Friday, December 15, 2017

Functional Learning vs. Rote Teaching

Our education system likes to teach. A lesson + an activity = you should know this and be assessed on it. Learning is not like that. Learning is incremental scaffolding through discovery and processing over time.

There is a huge difference between knowing something and being able to USE information in a continuous learning process. Some information floats around and is picked up as a type of appetizer, nice but not filling and while it serves a purpose, it is not a foundation. Some information is the meat and potatoes that other, important, learning builds upon.

I had a client dad ask a few months ago about his son's ability to identify numbers. "He doesn't seem to know what a 7 looks like." 

I kinda blew him off, saying something about his child not needing to know that and I don't teach it. 

That conversation sat uncomfortably with me for the rest of the evening and night and I got back to him the next morning.

I had a similar conversation with a mother a few weeks ago. They were at Thanksgiving and her sons' cousin, who is a few weeks older, could identify all of his ABC's. "So, how is [my son] doing on his letter recognition?"

Again, I don't teach that.

This time, however, I was prepared with the better explanation I had given the dad the day after I kinda blew him off with a non-answer.

I explained:

Most preschools teach letter identification, and usually only uppercase letters. They also teach number identification to 10 and a set of primary color names. 

Here, I teach functionality. Your child may not be able to identify a 7 as a seven, but he can do one-to-one correspondence counting, even in a scatter group and COUNT to seven. He can COUNT to 20, possibly with some errors, in any manner required. He can simply look at a group of four items and know it is a quantity of four. He can count, with some ability, imperfectly, to 100. At 3 1/2 years old. A person can count without knowing number names. We are working on counting and quantification.

Your child may not be able to label an A as an A, but he can say that both upper AND lowercase Aa's say "ah." Uppercase recognition, when 90% of reading is lowercase letters, has very little functionality. If a person never, ever, learned letter names, they could still learn to read if they knew phonics. I am working on them reading.

Your child, at 3 1/2, can also identify around 12 shapes and colors, and I never stood in front of them and held a lesson and "taught" them anything.

I didn't even get into the fact that these children can pattern [#1 indicator of future math success], sort, graph, etc., which most other preschools are not even attempting to expose their students.

These children have been exposed to, and picked up through environmental, functional, exposure, LIVING experience, these SKILLS. There is no letter of the week, color of the day, flash cards, or expectation of memorization here. 

"Can you hand me that WHITE towel, please?"

"Do you want the BLUE or the PURPLE cup?"

"How many kids are here today?"

"How many cars do you have?"

"We are having eggs for lunch, how do you think we would spell EGGS? Let's sound it out. Eh, yep, gg, yep, ssss. Yeah. In this word, eggs has two g's, so it would be E-G-G-S. Eh, g, s. Eggs."

"Which one is your cubby? How do you know? Yes, it's your color, but it also has your name on it. Let's sound it out."

"We have to put your name on your art so I know who it belongs to. How do we spell your name? Let's sound it out."

They all pick up the letter and number names by kindergarten, but knowing their phonics and counting methods means that they are learning numeracy and literacy far earlier than their traditionally "taught" counterpart preschoolers. 

  • Their learning has meaning. 
  • It has functionality. 
  • It is important to THEM. 
Graduate of mine who placed in the top 2%
They may not be able to do a dog and pony show for the relatives, but they can do important WORK. 

This is why my kiddos historically leave here for kindergarten reading and doing math at a 2nd grade level. 

I think that the ability to read or DO math, is much more important than rote memorization of letter and number names. It's worked so far. Very well.

Knowledge is only powerful if you can USE IT.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

LSL E-commerce!

I've combined my products from sites such as Etsy, Teachers Pay Teachers and Spreadshirt and added a shop to my website for direct purchase/ordering. I'll be adding items over the next several months. All items are intended to serve multiple skill sets or developmental areas, be as natural as possible, and/or be open-ended play opportunities, and/or support specific learning objectives. I hope parents, providers and teachers will continue to enjoy my products and find a few more to add to their school or play room. On the left of the SHOP page, you will find the categories. Check it out!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Child Care Checklist


1. Gives parents a chance to determine what THEIR desires, expectations and absolute must-haves are for the child care position for which they are interviewing providers

2. Gives a good checklist for comparing providers they interview, rather than relying on memory or in-complete notes

3. Gives parents a more thorough checklist of interview topics than they probably would have come up with on their own, especially first time parents.

4. Provides providers and centers a checklist to see where their strengths lie, and where they could possibly improve their program to be more competitive, or to be more clear in presenting their program to potential clients

5. Provides a comparison tool for checking out your competition and rating it against your program.

This was a quick put-together, so feel free to comment with additions, deletions, questions, suggestions.

Parents are always asking me what makes a great child care situation. I can't answer that, because every family, every care giver, every family situation and every child is very different. I do believe that the best situation will be a marriage of beliefs and philosophies on child rearing between a child care provider and the parents/guardians of the child. 

I think that personality matches are also important, that all parties feel open to be themselves and express their opinions and concerns freely.

Beyond that, there are some key elements that most parents would like to see in their child care situation. 

At this time, it should be standard that home providers get at minimum:
  • 10 paid vacation days
  • 5 paid time off [PTO] days for sickness or appointments
  • Paid major holidays 
Child care, especially home care, is a long, stressful day. Most providers are open a minimum of 50 hours a week and put in 10-20 hours a week in addition to that on cleaning, maintenance, shopping, curriculum, etc. It is VITAL that they have time off to re-charge and get away. 

Without it being paid, many providers will not take time off, and it is to their AND YOUR CHILD's detriment if they do not get some down time. I TRY to submit my time off a minimum of 3 months out so that my clients can make other arrangements. 

I personally don't take MLK or President's day, but other providers take their birthday, their child's birthday, Good Friday, etc. Our business, we can do that! When my brother was doing care, his contract had that he got off on Halloween every year, his favorite holiday.

Here in Kansas, regulations have become so restrictive that it is nearly impossible to get back-up providers who can come in while we go to doctor or dentist appointments. PTO days are becoming a necessity. 

My contract basically states that the clients have read and agree to my Policies & Procedures.

I belong to a child care marketing group. I don't need to market mine, I'm full for 3 years with a wait list at this point and have clients trying to plan pregnancies around my future openings. But I love to mentor others, and I do have some corporate marketing experience, and friends and clients with marketing backgrounds. One of the key aspects to marketing is knowing your strengths and weaknesses and those of your competition

Hopefully, this checklist will help parents and providers better assess a child care situation.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Drafting Tube Blocks - FREE

I am lucky enough to have a client who is a mechanical engineer and another who does CAD drafting, along with another that has a brother who is an engineer. So, I have a ready supply available of these HEAVY duty cardboard tubes that drafting paper comes on. 

Any architecture or engineering firm will most likely be willing to give you these for FREE, just call and ask.

These come in various lengths and are thick and sturdy, so they can stand up to the very destructive 2 year old boys I currently have with me.

I took the tubes and cut them with a standard saw blade on my chop saw at 1 inch intervals. I think I will color code them by size and mark the inches on each one. I think they will take earth tone natural stains well, to keep with the Reggio philosophy of more natural elements.

I purposefully did 20 units at 1" for numeracy teaching and exploring. 

How many did you get on your arm?

I did 1"-10" for counting and graduating, matching, estimating, unit measuring, and graphing teaching. 

Which one does that match?

I did more 2" and 3" for skip counting, fraction and multiplication teaching.

I cut several at 45 degrees and they really seemed to like those for toppers.

They started to figure out the logic/reasoning and physics pretty quick.

I kept the length at a max of 10 inches. This makes them difficult to use in any "stick" manner like a sword or bat. Not that they can't be used to hit, but it would be awkward and lack force.

A finer saw blade or slower cut would have made them less ragged. I didn't clean up the edges. You could with a wood rasp, but I found that the rough edges helped the pieces to stick together better. It also provided an extra sensory experience and fine motor activity as they picked at the edges.

6 tubes provided enough to fill a laundry basket. I will probably add an extra 2 tubes worth, but want to see how they play with them to determine the sizes we need before I make any more.

And if they get mutilated, well, there are plenty more where these came from, for FREE. Yay!
Tags: blocks, tubes, toddlers, preschool, daycare, child care, gross motor, fine motor, center, kindergarten, homeschool, frugal,