Building Fires with a Purpose.

Building Fires with a Purpose.

The discussion about building fires in child care programs is growing as ECE’s are trying to spend more time outside as a way of dealing with Covid. The general idea is that a fire will give kids and adults a chance to warm up while being outside for long periods of time in the cold weather. I think we need to go further with this idea. I learned about fires in a child care program, not as a way to warm up, but as a skill and knowledge to expose kids to; how to build a fire, what the purpose of fire is, and how to respect and be safe around fire. I was first introduced to the concept through Gill Robertson who was a family child care provider at the time. She then connected me with Niki Buchan who shared the concept of lab fires. These are not large bonfires for the sake of having a fire. They are small fires build in a small metal bowl/caldron and used to teach children about fire. This was the first time I had ever used a fire steel. My own skills were growing. I had such a sense of accomplishment when I finally got my little fire going! As most of you already know I operate a family child care program for infants to school age as well as a forest and nature school program. I offer fire building opportunities in both these programs. If I want children to respect and understand the power of fire, I need to offer these opportunities. We don’t just ‘have’ a fire, we have conversations about fire; fire being a tool that we use for heat, cooking, light, safety. I know some people are thinking,  “There is no way I would ever be comfortable with a fire around the children I care for!” We have very strict rules and procedures around this whole process. We go over and review the rules each time; how we behave around the fire, how we move around the fire area and where we sit to be safe. There is always an adult at the fire pit when starting a fire and while the fire is burning. We start at the very beginning and explore how to start a fire. We talk about what we need and why; cotton balls, petroleum jelly, small kindling, and the flint and steel. I demonstrate how it works and then anyone who wants a chance to try, is able to. The kids can tell me the rules and what we need after their first time being exposed to these tools. The absolute joy on the kids faces when they are able to create...

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Where did the ‘care’ go from child care?

Where did the ‘care’ go from child care?

Child Care vs. Early Learning Education; this has been on my mind for awhile, especially with all the talk about essential workers lately. What is the difference? How do they fit together? Do they fit together? This internal fight began years ago. When I graduated first from Child Care Services (which is what Early Childhood Education was called 32 years ago), I began working in a daycare. I really struggled with the idea that what I was dong was not important. I felt that what I was doing was little more than… dare I say it… babysitting. I was caring for other peoples children while they were at work. I looked around and thought I need to work in a nursery school program to be valued (or for me to see value in what I was doing). It has school in the title and so they must be doing more important work in those programs…. they must be ‘teaching’. I had this feeling that the ‘care’ was not valuable but teaching was. I needed to teach! Many years have passed since those days and I must admit I do fall back into that fear every once in awhile when I am faced with those days when the outside opinions seep in through social media and I am being faced with public opinion that what I am doing is not valuable; we are just caring for children until they go to school to be taught by real teachers. I was listening to an older podcast session on  That Early Childhood Nerd Podcast yesterday. Heather Bernt-Santy was interviewing Carol Garboden Murray; Caring is Honourable with Carol Murray and I started thinking again about how important care is to the work we do as Early Childhood “Educators”. One of my kinder-kids in my program was telling me last week that he learns when he goes to kindergarten (but not when he is here). I will admit that hit right to the core. Now I bet you are wondering how I reacted. I had to take a deep breath and step back in my brain. I felt I needed to defend his time with me. If a five year old felt like this, how many adults feel it too but just don’t say it? Maybe it is a good thing that he doesn’t see all the learning he does here… I work hard at making this a play based program. If he thinks all he does is play, is that not my goal? I can go on at length about all the learning and growing he has done since he (and all the others) began my program. I can talk about developmental domains,...

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Looking for the Bright Side of Covid-19

Looking for the Bright Side of Covid-19

There is a lot to complain about when it comes to our current situation; being stuck ( Oh I mean self-isolated) at home, our entire world being disrupted, missing events we were looking forward to, school being closed, lost income, I could go on… but just for a moment what if we looked for a few good things.   Meeting New People I have spent some time thinking about this. What good has come from my current situation? For me the first thing is the new people I have met. Yes!!! I have met many dedicated ECE’s through this pandemic. They have all been through different zoom groups and facebook live events and they have been from across Canada and all over the USA . Many of them are like-minded and I am drawn to groups that have a similar philosophy but I have also met people in these groups who have stretched and challenged my thinking. My family keeps teasing me about all the Zoom calls I have but unlike them I work from home so my world is pretty small and generally only includes my family and the child/ren I care for. I love the kids in my care but I need that adult connection and conversations! While my family are off at work seeing other people, I am working from home so my way of ‘getting out’ is to join groups on Zoom. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom… Slowing Down (and learning to enjoy it… well I’m trying to enjoy it) I don’t sit still very well. I tend to be a putterer, always needing to move. Through all of this I have not closed my program but I have been running at much lower numbers. Actually I had one child for several days. This was a struggle for me for awhile as I pushed myself from puttering and moving most of the day to slowing down and taking a breath. This brought me to a whole new way of looking at my day. I was able to really experience following the flow of the child (since there was only one to follow). We played at his pace, ate at his pace, and engaged in the day at his pace. I realized I was wound up so tight pre-Covid that I was becoming hyper focused on aspects of the schedule. This is kind of funny as my schedule is pretty loose and free flowing but lunch is at 11:30 and darn it, we were going to eat at 11:30! I forgot how to slow down and just sit, just sit…and find the joy. I still find my mind going five different direction but that is an improvement over...

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What was my favourite decade in childcare?

What was my favourite decade in childcare?

I always smile (and brace myself a little) when I get a message that starts out, “Please don’t take offence….” I received this from a past college student and now a respected peer. She wanted to know what my favourite decade in the child care field has been. This implies I have seen a few, and as much as I’d like to think I’m not that old I suppose I am and have seen a few decades go by. I wasn’t really sure what she was looking for so I shared the changes with her that I have seen over the past 30 plus years. This included my personal perspective and growth from being a greenhorn and with really no concrete ideas of my own though my journey to developing and sharing my own strong philosophy. I covered politics and how they have progressed – or not progressed. (Who else remembers the day we had an organized ‘strike’ in the early 90’s? I had a sweatshirt that read Caught in Charlottes Web in reference to Charlotte Oleson, PC MLA at the time – my big political contribution in those days.) We then went on to discuss mentors and who were mine and how I found my purpose when I was lost. I covered a variety of topics but not in a deep way. Did this answer her question? Not really.. she then wanted to know which decade I felt the child care field had seen the most improvement. She was really trying to search for some hard answers. I feel each decade had its own challenges and strides forward or backward. I felt for me it is hard to compare them equally as my understanding of both the political side and the professional (actual hands on) side of child care has changed for me as I’ve gotten to know others, read more, networked more, and grow in my knowledge and confidence. We then dissected the ideas and dug a bit deeper…   Advocacy We talked about how much more advocacy is happening right now. Who knew it was going to be a pandemic that got things really rolling! Our field is standing up like never before and the conversations are revolving around how essential we are to making it possible for essential healthcare workers to go to work and to providing care getting the economy back open. There are also more conversations about quality and what that actually is. I do feel there are a lot more people having a lot more conversations about child care and the importance of the early years and the understanding of brain development now than ever before. Parents We also reflected on  parents and...

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