Open-Ended Literature

Simone reads one of her favorites to Henry: Pancakes for Breakfast.

If you’ve been following our adventures here at Abundant Life for very long now, you will know I am passionately devoted to open-ended play things for children: materials that spark creativity and imagination and leave the product wide open.  Our shelves are filled an odd assortment of wooden spools, ceramic tile samples, and wooden trim pieces that serve a variety of purposes throughout the day.  It was not until recently that I made the connection between my love for wordless picture books and my passion for open-ended materials.  With wordless picture books, the storyline is left to the reader.  And while there is one primary theme running throughout, the story can be retold thousands of different ways each time it is told.

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Long Days and the Long View

The crew has decorated our dirt digging box

I am a night person.  The gears in my brain really start turning around 11:30 at night, and if I’m not careful, the clock blinks well into the next calendar day before my eyes close.  I am envious of people who spring out of bed, perky and rested with anticipation of the day moving like electricity through their fingertips.  Me – I am brewing a strong pot of black tea, and squeezing in a few last yawns before I open my home to young ones.

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Rainbow Party!

Our rainbow on the ceiling

A few weeks ago, we were walking home from the park when it started to rain – one of those spring rains with large drops and still visible blue sky and sunshine.  Rainbows!  Look for the rainbows!  The crew and I started looking, but couldn’t find one that day.  When we got home, we started talking about rainbows – where they are, what colors they are made of, what letters are in the word, how to create rainbows from primary colors…all of the logical extensions of a near rainbow sighting.  I was inspired by some of the pictures posted by For the Children during preschool tours to create some rainbow art, and we ended up with a masterpiece! (more…)

Through Their Eyes: Keeping Our Expectations Developmentally Appropriate

Henry wasn’t quite ready to leave – he was busy lining up these people in a particular order. When it was time to go, we took a picture so he can recreate the lineup tomorrow. Through his eyes, departure time means the end of this project he has spent time to create. This picture will allow him to complete his project tomorrow and meet his family’s need to go home.

I am finishing Reclaiming Childhood: Freedom and Play in an Age of Fear.  What a read!  Helene Guldberg (2009) challenges educators to think critically about the reasons why we do what we do.  And if you know me, you know I love a read that challenges me to be a more critical consumer of information.  In a chapter about bullying, she discusses the dangers of viewing children as little adults.

Whereas in the past it was accepted that children, in their unsophistication, would employ the kind of tactless, heartless, and even in-your-face offensive behaviour that adults could not get away with, today such behaviour in the playground is seen as just as shocking and problematic as if it were between adults in an office. (102)

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More Questions Than Answers

Monarch Butterfly

Check out this giant monarch butterfly that Tekoa caught with her hands!  She is our resident fearless bug hunter and aspiring entomologist – both fascinated and mesmerized by all the tiny creatures of the earth.  And her intense drive to explore is contagious!  The whole crew is on a perpetual insect investigation.  We have perfected our search: worms, spiders, and centipedes reside in the damp, dark, under-rock soil, and butterflies love the honeysuckle along the path.  The vocabulary “holding bugs” or “looking bugs” prevents bugs from assuming an unnecessarily scary personality while emphasizing the fact that not all creatures like to be touched.  Lengthy discussions of insect defense mechanisms are held around our meal table: we know that bees can sting, spiders can bite, mosquitoes…well, we are all too familiar with what mosquitoes can do!  And we empathize with the plight of small creatures and their need for protection.  After all, we are (mostly) small around here, so it is easy to see the perspective of an insect who would need poison, or a stinger, or speed, or bright warning colors to dissuade its predators (in fact, we wonder what it might be like to have some of our own defense mechanisms!).  We talk life cycle (the morning after a big rainstorm is particularly fortuitous for a robin!), insect diets, and how to distinguish males and females – in species with gender distinctions.  I could (and often do) run a curriculum entirely around insects.  I rely on books from the library and field guides to build the cognitive knowledge about insects, and even more importantly, to build the meta-cognitive skills of knowing where to find information.

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