I keep wondering how everyone is doing out there and thought it was a good time to check in and see how everyone’s boat is managing through this storm. For the past few months, my motivating thought has been, “Think spring, think vaccine.” Each time I get frustrated, nervous, or anxious, this is what I tell myself over and over… until this morning.
On May 3rd I went for my first vaccine shot. Spring has definitely sprung already, and I was kind of forced to recognize, “Okay, now what?” It’s almost summer and I am already on my vaccine journey, so what thought is going to keep me going and what kind of hope and motivation can I provide to others on the days that this all feels like it’s too much?
So I started to reflect on my “why”. Why do I do what I do? Why live a life dedicated to defining and providing quality child care? To be quite frank, childcare is not easy… it’s not easy for the educator, the child, or the family. I know I don’t need to tell this to the families as I see that it’s felt throughout the centre, but we truly believe the field of childcare is a field of care, and we care for those in our charge with our whole being. You see the care we give and in return we really appreciate care and consideration you treat the team with. You bring us treats, you phone when we are closed just to see how we are doing, you write the loveliest cards that highlight your time with us, you stay connected, you come to visit, you donate your loved clothes and toys, and, most of all, you have kept us in your thoughts and choices this last year, minimizing who you see outside of the centre, wearing your masks at drop-off and pick-up, and really being vocal of your appreciation of the job we are doing. This all matters more than you know and we deeply appreciate it.
The more I’ve thought on this, the more it became apparent what my “why” is… YOU are my why – the children, the families, and the educators. It’s my community, the community I draw on for support, that I surround myself with, the thoughts and perspectives that I value and the energy and motivation to come back another day. It’s the impact that we make on individual children, the transforming support that we provide parents, and sometimes it’s just being the cheerleader who sees the hard work and effort you are giving.
Life is hard, and this last year has proven just how hard it can be just to keep yourself together – brushing teeth, groceries, housekeeping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and isolation… Life is tough, and so often we walk around feeling like we are failing at every level! But it is so much easier when you have a community of support behind you. I know because I feel like I have the best community of support behind me; it’s what connects me, makes me come back, brush myself off, and try again another day.
With that in mind I have decided upon my new mantra and motivating goal. For the remainder of the year, we are going to grab each and every little occasion, success, and good news story, and celebrate it with the intensity that life deserves. I want to invite you all to join us as we take the time to recognize and celebrate what we do and the why of what we do and celebrate our effort.
International Mud Day
June is an exciting month to start! We have one of my favourite June days: International Mud Day! International Mud Day is taking Thistleoaks by storm this year. We are determined to get so acquainted with mud that parents will wonder at bath time, “How are you still this dirty?!” and “How did you even get mud there??!”
My other invitation to you all is to join us in our celebration of Pride Month, a month dedicated to proudly celebrating the diversity in our community. As early childhood educators, we know it is essential to create welcoming environments that reflect and support the diversity of the families, children, and Educators at Thistleoaks. We want the children to be proud of themselves and their families, and we want to provide opportunities for children to increase their tolerance, understanding, and acceptance of themselves and others. One of my favourite things about childcare is that, along with being a field of care, it’s also a field of allies, inclusion, diversity, love, and acceptance. This year, we are going to celebrate Pride Month in style. To kick off our month of celebration, Tuesday June 1st will be a centre-wide Rainbow Day. We will be bursting colour into all areas of our program – even our menu, celebrating with rainbow snacks, desserts, and other creations. We are inviting the children to express themselves and the pride that they have by wearing rainbow colours and the colours that they love the most.
Now I know many of you are wondering, how can parents support and participate? I have put some links at the bottom of this message so that you can join in at home. I have included quite a few links to YouTube (which is not my ideal form of sharing as I love the children’s section of the library). I encourage you to check out one of my favorites on this topic: Drag Queen Story Time, which shines a light on a fun and engaging way to expose and promote an attitude of acceptance, love, and diversity.
One area that I am excited to share my vision around is for our “classrooms”. In the childcare field we look at ourselves as educators and co-learners with the children, but it's important to recognize that learning and development at this stage is different than a school’s classroom and curriculum approach. We are there to grow with them and support the children as they become more independent, confident, and resilient in a warm and welcoming natural environment. We foster a love of learning and provide opportunities to increase their natural curiosities, and support them as they work through big emotions and figure out their place in the world. We encourage them to love others the way they want to be loved, to focus on what it means to be a good citizen, both of the centre and of the community, and to find their place in this world with confidence and pride. One of the ways we do this is by creating warm and inviting home like environments for the children and Educators to spend their time in vs a traditional “classroom” setting.
Our first step in this direction will be our language. Rather than calling them ‘classrooms’, we have started to identify them as our ‘Learning Environments’. We want to focus on bringing beauty and nature into the centre while removing the sterile coldness that a classroom can sometimes bring. This includes designs such as flexible seating to give the children options to sit or stand at a table, having tables that are lower to the ground that require no chairs, and bringing in larger pieces of furniture where children and educators can sit together to work through big emotions, snuggle if it’s hard to wake up after nap, or just a place to curl up and share a love of literacy with each other and connect. Rest assured, I am not putting softness back in the rooms without planning for the pandemic. Thistleoaks has purchased a fogging machine and a steam cleaner with carpets being fogged once in the afternoon, then again at the end of the day and all soft furnishings are being steam-cleaned at night. We still won’t be adding in soft cuddly toys at this point, but they will be reintroduced once it is safe to do so.
Setting up alternative learning environments is something that is really exciting for me. I have had the most fun researching, and I even stumbled across some great educator blogs that explored the idea of flexible seating. I even hilariously made a connection with a centre over in New Zealand called New Shoots Child Care Centre. I would love to invite you to explore with me. In July I will be launching our Thistleoaks Pinterest account (pinterest.ca/ThistleoaksCCC) to share some visuals of my visions, thoughts and directions that I have for the centre.
I have thought long and hard about communication. I believe it is essential to child care, but feel that we can do better in how we communicate with our families. While the weekly emails are a good tool to deliver time-relevant information, upcoming deadlines, etc., and remind parents that we are here and they can reach out if needed, our monthly newsletters are an area we will be updating moving forward. Starting in September, we will be launching Phenomenal Findings. Our intent is to create a centre-wide newsletter that will focus on the learning that has taken place in the month prior, and highlight what we’ve been exploring with the children. My belief is that effective communication has to be both relevant and engaging and so I encourage you to share any thoughts, questions, or subjects that are of interest such as something you would like to know more about in childcare, child development, the struggles of being a parent, at-home learning, or anything else, please send us some questions and we can use them when planning topics of communication within our future communications.
Parent Engagement Opportunities
Parent engagement is important to me and a part of my role that I enjoy the most. Supporting the children is only achievable when both the educators and their families are engaged and working together. I can’t tell you how much I have missed my opportunities to connect with you all this past year and all of the holidays, celebrations, and touchpoints we would normally have. So let’s fix this!
While you might not be able to come into the centre, it doesn’t mean that you can’t come out to the centre. As Thistleoaks is a large centre with a lot going on there is always a crew at the centre on weekends taking care of it. If you are interested, we have many little gardens around the centre that need weekend tending and a few families have taken to coming out on weekends to give them some love. If you would like to connect and support us, please reach out and we would love to connect you with a natural talent you have and a need the centre requires.
Board of Directors Recruitment
We are also at that time of year that we start to look for new additions to our Board of Directors. When running a not-for-profit, it is important to have diverse board, but in the running of a child care centre it is critical to have adequate parent representation on the board. The parents are connected and directly impacted by the care that we provide. If you have questions or would like to chat first to see if it’s an opportunity you are interested in please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find more information, including the application form, at thistleoaks.ca/jointheboard.
Before I sign off, I just want to tell you all what an amazing job you are all doing; this year hasn’t been easy but with the trust and confidence you have instilled in us here I can’t thank you enough. You have been our cheerleaders all the way through and I can only hope that you’ve felt the same support back from us. I cannot wait to hear all the good news and celebrations that you have to share. I am proud to say that Thistleoaks remains COVID-clear, thanks to you and the amazing team of Educators we have.
Books and Resources
Mr. Shawn’s Story Time - Mr. Shawn has his own YouTube channel, is a stay-at-home dad, and has worked as a librarian for ten years. He has some fantastic rainbow books to explore such as Sparkle Boy, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, Prince & Knight, and a great collection of playlists of childrens books: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9PknKue55Jnn_W3Xwrv5UA
Worm Loves Worm - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1A78frDhJsc
I Am Perfectly Designed - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9UtYtbCQrk&t=418s
Drag Queen Story Hour - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye_DsH3En70
Drag Queen Storytime - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3y3ZIBN7fc
Fay and Fluffy Storytime is fundamental - https://fayandfluffy.com/
I Am Jazz - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF5D2lsPfsU
Resources for talking to your child about Pride Month -https://www.first5napa.org/posts/how-to-talk-about-lgbtq-pride-month-with-your-child/
Mommy, Mama and Me - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d16pjJBSu4c
My Shadow is Pink - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53ipg9ImrPU