Music Makes the 4th of July

The 4th of July – America’s declaration of independence.  I teach children about the American flag, and patriotism.  It’s important.  Best of all, children often lead the way.  Their interests are the springboard for the best learning.

The 4th of July is far more than the Boston Pops concert, fireworks, and a barbecue.  It’s remembering our freedom, and how we got there.  In order to do that, we sing!  Children embrace music, and patriotic songs continue to be at the top of of the popularity list, year after year.

Music makes the 4th of July special.

Each year the favorite song is different, from “This Land is Your Land” to “God Bless America”.  Those songs have inspired the children to design quilts that are permanent displays.

And this year’s favorite song?

“God Bless the USA” with the Singing Sargents

To all my friends across America, have a safe and happy holiday.

Jennie

Posted in Teaching young children, patriotism, music, Singing, Inspiration, Giving thanks, America | Tagged , , , | 40 Comments

My Summer Children

My garden is my summer children.  I take care of the flowers just like I take care of children.  Every year the flowers are different, and I don’t know why.  Mother Nature has her own agenda.  Every year children are different, too – just like flowers.


Some are just beginning to bloom.


Some are full of sunshine.


Some are full of color.


Some are quiet giants, towers of strength.


Some like to play in water.


Some are brave and bold.


Some take a long time to burst into bloom.

Flowers are much like young children.  They grow at different rates, have their own agenda, fight for the sun, take a backseat to other flowers… some are strong, some are working to get there.  I have watched our flowers grow and change for many years, like I have watched children grow and change over decades.

What have I learned?  Give them plenty of care, but don’t force changes.  Accept their beauty.  Be ready to help.

What children need and what flowers need to grow hasn’t changed.  I keep that in crystal clear focus.  Times might change, but children and flowers have not.  Kindergarten means “garden of children.”  They are nourished with stories, music, nature, and dramatic play.  The Arts are the roots to grow children.  Providing opportunities for unbounded creativity is the fire to want to learn.  I know this firsthand.  I pay attention to every child, nourishing them like I do my flowers.  Some need hugs, some need academic challenges.

The point is, every child is different.  Friedrich Froebel understood children and what they needed.  He established the first kindergarten in Germany in 1837.  It was radical at the time.

A Brief History of Kindergarten
Published by Redleaf Press, 2010

Friedrich Froebel, a German educator, opened the first kindergarten in Blankenburg, Germany, in 1837. During the 1830s and 1840s he developed his vision for kindergarten based on the ideas of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the later Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. These progressive education reformers introduced the concept that children were naturally good and active learners. At the time, this thinking was quite radical. The common belief until then had been that children were little creatures who needed stern handling to become good adults. Play was seen as a waste of time and proof that children should be tamed so they could be more productive.

Undaunted, Froebel argued that teachers should use music, nature study, stories, and dramatic play to teach children. He encouraged the use of crafts and manipulatives, such as small building blocks or puzzles. He also promoted the idea of circle time for children to learn in a group. Froebel proposed that children acquire cognitive and social skills by using their natural curiosity and desire to learn. He believed women had the best sensitivity and qualities to work with young children in developing their emotional skills. Consequently, Froebel opened a training school just for women.

Froebel’s ideas were so new that the Prussian government closed all kindergartens in 1851, fearing a socialist revolutionary movement. Nevertheless, the concept spread quickly throughout the rest of the world, and by the end of the nineteenth century, many countries had started kindergartens for middle-class children. Then, between 1900 and the start of World War I, England and France began to establish free kindergartens for poor children. Kindergartens also reopened in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, and they still serve children who are three to six years old.

The word kindergarten means “garden of children,” a beautiful metaphor for what happens there—children growing like flowers and plants, nurtured by a positive environment with good soil, rain, and sun, as well as an attentive gardener.

Today, Froebel’s words and findings are still spot on.  Yet, schools are more concerned with academics; they forget (or don’t understand) that young children need to experience – touch, build, experiment – before real learning can happen.  Frank Lloyd Wright attributes his success in architecture to the blocks he had as a child.  Yes, building with blocks.

I will forever champion children, give them opportunities to explore and ask questions, challenge them to do more when they’re excited, and give them support and love along the way.  They’re my garden of children.

Jennie

Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Mother Nature, Nature, Teaching young children | Tagged , , | 75 Comments

Gloria’s Summer Adventure – With Oscar

Gloria is spending time at my house until she ‘heads to Maine’ for her annual summer retreat.

“Jennie, can Oscar come. too?  He really wants to spend the summer with me.”

“Of course he can, Gloria.”


The first day was a day of rest, on the couch.

“Jennie, I see flowers outside.  Do you have a garden?  I love flowers.”

“I do!  Let’s go play outside and check out the garden.”

“I love being outside here.”

“Thank you, Gloria.  I’m glad.”

“Jennie, wait.  Look at Oscar inside.  He’s jumping up and down.”

“Let’s go see what he wants.”

“Oscar, what has you so excited?  Oh, you see the pool.  Yes, I understand now.  You want to go swimming.  Okay, let’s go!  Gloria, do you want to come, too?  No?  What’s the matter?  Oh, you don’t know how to swim.  Well, Oscar certainly does.  Don’t worry, Gloria.”


Gloria much preferred lounging by the pool.


On the other hand, Oscar couldn’t wait to go swimming.


Well, look who reappeared from last year – Julia the tiny frog.

“Jennie, what’s that?”

“It’s Julia, Oscar.  She’s harmless.  She just wants to hang out here.”

“Okay.  Good to know.  So, where is Gloria?  Oh, I see her lounging.  Gloria, come on in for a swim!  What?  You’re scared?  Jennie, can you teach Gloria how to swim?”

“I’m on it, Oscar.  Gloria, we’ll use the raft.  Come on in.”

“See, I told you this would be fun!  Where did Oscar go?  He isn’t swimming in the pool.  Oh, no, the gate is open.  We’d better go and find him.”

“Oscar, there you are!  You watched Steve mow the lawn yesterday, didn’t you?  Did he tell you you could drive the tractor?  Steve, what were you thinking?  Okay… as long as you’re there to help him drive.  I must be crazy allowing you two to go off and play on the tractor.”

“Okay everyone, it’s time to head back inside.  It’s getting dark.  Yes, you can sit on the porch and watch the sun set.  Isn’t it lovely?”

“Who wants a bedtime story?”

“Me!  Me!  Don’t forget to recite Goodnight Moon.  Can you do it the silly way?”

“Sure.”

Now it’s time for a bedtime story.  Sweet dreams.

Jennie

Posted in behavior, Diversity, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Gloria, Imagination, Inspiration, Love, wonder | Tagged , , , , , | 69 Comments

Knuckleheads

Look what arrived today!

Knuckleheads, by Dan Antion

Summer reading, here I come!

Jennie

Posted in books, Inspiration, literacy, reading | Tagged , , | 76 Comments

The Final Letter

As soon as the school year is over and the dust has settled, my final letter to families is a reflection of the school year.  It takes families through the highlights so they can relive those moments and classroom experiences with their child.  Memories are important.

I am reliving those moments, too.  My keepsakes include:


An American flag 


A thank you note.  The book and song is Abiyoyo.


A homemade work of art.  I love the ILU (I love you)
initials, along with the child’s initials.

Reflections on a Wonderful Year
June, 2022

We hope you enjoyed your child’s year-end portfolio, as each one is a walk down memory lane for teachers.  Wasn’t it just a few months ago that children were building an Atlas robot?  Remember when we wore our pajamas to school and had a ‘Day in the Dark’?  Remember our “Peter and the Wolf” play performance?  Remember how we introduced music to inspire creativity for our Art Show?  There are so many Aqua Room events and memories.  The year has passed far too quickly.

What did your children embrace?

Building and Puzzles. From Duplos, to blocks, to Legos, children built incredible structures that were complex and thoughtfully planned.  Puzzles were a choice activity every day, from floor puzzles to table puzzles.

Dinosaurs and Robots. As soon as children watched the Boston Dynamics robots, they were curious and engaged.  First, they loved the song, then their engineering minds kicked in and they wanted to learn more.  Dinosaurs have been a favorite all year.

Russia, France, and India. We traveled around the globe using our favorite Big Book Atlas. From learning about wolves and watching a live wolf cam, to singing the days of the week in French, to dressing in native Indian clothing and eating Indian food, and balancing peacock feathers, our experiences broadened our learning.

Pen-Pals. Reaching out to children around the world by making cards, and getting cards in return, was a big and exciting experience.  Children wanted to write words and draw pictures.  It was wonderful to make connections.

Writing Thank You Letters. We wrote nine letters over the course of the year.  Nine!  They were all on big chart paper and elaborately decorated.  The heartfelt replies were an added bonus.

Play Performances. We enjoyed planning and performing “Peter and the Wolf”, “The Story of Little Babaji”, and “Goldilocks and the three Dinosaurs.”  Children continued to act out the plays on their own, on the playground.

God Bless America. This has been the favorite song of the year.  Children often sang it on their own.  It was fitting that it had a grand finale, taping a video and sending it to the White House- fabulous.

Books and Stories, from picture books to chapter reading, to fact books. Our bookshelf is well-used, and as popular as our block shelf.  Chapter reading is one of our favorite times of the day.

Mystery Readers. Children loved the surprise of a family member reading to us via Zoom.  Thank you, Mystery Readers!

Signing-In. As the year progressed, children developed letter formation and motor skills, from writing large letters, to eventually making small and uniform letters.  This became a popular daily routine.

Question of the Day. What started as a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question where children had to read a question and find their name stick, grew into a more complex activity.  We learned how to tally vote, and we broadened our math skills- greater than/less than, identifying and then writing missing numbers, and also letters.

The Animal Game. This game became a fun, everyday activity at lunch.  Teachers gave clues as to different animals, and children had to guess the animal.  Following the Animal Game we always listened to a true Jennie Story.

Music and Movement. Singing and dancing along with the autoharp or the new, big technology screen has been so much fun all year.  Children still want to sing the “Jack-O-Lantern” song, even though October was long ago.  Most recently, they want to sing along with the Singing Sergeants, “God Bless the USA.”  Yoga is so much fun, especially following along on the big screen.

Gloria, our beloved puppet, has been a constant presence of love and kindness for children. Gloria often teaches far more than we teachers can do.  Recently other new friends have joined Gloria- Oscar the Otter, Elephant and Piggie, and the Pigeon and baby Duckling.

It has been a wonderful year with your children.  We feel blessed.  Thanks for all your support.

Jennie

P.S.  Stay tuned for an update and photos on Gloria’s summer.

Posted in American flag, art, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, preschool, School, Teaching young children | Tagged , , | 72 Comments

Power of Thought…………

Boundless Blessings by Kamal

Once a mentally troubled child came home and gave a letter to his mother. He told her, “My teacher gave this letter to me and told me to only give it to my mother.” Reading through the letter, the mother could not believe her eyes. Gradually her eyes filled with tears. “Mum is there a problem? Did I do something wrong in school?” the boy asked.

With a shaky voice, the mother slowly began to read the contents of the letter to her son, “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and does not have enough good teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself.” The boy was dumbfounded. The next morning, Nancy Edison pulled her son out of the school and from that day, began to teach him diligently at home.

Many years later, Thomas Edison had grown into the most prolific inventor of…

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“The” Invitation From a Former Student

I got an invitation most every teacher dreams about.  But first I need to tell you about this student:

I remember my students.  I love them.  Some stick with me more than others, and Colin was one of those students.  He was always smiling and laughing.  He adored Milly the quilter, and he was quite the artist.  Back in 2016 his masterpiece for the Art Show was incredible, a replication of a Claude Monet.


The next year, his art masterpiece was equally incredible.  He nailed Kandinsky.  Colin’s talents went beyond art.  He loved music and singing.  When I brought my record player into school, he was spellbound by musicals.  I played my Rodgers and Hammerstein records; “The King and I”, “The Sound of Music”, and “Oklahoma” were his favorites.

We had a grand circus performance for families that year.  It was so much fun for children.  They were tigers, poodles, clowns, and acrobats.  Guess who was the ringmaster?  Yup, Colin.

That’s the backstory of Colin when he was in my class.  Fast forward to today.

His mother emailed me the day after Colin had been cast as the lead in the fourth grade musical, “Oliver.”  Yes, Colin was Oliver.  She asked if I would come to the show, ‘since I was such an inspiration to Colin in his early singing days’.  Oh my!  And, she wanted me to be a surprise for Colin.  Yes, this is the invitation teachers dream about.

Here is Colin’s photo on the billboard.
My goodness, he has grown:

When I arrived for the show, his mother was waiting to greet me.  I was invited to sit with the family, including grandparents from Virginia.  Honestly, Mom and Dad were over the moon that I was there.  I was, too.

The show’s staging and props were elaborate, more like a high school performance.  The lights went down, the show started, and here is Colin’s solo, “Where is love?”:

Yes, he was wonderful!  Pitch perfect, heartfelt singing.  After the show came the surprise for Colin- me!  Mom had her camera ready.

I was out of control.  Colin was beside himself.  We were one.

When students remember, it is a treasure for a teacher.  My heart is full.  Thank you, Colin.

Jennie

Posted in art, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, joy, Love, music, play performances, Singing, Student alumni, The Arts | Tagged , , , | 107 Comments

‘Donut Party’ and Much More

We had our year-end event with families this week.  It was the first time in two years that families, children, and teachers were all together.  It was wonderful.  Children called it the ‘Donut Party’, because they knew doughnuts would be served for snack.

They had no idea what was to come.

What we did was different from all the other classes.  They had a singing program, followed by award certificates and ice cream.  We had children and parents interacting with pillowcases.  Really.  All of the research pinpoints that the last words a child hears before they go to sleep are what they remember.  What if those words, the ones that mean the world to children, are written on a pillowcase?  What if those words are read aloud every night to a child?

Yes, it makes all the difference in the world.

This was our event, and families were deeply engaged with their children, writing words on pillowcases.  Teachers walked by, looking along.  Families didn’t notice.

This was powerful, important, and a wonderful family event.  We also presented families with children’s portfolios, a year-long collection of art, writing, photos, and much more.  Oh boy, the tears flowed, in the best of ways.

Here is an email from a parent about their child’s excitement over the ‘Donut Party’:

Hello Teachers,

Early this week we learned from Kiansh that there will be a “Donut Party” next week and he feels excited for it.

Your email communication early this week did confirm the same!

So yesterday he decided to write it down on his calendar so we don’t miss out!

And below is a picture of what he note down on his calendar for June 13th 😊. I just thought to share with you 😊

Have good weekend!

Jennie

Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Inspiration, Love, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , | 78 Comments

The Last Day, and She Won’t Go Home

Today was the last day of school for children.  There were floods of tears from children, and also parents.  Hugs were like the jaws of life.  Pick-up on the playground at the end of the day was emotional for everyone.

Especially for Maddie.

Mom held the new baby brother while Maddie continued to play.  The more mom smiled, the more Maddie refused to go home.  Yes, refused.  Finally, I scooped up Maddie in my arms so we could walk to the classroom.  Maddie buried her head in my neck, and I asked her if she wanted me to sing a song.

“Yes”, she said.

“What song do you want me to sing?”

“Wagon Wheel.”

Of course!  “Wagon Wheel” has been ‘our song’ in the classroom whenever someone is feeling sad.  Children will want me to ‘rock me mama’.  And, I do just that.  So, I sang the chorus loud and rocked as best I could on two feet, as I carried Maddie to the classroom.

Children are very forgiving when their teacher is crying and singing and rocking at the same time.

Music is a great healer.  Love is, too.

Jennie

Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Kindness, Teaching young children | Tagged , , | 82 Comments

Self Portraits

My favorite year-end art project,
children drawing a picture of themselves
and comparing it to the drawing they made
at the start of the school year.


Look at how they’ve grown!

Jennie

Posted in art, preschool, Teaching young children, Uncategorized, wonder | Tagged , , | 67 Comments