Monday, December 13, 2010

And the Winner is...

Congratulations go out to Debbie Moreno. Debbie is the lucky recipient of Kitten's First Full Moon.

I'm hoping for a give away a month plus I'll be posting more videos in the new year.

From all of us at Ivy League-West Preschool and Daycare,

Merry Christmas!
We wish you many wonderful blessings in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Gift of Peace

When I say Christmas or holidays how does that make you feel? I'm playing armchair psychologist today. This time of cheer and good will, is not for so many. For so many of us the holiday season is synonymous with the season of stress. How many of us really stop to ask ourselves what it is that is stressing us out? Go on ask yourself why.

Is it the shopping? Is it family obligations? Is it a financial issue? Is it just plain overwhelming? How can we preserve the sacredness of the time of year and make it extra special for our children while maintaining our sanity. I'm asking myself these questions. I'm also trying to figure out what to get the kids that is fun and useful and won't end up broken or at the Goodwill in three months. Not easy questions to ponder especially given our busy schedules that are about to get even busier!

(Deep Breath...Deep Breath)

So this year I did a few things differently and I thought I would share them with you.

The kids get new clothes every year for Christmas. Usually pajamas, socks, underwear and any other winter essential that they may need. So this past weekend I went through their closet. Mismatched or holey socks made their way to the trash or the craft bin. Too small underwear in good condition went in the Goodwill bag along with shirts, pants and t-shirts and dresses that have been outgrown. Nice sweaters or jackets go to friends with younger kids. It feels so good to have cleaned out and to have room and hangers for the gifts they'll be receiving.

To help with our budget and because I know the kids get gifts from family, we have chosen to buy them only one toy. I can't say what it is exactly, because both my kids read this blog. Let's just say it'll be in the sports equipment or art supply category.

I went to Costco and bought a huge bag of meatballs. I love these as I can make quick meatball sandwiches for lunch, or a quick pasta and meatball dinner. If friends drop by, they make delicious appetizers when drizzled with Teriyaki sauce. I also made sure I'm stocked with essentials such as canned tuna, spices, rice and potatoes. I have frozen veggies and homemade frozen soups at the ready. Being able to make dinner quickly is a blessing to our health and our pocketbook.

I've let go of a lot of the expectations this year. For instance, instead of Christmas Cards for everyone in my address book, I will be sending out just a few to friends and family far away who I don't see as often as I'd like. I've also given myself permission to send the cards out as late as January 31. It's always a good time to let people know you are thinking of them.

I've carved out a few minutes in the morning to focus on all the blessings that have been bestowed upon us this year. They have been many. This is important because as Christmas gets closer, I usually start to panic with thoughts that I haven't "bought" enough, or people won't care for what I'm getting them or a million other useless things start going through my head that have nothing to do with Christmas. It's important to me to be able to focus on the gifts of family, friends, health and many other blessings.

Most importantly I want my kids to learn from us that the best gifts cannot be neatly wrapped and placed under the tree. Sitting together on a frosty morning sipping hot chocolate. Enjoying grandma and grandpa's company as they listen to the funny stories about when I was a child. Everyone helping to make tamales while we listen to Christmas carols. Playing board games late into the night.

Every moment is a teaching/learning moment. It's a chance to create memories that will be cherished or a huge effort will be made to forget them. The best gift we can give our children, family, friends and ourselves is the gift of peace.

Wishing you and yours many wonderful blessings. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I woke up this morning to gray skies and rain, which is completely normal for this time of year and then I realized that this time of year is December! December is quite special around here. It's the month of my sister's birthday. It's the month of the Winter Solstice and Christmas. It's the time of year that I love to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a good book. It's also shopping season for many. On our Christmas list we always include a book. Children or adults, a book is on the list.

We've been reading quite a few books at Ivy League-West. In fact, today we read our 100th book. Do you know what that means? Among other things it means a pizza party on Friday. It also means each child will be presented with a certificate and a very special book chosen just for them. I would love to include each and every one of you in our celebration, but I can't possibly make that much pizza! So instead we are doing a give away. We are giving away a very special book.

Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

To enter all you need to do is leave a comment here or on our facebook page. I'll announce the winner on December 13th. As part of our gift we will pay for shipping. This book is the perfect addition to any child's library. Wishing you all the best of luck!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Celebrating the Harvest

I did mention we like celebrations, right? Well we are super happy about Thanksgiving being around the corner, followed by Christmas and all that entails. Wohoo! We will be celebrating until 2011 comes around. My favorite part of celebrating is the joy and the getting together. My second favorite part is the food. It's not even so much about the food (I lie.) It's about preparing the food. I love planning the menus, trying new recipes, tweaking the old ones and sometimes by pure accident, creating new ones. (I'll have to share the Moroccan Chicken story and recipe with you soon.) One thing I discovered this year is that I make pretty good pies. I like pies, but I had never ventured into actually making a pie because frankly it intimidated me. Then too, there are my kids. Whenever I venture into the kitchen, they follow to see what I'm up to and frankly, trying to make a pie with their help seemed daunting. We can do bread and cupcakes and cakes just fine, but pie! That just didn't seem like a one bowl kind of thing. The whole process seemed so much worse in my mind than it really ended up being. Last week, I ventured forth into this untamed horizon and made not one, mind you, but two (that's right) two pies! I found that they were easy and delicious, even with the kids helping me. I still want to try to change the apple pie recipe a bit before I post it. Luke and Isabela had the brilliant idea to do a gingersnap crust and I'll let you know how that worked out next month. In honor of Thanksgiving, I give you my ultra simple pumpkin pie recipe. Enjoy!

1 16 oz can of pumpkin (or of course you can use fresh, but that's not so simple.)
1 12 oz can of condensed milk
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ginger
1/4 0r 1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves (this depends on your taste. My husband likes cloves.)
3 eggs

Mix all the ingredients and pour them into the pie crust (of course your crust will be in a pie plate.) Bake at 350 for 40 minutes to an hour. (depending on your oven.) Viola! I loved this recipe because it's not too sweet. Notice I didn't add any extra sugar, only what's already in the condensed milk.

I made my own crust too, but I'm looking for a new recipe. The one I made was as follows:

1 cup of butter (be still my heart.) diced into small pieces
2 cups of flour (sifted)
1/2 cup of cold water
1 teaspoon of salt

Cream the butter with your finger into the flour and slowly add water until it's firm enough to roll into a ball. With the rolling pin spread it out until it cover the bottom of your pie plate. I found this crust to be a bit too buttery for my taste, but I can't say it tasted bad.

For Thanksgiving the kids and I will be serving up pies in little individual servings. I'm buying those little Keebler pie crusts. Let me know how yours turns out.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prizes Galore

If your child attends Ivy League-West you may have noticed that they don't usually go home with stickers on their shirts. I'm not a sticker giver. I don't have anything against stickers per se, it's just that I prefer not to bribe children into good behaviour at school. Sometimes I do it at home, in the case of a dire emergency where I need the kids to be extra wonderfully patient and then I'll bribe them with an ice cream from 31 flavors or a stickers, whichever seems most feasible at the moment. There are moments when the kids will come across a sticker book and ask for one and I usually give it to them because there is no reason not too, since they are not a sacred reward for good behaviour. All that being said, we do love celebrations around here. We celebrate birthday's, holidays, haircuts, storms, sunshiney days in the fall...yep, pretty much anything we can think of.

A few months ago Ms. Jamie had the brilliant idea of keeping a chart of the number of books we read. I jumped all over it. We found a 100 number chart and have been diligently keeping track of the books we read. So far we've read 79 books! We decided that once we reach 100, or every time we reach 100 books read, we will have a pizza party. What I didn't tell the kids is that they will each receive a brand new book to take home. No doubt the kids love pizza, but really, the pizza is the prize for Ms. Jamie and I reading all those books.

So, we aren't giving away prizes in order to instill a love of reading. A love a reading is prevalent around here. There are books everywhere. They are a part of not just the curriculum, but of our lives. What we are doing is celebrating an accomplishment worth noting.

Friday, November 5, 2010


I don't participate in the USDA program. One reason is that there is an awful lot of paperwork involved. The way the program works is the USDA or some other government entity (I'm not really clear on that point) pays me about .45 cents per lunch served and about .20 cents per snack. Something like that. There are two tiers and I don't qualify for tier one because of my location, so I qualify for tier two which pays less. Anyway, in order to get this whopping .65 cents per day, I have to fill out of ton of paperwork. The truth is that I rather write in this blog or upload a video or have my teeth cleaned than fill out government forms. Secondly I've looked through the menu of items that I'm "allowed" to serve and frankly I was not the least bit impressed. Although I've had many assurances from the broker who handles the program that I am not obligated to serve hot dogs, it seemed to me that hot dogs were actually mentioned quite a bit during our conversation.

I understand the food pyramid, but I see no value in serving bread with macaroni and cheese. It just doesn't go together, but if I was part of the program, guess what? Yes, I would have to serve bread because there has to be two servings, blah, blah, blah. I serve plenty of bread. In fact on a weekly basis we make some sort of bread. It's either banana bread, pumpkin bread or a crusty french loaf. I never serve them with macaroni and cheese.

I also choose not to participate as a matter of principle. I find it interesting that the USDA is responsible for serving kids lunch at school. I find it interesting that state and federal governments cut funding on physical education classes or cut them in favor of adding more core classes and then parents are blamed for the rise in childhood obesity!

I've added a menu link to the blog. The food is not extraordinary, it's just wholesome stuff kids like. When I can I buy organic. I always buy the best I can afford. The USDA can keep it's .65 cents and maybe spend on improving public school lunches, but somehow I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.

Learning Something New Every Day

So I did a short video about discipline and tried to post it here. Blogger spent all night processing the 10 minute video and has yet to upload it. I think I'm doing something wrong.
So let's try to link it from the facebook page.

Try clicking here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Jack of All Trades...

...master of none. There is always some truth to these age old sayings. I'm sorry I don't take infants. That's what I tell people on an almost daily basis. At Ivy League-West our students must be three years old on the first day of school. I will consider taking a two and a half year old if they have an older sibling enrolled in the program. I do this not because I'm not good with infants or toddlers, I do it for two very important reasons. First I feel that infants and toddlers need to be cared for by their parents or grandparents or other close friend or relative of the family. Children this age need the security of someone who will be a constant in their lives. I understand that there are circumstances where people need someone to care for their infant, but I'm just not that person. The second reason I don't accept infants is because I work very hard on the curriculum for preschool. I don't know how people teach a preschool curriculum with infants around who need constant care and attention.

I home school my children. We do school work in the early morning before the preschool kids arrive, then we work while the preschoolers rest or nap and we do school work on Saturdays. My children are also older so they can work on some of their school work on their own and I can correct it after 6:00 p.m. While there are preschool students at Ivy League-West, we do a preschool curriculum. It's fun and engaging enough that my school aged kids still participate. Sometimes I can incorporate some of the school aged curriculum into the preschool curriculum combining the best of both worlds.

Tomorrow I'll let you know why I've chosen to NOT participate in the USDA food program.



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Color, Color Everywhere

Autumn is ablaze with colors. Red, orange, yellow, gold and even green. How do children learn colors? They learn colors the same way they learn anything else, by exposure and manipulation. Bev Boz has a quote on her site; ""If it hasn't been in the Hand... and the Body... it can't be in the Brain!" Children learn through all their senses. The challenge for teachers is how to teach to the senses, how to involve the "whole" child in the learning process, especially with something so abstract as color.

The first step to teaching color is to expose children to it. Point out the changing leaves. The yellow ones, the red ones. Take two or three and say look I think these are different, but how? They may point out that some leaves are big and some are small. Now you point out that they are also different colors. One is red, one is yellow and one is still green.

Ask your child in the morning or the night before what color they would like to wear. Would they like to wear white or pink socks? Would they like to wear their favorite blue shirt or the black one? Slowly the children will come to recognize and be able to name the different colors. Perhaps just one at first. Soon they will start to remember the different names for the colors.

Here at Ivy League-West we start by painting with red, then blue, then yellow, then we mix the colors to see what new colors we can make. We also play yummy juice bars. What? You've never heard of yummy juice bars? Well, I'll tell you, but you must know that if you introduce this game you will be playing it over and over again...right after you read their favorite book for the millionth time.


Different color construction paper
Popsicle sticks

Cut out 2 popsicle forms of each color and glue them together leaving a portion of the bottom open so that you can insert a popsicle stick into the cut outs. Draw a star (or use a star sticker) on one of the popsicle sticks. Like so:

Now to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, you sing the following:

Can you find the little star hiding inside my yummy juice bar?
Think real hard and then decide, which flavor is it hiding inside?
Can you find the little star, hiding inside my yummy juice bar?

At first the child may just point at one. You say "ooh you want the pink one." (or whatever color he pointed to) and then you say, "The pink one can be strawberry or watermelon." Then you slowly pull out the stick and see if it has the star. If it does, you congratulate the child for finding the star. Then you put that stick into a another color and continue the game.

Soon the child will be naming the colors and their flavors!!



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Done That!

"I want you to read this one!" Inevitably it is the book you've read a million times. How could a child not get bored of the same story over and over? Aren't they craving something new? The short answer is no, not really. This is why daily rhythms are such an important part of our curriculum. Repetitions provides comfort. Think of chanting "OM" while meditating or for me it was praying a rosary. After repeating the "Hail Mary" fifty times, you are not so much saying it, you are almost singing or chanting it. There is something soothing in the chant, the repetition. It's calming and soothing. Try reading Green Eggs and Ham about 100 times and you'll notice that you find your rhythm immediately. "I am Sam. Sam I am."

Children that are even five and six years old are still so new to the world. There is still so much that they need to learn and so much that is out of their control. Rhythms, whether it's following a daily routine or listening to the same story brings a sense of peace and comfort to their day. A moment to relax and calm down. They have a sense of control because they know exactly what will come next. Your tone, your facial expression, the next word, it's completely predictable. They feel they are in control of something in their environment.

I have a young pupil at Ivy League-West and everyday when I sing, "It's clean up time." This young pupil says, "so we can have circle time." "That's right, " I respond. When we set the table for lunch, he says, "and when we are done we'll have nap time?" "Yes, that is what we will do."
It thrills me that he has come to expect what follows. I see that knowing what comes next bring a sense of security to the children. For me following a rhythm eliminates discipline issues. When one thing follows the next everyday, there is no room for argument.

So the next time your child asks you to read their favorite book for the umpteenth time, go ahead and read it. It's good for both of you. However if you are a real thrill seeker you may make a deal to read one they pick and then one you pick. Just be prepared to read the one you pick over and over as it may quickly become a new favorite.



Some favorite Autumn books to add to your repertoire:

Wild Child

The Little Yellow Leaf

Flora's Very Windy Day

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bean There

See these? This is one of the easiest, most exciting projects to do with kids. Growing beans in a baggie, taped to a window is pretty fool proof. Now if you are especially foolish or have thumbs a shade not even close to green, it's okay. The first thing we do with any science type of project is come up with a hypothesis. Don't be afraid to use that big word with little ones. They may not be able to pronounce it or even remember it, but use it anyway. A hypothesis is a guess. (That's what I tell the kids.) It doesn't have to be right. It can be incorrect. Scientist do experiments to find out if the hypothesis is correct or incorrect. If it's incorrect, then they try something else. That' all, no drama, no winning or losing. So here is a step by step scenario.

Adult: Hey, I have a crazy idea! Do you think we could grow beans in a bag?

Kids: They will either laugh at your foolishness or stare blankly thinking about how ludicrous this sounds. (Or maybe they didn't even hear you because they are fighting that pesky dragon that pops into their head at the mere mention of science.) Some may nod in the negative and of course there are those few that will go for just about any crazy idea.

Adult: Let's see? How would we do this? What do plants need?

Kids: Water. Air. Sunlight. Dirt. Jelly Beans! There is always one kids suggesting Jelly Beans as a cure all to EVERYTHING, or they are still just be staring blankly at you. That's Okay.

Adult: Okay...I think this may work. Dirt works, but I want to be able to see the roots growing.
You may need to stop and explain what roots are...but only if they ask. Remember, the art of teaching is about leaving a lot unsaid so that the kids come to the knowledge themselves. This way they are more likely to remember it. What can we use that will let us see the roots growing?
(if an answer or two are not suggested...continue.) I know! I think I saw once someone using cotton balls. So we will substitute cotton balls for dirt. Now, what else do we need? Yes! Water.
Let the kids pour some water into the bag. What else? Of course, we need some beans. Let each child place 4 or 5 beans into the bag, mushing them into the cotton a bit. Now for sunlight. Should we tape these babies inside the fireplace?

Kids: Laughing hysterically and screaming in unison...NO!!!! It's dark in there. Tape them on the window!

Adult: Genius! What about air? How will the beans get air?
Some kids may know, but this is a great demonstration anyway. Take an empty baggie and seal it. Now let the kids squeeze and feel it. Pop a hole in it and have them squeeze the air inside. Ask again. I bet they can all tell you that the air is already in the bag.

The rest is simple. Watch those bean sprouts...well sprout!

Our sprouts got so big we planted them. We measure them. We water them. We ask questions. There were a few that didn't grow and we learned from them too. So if your kids are itching for something to do, tell them you have a crazy idea. Just as a reminder, someone may ask you to grow jelly beans. Do it! Grow them in a separate baggie next to the beans and note what happens.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Welcome Autumn

Today it feels like Autumn. I know it officially started the 21st of September, but we've been having some nice weather and it seemed even the leaves were holding on to summer for as long as they could. Today it rained and I sat watching the leaves rain down too. I love Summer, but I must admit I really, really like Autumn.

I am excited thinking about all the leaves in the back yard. It will be so much fun to rake those up into a pile and let the kids jump in. It's a great time for science lessons. During Autumn we get to view nature in a blaze of glory. It's last hurrah before going dormant for winter. This is the time of year kids learn to classify. We classify leaves by shape, by tree, by color. We measure rain water. We talk about the wind. We get to feel all three caress our cheeks. This is the time of year for baking healthy treats. I can almost smell the cinnamon in the pumpkin bread now. This is the time of year for pumpkin patch visits and for jumping in puddles.

It's also the time of year were as teachers we are at our busiest. Autumn means more rain, it means winter is approaching quickly. It mean more time indoors, more planning on our part.

Well, we've got it covered. Through this season I'll be posting ideas and projects to keep little hands busy and moms and daddy's sane. Be sure to check often for inspirations and don't forget to jump in a pile of leaves or at minimum a puddle or two.



Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Power Struggle

There are many things that have helped me prepare for my career in Early Childhood Education and in education in general. I think an understanding of how child develop and where they are in a particular stage in development is of utmost importance. However the one book I've read that I think has helped me the most is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The agreement I remind myself of constantly when I'm teaching or simply interacting with another person is do not take things personally. This is by no means an easy task. So much of what we do is wrapped up in our egos. I'll be writing a lot more about egos and education in a few day, but for now I'm going to keep it close to home. How would an agreement like this help in your daily dealings with kids? I know the scenarios I present here are not typical of a home environment, but you may still be able to take away a few things that may help alleviate the daily power struggles that present themselves if you have a toddler, two year old, three, four, five, six year old, a teenage or if you happen to be married or even if you are a hermit who has to go out and buy food then and again.

First keep the agreement in mind. Remember that your child is not doing whatever it is that is getting on your nerves to get on your nerves. No, no I won't allow you to argue this point. I know you "just know that Johnny is doing a, b or c on purpose to push your buttons." I'm telling you otherwise. It's true, Johnny may be doing it to get your attention, or because he is getting a kick out of your reaction. Maybe poor Johnny is trying to figure you out or can't help himself. I'll bet that 99.9% of the time, Johnny (be he your son or husband) hasn't the slightest clue as to what is upsetting you. My question to you is why are you allowing those buttons to be pushed in the first place? Why do you take what Johnny does personally?

Here are some facts I want you to keep in mind while you hold on to that agreement.
  1. Johnny is his own person even if he is three years old.
  2. Johnny is selfish. This is especially true if it's a child, but even most adults are looking out for themselves. (After all, isn't it selfish of you to believe that Johnny's behaviour is a reflection of your parenting?)
  3. You cannot control Johnny. I know this is hard for parents to accept, but we must change the prevailing mindset that education equals control. The truth is you can control through coercion but never through education. You may control your children for a awhile through coercion, but what are you teaching your children? To be followers? To only do good if there is a prize involved? To only behave if you are looking?
  4. Your ego is way too big if you cannot let go if little annoyances. Time to rein it in.
Now that's we've set up some guidelines let's examine a scenario that I face with at least one, sometimes two of my precious little ones everyday. The scene is the transition from free play to circle time. In your house the scene may be the transition from free play to dinner time.

Miss Alida: "It's clean up time, it's clean up time. It's time to clean up."
Boy #1: "It's time to clean up."
Boy #2: "I don't want to clean up! I want to play!"
Miss Alida: (ignoring Boy #2's comments) "It's clean up time, it's clean up time. Jane is cleaning up. It's clean up time, it's clean up time. Boy #1 is cleaning up."

Now either Boy #2 says, "Me teacher, I'm cleaning up, say my name." as he joins in the clean up or he sits there and pouts. If he is indeed helping, he is mentioned in the song. If he pouts, I ignore him.

We move on to circle time. Boy #2 is still uncooperative. I make sure to thank the children individually who helped clean up. I proceed with circle time. Boy #2 sits with his back to me. I begin reading. Every now and then Boy #2 turns to listen to a particularly funny scene or to look at a picture the kids were laughing at. Once he says, "Teacher, can you go back I didn't see the picture?" I do. I go back and show him the picture. We continue with circle time and he slowly starts to join in. We are having a discussion and when I ask him a question, he remembers he is not supposed to be enjoying this and turns his back again. I say nothing and move on to the children eager to participate.

Now in the middle of the second story Boy #2 says out loud, "I'm hungry!" I look at him and put my finger up to my lips (shh) and continue the story. Boy #2 gets up and walks in front of me and says, "TEACHER! I'M HUNGRY!" I stop. Look him in the eye and say very, very quietly, "You are not allowed to interrupt me during my story, that is not kind. Being kind is one of our rules. Go sit down." Boy#2 sits down with his back to me until story time is over.

I tell the kids, lets go to the table. We are going to bake bread. All the children run to the table. Boy#2 sits pouting and says, "I'm not going to bake bread." I ignore him. I walk over to the table and join the children eager to bake. A few minutes later, Boy #2 runs in. "Hey, wait for me. I want to crack an egg." He joins us and there are no more issues for the rest of the day.

I could have taken his behaviour personally and reacted by demanding that he "behave". You will join us, you will listen, you will participate! That would have taken my attention away from the kids that were eager to participate. What this boy was doing was not hurting him, or hurting others. What he was doing was exercising control over his body, his choices and so long as he wasn't interrupting me, I was fine with it. I wasn't taking it personally. Maybe, he had a rough morning, or not enough sleep. Maybe he wanted to see how far he could go before I got mad. I didn't.

By not engaging in a power struggle with a three year old I was able to maintain my authority. By allowing a bit of leeway in letting him control things that really didn't affect the outcome of the day, I showed him that I respect his feelings and moods. That they have nothing to do with me. I also made it a point to emphasis one of our rules, be kind. I did not allow him to cross that boundary of disrespect.

Now what if you are home and you say, "Johnny clean up, it's time for dinner" and Johnny ignores you? What ever will you do? Here are some suggestions.

1. Give Johnny a 15 minute warning. "Johnny in fifteen minutes, you will need to put your toy away because you need to help me with dinner." Note that is Johnny is under six and he has every possible toy out you will have to help him clean up or you are going to yell and scream until you are blue and Johnny will not clean up anyway. Deal with it. Young children cannot clean up a room full of toys by themselves. So even before this becomes in issue, get rid of most toys. Allow Johnny one or two toys to play with before dinner. (I know, I'm really mean!)

2. Remind Johnny every five minutes. "Johnny in ten minutes, in five." 'Okay, time to clean up."

3. Be specific. "I need you to set out the napkins and spoons."

If Johnny ignores the 15, 10 and 5 minute warnings, you go in and say, It's time to clean up and without saying another word, YOU put the toys up and then say come help me. If he refuses, you set the table. If you sing or do something that looks like fun or out of the ordinary, you will peak his curiosity. This works especially well if there are other siblings involved. Make no mention that Johnny is not listening or is misbehaving. Make sure to praise anyone who helped you set the table in Johnny's presence.

4. Be Patient. Rome was not built in a day. Character takes a long time to develop. We teach best be example, by modeling, by being the kind of person we would be proud for our children to grow up to be.

5. Do it again tomorrow. When things become rhythmic and predictable, Johnny will know what to expect and will know that he can be difficult, but it's going to happen anyway. He'll eventually come around. See #4 patient.

Save your power struggles for big important things. There are not many in life. Life is made up of many little things that have the potential to bring us great joy or grief depending on how we handle it. Your little ones will learn. We must make sure that learning is never coerced, that it develops and blossoms like a flower or a butterfly. Children come to us with their own unique programming and views and we may guide gently and kindly so as to not break their fragile spirits.

Children never do things to spite us, unless that's what they have been taught. They do things because they are curious or because something inside says they must. We are not the center of their attention, only they are. Nothing should be taken personally. Guide them to the brighter future in which they will be our leaders.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Yes, No, Maybe So

Are you a yes man or woman? Is no the first word out of your mouth whenever your kids ask a question, no matter what the question is? Around these parts, I tend to be the yes woman. You want to spread your own peanut butter and jelly? Sure! You want to play in the rain to see how long it will take to get soaked? I'll time it! You made a home for the roly poly's in your room? Awesome! Hubby is my opposite. He is the nemesis to my yes. He is the no man. You want to play in the tub? No. You want to slide on the hard wood floor in your socks? No. You want to have dessert? No, no, no, no, no.

It may seem like we strike a pretty good balance for our kids. Unfortunately though, it sometimes feels like the kids come to me for things more often than they go to their dad. Sometimes when we are both in the same room. This is not much fun for mommy (who needs a break) or for daddy (who I'm sure feels like a blue meany)*. The end result personally is that I tend to over schedule myself. The flip side (in my opinion only) is that my husband tends to close himself off from what maybe enjoyable activities.

I think that the best option for us and a good skill to teach the kids (because we are all about teaching here) is to pause and think. When my kids ask me for something, I pause and smile. "Let me think about it for a second" is my new response. This allows me a moment to think it through. Is having a mud fight (even as a science project) really the best thing to do a half-hour before going out to dinner? Probably not. If Sergio paused and thought about his response, he may come to the conclusion that if the children have eaten healthy and well throughout the day, dessert, even if they don't finish their dinner, would not be harmful.

How often are our responses, especially to our children, automatic? Let me think about it, gives you a small break. It let's your children know you are listening and that they have been heard. Let me think about it, gives credence to the request. Let me think about it, helps control the arguing as you have given pause and thought to the request.

Next time your child or your spouse asks you something...don't say yes or no. Smile and tell them you need to think about it. Did you like this post? Don't answer right now...give it some thought.


* A blue meany can be found on the Beatles' Yellow Submarine video

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Baking Up More Than Treats

This week we baked whole wheat bread and delicious banana nut muffins. Not just any banana nut muffins, these had chocolate chips and ginger in them. They were so good. Baking with children can seem a bit overwhelming at first. I remember the first time I baked with my little ones, it was a disaster of pretty epic proportions. Imagine flour on the counters and floor, sticky egg whites not only on the counters and floor but also in the kids hair. We baked and then they had a long bath. I think we had whatever we baked for dinner that evening because I was exhausted!

I decided to try again and slowly I developed a simple plan. The key to baking or cooking with children is to be prepared. I don't mean to have everything measured out ala Martha Stewart. What I mean is to have all the supplies on hand. Flour, eggs, vanilla, sugar and whatever other ingredient you need on the counter. Have more than one of the following (two or even three is good):

  • measuring cup
  • measuring spoons
  • bowls
  • sift
  • whisk
  • stirring spoon
  • kitchen towel

Now that everything is set out and ready, have the children wash up and don on their aprons. Make sure long sleeves are rolled up and hair is pulled back. Oh yes, and lastly rid yourself of any expectation that your kitchen is going to be clean during or after this project. It is not. I repeat it is not.

So why bother? I can bake up muffins in a flash and maintain the kitchen relatively clean and they'll be just as delicious. Why include the kids?

Cooking and baking is a process that teaches kids so many things. Even I was surprised recently when I asked Luke to measure out a teaspoon of vanilla and he promptly commented, "A teaspoon or 5 ml, it's the same thing." Indeed it is. This isn't something I pointed out, our measuring spoons don't have ml markings on them. I imagine, at some point in our cooking adventures he saw a chart or read something to indicate that 1 teaspoon and 5 ml are the same thing. Viola! Learning happens. Exactly what do children learn by helping in the kitchen?

  • Weights and measurements
  • Fractions (1/2 cup, 1/8 tsp)
  • Hand/eye coordination (cracking an egg, stirring, filling a teaspoon, chopping veggies)
  • Reading (even the youngest of children can recognize 3/4 or 1/2 and find it on the measuring cup)
  • Chemistry (heat changes forms from liquids to solids etc)
  • History (from recipes handed down through generations, culture specific recipes such as the Pan de Muertos we bake for Halloween or Day of the Dead)
  • Decision making
  • Follow directions
  • Follow Intuition
I love the last one. Why is following your intuition important? Well for me it's been a lesson I've had to learn over and over again. It seems that if I let myself by guided by my intuition (after following directions) I end up making the best decisions. Making good decisions boosts my self esteem and feelings of worthiness.

This week while making the muffins, we smelled and tasted most of the ingredients before using them in the recipe. The kids decided that the ginger had a pretty strong taste, so we decided to use less than the recipe called for. By allowing the children to make decisions we give them ownership of the results, we allow them to think ahead to the end result.

If you've never had your kids in the kitchen, I'd suggest you start out slowly. Designate one day a month. Pick and plan a recipe together. Let go of your clean kitchen expectations and really have some fun. As your kids grow older they will be familiar with the kitchen and maybe, sooner than you think, you'll be treated to breakfast in bed. (You will however need to clean up the kitchen)

Banana Nut Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Ginger

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup of butter
3/4 cups of sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 medium bananas ~ mashed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup of milk
chopped crystallized ginger to taste
as many chocolate chips as you can handle

  1. Preheat oven to 350* Grease a 6 jumbo muffin pan.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder in small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar. (you can use an electric mixer or melt the butter a bit and let the kids do it with a whisk) Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Mix in bananas.
  4. Add walnuts, ginger and chocolate chips. With mixer on low speed or while children whisk, flour mixture alternating with milk. Spoon mixture into muffin pans.
  5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until skewer or knife inserted in the center of a muffin come out clean.
  6. Allow to cool 10 minutes. Unmold onto wire rack and cool at least another 10 minutes before serving.
Don't forget to have the kids help with the clean up too.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Day

I remember being young and having mixed feeling about the first day of school. I was excited to see my friends, but would worry because we didn't keep in touch much throughout the summer. What if they no longer liked me? What if they didn't come back to school? Also there was the whole getting up early thing, which truth be told, I never cared much for.

Today I'll be welcoming little ones to school. For some it'll be their first time away from mom or dad and home. Some will be seasoned pros already. Either way I'm sure there are some misgivings, some butterflies, some "what ifs". It's okay, we are ready to soothe and quiet those doubts and have some fun.

This week the theme is friendship. It amazed me to see how easily my kids make friends. Sometimes though it's a little heart breaking. Luke went up to a 12 year old boys and asked, "Hey, would you like to be my friend?" The boy laughed out loud and then with a smirk replied, "Sure!" He proceeded to run away from Luke. It took Luke a few minutes to realized he had been duped and he ran over to me demanding an explanation. Talk about being put on the spot. We came up with different ways to approach older kids. Instead of asking to be friends, maybe he could ask to join in the game with a very non-chalant, "May I join in?" He wasn't convinced and decided to sit and watch awhile and then asked if we could go home.

Making friends can be easy and comfortable or it can be a tricky road that needs a bit of maneuvering. This week we'll be learning appropriate ways to approach new friends. We'll discuss kindness, one of our rules. We participate in group activities that require cooperation and some negotiation. We'll also learn when to back off a bit and discuss that it's completely appropriate to want some time alone and that it doesn't mean the end of the friendship.

All this plus baking, crafts, art and some gardening. It's going to be a fantastic week.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Happy Labor Day. Today marks the informal end of summer. Many of us marked the occasion by the ritual grilling and get togethers so often associated with Labor Day. I feel autumn's approach in the crisp cool morning air. Tomorrow marks the beginning of the school year for many children and for us it's the beginning of our new adventure.

Rituals and rhythms are such an important part of life. In marking the passage of time we often stop and reflect on the blessings, perhaps the hardships of our life so far. Each time we have the chance to begin anew. Each morning is a fresh start, as is each meal, each season, each milestone, each birthday.

For children rituals are especially important. They create cherished memories that they can hold on to as they make the slow transition into adulthood. Rituals need not be elaborate or time consuming. They may be as simple as a story read at bedtime or a special kiss to greet the morning.

Remember that as your children head off to school, rituals help mark the occasion as special and also give them a sense of security as they head off on their own. For ideas on creating rituals and daily rhythms for your family I recommend this wonderful book.

I hope you all enjoyed your holiday and am looking forward to tomorrow and to welcoming autumn with all it's exquisite colors.



Monday, August 30, 2010

A Typical Week

Many have asked about our curriculum. Here is what a typical week looks like at Ivy League-West.

The theme is: Friendship


Prepare and bake an Amish Friendship Bread loaf (or two)

(Painting Day)

Watercolor with yellow paint on one huge sheet of paper.
Friends working together.

(Coloring Day)

Trace each others hands and color them in red.
Make a hands friendship wreath for our door.

(Crafting and Games)

Make friendship bracelets with string and beads
Toss the ball and say one kind thing about the person who catches it.


Help each other clean off table tops, sweep floors, sort and fold laundry.

Our schedule flows as follows:

(Greeting, introductions and free play)

Morning Circle Time
(Calendar, Story Time in English and Spanish,
Singing in English and Spanish, Finger Plays,
Music and Movement)

Morning Activities
(Depending on Day of the Week ~ See Above)

Morning Snack
(The children help prepare and serve snack)

Out Door Activity
(Scheduled Games)

Wash up - Prepare Lunch Table -Eat Lunch Family Style

Story Time - Nap Time

Wash up - Prepare Afternoon Snack- Snack Time

Free Play
(Indoors or Out)

Wash Up - Story Time - Departure

Saturday, August 28, 2010


How do you measure success? If you measure it by the depth of your friendships, I would have to say that our Opening Celebration was a huge success. If you measure it by the number of blessing that have touched your life, then last night was a huge success. To all the wonderful friends, old and new who came out to support us last night...THANK YOU! I truly enjoyed spending time with each and everyone of you. The night went on a little longer than planned which I hope is an indication that you all had a great time too.

I meant to take and post pictures, but as usual I got so excited and was truly living and enjoying the moment, I completely forgot to take picture to share. Thank you also to everyone who sent blessings, flowers and good wishes. You were missed. A special thanks to the many, many inquiries I've received during the past couple of days. I can't wait for the start of our program.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Here I Sit

It's 11:00 p.m. I should be heading to bed but for the last few night I lay in bed with thoughts swirling through my head. I don't sleep for a long, long time. It's not anxiety keeping me up, it's excitement. Tonight however anxiety crept in. Tomorrow night is our Opening Celebration. I've been busy getting the word out about the preschool and the celebration. I've had some inquiries and invited those parents to come. The cakes are cooling, the "to do before 3:00 p.m." list is sitting on my desk. Just like that panic starting to set in. What if no one comes? "Don't be silly, your friends are coming!" Yes, but what if no one signs up? "Parents will sign their kids up." The doubts work their way in and I push them out, but the seed of doubt has been planted and tonight is looking like a sleepless, restless night.

I start browsing online hoping to get sleepy. I randomly start wondering who has my book, Please Don't Move the Muffin Tin by Bev Bos. Did I loan it to someone? Did I sell it to Powell's Books? For no reason other than she's on my mind, I google Bev. Lo and behold she has a blog! I click around and come across this.

I need to be faithful to the process. I've done the work to get this far, I have the support of family and friends. Now I need to trust. I do with all my heart. I'll will hold that thought as I drift off tonight. I didn't find my book, but I've found Bev and her wise words. All is good.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Less is More

Have you ever stood in a supermarket aisle and felt completely overwhelmed by the number of choices available? I'm all for choices and especially for freedom of choice. Recently however I was standing at the supermarket aisle and felt that if I didn't get out of there soon, I would have a panic attack. I was buying band-aids. Simple...right? Not really because I realized that I could buy waterproof, clear or a multi-box that had various sizes. I could buy Spiderman or Cinderella. I could get them with or without ointment. I could buy band-aid brand or the store brand. Suddenly I was sucked in to comparing prices and quantities and quality and I stood there numb and unable to make a decision.

I often write about Little Tikes and how I don't like all that plastic. I really don't have anything against Little Tikes. There are built well and built to last. I think my problem is when I walk by daycare center or home daycares and I see Little Tikes toys strewn in the yard like weeds. I find it overwhelming, like trying to find a box of band-aids in the supermarket aisle.

When you walk into Ivy League Daycare the first thing you'll notice is that it doesn't look like a "preschool". We did this on purpose for two reasons. First, it is our home and we want it to look like a home and secondly, I find being surrounded by primary colors for 10 hours a day overstimulating. The colors on our walls are muted, the furniture is painted in a serene light green. There are splashes of red and yes there is even some plastic, but not much at all. There are toys, but only enough so that the children can choose what to play with without being overwhelmed by choice.

What about stimulating their creativity? I smile whenever someone asks about this. I think that in an effort to sell products, companies have put on a great campaign and we parents have taken the bait, hook, line and sinker. The campaign states something along the lines that we must stimulate our child's imagination or creativity by buying them this (usually brightly colored plastic) toy. Actually nothing can be further from the truth! First, your child comes equipped with an active imagination and geared for creativity. I think that as parents and educators, we should provide some thing to allow their imagination to take flight, but we need not go out and spend a fortune to do it. Paper, crayons, paint, rocks, shells, scraps of cloths, needle, thread. Other than that, some pots and pans, a broom and dustpan and you have hours of entertainment for your child.

For a while, my children had a ton of toys, yet more often than not, they were making forts with the sofa cushions or making "music" with the pots and pans. They would "wash" dishes for hours. They made fishing poles from sticks and yarn. My daughter still beams with delight at the sight of Styrofoam.

The whole purpose of an imagination is to actually leave something to the imagination. Let the kids color in the primary colors. Let them build something from scratch. Maybe you won't even recognize what it is, but to them, it's a bird or a plane. I'm excited to see all the wonderful things children are capable of doing once they are in an environment that allows them to do it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ivy League...YUM!

I enjoy a good burger and fries on occasion but I don't indulge often because when I do, it's usually because I'm crunched for time and then I'm not having a "good" burger and fries, I'm actually having a greasy burger with salt laden fries and spend the rest of the day regretting it. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but my body doesn't seem to do well unless it's well nourished. I get sluggish and lethargic and feel gross all over.

We've been pretty busy around here. If you keep up with us on Facebook, you know that we've been working early mornings until way past sundown, day after day for weeks now. My typical mode of operation is to work continuously while I order pizza or chomp down on a burger or spend the day staving off hunger by filling up on chips. Not this time. I just can't risk slowing down or getting sick. This time I planned and planning has made all the difference. I stocked up on berries, yogurt, lean turkey, cheese, hummus, avocados and tortillas. I make it a point to stop, make lunch and dinner and then sit down and eat it. Turns out that taking a break to prepare and savor my food goes a long way into re-energizing me. I can work later, for longer periods of time and I'm losing weight.

There has been such a push for healthy school lunches stemming from the rise in childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. What I wonder is how we ever got so far away from providing healthy lunches for children. We don't worry about those things at Ivy League-West. Here we will be providing two healthy snacks and a wholesome, healthy lunch everyday. Our menu will consists of at least two vegetarian lunches a week. The other three days lunches will always include vegetables and/or fruit. Snacks will always include fresh, raw vegetables or fruit. The fruit will always be fresh with the exception of canned pineapple in natural juice or frozen fruit.

Milk will be available at lunch and natural juice at morning snack. Water will be provided throughout the day and for afternoon snack. The following is a sample menu. Our menus will change monthly as well as seasonally. You can expect warm, rich soups and stews in autumn and winter and cool, refreshing sandwiches and salads in summer. Our quarterly newletters will have some of the recipes used in our menu.

Autumn/Winter Lunch Menu

Beef Stew over rice (it's thick and hearty with lots of veggies)

Pureed White Bean Soup (my mom's favorite when I was a child. She could hide all those yummy veggies I refused to eat)

Stir Fry Noodles with veggies (do you see a pattern emerging?)

Black Bean Soup with plantains

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Roasted Bell Pepper and Tomato Soup.

Chili con carne and corn bread

Chicken Quesadillas

3 Cheese Quesadillas

Annie's Organic Macaroni and Cheese

Tuna Melts

Pumpkin Soup (actually pumpkin everything during the fall)

Carrot-Ginger and Cashew Soup

Steak Tacos

Snack list

Raw Veggies with dip

Apples with peanut butter

Trail Mix (with just a few dark chocolate chips)

Yogurt with Pineapple and Granola

Hard-Boiled eggs (maybe even deviled with yogurt if we are feeling fancy)

Crostini's with Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella

Bagels and cream cheese

Pears slices with crackers

Hummus on tortillas

Avocado slices

Obviously these are just a sample of what the children as well as the teachers will be eating. Listing all these yummy foods has made me hungry. I'm off to make dinner.

Enjoy your evening,


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Think I Can

So I needed to complete one more class before my application could be considered and it was not scheduled in Salem until August 16th. I made a few calls and was informed that I could take the class in any county in Oregon. One was being offered on July 27th in Clackamas County. I called and registered and the kind lady gave me directions which I wrote down on a pad of paper. I recall she said take the Clackamas Town Center exit turn left and go to 95th and then make another left and we are the third driveway on the left.

Tuesday came too early because Monday was one of those nights that I didn't sleep well. I went to bed late, then about 1:00 a.m. I heard Luke crying. I got up to check on him and he was having a bad dream, so I talked him through it and stayed with him for a bit. At 3:30 a.m., Isabela called and asked me to turn off her fan because she was cold, then the alarm rang at 6:00 a.m. As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed the pad with the address was not on the desk. Hm? Well, I remembered the directions so I felt pretty confident I would find the place. I was on the road by 7:30 a.m. for a class that started at 9:00 a.m.

First I took what I thought would be a shortcut to the freeway only to encounter road repairs and detours. Then, I haven't been to the Clackamas Town Center in years so I thought it was off highway 5. I took three different exits off the 5, but found no town center at all. I called the town center business office but they didn't open until 10:00 a.m. I called home. Sergio told me the town center was off the 205, not the 5. Great, I still had plenty of time. I took the 205, but saw a sign for Oregon City. What?! I thought I was going the wrong way so I turned around, only to find myself back on the 5. Grrr. Okay, back on the 205 and this time I found the Town Center. It was only 8:40, so I still had 20 minutes and I knew I was really close because I remembered the directions the lady gave me. Only when I turned left off the freeway, there was no 95th street. Maybe she didn't say 95th, maybe she said 103rd? Yikes. I see a Clackamas County Office building, so I park and try to go inside. The building is closed and has a sign that says they've moved. I head to the new building. No one knows what I'm talking about, there are no classes held in that building. Someone suggests I try the training center two blocks down. It's now 8:55. I call the Clackamas County Child Care Division which is where I called to schedule the class, the English message says the office opens at 8:30 a.m., the Spanish message says they open at 9:30 a.m. I'm quickly losing confidence. I leave a message asking someone to call me back with directions. I head over to the training center, no one knows what I'm talking about. Someone suggests I try the Sheriffs office, one block back. I call the office again and leave another message. It's now 9:10 a.m. I go to the Sheriff's office, no luck. As I walk out I see some construction workers across the street. I go ask them. They have no idea, but one fellow has an i-Phone. He types in the name, no luck. He googles the phone number, no luck. We look for 95th street, no luck. They suggest I try on the other side of the freeway. I explain the lady clearly said two lefts, not two rights. It's now 9:30. I call an leave a bit of a frantic message.

The temptation to skip out on the class and head to Nordstroms Rack is strong. I push it aside as I see a car the had a Clackamas County sign on the side. I ask the lady. She has no clue what I'm talking about but gives me directions to the County's Child Protective Services office. I'm on the verge of tears. I call the office again. Again I get their voicemail. It's now 9:45 and I just want to go home. Nordstroms Rack is not the slightest bit appealing at this point. I sit and cry and then gather myself. I start heading home...but then I turn the car around and head in the direction of Child Protective Services. It's a long shot, but I have to give it a try. As I'm turning around, I call the office again.

HALLELUJAH! Someone answered. I'm elated, ecstatic! I explain that I've been lost for an hour and that I know I'm so close. The lady on the other end of the line confirms that I just need to head to the other side of the freeway, but because I missed an hour of class I won't get a certificate of completion. I want to cry again. I tell her, but I've left numerous messages and I drove all the way from Salem. She tells me to head down and that she would talk to the teachers. I find the place in two minutes. I speak with the teacher and we agree that I will stay after to have her go over what I missed. Excellent.

I drink in the two hours that are left feeling ever so grateful that I didn't give up. During the second half of the class we get a new teacher. She ends the class and hands out all the certificates. All except mine. Everyone leaves and there I sit. She smiles and asks if I have a question. I tell her I'm waiting for Sonya to come back to go over what I missed. She smiles and apologizes for giving me bad directions. She goes on to inform me that Sonya had an appointment at 11:00 a.m. and won't be back. "She'll just have to get in touch with you on another day." I smile and thank her. I pick up my things and head in search of the woman who answered the phone. I find her and ask her to help me find Sonya. I follow her around the office and she finally turns to me and says, "You know, I'm just going to go over it with you. I used to teach the class, so I can still issue certificates."

We found a quiet corner and she gave me more information than anyone else got. She gave me tips and contacts. She gave me the skinny on what to say when I need something. She was awesome!

To think I was so ready to give up.

When the world says, "Give up,"

Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
~Author Unknown

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Like any educational entity, here at Ivy League-West we must adhere to state standards. While I like the idea of having a standards system in place, it's not the end all to all. I like knowing that all preschools need to have a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit and an evacuation plan ready. I like knowing that the yard the children play in must be free of debris and hazards. However, holding up a "we meet state standards" sign does little to tell me if this is the school I want my children to be enrolled in. I would much prefer to know what that particular school or daycare standards are.

State standards after all are meant to maintain a "minimum". The least that you can do to be licensed is meet state standards. So at Ivy League-West we strive to meet our own high standards. Yes, state minimum standards are met, that's a given once we receive our license, but our own standards far exceed any minimums set by the state.

What we will be providing is a service to the children in our care, not just to their working parents. Our first standard will be to keep the children as our primary focus. We will maintain a balanced environment. Children will have stimulating experience but also time to relax and recoup. It is during this "downtime" that children process what they have learned. Our second standard is to maintain a healthy balance between activity and rest. We will engage the children in activities where they will naturally learn about themselves, about others and about their environment. Children learn best by doing, so will be "doing" a lot of cooking, cleaning up, nurturing and experimenting. By engaging the children in real life, they develop a feeling of worthiness and purpose. Our third standard is to make sure children have a place of value within their community. Children also learn by playing. During the day, the children will have plenty of time to use their imagination. Most of the toys at Ivy League-West are made of natural materials such as wood, wool, cotton and linen. Due to the high cost of such toys we will have limited toys that are made of plastic, although not our first choice, we feel that the few plastic toys that are available will enhance the child's learning and playing experience and is worth the exception being made. Our fourth standard is to protect the sanctity of childhood by allowing children to enjoy their childhood and by not expecting them to be mini adults.

Lastly but quite important to parents is that at Ivy League-West we recognize that you the parent are your child's expert. Our role is to be supportive and a resource to you should you need guidance or suggestions. We do not strive to be surrogate parents, nor do we strive for perfection and we certainly do not expect perfection from any parent or child. Our fifth standard is to provide an excellent service to children who deserve no less thereby relieving some stress and anxiety from the parents day.

Feel free to print these up and take them with you when you are looking for a daycare facility for your child. Let me know if you find another excellent daycare that adheres to standards higher than those minimums set by the state. I would love to be able to refer some parents on our waiting list to them.



Saturday, July 17, 2010


I just read Sarah Plain and Tall to the kids. In it, Anna tells her brother, "Hush, Caleb. Hush up!" I decided I'm in love with the word "hush." It doesn't matter if you say it a bit frustrated, as Anna did or if you whisper it, it sounds just like what you want. "A hush came over the crowd." It's a quiet sound, don't you think?

In thinking of words I don't like, especially words or phrases I don't like to use around children, so many come to mind. Shut up....cut it out...stop that...oh no you don't! I think I heard all of those at the last daycare I worked at and I only worked for three hours! The thing to remember is that children tend to be quite literal. So when you say, cut it out, they are likely to go get scissors and cut something out. If you say, stop it, they may not respond at all, because they are not sure what it is they should stop. Should they stop running...or put the scissors down...or stop running with scissors? Shut up just sounds rude. So unless it's a dire emergency, I don't use it because kids will emulate you before they listen to you. If you are rude, you best believe your kids are rude too.

Hush, sounds tranquil. "I enjoyed the quiet hush of the house after the evening's dinner bustle." "Hush little baby, don't you cry..." I've noticed that when I whisper "hush" to my kids they quiet down right away. I think they are curious. "Why, mom?" or as they look around, "What is it?" It grabs their attention immediately which is usually what I want when I'm trying to get them to settle down. Try it. I wonder if you'll notice a difference.

Now, let's all hush and get ready for a good nights sleep.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.
Albert Einstein

I love that quote. I've been actively trying to apply it to all I do. Let me tell you it's been no easy feat. The trips to the goodwill alone account for a lot of work. In the end, although that's a figurative term because it never ends, simplifying my life has been liberating. Which is why I was trilled when I found this book at my local library, Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It's quick and easy to read. In fact, I read it in one afternoon. It's informative without being preachy. I especially recommend it to parents that ask themselves or their children, "Why do I spend money buying all these toys, if you never play with them?" Why indeed? You'll find so much helpful information that will guide you to a path of simpler living. I think you'll be surprised how much richer you life will feel without so much stuff in it.

Go read it and tell me what you think. I'd love to hear your comments.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Coming Along

We've been working and planning and working. When we decided to open a preschool/day care at home we were in the midst of remodeling. We had been in the midst for over a year. We knew what needed to be done, but the work seemed overwhelming, so we kept putting it off. We kept finding things to do instead. Now however there is no turning back. In addition to knocking down a wall and closing off another one, we also have furniture to paint and buy and a backyard that needs immediate attention.

Needless to say we've been like beavers here. Painting, sanding, digging, in addition to all the regular stuff such as making meals, running errands, cleaning house and laundry. Oh yes, also summer finally you know we are trying to enjoy that too.

I love the colors we've picked for the preschool and the furniture in it. It's all so soothing. It's so easy to get the work done when you are loving the results. The curriculum will be very Waldorf inspired. I do plan to incorporate other methods also, I'm not a purist. The menu is still in the planning stages because I'm not quite sure if I'll be serving the kids lunch. At this point it's looking like just two snacks and they can bring lunch from home. I have a few snack items on a menu I'll be posting soon.

Now, must get some sleep because I have a big day of painting tomorrow. Can't wait!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Schedule

I've been working on a schedule. Funny how we revert back to our comfort zone, even as we are in the midst of a break-through. I had a schedule all made up. I had broken into half-hour increments. After posting it on the web-site and looking at it for a few days, I realized this was exactly what I did not want. I scraped it and just sat on the idea of a schedule for a few days.

I imagined what the days would look like with 5 to 8 kids in tow from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. I thought about the rhythm of the last seven years, what worked, what didn't. Slowly, I started picturing the days as they flow. I decided that in order to have the type of preschool that I want, the type that is tranquil and flowing but yet fun and exciting, I cannot have a set schedule!

How can I have rhythms without a set schedule? I decided to break the day into chunks; morning, afternoon and evening. This allow for rhythms without a rigid schedule that can stifle creativity.

The morning flow will be a bit more structured in the sense that I will be more involved in guiding children through the activities. The afternoon consists of lunch, clean up and rest time. The evening will consist of self-directed activities and wind-down in preparation for going home.

A sample of morning activities may be making musical instruments, using them in the circle gathering. The children may work on the flower garden, planning and planting. The children will always be involved in snack preparation and clean up. There will be other activities available for children who finish their work. Those who delve into their projects with more aplomb can spend more time on them without a break in the rhythm. So the morning continues with activities and chores until lunch time. Yes, you read that correctly, children will be doing chores. Clean up is an essential part of learning.

Lunch is not viewed as something to get through so we can go outside and play. In fact lunch becomes as integral to the learning as any cognitive activity. The children, with guidance will set the table with real dishes, glasses and utensils. No plastic sippy cups or divided plastic plates. Those are convenient for travel, but have no place during a fine dining experience. The children will wash, dry and put away the dishes. After lunch, it's time to relax, reflect and perhaps even time for a nap.

Late afternoon or evening allows children to express themselves in self-directed activities. You'll be surprised the great things little ones come up with if given time and minimal involvement. Depending on the time most children get pick up, we will start winding down about 30 minutes prior. Wash up, read or tell stories, talk about the day, anticipate the next day.

Simple, predictable and flexible...I like it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Reason

Opening a preschool/daycare center is something I've been toying with for years. In college, I had big dreams about opening day care centers at places of business. I thought it would be awesome if places like hospitals or big office buildings had day care centers on site. Parents and children could be in close proximity, maybe even get together for lunch. I still think it's a great idea. Slowly however I became disillusioned with the whole business of day cares center. There was something so awful about it. On many mornings I would see sleepy children dropped off at 6:00 a.m. as parents rushed off to work, sometimes reprimanding children for wanting one more hug, one more kiss because they were going to be late. Usually it was these same children who were picked up, again in a rush, at 6:00 p.m. by harried parents thinking about what to make for dinner and how quickly could they get the kid down for the night. Day after day watching all these people on the treadmill of life left me exhausted. Watching the poor kids just left me emotionally drained.

Don't misunderstand, I never once questioned the parents love or devotion to their children. I was sure these kids were loved. I understood that living in Los Angeles usually demands two working parents. Traffic in L.A. usually demands a long commute. In fact, dropping a child off by six a.m. and picking them up by six p.m. was a heroic feat for some. I think I would have been okay with things if the day care centers offered some respite from the rush, rush, rush of daily life for the children. In fact, the centers were just as chaotic as the life outside it's doors.

Granted there is always noise and some sense of chaos when you have 12 three year olds in a classroom. Most schools had 2 to 5 year olds and increased the number of kids after two o'clock with after school care. That's a lot of kids and obviously quite a bit of noise. The thing was that even in school the kids were over scheduled. My lesson plan for instance has an activity every 15 to 20 minutes because that is the average attention span for the preschool aged set. That's a heck of a lot of activities. Then there are the lights! Goodness, fluorescent over head lighting riles me up and I think it does the same for kids. Have you ever noticed the walls at a day care center? It's difficult to focus on any one thing because they are so busy. There is usually no place to rest your eyes. Of course, there are the many, many plastic brightly colored toys. Curse you Little Tikes! When exactly does a child get to disengage? When does he have a free moment to think?

I get that parents want to feel they are getting their monies worth. If they are paying for care, they want their child to learn something, not just play all day! My question is what exactly is it that they want their child to learn? Do children need to be mini adults to have worth? Do they need to rival Einstein at age three?

Having my own children has given me a better insight to what parents want for their kids. I think most parents would agree that they want their children to be healthy, happy and successful in a career or pursuits that brings them satisfaction. Great! We have a starting point. So to be healthy you have to have a bit of luck. After all, you could do all the right things and your child can become sick. You have to have a well balanced diet over the long run. I say this because especially with children we need not fret if they decide to eat only white things for a few days. In the long run, a healthy diet will work it's magic. You need to have access to fresh air, fresh water and to nature in general. You need to have love and affection. Having all these I think would also make for some pretty happy children.

Now, the trick lies in the "successful". How can we make kids be successful? The truth of the matter is we can't. What we can do is expose kids to experiences that they can learn from. We can give them room to explore and experiment without fretting over them. We can set a daily rhythm where they can feel secure in the predictability of the day. We can trust that these same children don't need an array of brightly colored plastic toys to stimulate their imaginations. We trust that God equipped them with vivid imaginations already. We need only to allow them to put them to use. We can give children tasks that can be mastered giving them an inherent sense of accomplishment.

So I think that it's time to try something new. It's time to offer working parents, not just a place that cares for their kids, but a place where their kids can be kids, in all their glory. It's time to have a place where children can play, relax and learn, but more importantly and place where a foundation for future learning is well established. A place where children can thrive. I'm working on just such a place. Stay tuned.