Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Providing Choice at Meal Times

We love providing choices to our kids and showing them that we value their opinions and judgement. This can be difficult at meal times though because you do not want to have to cook multiple meals for your children at each meal, so where can you provide choices?

As you know, at The Little School everyone from the Blue Building to the preschoolers enjoy the same meal prepared by Chef Justin. This is what is expected and everyone happily gobbles up what is in front them. Or sometimes, more hesitantly pokes around at the plate, nibbling and trying different pieces and elements of the meal. All this is to say, it can be done through a lot of consistency.            

But again you ask, where do those choices come in? Here are some options for how to incorporate your child and their opinions in your meal time.
  • ·         Allow them to help in planning the meals for the week, perhaps picking out one or two meals that will be made that week.
  • ·         If you like to choose what you make that day, provide two to three choices you are willing to make and allow them to select. Make only the one meal for everyone in the family to enjoy.
  • ·         Offer to provide choices on setting the table such as what table cloth to use or what plates
  • ·         Include them in cooking
  • ·         Let them select a utensil to use
  • ·         Let them select dressing for a salad
Have fun with it and when needed take three deep breathes! You can do it!
-Ali Huber

Monday, November 23, 2015

Staff Spotlight: Sarah Chandler

* What is your educational approach? How do you find children learn best?
I  believe that children learn best when they can explore their environment in their own way and timing. It’s our job as teachers to provide them with the opportunities and materials they need. I love seeing the wonder and curiosity in children's’ faces when they are experiencing something for the first time.

* How did you find your way to TLS?
Two years ago, when I was about to graduate with my Associate Degree in Early Childhood, I began to search online for jobs. I ran across a job posting from The Little School. When I went to the website , and read more about the school’s “5 Big Ideas”, I thought “ This is the school where I want to teach!”.

* What is your happiest childhood memory/what makes it so special?
When I was a child, my family went on a big vacation every year. We went to several neat places, but my favorite was Yellowstone National Park. It was so amazing to see all the beauty and diversity of that place. I remember seeing lots of wildlife. My Mom loved bears, but we hadn’t seen any the whole time we were there. When it was time for us to leave, my Mom started crying because she was disappointed that she hadn’t seen a Grizzly Bear. Without her asking him to, My Dad immediately turned the car around and drove us through the park for a couple more hours. We finally saw a Grizzly bear on the side of the road! My Mom was so happy.

* What did you want to be when you were 12 years old?
A Kindergarten Teacher. I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t want to be anything other than a teacher to young children.

 What is your favorite children's book? What or who made it so special for you?
Curious George. My grandma,”Mimi” used to read it to my brother and I all the time when we were little.

* If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?
Julie Andrews. She’s always been my favorite actress. Sound of Music is my all time favorite Movie.

* What is something about you that most people may not know?
I’m a Vegetarian , and have been one my whole life. I’m very interested in Nutrition, and have taken some courses on it in the past.

* If you were an animal, what would you be? Why?
A horse. So strong and powerful, yet gentle and beautiful.

*  What would you listen to if you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life?
“ Simple Love” by Alison Krauss.

* What's the most memorable class you've ever taken?
Children with Exceptionalities.

* If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?
A Professional Photographer

* What words do you live by?

Be the Change you want to see in the World.

* What do you value most or hold most dear at TLS?
I especially love the emphasis on Outdoor Exploration. I grew up spending lots of time outdoors, and It’s still my favorite place to be!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What is Team Explorer?

            At The Little School we provide our teachers with lots of opportunities to create great classroom environments (and it certainly shows in all our great classes). One of the ways we do that is team meetings once a week all three teachers get to have a meeting together and plan for the week. That’s where Team Explorer comes in! We work to build on the wonderful work that the teachers do everyday in their classrooms!

            We are four dedicated teachers, Ms. Brandie, Ms. Erin, Ms. Tosha and Ms. Ali, who come into classes and engage the children through various focuses while their teachers go to team planning. Everyone of us has our specialty but how does that translate into what we do?

We do art together!

Some of the Many Benefits: We explore various textures as we work over several mediums. We enhance our fine motor skills as we work with items ranging from beads to paint brushes. We develop patience as we create art and we seek to understand color, light, and shadows and how they influence the world around us.

We work in the Garden!

Some of the Many Benefits: We begin to understand where the food we consume comes from by interacting from planting to harvesting We get to taste produce straight from the garden. We develop appreciation for the natural living world which develops empathy. We also use fine motor skills working with tools, picking up worms and all the other fun, tiny critters that can be found in the ground.

We Go on Outdoor Explorations!

Some of the Many Benefits: We develop balance and hand-eye coordination with the uneven terrain. We further understand spacial reasoning with the various objects growing within the space. We improve empathy by playing within nature. We grow teamwork as we attempt to climb on the same tree or leap across rivers.

And we mix and match all these activities!

 Art outside. Collecting natural objects for the garden on walks. Art for the garden. Creating fairy garden.  The fun goes on!

-Ali Huber

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Growth in our gardens and kids!

What's happening in our gardens at Hillsborough??  Take a look...

In the far corner of the courtyard, we planted our Three Sisters Garden.  With small groups from Miss Rose's class, we went out and planted seeds in a circle on a mound in this beautiful wooden hexagon bed.  Just as the Native Americans have done for centuries, we started with corn seeds, then added beans, and lastly planted squash.  These three companion plants all help each other grow.  The corn provides a pole for the beans to climb, the beans add nitrogen to the soil, and the large, spikey squash leaves protect the plants from animals and shade the soil.

Preparing the beds for plants was super-fun with shovels, rakes and trowels.  Since the dirt was one of the kids' favorite parts, we have provided  several "just dirt" beds around the campus where kids can continue to dig and explore the mysteries of dirt!

On the Pre-K playground, we planted herbs, grasses, and flowers on Garden Day and we continue to add to them.  Shredded paper mulch helps keep the soil damp.  Watering the kids and the gardens helps keep everyone cool and hydrated!  Pick-able plants allow the kids to interact with the garden.  The kids have learned to identify mint and lemon balm and love to taste it and share the leaves with teachers and friends.

Chef Justin provided the plants for our first crop of lettuce and the kids had a blast "harvesting" it. We pulled it up and tasted it, and then filled the basket with "produce" and delivered it to Chef Justin in the kitchen to use in making our lunches.

Bugs and worms are another fascinating part of the gardening process.  Pre-K student, Jordan, has actively lead the "worm relocation project" and can be found digging up worms on the playground daily and moving them to the gardens where they help the plants!

Using scissors in the garden has also been fun.  While improving their fine motor skills, the kids trim the grass around the beds and cut catnip from the edges of the fence.  The kids compared trimming the grass to getting haircuts and began to banter that The Little School was a great place to go for a haircut!

Our Fairy Garden provides a place for creativity and wonder.  Micah used some of the materials to create her own fairy creation!

The gardens have added so much to our community.  Check them out on your way to and from your child's classroom!  See you in the garden!

- Miss Erin

Monday, June 8, 2015

Conscious Discipline in those Challenging Moments with your Preschooler

If you have a preschooler, chances are you’ve seen them have a a public an inopportune time...and maybe you’ve felt a little helpless.  All you want is for them to calm down, but the more you try, the louder they scream.  It can be overwhelming, frustrating, and even scary for you (and the witnesses that you fear are judging you).

Now put yourself in your child’s shoes.  You’re so distressed that you feel like your world is ending.  You’re distraught and you don’t feel safe, but someone you look up to, someone you trust to care for you and always keep you safe, is simply telling you to “stop” or “calm down.”  You’re so overwhelmed that you can’t think or speak clearly, but they’re still trying to reason with you in between shushes.   Do you feel better yet?  

If you were upset, would it help you to have someone dismiss your feelings and tell you “You are fine.”?  Or would it make you feel better to have someone calmly acknowledge your upset, validate your reasoning, and then help you constructively choose a solution that would make you feel better?  To your preschooler, not getting a turn with a shovel can feel like the end of their world.  However, if you take the time to acknowledge that feeling, empower them to breathe and self sooth until they are thinking clearly enough to make an alternate, satisfying choice, you will ultimately be setting the framework for your child to be able to cope with any upset all by themselves.

Sounds too good to be true right?  You're saying, "But I've tried, and it's just not that easy."

Conscious Discipline can teach you how to teach your preschooler several life skills to problem solve, communicate, and build relationships positively, but it’s the conflicts and the challenging moments where it can be most helpful.  For those moments, it comes down to three key elements of Conscious Discipline: Composure, Acknowledgement, and Choices.

In Becky Bailey’s Conscious Discipline, she states, "Self control is mind control.  It is being aware of your own thoughts and feelings."  Be aware of your own state.  Are you calm enough to help your child calm down?  After all, no one can make you mad without your permission.  When you let someone else upset you, when you place them in charge of your feelings, you are putting them in control of you.  You are giving up your self control, and if you can’t hold on to your self control, how can you expect your child to control themselves?

You’re saying, “Okay, keep calm.  Stay composed and in control.  Sure.  But how do you keep your composure when your child is tantruming in the middle of a restaurant?”

Take a deep breath
Research has shown it only takes three deep breaths to change your brain state. (Note, there are the occasions where it might take many more...just keep breathing.) Multiple studies have also shown that physically smiling and physically frowning can influence your mood positively and negatively, respectively.  In any situation, if you physically stop and S.T.A.R. (Smile, Take a deep breath or three, And Relax) you’ll notice that you feel more relaxed and more equipped to handle the current stressor.  

It works the same way for your preschooler.  A child in the middle of a tantrum is typically in a survival brain state.  You can’t reason with them because they can’t hear you.  The only way to help a child in a survival state is to make them feel safe.  Take those deep breaths for yourself, and then take some deep breaths for your child.  Encourage and empower them to breathe for themselves, but don’t be discouraged if they can’t hear you.  Just keep breathing.  Give them time while you calmly narrate, “I am right here with you,” and, “You can handle this,” so that they know they are safe.  If you can be sincerely calm, they will realize that the world isn’t ending.   
And Relax

It is extremely important to remember that your child is not acting with you in mind.  They may not even realize that their actions are affecting you at all.  Preschool age children haven’t fully developed the ability to read other’s emotions, so when they’re in an emotional state, you can bet they’re not thinking about how their screaming could be stressing you out.  

Instead, it’s up to you to acknowledge their feelings.  No one wants to be dismissed when they’re upset, so we have to remember to give preschoolers the same respect.  Even though certain problems may feel trivial to you, they feel huge to children because it’s all they know.  Validating that feeling, (whether it’s sadness that they can’t have a certain toy or disappointment when playtime is over,) will help your child identify and understand what those emotions mean for themselves. This is an extremely important step in being able to self regulate.

In the same way that you are working on keeping your composure and your self control, your child wants to be in control too.  Here’s what you can do.  If they are able to voice their needs, give them clearly defined choices and let them be in control of their own choice.   It’s when they feel they’ve lost control that they push back the hardest, but when you present the opportunity to choose something safe, it empowers them. But remember, they have to be able to voice their needs. If they are still in their survival state (huffing and puffing, arms flying, legs kicking, tears falling fast, mucus dripping, screaming) go back to breathing with them or maybe even humming or singing that special song you have together.

Every situation is different and there is no quick fix, but if you remember to breathe and stay in control of your emotions, you will be able to help your child breathe and guide them in taking control of their emotions (bringing them from their survival state into their emotional state). Once they are in their emotional state this is when you can begin to acknowledge their feelings, and give them safe choices.
Parent - “You seem mad.”
Child - They nod their head yes
Parent - “What do you need?”
Child - “I want the purple crayon.”
Parent - “You can ask your sister for it or you can wait until she is done using it. What would you like to do?”
As they begin to communicate more with you, you have helped them in moving from their emotional state to their executive state and you turned a challenging moment into a teachable one. You Did It!!!!!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Stretchy Clay and Other Fun Things!

Butterflies and others explored stretchy white dough, wire, sticks and pine cones! When we provide provocations like this in the art studio, it is very likely that we won't "make" anything. This provocation gave children 4 very different textures to explore and 4 materials that all behave very differently when manipulated. Some stretch, some snap into pieces, and some bend. The children are exploring all aspects of these different properties and how they interact with each other! By focusing our planning efforts on these process oriented activities, as opposed to a specific product, we are giving our children endless learning opportunities in the areas of creativity, critical thinking, and motor skill development!

Friday, March 27, 2015

What Are You Doing?

Our task, regarding creativity, is to help children climb their own mountains, as high as possible. No one can do more. Loris Malaguzzi, Founder of the Reggio Approach 

This is my new goal: pry myself away from the emails and to-do list, and just sit with our students during the week. When I follow this one simple rule, my day takes on a whole 

new unique complexity. By sitting with a child, I am reminded that the teachers and staff of TLS are not the only ones hard at work.  There are at least 500 remarkable discoveries and moments in a child’s day. Everything is new! There is so much to do, so much effortless creativity to unwrap. Then I remember of how huge and amazing OUR jobs are as parents and teachers. We are allowed to be participants in infinite research projects daily. We are allowed to be present and watch these pure creative minds unfurl. We are allowed to go down that creative path with them to a brand new ah-ha moment. We are allowed to challenge them to keep digging (metaphorically and literally). We are allowed to comfort, and build new strength. More importantly however, we are allowed to laugh and laugh all day long. That is the secret: the job of a parent and a teacher is really hard, really big, but really, really funny sometimes.

I walked around and I asked the kids a simple question.  I was surprised how much I received in return. While you read these, imagine all the infinite paths that are being created, the new discoveries being made. Plus, words of children make the best blogs ever. 

What are you doing?

(Holding a worm) “Hee Hee... Touch it!” Ada 2
(Holding a worm) “I touch it!” Landon 2

"This is my car.....vvrroooommm" Gavin 3

"I just found a diamond! See?" (Holds up rock) Colin 3

“I saw a giraffe on the tiger trail, I saw it all by myself because I have super strong eyes. I was afraid of him at first, but then I wasn’t .” Eliza 5

“I went on the tiger trail and I saw a pond and beautiful trees” Lyra 5

Points to the bike he is on, and with the other hand, holds up the lawnmower he is holding.  Bennett 1
“I can see really far away because I have x-ray vision... Did you know that a hippopotamus has a really big nose?” Asher 4

“Dirt!!" Jee Hoon 3

"We're climbing this really tall mountain. Look how high we are!" Malcolm and Caleb

“Stuff” Irving 2

“Let’s freeze Ms. Jessica! Pssssshhhh” Ally (4) and Pressley (3)

“Putting bread (mulch) in the bucket and taking it home” Emerson 3

“It’s time to hokie- pokie!!”  Burke 2

(Touching my necklace) “Did you know my Mommy has a necklace too? They are sparkly” Evan 3

“I just got a haircut and got a lollipop. It was green cherry” Elsie 2

“I am 4! I JUST had my birthday!” Isla 4
“I am 3 and 3/4". Ruby 3 ¾           

(I asked the question to a infant... What are you doing?)He looked at me, and then at my pencil. He took the pencil from my hands and began to turn it end on end in his hands- lead side, metal side. Lead side, metal side. He started to tap one end on the ground. Sandy brought over a tin pan and he began to try the different ends on the pan.  Owen  11 months

- Jessica Larson 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Food for thought

Mindful Eating and Using Mealtimes as a Learning Opportunity
-Helpful tips from Miss Erin, TLS Yoga Teacher

Being mindful means being awake and aware.  In this blog, I will talk about things to be aware of around your child and eating.

Imagine having a personal chef that creates amazing, diverse, organic meals for you every day (like we do here at The Little School).  Imagine you are eating with 4-6 of  your friends at a table.  After serving yourself some food, you probably begin various conversations and lose yourself in social interaction.  At the end of the day, you probably don't even remember what you ate.  You eventually probably take for granted the wonderful food placed before you.  You have succumbed to the very human traits of multi-tasking and habituation.

Now imagine you could re-learn your eating habits from scratch. Would you teach yourself not to like healthy food?  Would you teach yourself to eat as fast as you could and to keep eating even when you were full?

We all have the opportunity to start fresh with our kids.  It is up to us to take this opportunity and use it.  Learning to feed and nourish our bodies is a part of growing up.  It is a part of being aware of who we are.  Different cultures have different eating habits.  Family values play a big role in eating as well.  Let's take a moment to think about what we are teaching our children about food.

Eating healthy is not just about the food pyramid.  It's about learning to listen to and respect our bodies.  Children can learn this from a very young age.

What different ages are learning at meal-times?

rely much on instinct when it comes to eating.  They cry when they feel hungry and stop eating when they are full.  We can help them become aware of this as they develop by verbalizing what we notice.  As infants are drinking milk from their bottle, we can talk to them.  "You are drinking that milk fast.  You must be very hungry.... I notice you are playing with your bottle, is your belly full?"

Before picking up her whole
plate, Mackenzie used her
fingers and hands
to eat and explore her food.

One-year-olds are learning to use their fingers and to eat finger-food.  They are learning to try foods for the very first time.  They are learning about the textures and tastes of food.  They may be slow to eat (and messy) but the experience and skills they are learning will help them learn to feed themselves and appreciate food in the long run.

Lillian offers to pour milk
for her friends

2-5 year-olds are learning self-help skills and how to eat in a social situation (e.g. table manners).  They are playing with boundaries and testing expectations.  They are learning how to be independent beings with preferences of their own.  When we respect their preferences, they will learn to respect their own feelings and intuitions.

As someone who has taught all of these age groups, I know it is hard to remember where these children are at in their development when we are trying to get through meal-times in a timely manner.  We all have a schedule in our heads that we are trying to stick to.  But by taking a deep breath and slowing down (this is the mindful part), we can be the example that these kids learn from.  We can model healthy eating habits and help these kids develop healthy relationships with food and their bodies.

How do we do  this?

  • Preparing meals and plates fully before sitting down to eat so that you can eat with your child instead of being the "servant" who feeds them.
  • Allow kids to help themselves and be a part of the preparations as much as possible.  Let them set the table and bring their plates to the sink when finished.  Remember, they are capable beings and with a little support can do much on their own.  
  • Demonstrating trying new things.  Talking about the food you are eating where it comes from.  Who prepared it?
  • Talk about gratitude...for all the things that brought the food to the table; the farmer who grew the vegetables, the cook who prepared it and eventually, with older kids, the animals who gave their life so we could eat (this is a hard one for me and for many who may not want to dwell on death while eating and can lead to some very intense conversations, but good ones).
  • Focus on the food and the act of eating rather than small talk which distracts us from the experience of eating.
  • Talk about how our bodies feel before and after eating.  Talk about how food gives us energy and what different foods do for our bodies.
  • Encourage trying new things more than once before deciding whether we like or don't like a food.  Talk about how different people like different things and that's OK.  Kids often succumb to peer pressure and when one child says he/she doesn't like something, others will agree.  Focusing on choosing for one's self is a real learning opportunity here.
  • Avoid your own preconceived judgments about food.  Just enjoy being a part of your child's learning experience about food.
  • Respect their opinions.  If they don't like something, don't force them to eat it.  
  • Allow your child to eat at their own pace. But recognize cues that they are finished.  You can also bring back their attention to their food and eating if they get distracted.
See what happens when you try some of these things.  Part of being mindful is being curious.
Isabella decided she did not
like the black beans.  So she
was able to problem-solve
and pick them out.

Landon is enjoying
eating with his small
group in the dining
And always be gentle with yourself.  Parenting (and teaching) is hard work.  With loving kindness, acknowledge that you are doing the best that you can.  As you let go of your tension, your kids will respond.  Just try it and see!  And if you are already doing these things, wonderful!