Yoga Teacher Training Reflection

This morning I am finishing my written exam for Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), and later today I graduate with my peers from the Heart Space Yoga Studio – 200 hour program. I feel so much gratitude for this experience.

Back in 2015, a couple of months after my mom’s death, I was on vacation in Cape Cod and I knew I needed to do something for myself to heal. So I sent an email to get enrolled in a Yoga Teacher Training. It felt like a way to reorient my own ‘true north’.

Back in 1996, when I was 21, and seeking clarity in my life path, I traveled to Val Morin, Quebec to do my first YTT. It gave me the chance to fully focus on myself, work on my ‘stuff’, and helped me become clear on my vision for life. Now almost two decades later I thought it was time to enroll again in another YTT.

That year I got eight months into the training I realized that I couldn’t finish. I hit a wall with too many things happening in my life and the one thing that I felt was ‘for me’ had to wait. I had hit that ‘pause button’ for three years, and when I started again in the fall of 2018, I knew that the timing was just right.

Grieving is hard work, and I feel we live in a culture that doesn’t understand how to create ‘safe space’ for this phase. We are expected to hurry through our sadness and to not show signs of how much we are hurting, but I think it is in experiencing those feelings that we begin to live into our fullness.

For me, the lesson of  my parents’ early death made me realize that I don’t want to postpone JOY. I don’t want to wait to chase my dreams. I don’t want to fill my life with busy-ness.

My lifelong setpoint is “happy-go-lucky” but this grieving phase of life had me feeling Eyeore-ish. It was so foreign and uncomfortable. Through yoga, I was making time for myself to shed the tears, to do the inner work, and to be comfortable enough to ask for help. Through yoga, we each go for our own reasons. For me, I seek finding home and feeling whole.

For me, Yoga Teacher Training has helped my compass re-adjusting. I know that life will never feel like it used to…and that is okay. My mom had always been ‘true north’ for me, and when she was gone, I felt lost at sea. Somehow, Yoga Teacher Training, is what brought me back on course, taught me how to adjust the sails, and helped me feel like I found solid ground.

With gratitude to my fellow yogis….

 

With gratitude to my teachers….

“Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realise; Be good, Do good, Be kind, Be compassionate.” ~ Swami Sivanada

Andrea Thibideau and the Heart Space Yoga Studio

Seeds, seeds, seeds

As spring begins to arrive we start to think about sprouting seeds and begin dreaming of our gardens. There are countless different ways for us to explore, examine, investigate, germinate, and even feast on seeds. Here is just a sampling of the seed investigations that I have offered, throughout the year, in the preschool programs I have taught in.

Some of favorite seed investigations include:

Seed Exploration Bin – add a variety of seeds or dry beans for closer observation and exploration. Larger seeds such as sunflower, wheat, peas, corn, pumpkin, and beans are great for sensory bins. If you have a large collection of seeds, put them into a bin so kids can scoop, sort, and pour.

Seed Exploration Trays – If you have a small amount of seeds, use trays with bowls.Try saving seeds pods from nature to explore as a cost free alternative. I keep a metal cookie tin in my science center with a nice variety of seeds for children to explore.

“Ziploc Greenhouse & Bean Seeds” – soak beans overnight. Decorate their own greenhouse sheet. Child moistens a paper towel and folds & lays it in the bottom of their Ziploc baggie. Place 3-4 bean seeds onto the towel and partly close the bag. Tape bag to the greenhouse and hang in window. Observe the greenhouse each day and record on “My Observation Log” sheet. (Note: if your classroom windows are cold because of outdoor freezing temperatures, do not hang them in the window because the germination will slow or not sprout at all.) Free printable here: http://kindergartencrayons.blogspot.com/2013/04/growing-beans-like-jack-did-freebie-fun.html

 

Greenhouse – small collapsible ‘greenhouses’ can be purchased such as this one pictured on the right. This mini four shelf unit with a plastic zippered covering was sold at our local Ocean State Job Lots for only $20. This allowed me to grow a larger number of seeds so we could have seedlings both for our school garden and for children to take home seedlings!

Seed Trays Indoors – children delight in seeing multiple types of seeds sprouting next to each other in a tray. It is fun to do daily observations of the sprouts to compare growth, color, texture, and germination rates! If you have access to a grow light and warming seed mat the seeds will grow stronger, but even a sunny window is enough for our young scientists

Seed and Plant Matching – print the matching cards from http://www.montessoriprintshop.com/Free_Montessori_Downloads.html

Have small containers of the nine types of seeds. Display the seeds with the matching cards – Sunflower, Pumpkin, Sesame, Flax, Fennel, Cumin, Poppy, Pomegranate, and Mustard. Children love this matching game!

 

 “Our Seed Book” – this site has 4 different printable covers and detailed directions here http://www.prekinders.com/2012/04/make-a-seed-book/   This Ziploc bag book is made with empty seed packets and real seeds. It’s great to compare the sizes, colors, and shapes of seeds.

 

Examining Seeds – open several seed packets and compare the size, color, and shape of the seeds! Children are often surprised to find out that some seeds have a scent, which is easiest to detect with herb seeds.

Seed Sprouting Necklaces – moisten a cotton ball and put it inside a mini jeweler’s Ziploc bag. Add a seed and close the bag. Poke a hole in the top of the bag and add a yarn or hemp necklace. Make the length of the necklace so it fall where the child’s heart is ~ the warmth of their heart will help the sprout grow. After the roots and first leaves appear, transplant into a small pot and then later into the garden when it’s warm.

Surprise Garden –let children choose from 6-8 different types of seeds, they plant their own container. Let them sprout at school, then send home. Send a list of plants that might be included in the garden.

Sprouting in a Jar – a fun year-round activity is to grow sprouts in mason jars. Start them on Monday and by the end of the week the children can feast on a fresh batch of sprouts!

Finding the Seeds– bring in a variety of fresh fruits and veggies. Cut them open and have the kids help you find where the seeds are located. Scoop and spread out the seeds to dry. These can be planted (though some may not sprout) and others could be used in art projects.  Also try finding seeds in other foods we eat….such as delicious local bagels!

No sun. No soil. No Water. Experiment-take three Ziploc bags and write one sentence on each. One another bag add a small amount of dirt, some water, and three bean seeds. In each other the other bags add three bean seeds and do whatever the sentence says. (ex. the ‘no sun’ bag add the beans, dirt, and water but hide it in a shady place) Observe the bags for a couple of weeks and discuss the results.

Harvesting Seeds – look around outdoors for dry seed pods either from the garden or the wild garden in the forest. Lupine is one type of seeds that are easy for little hands to harvest and then can spread the native species seeds on the edges of the school yard!

Exotic Fruit – children develop their palette in early childhood…so why not bring in unusual and exotic fruits. Try to see how different seeds look in fruits from other parts of the world.

Seeds & Balance Scales- another way to explore seeds to weigh and compare them using balance scales

Grass Heads – this project helps children see how grass or wheat grows. First decorate small clear cups with wiggly eyes and construction paper glued on. (The clear cups let children see the roots, but small pots could also be used.) After the faces are dry, add a small amount of rocks in the bottom of the cup for drainage. Then add potting soil leaving ½ an inch from the top of the cup. Finally add the wheat seeds. Moisten the soil and mist once a day until it sprouts. Show kids how to give their ‘Grass Head’ a haircut.

So many engaging ways to explore seeds….all while dreaming of the days when the garden is in bloom again!

Books about Seeds:

A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds by J. Richards

A Seed is Sleepy by D. H. Aston

From Seed to Plant by Allan Fowler

From Seed to Pumpkin by W. Pfeffer

How a Seed Grows by H. Jordan

I’m a Seed by J. Marzollo (compares pumpkin to marigolds)

Just a Seed by W. Blaxland

Oh Say Can You Seed? All About Flowering Plants by B. Worth

One Little Seed by E. Greenstein

Seeds Like These by Paki Carter

Spring is Here! A Story About Seeds by Joan Holub

The Carrot Seed by R. Krauss

The Surprise Garden by Zoe Hall

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

We Plant a Seed (Troll First Start Science)

Ode to Teacher Tom

Happy Birthday shout out to the one and only Teacher Tom…

I have been reading educational, holistic living, early childhood, parenting and mommy blogs for more than a decade, and one blog of stands out more than the rest. Teacher Tom! 

Teacher Tom is a play-based early childhood teacher based in Seattle and he writes about daily stories and tidbits from his classroom….but he seamlessly weaves in positive discourse about freedom, democracy, rights, and an unwavering trust in children.

Last summer I was near his stomping grounds and I was trying to summons the courage to ask to come visit his program. I typed up a catchy (albeit slightly “fangirl”) message but it sat unsent in my email under drafts. I was kind of giddy to at the thought of going to see his utopia first hand. Since Teacher Tom does claim his program to be the Center of the Universe, it really should be part of our one day stop in Seattle. Then the ‘rational gremlins’ came into my thinking I figured “Chances are too many people want to visit his classroom”. He is probably is turning them away in droves. So why bother asking.

Visiting with Teacher Tom might be as iconic as seeing the fish mongers toss fish!

I mean Teacher Tom is at least as famous as the Gum Wall!

We could even bring him a cup of coffee from a little cafe we learned about!

So I kinda regret not summoning the courage to ask for a tour or a meet up with Teacher Tom. But today as I read his daily post, I felt motivated to finally say thanks, and was moved to send this happy birthday blog post message, from the other side of the country.

Thank you, Teacher Tom for being a storyteller. A weaver of children’s experiences that powerfully demonstrate the deep engaged learning that can occur in a play-based early childhood education program. Thank you for showing us an example of honoring and trusting children to learn through self-directed play.

Honestly, over the years a few of your posts grate my “public school teacher” nerves. I’d read and grumble, “Teacher Tom…clearly out of touch with reality”. But I’d keep coming back to read because I know that his program is on to something, and through reading his approach I began to become clearer in my own approach to ECE. I agree that creating a high quality preschool program is essentially growing your “own unique and quirky community” that honors the place and people where the program is located. I continue to learn and grow through reading your blog, and hope that you continue to do so for many, many years!

Thank you for continuing to blog, Teacher Tom. If you find your way to Vermont, I have a tipi you can stay in or can build you snow quinzee. And if I find my way back to Seattle, I will dust off that email and ask to stop by!

Sincerely,

April

 

 

When Pigs Fly

Happy Lunar New Year! Today begins the “Year of the Pig” in the Chinese Zodiac! There are so many amazing activities that could be created for children to learn about the Chinese New Year, or an educator could take the opportunity to teach about pigs. As a nature inspired and Farm-to-School loving teacher, I would likely take the route of learning about how pigs are raised and maybe even try to visit a pig farm. In my experience children are shocked at how noisy and messy pigs can be, which is quite different from the cute pink pigs illustrated in children’s books.

I was inspired this morning to get out some supplies and try my hand at seeing if pigs really could fly. Turns out that this apparatus worked, but luckily, our beloved piggy bank didn’t want to fly too far from home!

May all April’s Teaching Tree readers have a year filled with abundance of love, comfort, health, good fortune, honesty, and prosperity. If you haven’t already please follow my blog by entering your email on the right. I promise never to share your email or treat you like a pig! 💗 🐷

 

Grieve through ART PLAY

To be clear, I am no grief expert and suggest that you talk with some more knowledgeable than me about your grief.

Today, I want to tell you a couple of ways to work through my grief. I feel like I could write a dissertation about this topic, but today I am setting a ten minute timer and offering just some first thoughts.

When I sat beside my mom’s bed and held her hand as she took her last breaths a song popped into my mind. So I sang as many of the lyrics as I could remember and her breathing changed, her body seemed to relax, and within the hour she was gone.

I went online and listened to the song and cried. I doodled. I cried. Repeat. Repeat.

I decided that the best way to grieve for myself, and for my children, was to intentionally make time to PLAY. I began to ask myself a very serious question, “Will this bring me JOY?” and if the answer was no, then I declined the commitment or wiggled out of saying yes. A couple of friends were offended, and then I told them that my life priorities had shifted to self care for myself and prioritizing my own family.

Art PLAY – open ended, process oriented art, and finding our laughter again. Multi-generational art play is the sweetest medicine for a grieving family! I am lucky to have a room in my home we call “The Studio”, put honestly, most days it was just a few markers at the dining room table. When you are grieving, give up on the idea of Pinterest worthy set ups…it is the “making” that matters to feed your soul, not creating a image for your social media feed.

Out of time to write today, but here is some advice I just posted to a friend:

“Lay out some water color paints, white paper, and other art supplies. Children have a beautiful way of expressing their thoughts, and when grown ups PLAY and explore the process of art the whole family can release. Our faith guides our words we say to children, and in my experiences the less I say and the more I listen, the better we all move through our grief. And DANCE parties in the kitchen, explain to kids that it is okay to feel both SAD and HAPPY and whole range of feelings after saying goodbye. So much love to you, please, take time to yourself as well.”

Thank you, Pete Seeger, your song continues to soothe generation!

Turn, Turn, Turn

Playgroup as a Life Line

Just before my son’s first birthday my husband and I decided to up and move to Northern Vermont, where we knew no one….literally no one. We had just sold our thirty acre family farm in Virginia, and my brother headed to California, my mom headed to more modern house in a city near the farm, and I headed 800 miles away with my husband and son. The first couple of months were mild weather and the excitement of unpacking the new house was keeping me busy, but then November arrived. The days were drab, the pretty leaves of fall were long gone, and the snow had yet to fall. I decided to make wellness appointments for myself and my son to meet our new primary care providers, and at my first appointment my nurse practitioner told me something shocking.

Essentially she said she doubted that I would thrive here, yes, maybe I could survive but likely not more than three years. She talked to me about Post-partum depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and social isolation. She gave me handouts to read and her gloomy outlook left me confused and little bit ticked off. I explained to her that I did not have any of those three issues (and I wanted to say, what right do you have to put that crap into my head?). I promptly went home and fumed about it with my husband, and then did the logical thing and searched the internet: “how to avoid social isolation when you live far from your support network and your PCP sucks”.

From my research I determined that step one was to meet real life friends who had similar aged children for at least once a week meet ups. I was delighted to find that there was a community playgroup less than a mile away from my house, and so twice a week, I had a reason to get up and out of the house by 9 a.m. to interact with other moms, and oh yeah, for my son to interact with other kids. This routine was a God-send because cabin-fever was setting in fast, and meeting new people in winter was hard. Through my other errands I would force myself to talk to other moms in the grocery store, or sign up for free events through the recreation department, but nothing worked its’ charm like the weekly playgroup. The young staff members had less early childhood education than me, but their kind words, enthusiastic energy, and parenting tips were just what I needed as I found my way in being the best mom I could be for my son.

I jokingly say that I went to that playgroup for three years straight, and they must have been exhausted seeing me. Playgroup though was a lifeline in figuring out how live in a new town, be a new mom, and it forced me to meet new mom-friends. The nurse practitioner was right in bringing my awareness to things that were not yet a problem, and I know her preventive approach helped me be a better mom. Though I would like to add that I have been here for twelve years, most of which have been days that I thrive, and just a handful of days that I felt I was just “surviving”.

If you are a new mom, find at least one mom friend who you can meet weekly. Maybe for a weekly cup of coffee…or stroller walk.

If you know a new mom encourage her to try playgroup. And if one doesn’t exist in your town, start one, because moms from all walks of life feel socially isolated or lonely. You too deserve the support you need in order to thrive!

Play Advocate & BETA Test

Years ago I read about creating a play advocate binder from Lisa Murphy. Her #binder challenge was a practical way to empower early childhood educators of all backgrounds to embrace the research, read it, print it, and then feel confident to promote learning through play. At the time I thought that the Ooey Gooey Lady must be a soul sister, and I followed along her journey from the periphery. I also had been printing, reading and highlighting articles for years to prove my motto: PLAY = LEARNING!

My binder turned into binders, because there is so much important research about ECE and play. Those articles changed me and my classroom practices, so the binders got turned into workshops that I presented in person. Those workshops helped me meet all sorts of amazing early care providers in Vermont, who told me about more articles and books to read. Which lead me to more stuff to learn, synthesize, and apply. And during this journey of ‘teacher as researcher’ I realized that unequivocally PLAY = LEARNING!!!

Well for 2019, I have set my intention to be a more vocal PLAY advocate.

I believe ALL children deserve the right to PLAY! (((shout it from the mountain tops)))

I have been figuring out how my voice could add to and enhance all the great things already happening. I shy away from political action, loathe asking people for money or doing fund raising, and might rather pluck my eye lashes out than to argue with people entrenched in their own ways of doing things. My pal Sally Haughey, of Fairy Dust Teaching fame, urged me to take my ‘teacher as researcher’ practical approach and use my voice to lead online e-courses. So that’s what I am working on this school year…and there is definitely a lot to learn.

Earlier this week I sent out a little message to a private early childhood group about my goal of being a “play advocate” and about the BETA test of my first online course. I want to test out my course with a small group of diverse early childhood educators so that the content is applicable to wider audience and is tested in the field.

Within an hour of sending out my little message,who is the first to respond but the guru of play advocacy herself! Yes, Ms. Ooey!!! Pinch me, I might be dreaming!

To quote Ms. Ooey’s idea about creating a binder of articles related to play, from a FB post from 2013…. “Put PLAY = LEARNING! PRESENTING THE EVIDENCE. on the cover. From this point forward, copy anything and everything that supports a hands on play based program and put it in there. The intention is to see that it’s not our personal preference that “play is the way” but it is what is backed by science, evidence, anecdotes and experience. It gets it out of us appearing to simply “want it” and shows that others have already done the work to support it.”

For me being a play advocated started with a binder….and now I feel equipped (and most days confident enough) to say that PLAY is a right that is worth fighting for! Maybe I need to sew a cape or make a protest sign!

Stay tuned to April’s Teaching Tree because I have lots of research based information and have the know-how to make it do-able for a wide variety of settings.

I am learning the ropes of the social media world and can now be found here—

Blogging at: www.aprilsteachingtree.com

Facebook – April’s Teaching Tree

Instagram – Aprils_Teaching_Tree

Pinterest – azajko

 

And if you want to be in the small group of participants to BETA test my new course email me – aprilzajko@gmail.com The official well-polished course will be ready for release later in 2019!