Holding to What We Know

The view from our new apartment - a storm rolling in across Lac Léman.

The view from our new apartment – a storm rolling in across Lac Léman.

My family just moved from California to Lausanne, Switzerland.  We are excited about all of the opportunities that await us in our new home, but we are realistic about the time it will take us to adjust to the big things (new language and school system), as well as the small things (the metric system and living without a car).

Not surprisingly, I have visited the grocery store nearly every day in the last eight since we arrived. I have also baked chocolate chip cookies, (more…)

Learning from Children: 3 Lessons for a Full Life

To risk repeating a tired cliche, children know far more than they’re given credit for.  Frankly, many of their natural impulses move them along developmental trajectories swimmingly until we jump in and pull them off track.  Take eating, for example.  Did you know that typically developing children are born with the mechanisms to get food? (crying for mama paired with a powerful sucking reflex)  The natural sense for when they are full? (turning away from the bottle or breast)  And taste buds that differentiate safe and unsafe foods? (sweet = safe)  And then there’s motor movement.  Children – without interventions from us – will learn to stretch, roll, grasp, stand, run, skip, swing from the monkey bars, stand on one foot, and dance a powerful, impromptu, and uninhibited jig.  (Believe me — one such jig was danced in an oh-so-powerful and uninhibited manner this very morning!)  What about their insatiable drive for knowledge?  Manifesting in early infancy as an imitative protruding tongue, in toddler-hood as the oft declared NO!, and in the preschool intensity with the sand and water table – children passionately construct knowledge of the world around them like little sponges soaking up everything that brain wiring and hands-on experience affords.

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The Play Waltz

It started off simple enough.  Shredded paper.  Sensory tub.  But by the time we were finished, we had bird’s eggs, buttons, feathers, sorting, nests, and (of course) some hand-eye-coordination practice via the vacuum cleaner.  Part of my philosophy is that children (all people, really) deserve the right to engage their passions, follow their impulses, and control their learning, and that an outcome of making this kind of space for children is a set of lifelong learning skills that become the foundation for later success.  As early childhood educators, we facilitate those endeavors by supporting the social and emotional interactions and offering materials to enable exploration.

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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…)

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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