“Day is Done”

After Thanksgiving dinner, this was the sunset. I was overcome.

I started to sing this song. I don’t know why, perhaps it was the family and the memories back inside the house, but I know I had to sing it.  And I did.  It was just me and the sunset and memories.  I sang this song every sunset when I was a child at summer camp.  To me it was soulful.  It’s the lyrics to “Taps.”

Day is done,

Gone the sun,

From the hills,

From the lake,

From the skies,

All is well,

Safely rest,

God is nigh.


Posted in America, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Giving thanks, Singing, summer camp, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , | 56 Comments

Quotations On Education

These are excellent quotations on education from Charles French.

charles french words reading and writing



“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”

                                                                              Margaret Mead



“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”

                                                                              Thomas Paine



“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”


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A Golden Bridge in the Dark

Driving at night.

Headed to see family far away.

 A golden bridge lights the way.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Posted in Family, geography, Giving thanks, Inspiration, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , | 50 Comments

Real Heroes

There are sad events in life that turn into goodness for others.  Gabi’s Bears is a case in point.  It started as a local fundraiser in a small Massachusetts town, after cancer had taken Gabi away.  Buy a bear to be given to a pediatric patient and donated to MGH (Mass General Hospital).

The fundraiser was so successful that the two women who made the bears decided to do more.  They made countless bears.  It was a labor of love.

Over fifty bears were initially delivered to MGH.  These heroes will be delivering more, in bunches of fifty, every few months.
And all those bears go into the arms of children who need a lovey, want to hug and love a bear.

At school, bears and loveys are important for children.  They are the ‘go to’ at nap time and when things aren’t going well.  I have a great understanding and respect for loveys.  They can make all the difference in the world for a child.


Posted in Death and dying, Early Education, Giving, Inspiration, Kindness, Love, young children | Tagged , , , , | 57 Comments

A Classic Children’s Book and History

I read this book yesterday to children, and I only got through the first few pages.  It is one of the best books to teach history and what happens over time.  We had to stop and talk about so many things.  Today we will finish reading the book.  This is a repost, and it bears reading again and again.


As I read one of the classic children’s books, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, it turned out to be an unexpected history lesson.  This wonderful book begins with a charming little house on a hill, living through days and nights and the seasons.  She loves the countryside and the changes.  The early illustrations capture all the images of the seasons.  At this point in the book children are hooked, because they love the little house.  As I turned the pages they knew summer followed spring, then autumn then winter.  Each page was predictable.

The next page was the game changer.  A road is being built by the little house, yet the children couldn’t see what was happening on that page.  How could they not see?


I went back and forth between the previous page and this page, asking plenty of questions.  Were they so focused on the house that they couldn’t see ‘the big picture’?  Once the children saw what was happening, the story changed; there was much more than just the little house.  We talked about steam shovels and trucks, and the smoke from the steam roller.  From this point forward, every page in this book shows a significant change, and we jumped in with both feet.  The tenement houses were built, and that was the trigger for history.  We talked about the buildings; they were different.  Then a child commented on the cars passing by.  Yes, they were different, too.


The cars started most of the conversation.  I told children that my grandmother drove those cars and my mother was a little girl riding in those cars.  Generations are a concrete way to teach history to young children.  It’s their closest element to an abstract concept.  Children identify history through their parents and grandparents, and a few lucky ones may have a great grandparent.  It starts with something close to home, like a car, and that can be the catalyst to talking about history.  That’s exactly what we did.  The next page, and the next, and so on were steps in history.  Trains and subway cars were a natural curiosity, since children were captivated by cars.  Then came the twenty-five and thirty-five foot buildings.  We talked about Boston and about Groton, and who has the tall buildings.  We even imagined how high twenty-five stories would be.

Of course we never forgot about the little house, especially when she was moved from the city back to the country.  This was perhaps the most exciting page; it sparked great conversation.  Children asked how they did that, moving the house, and also asked how deep the hole was, and if the house was okay.  This is the pinnacle in education.  This page is all about math, science, engineering, kindness, history, and language.  I think that’s why children like this page.  There is so much to talk about and so much to learn.


The rest of the book is wonderfully predictable, as it should be.  After all the lessons and learnings and dialogue that transpired while reading this book, the little house comes to rest at a new place in the country, much like where the story began.


When I was in first grade, this was the one book I remember my teacher reading aloud.  Frankly, that is my strongest memory of first grade.  Now that I am the teacher, I have a greater understanding of how a picture book can teach history and beyond.  That’s what I do.



Posted in Book Review, children's books, Early Education, geography, history, picture books, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 90 Comments

The White Feather

Eagles, specifically the bald eagle, is our unit of study.

The live video cam was on.  We watched a mother eagle in her nest taking care of two eggs.

A child said, “Jennie, you have a white feather in your hair.”

Children came over to check it out, hopeful it was a real white feather.

I think they were disappointed.


Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, preschool, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , | 60 Comments

Storytelling… and Ellis

Interestingly, my storytelling to children often happens in the bathroom.  While that might sound strange, it really isn’t.  It’s me, sitting on the bench with three or four children, squished in close.  It feels good.  We’re waiting for the child on the potty, who is far more interested in hearing what story Jennie will tell.

It wasn’t always this way.

My storytelling started almost accidently during lunchtime at school.  Lunchtime is chatty and fun.  We learn about each other, share what is happening.  We talk about important things, like if girls can marry girls, or what happens to dogs when they die.

This is why I love teaching.

And then, a child asked me something about my childhood.  The first thing that came to mind was a story of me as a child in school, and old Dr. Tyler the Peanut Man.  I told the story to a captive audience.  Storytelling became a highlight of lunchtime.  There were many things in my childhood and adulthood that became classic stories.  Many.

The storytelling grew branches.  There are true, It happened like this… stories, and pretend, Once upon a time… stories.  Fairy tales are popular, especially “The Little Red Hen” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

One day in the bathroom, the waiting line was long, so I made up a story on the fly, incorporating all the children who were there.  It went something like:

“One day, John was in his bedroom late at night.  He heard a sound outside, opened the window, and saw Elaine and Terry.  What were his friends doing there under his window at night?”

The story went from there, where all the children were included.  Now, children heard every word, because they were part of the story.  So, I made sure I used ‘big words’, like massive, interrogating, or decipher.  This was big, a captive audience and the perfect opportunity to expand their thinking and introduce them to new words.  Yes, chapter reading does this, but it’s a whole different ball of wax when the child is part of the story.

How do I know these bathroom stories make a difference?  Ellis.  She’s three-years-old.  Last week when everyone in the bathroom was asking for a Jennie Story, she interrupted and said she had a story.  Ellis wanted to tell a story.  This is what she said:

“Once upon a time there was a boy named jack-o-lantern.  He lived in the woods.  There was a scary bear in the woods.”

Jennie, just squeeze my finger if you get scared.

“The dinosaur was in the woods.  He came and bit someone.  A penguin came along and bit someone, too.  The boy played and was just laughing.  The light bugs were working in the forest, looking for the dinosaur and bear.”  ~The End~

I couldn’t grab a pen fast enough to write down the story Ellis told.  Not only was she fully vested in the Jennie Stories, especially those told in the bathroom, she was able to make up her own.  That is remarkable.  That is what happens when words and stories are part of school and part of children’s lives every day.

The more words a child hears, the better s/he will do in school.


Posted in Early Education, Inspiration, preschool, storytelling, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , | 68 Comments