Discipline: Bridging the Gap from Dependency to Self-Sufficiency

 

As every teacher knows, education is ever-evolving, as all sciences. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to bring Abbi Kruse, a certified instructor from Conscious Discipline  and a leader in the field of social-emotional learning, for our back-to-school professional development day.  

Conscious Discipline ® (Bailey, B.A. (2015),  Conscious Discipline: Building Resilient Classroom, Expanded & Updated Edition, Loving Guidance Publishers) equips students with the tools to respond from the higher centers of the brain rather than react with the lower centers of the brain.  This model requires the shift from a model of compliance to a relationship building mindset.  Conflict is viewed as an opportunity for growth. 

Changing our perspective on behavior management is essential.  In the United States, 60% of adults report having adverse early childhood experiences. The impact of COVID is now evident based on the newest study out of Stanford University. Researchers at Stanford used a structural topic model to effectively analyze 38,171 parent responses from April 2020 until April 2022. Although some aspects of daily life have shown improvement (i.e. restrictions, employment opportunities, etc,) challenges with well-being and emotional distress continue to escalate.  

Conscious Discipline ® has seven skills:

  • Composure
  • Encouragement
  • Assertiveness
  • Choices
  • Empathy
  • Positive Intent
  • Consequences (natural, logical, & problem-solving)

These skill sets compromise the core competencies:

  • Safety
  • Connection
  • Problem-solving skills

Start simply by ensuring safety first, building connections, and allowing consequences to occur.  Try these acronyms to get you started on this new approach:

NARCS to create a safe environment

Noticing 

Asserting (not being permissive or authoritative)

Routinizing

Composing

Securing a safe space

REJECT (to reduce undesirable behaviors)

Rituals for connection

Encouragement

Jobs

Empathy

Choices (limit to 2)

The school family

Change begins within us all and may be transferred to our children.  Shifting mindsets to create independent, responsible, compassionate world citizens may be cumbersome, but the results are surely well worth the effort.  In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

(Bailey, B.A. (2015),  Conscious Discipline: Building Resilient Classroom, Expanded & Updated Edition, Loving Guidance Publishers)

The Powerful Effect of Music on Brain Development

 

Music is an essential part of any quality early childhood education program. The benefits start in-utero around 27-29 weeks from conception and continue throughout one’s educational tenure and beyond.  

What do we mean exactly by music?  According to Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition: “an artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner”.  Music can communicate-via tone- what words cannot adequately express.  

Embryos may hear sounds in the womb around 18 weeks including the mother’s heartbeat, breathing, and digestive sounds.  Between 27-29 weeks they can hear voices and low frequencies allowing them to hear the pitch and tone of a song, but not the lyrics.  

Howard Gardner, psychologist and author, best known for his theory of multiple intelligences added Musical Intelligence to his list of learning styles and approaches.  Those who exhibit a propensity for music are sensitive to sounds, rhythms and tones and are typically able to play, sing, or compose music.

Music has physiological implications on the brain.  These include:

  • an increase in dopamine production (associated with pleasure & reward centers)
  • lowers stress hormones (i.e. cortisol)
  • increases serotonin & other hormones related to immunity
  • Increases oxytocin, a chemical that fosters ability to connect to others 

This is largely due to the fact that music impacts three different parts of the brain:  motor, visual, and auditory cortices.  

Evidence proves that early music education may:

  • help solve complex problems
  • moderate emotional states
  • help  language acquisition
  • improve memory

Research shows support in achievement in developmental milestones:

  • Literacy – including phonological awareness & comprehension
  • Mathematical competency – including spatial-temporal and reasoning
  • Social-Emotional- assisting with self-regulation 
  • Physical – including fine and gross motor skills
  • Creative- encouraging thinking “outside the box”

Music may easily be incorporated into every aspect of learning both at school and at home.  The stimulation of alpha waves in the brain creates a sense of calmness. In the words of Louis Armstrong, “Music is life itself.”

 

 

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

 

 

It is quite astounding that SEL has become such a hot issue politically.  What exactly is Social Emotional Learning? According to the leading source, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning – 2020), SEL has 5 major areas:

 

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self- management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship skills
  5. Responsible decision-making

 

SEL is the very foundation that allows all higher-level thinking to evolve.  Any research-based curriculum draws on the knowledge of basic human development.  Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943) exemplifies this through the use of a pyramid.  The largest task-and foundation of learning-is meeting the physiological needs (food, sleep, basic needs), followed by safety and security, to lead to love and belonging.  Once these needs are met sequentially, self-esteem will develop, and self-actualization can occur.  In summation, children need to feel school as an extension of home where they can count on the adults around them for support. 

 

Whereas traditional preschool programs are sensitized to the need of delivery of curriculum to support SEL, Pennsylvania is only one of three states to have fully designed standards for SEL benchmarks from K-12.  (Illinois and Kansas do, as well).  Brain research has indicated that emotion and cognition are interwoven processes. (Bell & Wolfe, 2007).  The positive impact of SEL inclusion has been further substantiated by studies indicating a gain of 11 percentile points in achievement, increase in prosocial behaviors, improvement of attitudes toward school and reduction in depression and stress (Durlak et. al., 2011).  John J. Medina, developmental molecular biologist specializing in the isolation and characterization of genes involved in human brain development, has concurred that including SEL in curriculum benefits academic gains.

Ensuring proper messaging continually of respect and appreciation for all living things and celebrating diversity is essential.  An uncited quote that was recently published on LinkedIn states this urgency quite eloquently, “Teaching emotional intelligence should be as much of a priority as teaching kids their ABCs.”

 

Building Positive School Culture

 

 

Whenever offering a tour to a prospective family, it is always suggested that they view our social media platforms to get a glimpse into our school culture.  What exactly is meant by the term “school culture”? This term is the shared beliefs, attitudes and values of a program and the application of these principles amongst staff, students, and families.  According to Harvard University, a school culture is created by promoting positive traits such as collaboration, honesty, and hard work.  

Here are some traits to look for in any educational program:  

 1.  Building a positive school culture starts with leadership. Your experience starts from the moment you make that inquiry.  An unfavorable first impression is a lasting one. When seeking an early childhood program, it is essential that emails and phone calls receive prompt attention.  If a program is responsive to the children’s and families needs prior to entry, they should be equally or more supportive once you are enrolled in the program.

2.  Social media platforms will give you a great deal of information.  It is true that a picture paints a thousand words. Viewing FaceBook, Instagram, and even the website will yield priceless information:

  • Demographics
  • Snapshot into a typical day
  • Celebrations 
  • Curricular focus

3.   Communication is consistent, positive, & prompt.  Most programs will have an app for daily updates. Do not assume that the program permits two-way communication.   All apps will allow teachers to send messages,  but not  necessarily reply to incoming messages.  A stellar program should respond to all messages promptly and never  surpass 24 hours.

4.    Surveys precipitate action plans. Any quality program should send out parent surveys at least biannually and initiate an action plan to address any issues brought to light. 

5.  Create opportunities for meaningful parental engagement & involvement. Involving the parents during these trying times is more important than ever.  Just like the need for     children to feel connected, that need exists for families, too.  Schools should offer back- to-school night, parent-teacher conferences, family events outside of school hours,  celebrations, etc. 

6.  School culture is a mindset. Positivity perpetuates more positivity.  Building and maintaining teacher morale along with creating trusting relationships with families and children will ultimately yield happy, successful individuals.

 Visit the school, chat with current and former families, meet the staff and follow your instincts to make a well-informed decision.  This quote by Dr. Joseph Murphy, Associate Dean at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education eloquently summarizes  the vital importance of school culture:  “Seeds of change will never grow in toxic soil.  School culture matters.” 

     

      

      

Daytripping

 

 

DAYTRIPPING

 

With summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to plan for a day or a weekend away with your little one(s)!  Whether it is a fun ride with family to lull an infant to sleep in the car seat or an adventure with preschoolers, there are many local attractions nearby! 

 

  1.  Take a ride through the covered bridges of Pennsylvania to absorb some history for the adults and soothe infants into a peaceful slumber. Visit the Bucks County Covered Bridge Society to plan your route:  buckscountycbs.org
  2. Enjoy the display of flowers, trees, fountains and architecture at Longwood Gardens.  Late summer is ideal to take advantage of the sites in full bloom.  www.longwoodgardens.org
  3. Collect seashells, soak up the sun, enjoy the amusement rides and games, and check out the aquarium at Jenkinson’s pier in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. www.jenkisons.com
  4. For a quick ride, check out Kids Castle, an amazing playground located in Doylestown, PA. www.savekidscastle.org
  5. Is your little one obsessed with cars, and trucks, and things that go?  Check out Diggerland, the only construction theme & water park amusement complex in West Berlin, NJ-just 20 miles from Philadelphia!  www.store.diggerlandusa.com
  6. Love to explore nature?  Check out Churchville Nature Center, an environmental area of 65 acres in a nature preserve. www.churchvillenaturecenter.org
  7. Keeping in the same vein, check out Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed in New Jersey, a 265 square mile area crossing 5 counties.  www.thewatershed.org
  8. Adult libations paired with a petting zoo are available at ShadyBrook Farm during their Friday night, “Music on the Patio” series.  www.shadybrookfarm.com
  9. Looking for a “pick your own” farm experience, check out Terhune Orchards, a 250 acre sustainable farm in Princeton, NJ. www.terhuneorchards.com
  10. For the animal lovers, check out the llama farm & events at Woodsedge Farm in Stockton, NJ.  www.woodsedge.com
  11. Animals, farming, and history prevail at Howell Farm in Lambertville, NJ.   Check out their events at www.howellfarm.org/calendar  Sheep shearing, corn planting, and hog slopping are some of the upcoming events.  
  12. For the art lovers, check out the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA.  This is one of 5 locations throughout the US. www.crayolaexperience.com
  13. To accommodate the youngest to the eldest in your group, try American Dream, an amazing mall  in East Rutherford, NJ.   This state-of-the art complex offers mini golf, an aquarium, indoor surfing, Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park, indoor ski resort, Legoland, water park, ice skating rink, and more!  www.americandream.com  
  14. For the blossoming engineer, check out Legoland Discovery Center in Philadelphia.  www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com/philadelphia
  15. Animal lovers can enjoy a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo.  www.philadelphiazoo.org
  16. For the tactile-kinesthetic explorer, try the Please Touch Museum, a museum designed specifically for children to allow them to play with purpose and use their imagination.  www.pleasetouchmuseum.org
  17. An amusement park specifically designed for small children is Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA.  www.dutchwonderland.com
  18. For those learning about nursery rhymes and classic children’s characters, a great day out may be had at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township, NJ.  www.storybookland.com
  19. Looking to get some energy released indoors, try Playpad, Bucks County’s 5,000 square foot indoor play space for children up to age 9.  www.playpadbucks.com
  20. Sesame Place is always a great day out that is close to home in neighboring Langhorne, PA.  www.sesameplace.com

 

This is just a small glimpse of the many things that our area has to offer.  Whether you have one of these destinations in mind, an alternate destination, or just taking a ride in the country, spending time engaging with your child/dren is a great way to support social-emotional learning and create bonds to last a lifetime. 

Benefits of Gardening

 

Spring has finally arrived!  With Earth Day being celebrated globally this month, now is the perfect time to start planning a garden with your family! The benefits of gardening are endless.

 

Here are just a few of the benefits that children reap having the opportunity to work in the garden:

 

  • Building self-confidence 
  • Promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) through hypothesizing, observing, reasoning, planning, organizing, and measuring
  • Improving  focus & memory (cited by a Swedish Study published in Developmental Rehabilitation in July 2009)
  • Stress relieving and cortisol reducing (cited by a 2011 study in the Journal of Health Psychology)
  • Positively impacting mood & physical well-being
  • Improving locomotor skills through transport of dirt, use of wheelbarrow, etc.
  • Improving fine motor skills using pincer grip to weed, embed seeds, etc.
  • Increasing literacy through conversation, labeling of plants, creation of signs, etc.
  • Understanding of cause and effect
  • Encouraging teamwork, reliability, and responsibility 
  • Lowering respiratory illness and autoimmunity through exposure to microbes & fungi in dirt 
  • Teaching a respect for nature and all living things
  • Sequencing of growth 

 

Do not let space hinder you!  You can have these same experiences delivered in a window box or planter on a patio.  The appreciation of plant life can continue through each season both indoors and outdoors.  

 

Babysitting Co-ops

Babysitting Co-ops

A very common question in any childcare center . . . “Do you know anyone that babysits?” While some early childhood programs do allow babysitting by staff and teachers, other programs do not permit this at all.  What is a viable solution to this dilemma?  The answer may be simple (contingent upon the neighborhood in which you live).  Start a babysitting co-op!

 

What is a babysitting co-op?  It is an enterprise, business or group of people that manage and operate a particular service.  In this case, it would be babysitting.  Instead of a paid service, a co-op would allow families to provide free babysitting for other families and have the favor returned.  

 

Creating a co-op ensures that you are partnering with like-minded individuals.  You do not have to rely on a stranger or outside agency as your child or children would be cared for by other parents.  Experience is a guarantee!  It’s also a great way to promote social interaction for your own child or children.  

 

Take the initiative to start a co-op if there is not one nearby.  You can do this without pricey advertising.  Social media platforms can spread the word readily.  This can be done on local parenting groups sites.  You may even be able to partner with your local early childhood programs to have them spread the word on the school’s site or social media platforms.  You can also go “old school” and print flyers to post at the local library, ice cream shops, grocery stores, or shops catering to young children.  

 

There are a few things to consider:

  1.  You must be able to track time:  either a point system, time-reward system, spreadsheet, etc.  of those providing the service. For example, do you receive 10 points for every half hour?  What is the point system if you surpass the half hour mark?  Do you receive the full point amount after the half hour or a fraction? 
  2. The system needs to be in a centralized location to allow members to see if they need to offer time to babysit to increase their points, chips, etc.  or to see if they have enough to acquire babysitting services. The system would also need to have each member’s contact information.
  3. Does one person maintain the tracking system and contact information or is this responsibility shared with the group?  If it is shared, how often is one responsible for this upkeep?
  4. Determine the value of services offered.  For example, will households with more than one child need to accumulate more points for services than a household with one child.  Does someone babysitting 3 children accumulate more points than someone babysitting one child?  Do holidays or late nights accumulate a greater number of credits? 
  5. Is there a required notification period for requesting a sitter?  
  6. What are the requirements for joining the co-op?  Do you have to be recommended by another family?

While this may seem like a huge undertaking, once established a babysitting co-op could create lifelong friendships and partnerships, promote socialization for both children and adults, and establish a true community.  Like the old adage states, “It takes a village to raise a child!”

 

 

 

Do You Know a Fall Guy (or Gal)?

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It’s never easy for a teacher or school administrator to tell a parent that his/her child took a fall while at school; however, in the world of infants and toddlers it is an everyday occurrence.  The statistics are staggering, but it is reassuring that it is completely appropriate and part of development.

 

In a study of 130 children conducted several years back, it was found that toddlers ages 12 months to 19 months fall an average of 17 times an hour.  At the onset of walking, the number of falls increases to 69 times an hour.  Thankfully, being so low to the ground and having such great flexibility makes these falls relatively easy to overcome.  

 

Once the walking has become part of daily living, two year olds become much more confident and exhibit little fear.  The result?  An even greater number of falls.  The average two year old falls 38 times per day.  With time and practice, this number lessens.  Pediatricians consider it within the norm to have children fall all the way up to age 4!  

 

Why does this occur?  There are several reasons.  Due to the rapid rate of growth,children outgrow shoes quite quickly.  If shoes are not fitted properly, this can be an issue.  Additionally, sudden growth spurts means having to re-learn balance and finding  a new center of gravity.  Finally, most toddlers are farsighted, creating issues with depth perception.  This may cause toddlers to overstep or misjudge distance.

 

To limit the number of injuries due to  falls, be sure to check corners  and furniture stability.  Keep all cords, drawers, and appliances out of reach.  Check the fit of all shoes, use non-slip socks or go barefoot in the home.  Good traction equals good mobility.  And . . . most importantly, try not to overreact.  Strong reactions can create fear.

 

Remember the struggle to learn how to skate or ski.  With practice and determination you were able to conquer the task; your little one will learn proficiency over time, too!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!