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Herbs and More

The weather has been glorious the past two weeks.  The summer-like temperatures have made fall activities even more enjoyable.  We’ve been spending as much time as possible outdoors – playing in the leaves at the park, working in the garden, or just basking in the sunshine.

Last week the children enjoyed picking the herbs from the plants that we were not bringing indoors.

This week we’ve spent some time cleaning up the garden in anticipation of next spring.  We had a great supply of tomatoes and cucumbers this year but many of the other plants produced little even though the plants seemed healthy.  Some, like the sunflowers, were a complete failure.  I’m not sure why – maybe too much rain.  I know we never needed to water the garden even once this past summer.

Other than bringing in a few of the herbs for winter I’ve been trying to figure out a way to continue our gardening adventures indoors.  Last evening I attended an ‘Indoor Veggie Gardening’ workshop at Sage Garden Herbs – one of my favourite places.  I wanted to stay (and shop) longer but I came home excited about the possibilities for a bona fide indoor garden.

Dave covered many topics including lighting, soil, plant selection and general plant care.  I was most interested in the soil section – I believe this is where our outdoor garden is lacking too.  As I often profess that I do not ‘teach’ the children but rather ‘co-explore’ with them, I too must recognize that there comes a point when ‘guessing’ just doesn’t work any more.  There has to be more research and fact for these ventures to be successful.

So, armed with my new knowledge and supplies I’m now making plans for our indoor garden.  With any luck we should be able to have a great sensory garden to delight us through the long, cold winter.

Playing & Writing

After my last blog entry I did some reflecting on how I could adjust our daily schedule to give the preschool children fewer interruptions now that the older ones are back to school.  The school schedule is so restrictive to real productive play.  I’ve pushed snack a little later in the morning which allows the children a full hour or more of uninterrupted free play in the morning.  So far this has seemed to ease the number of “We just got started’ complaints that I get when it’s time to clean up for snack.  There have been a few minor problems as we adapt to this new schedule but I’m certain it will be better for all.

While reflecting on the children’s schedule I also took a look at my own.  I started this blog with the intention of writing daily entries or at least several each week.  Unfortunately I haven’t been doing that and it’s not for lack of ideas.  I should have foreseen this.  It is the same problem I faced when I was working on my CBA portfolio.  Just as children need long, uninterrupted periods for free play, I need long, uninterrupted periods to write.

Over the years that I worked on my CBA portfolio my family became accustomed to my ‘departures’.  When I sat down at my computer on a Saturday morning they knew they were on their own for the day.  There is momentum in my writing — once I start, I have trouble stopping.  Consequently, when I don’t think I’ll have enough uninterrupted time, I put off starting any new entries.

It’s not that it takes me a long time to write each entry but rather that when I begin writing I don’t stay on task.  As I work on one entry I get ideas for others and so I start new ones.  Eventually I have five or six topics on the go.  Along the way I also do some research and plan activities that I can use to enhance the children’s learning.  I flip from one document to another as I write.  I am fully engaged and productive — but the whole process takes time.

For me, writing is play.  Through it I experiment, construct and learn.  So now, just as I found a way to adjust the children’s schedule to allow them a longer free play time, I need tweak my own schedule.  Blog entries are not nearly as time consuming as CBA portfolio entries – I won’t need to dedicate full days to the task.  Two or three hours a week should suffice and I think I’ve found the perfect time.  First thing in the morning before the children arrive – my most productive part of the day – 5:30 to 7:00 am!

Say Please

We had a new child join our group for the summer.  I wasn’t sure how the children would respond since they are a very close knit group.  In the last three years the only ‘new’ children I’ve enrolled have been younger siblings of those already in my care.  How would they react to an outsider?

I didn’t need to be concerned.  They were ecstatic.  The only problems we had were a result of bickering over who got to play with the new child.  It was interesting to watch how they worked out some variations on their favorite activities because there was new input.  Then, something bigger happened.

We were out in the yard and the children were engrossed in a hide and seek game — more like an Easter egg hunt using rocks.  It was the new child’s turn to search and he soon discovered that others in the group had been enlisted to be hiding spots and conceal rocks in their hands behind their backs — all he had to do was ask if they had one.  When he asked one of the younger children they responded “Yes, what do you say?”  And the struggle began.

One by one the others formed a semi circle and tried to explain the use of manners.  They began role playing with each other saying “You have something I want, may I have it please?” “Yes you may, here it is (pretending to pass imaginary object)” “ThanK-you”.

Eventually they realized it wasn’t that he didn’t know what to say but that he was being stubborn.  They began a story telling session and used a stick from the ground as a talking stick — only the person holding the stick could talk.  I had used this technique with them in the past when interrupting was an issue at circle time but I had never seen them use it on their own.

They made up stories about children in various situations where they didn’t get something they wanted because they didn’t do what was require.  Some of the stories were very imaginative.  Everyone got a turn to tell a story and even when a story didn’t really make sense no one complained or corrected the storyteller.

I could tell the new child was beginning to get frustrated but would it be right to make them stop?  They were not trying to be mean and what kind of example would it set if we gave in to his “Give me” demands.  Suddenly he declared “Maybe in five minutes I’ll say please!” and that was it.  The whole group jumped up and started to cheer and applaud.  “He said please! He said please!”

He looked somewhat stunned by their response to his unintentional ‘manners’.  They handed him the rock and the hide and seek game continued.  After all, “Say please” was all they had requested.