Welcome to my blog about my experiences working in early childhood. I have called it Nurturing Forests because I believe that raising children is not a isolated activity but takes a whole community.

As early childhood professionals, we are actively involved in this process but we also need to work closely with the children, parents, community as a whole and other allied professionals.

I hope you enjoy my site. I also have a facebook site of the same name where I provide links to useful sites for teachers, parents and others interested in the early childhood: www.facebook.com/nurturingforests

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fighting for recognition

I have been spending the last few days in Perth with my partner who is a senior official of the Transport Workers Union. We are over here for the federal meetings.

As a result, I have been having lots of interesting conversations about politics and workers' rights (my previous life in HR sometimes helps and sometimes hinders these conversations).

The discussion of worker conditions in the early childhood field has come up a number of times. But the main theme has been that the wages and conditions for the industry are, to put it politely, abysmal.

One of the officials revealed to me that he was thinking of retraining and working in the field but he worked out as he was single and had rent and child maintenance to pay the income would not to be enough.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the workers in early childhood needing to stop being 'nice' (see the work of Sandra Cheeseman) and be honest about what we need in terms of a livable wage and a realistic measure of the work we do (so we are not doing everything at home on our own time).

One of the possible directions for my phd studies is a comparative study between what the nurses have achieved (and where they are going) and what we need to do to achieve a similar recognition of our skills. The Nurses have run a strong campaign to increase society's awareness of their skills, training and role within hospitals which has led to measurable improvements in wages and conditions and overall respect for the profession.

A key part of this is making the industry attractive and viable as a career choice for males (and single females) as well as the 'secondary' breadwinner.

Early Childhood Teachers study for 4 years at university only to come out and be paid very low wages. We need stand up and say this is not fair and our role is very important in society and should be recognized as such.

Posted by Wendy

"the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" -Martin Luther King

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wrestling with the budget....

Is it just me or does every 'educational' catalogue seem to charge completely unreasonable prices for basic resources?

I am trying to work out my priorities for my may budget (which has just had a hundred shaved off it to pay for the cleaners) my wish list has been rapidly culled.

I started off with an aim to focus spending on maths and science resources this month. But as most of those cost more than my budget. I have reprioritised to spreading the spending over a few curriculum areas and hope that in the mean time - buttons, milk caps and other odds and bobs will work.

So I thought I would mine the wonderful resource that is my readers and see if anyone can point me in the right direction for the following resources ( I am aiming for quality sustainable resources that can withstand two year olds but still challenge preschoolers)

- a scale
- mobilo instructions -is there a website?

Is there some fantastic ( read here cheap) place where I can get the following:
- more mobilo
- geoboards ( I do remember blogs about making your own but I'm not that keen yet)
- unifix cubes

Or are there any great maths and science resources that you would recommend?

Posted by Wendy

"the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" -Martin Luther King

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Social Inclusion: The role of early childhood education and care

The recent Australian Institute of Family studies - Communities and families clearinghouse Australia (CAFCA) - practice sheet raises the important issue of social inclusion ( and its counter social exclusion) and asks child and family services to think about their role. The full practice sheet can be accessed here: http://www.aifs.gov.au/cafca/pubs/sheets/ps/ps7.html (while you are there have a look around it is a useful site).

The article raises the four domains of social inclusion, the opportunity to:
1) participate in society through employment and access to services;
2) connect with family, friends and the local community;
3) deal with personal crises; and
4) be heard.

Traditionally, long day care and preschools have been closely intertwined with the community and providing a supportive role to their families and the surrounding community. It is a role most of us try to supply on a daily basis.

The article suggests we have a key role by:
- providing space for parents and children to meet one another and develop friendships and informal support networks
- providing opportunities for parents to take up leadership roles within the program,
- encouraging parents and children to contribute to decision making processes in the local community

You may note the link with the Early Years Learning Framework concept of 'belonging' and the article specifically uses the word.

The practice sheet also discusses the importance of giving children the chance to 'be heard' and their rights as a citizen now (not just a future citizen).

Practices that are family centered, partnership based and strengthens based are designed to enable family and children's voices to be heard. Working with families is not just about providing advice but about:
"hearing the whole story, seeing the full picture, knowing the main worries, learning their strengths, and taking all these into account in enabling them to find ways of managing the problems that confront them and their children" (p.11).

The importance and value of including and ALL families in our daily practice cannot be underestimated and is a vital part of our role that while challenging can be very rewarding for all.

Some suggestions for your practice include:
- is it viable for your centre to offer voluntary or paid employment opportunities to parents using your centre?
- can you provide parents with easily accessible information to increase their sense of inclusion? ( think about ways of reaching families who may feel marginalized e.g. Single parents, young mothers, parents with mental illness)
- can you provide parents with a leadership role within the centre (e.g. Committee?)
- what opportunities are you providing for parents to socialize with one another? Is there a dedicated space? Do you organize regular social activities for your families ( and at a variety of times?)
- do your families realize the importance of social interactions and friendships for their children?
- what opportunities are provided to parents and children to provide feedback on the program? Are these taken up? Do you know why or why not? How can they be encouraged?

What do you do at your centre?
For my parent readers, how does your centre help you feel socially included in your local community?

Posted by Wendy

"the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" -Martin Luther King