We teachers know quite a bit about what is good for kids! Seven of us had the opportunity to learn that we are, indeed, doing right by “our kids” when we attended a conference this summer titled “Good Stuff for Kids,” presented by Bev Bos, director and teacher at the Roseville Community School in California.
Of course, we can always make it better-that is why we went! We each left the conference intensely inspired with goals for the year-goals that are as different as we are. These goals included improving our outdoor play spaces; getting rid of some of the toys in our school that lead to programmed play and introducing more loose parts; singing more songs and helping the children keep their childhood.
My goal is to turn our outdoor space-which is an alley filled with concrete-into a better place for kids to play. I know kids will always use what is available to them. Currently, I am trying to locate an old fashioned water pump. I am old enough to have used one as a kid, and I remember the sense of pride I felt when I made the water come out of that pump. I primed it with a little water and then pumped and pumped and pumped and, despite the fact that I was a scrawny kid with skinny little arms, I got the water to come out. I felt very powerful! I'm hoping to share that experience with the kids in my school.
One of the best things a parent or teacher can do is to think back on his or her own childhood. What do you remember from the time you were a child? How did you while away the endless days of summer? Like most of us at the conference, you may recall playing outdoors; building hideaways and forts; giving tea parties to teddy bears in a cardboard box; digging to China; making grass clipping stew; hunting for frogs in the pond; making houses in the shrubs; and playing with natural materials such as rocks, flowers, mud and water.
We heard about a father who dumped a truckload of dirt into his
beautifully landscaped backyard for his child. Can you imagine, a huge
mound of dirt for filling and dumping and digging and diving? The dad was
excited to be giving this gift to his son. A neighbor came over and asked
him why he was ruining his yard with all that dirt. The dad replied, “I'm
not growing grass, I'm raising my child”.
Just for fun...
Painting outside the box
Is your kid bored with the old paint with brush on paper routine? Try some of these ideas:
Dreary fall days are perfect for painting a window with tempura or finger paint.
Try painting with a blindfold.
Prepare a large ziploc bag with a small amount of liquid starch and a small amount of tempura paint sealed inside. Using fingertips (not nails), make a design on the bag. Kids enjoy seeing the color emerge.
Spread a large sheet of butcher paper on a garage floor, get the hose ready, and have them paint with their feet, fingers, noses and other body parts.
Dilute tempura paint with water and paint using eyedroppers
Try alternatives to brushes: roll-on deodorant and squeeze bottles, marbles, spoons, forks, foods, cotton balls, Q-tips, string and tree bark.
Why is the sky blue?
If you haven't heard this one before, just wait, you will. If the most common answer (“Because it isn't green”) doesn't satisfy your child's inquiring mind, try the following experiment.
Fill a clear glass container (about the size of a pitcher) with water and add a few drops of whole milk (if you only have skim, add more drops). The idea is to make the water milky enough so that it's hard to see through.
Shine a white light (like a flashlight) into one side of the container while observing the water at a 90 degree angle from the light beam. Does the water change color? Now look through the container directly into the light beam. The water should be a different color than from the side.
Not working? Add more milk.
PAC: what and why
by Tom Hobson, Co-op Parent
As we scramble to get the new school year underway, let's take a look at the North Seattle Community College-affiliated Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and its activities.
One of PAC's primary functions is to make the cooperative preschool experience available to those not otherwise able to afford it. PAC Parent Coordinator Judy LeBlanc said, “The main job of the committee is to screen for need and level of need-most people applying for scholarships receive some level of assistance.” Qualifying families may receive scholarships equaling up to 50 percent of tuition costs. Annually, some 40 to 50 families are assisted in this way.
Nearly 90 percent of PAC's annual budget is distributed to needy families in the form of scholarships. These are covered exclusively by the earnings of the annual PAC raffle.
“We need to increase our raffle selling activity,” LeBlanc said. The raffle this past year raised more than $7087-less than the $8336 that was raised in 1997-1998. For 1998-1999, more than $8360 were awarded in scholarships-108 applications or tuition for 40 to 45 different children over the year.
Parent education and enrollment support
The PAC operating budget is funded through dues of $35 per year- paid by each co-op. These monies constitute 10 percent of the PAC budget and are used to fund all other PAC activities. These activities include quarterly parent education seminars and lectures, which feature some of the area's leading experts on children and education. Past events have included such important topics as sibling rivalry, emotional intelligence and the effects of television on our children's developing brains.
PAC also supports co-ops by orchestrating the open registration to enroll new children, monitoring openings at individual co-ops and assisting those who need help to fill up those empty slots.
In addition, PAC and NSCC co-sponsor the annual leadership workshop for co-op officers.
As your child approaches the end to his or her preschool years, attention turns to the often complex and confusing world of kindergartens. PAC's Kindergarten Readiness Committee is responsible for producing comprehensive “Kindergarten Readiness” folders as well as generating kindergarten-related information for this newsletter. This information saves co-op parents an incredible amount of time and energy by providing data and advice about their options for kindergarten.
Politics and communication
PAC's Political Action Committee keeps us informed of relevant political and social issues regarding children and education, letting us know about developments that will improve children's educational opportunities and calling us to action when the best interests of our children are threatened.
The most elementary purpose of PAC, however, is to increase the quality of communication between all the NSCC co-ops. This connection has been critical in mobilizing efforts to influence legislators when funding for the parent co-op preschool program has been threatened.
The newsletter and website exist to inform you about important dates including scholarship deadlines, upcoming seminars and lectures and raffle information; to help you disseminate the reports for the various PAC committees, and to serve as a clearinghouse for ideas, solutions and techniques from other preschools.
In addition, an important strand in the web of communication is the monthly PAC meetings that PAC members from all co-ops are required to attend. LeBlanc said these meetings provide “an invaluable forum for exchange of ideas and input to policy between the college and PAC and all the other NSCC co-ops.”
“Attendance of each PAC member is essential to this process,” she added.
“Incidentally,” LeBlanc said, “all vocational programs at the college (of which we're one) are required to have an advisory committee.
Dealing With “Misbehavior” at Co-op
(PART ONE OF TWO)
by Deborah Woolley Lindsay, Parent Educator
In these situations, should you intervene? And if so, at what point? Should you let the children “work it out” themselves? Or should you go find the preschool teacher? If you do intervene, how will the other parents react? What if you do the “wrong” thing?
Situations such as these arise all the time at preschools, and they can be confusing to parents. Years ago when I was in a toddler group with my first-born, I remember watching with admiration as another mother (she was in the group with her third child) swiftly intervened in a situation where two children were struggling over the same toy. She seemed to know as if by instinct what to say, how to stop the conflict, how to redirect the children. For most of us it is not that easy.
It can be hard to know what to do at these moments, especially if we are first-time parents and if we are new to co-op. We feel a lot of pressure: the need to act quickly, the unfamiliarity of the situation, the knowledge that other parents may be watching us, our anxiousness to apply what we heard about in parent ed , our worry about how parents may react if we discipline their child. We may wonder not only what action we should take, but whether we should take any action at all. And, of course, if our own child is involved, our own emotions may make clear thinking nearly impossible.
Discipline is a complicated and emotionally charged issue. If a parent disciplines a child when it's really not appropriate to do so, or disciplines a child in a punitive, harsh or shaming manner, it is harmful to the child, and the child's parent will rightfully feel protective, perhaps even outraged. Discipline issues are potentially divisive for co-ops if there is not a consensus about what kinds of behavior require intervention (i.e., what constitutes a “misbehavior”) and what kinds of intervention are desirable. Co-op parents should talk with each other, their parent educator, and preschool teacher about the issues involved in situations like these and to try to develop some guidelines for when and how to intervene.
Here are a few proposed principles, followed by practical suggestions. The parent educator and preschool teacher at your own co-op will undoubtedly have other ideas to share and may suggest different approaches. My hope is that what follows will provide a starting-point for discussion.
Be clear about your role. At co-op, parents are present not just as parent of their own child; they are also assistant teachers. That means parents are responsible for the learning and well-being of all the children in the co-op, not just their own. So in situations where a child is behaving inappropriately, your role is to intervene. Think of what you would want your child's preschool teacher to do if you weren't present, and do the same.
Be clear about the goal. Why should we intervene? The immediate goals are to protect the children and the preschool environment from harm, and to repair any damage (physical, emotional, and property) when harm is done. But the root of the word “discipline” is “to teach,” and with that in mind another important goal of discipline at this age is to teach children positive, pro-social behavior. “Teaching” in this case means more than telling; it means modeling, showing, redirecting-helping the child act appropriately. When we intervene in misbehavior, our focus should be on redirecting the child to positive behavior. If we recognize that behind all misbehavior lies a legitimate goal or need, we need to help misbehaving children find appropriate ways of getting what they need. This includes helping them find language to express what they are feeling or to ask for what they want.
More concretely, for misbehavior that is unsafe, hurtful, or destructive, the goal should be (1) to stop the behavior immediately, (2) to go to the aid of the victim, if there is one, and (3) to help the "offender" find a way of making amends. For misbehavior that is inappropriate but not unsafe, harmful, or destructive, the goal should be (1) to discourage that behavior (saying “Whoops,” “Oh-oh,” etc., or by ignoring attention-getting misbehavior) and (2) to redirect the child to appropriate behavior. In both cases, another goal is to teach what is acceptable behavior at preschool by stating what is not allowed, followed by a suggestion for what the child could do or by asking the child to propose a positive solution. Moral judgment-making the child feel ashamed, conveying that the child was “bad”-should never be the goal and we should scrupulously control our verbal and nonverbal behavior to be certain that we do not shame the child. In certain families, that may be a goal of discipline, but not at preschool.
Be clear about what is developmentally appropriate. Whenever we decide to intervene, we need to be sure that our expectations for children's behavior are realistic for their age and stage of development. To expect three-year-olds to “share” a box of markers is unrealistic; at that age they are still learning about “mine” and “yours,” and have a great deal of anxiety and confusion about possession. Asking them to share may feel like asking them to give up the markers (better to give them each a few markers, or ask them to “take turns” with the box). To expect a four-year-old to know the difference between lying and telling the truth is similarly futile (this is the age of imagination and fantasy). Your parent educator and preschool teacher are sources of information about what behavior can realistically be expected and what kinds of “misbehavior” should be ignored for developmental reasons.
(Part two of this story will be presented in the October issue)
Tom Hobson 723-1097
Mandy Lantry 706-5702
Parent Education Program College Office 527-3783
Web Site: nsccux.sccd.ctc.edu/~parented
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