Saturday, December 30, 2006

Reality Check


For those of us who are no longer in a classroom on a daily basis, there is a great reality check that comes when you are responsible for little children for a period of time. I recently babysat two of my granddaughters (ages 5 & 2 1/2) while their parents were out of town for a couple of days. I seemed to have forgotten that little children need constant interaction. I admit that I was worn out and was reminded that I am very glad I had my small children while I was much younger. Still, it was a delightful experience, one that I would gladly repeat at any time. We made cookies, went to a movie, walked to the bookstore, read stories and many other activities. Little children remind you about what is truly important in life. They remind me that life is about making someone else feel loved. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Appropriate Practices


I went to a preschool holiday music program yesterday. It was wonderful. Not wonderful in the sense that it was high entertainment with children performing a professional program. It was wonderful because it was so appropriate for 3-5 year-olds. The children sang a few short songs, with actions, that the children enjoyed singing. There was no teacher yelling for the children to sing louder, no flashy memorized synchronized dance moves or sparkling outfits. The songs displayed children being children, singing about snowmen, doing the chicken dance and waving at grandma. I applaud that group of teachers for creating an activity that was appropriate and enjoyable for children. After all, it is not the product that helps children grow, it is the process.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Give Books This Season


The more I work with children the more I realize that one of the best gifts we can give a child is a book or books. Children's Literature is getting better all of the time. When we give a child a book it is a gift that can last a lifetime. It is critical that we help children link their thoughts to books. Having print awareness is a key predictor of reading success. So, if you are gathering gifts during this season, or throughout the year, consider a book. The gift will keep giving for a very long time. For a list of recommended books, click on the right side of this blog where it says, "Book List for 2005."

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Need for Nurturing

I took my son today to get his wisdom teeth taken out by an oral surgeon. We left the dental office with a list of instructions for the next 24 hours. Gauze packing, pain pills, ice packet, etc., are just a few of the things I was charged with for the day to help my 23 year-old get back on his feet. There is a large amount of nurturing and care-giving when someone is sick. I think that young children need that type of nurturing for regular development and growth. I am in the process of gathering developmental guidelines for infants and toddlers. It reads like the list of things I got from the surgeon today. Perhaps more emotional and cognitive than physical, but none the less very critical. We all need a list for early childhood to keep every child in check!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Social Emotional Skills


A critical piece of teaching children social and emotional behavior skills is to do just that-teach the skills. Many adults wait until a child misbehaves or "pushes their buttons" before reacting. The result is usually some type of discipline or punishment. Teaching does not occur in the heat of the moment, only emotional reactions. Therefore, children often repeat the behavior. Good teachers (and parents) teach their children appropriate behavior BEFORE inappropriate behavior occurs. When a child has background knowledge prior to the episode, the adult can say, "Remember when we talked about not hitting someone? What did we decide you should do instead?" This kind of a dialog instantly de-escalates the situation so that reasoning and understanding can take over, not emotional reactions. Previously setting up consequences also takes the emotion out of the moment. Both the child and adult already know the consequences (previously chosen with the input of the child) for the behavior.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Designing Supportive Environments


In my last entry I mentioned that the most critical piece of the social emotional aspect of early childhood is building positive relationships. The second most important piece is designing supportive environments. When negative behaviors are occurring, a teacher should analyze the basic set up of the classroom to see if the environment is encouraging negative behaviors (i.e., a large open space encouraging the children to run around instead of exploring at centers). I find that this is also true at home. I had all of my grandchildren at my house for an early Thanksgiving this weekend. We needed to plan a space where all the children could play comfortably so that disagreements would not occur. I was busy cooking, so I didn't do a very good job. When I took the time to look at the space, everything was better. Next time I will be more prepared. It is always important to remember our early childhood strategies because they work everywhere!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Building Positive Relationships


I was in Tennessee last week visiting with the wonderful preschool teachers in Murfreesboro School District. There is nothing in this world like an organized and high quality preschool setting. What a wonderful way for children to begin learning skills. I am reminded again about research indicating that nurturing teachers help children make more academic gains than drill sergeants. In fact, we know that building positive relationships is the most critical aspect of helping children build positive social and emotional skills. Check out the website for the Center for Social and Emotional Foundations in Early Learning (www.csefel.uiuc.edu) for more information about building social and emotional skills. What a joy to see loving preschool teachers. They should be everywhere!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Harvest Time


Fall is a beautiful time of year. I was discussing with my children's literature classes this week the book, "The Oxcart Man," by Donald Hall. Sometimes adults don't see the beauty in this simplistic picture book. I have always thought that one of the most intriguing aspects of this book is that it starts at the end. The story begins with harvest time and then takes us throughout the following year so that we observe the family preparing for that important harvest time. I think this analogy is very much like helping children learn basic skills. We know what harvest time should look like (the child competently performing necessary skills) and we need to go through the process to really understand how to make harvest time occur for every child. There are no shortcuts, just a step by step acquisition of skills to prepare for the harvest.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Dots


If you haven't had the opportunity to read the picture book, "The Dot," by Paul Reynolds, you need to do so. It makes me think of how we try to yank kids up to where we want them to function. Since we know that children progress developmentally, it makes much more sense to start where the child is functioning and provide support from that point. Adults can forget how difficult it is to learn a new skill, especially without good background knowledge and understanding the "why" of what needs to be done. Good teachers and parents provide support at every developmental stage and always remember to also provide the "why" for learning the skill. Then the child can sign his/her name (see "The Dot" to understand this last sentence)!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Uncle!

This REALLY has not been my week! Even though I was recovering from my running incident, I went on a scheduled vacation to Hawaii. My first big experience in a major earthquake! We were without power and water at our hotel for about 13 hours. It was difficult to get food (no restaurants open, etc.) and water. We spent over an hour in line to get into the ABC convenience store to get some water and snacks. I know these are minor inconveniences. There wasn't damage or injuries here on Oahu. We are all subject to natural occurrences. It is amazing how it changes one's perspective!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ouch!

I was out for a run yesterday and got hit by a car. Actually, the car backed into me and because I was running I did a left-side nose dive into the pavement. It really hurt. I'm not sure the driver of the car knew that it hit me because he/she sped off. I spent many hours in the hospital and finally was released last night. I just had lacerations and burns, no fractures (for which I am truly grateful). But, I was interested in how they cross-checked things at the hospital before they let me leave. I know how accurate they wanted to be so that I could repair and again be healthy. I wish we had a similar cross-check for children's development. It would be great if every child had gained every bit of skill and knowledge necessary before entering kindergarten and again before leaving high school. I know we try our best to have a cross-check system, but social stigma and social status can sometimes get in the way. I guess we can't guarantee academic learning any more than a doctor can guarantee that we will never get sick or injured. It just would be nice...

Monday, October 9, 2006

Time Goes By...

My oldest son turned 30 today. It seems impossible that I have a child that age! Especially since I still feel like I just turned 30 myself. I remember when he began kindergarten. I was a little concerned with his class because it was a paper-pencil-worksheet environment. I was a bit disappointed that there weren't many hands-on activities. My son, who could already read, was thrilled with the worksheet atmosphere. There have been times I wondered if leaving him in that class was a good decision on my part. I guess I will never know. There were indicators throughout the growing years that he missed something important. He's a great guy now and I wonder what would have been different in his life had he had a more developmentally appropriate kindergarten/first grade experience.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lost Teeth


My granddaughter lost her first baby tooth this past week. Such a growing-up milestone! When your my age, losing a tooth would be a growing-OLD milestone. Not one that I want to experience anytime soon. The new lost tooth, however, does represent a growth process in the physical development of a young child. It might be nice if cognitive and emotional growth developmental milestones gave us a physical reminder of what to do, also. Unfortunately, when a child does not recognize the letters of the alphabet, the adult needs to diagnose where she is functioning to determine what activity would help her develop that skill. Many early childhood teachers have not been equipped with the skills to do a proper diagnosis. Think of how much training a doctor requires to be able to diagnose an illness or a physical developmental stage. As impractical as it sounds, it might be nice if teachers of young children had a similar intensive training as they are charged with the emotional, cognitive and mental health of a child.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Making Cupcakes

My California grandchildren were in town this past week. I was lucky enough to get to babysit my 2 month-old granddaughter and my 3 1/2 year-old grandson while my daughter and kindergarten granddaughter got their hair cut. We had a great afternoon. While the baby slept, my grandson and I made cupcakes to surprise the other family members. We made a big mess, but we ended up with yummy cupcakes and eventually a clean kitchen. This experience reminded me that sometimes it is messy to give children life-learning experiences. Adults who refuse to make messes are probably not doing what is best for children. I used to get raised eyebrows occasionally for now wearing dress clothing when I was teaching kindergarten. I found that if I wore nice jeans, I didn't hesitate to get out the paints and get on the floor with the children. Raising resilient children is a messy job sometimes. Get your hands dirty!

Saturday, September 9, 2006

BPOE


I know that there is a national club that has BPOE all over their facilities. I was always told that the acronym stood for "Best People on Earth." I actually think that the best people on early are early childhood teachers. I just met and worked with a group of preschool teachers in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. What a wonderful group of teachers. Actually, I find that same quality in most groups of early childhood teachers. They really are the best human beings around. They are nurturing, caring and work very hard with little compensation. Lack of proper pay alone tells you of their commitment to children. I know there are a few deadheads in the profession, but overall I am so happy that our children are in the care of such wonderful people. It makes you wonder how fantastic our classrooms would be if there was enough money for adequate compensation and plenty for classroom materials. We might just have the best educated children on the planet. It would be a wonder to see what the combination of love and resources could do!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Does the Paint Come Out?

A local group of preschool teachers and directors asked me to come and show the art materials (paint mostly) that are available at Discount School Supply. Although I do numerous workshops each year, I haven't done a hands-on art workshop in a long time. We have renovated our entire house this summer so much of my teaching stuff is still in storage, including aprons. I dressed up today for the workshop and began demonstrating Biocolor and Liquid Watercolor paints. As I opened one jar of purple paint, it shot with an air bubble out of the lid and onto my (new) shirt. The label says 'washable.' Thank goodness when I got home I found that it really was washable. It brought back many memories of how I would dress and plan for clean up when I was a teacher. I never let mess keep me from providing a fun project for the children, but I think I had forgotten just how messy it is! At least the purple paint is gone and the teachers have new materials and ideas. A win-win.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Starting School


My oldest granddaughter started kindergarten on Monday. I talked with her on the phone at the end of the day and asked how she liked the first day of school. She said, "It was a really long day." She has the privilege of attending an all-day kindergarten where they live in California. Compared to her 2 1/2 hour preschool last year, I am sure it seemed like a long day. My hope is that her teacher can provide engaging activities that will make the long day into an incredible day of learning. I have been in half-day kindergarten classes that are about as exciting as watching cement harden. I can't imagine what they would be like with twice as much time. The hours of kindergarten are so important and the children are so precious that it is essential kindergarten teachers keep the children engaged and excited about learning. That is my hope for my granddaughter. I guess I will be able to tell when I ask her in a few weeks about kindergarten. If she says, "It's a really long day," I will begin to worry.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Childhood Obesity


We definitely have an obesity epidemic in our country. I recently researched the topic for a presentation and was sad to learn that close to 10% of our preschool children are overweight. When children are overweight they have an 80% chance to be an obese adult. There is a list of culprits, but the main dangers are high-fat foods and lack of physical activity. It doesn't help that many school systems have recently cut physical activity from the school day. Add to that high-fat school meals and it is a recipe for an obese child. We need to be more responsible than that. The first thing I have done is get rid of any high fat/sugar treats for my grandchildren. Now we have healthy treats at my house and we try to be outside doing activities more often. I want them to be healthy adults.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Collaboration

I recently attended some early childhood meetings in California. As part of a retreat with an early childhood organization, one of the main issues discussed was making efforts to collaborate with other agencies providing early childhood services. I hear that around the country quite often. It seems to be difficult for some agencies to collaborate services for young children. It is disturbing because as long as multiple agencies are providing early childhood services, we will need to collaborate and do what is best for children. As long as the players have the attitude that, "We provide much better service and know what we are doing," we will never have true collaboration. I challenge all the key players to do what is best for children, not their individual egos. Having said that, I applaud the areas of the country that seem to have seamless services and collaboration. Unfortunately, those are the exceptions not the rule.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fine Motor Questions


Lisa's comments on my last post are very true. PreK-K teachers are so worried about meeting objectives right now that they forget how critical the fine motor development is for children. Good teachers realize that you can do both. There are many preschool and kindergarten standards that can be addressed using fine motor development activities. In Lisa's situation as a first grade teacher, I would suggest some of the following activities, even in first grade.
1. I would still acquire some large pencils and crayons. Have the first graders do some of their writing activities with the larger instruments. It is not a step back! It will just reinforce those fine motor skills.
2. Have the children form the letters of the alphabet out of clay, play dough or even wet sand. This is a great cognitive training as well as a wonderful fine motor reinforcement.
3. Allow the children to write with their pointing fingers in a shallow cookie sheet filled with a thin layer or salt or sand. You could also use the old colored hair gel in a ziplock bag approach, as well. Mark the tray or bag in the top left corner to indicate which direction the child should write.
There are other fine motor suggestions that I could cover. If you want additional ideas, please email me at jfunk@excelligencemail.com and I will be happy to share.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Building the Foundation


We are getting a new kitchen today. The kitchen was entirely gutted and now workmen are busily putting in new cabinets. I was interested in the fact that they put in foundation pieces (called "toekicks," I think?) before installing the cabinets. I was struck by how similar this is to a child's education. Early Childhood years are a very critical piece for building a solid foundation for learning. It is usually the foundation pieces that confuse people into thinking children are "just playing." The better the foundation, the stronger the structure.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dramatic Play


If you take a few moments to observe most early childhood children, it is evident that dramatic play is critical. Children love to act like they are someone/something else. I was watching my three-year-old friend the other day put a princess dress over her clothes. She is convinced that she is a princess. I remember my kindergarten students becoming so involved in acting out a dramatic play activity. We hear complaints all the time that children are watching too much television and playing video or computer games. Dramatic play can be an effective way to get children to do something active and exercise creativity and imagination. Children who are allowed to engage in dramatic play activities are more prepared emotionally and mentally for life's changes.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Family Field Trips


This is the time of year when many families and groups take small vacations or driving trips. For preschool children, these trips can be long and uninteresting. One thing parents can do is work on the child's basic skills while traveling. Have the child find alphabet letters on signs, both street and billboard signs. If the child knows the alphabet letters, have him/her count how many "A" letters are found (or any other letter of choice). This will provide help in recognizing letters and also in counting. Another fun activity is to remember and recite as many nursery rhymes as possible. This is a great reinforcement for phonemic awareness, which is essential for early reading skills. Make the trip fun!

Friday, June 30, 2006

Activity is a Key


It is sad that our nation has such a high percentage of children with obesity issues. Certainly the American diet is a big culprit, but inactivity is also to blame. Children seem glued to the TV, videos and movies almost continually. Society has changed so much since I was a child. Now we spend so much time creating entertainment for children that all they need to do is sit and be entertained. When I was young we had to make our own entertainment. Each day we looked for some new adventure in our little town. Children today are actually cheated by having so much entertainment available. They don't have to use their imagination or creativity to fill the hours. This is also a big problem with keeping children healthy. If they sit all day and eat they are going to have weight issues. It is difficult enough to control weight as an adult, but I am sad for the children who are beginning life obese. Are we ever going to be successful getting children active again?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Ready for School?

I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about her son starting school. He will be five on September 1st, which is the cut-off day for kindergarten in Utah. I happen to know a little background about this boy. His parents are divorced, his dad is non-functioning most of the time, he is small for his age and he is very emotionally vulnerable much of the time. I recommended that she not start him in kindergarten this year. I told her the key was her attitude and to just tell him he will begin next year. Don't even mention that he could start now. That is the key to failure. I know some critics would pitch a fit at my advice. I speak from experience. Not only did I teach kindergarten for 15 years, but I have two sons with late birthdays. One started school young and one (with an Aug. 28th birthday)waited and started school the next year. A few friends criticized my decision to let him wait. They told me he would be devastated. Not so. He didn't even know he could have started a year earlier until one day in 5th grade. He came home from school and said, "Do you know I am old enough to be in 6th grade? Why am I in 5th?" I responded, "Well, I wanted you to be the oldest and smartest in your classes. See, it worked!" He went away with a smile. In fact, when he graduated from high school, he thanked me for letting him have that maturity. His older brother struggled continually through school as the youngest. I wish I could give my older son another chance and let him have more maturity and preparation prior to school.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Holding Hands


Sometimes it overwhelms me how many skills a parent needs to a good parent. As nice as it is to come into parenting well-prepared, I think the key is for parents to be teachable and willing to continue to learn. I remember the old saying, "Caring for young children is like being nibbled to death by ducks." It is usually not terribly painful, but just a constant barrage of pinching little annoyances. Child-rearing takes so much energy and love. The older I get the more amazed I am with the patience of some parents. At the same time it is painful to watch parents who are unskilled and impatient. I salute the parents that constantly hold their child's hand and relishes in the journey.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Guidelines ARE Necessary

Last week I attended the NAEYC Professional Developmental Institute in San Antonio. One thing that came across loud and clear is that we know there needs to be guidelines for early childhood learning. Much like a road map, guidelines provide a journey to help support a child's learning. We need to be careful on the approach we take, but we must have a direction.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Preschool Rocks!


Check out the following from the University of Chicago Chronicle:
Consortium will review study data to identify best investments in children.

This is a great article which states,"Children who go to preschool are 30 percent more likely to graduate from high school and 41 percent less likely to need special education." Congrats to all you preschool teachers!! Since we usually hear what we are not doing, it is nice to hear what we ARE doing!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Good Luck in California

The state of California is taking the opportunity to vote on a proposition to create a universal preschool. I wish the proponents of this proposition good luck. I do know that there are benefits when a child attends a quality preschool. The prospect of allowing every child to access preschool is exciting. Yes, it will take a lot of money and there will need to be monitoring of quality programs, but it is thrilling. With so many states who still don't require a child to attend kindergarten it is refreshing to hear about a state that is making an effort to support preschool children. Unfortunately, in our current society, it is evident that we must provide language and literacy support to children prior to kindergarten. It is more cost efficient to help a child begin the education process in a effective manner than fixing their deficits later in life. If the proposition in California passes, let's hope it is a giant step toward a better educational system and a good example to other states.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Aloha


I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Hawaii. I've checked out some of the early childhood resources and settings there. One place, however, impressed me very much. I went to the day of activities at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. This center was established to retain the culture of the Polynesian Islands and to financially support the education of Polynesian students at BYU-Hawaii. During the Luau, several small children danced the native dances of their island. There were huge smiles on their faces and a genuine joy in the dance. I was impressed how the children were learning the background of their culture and the strength of their background. Wouldn't it be great if that is the way we all approached early childhood education? How wonderful it would be to see every early childhood setting create an atmosphere of success and joy in learning the educational heritage of our country. Education should be a celebration of new knowledge not a task of compliance. Those small Polynesian children gave me a lot think about.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Beginning and the End

I had to place my mother in an Alzheimer's unit last year. It has been difficult to watch her slowly disappear as the disease progresses. I have however, had great success communicating with my mom this year. In fact, much more success than my siblings. A doctor friend, who accompanied me to visit my mom, pointed out that the reason I had such success was because I never argue or correct her when she makes an inaccurate comment or request (for example: "Let's go to my house and I'll make you a sandwich before you go home."). Dr. Butler pointed out that I just redirect her to something else and at all times maintain full respect ("Let's go see the pictures in your room instead."). He says that this keeps her from the embarrassment of memory loss or of being wrong. We came to the conclusion that it was my early childhood teaching strategies that helped me communicate with my mother at the end of her life. Maybe with both of our specialties we should write a book called, "Using Early Childhood Strategies with Alzheimer's Patients." Is the beginning and the end of life so similar? I wonder...

Monday, May 1, 2006

May Day Reflections


Today is May Day. Someone on the Today show asked if anyone was going to be dancing around the Maypole. I don't suppose you find that celebration much anymore. School has certainly changed. Back in the day when I was young, school had much to do with holidays and celebrations. Today, in an effort to be politically correct and culturally sensitive, you don't see many celebrations in school. Private schools might be the exception to this rule. Some might say that it is a great loss and reflected a gentler time when children could really be children. Others will say that it is about time that we were sensitive and respectful to everyone's needs, not just the traditions of our forefathers. I would think that both sides are correct. It would be nice to return to a gentler time when there were more celebrations of life and less violent acts against life. It also makes sense to validate every cultural need, not just mainstream Christianity. Perhaps that is why I like early childhood settings. We can usually do both without causing a huge stir. Happy May Day!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Good People!

I have had the opportunity to give workshops at a number of AEYC conferences the past few months. One thing is always evident. Early Childhood teachers sincerely want to do what is best for the children in their care. I presented at the California AEYC this past weekend and I was thrilled by the sincere nurturing atmosphere of the conference. It is always a pleasure to work with teachers and caregivers that want to be the best. California is presently working on a proposal for universal PreK. I hope the government of that state recognizes the caliber of early childhood teachers that are in that state.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"He's afraid of kids, right?"


I recently acquired several cats at my home. My four year-old granddaughter came to visit and pet the cats. One of our cats does not like children. I told my granddaughter, who needs regular reassurance in new situations (like petting cats), that "Gus" is afraid of children. It would be better for her to pet the other cats. During the 1 1/2 hours she was at my house she kept reassuring herself by saying, "He's afraid of kids, right?" This incident made me think of the number of times we must reassure children that they are successful in their activities. If a child doesn't have constant support in learning a new skill, the skill will not be mastered and the child's responses will be sporadic. I am continually amazed at the number of teachers who say, "He knew that letter yesterday and now today he can't remember." It takes lots of reassurance and support to master a skill. That way the child may not need to continually ask, "He's afraid of kids, right?"

Monday, April 10, 2006

That time of year...

This is the time of year when teachers begin to madly assess children in order to report to each parent about their child's progress. I do think that teachers who have an organized way to monitor progress are not stressed at this time of year. That teacher has monitored on a regular basis and used the information for planning. The teacher can report progress at any time during the year. I worry about the teachers that do not have an organized way for tracking progress. They must be in a panic right now. Are there other factors that make it difficult to assess progress regularly?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Spring Blossoms

I have a huge apricot tree in my yard. This past week blossoms began appearing, a little early but just as beautiful as they are each year. Of course, the big worry in our area is whether they will survive a late spring freeze which often comes in April. As I was looking at the blossom-covered tree it reminded me of the children in our early childhood classrooms. With the right nourishment and weather conditions they grow and develop and eventually bear fruit. That is, unless a nasty freeze appears and stops the development. In early childhood settings that nasty freeze could come in the form of untrained teachers, watered-down programs and unsupportive parents. Are there other forms of freezes that threaten a child's normal development?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Professional Development

Last week I presented at the Indiana AEYC and the Utah AEYC Conferences. I am always amazed at the effort that many early childhood professionals make to improve their teaching skills. Yes, there were a few participants wandering the halls, spending the entire day in the exhibit hall and talking non-stop on the cell phone. However, these people are the exceptions. I was again impressed with the majority eager learners that were in my workshops. These people do not make much money, but still want to be the best possible influence in a child's life. I recently read an article in the "Principal" magazine which implored principals to put nurturing teachers in early childhood classrooms. The article quoted research that states children in nurturing classrooms achieve more academic successes and have a positive attitude toward school. We all hope that our own children and grandchildren have nurturing teachers who are constantly working toward improving as teachers. I think all parents, even the ones with questionable parenting skills, want to have quality teachers for their child.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

It's a Wrap!

The Utah Legislature will finish up their session for the year tonight (yeah!). Another year of struggling to fund everything and decide where the money is to be spent. Even though our state has a surplus of money, it is still push and shove to get funding for education, although it will get a financial boost this year. However, there is also talk about funding teacher raises according to how their students are performing. In a perfect world, that may work. But most of us in education know that teachers in at-risk schools work very hard, often without parental support, to help the children make small gains. There are also many more affluent schools who have students that will achieve (because of status and parental support) regardless of how good the teacher teaches. It is irresponsible to decide that the teacher in the affluent school should get a bigger raise.
Our governor is also talking all-day kindergarten for at-risk children. A good idea for helping the disadvantaged. At-risk children always need more support, which not only includes opportunity, but also well-trained teachers. At-risk children should have the best teachers, not the left-over teachers and they need to be compensated appropriately.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Are We Improving?

Yesterday I got a new grandson. A cute little guy who will come home to two older sisters. As I was holding him in the hospital, I was thinking about how early childhood has evolved since my own children were infants. I wondered if we are improving as a nation in caring for our most active learners. Having worked in early childhood for almost 30 years, I have definitely seen highs and lows. There have been times that I have been encouraged by the promised commitment to early childhood only to be disappointed when the support wanes after a few years. I do, however, think that we are improving. Early childhood educators are getting the word out and studies are showing that investments in early childhood do pay off. I think that good parents nowadays are very good parents. There are a lot of resources for them that were unavailable to me. The mothers of my grandchildren know so much more than I did as a new parent. As I held that little guy yesterday, I was thinking how lucky he is to have caring, nurturing parents that have a solid knowledge of early childhood development. I wish all kids were that lucky.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Yes, I guess funding is an issue...

My suggestion in a previous post was that some of our early childhood woes come from lack of commitment on the part of our lawmakers. While I know this to be true, the ultimate lack of commitment comes from the top. Check out this article:

http://www.californiachronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=5550

President Bush used to call himself the "Education President." Now he is not even funding the big No Child Left Behind initiative that he started. Money is also being taken from Head Start and other early childhood programs. Just when we think we might be making headway in education, we always have a set-back. I know that lack of money does make it difficult for local officials to support education.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Road Map to Success

I have been writing an article for the magazine, "Early Childhood News." The article is about using preschool state standards, as well as Head Start Outcome indicators, to create a road map for the success of preschool children. While researching the article, I was again reminded why many early childhood teachers fear standards. Their fear comes from believing that they cannot create a developmentally appropriate classroom when there is a prescribed plan. I appreciated the new book by Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp (2006), published by NAEYC, called, "Basics of Developmentally Appropriate Practice." I was happy that the authors explained that if the teacher is not following an organized plan of skills, the classroom is not developmentally appropriate. We must have a plan to help children grow developmentally. Following standards does not mean that every child is at the same point at the same time. As long as the approach to learning is developmentally appropriate, having a road map of skills will help a teacher create activities that support development. As mentioned in an earlier post, skills in developmental order create a great support for the classroom.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Is funding the issue?


Whenever I have spoken with legislators and other government officials, I always get the story that funding is the reason that they do not invest in early childhood services. While I know that money is big part of the equation, I don't think it is the driving reason in many cases. In almost 30 years in the early childhood field, I have seen first-hand that most lawmakers lack the understanding and commitment to really invest in early childhood. It doesn't seem to matter that virtually all research studies indicate that in the long run we will save money by investing in early education. Unfortunately, in my state, there is still the mentality that if they don't fund early childhood services, mothers will be forced to "stay home and care for their own children, which is where they belong". Every year my state fails to qualify for millions of dollars in child care subsidies because they won't fund the matching small percent. While I think it is a richly rewarding experience for a child to be able to stay home with a parent, in 2006 it is an unrealistic expectation for many families. When early childhood services are not funded many children go without good early childhood training and support. Then when the child is in school, everyone cries "foul" because the child can't pass academic tests. Everyone cries even louder when the child can't control his/her behavior long enough to learn and allow others to learn. Everyone, especially lawmakers, need to understand how critical those early years are to the development of the person.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Funding, Funding.....

Numerous studies continue to show how important it is to invest in early childhood. Study and study has shown that the investment of resources in early childhood actually saves money on future support and intervention. Although behind the early childhood programs U.S. for many years, Great Britain has recent made grand steps to investing in children. Check out the article recently published in the New York Times: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0112preschool-ON.html
Bravo to Great Britain for making a financial investment in the future. It is a bit disheartening when at this moment our government is cutting funding to early childhood.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sequential Order of Skills

While attending the NAEYC conference recently in D.C., I was able to introduce many preschool teachers to the new POCET program that is a preschool organizational tool for preschool settings. I was again amazed (as mentioned in a previous post) that many preschool settings have not listed their preschool skills/guidelines in developmental order. That should be the first step in addressing the progress of individual children. I doubt a teacher can track a child without tracking skills in the order they should be introduced and supported. As mentioned earlier, I do think this is a problem with many core curriculum standards. They are listed randomly instead of in order of introduction. When tracking children, this order is essential.