My artist friend at Mountain Roots Studio in Asheville, North Carolina, makes trees out of twisted wire.  Her trees have deep, pronounced roots.  I’ve always liked that.  Roots.  That’s where it all begins.  Without roots we have nothing.

I liken that to what I do with children – give them the roots to grow in a strong way.  Every small wire in that tree is important, just as every moment with children is an opportunity to grow roots.  When the child comes first, and I really pay attention, and even adjust my schedule/routine to seize the moment, roots grow.  In teacher lingo, it’s a child-centered program with emergent curriculum.  Best thing ever to grow those roots.

I’m reminded of an older post I wrote, and how roots are the beginning, without which there would be no wings.  After all, isn’t it wings that we all want?

                                       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 my son went to boarding 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. We hope that the Aqua Room has helped to give your child the experiences to feel a happy and confident sense of self. Roots and wings.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in art, behavior, Expressing words and feelings, Giving, Inspiration, preschool, self esteem, Teaching young children, The Arts, wonder and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to Roots

  1. Ritu says:

    Beautiful post,Jennie 😻

  2. What a lovely analogy of the beauty of childhood’s wonder and growth. I was an early childhood special education teacher for years before moving to Kindergarten 3 years ago. I love working with this age group precisely because it is the foundation of formal education. I am also happy with the trend towards child centered learning and creating that is happing in our district. Thank you for this lovely post!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you for your lovely comments. If only all teachers could give children roots through an exciting classroom experience. I’m glad to hear you say this age group is the foundation of formal education. Hear, hear! Good thing your district is leaning towards child centered learning. Where are you? I’m in Massachusetts.

  3. A very nice post, Jennie. Michael has been a chronically ill child and I have been over protective. He went away last week to camp for four days. It was his first ever camp as he has been quite sick for the previous two and ended up not being able to go. He survived and came home with a sense of achievement. He was sick but he got better.

  4. Darlene says:

    I was the same and let my kids fly, after giving them the tools to be able to survive. Roots and wings. Subsequently, they have been able to weather the storms that inevitably come their way. A great post, Jennie.

  5. Dan Antion says:

    We are meant to give them wings and teach them to fly.

  6. Roots and wings! I like that. Both are so important.

  7. beetleypete says:

    Your Aqua Roomers have the best start in life I could imagine. Educational roots that will grow a huge tree of knowledge.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  8. Luanne says:

    Jennie, so lovely to think about roots and wings!

  9. Beautiful thoughts, Jennie. My youngest is thirty and we always gave the three of them the room to explore. They have turned out beautifully with a lot of life experiences. Funny how they all rushed to camp. Must have been something we said.

  10. Annika Perry says:

    Jennie, a heartfelt and heartwarming post which I came across at just the right time. ‘Roots and Wings’ resonates deeply with me as I was sitting back home, slightly selfishly missing my son as we’ve dropped him off at uni and won’t see him again for a few weeks. Then I read your words here and a perfect reminder about the wings … the wings to fly created through the strong roots of family warmth and love. As you so eloquently write: “Sometimes I felt brave and alone giving them the wings.  That was the hard part.  I’m so glad I did.” I’m glad too …

    • Jennie says:

      What a beautiful story, Anneli! I’m so glad you read this ‘at the right time’, as you say. It is hard to give them wings, but it’s like giving them love and promise. Many thanks, and keep soaring. 🙂

  11. quiall says:

    Roots and wings. What a lovely thought.

  12. That was always my philosophy and not surprised at all it’s yours. If you give them good roots, they have stronger wings. Love this.

  13. srbottch says:

    You do it all so well, too, Jennie.

  14. petespringerauthor says:

    Your post reminded me of one of the reading programs we used at our school called Success for All. Two of the levels were called Roots and Wings.

  15. What a lovely, heartwarming post, Jennie. And full of wisdom. “Roots and wings” – a beautiful mantra.

  16. abbiosbiston says:

    I try really hard to do this with my little boy. Some of my friends are surprised by how little I intervene but I like giving him the room to figure things out for himself. My mother-in-law is particularly panicky about the fact that I let him ride his scooter with limited supervision. He has a helmet and he knows to stay out of the road and stop at the end of the pavement. What’s the point of having a scooter if someone wants to hold onto you while you’re riding it?

  17. Elizabeth says:

    When my daughter dropped out of college my friends asked me how I had “let” her do that. Besides the absurdity of thinking I should make a 19 year old do anything, I realized we approached parenting totally differently. In two years she returned to finish her degree and went on to graduate school. Her own choice. Why? She saw her life was stalled and wanted to get it moving again. Even if she hadn’t I knew it was HER life, not mine, and I had been preparing her to lead it through all the years at home.

  18. Roger Hayes says:

    Love the post..

  19. “Roots and wings…” Wonderful words of wisdom that needs sharing! 🙂 Thanks, Jennie!

  20. dgkaye says:

    This was sooooo beautiful Jennie ❤

  21. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you for another excellent post!

  22. This is so beautiful, Jennie!

  23. So loved reading this Jennie. It’s so important not to stifle our young children. Allowing them enough room to flex their wings while knowing the have great roots to come home to.
    My daughter too has been all over the world travelling on her own. And like you, I’m so pleased we let them fly. 💚🤗
    Have a great weekend Jennie. 😘💕

  24. What wonderful experiences you had, Jennie! The art of your friend is great, and shows how important are roots. Michael

  25. I so remember things like this too. And this reminds me of a book I love, I Sit Listening to the Wind” and it is No. II in a series. I don’t honestly know if there are more, but it is about hearing our feelings and allowing ourselves to experience that. Thank you kindly.

  26. willedare says:

    Not only do I love your blog posts, I also love the comments they elicit/inspire! Reading this post, I realize that I am doing an OK job nurturing everyone’s roots in my Music Together classes AND that I can probably dream up more ways for children and grownups to test their wings, too… Food for thought (as all of your posts are!!!) Thank you for sharing your wisdom with the rest of us so eloquently and accessibly.

    • Jennie says:

      That’s so nice, Will. I enjoy reading fellow blogger’s comments, too. And you can sit back and smile knowing you are giving children and families roots and wings in your Music Together class. That’s a great feeling. Thank you!

  27. Geri says:

    Parents like you make me feel good about leaving this world in the hands of the next generation. Great post.

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