Sunday, November 13, 2016

Allowing the Experience

   I just find it so fascinating to watch and listen to children play!  There is so much going on in their play and so much beneath the surface driving their play.  Play offers children a stage for practicing, experimenting and processing! What a gift we are giving our children to allow them this small window of time to be children wild and free just working hard playing.

During all NLA days right now we are noticing even the children who previously skirted around the perimeter of the group play are now experimenting with "trying to get in the mix" of the group play happening.

We know play is developmental from solitary play, to parallel side by side play to social group play.  Realizing this reminds us that how ever a child is "playing" at this moment (as long as it is not hurting someone or damaging property) is "right where they need to be".  No matter how much we as adults want to see our children form "friendships" and "connect" with other children it will only happen when the child is ready.

With a multi-age group of children like we have at NLA there is a huge range of development!  This range of ages offers our children rich, real-life opportunities to practice and experience the many social situations that will continuously arise throughout their lives.   Real life situations like how to get into a group, how to have a strong voice and say "no,"  and even just what being a "friend" means.   Experiencing and experimenting with these different situations is how social learning happens and it's not always pretty!

One of the situations that comes with social group play and will continue to arise throughout our children's lives (even as adults) is "exclusion."  This is truly a hard one to handle whether your child is the one being excluded or is the one doing the excluding!  Most children "try out" both at one time or another and it doesn't mean that your child is a bully or that your child is cruel or mean (even though it may sound that way), but that they are just "learning" and practicing new skills.

 I want to touch on what we can do as adults to help support these real life experiences without shutting down the "practice" that the children need.    First, I think it is important to point out that these "exclusions" could be triggering a childhood memory of feeling left out for yourself.  I know as a very quiet child who disliked competition I was pretty much always the last to be chosen for team sports in school, so these memories of feeling excluded would just flood over me when I saw my child being excluded!  I was lucky to have an amazing mentor who pointed out that while we want to protect our children from the pains that we went through as children, nothing teaches anyone anything better that true "experience."
  The ability to get into a social group and knowing how to be a friend is something we all had to experience....we didn't learn it from being told or shown.  As painful as it was I learned that I could step back and support my children when needed while not taking the experience from them.  And yes, having four children I saw my children on both sides of this issue, the excluder and the one being excluded!

As adults we want our children to all just get along, but true "free" play actually allows for children to  not only choose what they play, but also whom they play with!   There are many reasons a child may decide to "exclude" another child in their play.    Sometimes children seem to need the "power" to make the choice about who they want in their play at the moment, sometimes its just a fear of someone coming in and changing their play or wrecking their space or sometimes we all just need some space to play alone.  We can't always know the reason for the exclusion unless the child is willing to tell us.
We know that most of the time if we step back the children will figure it out.  When we do need to step in there are ways to support without completely squashing the learning that could happen!
Ways to help when needed:  Children may need help with delivering the exclusion message in a more gentle way (again this takes lots of experience and practice).  Here the "Sports caster" approach can work well.  You just repeat what the child said, "right now I hear you saying you want to play by yourself", or "you want to only play with "so in so" right now."   This takes the "personal" from it and just states what is happening, so we can then support them all.

Sometimes we can help them find another space to play (if they are trying to control a space like the mud kitchen or the tower) or we can help the child being excluded by finding someone else to play with for the moment.  We usually see that the exclusion is temporary!

 I love how Heather Shumaker talks about this subject in her book "It's Ok Not to Share."  Heather reminds us that if we take off our adult lenses "exclusionary" play becomes less scary!  Experience with all sides of rejection is part of the social learning that children will need for a lifetime.   I believe it also once again about respect for each individual child and before reacting to a situation, we can step back and realizing the learning that is happening and how amazing it all is!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

More of Everything in a Co-op

Our September has been a very busy one with many new additions to NLA!  First of all, welcome to our new families.  You will find our NLA cooperative community full of support and warmth.  I am grateful for you all!  Having worked in other "co-ops" I believe the strength of our NLA co-op community comes from not only our shared philosophy about how young children learn best, but also from the shared belief that ALL children deserve to be heard and seen and respected.     Our Cooperative model allows parents to be a part of their child's first learning environment and offers so much more of everything!   

(Please see the Important Dates and Reminders at the end of the Newsletter)

Being a Cooperative allows us to offer MORE exciting activities because we have more eyes and hands to help facilitate them! We couldn't offer these things without your hands on help. Activities like......

our pendulum or wrecking ball,

our new "Tool" table with real tools and nails (the Friday class proved that this is going to be a huge hit),

the coolest
new ways to create,

lots of volcanic eruptions,

reading time opportunities

                            all day everyday, 

and plenty of hands to help when it's needed!  

I love how the children feel free to ask for the items or the help they need! 

I often hear "I need more water,"

"more soap,"

                                                "a help across," 

"a different color, more paper,"

or "I need a push!"

We simply couldn't respond to each child's needs without everyone's help!

I also love to see the parents get excited right along with the children!  

Another benefit to having so many "helpers" in our Parent co-op is the children can always find someone to come and "see" what they made,

what they can do, 

 what they discovered,


or just come "listen" because they have lots to say and share! 

So far this seems to be the year of performances! We have had lots of story telling, song singing and fun dramatic play happening! 

 Cooperatives also offer the children plenty of  close-by, gentle guidance if needed! 

Another beautiful side effect of the cooperative helping hand model is that we are modeling the "let me help you" for the children!  This is such a beautiful thing.

Thanks for being a part of our cooperative and walking this journey with us! We could not do it without you!

Housekeeping and Reminders:

Inclement Weather:
NLA follows Cobb county weather closings.
If the weather is questionable please check Meetup to see if the day has been canceled. Check your email and text messages as well before heading out. You are also welcome to call or text me (770) 820-4044. Canceled days only will be credited.

To secure your weekly space please pay for four days or a month at a time. Drop-ins must be okayed in advance.
Meetup is now using “Wepay" instead of “Paypal”, but Payments can still be made through my Paypal

email :
Checks should be made to Natural Learning Alternative Cash in person is fine too. 

Fundraiser: For Small Hands School Credit Promotion happening now.

NLA will earn free classroom supplies and materials everytime you order from: For Small Hands :A Resource For Families Catalog (website or catalogue).

Check out the link on our website! Anything you purchase before December 31st. Great idea for Grandparents, friends and families!  

Call out for Help with Cleanup:

We need your cooperative help! Please help us cleanup each day, so the cleaning up doesn't fall all on one or two people.  Setting up for the day takes lots of time and so does cleaning up.  Let's get the children involved too.  If you have a clean up "system" idea that you think may work better please let us know ;). 

Please check on our website under "Parent Responsibilities" for more ideas on how to be "active participants" in our Cooperative.  

Upcoming Dates: 

Home Town Honey Bee Presentation Wednesday, October 12th 11:00 AM! This will be posted on the Meetup site with cost and details soon!  Please RSVP and pay ahead to save your spot. 

Next Parent Chat Date: 

October 12th 11:15 AM Please join us strengthen our Cooperative even more by attending our Parent Chats.  


The LCR parking lot is being repaved next week (a different section each day). Please follow the signs for parking each day.  One of the days we will need to enter in the "exit," so please look out for the signs!

We are making yummy apple sauce all week, so bring a few apples!   

Can't wait for the many more Fall weather days to come! 

See you next week, Joy