Monday, December 17, 2007

Lifetime Loss

I lost my mother last week to Alzheimer's disease. We were wonderful friends and she was a delightful parent and support to me throughout the years. I will miss her very much. During the services, I was brought back to many childhood memories and experiences that I alone shared with her. In Judith Viorst's poem book, "If I Were in Charge of the World," her poem SUMMER's END says,
"One by one the petals drop.
There's nothing that can make them stop.
You cannot beg a rose to stay.
Why does it have to be that way?"
I take comfort in the fact that I had this wonderful person in my life for 53 years. I wish it was much longer, but I feel lucky to have shared that valuable time. She was a great early childhood proponent, even before it was popular.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Could We Have Made a Difference?

We went to California this past weekend to surprise my daughter for her 30th birthday. We also spent some time in San Francisco shopping and exploring. I am always interested in the number of homeless and panhandlers there are in that city. Probably because they won't freeze to death like they would here in Salt Lake in the winter. My friend, the doctor, always says the street people range in behavior from too much medication, too little medication or needs medication. During this visit my thoughts wandered to what each of these human beings experienced during the early childhood years. Did what happened (or what didn't happen) from birth to 8 play a major role in the fact that they are now homeless? Was their early childhood a factor in the many cases of being mentally compromised? I have always believed all of our experiences create who we become. I found myself wondering if nurturing experiences during early childhood would have made a difference in some of the cases.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Visit from Two Princesses

We had Thanksgiving at our house this year. Three of my grandchildren came and with my grandson in the highchair it was necessary to create a 'kids table' for my two granddaughters. I remember the dreaded 'kids table' from my own youth. We took a different approach this time. We created a princess table, complete with flowing tablecloth, silver goblets, a candelabra and gold flatware. When they arrived, my granddaughters were the princesses of the day and only the royalty could sit at the princess table. It worked wonderfully and I had two granddaughters on Thanksgiving who were thankful for peasants to cater to their needs.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Speaking of infants and toddlers...

I just returned from the annual NAEYC convention. This year it was held in Chicago and it was a big event. I had the opportunity of spending time in the Discount School Supply booth with the new product I wrote, POCET-Infants & Toddlers. It was engaging and thought-provoking for me to talk to so many caregivers who spend their days caring for the youngest of our citizens. During the past 6 months, I have spent so much time on infant and toddler issues that it was wonderful to have enough background knowledge to have an intelligent conversation. I do hope that POCET will help caregivers provide quality care for those dear little ones.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I just finished creating some experiences and activities to populate a new teacher website resource. We already have resources for Head Start, Preschool and Environmental activities, but next week we are adding information for the infant and toddler caregivers. You might want to checkout this resource at: It can be a very valuable resource for early childhood educators and caregivers. Hopefully, by the first part of 2008, we will also have information for kindergarten teachers.
Creating these infant and toddler experiences have forced me to analyze the developmental milestones that children achieve during the first 3 years of life. There are so many! It is a wonder that some children survive without any type of support system for these stages. Hopefully, we in early childhood can help more families be aware of these very important changes as the infant grows.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Appropriate Practice-cont.

I should have done a better job last posting of explaining about my 'adopted' grandchildren. Those two cuties are not my grandchildren, but my friends. They are part of my life so they call me their 'adopted grandpa.'
The point of my posting was my frustration at teachers who fall into the trap of providing inappropriate classrooms when they should know better. One classroom I visited is taught by a second-year teacher. She graduated from a very appropriate early childhood program. All she did the entire time I was there (the full 3 hours) was shove dittoed worksheets in front of the children. No teaching, reading aloud, discussions or anything that kindergarten children desperately need. ALL kindergarten children deserve better.

Friday, October 5, 2007

We Know Too Much

Sometimes I think that well-trained early childhood educators know too much. It may certainly be the case when we look at our own children and grandchildren. I have three grandchildren (and two adopted grandchildren) in school this year. I have had the opportunity to help or visit several of the classrooms. In some cases I have found very inappropriate classrooms. In other cases, I have found developmentally appropriate environments. My daughter and I had the discussion of how devastating it is to have your own child or grandchild in an inappropriate early childhood setting. Most parents and grandparents don't really know what to look for in school classrooms. I facetiously say that sometimes it is hard to know too much. However, it also allows us to lobby and work for change. The trick is to influence positive change without causing resentment. We'll see what happens...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Finding the Leaks

We have been creating two ponds and a stream in our back yard. It has taken a long time because it has been so hot this summer. Once we had everything in place, the water level kept going down, signaling a leak (or two) somewhere. We have redone the stream/pond numerous times. Even though the decreasing water level has slowed, it is still there. This whole experience has reminding me of working with children. One thing I teach the students in my early reading class is that even the best methods for teaching reading do not work with all children. We need to continue to look for leaks, trying every angle and approach we can, so that we can remedy the problem. It takes a lot of effort and it is sometimes discouraging. But, we don't give up on children....or leaks.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


I had the opportunity to briefly visit the NAEYC headquarters in Washington DC this past week. I was part of a discussion about what are the most crucial issues in early childhood. It was refreshing and enlightening to talk with experts who have donated so many hours to the cause of children. I think there was a general consensus that we need to secure the funds to make sure teachers and caregivers are adequately trained and compensated for one of the most difficult jobs in the country. Research plays a key role in showing everyone that this is true. Our children deserve the best, as do those who choose to love children as a career.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A New Beginning

Every fall seems like a new beginning in education. I have grandchildren starting school and my daughter-in-law is opening a preschool. Everything is focused on this opportunity to begin a new phase of life. I am looking forward to Monday when I meet my new students for the semester at the university. I am particularly excited as I have the privilege to also work with a group that is exclusively early childhood. My usual groups are comprised of those students, as well as future elementary teachers. As a beginning teacher it took me a while to approach fall with the excitement of what each person could accomplish during the next nine months. I challenge all teachers to approach new groups of children with the attitude of, "How much will each one of these wonderful people achieve this year and how can I help?"

Monday, July 30, 2007

Revisiting Kindergarten

Most of my presentations and workshops in the past two years have been dealing with preschool settings and teachers. I have been preparing to talk to kindergarten teachers in Houston this week and it has been fun to revisit much of my kindergarten training materials. I spent a big chunk of my teaching career in kindergarten and I dearly love it! I enjoyed visiting my granddaughter's kindergarten class this past year and I look forward to visiting another granddaughter's kindergarten class this coming year. The following year I will have a grandson in kindergarten. If I play my cards right, I will never have to leave. The kindergarten classroom was my favorite place to be when teaching...although college is pretty cool, too.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Child Proofing the Yard

Last year we purchased a home built in 1919. We gutted the home and worked hard to renovate the entire inside (we did most of the work). This summer it is the yard that needs our attention. The 100+ temperatures, however, have narrowed our working time outside. We are redoing a pond and waterfall, as well as plants and trees. With everything we design we keep the grandchildren in mind. How to make the pond safe, where to built the playhouse, how to make it easy to gather eggs from our chickens, and so on. It is a joy to try to create a safe and fun place for our grandchildren.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Perpetual Motion

I was reminded this past week about how much attention an infant or toddler demands. My California grandchildren were staying with me for a week. My 11 month-old granddaughter is a study in perpetual motion. She doesn't stop unless she is asleep. She has been walking for a month so she is unstoppable. Even holding her takes a lot of energy as she is constantly moving. Having just spent three months working on infant and toddler developmental guidelines, it was a reality check to actually participate in those developmental milestones that I wrote on paper. I constantly gain additional respect for parents and caregivers who spend every day caring for the young. Wow! is it a full-time job!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Making Connections

I just returned from the NAEYC Leadership Conference in Pittsburgh. I always enjoy this conference because it is made up of professional leaders and instructors in the field of early childhood. I appreciated the conference this year because of the workshops that I attended to keep my skills sharp. Past conferences have concerned me because many workshops were so high-level that I didn't understand how that information could be helpful to the teacher on the front line. This year, I found the information much more usable. I think one problem we have in education is the disconnect between "experts in the field" and the front line teacher or caregiver. We should never lose sight of how to support children on a daily basis in an effort to show how much we know.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The First Three Years

As I have been writing an organizational tool for caregivers of infants and toddlers, I have been amazed at the developmental milestones that occur during the first three years of life. Having grandchildren in the age range of 11-36 months, it has been nice to see how those milestones occur. It is also evident that it happens at different times for different children. There are things caregivers and parents/grandparents can do to support this development. I am committed to have many more conversations with my grandchildren. The development of language is so critical.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Turn

I am often reminded of the fears that young children have about new experiences. One of my granddaughters recently had oral surgery and lots of discussion had to happen before the event to dispel some of her fears. I never have and still don't like going to the dentist. I remember my mother holding my hand and reassuring me as I went to visit the town dentist. Even with reassurance, it still hurt. I had a role reversal this week. My mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's, had to have some teeth removed. I was trying to reassure her, prior to going in, that everything would be fine. I don't think she totally understood, but during a lucid moment she said, "I still don't like the idea." It was much like reassuring a child. It was my turn. I am sure it still hurt.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mother's Day

I remember all the years of teaching school and wondering if I should have the children do a project for Mother's Day. I did, of course, so the child could begin the process of feeling gratitude. I recently came across a Mother's Day gift I made in grade school for my mother. I found it when I was going through her things. It is now priceless as my mother suffers from Alzheimer's and has risen to another plane. I hope all mothers get lots of mementos from their little ones this week. Perhaps they will save them and end up giving them back at some future day. I'm happy my mother saved mine as a reminder of her love.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Evaluation Time

As we reach the end of the traditional school year, many teachers take time to assess where each child is functioning. It is appropriate to report to parents the progress their child made during the school year. I think it is also critical to share with parents the developmental continuum of progress. Sharing information about skills that are appropriate for a child's age level is useful information for parents. It helps them understand where their child is functioning on the developmental road map. It also helps parents who have unrealistic expectations for their child. As long as it is done appropriately, tracking a child's progress is critical to helping a child succeed.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Another Birthday!

I had another birthday this week. I don't think it matters how old you get, birthdays can be fun. This year I got this cool tray with a picture of all six of my grandchildren sealed in a picture. It's great! One thing about being a grandparent is they are always glad to see you! Let's hope as more birthdays roll around, I can keep it that way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Continuation of Development

I am currently working on a tracking program for infants and toddlers. It will be a companion piece to the POCET individualization kit that I wrote for preschool children. I am constantly amazed how important it is for teachers and care-givers to track a child on a developmental continuum. If a child is not progressing at an appropriate pace, the care-giver can provide supportive activities to help the development to continue. This begins soon after birth and continues through the primary grades of school. Looking at continual progress it is also affirming why early childhood is defined as birth to eight. There are so many milestones along the way. I wish we could train parents in early childhood development, as well. It would lead to happier and more well-adjusted children.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Wonderful/Terrible Twos!

A couple of years ago I attended a workshop given by Dr. David Sousa, author of, "How the Brain Learns." He was explaining the importance of the two year-old developmental stage. This is the time that the logical part of the brain tries to take over from the emotional side (which has been in charge of the child the first two years). That is why children in this stage are very emotional and tend to have some type of tantrum. The worse thing an adult can do is to get emotional during these outbursts. This emotion will continue to feed the emotional side of the child's understanding and thwart the progress of the logical side. I was having lunch with my 5 year-old and 2 1/2 year-old granddaughters this week. What a wonderful experience. The younger girl didn't want to eat lunch at all and then would pout when her sister or I ate any of our lunch. Somehow, we made it through lunch with just a few episodes. It forced me to again remember what I learned from that workshop. Tell the child what she is doing is not acceptable and give her a choice of two other things to do instead. The choice will give the two year-old some of the control. It still works quite well.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Preschool Behaviors

Today there was a Washington Post article reprinted in the Salt Lake Tribune, Study: Day Care Can Lead to Bad Behavior. It was very similar to an article that I talked about in the blog last year. Some recent research studies suggest that children in daycare and preschools seem to display more behavior problems, which continue through grade 6. The study quoted in this article suggests that this happens even in quality preschool settings. I was disturbed that the study downplays the fact that children in these settings do display increased language and school preparatory skills. In other words, preschool/daycare settings seem to be accomplishing academic tasks. Critics of the research point to the fact that there were no control groups and the turnover in early childhood settings would naturally contribute to children's behavior issues. I agree that social and emotional strategies are not taught and used effectively in many preschool/daycare settings. I also agree that the parent element is often the one that keeps behavior in check, as mentioned in the study. But, I must agree with the critics of the study and add that until we pay early childhood educators a high enough salary to make them stay, the staff transition rates will always be high. Yes, that would definitely effect children's behavior. Unless parents take on a more active role in their child's behavior, school can only do so much. The researchers should not be so quick to blame all negative behaviors on the preschool setting. More funding and parent responsibility seem to be at issue as much or more than the preschool.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

She's Back!

We have a pet turtle that lives in our pond. When we went to retrieve her for winter hibernation in November, we couldn't find her. We concluded that she had moved on to greener pastures. Imagine our delight in finding "Gertrude" on the edge of our pond this week. The grandchildren are thrilled to know the turtle is back. The minute they hit the door last summer they were in the backyard looking for Gertrude and wanting to feed her. Between the turtle and the chickens, the kids love to come to visit. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Great Preschool Programs

I recently visited the Coast Episcopal School in Pass Christian, Mississippi. I was amazed at the preschool program that they provide for 3-5 year-old children. Several benefactors had donated money and helped build an amazing little preschool building. The playground was huge with vegetable gardens (planted by the children) and many engaging equipment experiences. But, the most impressive thing was how developmentally appropriate and wonderful the entire program was organized. The teachers were providing a nurturing, skill-based and hands-on program. It was a joy to watch. I was overcome with the feeling that all preschool children deserve this type of support prior to entering kindergarten. Everyone in early childhood should strive to see this happen. The children at Coast Episcopal School Preschool were full of joy and learning. What a wonderful world!

Monday, February 26, 2007

It is Hard to be a Responsible Caregiver

Spend some time with small children and you realize (or remember) how hard it is to be a good parent or grandparent. I recently helped drive my daughter and her children back home to California. It was a very long trip. Besides having one sick child, we also had my 7 month-old granddaughter to entertain in a car seat. She did very well until the last 2 hours of the trip. She wanted out of the car seat. She kept looking at Papa (me), pulling at her seat belts and screaming. Her look said, "Why are you doing this to me?" It was difficult not to unbelt her and hold her during that time. This family already lived through a terrible crash two years ago so my daughter is very safety conscious. I am, as well, so my granddaughter stayed in the seat. It reminded me again that responsible parenting (and grandparenting) takes patience. Giving in helps create irresponsible children. We have enough of those already.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine for Children

It would be nice if on this Valentine's Day, the legislative groups in all the states would decide to give a special Valentine to young children. Fully funding and supporting early childhood programs would be the best gift children could receive. Giving children the opportunity to have a successful beginning to life! It wouldn't even need to be wrapped up in a heart.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Head Start Reminder

I had the opportunity to present a workshop at the California Head Start Association conference in Newport Beach this past week. It is always delightful to meet with Head Start folks. It reminds me how much I miss working with that population. Even with the government jerking funding around in the last couple of years, these dedicated people keep providing services to children and families. It is the family aspect that makes Head Start so wonderful. I wish that we could provide the same family support for parents in K-2 classrooms. It would take care of many problems we encounter as the children get older and parents' support of education wanes. It would take some funding, but I think that in the long run it would be much cheaper. Investing in early childhood is always cost-effective. Just look at the research!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The "P" Word

I was in California this week and I had the opportunity to help in my granddaughter's kindergarten class and my grandson's preschool class. Both experiences were delightful for me. Distance keeps me from seeing these grandchildren as often as I would like, so it was a special treat. At preschool, the letter of the week was "P." Seth was thrilled to have me attend school and be his very own "P" word. He calls me Papa. The experience reminded me about the many different ways that early childhood teachers try to teach basic skills. Oh, and we also went on a field Papa Murphy's Pizza Parlor...p...p...p!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's Freezing!

It is freezing cold here in Utah. Much colder than normal winter temperatures. I braved the cold and took my granddaughters out to lunch today. There is nothing that warms you up faster than spending time with a 5 year-old and a 2 1/2 year-old. We had a delightful lunch. Wouldn't life be grand if all you had to worry about was whether to take your Lion King book or your Dora book with you to lunch. Every person should have spaghetti and cheese sandwiches with preschoolers on a regular basis.

Friday, January 5, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

I know, I know, we are all sick of hearing about resolutions year after year, but I have one suggestion this year. During my years as a kindergarten teacher, I made a resolution one January to find out another piece of information about early childhood and how children learn. It became an annual resolution to help me sharpen my skills as a teacher. There is so much new information coming out each year, good teachers try to update their teaching methods with the latest research. I found that making this resolution pushed me to meet the needs of each new group of children. I have always believed that thinking you can teach the same way with the same materials to different groups of children is ineffective. Our teaching strategies must continue to grow as our students continue to change. Make a resolution to improve your teaching skills in 2007.