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Learning from our children. 

Over the years I have learned many things from my students.  I have learned dinosaur and animal facts, I have learned a great way to easily describe a tornado and many interesting facts about different religions and cultures. Recently I have learned that not only do the students add to my knowledge of facts, they also provide some amazing life lessons. 

#1 Love yourself

It was a beautiful spring day and the whole crew was outside. I was sitting with a baby on my lap and many of our students around me. 

One of the children said “Ms Kelly, who is your favorite person in the world?” 

I said that was a hard question and I was trying to come up with an answer. Some of the children were helping me try to figure out the right answer. 

We decided that it couldn’t be one of them because I love them all.  It couldn’t be one of my own children because I have three and love them all equally.  One of the children said it should be my granddaughter because I only have one grandchild.  

I was ready to settle on that answer when a very wise 7 year old said “Ms Kelly the answer should be you, it is very important to love yourself.”  I could not argue with that answer and we then got into a great conversation about why self love is important. 

#2 Check in on your friends

Everyone was getting ready to go outside one morning, one of the children stopped to use the bathroom on the way out.  Another child got their coat on and was heading to the back door when she stopped at the bathroom door. I was prepared for a typical 3 year old interaction, perhaps she was going to ask when the other child was going to be finished or tell them that she needed in. 

I was not prepared for what she actually said.  

She opened the door just a crack and said “Are you doing ok?” to which the other child said “Yes, I am, thank you for asking.” 

I guess you could say I learned two lessons from this encounter, lesson one was the importance of checking in with our friends to make sure they are okay and lesson two was to stop underestimating how kind our students are. 

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 The Cost of Care

Hi everyone, I am sorry I have not blogged in a while, but we have been short staffed and I have been filling in. 

High turnover is a constant problem in childcare and this is especially harmful to infants and young children who need to develop strong relationships with their caregivers. 

One of the main reasons for this turnover is low wages and a lack of benefits. 

 As we were advertising for a new team member I got a lot of backlash about the low pay we were offering and how high our tuition rates are. I spent a lot of time crunching numbers to try and raise pay rates and not raise tuition. It can’t be done, at least not in a way that does not lower the quality of care we provide. 

I know that I have already written about advocacy but today I would like to share with you a tool that shows just how expensive it is to provide quality care.  

Please visit https://costofchildcare.org/index.html and enter your state, then enter what you would like to see when it comes to early child care. You will be surprised by how expensive it is to provide that care. 

We are a Group Home Center which is not on the list but it is similar to Family Home Care. I went there and entered Missouri and the only things I clicked on were to lower teacher child ratios and to increase teacher pay. I would need to charge $1471 a month to do that according to their calculations (which is close to what I had come up with.) I do not want to charge my families that much but I do want low ratios and to be able to recruit quality staff members and keep them. It seems like a no win situation and that is just the bare minimum for staff.  

When I clicked to pay staff the same as kindergarten teachers it raised the rates to $1724.  That is more than most people’s mortgages. Not many people could afford to pay that.  When I got crazy and clicked to give staff health insurance and retirement plans, the needed monthly tuition went up to $2177 which is an unattainable amount for all but high income families. 

Unfortunately how the high cost of childcare is kept down is by paying minimum wage or just above, offering no benefits and having ridiculously high teacher child ratios. This leads to teacher burnout and high turnover which causes our children to not be able to build those important early trusting relationships. 

Not only do our children deserve better, so do the people caring for them.  Early Childhood Educators and caregivers deserve to make a living wage, they deserve to have the opportunity to plan for their future, they deserve healthcare and they deserve the respect given to all other educators.

Right now our representatives are deciding how to best support families and children.  Please go to  https://www.thinkbabies.org/take-action-american-families-plan/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=email_link&utm_content=baby_monitor_07012021&utm_campaign=Q4_2021_Policy_Center_Resources

And tell them that our children and the people who care for them deserve better. 

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 The work of childhood!! 

Imagine you go into work in the morning and the boss says you can work freely on whatever you want, you find a project that interests you and you get into it, but before you are finished, you are called to a team meeting. This meeting may be about something that is of interest or importance to you, and it may not be, but you will have to sit and pay attention for the whole meeting because this is important to your boss.  Let’s say the meeting lasted 30 minutes and then the boss says you are free to work on any project you want as long as it is one of the prechosen projects.  Some of these projects are ones that can be completed in minutes, and some are ones you can really get into and keep at for hours. It doesn’t matter what task you choose; you must stay at it for the next 20 minutes. When those 20 minutes are up, you must move on to another prearranged task and again, stay at it for 20 minutes which might be too long or might not be long enough to complete the task to your liking. 

Finally, you get a break, but you have to take your break in the area decided by your boss.  As with the inside tasks, the area for your break is limited and there are strict rules to follow.  After you have had 20 minutes to enjoy this break, you are sent to lunch.  Your lunch is chosen for you and consists of highly processed foods and is very carb heavy.  After lunch you get to take a nap, but you have to nap in a room where people are going in and out and talking the whole time.  You finally fall asleep after an hour and just as you fall into a deep sleep, the lights are turned on, you are woken up and told to get up right away. 

You are still groggy from your nap being cut short, but it is time to eat a snack, this snack may or may not be something you like, and you only get one serving either way. After snack, there is another meeting.  At this meeting the boss tells you she wants you to learn about time management.  You might not have a problem with time management but that doesn’t matter.  For the next 45 minutes you will be doing activities to teach you about time management.  Some of these might be of interest to you, some might not but you have to do them all. During one of the tasks, you and a co-worker have a disagreement, as you are trying to work it out, the boss 

comes over and takes charge, they tell you and your co-worker how to proceed, neither of you feel satisfied with this outcome but you have no choice but to do what you are told. After you have finished all the time management tasks, you get another break and decide to embark on a project of your own choosing during this break but unfortunately, your break is not long enough for you to finish the project and it will not be saved for you to come back to. 

When you get back to the office, you are told you will need to work in another room with another group of co-workers.  Once in the new space you are assigned a project and must keep that project in the proper spot and cannot collaborate with anyone else unless they were specifically assigned the same project. This is how you spend the rest of your day, unless the boss decides to bring in more people and have you all watch a video that is unrelated to the work you are doing. 

Imagine that you do that same thing day in and day out.  Some of you may enjoy the predictability of these days but I’m sure most would feel frustrated at the lack of control you are given to finish your job to your standards. There is a good chance that you would not look forward to going to work or feel pride in what you are doing.  

Now imagine you go to work and are allowed long periods of time to work on what you want to work on.  If you have to stop for any reason, you get to save your work and come back to it later.  When you take a break, you get to decide how to spend that time and are given many options of activities and the only rule is to not hurt anyone and not break anything.  

After your break, you get a lunch that is made mostly of whole fruits and vegetables along with protein.  After lunch you go to a quiet, dim room to nap. Before you fall asleep there is a relaxing story and then calming music helps to drift off.  When you wake up the room is still dark, there may be a window open, but you can lay and relax until you are ready to get up. 

Once you are ready, you get to have an afternoon snack. The snacks are plentiful, and you get to have as much or as little as you want. 

Then you get to spend the rest of the day working on the project of your choice.  If you and a co-worker have a disagreement, your boss tells you to talk it out and come up with a solution you are both happy with.  You are free to go back and forth from project to project and to work with whoever you want.  

When you leave in the afternoon, there is a good chance you feel fulfilled and happy to have been able to do your job to your standard. 

Now replace the word boss with teacher and you see the difference between your typical early childhood education model and a true play-based model.  Play is the work of children; it is how they learn and how they gain the skills needed to function in life.  When we interrupt play to “teach” we are actually robbing children of the opportunity to learn. 

The Birdsall House way believes that given time and the proper environment, children will learn everything they need to be ready for academic learning. We don’t create lessons, we don’t tell the children what we think they need to learn, we trust them to explore and create their own lessons. 

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How do we do it? Naptime

We often hear from families that they are amazed that we are able to get all of the children to sleep at the same time.  So, today I thought I would share what we do to help that happen.  First, I must state that we are not always successful at this, but the majority of the time, these things work.

Routine, I think this is the biggest thing we do to reach this goal. While things do not always happen at the same time, they always happen in the same order.  After lunch the children use the restroom, pick out a book and a stuffy and then sit on their cot looking at their book until all the children are on their cots.  Then the teacher who gets to read (we all love reading at nap and so we take turns) gathers the books and sits down, usually near the youngest two.  The teacher and the children take big deep breaths and then the teacher reads.  Before the last book is read, they all take more deep breaths.  After the last book we turn on the naptime music mix and ocean sounds on a sound machine.   These things always happen in that very order.

Tenacity, sometimes all it takes is being willing to sit or lie next to them and rub their backs or their heads for a good ten/fifteen/twenty minutes.  If someone starts moving their fingers in an attempt to stay awake, we gently rub their arm or hand.  Think about how it feels when you get a scalp massage our when someone gives a gentle massage.

Get tricky, often we have older children who tell us that they are not tired.  We tell them that we understand that they don’t feel tired, but we need to be sure. We tell them that if they really are not tired, they should be able to lie still for one minute with their eyes closed.  We let them get comfy and close their eyes and then we start counting, low and slow.  If they move, we simply start back at one, each time they move or open their eyes, we start over.  Generally, we never make it to 60. Sometimes I will combine counting with a back rub or holding their hand. 

Be flexible, somedays they may need a back rub and for you to count, somedays they might need you to hold their hand and say “shhhhh” (that’s another trick we sometimes use.) The most important thing is to stay calm, without falling asleep yourself.  Just yesterday I had a four-year-old who wanted to snuggle, I focused on taking deep relaxing breaths, she was asleep in less than 10 minutes, and I was very close to sleeping myself.  

So, when you see photos of classrooms of napping children, it is not magic, it is just determined teachers who have a book of tricks up their sleeves to make it happen.  Hopefully you can use some of these tricks at home too.