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, March 29, 2011

Celebrating Easter - Do I do it?

I wanted to do a post on the celebration of Easter in a Long Day Care setting because it seems to be an issue that a lot of people are concerned about.

There has been a extreme trend (and often the only version seen in the papers) to ban all celebrations in the understanding that that is how you recognise diversity and difference within the centre.

However, recognition of diversity and difference is not about pretending things don't exist - it is acknowledging that other people may hold different views to you and each other and talking about that at the same time.

This including providing families with a choice and ability to ask their child not to be involved in a certain celebration.

I, personally, do not hold any strong religious beliefs - I do strongly recognise with the principles of Buddhism and try to implement them but often fail - but my boss and my Diploma staff member are both strong Christians and as I explained to them - it is OK to celebrate something at work that they believe in.

Part of being a good teacher and role model is having conviction of your beliefs but not to the exclusion of others.

What do you do for Easter? Do you celebrate it at your centre?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Maths Links: Integrating the concept of time into the curriculum

This is part of Joyful Learner's Math Links... come over and check it out at http://www.joyfullearner.blogspot.com/

A critical maths skill that all children need to learn is the ability to read a clock and both types of clocks, not just a digital clock.

Many people argue that telling the time is too complicated a skill for young children but I know many 2 year olds (and even some babies) who are able to understand the basics. The main skill is an understanding of the numbers and the idea that they represent a concept (time). Most children have been exposed to time as a concept from a very young age - for example, being asked to wait for something.

Like many complicated concepts, such as reading and writing, it is all about modelling and demonstrating how the skill is used in every day life.

For example, for many children I like to introduce the concept of  time (and a clock) when they are arguing over a toy. For example, Joe can have the toy til the big hand gets on the 2. For a very popular toy this can even involve the making of a waiting list then writing the numbers and drawing what the hands will look like.

It is also useful for when morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea are coming as well as when their families will be here. It can also be used in a pictorial communication system to enable children to plan their day.

I also like to supplement this with clock puzzles that show times etc. At the expense of coming across as a Melissa and Doug Sales repersentative (I promise I'm not) this clock is incredible and suitable for all ages.

What do you do to help your children understand the concept of time?

We Play: Making a train

This is part of Childhood 101's we play link up... come over and play http://www.childhood101.com/

The theme for this week is what  - Have you and your child/ren made your own play things lately? What did you make?

Our children (well, most of them and yes, mostly the boys) have been obsessed with trucks, trains and cars of late. We have had an extensive collection of materials out linking to this interest including a wooden train set, a wide range of different types of trucks (plastic and wooden, large and small), garages, and even a very fancy circle ramp thing that you have to set the traffic light to go.

But the most beautiful thing I have observed all week is the use of a simple hoop to create a train and go around the yard. It started off with the two children and then the middle one asked to join and was happily included into play. It was pure joy (and genius) in action!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Books lovely books part 2

I have had a few lovely books arrive recently so I thought I share some with you

For children:

1) Fearless by Colin Thompson

A beautiful book about a dog struggling to live up to the expectations of his name. As I have two dogs with pretentious names - Josephine (a cavoodle) and Napoleon(a west highland terrier) - and who are a lot like this dog I nearly cried with laughter.

2) Never Smile at a Crocodile (incl. Cd)

You know the song.... Beautiful picture book and supplemented by a cd of the song for when the children ask you to read it for the fourth time in a row

Both are through ABC books shop.abc.net.au - I got them on a warehouse sale which often has books really cheap - let me know if you want the link. Amazon don't seem to stock it but you can be put on www.thebookdepository.co.uk wait list and they have free worldwide delivery.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Maths links- the joy of an abacus

This is part of Joyful Learner's Maths Links come over and have a look www.joyfulllearner.blogspot.com

I have recently had the good fortune to acquire a beautiful Melissa and Doug wooden abacus.

When I studied maths at university there was a lot of talk about buying hundreds boards for the children - which seem to be ridiculously expensive for what they are - and subsequently it was on my wish list of things for my new centre.

But having watched the children play with this abacus, I think a quality beautiful abacus achieves the same ten by ten purpose but in a much more open ended beautiful way.

I have observed all of the ages in my centre from two year olds to just under six relish the counting and maths play that this abacus provides - ranging from simple moving of the pieces to counting all the way to 100 while moving the pieces (one to one correspondence at it's best)

If you don't have a abacus... I personally recommend one very highly and if you don't want to buy one you can simply make one via threading ten sets of ten... Even more maths plus fine motor!

We play: hanging washing and raking leaves

This is part of the We play link up over at Childhood 101

As I have mostly involved in establishing systems and routines at my new centre. I feel like I have been missing out on my favorite part of being a early childhood teacher - play.

But on reflection and in a attempt to join in the great fun that is we play- I realized that there has been lots of meaningful play surrounding me of late.... And one of my favorite kinds house play.

While I have been hanging the washing out - the children have mimicked this behavior on the washing line that my wonderful colleague Danielle had put out with the babies and their clothes.

While I have been raking and sweeping the grounds - the children have been helping with their rakes and brooms and sometimes the adult size ones.

When I tidy up around me - the children, especially the two years olds, mimic this behavior in their play and immediately become more respectful of the toys and making sure they go back in their homes.

Integrating household chores and activities into the curriculum is a significant component of the Waldorf/Steiner philosophy including knitting and cooking. This has increasingly been integrated into most mainstream practices and is a major theme in the new early years learning framework. Part of this is building relationships with families and gaining an understanding of what they do at home with their children and bringing their skills and knowledge into the centre where possible

How do you bring a sense of home into your practice?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Montessori schools

Sorry for the delay in posting, I have been flat out at my new centre setting up programming documents and primary carergroups etc

I just quickly wanted to draw attention to the inner Sydney Montessori school's open day tomorrow this is their website: www.isms.nsw.edu.au.

Having studied at Macquarie we tend to focus on Reggio more than other philosophies so it was fascinating this week to have a quick visit to their school and see how similar a lot of the concepts are.

I know I will be dropping over for a extended visit.

I also recommend checking out their website. In particular, How they have explained the link between the Early Years Learning Framework and their practices.

As a teaser, I'm hoping to write a post about controlled crying (why not to do it) and integrating household tasks into the curriculum aka waldorf Steiner

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Caring for (and paying) staff is just as important

I personally believe that you can not provide quality care if you do not provide a working environment where the staff are financially secure, recognised for their skills professionally, challenged intellectually and empowered.

Part of this is recognition that a vital part of convincing parents what is good about your centre is the fact that you look after your staff and provide working conditions that minimise their stress and enables recognition of their responsibilities which includes providing the staff with time (at work and paid for) to complete everything they need to get done.

Fortunately my new workplace is pretty much on board with this philosophy - so it is a vast improvement!

I think we are completely underestimating parents if we think they cant understand that we too need decent wages and conditions to work and be happy in our jobs (and the subsequent impact it has on their children and the care we can provide)  - as such I hope you all planning intensely on how you are going to participate in the IEU Teachers are Teachers Blue Day.

I know it will be much easier (hopefully) for those of you who work at council, community and not for profit centres because of higher union density and higher acceptance of workers right to organise so if you have any inspiration for our fellow teachers in the private sector I would love to hear your stories.

For those of us in private sectors, all we are asking for is a recognition of our education and skills its not unreasonable and all research points that early childhood teachers in long day care centres make a very significant impact on the quality of care for their children - and without adequate pay we will not remain in the sector leading to a continuation of the incredibly high turnover of staff which is unsettling for their children and everyone.

Don't be scared get up and fight for what you are entitled for!! its the only way change happens.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Settling in to my new centre

In case any of you were worried about how my new workplace is going - It's going great!!

The staff are wonderful, the owner has a great vision for the centre and what she wants to achieve, the children are warm and welcoming and very settled (even the ones that started this week)....

I am beginning to scope out what needs to be done from here and while the list is long I am reasonably calm about it all and know that between us all we will get there.

Firstly, I have to clean out the store room so I know what's there ;)

Then quality art materials is second on the list as rapidly setting up my atelier

This will be following by a large focus on the home corner/dramatic play.

In between, I will be working on planning and programming with the staff to make sure all of the staffs' wonderful work with the children is documented and recognised

As you can see busy busy.. will start sharing photos soon.

Though hard readjusting to a full time working week (i will have flexibility to roll back in future) and so glad I have my art class this morning as a break (and a catch up with Jacqui and Vicki tonight!).