Tag Archives: Schedules

Making Room

Sadly summer is nearly over and school will be starting soon.  The littles and I have enjoyed having the school-age children here for full days but I’ll admit there was a brief period in the Spring when I was a little apprehensive about having enough space to accommodate the older children.  The dining/art area was originally set up like this;

15-08-room01This arrangement worked OK when the school-age children were only here for a brief period after school.    The school-age table was folded down out of the way most of the day leaving me and the preschoolers access to the toddler table and also plenty of open floor space for group projects, sensory bins etc.

However, when everyone was here it was difficult to have them all in this room.  The toddler table had to be pushed tight in to the corner  when the school-age table was up. It was impossible to have both groups seated comfortably at the same time. School-age children often had difficulty accessing art supplies without assistance.

So, I rebuilt my desk in the corner where the toddler table had been and moved the toddler table to the former desk location.   This switch enabled more space around all the tables AND it gave me more desk space to pile papers on too!

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It looks a little crowded in this picture but the highchairs and school-age table can easily be moved out of the way to open up a large section of floor space when needed.  The old school-age table is still folded against the wall – I brought out the larger table for the summer so the children had room for larger art projects.

The new box window that we built during my vacation now houses all the art supplies, lets in plenty of light and no longer has only a view of my neighbour’s dining room.

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The toddler table now only has one side against a wall so all six chairs are usable all the time.   This means that the smallest children can join the group at the table when they are ready instead of remaining in the highchairs because there is limited space.

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This flexible arrangement has worked well all summer and I’m certain it will continue to once we (sadly) return to the school-year schedule too.

Letting Go

September….Back to School…..Schedules….:P

I’ll admit that having the children heading back to school is not my favourite time of year. Maybe I’m a little greedy – I really like to have them here all day.  I think what bothers me most about back to school is the many hours that the children will spend trapped indoors – in class, indoor recess due to weather, on a bus or in a car.

As a child I walked to school, alone or with friends. I don’t remember ever seeing parents walking with their children – or driving them. What I do remember is the sights and sounds of the neighbourhood, the feel of the sun, the rain, and the icy wind throughout the seasons. This daily walk was a period of transition between home and school. A time when I prepared for the day ahead or reflected on the experience.

My own children walked to school by themselves. When we first moved into this neighbourhood I walked to school with my older two children (then aged 8 & 11) for the first four days – to help to familiarize them with the route. On the Friday of their first week at school they walked by themselves. On their way home they made a wrong turn – and when they realized their mistake they asked a stranger for directions and made it home 15 minutes later than expected.

My younger two children were already familiar with the area by the time they started school. They walked alone the very first day of grade one – at their request. I’m not going to say I didn’t worry – I’m their mother – that’s what I always did.

Every day I pictured the directionally challenged one wandering miles from home with no idea where they were. Every day I worried that someone would suggest something stupid to the somewhat gullible one and they would do it. Every day I worried that the shy/anxious one would panic, run and hide, never to be found again. Every day I worried that the adventurer would get lost in some imaginary world and forget that they should be in school.

I also won’t say that none of those things ever happened. Sometimes they did, but the actual incidents were never as bad as the ones I envisioned and we learned from them. We learned things that we wouldn’t have learned if I had insisted on walking or driving them to school every day.

We learned that they were fully capable of walking a few blocks – four times/day – in all types of weather. We learned that even in elementary school they were capable of being responsible and getting to and from school on time – if they are given the chance to.

The exercise, the outdoor time, the independence were all invaluable parts of their education – equally as important as any of the learning that was done in the classroom. As I watch all the students heading off to school I can’t help wishing they all had the opportunity to walk every day. The opportunity to be outdoors. The opportunity to be independent. The opportunity to learn.

This September my ‘baby’ heads off to university. Today is also his first day at his new job. I didn’t fill out his application for him. I didn’t go to his job interview. I will not be driving him to his classes. It is not that I don’t want to but rather, I know that it is important that he do this on his own. It is important that I let go and let him demonstrate his independence.

I also know it isn’t any easier this year than it was when he was heading off to first grade.

 

In just over a week I’ll be heading off to the 2014 NATURE SUMMIT!!!!
Our Friday keynote will be Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids. She will also be speaking on Thursday September 11 at Isaac Brock Community Center 715 Telfer St N – this event is open to the public so you don’t have to attend the entire summit to hear Lenore speak. Let me know if you want tickets.

Tearing Down the Wall

Before the first stage of our big renovation began I wrote the post ‘Alternatives‘ to give a little history about how we have used the spaces in my childcare home. I was planning to wait until our main floor renovation was complete before writing about the new arrangement but because this renovation affects so many areas I think that it may be too much for just one post.

So, today I’m going to start by describing a little bit about the biggest change we made to the floor plan and why I chose to do it. To begin, here again is the basic floor plan of my home;

Floorplan

What this floor plan picture doesn’t show you is that there is not really a full wall separating Room One and Room Two.

I had to go to my old photo albums – back before digital cameras – to find a picture of the rooms before we added the wall to create two separate rooms. This picture was taken just two months after I first opened my childcare home. The child in the front is one of my now-adult sons.

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I didn’t scan any of the older pictures showing the wall that we originally built but the pictures below are the earliest digital pictures I have.  The wall here is several years old and has already been modified a few times. This is the view from Room One (the living room side at the time);

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and these are the views from Room Two (then used as the playroom);

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In 2008 we switched the uses of these rooms and Room One became the play room and Room Two became the living room/dining room.  However, there was still a wall between those two spaces. Room Three – the sunroom – became the art area/quiet time area.

As much as I loved the idea of having a dedicated art space it was so far from the play area that I could not supervise both spaces at the same time. Consequently the art area was mostly used only for whole group activities – usually only a couple of times each month. Spontaneous art was nearly impossible and scheduled art does not allow creativity to flourish.

Currently we have another problem too. The children in my present group have vastly different schedules. Between parental pick-up and drop-off times as well as school schedules I regularly have children coming in or going out at 6:45am, 7:00, 8:00, 8:30, 8:40, 9:00, noon, 1:20, 2:30, 4:00, 4:20, 5:00 and 5:30pm. Our largest uninterrupted time period is between 9:00am and noon – our outdoor time.

Somewhere in between all those comings and goings I have to squeeze in two snacks, lunch, and naps for the infants and toddlers. When you consider that some of those little ones are already here for the day while other ones are still snuggled in their beds at home you realize that their nap times are not going to be anywhere near the same time.

So, in phase one of the main floor renovation we took down the wall. In the past few weeks we’ve slowly rearranged the spaces to allow for napping, eating, art and playing all at the same time and all within my direct supervision. Sounds amazing doesn’t it?

Over the last two weeks we’ve been adjusting to the new spaces. I won’t even use the word ‘schedule’ because it has been different almost every day. There have been a few periods of confusion but mostly because the renovation isn’t completely finished yet.

The single best word I can use to describe it is ‘flexible’. I can’t believe I never considered doing it before. It all became possible when I took down a wall – a wall I put up in the beginning because I thought we needed it.

Cold

I’ve had a weather station in my yard for the last eight years.  This has allowed me to get a more accurate idea of the actual weather conditions before we head outside.  Windchill factors in my sheltered yard are considerably different from those reported at the airport or the Forks.

Last month my weather station ceased to transmit data and replacing the batteries didn’t solve the problem.  So, I was very excited to find a new weather station at Costco.  It has even more features than my old one did.  You can read more about it here.

With or without a backyard weather station our recent weather conditions would be described as ‘unseasonably cold’.  We have not been spending much time however the temperature has not been the main reason for our limited outdoor time.

With four infants/toddlers I need allow a minimum of one full hour of time to get everyone dressed, outside, and back in.  Even then some days that ‘hour’ is really only 10 minutes of actual ‘play’.  Between arrival’s, departures, meals and naps there are rarely any time periods long enough to accomplish any more than 30 minutes of outdoor play even when they don’t argue about getting dressed.

Outdoor play is still a very new experience for this group and so far they are not so sure that the fun factor is worth the effort to get dressed. It would have been easier if we had a more gradual decent into cold winter weather.  Hopefully we will soon have some milder days when we can acutally enjoy spending some time playing in the wonderful mountains of snow that have accumulated in the yard.

There is another interesting ‘cold’ result.  Last month I wrote about how I rearranged the playroom.   In the old arrangement the ‘refrigerator’ had been located on an interior wall but it is now located on the exterior wall.

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The walls in my 100 year old house don’t have a lot of insulation and when the refrigerator doors are closed  that section of the wall doesn’t get much warm air from the room.  Consequently, as one of the children recently pointed out, when you first open the refrigerator doors the items inside are actually cold.

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I didn’t even plan for that – it’s just one of the benefits of our Manitoba climate 🙂

State of Flux

I like things to be organized – if you look at my desk or my filing cabinet you might disagree.  That’s because I also tend to lack focus for mundane tasks like paperwork. When it comes to my childcare program I am a little conflicted regarding organization.

Some synonyms for organized include ‘ordered, controlled, structured’ – none of those words reflect my view of activities in a flexible childcare program.  However, other synonyms like ‘prepared’, and ‘well thought-out’ would be appropriate.

According to Dictionary.com ‘Organized’ is defined as “having a formal organization or structure, especially to coordinate or carry out for widespread activities: organized medicine; organized crime.”  To ‘Organize’ is “to form as or into a whole consisting of interdependent or coordinated parts, especially for united action”.

I like these definitions because in order for any of our daily activities to be successful we need to be able to function as a group.  We need to find a balance between our unique individual needs and the needs of the others in the group.  We need to get to know each other and that takes time.

We’ve been in a state of flux for what seems like a very long time – two whole months. We have not had a ‘normal’ schedule for two months and it has been frustrating at times.  It began with the start of the new school year where the little ones go through a period of ‘loss’ and sometimes struggle with missing their mentors who are now away much of the day.

We’ve had many other adjustments too.  Some parents have had changes in their work schedules which resulted in altered pick-up and drop-off times.  The little ones get used to a routine where certain children regularly go home first or last and variations can be confusing.

We’ve said some good-byes and enrolled two new babies.  There have been some necessary adjustments to nap times, meal times, seating and sleeping arrangements.  We’re trying to accommodate each individual without being too disruptive to the group.

It has been challenging.  Only once in the past two months has attendance been ‘normal’ – by that I mean no one was absent and everyone was dropped off and picked up on time.  It’s hard to call it ‘normal’ when it has only happened once but on paper that’s the way it should be.

It’s impossible for anyone – especially young children – to feel part of a group when you don’t understand what that group is.  We can’t focus on learning and growing until we find our place.  We need to get organized because this state of flux has been hard on us all.

A Period of Adjusment

School has begun again – for me this is somewhat sad.  I’m going to miss the long periods of uninterrupted free play.  I’m going to miss watching the interaction between the preschoolers and the school-age children.

Yes, I’m excited for the older children heading off to new adventures.  I’m also looking forward to being able to focus more attention on the little ones and planning some activities specifically for their developmental levels.  I’m eagerly anticipating the autumn leaves and yes, even the winter snow – these are such wonderful sensory experiences for the children (and me).

September brings many changes; changing seasons, variable weather, different schedules, new friends and more.  As I was making my grocery list for the upcoming weeks’ menus I realized that there are some changes needed there too.

With the larger group here over the summer I needed to double many of the recipes to ensure we had enough food for meals. Last school year I had no school-aged children here for lunch but I did have several preschoolers with good appetites.  This year’s preschool group is much younger and I again have no school-age children here for lunch.  Even without doubling recipes there will be far too many leftovers from the current menu.

It’s time to revamp the menu again.  I’m going to remove some of the items that cannot be scaled down for the younger/smaller group.  I want to add menu items that encourage the infants and toddlers to be more independent at meal times – menu items that can be easily scooped onto a spoon or picked up by tiny fingers.

We’re going to need more cooked vegetables.  The raw veggies and dip are magnificently nutritious but can be too difficult for many of the toddlers to chew. Salads are not popular with this little group – that doesn’t mean they won’t be served but they won’t be the only vegetable offered with a meal.

Yes, it’s time for me to go back to some old menu favourites and begin trying some new items too.   Let the experiments begin – mealtime science during a period of adjustment.

In Transition

I’m still here.

It feels like a really long time since I’ve posted anything.  I have started a couple of posts but they aren’t finished yet.  I’ve been busy and blogging wasn’t as time sensitive as other things so it got postponed.

It seems that spring has finally arrived.  There are plans for many changes around here and some things have changed already.  We’ve said good bye to some of our friends – we wish them well as they move on to new adventures – we’ll miss them.

Last week TWO new babies began attending.  I didn’t originally plan it that way and admittedly there have been a few times I looked in the mirror and silently screamed “What were you thinking?”

We’ve all been getting to know each other.  The ‘old’ baby – who’s not really a baby anymore – has had a little difficulty adjusting to not being the youngest one anymore.  Otherwise everyone is getting along very well.

Naptime has been the big issue.

I had already moved the ‘old’ baby to a cot for naptime so she had time to adapt to the new nap routine before the ‘new’ babies arrived.  That went quite smoothly at first but now she sometimes takes advantage of the times I’m preoccupied with the younger ones – creating disruptions when the others are trying to fall asleep.

There was one day last week that for the five hour period from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm  there was at least one child sleeping but never all of them at once.  Everyone is out of sync and some barely sleep at all.

None of them are cranky when they are up – so many fun things to do, they just don’t want to miss any of the action.  Sometimes I think it might be easier to just keep them up instead of trying to persuade them they need a nap.  However, it’s their parents that suffer when the babies are exhausted and inconsolable by supper time.

It’s only been a week – I know it takes time, we’ll get better.  We’re still in transition and once we get better acquainted we’ll work out a schedule that works for all of us.

Our Week Outdoors – The End

The last day of our week outdoors started with me making the ‘trail mix macaroni salad’ – pasta, bacon, raisins, grated carrot, sunflower seeds, and salad dressing (I used ranch).

The flavour was good but I’m still not a fan of pasta salads — it is the texture of cold pasta that I don’t like.  The children all ate it but no one begged for more.

I received some gifts from the children when they arrived;

When we got outside I set up the tunnels.  There were several items I had handy just in case the children got bored – they rarely get bored outside so most of the items didn’t get used.  I wanted to get the tunnels out because we haven’t used them for a long time.  The children cheered;

I left them out all day and they were used for a variety of activities but the favorite one involved the balls – of course;

We also did some crafts — these children prefer active play so getting them interested in crafts is sometimes a challenge — messy crafts are the best.  I suggested that these might make good Father’s day gifts but left the decision up to them;

Later in the afternoon I noticed that there were pieces of bark neatly arranged in the tipi;

When I asked what the bark was for they informed me that it was ‘jail’ and they continued playing.  Some arrests were made, there was an attempted jailbreak – involving a pinecone ‘knife’ – everything ended peacefully.

So, here’s the evaluation of spending one whole week outdoors;

  • Nap time outdoors is AWESOME even (especially) in the rain.
  • Eating meals outdoors is ok occaisionally but eating every meal for a week outdoors is tiresome.
  • No one complains about being bored.  No one misses the indoor toys.
  • I discovered that I would not survive if I had to work any place that required me to wear shoes all day.
  • All the ‘little things’ I normally do in spare minutes throughout the day – loading/unloading the dishwasher, checking/responding to email, miscellaneous paperwork, prepwork and cleaning-up etc don’t get done during the day.  They add an hour or two to my workday after the children leave — I normally only work 12 hours a day, this week it was closer to 14 hours per day.
  • I miss my coffee pot.
  • I have absolutely no trouble falling asleep at night.

I highly recommend it! 🙂

Waiting for the Bus

Several of the children in my care take the school bus to school and normally the bus stops to pick-up and drop off the children directly in front of my house.  Due to some major road work in the area the bus can no longer turn onto my street during the morning rush hour so the stop has been moved to the end of the street.

If the lunchtime or after school drop offs had been moved I would probably be annoyed – those are hectic times of the day and a change like that would be very disruptive to our schedule.  The morning walk to the bus stop is actually quite enjoyable.  We listen to the birds, visit with the neighbourhood cats that come to greet us, and enjoy the refreshing spring weather.

There is a lot of traffic at the corner so while we wait the children count cars or play eye spy type games. Last week a police car passed by and the children waved at the officer – who waved back.  The children were ecstatic and a new game began.

The children stand side by side and wave at everyone who passes by.  They smile and wave at every pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle that goes past our location.  They also keep score: one point for everyone who smiles back, two points if they smile and wave too.  The children cheer every time they get a response from these morning commuters and there is a collective groan when there is a surly unresponsive one.  The children could hardly contain their excitement when one driver smiled, waved and honked the horn – THREE points!

So, if you see a group of children standing on the corner smiling and waving make their day and wave back.  Hopefully they will make your day a little brighter too. 🙂

Two Weeks Outdoors

Last Thursday I attended a meeting of the Manitoba Nature Action Collaborative for Children – MNACC for short.  I have been part of the MNACC group since its inception after several of us returned from attending the 2008 World Forum Foundation’s Working Forum on Nature Education for Young Children .

Our MNACC group gathers several times each year to converse, problem solve, and partner with others to create outdoor environments and experiences for children.  At last week’s meeting staff from Discovery Children’s Centre, Seven Oaks Child Day Care Centre, and Winnipeg Military Family Resource Centre Childcare Centre shared stories of their adventures during their ‘Two Weeks Outdoors’ project.

Last spring, preschool groups from these centres participated in a venture to spend their entire day, every day, in outdoor classrooms. For two weeks these 2, 3, and 4 year olds along with their caregivers explored, played, ate and slept outdoors.  Parents dropped their children off outside the centre in the morning and picked them at the same location at the end of the day – dirty, tired, and extremely happy.

In most (but not all) cases they went indoors only for toileting.  There were occasional concessions made when necessary during extreme weather conditions – which really only included lightening.  For the most part though they were well prepared to handle anything Mother Nature had in store.

Actually, some of the staff found that they were over prepared and didn’t even need to use much of the equipment they had available to ‘entertain’ the children.  Not surprisingly it turns out that young children are fully capable of keeping themselves busy in an unstructured outdoor environment.

They all considered the project to be so successful that some even extended it for an additional week.  All are making plans to make it an annual event.  Other centres are planning their own events.  Some are considering full day outdoor programs in the winter!

I had wanted to participate last year but I doubted my ability to pull it off.  After all, I’m a family childcare provider – I work alone.  Could I really run my program entirely outdoors?  I have a mixed age group – including an infant.  Yet, we have gone on full day field trips.  We have gone on half day hiking trips in ‘wilderness’ areas. We have eaten our meals and snacks outdoors both in the yard and on outings.  I have had an 18 month old walk an entire 3 km trail refusing to sit in the stroller that I had brought.  We have often played outdoors in the rain. We regularly spend 2-3 hours outdoors each day.

As I listened to their stories and watched their slide shows I kept thinking, imagining and planning for each point they made….I could do that….I wouldn’t do that….I would do that differently….I could do that better….YES, I CAN SPEND ALL DAY OUTDOORS! 

This year we will participate in the two weeks outdoors project!

I probably will not do two consecutive weeks.  One of the points the presenters made was that they chose spring over summer for this project to avoid being outside in sweltering heat with high UV levels.  Their biggest plus to spending all day outdoors was the total lack of a structured time schedule.

For me these two points oppose each other since in spring I still have nursery, kindergarten and school-age children with definite time restraints.  Only in the summer do we have the freedom to let the schedule flow freely – naturally.

I am planning one springtime week where my smaller preschool group and I will spend most of our day outdoors – including meals and naps – but we will be indoors for arrival and departure times to accommodate the school schedule.

I also want to do a full outdoor program for a week in the summer for the whole group so we can experience that too.  With my covered upper deck and covered carport as well as awnings and tarps for shelter and access to running water I believe we can handle any summer weather conditions.

I will operate my entire program outdoors.  How about you?