<![CDATA[Our Neighborhood Community - Parenting Blog]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 00:34:47 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Academic vs. Play-Based Curriculum]]>Mon, 11 Jul 2016 16:04:18 GMThttp://ourneighborhood.community/parenting-blog/academic-vs-play-based-curriculumIn some discussions and writing, you have referred to programs as academic. It seems like you refer to academic as a negative thing, why? When would you have children in a more academic setting? 

Our Neighborhood believes children learn through play. We are social constructivists who believe children learn best in the context of secure social relationships and children construct knowledge through play. Knowledge is constructed by the child through their play, engagement, and exploration. We believe children (and all people) learn best when they are engaged in projects that are they are interested in. Children in their early years and beyond can benefit from a teacher that takes on the role of coaching and facilitating children's learning.

When we use the term academic program or academic curriculum we are describing a program that is primarily focused on teaching children specific pieces of information they believe will help them prepare for school. Early childhood programs focused on academic learning such as numbers, colors, shapes, and letters often take a very narrow focus. Teachers in an academically focused program typically believe it is their role to give knowledge to children. 

Research doesn't support academically focused early childhood programs.  

The push for early learning of letters and numbers is not based in solid research. We believe, and some research is showing, programs focused on academics turn children off of learning. Research shows children that 'don't like' a subject do worse than those who like it. Early childhood is not the time to force academic learning and turn off children's curiosity. Things parents associate with characteristics of quality such as craft projects, letter charts on the wall, and instruction in colors and numbers are not markers of quality. Read more from NAEYC.

A narrow academic focus does not harness the real thinking abilities of young children often pushing them away from their natural curiosity and desire to learn.  

The next big problem with an academic curriculum is the narrow focus. In this narrow focus on letters and numbers teachers can easily miss children complex thinking and problem solving because it's not on their checklist. Sadly when children's days are primarily filled with direct instruction they lose some of their natural curiosity. Traditional academic curriculum is based in the belief that learning comes from other people telling you information and you remembering. We don't ever want that environment for children. Read more research.

We want children to be lifelong learners.

Our Neighborhood believes that learning how to learn is the most important learning in the early years. We want children to be driven towards continued learning and discovery. We believe learning comes through interest, exposure to new things, research, practice, and collaboration with others. Teachers play a vital role in this play-based learning. The teacher's role is not to impart knowledge but to stretch children's thinking and connect their ideas. We cannot possibly give children everything they need to learn to succeed in their lives. Our world is changing rapidly, the world that our children will live, work, and raise their family in will likely look dramatically different than our world today. We prepare children for this new yet to be created world happens by helping them learn how to learn. Children who have the skills to problem solve, investigate, collaborate, and research will be able to succeed in the new world. 
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<![CDATA[Touring an Early Childhood Program]]>Sun, 10 Jul 2016 01:59:57 GMThttp://ourneighborhood.community/parenting-blog/touring-an-early-childhood-programThere are lots of articles about questions to ask and what to look for when you're touring an preschool program. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation about what high-quality early childhood education really looks like. 

The research into what leads to great early childhood experiences is mixed; lower child-to-teacher ratios, stringent teacher credentials, and beautiful environments don't necessarily equal a high-quality program. Asking about and looking at the basic logistics doesn't necessarily mean the program is high-quality. The best measure of quality in early childhood programs is the teacher-child interactions. In high-quality programs, the teachers have the skills, resources, and desire to engage with the children as they learn. High-quality teachers help to stretch children's thinking and delve deeper into the children's ideas. When you're touring a program play close attention to how the teachers interact with the children, how they are supported, and what goals the program has for children.

Understand Your Rights Before You Visit

The person who is giving you a tour should speak openly about the school. You should get insight into the program philosophy, daily life at center, and how problems are handled. Be mindful that you are only getting a small peek into this program so you want to be aware of little things.

Teacher-Child Interactions are Key

Look for teachers playing with, attending to, and showing love towards the children. Teachers’ language should be positive and encouraging. The highest quality programs are those in which teachers help to scaffold children's learning by offering just enough help. Children should be able to freely explore their classroom, and be allowed to use toys and materials they choose. Children may be thrown off by visitors but should seem genuinely happy and free to explore, not fearful of their teachers. You may see children crying or upset, look at how the teachers handle their upset. Children build emotional intelligence by working though problems not being hushed, appeased, or distracted. Look for presence and empathy with emotions. 

Questions to Ask

  • How children are moved up to an older classroom? - Continuity of care is best for children under three, wherein a child moves with a group of their friends and a teacher based on their development and growth. Attention should be given to keep children's classroom, classmates, and teachers as consistent as possible.
  • How are teachers trained in child development, behavior guidance, and curriculum? Ask about how teachers are supported and how much staff turnover is typical. 
  • What is the program’s philosophy and how does center handle differing parent philosophies? How are problems handled between children, teachers, and families?
  • What level of parent involvement is expected or typical? - High quality programs listen to parents but do no change based on each parent's whim. Systems should be in place to support parent involvement.  

Great Book about Identifying Quality in Early Childhood Education
"The Importance of Being Little" by Erika Christakis

Evaluating Early Childhood Curriculum
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<![CDATA[What is Waldorf?]]>Wed, 06 Jul 2016 18:31:58 GMThttp://ourneighborhood.community/parenting-blog/what-is-waldorfWaldorf is another common early childhood philosophy and curriculum. Waldorf schools believe children learn through modeling and exploration. If we consider Montessori as focused on the individual Waldorf is a bit more collectivist, believing all children at a certain age are most interested in and need similar things. The children work in groups often, drawing together, singing together, and engaging in frequent large group activities.

Waldorf is a play based curriculum and provides children open ended materials for dramatic play and exploration. Practical work often called hand work is also a big part of the Waldorf curriculum. Children are seen engaging in sewing, planting, baking, and other practical work. Waldorf has a large outdoor and music component. They use natural materials and support children to be creators.

Waldorf does not read to children or give them access to books in their early years they instead believe young children should learn first through storytelling without images to they can use their imagination. Children are not taught about letters and numbers until closer to age seven. 

Our Neighborhood appreciates the Waldorf values of simplicity, outdoor learning, and dramatic play. However some aspect of Waldorf are rigid such as not introducing books to young children.
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<![CDATA[Fear Around Vomiting ]]>Mon, 20 Jun 2016 19:54:14 GMThttp://ourneighborhood.community/parenting-blog/fear-around-vomitingMy 2 year old is sick and vomiting. As if that isn't difficult enough, she was very frightened when she began throwing up. Do you have any suggestions to help her through this fear?
​Yuck! That is no fun. It's not uncommon for children to be scared when they throw up. The only thing you can really do is explain it to her. Just tell her that her belly is sick and sometimes when your stomach is sick you throw up. Your body is trying to get all the bad germs out of your body. It happens when people are sick even to mommies and daddies. It's yucky and it doesn't feel good in your throat.

Words have power so if you can tell her that when you feel like you're going to get sick that's called feeling nauseous and it's a yucky feeling but it's normal when your belly is sick. If you have to throw up again we have a bucket or you can always throw up in the potty.

That's all I got, the only really way you can give her power is to coach her through understanding what's going on in her body, telling her the words for how she is feeling, and giving her options for what she can do when she feels that again. 

Good luck!

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<![CDATA[Behavior Regression ]]>Sun, 19 Jun 2016 15:23:50 GMThttp://ourneighborhood.community/parenting-blog/behavior-regressionEvery parent knows the joys of their child learning to do something new for the first time. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves a few weeks or months down the road frustrated as that challenge resurfaces. Whether you are working towards sleeping through the night, managing separation stress, or learning to solve problems without biting and hitting, regression is a normal part of the learning process. Though regression to old patterns can be frustrating for families, understanding why this happens will help us better empathize and work with our child through this tricky time. The first thing we always like to do is to help adults think about these challenges in terms of how that might challenge mirror the adult world. It is hard for adults or children to change habits. Perhaps you were working for months to cut dessert out of week nights only to find yourself having ice cream three nights during a stressful week. Maybe you and your partner have been working on communicating when you’re feeling overwhelmed but you find yourself shutting down again when you’re stressed. Developing healthy habits and skills is difficult work for both adults and children. Our brains wire strong connections based on our behaviors and it can take weeks, months, even years of practice to wire new pathways when we want to make change. When you find yourself thinking that your child should know better or totally can handle a situation you know that is a time for encouragement and empathy. It is when we are having those tough moments that we most need the assurance of our loved ones to help us stick with our healthy choices and skills.]]><![CDATA[Favorite - "The Whole-Brain Child" by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson]]>Fri, 15 Apr 2016 17:47:39 GMThttp://ourneighborhood.community/parenting-blog/favorite-the-whole-brain-child-by-daniel-j-siegel-and-tina-payne-brysonPictureBuy it on Amazon
"The Whole-Brain Child" is an Our Neighborhood favorite. We appreciate the authors deep and insightful break down of the current brain research. "The Whole-Brain Child" shares practical tools without straying from the heart of the research being shared. This book is  geared for children who are a bit older. The early chapters are helpful for the toddler age but by age three children can likely manage most of the "Whole-Brain Strategies".

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<![CDATA[Recommended - "The Importance of Being Little" by Erika Christakis]]>Mon, 11 Apr 2016 18:55:05 GMThttp://ourneighborhood.community/parenting-blog/the-importance-of-being-little-by-erika-christakis-recommended
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Buy on Amazon
Erika Christakis' new book "The Importance of Being Little" is a refreshing look at Early Childhood Education as a whole. This book looks at everything from curriculum to delivery, poking fun at our "want it all now" society. Christakis points out some of the key challenges we face as we try to navigate the need for high quality early childhood experiences and full day programs that care for children while their parent's work. We appreciate the inspiring look at the challenge of top down academic learning and the clear articulation of what high quality early education really is. This is a great read for parents, lawmakers, and teachers interested in thinking more deeply about the role of early childhood education in our society and how we can move forward. 
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<![CDATA[Reflecting Back Your Values without Praise]]>Wed, 06 Apr 2016 19:08:53 GMThttp://ourneighborhood.community/parenting-blog/reflecting-back-your-values-without-praisePicture
As you have work to diligently reflect and accept your children’s emotions, it can become common for your conversations to be filled with the roller coaster of big emotions children have. In these moments we sometimes forget to reflect on the moments of celebration when our needs our met and our values are clearly present. Those moments when you explain something to your toddler and they are able to regulate their big emotions, respond to your reason, and delay gratification are times for celebration. Reflecting back your values is as simple as saying, “Wow, we figured this out by working together.” or “You used strong words to tell me what you needed and I listened to you.” or “We negotiated and came up with a plan to meet both of our needs.” It is in those times of celebration that we are able to point out things that are going well. Non-judgmental celebration simply acknowledges an observation and connects that to our under-lying needs and values. We can share our positive feelings in this way, too. We might say, “We were both smiling a lot playing together this afternoon. I’m feeling relieved. I really needed to have some joy time together.” Sometimes as we move away from judgmental praise, we hold back on reflecting the positive. Reflecting your values is not praising. If you notice your children working together and you say, “Wow you guys carried that heavy box, you couldn’t have done that on your own. That’s what I call team-work!”, your child will adopt this language and say, “Mom, it’s teamwork.” When children are able to see themselves reflecting a value, they learn about good choices. This is very different than if you say, “Good job.” because the child who hears good job will likely ask ask, “Is this good?” Reflecting values without judgment gives children information through observations and values. In this way, children can take ownership for these values and learn to see them in their experiences.

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<![CDATA[Meeting Your Needs Respectfully ]]>Thu, 31 Mar 2016 19:19:57 GMThttp://ourneighborhood.community/parenting-blog/meeting-your-needs-respectfully​Often as parents and even teachers begin their path toward “working with” rather than “doing to” children, their needs get lost. Adults know that there are safety boundaries and basic health boundaries they must  work to find a way to respectfully set. However, in an effort to be respectful we sometimes push our own needs aside. The goal of respectful parenting is to ‘work with’ children, acknowledging that they are separate individuals with needs and that we can guide children while meeting both of our needs. When the adult continually sets aside her needs for the child’s, the child learns that his needs are more important, not equally important. By not drawing personal boundaries for our needs, we miss the opportunity to teach our child about how to respectfully draw personal boundaries. By drawing those boundaries we teach our child that they too can say "no" respectfully. Perhaps your child doesn’t respond when you ask him a question and it bothers you. You might simply model for them, “I heard you mom, right after this game.” In the classroom teachers support one another by helping the child remember this response through modeling. You can do that with your spouse at home. If you call to your spouse and child, “Dinner is going to be in five minutes, I need some table setters.” Your spouse can help your child respond with, “On our way.” This simple modeling can help you to meet your needs and it works for other situations. If your young toddler is whining or grunting for something you might say, “You’re trying to tell me you want water. Use your big voice so I can understand. Say ‘water’.” Being honest about your needs for space, time, or respectful communication meets your needs so you can be present, attuned, and patient with your child. Further, you are modeling for your child how to draw personal boundaries--a skill they will need as they negotiate their relationships now and in the future.]]><![CDATA[​Tactful Pause]]>Tue, 29 Mar 2016 19:15:45 GMThttp://ourneighborhood.community/parenting-blog/tactful-pauseA few recent interactions drew my attention back to a simple skill that teachers and parents can use. Tactfully pausing in our interactions with young children can make a world of difference. This comes naturally in some situations, but in other situations we need to mindfully remember to pause. This pause provides the time for two things to happen. Caregivers are able to make observations and really assess the situation during this time. Children are given the space and time to process. We can use the tactful pause when we are helping our child learn to talk, learn to sleep, and learn to problem solve. Consider how in early infancy pausing for five to fifteen seconds to curiously look at the situation might be helpful. You might see your child is able to self soothe in that moment, or you might notice more clearly what is causing your child’s upset. This pause becomes especially helpful as children are approaching the toddler years and learning to talk. Communication is a back and forth passing of ideas. We have been talking to our babies for nearly a year and we are so eager for language growth. Tactfully pausing, for sometimes as much as fifteen seconds, creates space for children to respond and that language growth to occur. Children need time to process their ideas. If a young child is using pointing or grunting to communicate we can acknowledge their desired communication and give them the words and the time to try to communicate their ideas more clearly. Sometimes we don’t realize how much time it takes for children to process. Most of us have had the experience where we say goodbye to our infant and they wave to us after we have already closed the door. It is taking time for them to process. They need a moment of silent thought to respond. The tactful pause can be useful as children become older. After asking an open ended question like, “What can we do?” you might need to pause to give space for your child to think of ideas. Pausing before offering our own suggestions gives children the space to be problem solvers.]]>