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Monday, January 26, 2015

Early Childhood Education -- S post

A well-educated population is essential for a country to be successful economically, socially and culturally. This can be best achieved through early-childhood education because when children start learning at an early age, they are statistically more inclined to continue to higher education. According to Cecilia Ibru, the Montessori Method is an example of one way to encourage children’s intellectual growth.

The Montessori Method

The Montessori Method, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach that is based on scientific observations of the development of children from infancy to adulthood. Children are naturally eager to learn and absorb a huge amount of knowledge especially if they are in a supportive environment. The Montessori Method provides them with an environment that is specifically prepared and organized for learning. 

The main components of the Montessori Method program include:

• Multi-age groups of children that encourages peer learning
• Large blocks of learning time that is not interrupted
• A guided choice of activities
• The use of specially-designed Montessori learning materials properly arranged
• An attractive and comfortable environment

In early childhood, the Method provides activities designed to give the child direct experiences with the world around them to help develop their cognitive powers. Young children naturally learn through touching, smelling, hearing, seeing, movement and tasting. The Montessori Method makes use of these faculties for directed learning. As the child develops, he or she adds abstract thinking skills to the concrete experience and learn to apply this knowledge to the world in which they live. As they move to adulthood, their thoughts and emotional development help them understand universal concepts such as justice, equality and freedom. This is how the child’s intellectual growth is encouraged. 

The Teacher

Montessori Method teachers are trained to allow the child to pursue his or her own interests. They do not impose or force rote learning. The teacher is trained to help the child use the specially designed educational materials and observe the child’s sensitive periods. Concepts and lessons are matched to the periods when a child is most open to absorb and internalize. 

Benefits of the Montessori Method

The aim of this Method is to help children develop their potential and become competent, respectful and responsible citizens. They learn to love learning and understand that learning continues throughout life. Some of the main benefits are:

• Each child is valued as a unique person because children learn in different ways. This Method accommodates all learning styles, and the teacher guides the child in their individualized learning plan. 

• Children learn order, concentration, coordination and independence at an early age. The materials are designed for self-regulation, and children are encouraged to think for themselves throughout their childhood. 

• The multi-age classroom is a caring community. The older children enjoy helping the younger ones, and the young one look up to the older children. The teachers are role models of kindness and help with peaceful conflict resolution. 

• Within certain limits, the children enjoy freedom as they are able to choose their areas of learning. The teachers help the students seek answers to their own questions. 

• When the students mature, they learn how to self-correct and self-assess, so they have a realistic and critical eye on their own work. 

The Montessori Method helps children all over the world become better citizens and develop their intellectual curiosity for the betterment of society in general.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Adventures in a "safe" neighborhood

Earlier in the week, I sent my kids out to play in the neighborhood as I sometimes allow them to do. The roads are small here, good sidewalks, speed limit 20, everyone knows everyone. Basically it's as safe a place as we could get without my constant parental eye overseeing every possible action.

Usually, the kids come to me and tell me each and every time they are about to start a new activity or go to a new location. This can get annoying if they are in a bout of indecision and come running to me every two minutes with new plans that are hardly different from each other, but at the end of the day, the annoyance is worth it because I know where my kids are and I can go check on them whenever I need to.

Until, of course, earlier this week, when unbeknownst to me, the girls thought it would be a great idea to ditch their scooters on one side of a field, trek across to the other side, go through some bushes, and climb a fence into a farm area that was most definitely not part of the neighborhood.

Once there, apparently, they decided to explore a little; at least enough so that they became totally turned around. Half an hour later, I had two young girls burst into my house yelling MOMMY, MOMMY, at the top of their lungs.

They were so happy to see me, they said. They didn't even care if they got punished, they said. They were just glad to be home and safe, they said.

(I'm thinking it's one too many after-school live-action Disney shows that told them the appropriate way to react in this situation.)

They were scratched up from thorns when they couldn't find their easy-access route back to the field and decided to Rambo it under the fence through the thick shrubbery. Heck, one of them had her pants torn open, from a thorn or something. Thankfully there was no blood (which means no emergency room. Yay!)

Their delight at being back home and their willingness to be punished diminished quickly however, when they discovered that real life concern and redirection take longer than the end-credit roll of a sit-com. As they were doing dishes and cleaning the living room with me, their gratefulness to be back home ebbed away and they longed to go back outside and play. I allowed them the fenced-in backyard, which drew complaints, but they knew everything had to calm down before I'd let them out on their own again.

We went over the "tell me every single time you change places" spiel again, and they seemed to renew their loyalty to it.

So, today, for the first time since the incident, I let them out again, this time armed with walkie-talkies so that they could contact me at any moment. I thought it would be a safety precaution, in case they ended up turned around again, or, at the very least, the weight of the contraption on their waistline would remind them to stick to known areas lest they get themselves in trouble.

What it was instead?

A constant, every-30-second barrage. "Mom. MOM. Mom, can you hear me?"

"Mom, I love you."

"Mom, what time is it?"

"Mom, Dulce is teasing me."

"Mom, can we knock on our friend's door?"


"Mom. Hello? Mom?"


It's nice to be loved and needed, but I think next time we'll forego the walkie-talkies. If my kids know how to do anything, it's how to overdo it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Great Gender Hiccup -- Guest Post

A Night Fury dragon drawn by my four year old daughter.

This is the story of a boy and his dragon.
No. Wait, scratch that. This is the story of a girl who is about to turn five. A girl who loves princesses, long dresses, painted nails, the arts, and a dragon named Toothless. Toothless is featured in over a dozen books, two movies, even an animated series. She adores everything that features this dragon, so it comes as no surprise that she wants her upcoming birthday party theme to center around this icon.

The How to Train Your Dragon franchise conveys something that speaks to so many children (and adults) so clearly. It speaks about a love between a boy and his best friend. Love applies to all genders, does it not? It also relays a story of friendship, trust, family, death and the art of problem solving. The latest movie recently won a Golden Globe, and it’s been nominated for an Oscar.

So you can imagine the frustration of this particular parent finding that according to retailers across the globe that 1) Items from this franchise are currently out of stock with no sign of it coming into stock, 2) retailers who do carry it decree that dragons are for boys only, and 3) girls will only express interest in the female characters of any given series, so we’re not going to bother making anything gender neutral.

Obviously, this isn’t limited to dragons. This actually applies to many other characters.

Want to host a party featuring a certain boy explorer and his jaguar companion? Well, if you have girls coming, retailers suggest that it’s best to include his younger female cousin and her pet monkey, because only boys can play here. Want to have a theme featuring kid pirates that go against a hooked captain that has been featured in stories for over a century? Chances are, you’re going to have to wade through hopelessly gender stereotyped favors and toys geared only toward boys. How about a party featuring singing princesses and their animated sidekicks for your son? Surrreeee, you can have a party if you omit the princesses and stick with the sidekicks. Let’s not rock the boat though, we have an image to maintain!

While I, for one, am frustrated with the fact that these franchises are completely neglecting 50% of a potential market, I know I’m not alone. Across the globe, there are groups working to convince corporations to stop gender marketing, and let kids choose what to play with. One group, ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ over in the United Kingdom has worked successfully to help remove gender marketing from fourteen different retailers and counting.

Toys R Us franchises in Sweden collaborated with Top Toy to completely remove gender stereotypes in 2012. Catalogues featured boys playing with dolls, girls playing with archery sets, and both cooking together in play kitchens.

With this level of success in Europe, the casual shopper would be led to believe that here in 2015, retailers in the United States were with the progressive program. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Just walk into any toy store at the mall or your nearest Big Box store to see for yourself. It’s no better in party supply shops or online. Even Etsy segregates by gender. If the big name chains and websites are to be believed, “Girls can’t possibly like dragons, safaris, or pirates. Nor are boys allowed to like any characters that sing, unless it’s a talking snowman or a prince trying to woo a princess.” With this sort of line of thinking, ending gender marketing in the US won’t happen any time soon.

What can we do as disgruntled parents when corporations refuse to end the gender marketing? While lobbying to end gender marketing has not been successful here in the US, we as consumers can keep pushing to make that change. Word of mouth, phone calls, petitions and letters are all wonderful ways to work towards gender equality, certainly. But what about groups that blatantly ignore consumers and demographics? What then?

Let Toys Be Toys suggests that consumers should not be afraid to take their business elsewhere. Further, consumers should explain exactly why they are leaving. It’s a little less stressful than organizing a boycott, certainly. But for that little four year old who still wants her dragon, and that little 5 year old boy who wants to sing like Elsa, what about them?

I’d like to offer a couple of suggestions. First, let’s break the gender stereotypes. Draw, sew, or even buy that dragon (or gown, doll or toy set) from businesses that don’t gender market. Let them sing to their heart’s content, or soar on dragon’s wings. Create your own theme and party ideas utilizing those beloved characters. Utilize the art of playing make-believe with your child, and see what kind of scenario unfolds.

I’d like to share one successful non-gender marketed story. Last month, my daughter’s preschool had a Frozen Wonderland party that was well attended by both boys and girls. They did not market the event to a particular gender set at all. Instead, they featured all-inclusive activities. At the event, the kids built snowman, explored a maze decorated with bubbles, glitter and fluffy fake snow. Kids feasted on popcorn and shaved ice before gathering to sing songs together from the movie. It was a wonderful event, and the kids are still talking about it weeks later.

It’s my hope that my daughter won’t have to be boxed in by gender marketing as she gets older. To promise her that she too can have her own dragon is my first step. To make our voices heard comes next. I hope soon, those retailers take steps to end gender marketing in favor of a more inclusive strategy.

Jill Redding is a mother and blogger at PianissAmma.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Don’t stop progressing: Keeping in touch with your career during an extended leave -- Guest Post

I’m currently on my second year-long maternity leave, but even though most of the time I’m home changing diapers and washing barf out of things, I feel I’m more focused on my career than ever. 
Keeping up career momentum throughout a parental leave or other extended leave can be tough, but it’s worth the extra effort if you want to keep moving forward in your career. In many countries, maternity and parental leaves can be up to a year of time away from work, and in the US, where maternity leave is not specifically provided, parents of young children often take some time away from the workforce.  Regardless of whether you are returning to an existing position or taking some time out while your children are small, keeping a few tips in mind can help you keep your career life warm for when you are ready to return to it.

1.       Keep networking.  For parents with small children at home, going out to professional development events, conferences, and other networking opportunities can be difficult.  However, this doesn’t mean you have to slow down your networking, if you have internet access at home.  Use LinkedIn, professional association websites, Facebook, and email to connect with others who have similar work interests.  Discuss issues that are common to your field, swap book recommendations, or just talk about ideas.  This can help you keep your finger on the pulse of your field, and when the time comes for you to return, your knowledge will be much more up to date.  I have found it useful to schedule lunches with colleagues- we choose a restaurant where I can bring the baby, and he rocks out in his car seat while I chat with my colleague about how things are going at work.  It’s a great way to stay connected.

2.       Keep learning.  There’s tons of professional development that you can work on while you’re home with a little one.  I regularly attend webinars, read and review books, and work on online courses.  You might find great resources in podcasts (which you can listen to in the car or on transit) email lists, or online conferences.  In technology fields, this is particularly important- keeping abreast of current technology makes it much easier to return to work. Professional development can take a bit of a monetary investment, but consider it an investment that will return to you and then some by increasing your future earning power.

3.       Keep that resume or portfolio up to date!  You never know when opportunities are going to come your way.  Even if you’re not ready to return to work, you may want to use your skills through volunteer positions, or take on a part time position- and it’s so much easier to jump on those opportunities when your resume is ready to go.  As well, keep your Linkedin profile updated- recruiters are increasingly using the service to find talent, and they may be looking for someone like you! Likewise, keep in touch with some potential references, you never know when you’ll need them.

4.       Keep sharing your knowledge.  In many fields, there are publications, conferences, and symposiums where experts can share knowledge they have gained through their work.  Even if you’re not working currently, you likely still have some specialty knowledge to share- and a leave can be a great time to give a conference talk or write an article, since you won’t have full time work as well as kids and day-to-day tasks competing for your attention.  Likewise, volunteer work can be a great way to give back and keep sharing your skills.  Look into volunteer positions with local organizations. You can build your networks this way as well!

With some added effort, keeping your career aspirations alive while you’re away from work can make your return much smoother.  No matter how long you’re away, you will have relevant skills and knowledge to share, and it will be much easier to communicate your value to your employer and avoid losing out on potential earning power!

When she’s not making play-doh spaceships with her two young sons, Jenny Hill, CPLP creates engaging, accessible, and effective learning experiences, so learners can reach their potential and do their most meaningful work.  You can contact her on LinkedIn at

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The annoyance of dance

Trying to sign your kids up for ballet is the nightmare that doesn't end.

First of all, never do it mid-January because nothing is open for registration / everything that would have been open is full.

Secondly, hardly any of them list the pricing, which is super important to me, actually. I want my kids to dance, yes, but I also don't have limitless funds.

Third, it's really hard to buy ballet gear. I'm going to have to try Sports Authority, I guess, since Walmart, Target and Kmart had nothing.

Fourth, I know it's super expensive, and for all that money (however much it is) you only get an hour a week. I'd like two, please. Two days of class a week would be nice. My kids aren't going to remember between sessions, you know?

Fifth, what is with "dance homework"? --Listen to 20 minutes of your favorite classical music every day. Do ten push ups and sit ups for strength. Etc. I'm just not that dedicated to my children's advancement in the arts, to be honest. I'm a horrible parent and would rather have them doing dishes for me and such.

That's all for today. Just needed to complain about dance.



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