Monday, December 23, 2013

...And To All A Good Night

Rocketeer soaks in hugs from her teachers

The holiday season is here, and The Little School kids have been busy elves (or in our case, busy Monkeys, Lizards, Giraffes, Butterflies, etc.) making piles of holidays decorations, gifts, surprises, party plans, and even, in the case of the Gnome room, an indoor ice-skating rink(wax paper feet). It really is so fun to work with kids this time of year. Children don’t get bogged down by the best deals, or the long to-do lists that fill our adult heads. Kids get to live in a magic world suddenly alit with twinkling lights, living rooms inexplicably filled with amazing trees, and kitchen counters piled high with sugar cookies. Helping to create winter memories allows us to spend time indulging in that kind of magic. It’s one of the the untold benefits of our profession.
Jackson's Grandma shows off
the newest family addition

This is also a deeply reflective time of year.  New Years ignites a mental slide show filled with snippets of an amazing day at the beach, kids and laughs, triumphs, first steps, scary fevers, unanswered riddles from the past year, joys, fears never realized, and the inevitable list of “what’s and if’s”. So much happened that I could have never guessed, so many 
mountains climbed. Thank you for being along for the journey. 

Time is measured with such a different fun-house ruler when raising a young child. What’s another year to an adult? Hardly a blip! However, the difference between 1 and 2 years old? A 3 and 4 year old? Epic! Those chubby fingers that were just learning to grasp, are now escaping down the hall with their third candy cane. This is the time of year I vow not to let it go by so quickly next time, to stop and smell every last rose and kiss each baby toe.

Explorers bring the sparkle!

As I walked through the school on the last days before break, it looked like the season had shaken itself out all over the campus. Parents gathered and filled tiny chairs for holiday celebrations. Rooms dripped with snowflakes and paper chains, and teachers left with their arms full of thank you’s, cookies, and acts of gratitude from their families and co-workers. Our desks were covered in thoughtful notes and gifts that reminded me of just how kind our community is. Two rooms independently pulled together during this hectic season to bring meals, diapers and financial aid to a family among them in need. The love was bottomless and beautiful. 

So it’s our turn: Thank you ALL for being part of this amazing, generous, dedicated and gracious community. You have loved us challenged us and stood with us during this adventurous year. We have grown with you all, leaned on you all, and learned from you all more then you know. You have shared your families, lives, struggles and stories with us, and we really can’t thank you enough. We look forward to more adventures in 2014. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Yoga Hello

Elise gets ready to do the balloon breath with the yoga chimes

Hello Little School Parents and friends.
Today I post the first official yoga blog entry.  While some of you have known me for awhile, yoga was introduced at Duke just a few months ago, so some of you have only just met me.  Anyway, I am your kids' yoga teacher, Miss Erin.  I wanted to let you know a little bit about me and give you an idea of just what your child does in yoga.  

After teaching in early years education for 15 years, I decided to pursue yoga teacher training.  I completed my training last summer 2012 through a program called Mind-Body Centering Yoga.  I take what I learned in my training along with some kids' yoga resources and my years of teaching to bring yoga to the children of The Little School.

The Mindfulness Part:

I have always been someone who enjoys the little things in life and with young kids, I am often reminded to appreciate those "mindful" moments.  Like when a child is sitting crouched on one corner of the playground, intently looking at something, and when I get closer to investigate, I find they are watching an ant as it crawls up the hill.  This is what being "mindful" is about.  Living in the very moment you are in, being aware of just what you are doing and nothing else, like watching the ant.  Kids are, at times, very good at being mindful.  But other times, they are all over the place.  Remind you of anyone?  Us, maybe? When we get caught up in the rush of life, the busy timeline where we are slaves to the hour on the clock?  When I teach yoga to a group of kids, I make a point to have us simply experience  the time we are together  as mindfully as possible.
Everett does a balloon breath

Here is what that looks like...

Once the kids are settled onto the yoga mats, I pick up my chime and ask the kids to do a big balloon breath when they hear it ring.  We breath together, listening to the echo of the chime and then we sing the yoga "Hello" song to welcome everyone together.

'Hello, my friends, hello. (we wave one hand)
It's yoga time, you know.  (wave the other hand)
So cross your legs,  (sit criss-cross yoga sauce!)
put your hands in place  (hands together at the heart)
and bend your head down low.  (Bend your head over your crossed legs)
That's how we say hello.'  (sit back up)

Once we have sung our hello song, I ask the kids to do some calming routines.  We roll slowly onto our backs and breathe into our bellies.  We move our fingers and toes, greeting our body as we move into our awareness of it.  
Using the ladybug:
"In this moment, I feel..."

Each yoga class is different, depending on where the kids are coming from (e.g. sitting in circle time or running on the playground) and what their energy level is like.  I often use a lady-bug Beanie Baby and pass it around asking each child how they are feeling in that moment.  I get responses like, "I'm sad 'cuz my friend Naomi is sick today," or "I am excited because we are going to visit Gram and Pops!"  As each child takes a turn, I learn a little about what it is like to be them in that moment and so do they.  And they learn that they are welcome in whatever feeling they are feeling at that time.  Some feel shy expressing themselves and choose to pass.  But as time goes by, I find that often after several classes, they, too, are choosing to share how they are feeling.

Some days, everyone is feeling silly so we do lots of "active" poses like "The Wood-chopper" (feet wide, hands clasped over head... 1, 2, 3 CHOP - bend over and make a chop with your hands), or the Lion (sit on knees, hands on each knee, breath in through the nose and stick your tongue out and say haaaaaa).  Other days, everyone is feeling tired and we do calm poses like The Sleeping Mouse (sit on knees and curl over them head down to floor), or The Sleeping Baby Bear (lie on back and stick legs straight up).

Mabel does the Boat pose

Each age group is different, too.  The really young kids are starting to learn The Balloon Breath for the first time (arms up,  breath in, arms out and down, breath out).  They are fascinated by my yoga chime and sit stone still when I ring it.  We practice reaching up high to touch the sky and bending way down low to touch our toes.  We do the Butterfly pose by putting peanut-butter and jelly on the bottoms of our feet and sticking them together.  Then we raise our fingers up to our heads for our antennae and give our friends a butterfly smile. 
Helena does the tree pose

After I guide the kids through some yoga poses such as sun salutes, tree, cat and cow, snake, and sleeping mouse, I allow the kids to choose what their bodies want to do.  I get some very creative answers and assist in the modification of crazy poses, like bulldozer, batman, princess and more.

Before the end of class, I often do a "yoga rest" pose.  The kids lie on their bellies or backs or in sleeping mouse and just listen to the sounds in the room quietly.  You wouldn't believe how calm and still almost all of the kids stay. 

At the end of our class, we say our yoga good-bye.  Hands together at our hearts we say, Namaste.  It is amazing at how some of the youngest kids can actually say the word!

Wheew!!  I tried to get a lot in here in my first post.  I should be doing this about once per month so tune in again soon!


-Miss Erin