Thursday 31 January 2013

the last Blog a day challenge January 2013 post

So January has come to an end.

So comes to an end the challenge of a blog a day!

It ended up being easier than I thought - but some days it felt less inspiring than others. Its going to be nice to revert back to blogging when I really have something to say (which might end up being pretty often as I can say a lot!)

I have spent this month also watching WHERE everyone who views my blog comes from - I think it is so amazing to see that what I have written is been read in different countries all over the world - it inspires me to write more.

69 different countries since the turn of the new year - Europe, The Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia - yep, the whole world it feels like.

I think writing the blog also helps me reflect better on what I am doing, helps me become a better teacher - as it gives me the time to formulate my ideas and write down my experiences - and then to access them again and re read with a new perspective.

I also enjoy reading other blogs - to be inspired.

I was going to write a wonderful end of month post with the start of a "valentine"/love/ friendship/we-feeling project - but I am sat here with fever - so my brain just doesn't want to function - in fact it is not even wanting to spell (thank goodness for spell-check today!!).

So I am going to leave you with a photo of my laughing children - because laughter boosts the immune system, and I want to feel better.

LOVE and LAUGHTER - the best medicine ever.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

from me to we

Its been one of those days that has got me thinking ...

How is a "we" feeling created. When does it stop being me me me and "MINE" to a more cooperative play and the natural ability to share? Is it something that comes naturally or is it something that has to be learned?

a "we" painting

I have been reading several articles and blogs about backing off from getting young children to share and sometimes I wonder if this is a very "singleton" way of looking at life? My twins were my first borns - and so my experiences with children have always been ones of sharing and of the joy they had sharing experiences and play and THINGS - in fact I have worked on supporting the girls to find the me in the we.

Balance in EVERYTHING in life is important.

I remember when I was expecting Michael several other mothers were expecting their second child. We sat and chatted with our large bellies, and the larger they got the more anxiety there was amongst the other mothers. How were they going to cope? How were they going to be able to share all their love and devotion between two children - as if suddenly they would be halving their love for their preschooler. I looked at them with wide-eyes - wondering if they thought I only gave half my love to each of the girls and not all my love to both? I was not worried at all about having enough love - but maybe that was because I was already used to "sharing" it - not as halves but as complete wholes.

Maybe we should reconsider sharing with young children not as something that happens when a child gives away one of his toys to another child but as a child gaining a play friend, of developing their empathy and understanding of others. I am not talking about when a child has to disturb a game they are intensely playing, but of the inability to share - for example, I witnessed a child unable to play with the collection of animals because the child was too intent on preventing anyone else playing with them - the child literally curled around and over the toy animals and growled at any child who dared to approach. When I pointed out that the child was not playing with the animals as planned I asked if it might not be a better idea to share some of the animals so that play could be resumed. The idea was approved and animals were offered to others and a richer game then ensued. This is not forcing a child to share, this is allowing a child to understand that play is possible/better/more fun if shared... (although alone play should not be devalued either).

a "we" experience - sharing insect finds...
Then there is the tricky issue of not wanting to hold hands with another child. Of course teachers are sensitive enough NOT to partner up children who do not like each other (other techniques need to be used first to support the building of that potential friendship - and to some extent accept that it is impossible to like everyone, but we do need to treat all with respect). Sometimes, though, a child suddenly refuses to hold hands - and this can happen at any stage of an excursion - and can feel immensely frustrating. The whole group stands there, unable to proceed, because one child has made the decision not to hold hands with their walking-buddy (gå-kompis) and the only reason often is "don't want to". The child whose hand is left vacant stands there sometimes not fully aware of what is going on, and sometimes acutely aware that they have been "rejected". I find it hard to get the balance right in these situations for the "me" and the "we". I understand that something has occurred (it could be a thought about home, or something that happened the week before, or due to something that has just happened between the pair of them that neither can explain) BUT this is simply not the time for a "me" moment - there are situations where the "we" has to come before the "me". If all of the children were to have "me" moments on an excursion then the chances are we might not get very far - or in fact anywhere. Sometimes a group has to simply work out how to walk together as a group - looking out for each other, being aware of each other - and aware of where they are walking. (the hand refusing mid walk has to be resolved on an individual basis - sorry no great cure all advice - the latest one that worked was - "You can choose between holding X Y or Z hands " - shakes head vigorously - "OK, I will count to three and if you have not chosen then I will choose for you" - I ended up choosing - the hand was held and all was well. Although usually they make the last minute choice themselves...)

It would be fantastic if all children in preschool groups/classes could walk to and from the park as they wanted - stop when they wanted, run when they wanted, check out small details at will and explore - unfortunately this is not always possible. There is road safety so consider, there is ensuring sufficient adult supervision (if there are 3 children running ahead, three children stopped checking out a worm  and four others somewhere in the middle in different phases - where are the 2 teachers supposed to be? At the front to ensure the children running end up in the right place (and not under a car), at the back to make sure the last children remember where they are supposed to be going? What about the children in the middle - what happens if there are corners and we lose sight of them?) Feel my hair getting more grey by the second!!!!

We can give our own children (as a family) more freedom to explore - I remember the walk to the small supermarket, 3 blocks away, took us almost 2 hours when the girls were toddlers - it was like a trip to a museum - on the way everything had to be explored, then we had to make discoveries in the store and choose our meals - and then everything had to be rediscovered on the way back (I learned to take a cool bag and ice-packs with me to keep things chilled, and frozen items were bought on a BIG food shop trip when we used the car). They were amazing days learning to marvel at the little things in life...

I think there is still opportunities to stop and allow the children to discover things in their own time at preschool - to pamper the "me" in the "we" - at the same time shared learning is often richer and possible only as a "we".

a "we" activity it will only work with co-operation - (Michael tried on his own)
This is the first preschool I have worked at that is located in a pedestrianised area - and so for the first time I have been able to participate in activities that have allowed the children a greater freedom to discover things for themselves outside of the preschool premises. Its been wonderfully liberating, especially after so many years where the preschool has been in the middle of the city and straight out onto trafficked areas - the focus has ALWAYS been on traffic safety. Having a CHOICE of how the children walk on excursions has allowed me to think more about why we hold hands - and I have felt that the "we" feeling is an important factor of staying together as a group. Today the group tested for the first time holding hands - it was not easy for them - they were used to going at their own individual rate - so walking behind someone or in front of someone or even next to someone was quite tricky - in fact it felt like a math lesson with the amount of prepositions that popped out of my mouth.

This was nothing that came natural. I had moments when I did not know whether to laugh or cry - nine wonderful human beings aged 2-3 (well one will be 4 tomorrow) with their amazing toddler/young children temperaments  trying to make sense of everything. Really I should applaud them - they were amazing - so many new things learned in 30 minutes - holding hands, being responsible for another, watching out for friends in front, dealing with the melting snow (revealing an awful lots of dog.... and how to walk with a friend and dodge all that mess - do you walk sideways, backwards? Amazing how tricky it became to walk forwards and watching where you put your feet!!!)...

This was their first try to walk as "we" - and sure there is a whole LOAD of room for improvement - on reflection I think they did really well. Being 2-4 years old is not always the easiest of ages either - a discovery of independence and the desire to be independent but still that longing for dependence. A time of discovering that parents are separate entities to yourself and of mortality! Scary stuff.  On reflection it could be said that the journey from "me to we" is also creating a sense of security - we are not alone in our growing independence - and THAT feeling can give the strength to seek and be independent, imaginative and competent.

With a safety net below - daring to take risks is made easier.

So really the journey is from "me" to "we" to "me in we".

"we" building - melding ideas and skills together

That by learning to become a social being enables us to develop our own personal skills.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

I wanna hold your hand... and other routines

Over the years I have had many discussions about routines with colleagues - the importance of them and also their disruption to the day...

Sometimes I have felt that the "routine" part of the day - washing hands, changing nappies/toileting, eating and getting to and from destinations are seen as a separate part of the day and for some reason not a part of the learning environment the children participate in.

I have also worked at places that have simply hopped over the hand-washing before lunch and snack because it was too much hassle!!! Hassle? Isn't it supposed to be our job to support the children to learn how to wash their hands before handling and eating food? Shouldn't we take the time to help the children learn how to take turns, how to wash their hands properly (and dry them properly too) - another opportunity to interact with the children in a positive way.

Changing nappies should be a special time, and done with respect, and always by someone who knows the children. It is a time for connection and interaction. A time to communicate, for the building of trust and language...

Here in Sweden we often go on excursions - and sometimes there is such a hurry to get from A to B that so many wonders are missed on the way. There is a value to hand-holding and walking in line which is not just about safety - it builds a sense of "the group". If children are walking individually and marveling at the world they tend to be only responsible for themselves and their own interests (maybe of a few others too), but if they are holding hands and in line they then become aware of their partner, the children in front of them and behind them, and therefore creating a sense of "we". Things can still be taken slowly, and there can be pauses to allow the children to observe and ponder things more closely - sharing their experience with the group.

Michael with friends

I had never really thought of hand-holding and walking in line as a kind of group-building activity until today - I always thought that it was just a method of ensuring that all the children were safe and we ALL got to the park/forest/destination as intended. But today I have seen the social benefits of walking in lines. I know that many preschools in Sweden use walking ropes, and while they are not always optimal (I think they tighten on hands when pulled too hard by a teacher, or can cause a domino effect of falling over as well as not helping the children to think for themselves as they are walking but to allow themselves to be lead along) - I do think that it makes it easier to keep with a partner during this time of big winter gloves that make hand-holding tricky. There are other alternatives too - small hoops to hold or rope rings for partners to keep together...

Just thought I'd share my a-ha moment...

Monday 28 January 2013

Celebrating Australia Day

Counting Australian animals - Kangaroo, emu, magpie, koala, possum, galah, wombat, platypus, kookaburra, cockatoo, using the Australian flag as our work surface
Eucalyptus scented play-dough

adding red pebbles and orange rice to create an Australian look, and green-blue glass stones for the water's edge

then we added blue coloured rice and a rock to finish off our Australia landscape
frogs on the run - through my indoor shoe tunnels

more animals on the run

then they returned to the landscape again

waterplay with sharks, octopus, water-snakes and crocodiles
Half the group had water-play while the other worked on the landscape - and after a while the groups swapped over so that they all had a chance to explore both play experiences. A good opportunity for this new group of children to practice their co-operation skills as well as learn a little more about where Skippy the kangaroo comes from before he is sent further on his adventures in 2 weeks time.

Sunday 27 January 2013

what is love?

So I have been thinking more and more about the appearance of Valentine activities online - suggestion after suggestion of hearts and red and pink...

But maybe its time to stop and think...

What do the children make of all of this?

What is love for the children? Take the time to ask them - philosophize a little - does it have a shape? Is there one love? What colour is love? Can you hold love?

Maybe, once you have collected their thoughts, it is time to work out an activity - whether it be paints or tissue paper, cutting out shapes, glue, glitter - or maybe warm and soft sensory experiences.

My children, when they were preschoolers, described love as cozy, cuddles and wearing pyjamas all day!
Maybe when we represent love as flowers, chocolates and hearts we are projecting a different kind of love than the love children experience. After all loving someone is very different than being in love with someone.

Then maybe we should question the appropriateness of Valentine's Day celebrations with young children altogether? If Valentine is about being in love then maybe we should allow the adults to have this celebration...?

In Swedish it is called "All Hearts Day" which does bring us back to hearts again. Maybe it is a chance to think about what the heart is - is love found there or is it a pump making sure our blood supplies our body with everything it needs?

Where in their bodies do children feel love?

In their arms when they wrap them around us? All over?

How does love make them feel - weak at the knees? Or empowered to dare to do anything.
this is a drawing of "what is love" many of the squiggles are words, pre-writing, as the children saw that I was writing down their words, they too wanted to. The children talked about love being square, rhombus, star, heart shaped; it was green, blue, purple red and pink; it was when parents said "darling"... we will be discovering more about love in the coming weeks.

Lets take time this Valentine to find out what love is for children and see if we can capture it in words, in art and in action.

Reflection February 8th 2014
Valentine's day is approaching yet again - and again most pages seemed to be filled with suggestion after suggestion of pink and glittery hearts and other "traditional" views of Valentine and love.

Again I will not be celebrating Valentine's day with the children at my work... none of them have mentioned it even. As essentially an adult celebration I sometimes wonder why it is even thought suitbale for children (if I am really going to start challenging thoughts). Friendship is something I feel should be always celebrated, not just highlighted once a year, LOVE also... the many forms of love... parents and children, children and friends, children and their teachers, children and... well so mnay things they seem to love... 

This coming week we will return to the The Love Tree artwork, that ended up being reworked when the window it was exhibited in was vandalised (something the children have no memory of now). We will re-read the documentation together and then reflect upon what they think LOVE is... this being after we have asked them again what is love to see if being asked the same question a year later... a year filled with new experiences, will have changed their thoughts about what love is... and then allow them to reflect on the similarities and differences from a year ago.

My wish is for MORE teachers to dare to abandon the traditional heart approach to Valentine's Day and to turn to the children and LISTEN to their ideas and to then work out together how these ideas can be represented in art...

Saturday 26 January 2013

plenty to think about...

Today I have had a whole load of thoughts about what I was going to write in my blog as I sat and listened and participated in this university course concerning philosophy for children. I was interested to hear how the words creative, fantasy and play all popped up during the course of the day - as well as collaborate. And I had a blog idea for each one of them...

In the end I feel like I want more time to mull things over and to get to grips with what has been said today, what I have learnt today, before I feel adequately equipped to share. I have, though, been "sharing" with my children we have had some crazy conversations this evening - some of them philosophical.

We have laughed a lot.

If you could have an extra set of eyes, where on your body would you have them. Take time to think of WHY before you answer.

I am not going to tell you the answers given right now - first you think yourselves and later on the week on my facebook page I will reveal what we said!! As it really surprised me!

But I reckon my favourite dialogue was with Michael and the fact that his father has chosen not to have hair on the top of his head, and that is why it does not grow - because if he did want it to grow it would. When I asked how it would grow - he answered with seeds - everyone has tiny tiny hair seeds. So I asked that if I planted one of my hair seeds on his head would his hair grow like mine -
M - not exactly, it would be the same colour though
S - so if we planted farmor's (paternal grandmother) hair seeds would he grow grey hair?
M - no, because the hairs are new-born and have colour, they are not old and grey...

Friday 25 January 2013

getting philosophical

Today I have been at a course to learn more about using philosophy with children - or maybe that is the wrong phrase to use - its a collaboration of thoughts - we are there to scaffold the children's thought processes, allowing them the time and providing the situations to explore their queries and questions in and of life...

Yesterday I was writing about how the imagination needs to be used to become more imaginative - imagine my surprise when I heard the same words being used for philosophy - that we need to exercise our philosophical side more to be able to have deeper and more profound/meaningful philosophical thoughts. Maybe we need to have a good imagination to be able to philosophize?

if we look the same do we behave the same?
I am going to leave you there thinking about imagination and philosophy - because tomorrow I will be back at Södertörn University and spending another day pondering and thinking and learning about philosophy and children....

(ok and for the record I have hardly ever dressed the girls the same. I felt they needed the chance to develop their own personality - and just because they are identical twins does not mean that they have to be identical - sometimes they end up having the same clothes, because that is what THEY have chosen...  but why was this important? why? How? So many questions and so many answers...)

Thursday 24 January 2013

Light Show - Sensacional

drip drip drip - "its water!" - "fishes, look fishes"
 This was an experience for small children - NO ADULTS ALLOWED - teachers and parents needed to stay on the benches around the edge - this was a new kind of free play.
  free play of the digital age!
There was plenty of running, jumping, interacting with each other and with the moving light creatures and shapes - AND there was some screaming too.
We were told NOT to interfere, that the children were to experience the light show on their own terms - but the screaming...? At first I felt a need to shush the children - but I had to remember, this was on their terms... but what about those who did not dare go onto the white surface - was this because it was too busy, too noisy? or was this simply their quieter and smaller way to interact with the light...? (smaller in the sense that it seemed small from an adult view - for the child it might have been an equally big experience for them as those running and screaming and touching every light shape - we should not judge the size of the child experience by the amount they move or speak, as only the child can feel the size of their own experience)
It has made me reconsider screaming - maybe this was just their way to express their joy, their excitement and their surprise... maybe for it to be on the children's terms there needs to be the opportunity for the children to experience this several times - just one visit maybe just allows for pure excitement and novelty - and further visits would allow for wonder and reflection - for theories and stories to start. Maybe we as adults are too quick to put a lid on the screaming - and that large groups of children have to control part of their natural play due to sound pollution. When I attended my own children's preschool development talks their loudness was always commented on as something to control - the need to use their indoor voices. I understand the need for this - I use the phrase frequently myself - but the loudness of children is just one of those things is it something we need to fight against or work with? If we are working with it, how is this best done? Need to think more about that...

big fishes and small fishes - here you can really see the benefit of the white outfits
 This was an experience for the smallest children, 18 months to three years of age - but still the difference between a toddler and a fully fledged three year old can be quite striking - especially when they are running and dancing and experiencing on their own terms - it was three of our youngest children that were the most nervous about being on the white square - was it because they felt small? Or was it just part of how they wanted to experience it - sitting at the edge in the comfort of an adult - watching and touching the light animals as they passed by... and eventually one of them ventured further in.

If children were able to visit several times maybe it would allow the "noisier" children to find a calmness to be able to discover more - to lie down and just absorb the experience - to be a part of the stage in the white clothes and allow the ladybirds to crawl over them... it would also maybe allow the ones who were more nervous to gain the confidence to explore the whole area and not just the edges.

 It would have been wonderful if there could be an adult session - why should children always have all the fun? I want to play too! Maybe if more adults got in touch with their inner child - with PLAY maybe it would be easier to allow children to play - to REALLY play, their way. Even for older children - sometimes I think older children play less, in the sense of free natural play like a preschooler, unfettered by concerns about how nerdy or uncool they may seem to their peers.

the hearts just before they sprouted legs and joined together to form a caterpillar
 Sensacional will be continuing in the UK after being in Stockholm - so there are chances for others to participate in this experience. When I reflect on the experience I saw today I saw INTERACTION and the space for IMAGINATION - two elements that I feel are important - not just for children but for everyone... to interact with people, nature and everything around us and to be able to use our imaginations, to be creative - imagination is vital for problem solving, for inventing etc it is not just a world of fairy tales but a necessary tool for everyone to master (and I think everyone has more imagination than what they think - they probably have not been exercising their imagination enough to be aware of it - think about how we say "we discover muscles we never knew we had" the day after an intense physical exercise!)
imagining a heart caterpillar


Wednesday 23 January 2013

experimenting with LIGHT

 Now this was fun - and even though the group is still forming and getting to know each other it was wonderful to see how they could "experiment" with the light - there was a LOT of running and jumping around with the torches but also testing out how to change the colour of the light coming from the torches. The mood ball was great - it was a cheap ball of battery powered colour-changing light - which we could spin when we sat in a circle when we first started, using mirrors to full effect. Of course sitting and taking turns is not every two and three year old's cup of tea - so after a while the torches came out and it was like opening a bottle of energy - whoosh! the children were all over the room exploring, running, jumping, using the colour paddles and chiffon scarves. Having a long exposure on the camera and the movement of the torches made some really exciting photographs - but as those show faces I won't put them on my blog... check out my photo experiments of the Christmas tree to get the idea...

I was told - "That was really fun" as one of the children returned their torch at the end of the session.

Filming was a great way to really capture the contrasts between the light and dark - and I am looking forward to seeing how the children react to how they experimented with the light. Tomorrow we are going to sensacional at Dansens Hus (House of Dance) and there will be more light to experience - so it will be interesting to see how the children will compare the experiences. AND then to revisit today's experience - maybe an art session on the lightbox and further light experiments...? We will just have to see how much interest the children have in this mini light project.

testing the colour paddles...

exploring the mood ball

torch and mood ball exploration

not so easy capturing light experiences - film was better - but some photos do have an eerie beauty.

mirror box 

close contact with the mood ball - learning to take turns, naming colours and also seeing that red seems darker than other colours...

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Friends around the world

Skippy wondering whether he has enough clothes on to go outside in the snow!!

This is Skippy! he is a kangaroo from Plumpton Long Daycare near Sydney Australia - sent by a group of children and their teacher to us in Sweden - at the same time we sent a moose called Svea to Euro Academy in Wexford, PA, USA, the children and their teacher there sent an animal (I don't know yet) to Australia.

We have been learning more about each other's countries and about where we live ourselves - otherwise how could we tell our friends in Australia and USA about Sweden and Stockholm?

In about three weeks time the animals will be making their next part of their journey around the world - Skippy will be winging his way to USA, Svea to Australia - and a new friend will be coming to meet us in Sweden!

Before Skippy leaves we will be celebrating Australia Day together - but I will let you know about that next week - and a documentation of that will be sent with Skippy as well as a some documentation of what he has been up to here in Stockholm - I mean for one thing - he has missed the forest fires back home and has experienced 15 below zero and lots of snow instead - now THAT is something to tell his friends back in Australia when he eventually arrives home.

I can recommend similar contact with preschools around the world - it has been a wonderful and natural way to learn about the world and about the similarities and differences...

Monday 21 January 2013

Bubble-wrap dot painting

 The dot painting inspired by the Aboriginal artwork in Australia has been a fun experiment. Last week we attempted to make more dots on the joint picture inside shape stencils (circle, square or triangle) that the children could choose between. They had the option of making dots with their fingers or with cotton buds. All opted for the cotton bud - something new. But all used the cotton bud like a paint brush, swooshing it across the paper rather than making dots. Our dot painting was not very dotty - but we were having great fun on the way...

So over the weekend I had a good think - how could we make dots AND meet the needs of the children to brush and smear paint over the paper? Then I had the idea of using bubble-wrap -  the children could use their hands for a sensory experience or a paintbrush...

They all chose a paintbrush - at the moment using a paintbrush seem to be "painting" for them - it almost feels that if they are using their hands or something else then it is not qualifying as painting... (so, I have to admit, now I feel challenged to think of all sorts of different things to paint with...)

The same earthy Australian tones were used again and the children each had their own piece of bubble wrap to paint on. When they felt satisfied with the pattern/colour of the bubble wrap I placed a piece of paper on the top and we smoothed our hands gently over the paper. THEN the paper was lifted and the magic appeared  - lots and lots of dots!! There was a big wow or sigh of delight each time the paper was lifted...

The use of bubble wrap to paint on
some added plenty of paint

there was a wow factor every time
the same earthy tones inspired as before - did not take long for the colours to get mixed up
then the magic - a piece of paper on top to make a print
Some children returned to painting their bubble wrap after making their print, others were satisfied and went to clean up before we went out to play in the snow.

This certainly felt like a good project for these children, as they have been able to use the paint as they have wanted to (they were just not ready to make dots yet) and at the same time learn about the magic of printing. Maybe later in the year we can return to dot painting and they will then show a readiness to explore using painting tools in a greater variety of ways.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Scissors - to help or not to help that is the question...

Sometimes you just have to stand back and allow children to work it out themselves

when sharing these photos with colleagues there have been comments about the risk for cutting fingers...

and yes, the risk is there - but as you see, the chances are there will be very little force in the cut and therefore the cut would not be of a significant depth - a simple plaster and a cuddle would fix it.

by allowing the children to experiment with techniques - without helping hands or words can be beneficial (at other times a helping hand to support how the scissor technique can be used efficiently is needed)

once a process of opening and closing the scissors is worked out the child can then put it to good use

this time the use was not to cut the straw but to pick it up. Had I interfered with this process the child would not have been able to reach HIS goal - but my interpretation of what the goal was to be. This child then picked up the straw several times with the scissors with enormous pride.

The moral of this story. Stand back. Watch. And learn. The child will look to you when they are ready for help ... and then there will be the decision - help now or encourage to try themselves a little more - and there is no guidebook for how to know when to do what - it becomes a gut feeling through experience of working with children as well as an understanding of each child.

Saturday 19 January 2013

schooling in

A parent active schooling in seems to be the most widely used method of schooling-in these days in Sweden  where parents spend the first three or four days at the preschool together with their children as opposed to the three week schooling in where the child is at the preschool with parents the first day or two for an hour and then without parents where the days get slowly longer and longer until they are there for a day. Both systems left room to meet the individual needs for the children.

I like the parent-active in-schooling in the sense that it gives the parents the chance to see how we work - which gives the parents a sense of security when leaving the children - it gives us the chance to get to to know the parents too. Of course when there are lots of parents at the preschool it does disrupt the usual rhythm of the day.

I do think that 4 days is too short for schooling in young children - and really the parents should be informed that the process takes 3 weeks as it did before BUT that the first days are parent active - sometimes parents expect to go to work after 3-4 days not realising that is can take longer and can therefore feel frustrated when it takes longer (even though they understand that is was beneficial later).

I have been a part of schooling in that has been 3 weeks (my own children were schooled in this way too) as well as the 3 day and 4 day parent active system. I think the shorter parent active works great as long as the parents understand that it is a part of a 3 week schooling in and that the first three weeeks the days are short and NOT full time - and also there is the chance during this time that MORE days are parent active to support the child in the process of starting preschool (and parent active can involve either the parents are with us for more days OR that the child has half days for a while and slowly increases the length of their stay).

How the 3-4 days are situated is also interesting - some preschools have a Monday- Thursday system - although I prefer the Wednesday to Monday system so that after the weekend the child has one more day with parent support before being left for the first time - it also means that the first week is not so long (in case the child does not take naps like they usually do - and also for the sake of the children who, already attend the preschool and have to deal with the added stress of not only new children but a whole bunch of strange adults invading their space).

The most important part is observing the child. What does the child need? How is the transition made a smooth as possible? AND to always respect the fact that with the youngest of the children - they have not chosen this - it is the parents that have chosen for them to attend the preschool - at that it is OK for children to be sad - they need to mourn the loss of their life as they once knew it with their parent at home - and adapt and learn to appreciate life at preschool.

But that was my first reflection on schooling in ... no doubt during 2013 more reflections will pop up...

Friday 18 January 2013

Pizza (the individual needs of a child/playing freely)

This afternoon I have been at another meeting talking about the Swedish preschool curriculum and whether or not it supports those working in early years settings sufficiently in the eyes of Barnverket - we discussed meeting the needs of the individual, head teachers not being responsible for more preschools than they can properly fullfil the requirements set out in the curriculum, gross motor skills and the opportunity to play vigorously and to play freely (we discussed that maybe we need to re-phrase "free-play" to
"play freely" 
as sometimes it feels that "free-play" has become diluted or hijacked in some way by adults. In the sense that we adults call it free-play but that it is still very closely monitored by adults ... Michael has recently said that he likes Thursday afternoons best at school - its when there is a planning time and there are half the number of staff that there are usually - he say its a time when he can play.

The thing is, the more I talk to others about free play - or playing freely, the more stories I hear that make me nervous. Stories where the idyllic playing with others freely and naturally that I had as a child is replaced by danger and bullies... Which brings me back to my memories of reading Lord of the Flies - the "play" is fine in the beginning - but goes wrong later - is it that children need to play freely under the watchful eye of their neighbourhood? That even though children have the liberty to make up their own games and devise their own rules, there is always that sense of responsibility - and if responsibility is forgotten for a while then there are the adults in the neighbourhood to support them (I know that if I was up to no good my parents were sure to find out...). Did these adults that told me stories that made my eyes widen have a free-play as children that lacked that kind of watchful neighbourhood? Maybe something worth looking into? Maybe the fact that it is individual families and preschools/schools that are raising children instead of communities together that is contributing to being able to play freely diminishing...?

So you are wondering why this post is entitled "Pizza"?

Well I was late home from the meeting - and Friday afternoons are usually my sacred time with my children - so instead of making dinner when I got home I picked up pizza on the way home!

While I was waiting for the pizzas to bake in the oven I watched a man eating his pizza in the restaurant part - he didn't cut up his pizza like we do at home - he sliced off and ate the crusts first turning his pizza into a pentagon.

It made me think - how many different ways can we eat a pizza? How many different combinations of toppings? There are also a great many different kinds of crusts/bases too. Such variety - and yet just a pizza.

It made me think of children - and all their differences - personalities, learning styles, quirks, talents etc etc. It made me feel sad that if we were always treating our children as "margheritas" that we are missing out on all the toppings - it might be very good quality tomato sauce and mozzarella - possibly the very best - (and for some this will be just perfect) but for many others there will always be something lacking.

We need to find out how to support children to spice up their pizza - work out which flavours suit them best - AND even allow them to try a whole load of different pizzas and not have to stick to just one.

OK OK I am going slightly mad and depicting children as pizzas ... but I was in a pizzeria, and at the time it all made perfect sense.

I hope that at least part of it has made sense while you have read this!!!

What kind of pizza are you? And how do you eat your pizza?

Thursday 17 January 2013

it's the process not the product that's important

 Sometimes you almost know its not really going to work before you even start - but it doesn't matter. You know that even if it doesn't turn out the way you had planned that there is a reason for that, or a need for that - and the process becomes the product, rather than the result being the product. My colleague and I knew that our Australian Aborigine dot painting wasn't going to work - the group of 2 and 3 year olds were new to each other, I am new to the group - and 4 of the 10 children (8 today as 2 were away) are also new, so the REAL aim of the art session was a feeling of group belonging - of working together (with an Australian hint).
Its started off well - the children carefully dipping their fingers into the earthy tones inspired by the Australian landscape - but then the children got down to business and started experimenting - what happens if I dip more than one finger? what happens if I rub my hands together? what happens if I slide my hands across the page? what happens if a mix colours together?

 We have had parents with us all week - as part of the parent-active schooling in, and one parent was a little anxious as her child explored the qualities of the paint. The great part of parent-active schooling in is that it gives us the time to explain to the parents the processes - that the aim was not a picture of dots, but to bring the children together - the experimenting is, in fact, a bonus and that there will be more opportunities for dot painting when the children have had enough time to explore the properties of the paints we are using.

It's also interesting to see how long children are interested in the session. Some need to observe a while before starting, others only need a short time to participate and then there are those that never seem to want to stop. There was a HUGE interest in how the paint looked on their hands - some seemed to have an almost marbling effect, so the children compared with each other and some even added extra paint to their hands to be able to achieve the same effects as their new friends... Then there was the whole sensory experience as the hands slipped over each other.

Tomorrow we will continue with the same dot painting - this time one or two will come at a time to add a few dots in a meaningful pattern - each child creating their own unique pattern on the painting they created together - just as each child weaves his/her own unique pattern on the fabric that is the preschool - the painting will represent the individual and the group (the children who are away will be able to add their own dot pattern to the painting as they return).

Our Australia project is part of a cooperation with a preschool in Australia and a preschool in USA - but more about that at the weekend...

Reflection December 2013,
looking back on this I smile and see how far my group of children have come in their relationships with each other and becoming a member of Vinden, the group of oldest children at Filosofiska. I still see their need for sensory activities and their need to explore paint - but it is not quite to the same extent as it was last January - these days they are interested in discovering new properties of the paint ... 
in the comments below there is a suggestion to use buds to make dots - and we tried this - and again I laugh as I remember "its process not product" the children painted with the buds and did not make dots... again the need to feel and explore far outweighed any need to attempt make dots... the children were not yet familiar with the cotton bud as a tool and needed more time to explore that...

it is now - a full year later of exploring and playing with materials that the children are starting to get ready to meet new artistic and creative challenges... I look forward to 2014...

Wednesday 16 January 2013

The little things in life...

paper trousers carefully cut

Sometimes one has the pleasure of sitting down with just one child and having the time to talk and be observant. I had one of those moments yesterday where I sat down with a child in the art area and we started drawing pictures. After a while she decided to cut her paper up into small, small pieces - a pretty normal thing for a three year old - there is often a fascination for just cutting an cutting.

At first the cutting was random - although with full concentration. She showed me each piece - "what shape is this?" - most of the times it was squares or rectangles - then she did something new - she cut a slit in one of her rectangles and handed it to me ... and then waited. I picked it up and made it walk back to her like a pair of trousers - which she thought was hilarious - so she made more and more and more trousers - I asked her if I could write the word trousers (Byxor - in Swedish) on them - and she nodded eagerly - and then expected that I wrote on every one - explaining to me what sort of trousers - huge trousers, fancy trousers, many trousers, another trousers, skinny trousers, mini trousers, one more trousers, three legged trousers. There was an enormous amount of concentration to cut purposefully all these different trousers and when she ran out of paper she cut up her "huge trousers" and made more pairs.

She looked at all the writing on the small pieces of paper trousers and then she picked up a pen and started to write herself - and as she did she said aloud the words she was writing (which I quickly wrote down on the reverse side of my drawing - and since it is a her own unique way of saying some Swedish words I am at a total loss as to how to translate) - it was several sentences, and she was quite clear that this was a story that she was writing on the small slithers of paper. After her first two sentences she stopped saying the words aloud but I could see that she was still mouthing words silently as she "wrote".

early writing