A True Story and Real Life Dilemma

oppossum

The following is a true story. By the time this is posted, I will have added a photo. For now, the story is more important:

Early in our camping experience last summer, my granddaughter and I heard my Jack Russell Terrier barking and came upon a baby opossum peeking out from behind our generator bin. It was frightened and clearly a bit young to be wandering around on its own.
I called the dog off and she scampered out of sight. (I say “she” because Nature makes females a bit more sturdy and independent early on. I will never know her true gender but my guess is an educated one.)
She appeared once more that day around our log splitter. This uncharacteristic sighting made me snap a photo and assume “something” had happened to her mother. When I told my husband, he said he had seen a dead baby opossum in the nearby bushes, the day before. Seems my “guess” had more legitimacy after that.
It was Sunday, and we were hours from leaving for home. I had learned from other lessons of interfering with Nature, that my human instinct to “get involved” was not always wise for either the wild animal or for my heart. I felt I just HAD to give her a chance. She had survived, so far, and although I could not take responsibility for her, I didn’t have to all-together turn my back.
Just before I left, I took a large handful of dry dog food and piled it, undercover, near the generator bin. With a heavy heart, I went home.
The next week, the dog food and opossum were gone.
I thought of her often throughout the summer. I also accepted the “not knowing” of what happened to her a mixed blessing.
Around the middle of October, my dog came strutting back to my campsite with a prize catch. My heart sank! He had caught and killed a juvenile opossum. It was from under the place where I had, months before, left the dog food. Even this moment, my heart is racing and my stomach is turning at the telling of an “almost” triumphant tale.
I have little doubt that the opossum was the orphan I had met in June. She HAD survived but had not learned enough to continue to survive.
This winter’s harshness has made me consider her violent end a possible blessing against the option of freezing or starving. Without a mother, her instincts may not have well prepared her.
The moral of this story, that I hold on to, is that I HAD cared. That I HAD tried to help. I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) have done more and that I really need to let go of the heart-sickening guilt I keep revisiting.
There would be those who would say, “You didn’t care or do enough.”
I would beg to differ.
The sick feeling in my stomach while writing this is still there.
I also had asked myself a number of questions. Here’s a few:
Can I find her in time?
Is her mother temporarily trapped in a dumpster and might she return?
How could I safely capture and transport her in the same car as my dog?
Would I really be offering her a better life by interfering?
Would my husband’s opinions on my decision matter?
Is there a law against bringing wild animals into a day care setting?
Would the Animal Hospital accept her?
How terrified would she be in all this?
Yes…I DID care deeply but I knew that caring didn’t give me the “right” to affect absolute changes nor did it protect me from possibly doing more harm than good.
I’ve learned a lot from this experience. I hope in telling this story, “little opossum’s”, AND my dilemma, speaks to you.
Don’t forget…I also may be wrong in my conclusion that every sighting of an opossum was the SAME opossum. And that my friends, is where hope lives.

To Infinity and beyond… Child Care Fun

Ava

Ava

I couldn’t imagine a happier profession than mine.

As a child day care provider, I get to play with kids everyday. Ideas are my passion and kids have the BEST ideas!

Yesterday, two of my 4-year-old friends and I had a lovely discussion.
My first question was, “How might I get to the moon?”

Jasen: “You would need super shoes to jump up there.”

Me: “Where might I get those super shoes?”

Jasen: “At Super Walmart, of course.”

We discussed the moon further and decided that we would need a gravity suit and air tanks and a Super Parachute (available, also, at Super Walmart).

Me: “There’s too much to jump with. How might we get our supplies up there?”

Jasen: “We’ll need a truck!”

Me: “There’s no road to the moon. How about a rocket ship?”

Jasen:”Where do we buy a rocket ship?”

Me: “Scientists have them at NASA.”

With that problem solved, I moved on.

Me:”How do farmers plant seeds in their fields?”

Ava and Jasen: “They dig a hole with a shovel and drop in the seeds.”

Me: “That would take too long for a farmer to plant 500 seeds. How do farmers plant so many seeds in good time?”

Ava: “They ask 500 friends to come over and dig a hole.”

Me: :”That’s a great way to save time! Good idea. But, the farmer would need 500 shovels, wouldn’t he? I don’t think he can get that many at Super Walmart. It would cost a lot and the inventory(I explained what inventory meant.) isn’t that large!”

So, I introduced and  talked about tractors and planters and plows.

Me:” Now, how will the farmer water her seeds?” … Notice the gender change 😉

Jasen:” She can get a hose.”

“Me: “I don’t think that there are hoses long enough for big fields.”

Ava: “I know! It will rain sometimes.”

Me:” Super Ava! That is what the farmers hope for. On a rainy day, remember that the farmers are happy.”

Jasen: “What if there are puddles?”

Me: “You are right, Jasen! Sometimes, there is too much rain and the farmers hope for the sun to come out to dry up those fields. Last Spring, my uncle and cousin, couldn’t drive their tractors on the muddy ground. They were very worried. Boy, farmers really need to count on the weather, don’t they?”

Our conversation progressed through the steps that produce takes to reach their dinner table. During the discussion, we realized the need for refrigerator trucks too.
We had one great afternoon!

What fun it is to be an early childhood educator! I get to witness that wide-eyed wonder every single day along with many opportunities for chuckles. 😉

Today? Well, we’ll see what comes up. It’s going to be fun!

The Positive Power of Peer Pressure

tex playing video games

tex playing video games (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Competition for kids is not only good for them, it is essential to their well-being.
The approach of parents and schools to reduce competition is, in my opinion, misguided. It seems to me that as in many things, nowadays, the real value is overlooked in favor of “kindness”.

Johnny wins the spelling bee. Sally tried very hard, studied very hard and wanted the shiny medal very much. She cries for a moment when she loses. Johnny, on the other hand, jumps up and down and shakes the medal at Sally.

First, crying and being disappointed isn’t fatal. But let the scene play out.

Johnny’s applause fades quickly (due to his flaunt) and classmates move in to console Sally and give her an “atta girl” rally. If she cries for too long, though, she’ll learn sympathy has a limit.

To interrupt what seemed to be a cruel scene in the beginning, would have stripped every kid of lessons in sportsmanship and human decency.

Johnny feels embarrassed for flaunting and sorry for Sally, whom he never intended to hurt. All the kids, notice that. Sally got the reward of friendship and support. All the kids, notice that too. Both kids survive the event with a clear message that losing is not the worst but poor sportsmanship is ugly. 

Society has weakened the effectiveness of peer pressure by regarding it as, primarily, negative. I’m asking you to consider what we lose when we deem competition and peer pressure unhealthy? Just as a body kept safe from germs fails to build antibodies, children kept safe from competition fail to build character. Peer pressure is the key tool in directing a positive result.

Both Johnny and Sally survive their embarrassment and disappointment, respectively. (Surviving adversity is one fine lesson, as well.) Each will react differently the next time they are exposed to competition. I’d advise, keep it coming until it becomes as much a part of them as saying, “Please and Thank-you.”

Dog trainers all agree that, in order to have a well-rounded happy pet, owners must socialize them while young. Their brilliant premise is built upon other dogs correcting un-dog-like behavior while dogs are formative.

No, I don’t think kids are animals but as human beings (who are basically very good and much more complex) they have an awful lot to learn from peer pressure.

Now, consider kids who have been protected from “real life” lessons (tears, anger, sympathy and hurt) and plop them in front of video games. No peer pressure in video games. There is one objective…WIN. Nameless, cold opponents don’t cry. Flaunting is encouraged AND if you don’t win, you can quit by pulling a plug!

Funny thing is, another misguided solution would be to take the video games away too. Apparently, some people aren’t getting the BIG picture.

The Heart of Things

seeds 002between

When children don’t like green beans,

I ask them just to taste.

There are so many new things,

So little time to waste.

A new idea’s a wonder.

Embrace it, oh so, much.

The world is ours to play with,

We must reach out and touch.

“Seeing is believing”,

That’s how the saying goes.

Appreciate those pictures from

The part of life that shows.

Give everything a sniff test.

Aromas stir the mind.

 What’s good or may be rotten,

Applies to all you find.

Best of these, you listen.

Collect, then take apart.

Senses are your data bank,

but,

Actions need your heart.

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This is my 600th post in my blog.

I wanted it to be special…

Artists come from Copycats

There is much to be learned from children.

Thankfully, I have grandchildren who will “keep it fresh” when I retire from providing day care. I’ve watched kids for the better part of my life. One thing I have  attempted, is to reevaluate my preconceived notions of how they learn on a frequent basis. Remembering moments of inspiration, from my own childhood, have proven of extra value.

When I draw flowers, there’s my flashback moment to a time I had seen a fellow middle school student draw a lovely daisy. It was not face-front with even petals (the childhood normal) but “danced” on a crooked stem and drooped to one side. That moment changed my view of flower drawings forever. In fact, it was a moment of artistic maturing that improved how I would approach all future drawings.

The old saying, “Don’t be a copycat.” is total bunk in my modern approach. I’ve found this especially true from watching the children’s visual arts evolve. I spent many years with a policy that I should not draw around the kids. I believed that my skills might discourage them or take away the purity of being original. Luckily, I just couldn’t help joining in at “art time” because, gosh, it’s fun. It became clear to me that many of my kids became happier artists from following my lead.

My most recent example happened last week. I was tired of my blank dry erase board so I created a Springtime scene as I bopped around my kitchen cooking supper. The kids noticed it the next day and studied it often. My 7-year-old granddaughter asked if she might add to the board. I said sure and handed her the markers. When she asked me to see what she had done, I had expected my drawing to have been replaced with a messier version according to her skills. Below is  the amended piece.

Katherine added two flowers and one lady bug. I rest my case.

art

Schools-what do we learn?

homeschooling afternoon

homeschooling afternoon (Photo credit: hbakkh)

There is an urban myth that public schooling is the best method by which we can teach children social skills. In fact, that is the primary argument against home-schooling. I beg to differ.

There’s a growing concern that public schools are failing our kids in a BIG way. There are many dedicated teachers, who do an excellent job, but the teachers’ unions protect not only the good teachers but the bad ones too.

When we are faced with the expensive and ,I believe, better alternative of home-schooling, there is the concern about the proper “socialization” of these kids.

We don’t do “sex education” before we feel a child is mature enough but we send kids off to school, at a tender age, for their first exposure to bullies, ridicule and peer pressure. They will be measured by grades and learning styles and will be kept in the classroom for the great majority of their learning experience. Hopefully, this classroom will have an orderly atmosphere and a small group but that is not guaranteed. Actually, it’s a “crap shoot” that your child’s classmates will be a “good” group. Sometimes, there is a larger number of “mis-behavers” and that is simply up to chance and timing. Teachers are not to blame,at all, but ask them and they will volunteer, readily, their memories of “good groups”.

A home-schooled child can visit real-life situations (grocery stores, parks, libraries etc.), as often as, Mom or Dad deems necessary. A “busy” child can be offered hands-on experiences and more breaks, as often as, he/she needs and the parent can correct bad manners as they present themselves in those real life situations.

There are youth sports and music organizations, available to the public, for the lessons needed in cooperation, and the taking of instruction from authority figures other than parents. The education is ongoing, year round, when the “teachers” are always present and fully aware of the curriculum.

It is so very sad that most parents haven’t the option of home-schooling. I do expect a growing trend of home-schooling, though. Families may re-evaluate the need and budget in a way to make it happen. Actually, the current stress on incomes causing grandparents to become household members, may offer them as home-school teachers or helpers with the family budget, affording parents the chance to teach.

The whole idea of home-schooling being a poor option is simply, not true, and cannot be supported by urban legends.

Those who have the ability and means to do it, have my thumbs up.

Art Awakenings

37506_441327983827_530328827_5763961_6087928_nIt was from listening to the school-aged kids talking among themselves, that I came to this “train of thought”. They were discussing their favorite subjects and had the same ones that I had always enjoyed…Art, Music and Gym class.

As my mind considered a profound post requesting the incorporation of all early childhood subjects into the “fave three”, I realized it is already done in the better schools (including home schools).

Another impetus to this post, was last night’s longing to dabble with art again. I’m no professional but have sold a few pieces and enjoy the act of visual art creation, very much. The computer has allowed my creative juices to be released in writing to the extent of overlooking a “lost love”. It is easier to sit down to a computer than to drag out art supplies in the company of children. An art studio would fulfill many dreams, indeed, but isn’t happening in the near future.

Then I began a mental journey. Just when, where, why and how did I become an artist? I realized that there was one moment that gave me a “sight” that would give me pleasure for the rest of my life.

First, I have always wanted to be art artful. I have guided many preschoolers in their elementary art. Some kids, just aren’t interested. But, offering them the “sight” is what I’m really after.

What is the “sight”? It is the ability to disengage our minds from what we are looking at. Remember when kids draw their first pictures of pets? They put two eyes on one side of the animal’s head and the legs always count to four even when they are not really visible. They have yet to learn to “see” only what is there, not what they know is there.

I was lousy at art. I can still see the red-letter “C-” on a fourth grade diagram of a house fly. Then in sixth grade, and amazingly with a not yet dead interest , our class was given a science/art project on behalf of animal conservation. It is amazing that my Art classes had been devoid of Art learning to this point. In those days, it was all about producing a picture suitable for sending home, more than an education in the Arts.

I chose to reproduce a poster of a squirrel. As I struggled with the seemingly enormous task, my science teacher recommended that I turn the poster upside-down and try to draw the lines as I saw them. Eureka! That is where, when, why and how I learned to “see” the whole world differently.

I can attribute the ember of art desire, that I still had, directly to seeing country artists on hillsides with pads and paints. I specifically recall pressing my face to the car window and admiring them while thinking, “I want to do that.” Makes me wonder how they learned to “see”?

You want to hear something really cool? When I have spent a day drawing or painting, I see things especially clearly. Another world opens up! If I ride along in my car, everything becomes color and lines beyond notice to the average “eye”. Having experienced this, enlightens me to one reason why the “masters” wanted to stay inside that “world”.

I’d like everyone to have the opportunity to see the world just like that, now and then. I offer this to my kids and hope they are able to use their eyes separate from their minds. Heck, we already know kids use their mouths, that way, all the time. 😉

Searching for Clues: Short Stories

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories

The Oxford Book of English Short Stories (Photo credit: dalcrose)

A well-written short story is ripe with clues.

In one of my more recent blog posts, (In Defense of BIG kids…) I make a point about how often people can overlook keywords and how it can be responsible for misunderstandings.

Today, I added a blog post to my category Random Word Stories. These are short stories that I create using random words. The fun part is that I create the stories as an exercise. I limit my writing to “one sitting” which has never gone on for more than an hour. When I polish my ideas for posting, I find the adding of details, as clues, to be the deciding factor between just a story and a good story.

It occurred to me, shortly after my exercise, how valuable short stories are when training young readers to recognize clues. This would translate very well to the greater purpose of kids learning to discriminate among clues and keywords they deal with elsewhere.

http://wp.me/pTYEI-1RM

I’ve provided a link, above, to my newest story.

There are poignant questions that could be asked about the story.

  • What may have clouded Mia’s judgement in selecting a roommate?
  • Did her occupation affect her judgement?
  • What might she have done differently?
  • What may have been warning signs of Holt’s problems?
  • The story ends on a humorous note…what may she have asked on the questionnaire?
  • What did bubblegum have to do with anything?

Certainly, there seems to be much material for discussion in such a short piece. Short stories make great homework assignments too. Their weight is not encumbering when it comes to time spent.

Perhaps I have stumbled upon a marketable use for my better stories? My new project will be to make them age and subject appropriate, of course.  🙂

Birding with My Granddaughter

2651594282_ef987cc879_bThe human brain is a fascinating subject. I can’t get too much information about what scientists are finding to be “the way we learn and remember”. As an early childhood educator, the little “sponges” around me have me in awe.

I remember showing my daughter her first glimpse of a butterfly in the wild. She was about 18 months old and quite a chatterbox. She returned to the same spot…same flower, the next day and asked, “Butterfly?”. My first parental reaction was, “Wow! I have a genius on my hands!” Then the truth grabbed me. Of course she’d think about butterflies in that spot. That’s the only place her brain has ever witnessed one.

Adults have so many more experiences and, therefore, filter and connect images and ideas in a “wasteful” way. We have to cast off some of our information in order to keep a tidy collection. Kids are that wonderful “clean slate” that we adore. It’s no wonder that kids can learn multiple languages far more easily than adults. They have no competing categories or files in their brains to interfere with their memorization efforts.

Keeping this in mind, I have tried to make up little games with my granddaughter in order to teach her to notice and identify birds by their songs. I must have done this instinctively with my day care babies because I was stopped in the grocery store by a few parents and grandparents who pointed the “blame” for their nature walk interruptions on me.

“He just froze and said, Hear that Grandma? That’s Mr. Blue Jay singing.”

“She kept shushing me as we walked so she could listen for the birds.”

I just love hearing such “complaints”!

As for my granddaughter and me, we make up our own little phrases for familiar bird songs. I don’t know if there are different bird dialects but sometimes the professional translations just don’t fit the sounds that we hear. The only one that seems universal is the Chickadee. “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee” is our translation too…but we also know there is a sound that Chickadees make other than their name. We think it says “JEAN-nee”.

Eastern Phoebes are our favorite. Their first part sounds something like “Phoebe…Phoebe” but it ends with “She DID it!”.  At least that is our own label and it always makes us laugh.

When we look through books, I will point out the birds and reminder her of our own game and the sounds. Recently, I pointed out a Nuthatch in a book and reminded her of that bird who’s always laughing at us from the trees.

I cannot emphasize enough what a wonderful world we can open up to kids when we teach them to listen and notice what too many adults have no time for.

“Tuning in” on Nature

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I spent most of my Autumn getting caught up in the political debates. It was a depressing time for me. I felt agitated and angry, as well as, without hope. My journals and photography went from plentiful and bright, to almost nothing.

Today, I posted in my Nature Knowledge category for the first time in months. It made me feel good. Then I happened upon 2 articles that gave definition to my happier endeavors. I’ve entitled the 2 links:

Seeing is Believing

and

Connecting with Nature

Disconnecting from social media in favor of being outdoors is a prescription for true happiness. One of my status posts during the political rumble of last Fall asked everyone to stop labeling each other and look at their neighbors. I dared them to find bigots, baby killers and ugly Americans. In taking my own advice, I noticed charity, compassion and goodwill surrounded me.

The first article, linked above, clearly states that what we see is too often predicted by what we expect to see. The second article is a scientific experiment about our brains and what technology does to us.

I believe spending time with Nature is an awesome learning experience. Mother Nature has no agenda but for life. She can be cruel but never hateful. She can be beautiful but never vain. When I feel depressed and without hope, I choose to listen to Nature with my eyes and heart wide open. I suggest we introduce our children to that wonder for their own happiness and future.