Roots and Wings, They’re Now More Important Than Ever

Tonight is the first night of thunderstorms.  I’m thrilled, because I sit on my porch to listen and watch as the storms unfold.  As I type, I hear rumbles.  I have always loved thunderstorms.  Growing up in the Ohio River Valley, we had plenty.  Summer camp was the best, because we were ‘there’ with the storms.

Through these storms as a child, I always felt brave and excited.  I think they are the roots of, well, me.

Roots.  That’s the foundation of who we are, and it all stems from childhood.  The tricky part in today’s world is ‘wings’.  Parents need to let go, let their child soar.  Roots + Wings = a happy and strong person.

One of my very first blog posts ages ago tells the story of Roots, Wings, and Thunderstorms.  It’s a keeper.

                       Roots, Wings… and Thunderstorms
Some years ago I was on my porch with my adult daughter watching the big thunderstorm rumble into our yard. We were both enjoying the anticipation as well as the storm itself. I asked my daughter what memories popped into her head whenever she heard a big storm. She replied, “Camp, of course! We had nothing else; no TV, no computer, just the outdoors. Thunderstorms were great!” Funny thing. This was the same experience with me as a child at camp.

We talked about exciting and adventurous experiences in our childhood, and about childhood itself. We analyzed why children feel the way they do, and what is it that ‘makes a difference’ when they grow up. One thing kept ringing loud and clear. Children who are given experiences that challenge them, who are encouraged to take a chance and ‘do it’, and who have the firm love and support of their family, seem to grow up with a good, strong sense of self. Roots and wings.

I think of the swings on the playground and ‘yelling’ commands with excitement when a child first learns to pump a swing.  “Kick them out.  Tuck them in.  Pull.  Yes, you can do it!”  As children grow older, I think of opening the front door and letting my child ride his bike, alone, to the playground.  Then, going to sleepover camp for a month, at age eight.  My children begged to go, loved every minute of it, and I am convinced it was part of their foundation.  Roots and wings.

I was the opposite of a helicopter parent.  Friends were a little shocked to see my child roller-blading to school.  He couldn’t quite tie the laces tight enough, so his first grade teacher helped him.  They wondered if there was a ‘problem’ when my children went off to camp, and to prep school.  My daughter went to Italy, alone, after college graduation.  We’re talking speaking no Italian, as well.

After all of these different experiences, friends would then say, “Your children are so lucky to have these opportunities”.  That was quite a change.  I would smile and just say, “Roots and wings”.  They had the roots, with plenty of love and support.  Sometimes I felt brave and alone giving them the wings.  That was the hard part.  I’m so glad I did.

In my classroom, I approach each learning experience and activity, planned or unplanned, as an exciting opportunity. We are a family. We help each other, support each other, and encourage each other. We provide roots for each other with daily routine, tenderness, and a positive, fun attitude. We give each other wings when we learn how to write our name, pump a swing, stand in front of a group to talk, or try something new. Roots and wings.

Remember, it’s all the little experiences, over and over again, that we build upon. It’s not the big things that make a difference. Dancing with painted feet, coming to school at night and singing in the dark, shopping in a real Indian market, painting to classical music, setting up nap mats for other children, finding a new place on our big map with the magnifying glass, reading all the name cards without help….it is the culmination of all these activities, and many others, that make the difference.

I hope that in years to come, you and your child sit through a thunderstorm together, walk through the woods together, or sing in the dark together, and find it is an experience that is exciting.  I hope that these stories from Aqua Room has helped you to give your child the experiences to feel a happy and confident sense of self. Roots and wings.


Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, Mother Nature, Nature, self esteem, wonder | Tagged , | 39 Comments

Jennie’s Doors

Welcome to Thursday Doors! This is a weekly challenge for people who love doors and architecture to come together to admire and share their favorite …

Jennie’s Doors
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Remember Sam?

Perhaps this was the best Memorial Day photo.

Remember Sam?…rue-story-of-sam/

He was the child who needed to talk, and to have someone listen to him.  Really listen.

Sam loves the military, so when Master Sergeant Michael Kennedy spoke at our Memorial Day Remembrance, Sam was beside himself.  And then, he got to meet and shake hands with Michael.

It gets better.

Michael understood Sam.  He listened.  Sam talked and talked.  The two were ‘one’.  The photo captures that moment.


Posted in America, behavior, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, military, patriotism, Teaching young children | 36 Comments

Never Forget…

Memorial Day is a day to honor and remember
the brave men and women in our military who have died.
It is also a day to thank those who serve.

Never forget to thank a soldier or a sailor.

Never forget to smile, or hug, or high-five
a soldier or a sailor.

Never forget to wave, plant, or hang the American flag.

Never forget to sing, with gusto.  Your heart will be full.
You might get choked-up, that’s a good thing.

Above all, never forget the brave men and women
who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.


Posted in America, American flag, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, military, patriotism, Teaching young children | Tagged , , | 53 Comments


I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than a day in Beth’s class, learning and doing so many new things.

I didn't have my glasses on....

we are learning and doing so many new things:

how to weave

how to be very gentle with a rescue mini pony

how to make veggie sushi

how to catch frogs

how to create the life cycle of a butterfly

and tomorrow, anything is possible…

“curiosity for children is but an appetite for knowledge.”

-john locke

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How “Goodnight Moon” Evolves Each School Year

Language is #1 for children, and literacy is the road to developing their language.  I read picture books to children all the time, and chapter read at rest time.  Books are always available to children.  They become ‘good friends’ and are as popular as toys.  Really.

I don’t know when I began reading chapter books aloud at rest time.  It was one of those ‘teacher moments’ when it just felt right.  So, I did, and it’s my favorite time of the day.  Children are eager to hear ‘what happens next’.  If you don’t know, the late Jim Trelease, author of the million-copy bestseller The Read-Aloud Handbook, the guru of reading aloud, visited my classroom to hear me read to children, especially at chapter reading.

But there’s more; the everyday constant, the precursor to chapter reading – Goodnight Moon.

I recite the book before chapter reading.  It gets children ready to listen to words.  The rhyming words and objects in the book are soothing and exciting.  Think of Goodnight Moon as a warmup for the brain, much like a physical workout for a sports team- invigorating and a routine that is always comfortable.

When the school year starts, I spend many months reciting Goodnight Moon before chapter reading.  Once the book is ingrained I change it, incorporating children’s names into the verse (“…there was Sam’s telephone, and a picture of Carla jumping over the moon…”).  My goodness, the alert antenna are activated, and the words become even more important.

I often read the words to beats and rhythm.  Jennie’s Rap is very popular.  By springtime the children know the words, and the Helper of the Day can come up and recite the words along with Jennie.  This is a big deal!  Every child is excited, and many can say some of the words on their own.  By the end of the school year, children are proud and strong, and a few can recite the entire book on their own.

This is remarkable for a child who is just four-years-old to recite an entire book, yet she has been listening to Goodnight Moon since September, listening to every picture book and every chapter reading book.  That’s what happens to children who have a big blanket of ‘words’.  By the way, those children do better in all academic areas in school.

“People would stand in line for days and pay hundreds of dollars if there were a pill that could do everything for a child that reading aloud does.  It expands their interest in books, vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, and attention span.  Simply put, it’s a free ‘oral vaccine’ for literacy.”  ~Jim Trelease~ 

Thank goodness I get to read to children every day!


Posted in chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Inspiration, Jim Trelease, literacy, picture books, reading aloud, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , | 69 Comments

A Song For the Ages – The Voices of Children

This is the song of the school year,
the song that makes me swell with joy, cry,
and feel so very proud to be teaching children.
Children are our future.

“Where words fail, music speaks”
~Hans Christian Andersen~


Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, joy, Kindness, Love, music, Singing | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments

Play is Everything

I took this video of children playing on their own.
No adults, no guidance or suggestions for play.

Everyone loves happy times of playing, especially when nothing is scripted, and the play, well, evolves.  And grows.  Children are especially drawn to play because that’s how they learn.  It’s the work of childhood.  Supporting children’s play is what I do.

It’s not as easy as you would think.  Teachers and parents are natural helpers; often giving a hand, stepping in when someone cries, giving advice… the list of ‘helping’ is a long one.  It is well intentioned, yet not always what children need.  Note: ‘need’ is far different than ‘want’.

If play is a ‘child’s work’, then children need to work at it- without adults.  They need to figure out problems, negotiate, share, and help.  The hardest thing for teachers and parents is to step back and ‘not help’, because every time they help, a child has stopped learning and growing.  Really.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Very hard.

I remember my 5-year-old begging to go on the ski chair lift.  He’d been looking.  I said ‘yes’… and then watched, as he was too little to put the big bar down onto the chair, after the ski attendants lifted him into the chair.  The chair lift took off, and all they could do was yell at him to “sit back.”  He did.  Moments later I realized he wouldn’t know what to do when he got to the end of the chair lift.  All I could do was wait and hope he made it down the hill.  He did.  That was my ‘parent moment’ of realizing play is learning.

Play can often start as one thing and lead to another.  Children are inventive and creative.  The best things happen during play.

It happened like this…

We have a hospital in the classroom’s dramatic play center.  It is very popular.  Most importantly, it sets the stage for play, unencumbered by adults.  Today doctors were hard at work.  There were many patients.

At the same time, we added flowers and potted plants to the classroom, including artificial white roses.

Children loved playing with these white roses.  Who knew?  Two children held the roses and wanted to have a wedding ceremony.  They asked my fellow teacher to marry her.  She knew this meant a ceremony, so she grabbed the doctor’s coat from the hospital to be her wedding veil.

They had a wonderful ceremony.

Play is powerful because it empowers children.  It gives them life tools.  After all, how can we get along as adults and make a mark on this world if we haven’t learned how to play?


Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, Play, Teaching young children, young children | Tagged , , | 86 Comments

Wonder—5+ Stars

There are great books, and then there are books so great you cannot let them go. They stay in your head. Then, they move to your heart. Forever. “Wonder” is one of those books. I can’t remember the last time I could not put down a book. When I was in Barnes & Noble, I saw an older kid and his mom buying the book, as “Wonder” was part of his school required reading. The boy didn’t look very happy, so I rushed over to tell him about the book and how much he will love reading it. Yes, I made a fuss and a scene. I had to, because the book is that good.

For teachers, reading aloud to students is thrilling. We get to project a book with voices and emotion, just like story intended. We can stop to ask questions, listen to children, cry, yell, and laugh. Reading aloud brings books to life.

If I taught elementary or middle school children, “Wonder” would be my #1 book to read aloud. Pete Springer tells it all in his post; the thrill of reading a great book to children, and why “Wonder” is the one to read.

Pete Springer

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Like most elementary teachers, certain books became annual reads in my classroom. It would seem a disservice not to share those books with a whole new crop of children. Of course, choosing age-appropriate books is critical. Literature included stories I read to my students, with my children, and books they read independently. When I read to kids, I often chose books a couple of years above their reading levels. It was one of the best ways to build vocabulary. Children are no different than adults—they like sophisticated literature with stimulating plots. I loved hearing those magical words while reading: “Don’t stop!” Kids will not say that unless they’re engaged in the story. A teacher develops a feel like a fish on a line with their students. One of the best feelings a teacher gets is when they’re begging for book recommendations. “Can I go to the…

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A Magnificent Photo Each Day

I have followed kevinwanderlust for a long time.  He posts one photo a day from around the world, and every one is magnificent, something that sticks with you.  Here is yesterday’s photo:

The Milky Way, Canterbury, New Zealand

Gary Avila
I hope you visit his blog and enjoy seeing the world through his photographic art.  Day after day his photo is the best I have ever seen.  I wanted to share this for those who love magnificent photography of our beautiful world.


Posted in art, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, The Arts, wonder | Tagged , , | 32 Comments