Sunday, April 29, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Out of my Comfort Zone

I have been at the same school for the last 18 years.  I have learned so much about children, parents, and myself at this wonderful private school.  I am comfortable here.  I have created the environment and the routine.  It is all familiar and reassuring.

Well, I am ready for something new.

I truly love the school I am leaving.  I think there is no private school in the area that gives the level of service that our school gives.

So why am I leaving?

I have seen administrators, teachers, and families come and go over the years.  There is always disappointment in the leaving and anticipation upon arrival.  Sometimes it is done with great respect and sometimes it is not.

I intend to be respectful in my leaving, I intend to encourage families to stay at the school and continue forging ahead, I intend to give the best of myself to my students as the year comes to an end.

But something new is waiting for me.  I feel the excitement of anticipation, the trepidation of an "opening night", and the thrill of taking my journey in a new direction.

When you get to be my age, these feelings are few and far between and I am savoring the excitement of a new opportunity.

At every step of this transition, I have felt at peace with my decision.  I think that is a good sign.

Change is heathy.  Change is stimulating.  Change is inevitable.  Embrace it and make the best of it.

I will continue to blog, I am hoping to attract new readers.  I appreciate the support of those who read this blog.  I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rainy Days

Homemade costumes and dance routines are one way to spend a rainy day.

To me, there is nothing better on a rainy day than curling up on the sofa with the dogs and reading a good book.  When I was a child, it was different.

Children need to be active.  On rainy days it can be a challenge to find things for children to do so that they don't end up screaming and running around in circles.  (And neither do you! :))

Rainy days are a time to encourage your child's creativity.

Children love to build things, Drag out the legos and blocks and clear a big space.  Let them build and design to their heart's content.  My favorite building project from when I was a child was to take all of the sofa cushions off the furniture, turn the sofa upside down, use a large sheet and create a fort!  All children love the small, cozy spaces a fort provides.  My sisters and I would get flashlights and play monopoly in the fort.  Somehow it made it much more special to play the game under the upside down couch. My parents were good sports and let us do this from time to time and I have fond memories of this.

Take out the art supplies.  Drawing, painting, Play-doh, sparkles, glue can all be transformed into something special.  Cover the floor with an old bedsheet and the table with newspaper for easy clean up.  Crayola now has paints and markers that only write on special paper so there will be no accidents.
I remember spending lots of time drawing dresses and creating fashion designs.

Write and perform a play.  Elementary children can make up skits, sing songs, choreograph dances, make costumes, use puppets, stuffed animals and dolls as characters (and audience members).  Children can make programs and posters to announce the performers and their acts.  Old clothes, a dress up box, painted T shirts all help children create a theatrical production!

Music is a great idea for rainy days.  Turn off the TV and Video screens and leave the radio or CD player on.  Music enhances mathematical abilities so be sure to encourage a musical strand in your child's experiences.  Have a dance hour.  Take turns choosing songs and everyone dances as it plays.  Play Freeze Dance.  One person pauses the music and everyone freezes until the music comes back on. 

Exercise to an exercise DVD.  We all have one lying around.  Get the kids doing the routine too!

Read a book together.  Take turns reading pages with older children.  Enjoy and discuss the story.

Cook, chop, peel, bake!  This is a good way to get everyone involved and will produce something tasty when you are done.

Make cards for soldiers, nursing home patients, grandparents, hospitalized children.  Your children can be thoughtful and bring smiles to the faces of others by making cards and drawings.

It's raining today, I am going to read...what are you going to do?

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Photo from Taming of the Shrew

If there is one thing I want my students to develop while in my care, it is confidence.  The confidence I want for them includes the following ideas:

I want students to be confident enough
To try something new.
To speak to anyone, one on one or in front of a group.
To question authority.
To fail and then keep trying.
To look foolish from time to time.
To get what they want.
To help someone
To speak up for what is right.

Children develop confidence differently.  Some seem to have it from the womb, others slowly evolve.
A parent or a teacher's part in developing confidence should include the following:

Be a cheerleader - When a child wishes to try something, make it happen.  I tried out for every play in high school.  My parents always supported that idea even though I did not get a part until my senior year.  I know my mom felt the disappointment when I did not get cast in a play more than I did, but she continued to support and encourage me.

Let children do it themselves - Helping children with projects and school assignments means supplying the materials and space to work.  Talking about your child's ideas for the project.  Making suggestions and then letting them do the work themselves. 

Constructive criticism - I hated to hear any criticism at all.  I would get embarrassed and feel ashamed about what I was doing.  This is a tricky area.  I have seen children shut down when the teacher or parent offers suggestions.  What I have learned to do is to ask the child to explain what he was trying to accomplish and then ask if it would be ok if you showed them another way to do it that would make their idea more clear.  Always ask if it is ok to suggest something before you do, this gives the child ownership of the conversation.

Listen to your child with interest and enthusiasm - if your child believes that you think everything they have to say is important when they are young, they will continue to tell you things as they get older. Children become better communicators when they know someone is listening to them. This is just good advice.

Let your child fail from time to time -  Children should not be afraid to fail.  Everyone has moments when they do not achieve their goals.  Those of us who rethink our goals, adjust our attempts, and keep working towards the things we wish to achieve are the ones who succeed.  Those who give up never get there.

Genuine praise - Saying things like, "Good job" and "Nice work"  does NOT offer genuine praise.  Praise should be specific and include details.  Saying something in a positive manner such as  I like the colors you chose, what made you think of using these colors." or "The plot of your story is interesting, tell me more about it.", involve the child in the praise and help them think too!

Remember, confidence does not come from continued success, it comes from being secure in who you are.  So helping your child learn to think for himself and communicate authentically is the best way to raise a confident child.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring Desert for the kids to make

This is from The Art of Dessert

It looks like a fun and tasty project to do with your children!  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bird's Nest Cookies

Bird's Nest Cookies

When I was a little girl, I bought my very first cookbook at a book fair. I remember how excited I was when I got home from school. I couldn't wait to try out one of the recipes and proudly declare to my parents that I can cook. The funny thing was most of the recipes in the cookbook didn't require any actual cooking or baking. After all, it was a kids' cookbook. Nevertheless, I was still excited to try out a recipe. As I was thumbing through the pages, I saw a picture of these adorable little bird's nest cookies and was completely enamored by them. Who knew several years later I would be inspired to make these cookies again.


I'm sad to say that I've lost my cookbook a long time ago, but I still remember how to make these quick and easy birds' nest cookies. You only need three ingredients: chow mein noodles, butterscotch morsels and mini egg-shaped candies. The original recipe actually called for semi-sweet chocolate chips but I thought the butterscotch morsels gave the nests a more realistic appearance.

The first time I made them, I used egg-shaped jelly beans and they turned out looking so cute and colorful.

egg-shaped jelly beans

birds nest candies on silpat

The second time I made them, I decided to use Cadbury Mini Eggs and they were amazing. The eggs looked so realistic and the combination of milk chocolate eggs with the butterscotch nests tasted a lot better than the jelly beans.

Bird's Nest Cookies

These cookies were so much fun to make and it was such a delight to share them with friends and family. This would also be a great activity to do with kids.

Bird's Nest Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies
Allergy note: contains dairy and wheat ingredients

12 oz. package chow mein noodles
12 oz. package butterscotch morsels
90 egg-shaped candies

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Pour the butterscotch morsels in a microwave-safe bowl and place them in the microwave. Heat for 30 seconds then remove to stir. Return to the microwave and heat again for 30 seconds. Stir until melted. Add in the chow mein noodles and mix till combined. Use a 1/4 measuring cup to portion out the cookies onto the baking sheet. If the mixture starts to solidify in the mixing bowl, you can reheat for 15 to 30 seconds to melt. Place three egg-shaped candies in the center of each cookie. Allow to set for at least 5 minutes before serving or transferring.

UPDATE (3/30/10): I just made another batch of these bird's nest cookies using a different brand of butterscotch morsels and they seem to be a bit drier. If you experience this same issue, you can add a little bit more melted butterscotch morsels. I've also noticed that the Cadbury mini eggs aren't attaching as well as the jelly bean eggs, so to fix that problem, I dipped the bottom of the eggs with melted butterscotch morsels before placing them on top.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Sand Tray

The Sand Tray is one of my favorite activities.  It is a wooden box with enough sand in it to cover the bottom of the box in a thin layer.  We use colored sand to make it more appealing. (You can buy it in a craft store).  Our sand tray has a lid.  We have added a dash of cinnamon to it so that it appeals to the visual, the sense of touch, and the sense of smell.

Photo courtesy of:

The sand tray is used for handwriting.  We use it to practice cursive letters, letters we tend to reverse, and numbers too.  About this time of year we tend to forget about it and it collects dust on the shelf.  All our elementary students are writing, and although a few still need practice, they are very capable of using a pencil and eraser.

But all I have to say is, "Why don't we use the sand tray?"  and I have a line of students who want to have a turn.

It is easy to make one at home.  Just get a cafeteria type tray with a lip around the edge.  Pour in just enough colored sand to cover the bottom in a thin layer, add a dash of cinnamon and you are all set.  This is a great activity for ages 4 - 9.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Listening to the Heart

Pinned Image
Colby Brown
Life Lesson of the Day

"Its Impossible." Said Pride.
"Its risky." Said Experience.
"Its pointless." Says Reason.
"Give it a try." Whispered the Heart.

Children listen to their hearts.  Pride, experience, reason, common sense, and good judgement don't stand in the way of a child who has an idea.

Years ago I was speaking with a parent.  Her daughters were tossing their guinea pig back and forth across the living room.  The mom lost her temper and reprimanded the girls.  Later on the youngest, who was 5 at the time. said, "Mom, we just thought it would be fun for our guinea pig to fly."

Any one who has served a toddler spaghetti, ice cream, or chocolate pudding and then turned their back for a second, knows that toddlers like to play with their food. 

Children on playgrounds naturally want to climb to the highest rung on the jungle gym (do they still use that term?) and hang upside down on jump off.

I am sure some of you in your younger years have tied wagon to your bicycle to give rides to other children rides down the street.

How can you be angry at a child who is trying out an idea?  Children are not born with what we call "common sense".  They have innate curiosity and the need to experiment with the notions and ideas that come into their heads.  As parents and teachers we need to keep the children (and their pets) safe.
How do we do our jobs while letting children explore and experiment?

There is no simple answer to this question.  I think it comes down to our attitude.  Of course we want children to have ideas.  Of course we want children to experiment with their environments and discover how things work.  Of course we want children to use good judgement.  Of course we want our children to be safe.

Can this be done without repeatedly saying "no"?  Maria Montessori says "The child is the father of the man."  I interpret this to mean that the type of adult you turn into depends on the type of childhood you have.  As a parent your attitude and your speech patterns provide a framework for how the child views herself.

Positive ways of redirecting children who are being unsafe can include phrases like;
"Wait, I can help you."
"Let's think of another way to do this."
"Tell me what you are trying to do."
"Let's talk about your idea."
Of course you never interfere when a child says, "I can do it myself."  But it is a good idea to keep a watchful eye on the child's attempts to execute her idea.

Children who are encouraged to explore and experiment will continue to do so their whole lives.  They will become leaders, scientists, inventors, humanitarians and philanthropists.  Allow children to listen to their hearts and then guide them to try things in the safest possible way.

Be positive, be present, be a parent.