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.