This is a picture of Simone in her absolute favorite shirt. You may see a tuxedo shirt, but ah – you would be wrong. You see, from her perspective (at the top looking down on her belly), she sees a kite with a pink balloon (aka corsage). She has worn this shirt for a year, so the entire Abundant Life crew knows this shirt as “The Kite Shirt.” So, no surprise, when Desmond appeared this morning sporting his equally fancy onesie, his friends all noticed. “Desmond has a kite shirt, too!” (Thanks to Uncle Brent and Aunt Jen whose wedding gave us the occasion to purchase said kite shirts…at the time, for a much younger Simone and smaller older sister, Tekoa.)
Crying. Screaming. Whining. Moping. Melting down. Pestering. Throwing a tantrum. Pitching a fit. We have many ways to describe a child’s emotional sorrows: the anger, desire, frustration, fury, sadness, and loneliness experienced by the young children in our lives. As parents and providers, we are not-so-subtly pressured to get these moments under control. The sideways glances while we are out in public, or the raised eyebrows of judgment imploring a tighter reign over our reckless and disrespectful lot. And then there is the more powerful internal drive to fix. We often hold the power to bandage the woes – the desired cookie, the delayed bedtime, the ability to walk instead of ride. Yet what do children experience when we fix? And is the fix always truly a fix?
“Children are miracles. Believing that every child is a miracle can transform the way we design for children’s care. When we invite a miracle into our lives, we prepare ourselves and the environment around us. We may set out flowers or special offerings. We may cleanse ourselves, the space, or our thoughts of everything but the love inside us. We make it our job to create, with reverence and gratitude, a space that is worthy of a miracle!” – Anita Rui Olds (in Designs for Living and Learning)
Early childhood educators are known for their ability to make gold out of someone else’s recycle bin (to be honest, there is gold to be found in the dumpster as well!). I have written before about the value of repurposing soon-to-be-recycled stuff into fine works of art or ingenious open-ended play materials. Those of us in early childhood professions often find ourselves at the mercy of tiny budgets, and work to create environments out of a conglomerate of discarded hand-me-downs – not that there is one ounce of anything wrong with creating environments out of second-hand materials, but beauty often takes a backseat to functionality when it comes to early childhood space design.
I have a fantastic picture to share with you. This captures the heart of emergent, organic literacy development in action. At Abundant Life, I use emergent curriculum, which means that everything I offer the crew grows out of what they are already interested in – I don’t impose lesson plans of my own creation on their work unless my ideas were sparked by theirs, and in those cases, I rely on careful observations to see how my ideas are received. I have bailed more than once on what I thought would be a good idea for the sake of preserving the child-directed quality of my program. A group of children had created a play scenario with a baby tiger family, but was having a hard time keeping other children quiet so the baby tiger could sleep. I offered to Cadence the option to make a sign, that others might not know that the tigers are trying to sleep and a visual reminder might be the solution. We worked together to make this sign.
We didn’t dilute our water color today. We pulled out red, yellow, and blue, and armed with full-strength color, we painted strokes of beauty and creativity on thick, absorbent watercolor paper. We used white crayons to create a color resist, we pressed down masking tape before adding color to protect some area of our pages for a striking white design, and we even soaked strips of paper in water first and then added color, watching the primary set bleed and then transform into the secondary. (more…)