need their moms right? So moms should have majority custody right? But moms and kids need money to live, so mom works. Now she’s stretched so thin from trying to fill both roles that she’s failing as a mother and as a career woman.

See where I’m going with this? I’ll lay it out, just in case you don’t.

If women are going to be in the workforce, be it because it’s their right or because it’s their necessity, society has to give somewhere in there. Operating on the assumptions that children are the future and we as a country care about our future, family support has got to be the priority. That means quality childcare has got to be made affordable, and men cannot be looked down on for staying home with the kids if that’s what works for their family. The first months after a baby is born are crucial to child development, therefore paid maternity leave has got to happen. And we’ve got to get over the fact that women have breasts. If we address the over-sexualization piece above it’ll help us realize that breasts are for feeding babies. They cost a heck of a lot less than formula, but only if women have the chance to use them. That requires giving female employees time to pump, and not guilting her about it. Having childcare on site would expedite things since babies generally feed faster than the pump can pump. Just a thought.

And in case you’re wondering, I am fully aware that every one of these provisions costs money. A lot of money. But this is where we’re at as a society. Women are in the workforce to stay. It’s become necessary. Either we continue in the destructive trend we’re in (destructive because kids are the future and if mom’s got to work then who’s got the kids, Remember?), or we embrace where we are and live up to the favorite child-rearing phrase “It takes a village”.

If we do the math as other countries have, and I mean actual number crunching here, we’ll realize that the potential loss involved with these investments is miniscule compared to the financial pay off of having a quality, mentally healthy, and stable workforce.

So that’s my piece. Tell me it’s idealistic and my proposed solutions will never happen. That doesn’t change the truth. We don’t have a women’s problem or a men’s problem. We have massive society problems. Let’s quit fighting. Let’s quit shaming. Let’s talk solutions and then make it happen.

Posted in Uncategorized

Why I Write.

I write because words are alive to me. They give shape to the world and to life. They are strong and weak, soft and hard. Words are like dancing, but still. Like singing, but quiet. When I have nothing else open to me, I still have words. Even when I can’t write, I can compose in my head.

I do it all the time, but I’d rather write them down. Somehow, when the words come out onto the blank page it makes them real. It gives them power. Words are power. When I write, I have power. Power to influence others and myself. When I am only a storm of emotion inside, writing brings quiet, peace, understanding.

There are things I want to tell the world that are so close to my heart, I can’t speak them out loud. My voice doesn’t do justice. It quivers with fear of rejection and fear that I won’t be able to convey how very important these things are. But when I write, you can’t hear the quiver, only the power of the words. When I write, I am brave. I am my truest self on paper because bravery is required to reveal so much.

 

 

Posted in Spirituality, Uncategorized

When your world is rocked

One of my favorite things about our home is that we have our own little beach at the end of the street. Marsh might be a better word for it. It used to be a mud flat, but the last few years a combination of mysteriously appearing sand and an increase of marsh grass has made it much more beach-like.

We are the only ones willing to tromp across the marsh grass to get to this particular section of beach, so it feels like our own private playground. T  has proven himself a very effective construction foreman, ordering Dave and I to help dig a hole complete with a trench that extends down the beach, allowing his hole to fill up before the tide is fully high. He thinks of it as his safe space. It’s there that he swims, catches minnows, and digs up clams and oysters.

Until recently, I thought it was our safe space too. Dave grew up there. I go there when I can’t handle life anymore. It’s the scene of some of our best family memories.

October 29th, 2016. After a morning of trout fishing Dave and T still hadn’t got the fishing bug out of their systems, so they went down to the marsh to scoop up some minnows while I put Gabby down for a nap.

About an hour later, the doorbell rang. I answered the door to find a girl I’d never met before asking if I was Dave’s wife and could I come now? David was stumbling around on the beach, he looked very pale, and she thought he might vomit. I threw on shoes and ran to the beach.

I found him carrying a bucket of minnows toward me across the marsh grass as a neighbor I only know by sight carried T and the fishing poles behind him. David always carries the fishing poles.

As I got closer, he looked like he might fall over at any moment. I put his free arm across my shoulder and we hobbled up the street.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I don’t know. My back hurts”. He leaned heavier on me with every step.

“I’m taking you to the ER. Let’s get straight in the Jeep”.

He didn’t argue. He didn’t say he’ll drive.

That’s when my stomach dropped. He NEVER let’s me drive when we’re together. He drove himself to and from the ER even when he had chest pain that was tentatively diagnosed as pericarditis. There’s an extensive list of ER visits that he did not let me drive him to.

I loaded the boys in the car, grabbed Gabby from in the house and we left.

The drive to West Roxbury had never been longer. David couldn’t remember the date. Or what we did that morning. Or that he he’d just caught the biggest rainbow trout of his life. I don’t think he even remembered that T had been at the beach with him. We had the same conversations over and over again. He cried. I tried not to show how scared I was. The kids were very quiet in the back seat.

By the time we got to the hospital, he couldn’t lift his legs or feel his toes. For once, we barely had to wait. They got an IV in and took what looked like a pint of blood. They asked a million questions that he couldn’t answer. He’d look at me, and I’d ask if they were testing his memory or if they really wanted to know. Gabby colored in a chair and contemplated sliding across the tile in her socked feet. I forgot to grab her shoes. T watched every little detail and stayed very, very quiet.

When they asked what happened, all I could say was that the neighbors saw him stumbling around and came to check on him. They found him trying to get up off the ground. T is the only one who was there.

“T, can you tell me what happened to daddy at the beach?”

“He was just on the sand. I was just playing. I didn’t know anything was wrong.” He’s using his little man voice.

“Can you tell me, did he lay down or fall down?”

“Lay down”.

“Did he talk to you when he was laying down?” The doctor was chiming in now.

“No” His little man voice disappears when the doctors are asking.

“Were his eyes closed?”

“Yes, but he wasn’t sleeping”. He hid his face in my leg.

“Was he moving when he was laying down?”

“uh uh”.

And that’s all he said. My saint of a sister in law picked up the kids after that, so I could focus on Dave.

Almost as soon as the doctors left, Dave fell asleep. I sat next to his bed, looking between his pale face (that I didn’t even know could be pale) and the monitor displaying his vital signs.

Everything after that is a bit of a blur. The nurse took him to get an MRI that took 2 1/2 hours. He slept more. A neurologist visited. Around midnight they admitted him to a med surge unit. I talked with the Neurologist one more time and went home so I could be there when our kids woke up.

That was probably the scariest day of our 6 year marriage. On the flip side, that means every day since has been a little better. The next morning I didn’t go straight to David because we had agreed the night before that the kids shouldn’t come to the hospital and I didn’t have a sitter. I got the kids ready for church because I didn’t know what else to do. It turns out, that was the best thing I could have done.

From the moment we arrived, I was swooped up by people who had heard via the primary president what had happened. I had text her the night before, asking her to find a sub for my class just in case I couldn’t come to church. Every organization in the ward reached out to see how they could help. We had offers for food, visits, blessings, and most appreciated of all, babysitting.

I had always taken pride in the fact that our church has possibly the most amazing emergency reaction system in the world. The LDS church has a reputation for being the first on scene after natural disasters all over the world. I must admit, I had forgotten how well suited the church is to responding to life’s individual catastrophes. It has never been clearer to me that this church is organized as it is by inspiration. Chance could never produce something so effective.

That Sunday G went home with a dear friend, while T and I went to see daddy at the hospital. I had intended to leave T too but when the parting came I could see how scared he was for David. I didn’t really believe he had told us the whole story of what happened on the beach, and I knew he wasn’t going to be able go pretend everything was ok at someone else’s house.

We were met at the hospital with good news. Dave was walking! It was a slow, lopsided walk staggered with back spasms, but it was a huge improvement after the paralysis of the night before. And equally amazing, there was talk of sending him home that day! We decided that T and I would stay until they decided to keep him or said he could come home.

Not long after receiving the good news, our bishop paid us a surprise visit. He brought with him the young men’s president and one of the priests to administer the sacrament. For the first time, I witnessed the sacrament being administered to one. These three priesthood holders drove almost an hour one way to perform this short ordinance for David alone. Our bishop visited the two other patients in the room, asking them to turn down their football game for a moment while the sacred ordinance was administered. They gladly complied, and reverence filled our curtained, private corner of the room as the men blessed and passed one cracker and one tiny sacrament cup of water.

I cannot say how grateful I am that T was there to witness that moment, for it truly was an outpouring of the savior’s love. I hope that he treasures it up in his heart and holds it as his example of how to use the priesthood when it is his turn. It really is there to bless and uplift the one.

David was sent home that evening. We still don’t know what caused the “episode”, as the doctors call it, and there are still some lingering effects. Dave’s memory experienced large gaps his first week home. Though there has been improvement, he still has a hard time remembering things and experiences occasional vertigo. The doctors are still looking for answers. We don’t know why he hasn’t fully recovered or if it may happen again.

We do know that God’s hand has been heavily involved in this experience. He was there when our neighbor glanced out the window and decided to see if everything was alright. He was driving us when I was in shock on the way to the ER. He was there as I drove home from the hospital after being awake for 20 hours with my gas tank on empty. He rallied the ward when I needed support so I could be there for my husband. He was there when David pulled a 98% on a test he couldn’t remember studying for 3 days after his episode. I know everything is going to be ok because God’s hand is in this. No matter how scary things seem, he’s got us.

I write this during an upswing when David appears relatively stable, but I also write this facing the unknown. This episode came at a time when we thought he was perfectly healthy. I feel myself relaxing the more normal he seems, and yet I know that it could happen again when he’s fishing on some lonely dock one night and he’d be gone. I’d be a widow and single mother. But as David says, we can’t stop living because we’re afraid it might happen again. I trust him. And I trust God, even if the worst happens, because I know he’s got us.

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Oh, By The Way… Here’s my purpose!

I got started publishing last week, but as with all my journals, I feel like I need to set forth a purpose here.

This is my first year out of college, and I’m in limbo. I can’t afford to work out of the home (the subject of another blog post), and I’m still 8 weeks away from getting a decision on my FCC license application. Meanwhile, I’m homeschooling my daughter, my son, and his friend, exploring my educational philosophy, and dreaming about launching this dream school. This limbo situation adds to too much time for researching and thinking, which leads to a big jumble of ideas and thought, but no answers.

This blog is my attempt to organize all of that thought and turn it into something productive. It’s like thinking out loud. If I were a new teacher employed by someone else, I would have co-teachers and colleagues to bounce ideas off of. I could try out ideas and get feedback about what worked and what didn’t. But I don’t work in a place like that. It’s just me at home teaching the kids.

And that means that I need to be extra reflective. I need to take the initiative to find new ideas and new ways of doing things. My kids are great for experimenting on, but it goes nowhere if I don’t evaluate what worked and what didn’t. This is how I intend to do that. I’ll be posting my research as well as the things that are working and not working in my practice. When I write, it helps me put sense to my thoughts so that I can come to logical next steps. It’s almost like bouncing my thoughts off of myself when no one else is available to talk to.

And the perk of doing this on a blog instead of hand-writing in a journal, is that there is a chance that like minded people will stumble into my thoughts, share their thoughts with me, and boom! We have outside collaboration… Here’s hoping!

Posted in Nature Preschool, Uncategorized

Nature Preschool

Last week I took my kids to the South Shore Natural Science Center in Norwell, MA. It’s this enchanting place in the woods with a children’s garden complete with wood carved statues, chickens, owls, a music trail, and a storybook walk. You can take a peek here.

And the best part – all the outside areas are free! I had been waiting for a beautiful day to take the kids and Thursday was it: 70°F, sunny, no wind for the first time in weeks. Literacy and music in the woods – we had to go.

When we first arrived there were lots of children playing outside. We went to look at the chicken coop, turned around, and they had all disappeared! I knew from the website that there were no shows scheduled and then I remembered. The SSNSC has a nature preschool!

I had wondered exactly what made nature preschool, well, ‘nature’ preschool. A fellow intern in my senior internship raved about her nature preschool placement site. She said it completely changed how she thought about education and nature. So what makes it so great?

Well while we were there I got a peek. My kids love owls so even though the music trail and storybook walk were calling me, we went on an owl hunt. Armed with a map and the receptionist’s directions, we set out with my four year old leading the way. His newly developing concept of left and right combined with budding map skills were really coming in handy.

As we walked we knew we were getting close to the owl, but there was something loud and boisterous in our way. A mass playing of children! They skipped, they flitted around with scarves, they climbed rocks. They sang, they danced, and screamed. And on each end of the clearing, teachers stood as sentries making sure no one wandered too far from the group. I knew I had found the preschool.

“Permission to pass through?” I asked one of the sentry teachers.

She looked confused for a moment before laughing and answering, “Of Course!”.

My children and I clasped hands as we waded through the mass. Groups of children ran up and talked to us as we walked.

“I’m a preschooler!” cried one little girl.

“We’re playing with scarves!” another one said.

“Chase me!” invited one boy. These children were bold and unafraid.

I was grateful that the owl enclosure was close because it afforded me the opportunity to watch the nature school without being in the way.

The first thing I noticed was that the teachers weren’t huddled together chatting, nor were they standing aloof observing the children. There wasn’t a cell phone in sight. Every single teacher, even the sentry teachers had a crowd of children around her and they were talking about everything nature.

One teacher was looking for bird nests with a group of girls. “Do you remember what nests are made of Chloe?”

Another teacher was talking with a boy who tried to follow us to the owl enclosure. My children reported to him that the owl was sleeping since he wasn’t allowed to come look for himself. “Yes, that’s because owls are noc-tern-nal. That starts with letter N,” She stressed the N sound here. “Nocturnal animals sleep during the day and wake up at night,” the teacher explained after the boy’s look of surprise.

Concept development was happening anywhere there was a teacher! This outside time was not just recess. The teachers saw it as learning time and treated it as such. Nature was the central topic, but through nature children were accessing literacy and math.

I also noticed that they brought many typical indoor classroom items outside. There were blocks, easels for painting, and tables that were clearly for lunch time. Perhaps my favorite thing were the 5 gallon buckets full of books. The buckets had lids and were labeled with a laminated page on the outside of what books the bucket contained. This particular bucket had age appropriate  books that related directly to what children were seeing outside. There were books about clouds, trees, birds, bugs, and owls. Next to the bucket was a picnic blanket for children to spread out and read on. I can just imagine children reading The Little Cloud and then laying down on the blanket and looking up at the clouds in the sky. Talk about bringing stories to life!

When the preschoolers  went inside, I was finally able to convince my kids to go on the story walk with me. We were joined after a little while by one of the preschool boys and his mom. She was kind enough to tell me a little about the program and why she chose a nature preschool for her son.

“I just love the freedom that they give the children,” She said. “He is always so happy when I pick him up and even at the parent curriculum night it was like aaaah! This is so perfect!”

Ok, not the most explanatory statement, but the gist I got from the rest of what she said, was that the children are given lots of freedom to explore nature and academics at their own pace. The environment is rich for them to explore and the teachers are very supportive of each child. They really help children to appreciate nature in the world around them.

It’s interesting to me that this is a priority to so many parents in this city dominated area. My husband and I decided that we wanted to raise outdoorsy children because we love the outdoors. We want to share our hobbies with our kids. But I have observed that even parents who are don’t particularly want to be in the outdoors themselves, love this idea that their children will enjoy nature. Do people realize that they’re missing something important from their own lives and want to give it to their children? Or do they realize that the next generation needs to value nature in order for them to care for their resources better than we have?

I don’t have the answers, but I do believe it is a good trend regardless of parent’s reasons, because I do believe that nature is important to our happiness as people. And I do believe that without a lot of nature’s bounty we will never learn to care for it.

I would love to find out more about curriculum planning at nature preschools. This mom made it sound like the children normally have indoor class time too. Oh, it’d be wonderful  to be a fly on the wall during this time!

I’ll definitely be exploring this idea of nature school more. I don’t have a forest to bring my FCC kids to, but if I could even bring pieces of nature preschool into my home, it might inspire a greater love of nature for children in my program. And who knows? Maybe one day I will have a forest for my preschoolers to explore!

Take a look below to see the discoveries from our visit!