Tag Archives: preschool

What We Learn in Preschool

This week, at long last, baby girl number 3 began her preschool education. She insists upon calling it Pretty School and I have not attempted to teach her otherwise. Some things are too cute to correct.

While I’m trying to get caught up on all the many jobs left incomplete over the summer break, I hope you’ll read a previous post about the many benefits of preschool. It took me a few years and three children to figure all this out, but I’m a happy advocate of preschool now. Please enjoy What Parents Learn in Preschool.

And if you are new to preschool, share your concerns and experiences. If you are still researching, it’s important to feel REALLY good about the facility that you choose. Trust your child and your instincts. If it’s the wrong fit or the timing is too soon, back out and try another preschool later on. If your child doesn’t love it, the school is not trying hard enough.

Grace and Peace.


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What Would You Do? (Mom’s Edition)

Sort of looks like a blueberry to a toddler. Photo provided by Ledge and Gardens.

We had the misfortune of a small emergency last night. My two-year-old decided to sample some berries while playing outside. Her ever-vigilant sister caught her in the act and sounded the alarm to whomever would listen.

Since Daddy was on duty, they all paraded into the house with the plant and a crying toddler with a purple mouth.

“She ate poison berries!” exclaimed my panicked 8-year-old daughter.

I was in the middle of making dinner, trying to make sense of what happened. My actions, in hindsight, are what I’ve been stewing over all day.

What would you do in this situation?

  1. Scoop up baby girl and whisk her away to the emergency room.
  2. Take matters into your own hands, literally, and induce vomiting.
  3. Smooth away everyone’s worries, assure them everything will be fine, then Google your way to more information.

Well, if you chose number 3, we’ve got something in common. She’s fine, fine, fine. It’s just an elderberry. Go outside and play so I can finish dinner. Semi annoyed by the interruption.

Is it an elderberry? You can make wine and juice from that, right? So I look it up online, study some photographs and hmmm. That’s not an elderberry.

I Google “looks like an elderberry” and wait a minute… it’s a pokeberry. Looking up pokeberry… ALL PARTS OF POKEWEEDS ARE POISONOUS.

Okay. Mild panic sets in at this point. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, cramping… coma and death. Heart is pounding. Still trying to be calm because 8-year-old is still hovering nearby.

How many berries had she eaten? This is the child who can polish off a pint of blueberries by herself.

Not to toot my own horn and throw in a blatant product endorsement, but I rushed to my desk to get my Baby Love Carebook. On the first page is a list of phone numbers, including the poison control hotline.

After a brief chat with an R.N., I was reassured that the ER would not induce vomiting; that she would have to eat at least 10 berries to get sick; and if she did begin vomiting, dehydration was our biggest worry. She even called me back two hours later to check on my daughter’s condition.

No vomiting. Everything was indeed fine, fine, fine. But shouldn’t my panic button have gone off a little sooner? Is it really a good thing to always be cool as a cucumber? Is there a part of me that is always in denial?

Yes, I know, my reaction ultimately turned out to be just right. The situation just made me think of all the different ways this little drama could have played out with different people involved.

Grace and peace.

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What Parents Learn in Preschool

I learned some of my most valuable parenting skills during my days in a cooperative school, where parents assist the full-time teacher.

Once upon a time, I did not understand the benefits of preschool. I assumed it was just daycare for stressed-out SAHMs. Now, eight years and six preschools later, I’m a joyfully converted preschool mom with a deep appreciation for all I’ve learned from our experiences; the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Here are my top five preschool revelations that have helped me be a better parent.

1. Routines are necessary. I learned this the hard way with our first baby, but the concept was reinforced in preschool. Children behave well in a good school because the teachers follow a predictable routine. There is a natural order and rhythm to the child’s day. If you’ve ever wondered how a school can handle a room full of tots with one or two teachers; it’s all about the daily routine. They know how to keep the children engaged in specific activities for the appropriate length of time based on their age. There is no need for time outs or discipline in a good school. Instead, experienced teachers will turn a disagreement into a lesson on empathy and teach the children how to get along. Which brings me to my second revelation.

2. Children must learn how to play with other children. After age two, children take greater notice of the people surrounding them. If there are rarely any children, they will naturally gravitate to adults in all situations. I can always tell which children spend all their time with adults when we are in a group play environment. When I was a parent teacher in a cooperative kindergarten class, it was my primary job to placate the two children who had never been to preschool and did not have similar-aged siblings. Of the ten children in the class, these two needed constant guidance and hand-holding (the kind of care they were accustomed to). They did not get along well with the other children and became easily upset if they were not allowed to make the rules during playtime. I see the same patterns of behavior in the neighborhood and in church groups. Some children are shy, but children without exposure to other children are more comfortable with a grown-up, even one they barely know.

3. Your child is almost certainly not gifted. Let’s face it, we all think our child is developmentally advanced at some point in their lives. In some cases this is true, but it does not make your child a prodigy. All of these skills tend to balance out by the second or third grade. Spending time with a diverse group of children is the best way to understand childhood development. You can easily see why your five-year-old can’t sit still through dinner (NONE of them can). You can also see that while some kids master vocal skills at a younger age, others will master fine motor skills or gross motor skills. It all evens out as all these skills come on line over time.

4. You can’t teach them everything by yourself. There’s a lot you can teach at home, and with good reason. But teaching children how to learn in a group dynamic is not one of them. Teaching your preschool child how to read will not make them smarter or better equipped to handle school. Knowing letters and numbers does not mean that preschool should be skipped. No amount of flash cards, sidewalk chalk writing or frog-encrusted learning games can replace the interpersonal relationships that take place in a group setting. I do not mean to disparage homeschoolers who already know this. In my city, it’s easy to organize weekly field trips or sporting events with groups of other homeschoolers. It appears that smart homeschooling moms have figured out the importance of the group dynamic.

5. Elementary school ain’t what it used to be. I started kindergarten when I was 4 years old and had never been to preschool. This was common in my small town. We were not really expected to know anything walking in the door. Now, thirty-odd years later, children are expected to come to kindergarten with a solid base of knowledge and social skills. And while preschool teaches children all the basics of numbers, letters, shapes, colors and early phonetics; it also allows them to learn these things in a fun, play-based environment. Our public schools no longer have this luxury. The elementary schools have so many standards to perform to that the kids must spend a majority of their time sitting, doing worksheets, taking tests and reading silently. Students are now expected to learn to read independently before first grade. I’ve found that two years of preschool has helped ease my children into the more grueling demands of elementary school. They develop a love of learning in preschool that is sometimes hard to keep going in elementary classrooms. Some elementary teachers have a natural ability to make learning fun, but others sadly do not. That’s when it’s up to me to draw upon all the tricks I learned during their preschool years to help them along and see the fun side of school again.

As we’re preparing for school to start again in August, I’m happy once again about our decision to send the two older girls to preschool. I have no anxieties about my middle girl starting kindergarten because she has proven to me over the past two years that she is ready socially, academically and emotionally to begin school. When the time comes for my youngest daughter to graduate from preschool, I will be sad to say goodbye to these joyful days of handmade presents made in secret, love letters written to special teachers and children who spring out of bed each morning ready and excited for another day of learning disguised as playtime.

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If You Can Grow Kids, You Can Grow Anything

"So, this is where garlic bread comes from?"

I spent this morning digging up garlic bulbs with my delighted 5-year-old daughter. She shouted every time she brought one out of the earth and into the scorching July sun. We stopped at 50 bulbs; both of us hot, dirty and reeking of garlic. It was fun for both of us, but also profound. She loves garlic bread, but never would have imagined this delicious treat could come from under the dirt!

Growing vegetables is more than a hobby for me. Oh sure, I’m geeky enough to take pictures of my garden and post them on Facebook. But farming is part of my past, present and future. I’m the granddaughter of farmers on both sides of my family and have always known where food comes from – both animal and vegetable. For me, growing food is an essential life skill for my children – and if my dreams come true someday – for all children. Just as I teach my girls the alphabet, I also show them how to plant seeds, water and mulch them, and most importantly, how to harvest and prepare the food. What they get from the process is part science lesson, part cooking lesson and part spiritual awakening. Children begin to see the cycle of life in gardening, but issues of life and death are a lot less scary when they are dealing with plants. Farming also raises the consciousness of children about their food supply. At the age of four, our daughter refused to eat pork when she found out it came from pigs, her favorite animal. This lasted for an entire year with our full support.

MOM DARE: Have you ever gardened for yourself or your children? If so, did you really include them or did you ask them to step aside to protect your plants? Perhaps you could try harder to let them do hands-on work. Don’t criticize when they blast your tomato plants with a hose instead of watering around the base. Or when they gleefully dig up more carrots than you can eat in a month. Share them with friends and applaud your child’s interest. I still cringe a little when my children bring me a handful of freshly picked flowers from my gardens, but someday I will miss this simple joy. Never had a garden? Now is the time to grow one thing with your children. Even apartment dwellers have abundant choices when it comes to growing vegetables and fruit. This isn’t a gardening blog, so I’ll let you do your own research on how to do this. At the very least, don’t just take your children to the farmer’s market, take them to an actual farm. Let them walk the rows, pick some berries and ask questions. Not only will this start a process of educating your children about life, ecosystems and healthy choices; but you will create joyful memories to carry with you for the rest of your lives.


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Beyond Babyhood: The Joy of Mothering Toddlers to Teens

I’m anxious to see the documentary “Babies” (see clip below), that chronicles the first year in the lives of four babies from across the globe. However, I can’t help but wish that the producers would follow up with a sequel, “Toddlers.”

I’m still surprised by how frequently new moms express a fear of parenting a toddler; sometimes openly critical of other moms with older children. I see it in the blogosphere over and over. All this judgment coming from parents who are used to observing a contented baby cooing in a baby carrier. I can only smile and nod, while silently praying, “Give strength to this mother, Lord, because she will certainly need it!”

I have definitely struggled to let go of the baby years; I was pregnant with my second child shortly after the first started to walk. And while I will always love being around babies, I’ve also embraced the joy of each passing milestone. This week, my five-year-old daughter lost her first tooth. I shared her pride and happiness, despite my memories of rocking her when she was teething. My seven-year-old girl watched in awe as an older girl got her ears pierced; asking again when she can do this. (Not before age 10, which will be here before I know it.) And I’m not afraid to admit that I will be incredibly grateful to be done with the diaper phase!

MOM DARE: For moms who are still at the beginning of this journey, your challenge this week is to imagine your baby as a toddler, a preschooler and beyond (as far as you can fathom). What will you miss and what will you be happy to put behind you? Conjure up that first moment when your child hugs your neck and proclaims, “I wub you.” And most of all, I urge you to practice patience and tolerance of moms who are mothering children at different stages than your own. If you’re a mom who has moved beyond the baby years, take some time this week to look back on that first magical year with each of your children. Look through some old photos or baby books. Sometimes during a rough phase in parenting, it helps to remember your child as that toothless, cooing bundle of love.

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