Tiny Julia and a Tiny Tree

It is raining cats and dogs today.  I went outside to check on Julia, our baby frog who has taken up residence in our pool.  The children named the frog Julia.  The vote was unanimous.  Julia was nowhere to be seen.  Smart girl, in all this rain.

Along the way to check on Julia, walking with my head down, I spotted a weed and pulled it up.  To my surprise, it was attached to a walnut.  It wasn’t a weed after all, it was the beginning of a walnut tree!  I looked at the leaves, and sure enough, they are the same as the walnut trees on our property.  It is so tiny!  Won’t the children be excited to plant the tree at school!

Things happen in threes.  I wonder what Tiny #3 will be.

Jennie

Posted in Inspiration, Nature, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , | 62 Comments

The Real Start of Teaching the Fourth of July – Part 3

In Part 2, after the song had become all-consuming for children, I told Naomi about the one time this had happened before, eight years ago.  A song was  beloved to children.  They couldn’t get enough.  And so, we made a quilt.  That was a lightbulb moment, and sparked another quilting journey.  Milly the quilter had died, yet she made her presence to give approval to this new venture and to handing the reins over to Donna.  Children began to design the quilt by listing all the parts of the song and the book that they felt should be included.  This was the most important part of all!

Part 3:
We made a giant sketch.  This was hard, as we had to put children’s ideas, that whole list of important parts, onto paper.  Every component was important, from footsteps (“I followed my footsteps”) to the Redwood Forest, Gulf Stream waters, and the church on the ‘sad page’.  Groton Community School and Gloria are included.  She’s flying a kite.  The Statue of Liberty is prominent, and the central figure in the quilt is a home with the American flag.  Woody’s guitar will rest along the house.


Children were insistent on including Woody’s guitar.  They are fascinated with Woody, and ask questions about him all the time.  “Jennie, does Woody have children?”  I explained how he was a little older than my mother, so his children were close to my age.  That took a while to sink in.  The Woody questions haven’t stopped.

After the sketch was complete, children colored it in.  In that way, it solidified all their ideas and dreams about the quilt.  Coloring is a soulful experience.

        

After the sketch was complete and children were satisfied, the next step was selecting fabrics.  What a glorious adventure!  Those days were like being in an open air market, full of colorful items.  Really, it was like Christmas morning with more than the eye could see.

Once children finished exploring all the fabrics, it was time to settle down and do some serious selecting.  This process took two days.  Every part of the quilt required a choice, from the chimney of the house to fireworks to the ‘sparkling sands of the diamond desert’.  Everything.

       
When Donna finished many of the parts on the face of the quilt, she brought in all the pieces, and children watched as she placed them together – like a jig saw puzzle.  If something was put in the wrong spot, children immediately knew.  “No, that’s not where Woody’s guitar goes.”  Donna asked the children. “What’s missing?”  They knew – the apples on the tree, fireworks, and more.  There’s no tricking these children.  The song and the quilt are far too important to them.


This is a very rough initial placement for children.  It’s not the quilt. 

Once every thing was sewn into place, we had one last look before it headed to the ‘long arm machine’ for the quilting and intricate stitching.  But first we still had to choose fabric for the border and for the lettering, THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND.  That was the hardest choice of all.

Stay tuned for Part 4 and the unveiling of the quilt.  It is far different than what I imagined.  I cried.

Jennie

Posted in America, American flag, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, patriotism, preschool, quilting, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , | 42 Comments

Poolside Visitor

There he was, on the stairs,
so very tiny.
He wasn’t afraid.

I reached out my fingers,
And he climbed right on.
His black eyes have a gold circle.
His chin line is bright yellow.
He’s really beautiful.
I told him so, and he smiled.

He dove in and showed me some of his fancy moves.
I need to name this little guy.
This was his third visit.
Better yet, I’ll let the children name him.

”Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.
It will never fail you.”

~Frank Lloyd Wright~

Jennie

Posted in Giving thanks, Inspiration, Kindness, Learning About the World, Nature, Quotes, wonder | Tagged , , , | 80 Comments

The Real Start of Teaching the Fourth of July – Part 2

This piece is actually about the last quilt my class made.
Bloggers have asked me to ‘finish the story’.
Here is Part 2, with two more to follow.

Over the summer I will go back to the beginning,
how it all started with a trip to a museum, and meeting Milly.
It is perhaps my favorite series of posts,
and certainly one of the most important and memorable
parts of my teaching career.
It will be my next series of posts. 

In Part 1, children embraced the song “This Land is Your Land” as their own.  They sang the song every day, multiple times a day.  By the time winter arrived, they had ‘taken over’, and constantly used the book This Land is Your Land when they sang.  The book brings American landmarks and history to life, and it also depicts humanity, the good and the bad.  Children love the ‘sad page’, and the ensuing verse that gives us all hope and reminds us of what we can do, together.  In my classroom, the song just keeps on going.

Part 2:
It was a regular morning in the classroom.  Children were finishing snack.  The routine is they get a book and have silent reading (or not so silent) while other children finish their snack.  Of course there are a few children who try to eat quickly so they can have first dibs on a book.  This Land is Your Land is always the first to get picked.  And, it’s hard to read the book and not sing, or at least hum.  On this particular morning, multiply that tenfold.

I remarked to Naomi, my assistant teacher, “The last time children were so vested in a song and couldn’t get enough was eight years ago.  I had to do something, do more.  Milly the quilter made a quilt.”

Lightbulb moment:  Of course, a quilt!

I told Naomi all about the quilting adventure with Milly eight years ago.

“But Jennie, Milly died.  We don’t have a quilter.”

“I think we might.  Remember Donna?  Years ago when she came into the classroom to make pasta with the children I asked her if she would be willing to be a Milly, a grandparent figure, if and when Milly was unable to do so.  She is wonderful.  And, she’s a quilter.”

“Donna really is wonderful.  I had no idea she was a quilter.  Wow.  That would be awesome.”

Naomi took the children to the hallway to get their coats and get ready to go outside.  I was in the classroom, feeling like I had found buried treasure, or solved the mysteries of Stonehenge, or something like that.  And then I was hit by a tidal wave of feeling, not by me – by Milly.  For a moment she was there, and I knew she was giving me her approval.  I could feel her smiling.  It was time to move forward and pass the torch.  And then she was gone.  Just like that.  Well… I just said under my breath, “Thank you, Milly.”

This just doesn’t happen to most people.  But it did to me.

Naomi came back into the room.  “Jennie, what happened?  Are you okay?”  I said, “Milly was here.  She gave me her approval.  She was happy.”

Next, I needed to call Donna.  Her first words were, “When Milly died, I was waiting for you to call me.  I thought you would ask me.”  I told her everything.  Donna knew Milly and always remarked about her quilts.  Then Donna said, “I’ve never done anything like that before.  I’m up for the challenge.”

Those were exactly the words Milly had said to me many years ago – was that an omen?

And so, we began a quilting journey.  First, we gathered the children, and Donna, in a big meeting.  To my surprise, Donna asked if ‘Gloria’ could come, too.  Gloria was thrilled.  So were the children.  We sang the song while holding the book.  Then came the big moment to introduce a quilt.  I don’t tell children, I ask children, and I asked them if they would like to make a quilt about their favorite book.  That was like asking them if they wanted to help Santa Claus deliver presents.

“Donna can sew the quilt.  What should we have in the quilt?”  Every child couldn’t wait.  They had to shout out their ideas.  They were so excited!  Here is their list:

Heart
Rainbow
American flag
Baby
Gulf stream waters
Statue of Liberty
Colors
Trees
Fireworks
Gloria
Our school
Ribbon of highway
Clouds
Houses
Grass
Foot steps
Sparkling sand
Sun
Wheat fields
Dust clouds
Kite
Church

The list is a wonderful collection of both the song and the book.  The children were spot on!

Next, we made a giant sketch of all our ideas.  Pen to paper.  Ideas to paper.  Heart to paper.

Stay tuned for Part 3.

Jennie

Posted in America, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, geography, Gloria, Inspiration, music, picture books, quilting, Singing, The Arts | Tagged , , , | 51 Comments

The Real Start of Teaching the Fourth of July

The Fourth 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 Fourth of July is far more than the Boston Pops concert, fireworks, and a barbeque.  It’s remembering our freedom, and how we got there.

Here is a post on what happened at school.  It is celebrating America.  This is the real start to teaching children about the Fourth of July.

*****************************************************************************

And to my surprise, the children have driven the making of yet another quilt.

Over the past ten years, my preschool class has designed quilts.  Each one materialized because of something the children were passionate about.  When they couldn’t get enough of a song or an idea, I knew I had to give them more.  Together we designed quilts.  The process brought everything to life for children, from planning, to sketching, to designing, to picking fabrics.  They did it all, and a wonderful master quilter made their dream come alive.  The quilts are stunning.  Well, that is an understatement; one hangs at the National Liberty Museum in historic Philadelphia, one hangs at the Boston Fisher House, and one hangs at the State House in Boston.  Humbling.  Each quilt was a year-long project, starting with the children and what they loved.

And now it has happened again.  All it takes is a spark.

In the fall, children loved singing “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.  I sing with children all the time, and I sing many kinds of songs.  For whatever reason, they wanted to sing “This Land is Your Land” over and over again.  I’m talking at least two to three times a day.

The book to this song is on our bookshelf.

It’s an outstanding book.  The illustrations bring the song to life.  There are also many illustrations along the edges that give a wonderful visual of America’s landmarks, big and small.  We play “I Spy” with this book all the time.  The biggest challenge is finding thirty flying American flags.  Thirty!  Some are obvious, many are not.  Finding the flags means we have to stop when we find one, like a flag on the Delta Queen, or one on on the Esplanade in Boston – home of the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert, or a flag on Ellis Island.

Geography + history + patriotism at its best.

Most importantly, the children grab the book every time they want to sing the song.  It is the song, their song.  And as they sing, they want the book in their hands.

I welcomed a new friend, Travis, who plays the guitar.  The children love his songs, especially “It’s You I Like”, by Mister Rogers.  Travis started coming to sing on a regular basis.  Interestingly, as soon as he sat down, Eddie or Emmett or Boden would rush over to the book shelf, grab This Land is Your Land, and shove it into Travis’ hands.  They had to have that song – first.

And occasionally I would join in.

By winter, I had ‘lost control’ over the song and the book.  Children ruled the roost, getting the book and singing all the time.  Did you know there is a verse, a page, that is pretty dismal?  No happy America.  Children call it the ‘sad page’, and we sing it in a quiet and slow way, because it is sad.

“In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people;
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?”

Children love this verse.  “Jennie, can you sing the sad page?”  Pretty powerful stuff.  I have to be true to the song, so I sing that verse.  I think we underestimate children’s ability to understand and feel compassion.  The illustrations on ‘the sad page’ are bleak… and then the next page and verse is the same scene, with everything fixed and repaired, and people working together to build a new playground.  I flip back and forth between the two pages to help children find all the changes.  That next verse is the final verse of the song.  It’s the one that gets me a little choked up.  It’s the one where children stand tall and proud.

“Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back;
This land was made for you and me.”

Sometimes children would come to me in the middle of activity time and ask me to sing with them.

Other times they would sing collectively on their own.  No teacher was needed, or for that matter even wanted.  It was wonderful.

And then one morning, something happened.  Something big happened.  Stayed tuned for Part 2.

Jennie

P.S.  For new bloggers, this was the start of creating a remarkable quilt.  My class designed many, and Milly the Quilter worked her magic to make children’s ideas come alive.  They hang at a national museum in Philadelphia, a Fisher House, and the Boston State House.  A quilt was invited to the Intrepid Museum in NYC.  That was amazing!

Posted in America, American flag, Early Education, geography, Giving thanks, history, Inspiration, music, patriotism, picture books, preschool, quilting, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 72 Comments

Happy Birthday Canada!

As America approaches a Fourth of July celebration, I am reminded in the best of ways that our neighbors and fellow countries share the same pride in their country. Everyone should feel proud about their Homeland. Pam is from Canada, and her post says it all.

Butterfly Sand

I first posted this when Canada turned 150 years old. I don’t think I could do anything better for this year. So, if it is familiar, my apologises. If it is new, please enjoy . .

The True North Strong and Free!

I am proud to be a Canadian. I live in a breathtakingly beautiful country from sea to sea to sea. We have forests and prairies, beaches and lakes, meadows and mountains. When I look up in the sky at night, I can see the stars shining brightly. (of course, I have to be outside the cities when looking up!) We are a people of explorers; deep thinkers and we are kind. No one makes better fun of us than we do ourselves. We love to laugh. We love to share and we love our country.

We have a reputation for being polite. Wow! If I’m going to be…

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Poolside Dinner

When a heat wave hits,
a poolside dinner is in order.
No need to get out of the water
to eat pizza and veggies.
Life is good.

Jennie

Posted in Family, Imagination, Inspiration, joy, Nature | Tagged , | 63 Comments

Reflections

The great outdoors is a window for reflection.
We just have to stop and look.
I was sitting by my pool long after dinner time.

Do you see the many reflections in the pool?
They’re telling me to pay attention,
to be on the lookout for wonders.

E.B. White said it best,
“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”

I payed attention.
I looked at a favorite fish.
The reflection made me look again, closely.

And then I looked once again.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I collect fish.  They are my children.  Each one is unique.
From antique to quirky, sparkly to plain,
each one has a name (really) and a personality.
It is much the same as my preschoolers.

Dinner never happened because our wonderful neighbors
popped over for a visit.  Their child is now greeting each of our fish,
like a preschooler meeting new friends.

The lovely evening after friends said goodbye was my time for reflection;
sunset, fish, children, neighbors, and nature.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back
and realize they were the big things.”
~Robert Brault~

Jennie

Posted in E.B. White, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, preschool, Quotes, wonder | Tagged , , , , , | 123 Comments

Almost Heaven

I went back home last weekend to West Virginia.  Yes, it is ‘almost heaven’.  Do you see the wall of trees behind the welcome sign?  That is what I saw for days of driving.  Nothing but hills and trees and sky.  My home state.  Country roads.  They took me home.  I belonged there.  John Denver knew.

It has been a long time since I drove back home.  I’m so glad I did.  The rolling hills are dramatic.  Don’t take your eyes off the road, because every twisting turn in the crooked roads has a breathtaking view.

Vermont comes close to this grandeur.  It is breathtaking.  Just me and the hills of West Virginia.  The memories were a warm blanket.  Almost heaven.

               

I have vivid memories of driving on old Rt 60 in our family station wagon.  There were houses built on ‘near cliffs’, as the hills were so steep.  We worried going uphill, as the old car barely hit 30 MPH.  If you like the roller coaster, you would love this drive.  No one in the family liked the drive.  I was the one who got car sick.

When the interstate was built, it felt like going from horse and buggy to driving a car.  The most interesting part is seeing how on earth they engineered putting roads straight through hills.  Imagine a huge hill, cut through the middle.  Here is our approach to one:

There is another ‘almost heaven’ to my visit.

My brother died in December of 2019, and we hoped for a spring funeral.  Covid hit, and the funeral was on hold for what seemed like forever.  At last, all my sisters gathered this past weekend.

Our brother’s funeral was a gift, a chance to be together.  We laughed and cried.  We told old stories and looked at pictures.  It was the spark of a flint and a cozy blanket, all together.  We were sisters.  It felt so good.

The funeral was at Trinity Episcopal Church where we had all grown up.  I was married in that church, and my sisters were, too.  Nothing had changed.  The stairs were exactly the same, and that made me smile.  Walking up and down brought memories from childhood to adulthood.  Almost heaven.

I was a reader during the service.  Somehow my words were the best things to say.

1 John 3:1-2
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.  What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

I practiced the reading many times.  It felt right.  I knew when I read to the congregation, that for my brother it wasn’t ‘almost’, it was heaven.

Jennie

Posted in Expressing words and feelings, Family, geography, Inspiration, Love | Tagged , , , , , | 154 Comments

Today’s Quote

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the…

Today’s Quote
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