On this Christmas morning Noteworthy Mommy wishes you and your family a very Merry Christmas and love, joy and happiness in the new year.
As I pass on family traditions like reading Santa Mouse, hiding a pickle in the Christmas tree and watching The Snowman, I also enjoy starting new traditions like Angel on Assignment. I hope you are enjoying Christmas as much as we are.
But in twelve short days Christmas will come to an end. The tree will be taken down and the ornaments will safely be packed away for another year. The stores will discount anything associated with Christmas to make way for chocolate and Valentines. After all of the gifts have been opened, some may be exchanged and many will be long forgotten. There is one gift, however, that is constant. That remarkable gift is Jesus and His love is forgiving and everlasting.
In church last night I was reminded how God can use us to show Jesus’s love to others. He shines through when we perform a good deed, share a kind gesture or tell others about God’s greatest gift. By sharing God’s love we remind others that the gift of Jesus is always there for us even when the sparkling lights and nativity scenes are packed away. Jesus loves us through those dark times too. Even when it seems impossible to see the light, He is there.
The lyrics from a favorite Christmas song by Point of Grace, “Emmanuel, God With Us/O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” reminds me how the Holy Spirit can work in us, not only during the Christmas season but each and every day.
“Oh Emmanuel, God with us Spirit revealed in us That we may be your hope to the world Oh Emmanuel, God with us With a light to break the darkness That we may show your hope to the world Emmanuel, God with us Be God in us”
So on this Christmas Day and every day after…”Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”
Angels are the highlight of our Advent celebrations this year. From the angels that adorned the tables at the Advent By Candlelight events I participated in to the messages from the angels that changed everything to the lovely book and plush angel doll that showed up in our mailbox.
The book “Angel on Assignment, An Angelic Tradition,” beautifully written by Wanda Carter Roush has instantly become a family favorite! Written in rhyme, the book shares the heavenly messages delivered by angels to Mary and Joseph, to the shepherds and to the wise men regarding the birth of a baby who would change the world! The book teaches children that angels were present from the birth to the grave to the resurrection…”From a poor simple stable and a bed made of hay, To the cross on a hill, in a borrowed tomb He lay. Angels were there from the star to the stone, When the greatest gift to the world was made known.”
“Angles on Assignment, An Angelic Tradition”, has another message. The book teaches boys and girls that angels are sent from Heaven above and show God’s love by performing special missions. From sending comfort when we are scared to guarding and protecting, angels are all around us. The delightful illustrations by Mike Motz and Alicia Young engage the reader. Angels are hiding on every page and my daughter loved studying the book, shouting with excitement when she located an angel!
An Angelic Tradition– As an “Elf on a Shelf” alternative, our book came with a sweet plush doll that mirrors the little angel hiding in the book. The book explains that angels do much more than just sit on a shelf and suggests starting a new Christmas tradition with your family by assigning an angel to your house. Give your angel a name and use your angel to remind your family of God’s love. While other Christmas traditions center around receiving instead of giving. I like how the book encourages children to be “angels on assignment” looking for people in need and lending a helping hand by giving unto others and sharing kind words. This year our “Angel on Assignment” projects included purchasing gifts off of the angel tree at our church, packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, donating outgrown dance shoes to Traveling Tutus and purchasing cat beds and toys for Five Acres Animal Shelter, a no kill shelter in our community.
Creating an Angel- You can purchase an angel or make one of your own. Just look in the back of the book, “Angels on Assignment, An Angelic Tradition,” and you will find pages filled with ideas on how to make an angel. There are many creative ideas like making the body out of an old paperback book or using coffee filters for wings. The possibilities are endless.! I look forward to starting a new tradition of making an angel with my daughter every Christmas. As she gets older I envision the angels will get more intricate. There are patterns in the book if you want to make an angel out of paper. My daughter and I chose that option this year, tracing her little hands to use as the angel’s wings. We placed our angel by her Advent calendar to remind us of God’s love. We made a few additional angels to gift to others so they too can be reminded of God’s love and the message of showing kindness. The author, Wanda Carter Roush, encourages individuals to post pictures of their angels on the “Angels on Assignment, An Angelic Tradition” Facebook page.
I shared “Angels on Assignment, An Angelic Tradition” with the students in my daughter’s preschool class at their Christmas party and helped the boys and girls make angels so they can start this angelic tradition with their families. Through kind words or doing a good deed, sometimes it’s the little things that remind us of angel’s wings.
You can purchase this beautiful book on the author’s website at http://wandacarterroush.com or on Amazon. Amazon also has a digital version available. Make sure to check out other books and journals by Wanda Carter Roush. They make perfect gifts!
Every year my daughter and I participate in Operation Christmas Child. We collect items throughout the year and pack them into shoeboxes for the good people at Samaritan’s Purse to deliver to boys and girls in need who live all over the world. Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 with the mission of demonstrating God’s love in a tangible way and sharing the Good News of Jesus.
I began packing shoeboxes when my daughter was a year old and with each passing year she has become more involved. My daughter just turned five so this year we packed five shoeboxes (in honor of her 5th birthday). She even used some of her birthday money to buy Barbie dolls for the boxes. I am happy she has been called to care and is growing up sharing her blessings with others.
How to Pack a Shoebox- Samaritan’s Purse has a step by step guide on how to pack a shoebox. I’ll outline a few tips I’ve picked up over the years.
Step 1- Find a Shoebox- Although any cardboard shoebox will work, I’ve read that the children often view the physical shoebox as a treasured gift. This year I used plastic shoeboxes. Three of our shoeboxes came from Hobby Lobby and are specially designed with the Operation Christmas Child logo printed on inviting red and green plastic boxes. I also used two clear plastic shoeboxes that I purchased elsewhere. Last year I picked up some complimentary cardboard shoeboxes with the Operation Christmas Child logo and branding at our local Chick-fil-a.
Step 2- Girl or Boy?- Although many of the items we pack can be enjoyed by all children, Samaritan’s Purse will ask you to identify if the shoebox was packed for a boy or a girl and what age category. The age categories are: 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14; with the oldest group typically being the one to receive the least donations. We pack boxes that correspond with my daughter’s current age so this year we are packing boxes targeted at the 5-9 age group.
Step 3- What To Pack in a Shoebox?- I keep a big box in our basement labeled “Shoebox Items” and go bargain shopping throughout the year. I scored school supplies for 75% off at Wal Mart, got discounted playground balls at the end of the summer from Walgreens and often pick up discounted items in Target’s dollar area when they change seasons. You can locate some outstanding items during after Christmas sales at all stores.
Samaritan’s Purse recommends packing a WOW item in each box. This could be a doll, stuffed animal, soccer ball with pump or a new outfit. Older children enjoy simple tool sets and expandable shoes. Click here to view gift suggestions by age. Amazon has a nice list of shoebox items as does Hobby Lobby. Besides toys we always pack self care items (a bar of soap, washcloths, combs, brushes, colorful band-aids, socks, hair clips and or bows, and toothbrushes.) Liquids and edible items are not allowed so you have to leave out toothpaste, candy and bubbles! We also include crafts and activities (crayons, pencils with a pencil sharpener, markers, pads of paper, coloring books, puzzles, and stickers.) You can also write a letter to include in your box. My daughter enjoys drawing a special picture and writing a note telling the children that Jesus loves them!
Step 4- Pray- Perhaps the easiest thing to do is pray for the children who will be receiving the boxes you prepared. Pray that the boxes will bring them joy and that by hearing the Gospel they will be filled with hope and encouragement.
Step 5- Follow-Your Box Labels- The cost to ship a box is $9 and you can click here to pay for labels that will track your box. Last year a few months after Christmas we received an email informing us that our boxes went to Mexico. We located Mexico on the map so my daughter could see where our shoeboxes had traveled to.
Step 6- Drop Off Your Box- Collection week is always the third week in November. Several churches and other organizations volunteer to be drop off facilities. This year collection week is November 18-25, so you still have plenty of time to pack a few shoeboxes! The Samaritan Purse’swebsite has a place where you can search for the drop off location closest to you!
Other Ways to Help?- If you would like to help but don’t have time to gather items and pack a shoebox you can save time and pack one online by clicking here or donate money to cover the $9 shipping. People will often pack shoeboxes but not include the money for shipping.
Whether you pack a few shoeboxes, volunteer at a processing center (like my in-laws), pray for the children receiving the shoeboxes or donate money for shipping, I hope you will make Operation Christmas Child a family tradition. For many of the children, the gift-filled shoebox is the first gift they have ever received. In addition to the shoeboxes all of the children will hear about the greatest gift of all…Jesus!
There are many fantastic fall activities to engage in during this time of year and one of my favorites is apple picking! I documented the fun apple activities we participated in last year. Click here to read all about them!
Although we enjoyed many of these apple filled activities again this year, it was our trip to the apple orchard that I unfortunately will never forget.
Our Apple Adventure– My daughter had a huge smile on her face as the tractor drove us far into the apple orchard. But it’s when we stepped onto the ground that everything changed. She began crying because she couldn’t find any apples to pick. Although most of the apples were hidden in far away branches, making it impossible for a little one to reach without assistance, when I offered help she refused. Then she experienced a huge melt down when the tall grass brushed against her little legs, showing her discontent by letting out blood curdling screams while I attempted to document our apple outing by snapping a few pictures. She yelled that she wanted to go home and that’s when it hit me. ￼Mommy’s Lesson- My daughter’s life had recently been turned upside down when I accepted an assignment to train teachers for an entire week at a local school district. This was a change for our family of three because I normally work a few days out of each month (rarely back to back days) and am blessed to spend the majority of the time as a stay at home mommy. I knew working for an entire week was going to challenge us but the work was local, guaranteeing I would be home every night and the generous pay would help our family financially.
So in the middle of the apple orchard on that humid day I realized all my daughter wanted was me! Instead of ending the week going apple picking or out to eat or here or there, all she wanted was her mommy. A good book and some cuddles on the couch was what she really needed. Too young to verbalize these feelings she had enthusiastically said “yes” to apple picking when I made the suggestion. After all I was excited about the trip so she should be too.
As parents we try too hard to do it all: continuing fall traditions, working to provide for our families and trying to be successful at parenting. Would the world come to an end if we missed apple picking this year? Life is a balance and what our children need more than “over the top” experiences is quality time with their loved ones. This precious time can be spent in the backyard on the swing set, inside the house with a favorite book, making a yummy snack in the kitchen or building a tower out of blocks. We can’t do all of the fun activities we see on Pinterest or take our little ones to every fall event on the city calendar. It’s ok. In fact it’s more than ok.
Spending quality time doesn’t have to cost us anything but gives us the biggest reward. This is time where we are 100% focused on our children and they have our full attention. Time where we erase the thoughts of our never ending “to do lists,” turn off the technology and have some uninterrupted quality time together. I recently heard if we don’t take the time to listen to our children while they are young we won’t be the ones they come and talk to when they are older. Listen to your children for these are the moments that will become the memories that our children will forever cherish. The memories of a happy childhood filled with love.
After pleading with my daughter I was able to get some pleasant apple picking pictures right before we left the apple orchard. I debated sharing these pictures on Facebook instead of the one where she is crying. I ended up “keeping it real” and sharing the crying photo because that depicted what truly happened.
As I write this post most schools have recently completed their first day of school or will be welcoming students back in a few days. I simply love this time of year as it signals a new start and a fresh beginning for teachers and their students.
Throughout my twenty-six years in the field of education I continue to delight in the sights and smells of a new school year. A few days ago I conducted my last summer in-service training. As I walked into schools across eleven different states, preparing teachers for a new school year, I was greeted with the smell of freshly waxed floors (shined to perfection), saw inspiring bulletin boards decorated with bright construction paper and entered classrooms stocked with new school supplies eagerly awaiting young learners.
This year my daughter started her second year of preschool at Zion Lutheran School. She returned to the same loving teacher and was excited to find some of her friends had returned from last year. The only change was a new classroom space that her teacher successfully made both inviting and engaging. I reveled in the familiarity of it all as I anticipate future years to be a bit more stressful on both of us.
Prior to the first day of school we continued our “back to school” traditions of reading the “Kissing Hand” and making and decorating kissing hand cookies with Nana. We started these fun activities last year and you can read all about them here.
Whether you’re a teacher implementing the newest curriculum, a parent sending your teenager off to college, or you have children who are simply moving to the next grade level at the same school, I send you wishes for a prosperous new school year! As the seasons change the crayons will become worn and the bulletin boards will fade, the newness becoming a distant memory. When you and your children begin to lose “the sparkle” simply look back to the beginning and try to recapture some of the excitement and anticipation we all had at the start.
Unlike a majority of American women I never took dance lessons as a child. My parents offered up the opportunity but I was an extremely shy little girl and unless I had a BFF to go with me I refused to try anything new. So when my little one was three I asked her if she wanted to take dance lessons at a real dance studio. My daughter is brave and outgoing and only a wee bit shy, so unlike her mommy, she enthusiastically said “YES” and I became a “dance mom.”
The Studio- Fully unaware of the local dance scene I enrolled my daughter at the nearest studio, a mere two miles from our house! Little did I know that the Performing Arts Centre is a premiere dance studio in the Saint Louis area and has produced internationally known performers. My daughter was blessed to have Ms. Debbie Davenport (one of the owners) as her teacher and we had a drama free year of dance until the big recital edged near. That’s when I faced a wave of uncertainty as I navigated my new role as “dance mom.”
The Make Up- The thought of applying eye shadow and lipstick to a four year old scared the begeevees out of me! So I turned to my mommy mentor for make-up advice. She told me what she used for her daughter’s recent recital and explained in great detail how she applied it. I took copious notes and traveled to three different stores to get what we needed! But then my daughter flat out declared that she had no plans on wearing make-up. She would only wear strawberry flavored lip stick! So I decided to do a trial run with my dad by my side (he is an artist who is skilled at applying make-up) Simply suggesting that she put on make-up led my little one to a giant meltdown so I said, “Why don’t you watch while Pops applies make-up to mommy?” After the transformation I emerged with big red lips and dark purple eyelids. She still refused and I went to bed praying for a miracle.￼
The Dress Rehearsal- On the morning of the dress rehearsal I had everything laid out (make-up, ponytail holder, hairspray) prior to greeting my little dancer. She awoke with snot dripping from her nose and I just didn’t know how we were going to make it through the morning! But to my surprise my daughter was cooperative and while she played a game on my phone I successfully applied foundation and eye shadow to her precious little face. Then came the lipstick and a bit of resistance but after bribing her with a stuffed pup she had her eye on at our local supermarket, the lips were done! Another $15.99 to unlock hidden ponies on the “My Little Pony” game she was playing on my phone and her hair was beautifully styled and sprayed with hairspray. I became “that mom” and made promises through sheer desperation, but learned if I was brave enough to become a dance mom I had to go all in and never look back!
The Dressing Room- My daughter’s Godmother came into town for the recital and she accompanied us behind stage. I was immediately overwhelmed as we navigated through a maze of mother’s doing hair, applying make-up and fixing costumes. While little girls, giddy with excitement, ran through a sea of sequins and hairspray in search of their instructors. “Jennifer, I think I’ll go out and sit with your family,” said my daughter’s Godmother. The thought of being left alone with all of the chaos and commotion made me nervous. As the blood drained from my face she saw the horror in her proposal. She gently laid a reassuring hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t prepare you for this. It’s ok, I’ll stay.” It was, perhaps, one of the greatest gifts she could have given me. As she applied red nail polish to my little hula baby’s toes, I was overcome with emotion. For at that moment I realized Aunt Kay Kay (what my daughter affectionately calls her Godmother) had traveled from Ohio to Missouri not only for my daughter but for me! My daughter’s Godmother applying polish to my daughter’s little toes backstage.
The Performance- My daughter danced on the second recital night. Since the studio is bursting with talent the owners split the recital into five three-hour performances on various nights. The competition teams and dance company perform every night, giving the audience a nice sampling of dance styles and abilities through a variety of age groups. My daughter’s class were the “babies of the night” and when working with three and four year olds you never know what will happen! I was surprised how confident my daughter was on stage. She wasn’t born a dancer but she knew the routine and did every step without missing a beat! Her headpiece came off during the end of the dance (an epic beginner dance mom fail) but like a pro she didn’t stop and pick it up, instead she continued on as if nothing happened. She was one of the only girls who remembered to blow a kiss at the end and when I picked her up backstage I could tell she was proud of herself and her accomplishments!
Let’s Hear it For the Boys and the Girls and the Adults!– If you’re reading this thinking “I’m a boy mom so I’ll never be a dance mom,” then Shame on You! Three of the seven graduating seniors at my daughter’s dance studio are boys! Dance doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t require prerequisites or prior experience. Everyone is welcome! Boys, girls, even adults! A quality studio will have an appropriate class for everyone! In fact, there was an adult only number that highlighted an introductory tap class. Although far from professional, these men and women were filled with joy and radiated confidence, reminding me that life is filled with taking risks and we should all be open to new adventures!
Dancing Through Life!– I don’t know how long my daughter will continue dancing. She may never make the competitive team or dance professionally but in one short year dance has taught her lessons to last a lifetime. Dance has improved her focus, discipline, gross motor abilities and cooperation skills. She has learned to follow directions, watch her peers, wait her turn and most importantly, what it takes to be part of a team! She took her responsibility on stage seriously and was genuinely upset when one of her peers chose to “do her own thing” during the dance instead of following the practiced routine. Although not unusual at this age, my daughter called it “disappointing” and asked me, “Momma did you see the friend in my class who was not cooperating!” It was an important life lesson. But whether they followed the routine or not the girls all accomplished something many adults have never achieved. They fearlessly got up on a huge stage, faced the blinding lights and joyfully danced in front of a packed audience. And at that moment I was proud to call myself a “dance mom!”
Everyone in St. Louis is wearing blue these days as we enthusiastically cheer on our hometown hockey team, the Saint Louis Blues, to what we hope will be a historic Stanley Cup victory! But on Sunday, June 9, this girl isn’t excited about game 6 of the championship along with the rest of the city. Instead, I’m wrapped up in my own game, my personal Super Bowl taking place on the Great White Way. A magical night filled with both victory and defeat that I look forward to all year long with great anticipation. I’ll be cheering on the best of Broadway as I watch the 73rd annual Tony Awards!
My Musical Theater Beginnings- My fascination with musical theater began at an early age. My dad was a high school art teacher who designed the sets, supplied the props and was in charge of the house (ticket sales, posters, program design, ushers) for the annual high school spring musical. Having an “in” with the house manager privileged me with front row seats to every performance! I must have been five or six when I saw my dad’s first show, “West Side Story”and I immediately became hooked. I remember sitting there completely mesmerized. I fell in love with everything… the music, the dancing, the emotion, the set, the costumes, the spot lights! A new world opened for me and I eagerly entered in by acting out the shows I saw in our backyard and critiquing the performances (I saw each show three times).
As a child, the high school productions introduced me to many of the classics like Rodger and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” and “The King and I,” and Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man” and “Guys and Dolls.” I also saw contemporary productions like “Pippin” and “Working” by Stephen Schwartz.
One of my favorites was “Grease” and to this day it remains in my top ten. I remember feeling like I was part of that production when I saw my mom’s makeup table and baby blue Samsonite carry-on cosmetic bag being used by Rizzo and Sandy on stage. As an impressionable preteen I related to Sandy, yet sympathized with Rizzo when she belted out, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.”
Meeting My Broadway Tribe- The Tony Awards didn’t enter my life until high school. That’s when I met friends in marching band who were just like me… Broadway obsessed! It was the era of “Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserable” where musicals were mostly all sung through. We spent hours studying the CD liners, memorizing every, single, word! In concert band and in the pit orchestra for our own high school musicals we played music from the shows we were so passionate about. And on the night of the Tony Awards we gathered together, seeing numbers from nominated shows and cheering on our favorite performers.
The 60th Annual Tony Awards- In 2006 I checked a huge event off of my bucket list when I attended the 60th annual Tony Awards in person at Radio City Music Hall! Jersey Boys won best musical that year. My friend and I dressed in elegant evening gowns and experienced a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never forget! Although legendary performers like Chita Rivera, James Earl Jones and Julie Andrews appeared tiny from our mile high seats, we were thrilled to simply be present.My story ends with the band geek marrying the captain of the football team (although he played in the orchestra during off season). And we are raising a well rounded little girl who is gaining an appreciation for live theater and live sporting events. So on Sunday, June 9, with an assist from a sophisticated remote and DVR, our family will avoid any interference and have a night choreographed with the seasons greatest singers, dancers and hockey players.
My maternal great great grandfather, James Beatty, was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States when he was thirty years old. With an Irish ancestor on our family tree we have always celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day, the day when everyone is a wee bit Irish! This year we added a new tradition to our festivities…Silly McGilly!
In early March Silly McGilly arrived with a special picture book. We began by reading the book Silly McGilly, written in rhyme by Irish sisters Michelle Dougherty, Eileen Cowley and Victoria Coffey with whimsical illustrations by Charlotte Cheng. The book explains the story of Silly McGilly a lively leprechaun who plays tricks at night that are both fun and silly. In March, leprechauns leave Ireland and travel to faraway lands to play tricks both small and grand. The book kept my preschoolers attention and she immediately asked me to read it again. “Each night put your toy by a window in full view, this is my invitation to come visit you.”
My daughter couldn’t wait to place Silly McGilly by her bedroom window; eagerly anticipating the fun tricks he would play. I kept some of the tricks simple like turning picture frames on their side, moving stuffed animals around, hiding her speech flash cards around the house and stacking the pillows on top of each other in the middle of the living room. There is a list of suggested tricks for both school and home at the end of the book. In our home, Silly McGilly turned our scrambled eggs green one morning and another day he left a trail of golden wrapped chocolate coins on the steps leading downstairs. My daughter squealed with delight upon this discovery and carefully collected each coin.
Parents and teachers can decide how often Silly McGilly will make a visit (every night, once a week, or just the night before Saint Patrick’s Day.) Children can play with Silly McGilly throughout the day and when he is placed by the window before bedtime it is a signal for the real Silly McGilly to come and play a trick. Although he plays his last trick on Saint Patrick’s Day Eve, before returning to Ireland, the book says Silly McGilly can return anytime children do a good deed or are extra kind. I look forward to having Silly McGilly visit us throughout the year! I thought it would be fun to have him bring doughnuts on National Doughnut Day (June 7) or brownies on National Brownie Day (December 8.)
The magic of Silly McGilly is perfect in the home or at school. As a former kindergarten teacher I would have loved introducing Silly McGilly to my students. His fun tricks would have brought excitement and light to the classroom in an otherwise gloomy time of year when the winter weather is lingering and everyone is dreaming of spring break and sunshine!
TheSilly McGilly website provides further suggestions for tricks that can be played at home or at school. The website is filled with coloring pages and other exciting activities for children, parents and teachers.
The book and doll set can be purchased on the Silly McGilly webiste or on Amazon. I know you can think of a little leprechaun or two who would love him as much as we do! Begin the St. Patrick’s Day tradition today!
My daughter loves Silly McGilly and looks forward to his funny tricks. Putting the Silly McGilly doll by her bedroom window has become part of her bedtime routine and the book is an instant favorite! As we get closer to Saint Patrick’s Day I wonder what shenanigans Silly McGilly has planned for our family?
In January of last year my husband and I made the difficult decision (maybe it was a bit more difficult for me) as to where we were going to send our daughter to preschool in August. Although the final decision was made in January we began researching possible schools a year or more before.
After visiting several schools, scouring over countless websites, reviews and brochures, I will never forget the emotion that quickly overtook me when we had found the perfect fit. There was child created work scattered around the room, evidence of project work in progress and a huge naturalist playground just outside the classroom door. Far from tidy and probably appearing a bit messy to some, there was evidence of learning and the room was a canvas for children to create and explore. The teacher was inviting, observant and child centered and when a parent asked her what questions he should ask, she quickly replied, “The teacher and the environment are two important things to look at.” (This is exactly what I told my husband to look for before we left the house) The room felt comfortable and oddly familiar. The space reminded me of my own classroom and it felt like home.
A year later we are extremely pleased with our choice. Our daughter is thriving, making new friends and learning everyday! To aid others I compiled a list for parents and caregivers who are beginning their “preschool search.”
Ask Other Families- The first thing I did was ask parents where their children go to preschool. I asked neighbors, moms at the library and parents at the park. I initiated the discussion during Little Gym classes and playgroups. I found many had done their own research and were happy to share with me. The list I compiled showed most of the options in my area. I viewed the schools websites and read reviews online. I began these conversations and web searches a few years before my daughter started preschool.
Location– Location, location, location! Although it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, location is an important factor when selecting a preschool. Some good questions to ask… How far is the school from your home and from your place of work? How early will you have to leave in the morning to drop your child off? If you work, how long will it take you to get to the school after work and then how long will it take to get home? What is the traffic flow? Will you be sitting in rush hour traffic or driving against it?
School Schedule- Are you looking for a full time preschool where you send your child to school five days a week or are you looking for a part time schedule? Do you want half day or full day attendance? Most preschool centers recommend a three year old attend a minimum of two days a week and a four year old three days a week. Does the school have flexibility on the days your child would attend?
Teachers and Staff– Perhaps the most important factor is finding a teacher, an assistant and an early childhood director that are child centered, caring and passionate about working with small children. The teacher and his or her commitment to the learning process and the overall well being of children is crucial in selecting a preschool for your child. Finding a teacher who is a skilled “kid watcher” and has a clear understanding of child development is important. A teacher who gets down on the childrens’ level and knows how to stretch children by asking questions that make them think and directing them to activities and projects that will expand their knowledge and creative thinking are positive things to look for. Other questions to ask… What kind of staff professional development does the center engage in? What is the teacher turnover rate at the school? Most schools have websites that briefly describe each teacher giving his or her experience, education and background. If you can’t find this information on the website don’t be afraid to ask.
Pedagogy and Programs– When you enter a preschool classroom it may appear that the children are playing but play is a child’s work. Children learn through play especially when there are trained educators asking them about their work, guiding them to make connections, evaluating their progress and providing support and assistance. A good environment gives children the ability to construct knowledge from the world around them. Perhaps you are looking for an early childhood center that prescribes to a certain pedagogy? There are many being used today: Montessori, Reggio Emilia, The Project Approach, Waldorf, Highscope, just to name a few. Research shows that mixed age grouping is preferred, allowing children to learn from each other and providing teachers the opportunity to focus on the developmental needs of each child instead of their chronological age. Many preschools use a combination of several methods. Some lean towards the traditional with a strong academic emphasis while others are affiliated with a specific religion and incorporate religious studies into their day. No matter what methods are used, all preschools should practice developmentally appropriate practices that provide hands on learning, student choice and play. Before making a school visit it would be beneficial to define what attributes you and your family are looking for.
I hope this article provides some helpful tips as you and your family begin your preschool search. Please visit this NAEYC website (National Association for the Education or Young Children) for more assistance on selecting the perfect preschool for your family.
The mid-west just experienced a major snowstorm that dropped 11 inches of snow in our yard. My little one has never seen so much snow and we had fun exploring this winter wonderland! Our frosty fun included sledding, making footprints in the snow and building a snowman.
We continued our fun indoors by sipping hot chocolate and watching “The Snowman” and “The Snowman and the Snowdog” films, making “The Snowman” mini-book, being creative and making snow people and baking yummy snowman treats.
The Snowman– The book “The Snowman” written and illustrated by English author Raymond Briggs is a wordless book with beautiful illustrations that chronicles the adventures of a boy named James who builds a snowman that comes to life. The book was originally published in 1978 and just celebrated 40 years of making winter dreams come to life. The delightful book takes the reader on an adventure where James introduces the snowman to his world (with a few comical mishaps along the way) and continues with the snowman taking James on a magical journey of discovery to meet Father Christmas. Sadly, the story ends the way all winter tales do, with the sun appearing overhead, melting the snow and bringing this beloved friendship promptly to an end.
In 1982 a short animated film based on Raymond Briggs classic story, “The Snowman” was created and aired in the UK. The brilliant score was composed by Howard Blake. The wordless film relies on the animation and the music to tell the story. I was first introduced to the film when my mom (a retired teacher) purchased it on VHS through a Scholastic Book order. When I taught kindergarten I looked forward to showing the classic film to my students after we completed a January unit of study on snow. Upon first seeing it I immediately fell in love with the music and often found myself listening to the score. So you can imagine my excitement when my husband and I performed “The Snowman Concert Version” with the Northwinds Concert Band a few years ago. Our performance played simultaneously with the projected film and included the song “Walking in the Air” performed by a young boy soprano.
The book and animated film quickly became Christmas classics and is as popular in the UK as “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is in the United States! There was a sequel called “The Snowman and the Snowdog,” equally adored by my dog loving little girl, additional books and a variety of toys featuring the popular snowman. I just discovered a website dedicated entirely to “The Snowman” that contains on-line games, family friendly activities and information about a stage production currently playing in London and Birmingham.
“The Snowman” Mini-Book– We also made and read the mini book “The Snowman,” a reproducible book found in Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities. Lillian loved the predictable text and read the book to her stuffed dogs. Click Here to download a copy of the mini- book, “The Snowman.”
Paper Plate Snow People- We used paper plates, construction paper and glue to make creative snow people. Lillian gave her snow person a carrot nose and a black hat. She free cut the decorations out of construction paper with some help from mommy and enjoyed gluing them on her snow person.
Snow People Snack– This recipe from my book, Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities, is the perfect winter snack! Lillian and I used chocolate chips, m&m’s and snowflake shaped sprinkles to decorate our snow people that were molded out of biscuit dough. The best part was eating them hot out of the oven! Click Here for the Snow People Snack recipe.
Roll-a-Snowman Game– Another fun activity from my book, Student Made Thematic Mini Books and Extension Activities is the Roll-a-Snowman Game. The game is played like Cooties where the players take turns rolling a die. For each number they roll they get to add a different item to the snowman they are drawing. The player who builds the snowman first is the winner. I assisted Lillian when it came time to draw her snowman. Another adaptation is drawing the parts of the snowman ahead of time, cutting out the pieces and then putting the pieces back together when you roll each number on the die. Click Here for a copy of the Roll-a-Snowman Game.
I will end with the words Raymond Briggs recites at the beginning of “The Snowman” animated film…. “I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snow I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day… and it was on that day I made the Snowman.”