Friday, December 30, 2011

Herbert and Arthur have been up to a few hijinx - and we want to wish you a very happy new year too!

It's the second last day of 2011, and I always tend to feel a need to clean house, and even cupboards, to get ready for the new year. This year I am off work, and so have been moving at a more relaxed pace, sleeping in abit, and taking more time as well to play with my two cats Herbert and Arthur.

This morning, H and A were telling me it was time for their breakfast at 5:00. A little grumpily and sleepily, I got their breakfast and headed back to bed for a few more hours of sleep. Later in the morning after coffee, and some time spent reading I went to make my bed, to find my two companions just waking up from some shut eye.

Paul and I went out for some errands, and a coffee at a favourite coffee shop. It was nice to have a chance to touch base with Paul, as his schedule has been quite full, teaching high school science. He was surprised by the amount of grading teachers have - basically Paul worked every evening, and most of the weekends grading student assignments this past semester! But he loves it!

We returned to the apartment with groceries. Today I also had a large paper shopping bag....

I find Herbert's body language is always pretty clear. After consolidating his temporary ownership of the bag, he chose to turn his back on me.

I took these two pictures of Arthur, while he was trying to play with the strap on the end of my camera. I took alot of unsuccessful shots of my knee, and the floor, before finally capturing abit of him. :)

Here they are taking a rest - sometimes they remind me of majestic lions out on the savannahs of Africa. Paul has mentioned this at times, too - as though our thoroughly domesticated cats might share some of the body language, and habits of their much larger, wilder cousins. Hmmm...would you agree?

I believe it may be a Scottish tradition to clean one's home and closets out before the start of the new year. It seems to me like a good custom, sweeping out the old year so to speak. So, tomorrow morning I will continue to do abit of this (within reason) :), and also plan to make an apple pie. This isn't a new year's tradition, I just have wanted to do this for awhile, and  so will make time for this then. I also plan a long walk, with some time for reflection and relaxation. What special ways do you find to say goodbye to the old year?

I would like to offer you sincere wishes for health, and joy in 2012 my friends. My life has become so much bigger, and richer through getting to know you.
Hugs, Brenda

Headbonks to our feline friends from H and A!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A little bit of this, and that

This month I have found myself sharing my early childhood blog posts here, and today here's just one more. My next post here, will likely be something different from those related to my work.

I hope each of you are enjoying a week of peace and happiness.

A little bit of this, and that:

I've been enjoying reading the posts of several of my favourite bloggers, in the past few days. (In truth, I find every blog I have encountered to be a "favourite", but there are too many for me to read on a daily basis. : )

I was so impressed to find that there were energetic individuals posting over this post-holiday time.I tend to be abit tired over the holidays - catching up on rest after the buildup. I love the preparations for Christmas, and the music, stories, art, lights, and general fun and merriment; but in my family we have a quiet day on Christmas Day. This year, my son, Paul and I went to the new "Mission Impossible" movie, on the afternoon of Christmas Day; and then we came home and made a small, but delicious Christmas meal .I haven't quite developed an acceptable way to spend Christmas - after a few losses in my family, and not being a great socializer in my personal life.

I never thought I would go to a movie on Christmas Day, but we did last year, and then now, again. Interestingly, there was quite a large turnout, and I didn't feel too bad about doing this.

I tend to take a few days to somewhat get back to myself after this holiday, as I tend to feel losses more so at this time than others. Please do not think I am looking for you to feel badly for me; but this is my honest experience. I know that I am not alone, in trying to find a way to get through Christmas Day. And really, I love my life, and my work.

But, back to the interesting blog posts I've enjoyed reading - I so appreciated reading, and thinking again about the work of teaching young children, and feeling re-inspired.

Teacher Tom, has an interesting post today, about some directions education has been going in the States, which is not really child appropriate. He wrote about how he resists these forces by continuing to teach in the right and good ways he does.

I found myself reflecting on how all the bloggers I read do the same, in sharing and talking about the wonderful teaching each person does. There is surely great hope and power in all this

I feel that in my small way, I too contribute to the positive forces for good in early childhood education. One of my favourite ways to teach my young children is through play. Sometimes when I sense a gap, I will actively begin play, and see where the children take it.

The past few weeks, we have had little snow, and our play yard has actually seemed abit barren, with the frozen ground, some ice, and just not much else.The children don't want to wear their mitts, but still do need them, and there tends to be abit of standing around, feeling miserable over mitts, and hats, and not much to look at or play with.

I know this sounds quite dispririting and dreadful, and I know I should have come up with many different creative things we could do outside. But the lack of snow seems to have thrown me and my co-workers for abit of a loop. I really was about the only person who did venture out to this "no man's land" with my children.because it just looked so dreary, and there was so much to do inside where it was bright and cheery.

However, we did go out, and after standing around my children soon began to discover sticks, leaves, sleeping ladybugs, and as all children will, began to just move and explore.This is always the moment when I know we were so right to get out, and when I feel all the stresses and tensions leave our bodies.

One enjoyable and fun play I initiated in the past few weeks, was "Let's tow you out of the mud". We have several wonderful riding toys, and large plastic cars, and when I noticed a child just sitting in one (which the children will often do, and that is okay too), I asked them "Are you stuck in the mud?', and then suggested I might tow them out. So I "became" a tow truck, driving along a circuitious way to get to the child, and then "backed up" all the way saying "beep,beep,beep", (I think you get the picture), and pulled the child out.

I just love the slightly bemused look children get when I play like this with them, and then the look of engagement as they "get it", and start to play. I am abit of a ham, when it comes to playing with my children, and it's one of my favourite parts of my work.

I come by my calling to work with young children "honestly", I think. My best memories of my own childhood, are of the fun I got up to with my two younger brothers, who tended to look up to me, for direction. We just had so much fun outdoors in those days.

We were also blessed with a mother who made sure we got outside everyday, no matter the weather.

So, to get back to the present, I have most of this week between Christmas and the new year off. Our center is open at this period, but we had the option to take time off because our enrollment tends to be quite low over the holidays.I did work, yesterday, and now back at home. I'm taking the time to rest, and reflect, and recharge

.In the New Year, my entire group will change, as our daycare center has decided to go to "mixed age groupings", or "family groupings". This will be interesting; and as with all change it will also be exciting, and a little stressful for the children. I'll be glad I think, that I had some down time before going into all this.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

I enjoy celebrating Hanukkah, with my young children at the daycare center where I work.
 I often introduce the holiday by reading a childrens book, I Have a Little Dreidal.

My children were very attentive  to this story, and were excited to play with the small wooden dreidal which came with the book.
I set up a small center with the dreidal and used the timer for awhile to make sure all the children who wanted a turn would be able to get one.

Here is a lovely version of the Hebrew song, Hineh Ma Tov. This song is not  a traditional Hanukkah song; it is sung as part of Shabbat. However I think that it so beautiful, I thought it would be good to use. Hineh Ma Tov can be translated as, "How good it is for brothers and sisters to live together in unity." This video is part of Matthew Vaughan's, You Tube project Rise Up Singing. I think you will enjoy listening to this!

Oh, by the way here is an update on my scarf project. I wanted to crochet a scarf for each of the children in my small group of children - seven scarves.This would be my Christmas present to them. I'm still working - I'm not a fast crocheter, and although I used a very simple plan, I started over a few times before getting something I liked.

But, I do like making handmade gifts, and working right up to the very day, has often been abit of a tradition for me.

 I have 1 and 1/2 scarves to go, and won't be done by tomorrow. However if I get them into the child's locker next week, it should be ok. Some children have started their holidays and won't be at the center tomorrow.

I found that the kind of yarn makes a difference in how the crocheting goes, and some I enjoyed using more than others. I also thought of a few other projects I might like to work on.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tissue paper tree ornaments and a favourite Christmas fingerplay

I am winding down Christmas arts with my children at the daycare, but here is one last post from my early childhood blog. 

Tissue paper tree ornaments and a favourite Christmas fingerplay:

I borrowed this wonderful craft from Melissa, at The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

The process is really enjoyable for young children. We created many balls from newspaper and masking tape, and used paper clips for the hooks.

The next step, was abit challenging for my 2 year olds. It involves painting a layer of Modge Podge , onto the newspaper, adding squares of tissue paper, and then adding another layer of Modge Podge. Melissa also used glitter, to complete the ornament.

My 2 year old children found it abit difficult to hold onto the balls when they were sticky, and as well ended up with tissue paper stuck to their fingers, and some also had Modge Podge in their hair. : )

Nevertheless we persevered, and although the finished product wasn't "perfect", they are still beautiful.

We still have alot of newspaper balls, so tomorrow, I plan to present this idea to the 4 year olds I work with in the early afternoon, while my 2 year olds are napping. I'm sure they will also enjoy this craft.

Many thanks to Melissa for this wonderful idea. I know I'll use this idea in other ways at other times. Melissa and her daughter have been so busy this month, with many inspiring ideas.

There are just so many wonderful ideas, stories, and songs to do with our children, over the holiday season; and it isn't possible to do everything.

But there is always the next year!

Here is a favourite flannel board fingerplay, I bring out every year.I adapted it from the book, Resources for Creative Teaching in Early Childhood Education, by Bonnie Mack Fleming, et al (1969)(p. 304).

Here's the childrens' Christmas tree, standing straight and tall, with a pot to keep it in so it will not fall.

Add two silver bells,
A candycane,

Three gingerbread men,
And a star for the top you see!

My young children never tire of hearing the same simple fingerplays and stories, over and over again. This is often out for them to use in their own way as well.

Wishing you very Happy Holidays, and a time of peace and joy for you and your family.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Coventry Carol

I was searching for Christmas and Hanukkah songs, and happily found this young man on You Tube. I like his down to earth presentation. He is working towards recording all the songs from a song book, called Rise Up and Sing, which is quite inspiring!

Here is a very pretty version of a lovely Christmas carol.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Santa Lives Here

 I've been sharing my posts from my early childhood education blog here for the past week or two. Christmas and children just belong together, and so I think you might enjoy to read some of the things me and my children have been doing this month.

Santa Lives Here:
The Christmas spirit is alive and well, in my small group of young children at the Daycare center where I work.

This is where Santa hangs up his working clothes every day, when's he's finished with them.

These clothes also get put into service, when one young boy in my group chooses to be "Mr. Grinch"..

This well loved book has been read every day, by request, and as well is often taken off the bookshelf by the children throughout the day. As you can see this book is quite worn. I've been reading it to my young children in day care, every Christmas season for about 21 years now.

This "Thanksgiving" story has returned to our bookshelf by special request. It had been taken home by me, after our Thanksgiving, back in October, but my children suddenly began asking for "Gobble gobble, wibble wobble - Do the Noodle Dance" (the first lines of each page).

I'm pleased my children are enjoying stories. Storytime is one of my favourite times. I've learned over the years, that it is counter productive to be too formal with story time, or to expect all the children to come and sit together as a group. My children are just 2 years old, and I find that I need to read stories when the best opportunity arises, and to accept that some of the children will prefer to be moving around, or playing nearby. However, I've learned that the children are listening, and enjoying in their own way...and within a few months even those who were least interested in coming to sit for story, start to come sit for longer and longer periods.

This book is the most requested and looked at book right now in our small room. We usually start the day at 8:00, just sitting quietly, with our new Beta fish, named Danny. We then have been reading this book - and this happens EVERY morning, like a small needed routine - for over a month now. Although I borrowed three Rainbow Fish books from the library, this is the one my children are fascinated with. I have a mixed age group in the early morning, and everyone enjoys the story.

We made some paper plate fish back in early November, when our fish Danny came to live in our room.

We also made some paper plate Santa's in early December - they look very jolly I think.

We made this handprint wreath together, and had lots of fun using our thumb prints to make the berries.

Next week on Wednesday Hanukkah begins and we'll be enjoying some beautiful Hanukkah stories. We'll learn "The Dreidal Song", and play with a dreidal. And we may get to making some candle art.

I'm glad we have these wonderful celebrations in December - to provide us merriment and light.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just hanging out together

I had a great day with the children, in my small group, at the daycare center where I work. We went outside to play in the morning, and so spent the afternoon just hanging out together. I always sense a time in the year, when I know my children are truly feeling comfortable with me, and one another. It's like a small turning point.
Suddenly the emotional climate becomes more relaxed, and the children start really playing together in small groups, sometimes barely noticing that I'm in the room with them. Now and then one or two, or a group will join me, and we'll work on a puzzle together, or read together.

This is a floor puzzle we've been enjoying this past week.
This is what I've been working towards all fall, the moment when I can almost hear a gentle "humming" in the air, of young minds working, and growing, and becoming themselves.It is my reward, for all the planning, and room arranging, and coaching of my kids.

So, today in the afternoon, my children and I spread out throughout the room - three playing a game involving the "Grinch" (a small boy in a small Santa suit, considers himself to be the grinch when dressed this way); two children and I working on puzzles; one child playing farm animals; one building blocks; and one playing cars. And we really played in a focused way like this for about 40 minutes!

Now and then a child might go to the table to draw, and another might go to open a book, and "read" it. It just does my "teacher's" heart so good, to see my children playing in a relatively "civilized" way with one another, and making choices for themselves, to go and read or draw, and then return to the more active play. I think they are "self-regulating" - an important skill every person needs.(I don't mean to be derogatory about my children when I say that they were playing in a "civilized" way, but in a way the play of very young 2 year olds sometimes feels abit "uncivilized". They tend to be self centered, and it is hard for them to learn to see others as people with rights like themselves - so there can be hitting, and other aggression. but as the children mature, it does seem more "civilized".)

Sometimes it seems that my groups of children tend to come together, and feel like a "family", after some  kind of event, or challenge. Sometimes this might be an outing to the museum; or to the water spray park, in the summer. We had a small Christmas party on Friday - nothing big, but just special enough. I feel that may account for the group feeling more cohesive today.

My children enjoyed putting their own marshmallows in their hot chocolate :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gifts and Play

At the daycare center where I work, my children have been busy creating gifts for their family.

We used acrylic paint, and sparkle paint too. I like that each painting is unique, and think these will be received with joy.

We also made our own wrapping paper using cookie cutters to make prints with tempera paint. Some of the children also used their hands.(Of course). :)

We played indoors today as it was very cold and windy today, outdoors, and the children continued their play using various "Santa" props. A parent brought in a very small Santa outfit for us, and we have been taking turns being Santa.

I think the Christmas spirit is alive and well in this small room of young children!