Looking through the playroom the other day, I’ve decided it’s time for a major purge.
In early 2013, the journey to opening my own licensed home daycare and preschool started. I had visions of a program where all the toys were creative and wooden. There would be extremely limited plastics (unless recycled), plenty of natural toys, no recognizable characters from movies or shows. We were to concentrate on outdoors projects, exploration and sensory discovery. I decided to offer a full preschool program to my 3’s and 4’s to get them ready for any eventual additional schooling that their parents signed them up for. I was more than a daycare, I was a school. I have the educational background. I’m a designated head teacher for birth-five and school age. My program was very Reggio Emilia inspired. I could picture it so clearly. This was easy…right? Wrong. I baulked. Perhaps this Reggio idea is to radical…
The classroom came together beautifully. I chose natural, soothing colors and had plenty of quality wooden creative toys and art supplies. I avoided cartoon themes or characters in my toys and wall art.
Fast forward and the children were learning and blossoming. Theme based projects filled the classroom walls with colorful renditions of butterflies, gardens, trees, animals etc. The kids were having a blast (especially if glitter was involved *sorry parents!!*). Parents were pleased with how well their children were writing, counting and even starting to read. Reflecting on the first year…things went exceptionally well.
I survived the first year at FULL-capacity. It was a learning adventure to juggle a mixed age group including infants through school age in a home setting. While the baby napped we did preplanned lessons in math and alphabet. I strayed from some of my ideals (theme based learning vs Reggio) as a method of survival to keep all kids happy, healthy and educated.
The piles of donated toys grew high. Character toys appeared in buckets and peaking out from the bookshelf. Plastics in bright hues are stacked in primary colored plastic sorting buckets. Well wishers dropped off copious amounts of large floor puzzles and more and more books (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE books! It may be a borderline obsession, but that’s for another post). Boxes of dolls, doll furniture, trucks, cars, and play food are stacked along the sidelines (and under the radiator, the refrigerator and the area rug). These toys may be considered imaginative by some, but a dump truck can’t be anything else but a dump truck. A plastic telephone is always a telephone. But, if you’re ever in the position to accept donated goods, it’s really hard to say no thank you.
As the school year ended (we are still open for summer but school isn’t officially in session), I glanced into the room while drinking my one cup of morning coffee. Where has the Reggio influence gone? I can’t see it anywhere .
I breathed a huge sigh and decided there needs to be a change. The change is in regard to my original intentions and ideals in running a quality education and child care program. I owe it to myself (this is my business after all) and I owe it to the children to give them a totally different learning experience. I am no longer afraid that my desired approach will be undesirable to parents. This is the approach that I whole heartedly believe in. I don’t feel that everyone should jump on my bandwagon (to each his/her own) and everyone is entitled to their own opinion and to decide what works best for their own family.
The purge started that day. It was the end of the school year, a perfect excuse. I opened the storage closet and pulled out everything that we haven’t touched in the past few months. Plastic toy after plastic toy. I listed them all online on a favorite app called Yerdle and removed the clutter. I gathered all our craft supplies into one fabulously massive box (we have accrued so much this past year!). I stood back from the closet….this felt amazing.
Afterwards, I moved into the spare room, lovingly deemed “the baby room” by all of the kids this past year as that’s where our cribs and changing table reside. All of the baby gear (except the cribs) were stacked onto the back porch to move to the shed. My current “littles” are still in diapers but much too large for the changing table…away it went into the shed…along with the exersaucers, the playpen and the high chair. Purge on….purge on….
Walking into the classroom, it was hard to remove kid’s projects from the walls. They had worked so hard, the documentation showed their learning for the year…but it was time to move on. It pulled at my heartstrings to take down their “Kindness Quilt” and their “Happy Helper Hands” poster.
These projects and themes were over. We finished the alphabet and it was time to remove our giant collection of alphabet display cards. Each letter had 4 corresponding cards…it was a lot of poster tack that went into putting that together. A lot of poster tack was left stuck to the wall….and a lot of peeled paint ended up in the garbage….I’d been meaning to do a second coat of paint on the wall anyways…
Toys are being moved out. A little at a time as to not disrupt the children with a massive disappearance….but, day by day…away they go. I owe this to myself…I owe it to them, though they don’t realize it at this juncture.
I need this blank slate. Summer is quiet here. It’s the perfect time to reset my program. A couple weeks ago, I rewrote my Policy and Procedures manual. I created a new preschool structure and I also created the first ever Salt Meadow Academy vacation calendar. It was a completely necessary task. Programs evolve as they grow. You realize what you are lacking in policy or terms as you experience how your program is set up. Thus, the changes. The new documents will be released at the end of July for parents.
New materials will be ordered and LOTS will be hand crafted. Enter child safe mirrors (small, large, wall, floor), natural blocks, bowls of pinecones and loose parts that will become projects, smooth sea stones, recycled materials like cardboard tubes and bubble wrap, beautiful plants and other textures for exploration, finger paints, clay, and raised garden beds.
This coming year will be a totally different experience for the children at Salt Meadow Academy.
Enter Reggio Emilia inspiration….