Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

How do you notice and celebrate the fall? There are so many ways to acknowledge it with children in natural ways. Bring in and celebrate the changing seasons with some of these creative ideas. Please feel free to share some of your family’s ideas in the comment section below: sharing is caring! These sensory and awesome activities are simple to set up and perfect for inviting your child to explore and notice the wonders of Autumn.

1. Take a Walk to Notice the Changing Leaves

Change the lyrics of the classic Bear Hunt song to “We’re going on a leaf hunt” and take a walk together as you notice the leaves falling as they crunch beneath your shoes and spy the changing colors. Walk while collecting colorful various sized leaves as you go. Invite your children to tell you what color, texture and size of each leaf in fun ways. For example…notice the size by pondering outloud: “I wonder if it’s bigger/smaller than your hand?” “How does it feel?” “Where did the green disappear to?” “How did the color change?” “Which is your favorite shade?” Once you’re home, invite your child to sort the leaves by size, shape and color. 

2. Sensory Play with Fall

Sensory play is vital for babies and children and there are lots of amazing ways to represent the colors of Fall. Invite your child to change the leaves with food coloring or Tempera paints. Wonder out loud: “If you could change the colors of the leaves, what color would you change them to?” “How does a leaf change its color?” Offer Blue/Red, Yellow/Red, Yellow/Blue primary paint combinations to discover what they turn into.  

4. Sing Autumn Songs click below for some ideas

5. Read Books about Trees: list of ideas below: **add your titles in the comments below** *Bonus Make Your Own Book Using Colorful Leaves

The Lorax, The Giving Tree, Stuck, Because of an Acorn, The Kids’ Family Tree Book, Can You Hear the Trees Talking?, The Tree Book for Kids and their Grown-ups

6. Observe, Draw and Pick out Some Favorite Trees 

Take a sketchpad outside and draw what you see. Plan to revisit and plant one of you and your child’s favorite trees in the spring!

5. Paint / Collage with Leaves

Use leaves to paint and collage with. Make a large Fall mural inspired by the Fall. **Bonus Make a fall wreath together for your door or a neighbor’s door. 

6. Rake the Leaves 

Don’t forget to JUMP in them! Make up a story using the leaves together. 

7. Make Leaf Rubbings / Pressings

Grab a paper, crayons (and/or pastels), playdough/clay. Place the leaf/leaves on the paper. Place a paper on top and then use the crayon (writing utensil) to rub. (Another variation is to do pressings by pressing the leaf into playdough/clay to make impressions/imprints. See it by clicking below: 

https://www.firstpalette.com/craft/leaf-rubbings.html

8. Visit a National Park and Chat with a Park Ranger

Visiting parks and nature is a wonderful way to get up and personal with nature, especially trees. Talking with a park ranger who is an expert could turn into a life changing memorable experience as you make meaning out of the trees and their importance. If you’re local to Fiolina the Arboretum is an iconic place to visit many types of trees from the smallest Bonsais’ to  the tallest of Sycamores. A perfect place for that sketchpad we mentioned earlier.

Have Fall inspired ideas you want to share? Let us know by commenting below!

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com 

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Bringing in the Holidays: Ways to Celebrate a More Meaningful Holiday Season with Children

In the middle of the holiday hoorah from relatives to gifting presents, families may forget the why of the holidays and what the deep significance of the giving season is all about. Have you ever given a present to see a child open it and be more fascinated by the wrapping paper and cardboard box? It’s a reminder and lesson how the season is not exactly about the gifts but how the time is spent.

Here are 8 ways to bring in a more meaningful holiday with your loved ones. 

  • Write letters, draw pictures, make cards, make bracelets and send care packages to essential workers such as EMS, Armed Services (Military and First Responders) who are away from their families during the holiday season. An awesome organization to do this through is Operation Gratitude. Families, teachers, children may volunteer at https://www.operationgratitude.com/
  • Take care of wildlife by decorating an outdoor tree with yummy snacks. Roll pinecones in peanut butter and bird seeds and place nuts. Wildlife will thank you!
  • Encourage children to connect and interview their grandparents and/or family members. Ask for favorite family stories. Retell stories. Record it for memories. Get some inspiration from: www.storycorps.org
  • Move together. Each day pick a movement activity to get moving. Dance to you favorite songs, take walks/hikes to look at lights, play basketball/soccer and if there’s snow: sled.
  • Adopt a family in need for the holiday season. Usually you will receive a list of what the child(children) are wishing for then let your children pick out the presents for the children. Become an angel today! https://adoptafamilymaryland.com/how-can-you-help-1
  • Admire the lights and stay present with your children. Hot cocoa, books, movies and love. The memories made will be remembered much longer than the presents. It’s about the time spent, not money. 
  • Wear pjs outside and build igloos, snow castles and snow people.
  • Travel someplace else to volunteer or just because. Most of all, spend time, use talents and make treasures together. 

How does your family bring in the holidays?

Code the Life You Want

3:08 am. How did we get here? I stretch and I yawn into the morning. Into the new day as I give thanks and am filled with gratitude to see another day. During the pandemic, I was deeply moved and inspired to move. To change. To dig deep within myself. I just needed a shovel. During the pandemic, we went virtual as we taught and learned online.

Some grown up students loved it and some did not. Some children loved it and some did not. For instance, I had a student who loved typing on the keyboard. He inspired me to dig deeper within myself. He gave me a shovel without even knowing it. While many times, I push and cheer others on, deep down I knew it was time to push and cheer on myself as well.

I noticed something. Literacy in action as he typed. We were singing Dem Bones and he started typing the sounds of the song out. Not because I told him to but because he wanted to.

What do we do in a world where computers and technology are a part of it. We embrace it and work alongside of it, learn to work with it and even create it. As I am learning coding now, I think about the past languages I learned and recognize coding as a language. Another language to communicate in.

Commas and quite frankly, punctuation matter in the code. You miss it or make a mistake then the code will not work. It will be null and void.

As we started returning to “normal” I didn’t want the old normal. I craved a new normal. So, here I am coding, creating and writing the life I want. The life I need. One that is far from normal. Love and light leads me. We are life. It is now almost 4:00 am on a Tuesday and this will be reaching you at 8:26am. on May 26. Happy reading. Happy living. You are life. Remember that.

The Little Things

What were the little things you carried in your pockets before the world made you empty them? Mine literally were rocks and dandelions. I would marvel at a rock as I found it fascinating. I loved and still enjoy collecting rocks. Ultimately, it’s not about the things you buy, it’s about the experiences you have. The moments made into memories. It’s about the little things you care about. Perhaps it keeps you up at night or wakes you up really early in the morning. Perhaps it sits with you for awhile mid-afternoon while you have your tea. It calls out to you. It knows your name without ever having to say it.

When is the last time you noticed or discovered that little thing you care about? When you saw or realized it did you marvel and sit with it for awhile? Were you present in the moment with it? When is the last time you did something about it? No expectations. Not because you have to but because you want to. Not following steps walking into “adulthood” but into “yourself hood” When will you follow your calling? Your own footsteps, left foot, right foot one in front of the other? Not for money but for your soul. Those are the kinds of things that are worth carrying in your pocket. Noticing and fulfilling the little things that you care about are victories.

I remember a little thing. A student of mine wanted to take a worm back to the classroom. So, he put some dirt in his pocket. Then he put the earthworm in his pocket. He carefully sprinkled a bit more dirt on top of the worm in his pocket as well so the worm in his own words would have a home. Think of the care and careful consideration he took to look out for the worm as he fulfilled his mission of bringing it back into our classroom.

If I had interrupted this play and told him to empty his pockets and that a pocket is no place for an earthworm even to transport it then we would have missed out on all of the learning with earthworms, anatomy and how to care for them and how they care for our Earth creating nutrients for plants and other organisms. It started with one worm and turned into so much more.

A worm. A single worm created a moment which created a memory and is in the process of possibly creating an entomologist. We all have an inner child, an inner soul. Nurture it. Nurture the little thing you love and yearn for whether it’s an ant or the sky. You are drawn to it for a reason. When someone asks you why are you “fixated” or “stuck” on something. Ask them, why not? Keep your wonder and your fascination especially in a world that is “stuck” and “fixated” on being busy and moving onto something else before really getting to know and work with what it started with to begin with. Studying and observing earthworms doesn’t take a week or month. For example, Darwin studied earthworms for forty years.

What were the little things you carried in your pockets before the world made you empty them?

Four decades Darwin hung out and observed the worms. So take your time with your passion and purpose, on purpose. The little thing you care about. The little thing that keeps knocking on your brain and on your heart: your soul. It’s worth it. Nurture it, care for it and be there with it for awhile. Sit with it. Walk with it. Crawl with it. Do whatever it is you have to do to be with it for awhile. Keep it safe, give it a home. Put it in your pocket. Take a decade or two or three or four or even more with it. Slow down and move with it in a world that wants to move onto the next thing. It warms. It cools. It warms. It cools. Stay with it for awhile. Savor it like the last bite. In fact, save the best bite for last.

So what is it and what will you do with it?

Ps. Here is a book entitled Finding Me by Viola Davis that may encourage you to dig a little deeper than the earthworms.

<a href=”http://<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0063037327/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0063037327&linkCode=as2&tag=eightsideways-20&linkId=f8f732c28b68be75d67ce62afc7df176″><img border=”0″ src=”//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=0063037327&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format=_SL250_&tag=eightsideways-20″ >http://<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0063037327/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0063037327&linkCode=as2&tag=eightsideways-20&linkId=f8f732c28b68be75d67ce62afc7df176″><img border=”0″ src=”//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=0063037327&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format=_SL250_&tag=eightsideways-20″ ></a>

Can I Have a Word or Two?

It’s Halloween time and I’m reminiscing when I was little and went trick or treating. You know when grownups would and will ask a child: “So what do you do?” And, children do a song or dance? I sang the little witch song and changed the word witch to (can you guess to what rhymes with witch—change the w to a b).

My sister was shocked and everyone laughed. In that moment — I realized the power of words.

I knew and realized in that moment just how powerful words are and the effect they may have on us. Most of all — words can incite us. Words can also invite us to talk or push us away not to talk and forever hold our peace.

My sister cursed like a sailor. I would curse at school as I tested out the words and expressions she used. Such as: #1 B#tc$ to describe best friends and sister Bonds. F#€|< it or f#€|< you when angry or frustrated. I went to school — testing out these words and phrases with friends but no grownup ever knew.

We test out words and expressions.

This brings me to another moment in time as I was teaching and all of us were outside on a field trip (giving a plug to the National Building Museum in Washington, DC). We were in the blue construction room: Play Work Build exhibit where my class aka engineers, architects and builders were building and constructing very cool creations and structures! One of my Fireflies as he was trying to fit a square peg into a circle and he was exasperated by all of his unsuccessful attempts (he kept persisting and showed a lot of resiliency!) and to everyone’s shock and dismay minus my own: he said, “Awww, f bomb, it’s not fitting!

All of the grown ups stopped and stared at us and looked very carefully at me. I was the responsible grown up for this class. I looked at my firefly that lights the night sky and who clearly just lit up this space like the Fourth of July. I got low and spoke low. I said, “I see you learned a new way to express exasperation and frustration. What word can you use instead of that one? I said, what rhymes with it?” He smiled and said, “Oh, shucks, oh muck, ohhh tuck, ohhh luck” we laughed. I took the stigma and the struggle away. Again, language can incite us. Language is explosive. Language (most of all — the connections in the brain) are also exploding for preschoolers at this time.

If we reprimand or dismiss, shut down or get shocked how do we model? If we kick out, put in detention, suspend or expel how do we teach?

Teachable moments happen each and every moment. Don’t overlook them or dismiss them. Don’t lock it up and throw away the key. Words are caged birds begging to be free. Teach with compassion, love and understanding.

Restorative practices, compassion, learning and justice is meant and intended not only for preschoolers. It is for all ages, stages and levels of life. Meet children, youth and grown ups where they are are and help them to where they are going.

Bonus: listen to some of my stories made up from my heart and brain.

https://podcasts.apple.com/za/podcast/the-story/id1505653221

Reading the Rainbow

I dream in rainbow technicolor. My dreams are vivid hues and shades where we are all connected as one. It’s not a dream. I am literally living this in my life. I’m thankful and full of gratitude.

Each color of the rainbow symbolizes something special.

June is pride month. Remember Stonewall. Always. It was a riot and uprising to be treated as human beings. Riots and protests are our language. It is the human language especially when no one is listening. Yea, they hear us but they are not listening and not taking action. This month I’m honoring the Black Lives Matter movement. Their lives matter too.

Remember that.

For advocacy work please go to:

https://www.momsrising.org/

https://www.childrensdefense.org/programs/cdf-freedom-schools/

https://naeyc.org

Hoops, Books and Alley Ways

“That hoop will bring nothing but drugs and crime.”

I replied, “No disrespect but we already have drugs and crime here.”

Unit 4. Washington DC. Our nation’s capital. We had prostitutes, guns, drugs and crime in our neighborhood. We also had amazing individuals come together to do something about it. We also had people go against the change. But we all well most of us, came together.

Most of all, we did something about it. Read previous blogs to find out.

You know what else we had? A very high illiteracy rate.

Research shows when you don’t have reading literacy or math literacy you most likely will end up in jail. And, guess what? It’s true and that’s why more jails are built. People recognize the power in book literacy and financial literacy.

We need to change the game of education and life. We need to be creative, collaborative, compassionate and chance takers. Most of all, we need to empower one another to be bold and daring.

Don’t ask permission – ask forgiveness.

For approximately 90,000 of DC’s adults, low literacy skills are a barrier to just about everything – completing their education, getting and keeping a decent job, and staying out of poverty (Washington Literacy Center).

If you want to find out more of how to help with illiteracy please click here:

https://www.washlit.org/#:~:text=For%20approximately%2090%2C000%20of%20DC’s,and%20staying%20out%20of%20poverty.

The Story Continues…in Real Life.

I have been working every Sunday but it does not feel like work.
It feels like play.
I feel really good to feel good about that. I would literally do what I do on Sundays for free, really. Last Sunday, I spent my time working with one child and playing. My high of the day was making up stories using the instruments to make sound effects for the stories we made up. I also retold my classics: aka my favorites: Luki and the Rocket Power Shoes and Luki and the Rocket Power Paintbrush. It was his first time listening to it. He asked for them again and again. I thought to myself…why am I in this rush to produce creative works of art when I should enjoy what I already have out there in the universe?
I am literally backed up on creative projects but I reflected on and about my own process. Am I enjoying the process? Am I enjoying myself? Why am I pushing and grinding to produce more and more? I have the stories. I enjoyed the process of creating them. Now let me create an outlet to massively share them using my voice and technology. I remember when a student asked me if I would be on her story podcast that evening she listened to it. Then, I recalled another student asking for one last story before she moved on and went to her new school.
I want to enjoy the stories that I have out. Recently, someone (whom I never met in real life) pushed me and inspired me to push myself even further in my creative process. The message on IG really has me thinking and mulling over a few things. 1. I need to make a youtube channel and 2. I really need to get a podcast together asap and 3. I need to be in the moment and enjoy the process and the re-telling of my stories rather than working on the next new project right away.
By the time of the next blog post, I hope to have one of my visions in the process of becoming. Intuitively, I feel as though I am on the way.
Peace, love and light.
Happy reading and before you know it, I hope to be saying Happy Listening. Real Life. 🙂

Big Brother

The moment we walked in the door questioning eyes were on us: “Who are you?” my coaches asked my brother in law and father figure as he questioned them as to why I wasn’t getting any playtime on the basketball team. My brother is black and I am white based on societal descriptions. He always stood up for me and had my back. From elementary through high school. We would get side way kinds of stares by people who weren’t exposed to different kinds of families.

My mother died when I was turning 10. My (I think biological father) was incarcerated off and on. I was raised by my sister and my brother in law. We were rare and uniquely different. Looking back and reflecting on my upbringing, I realize just how thankful I am. I was exposed to what children normally are not exposed to and as a result I am an eclectic kind of person. I watched and listened to shows, movies and music such as The Sopranos, Poetic Justice and The Streets is Watching. However, I always had someone present and there telling me someone made it or it was directed by someone. Someone made it up from their brain and it was inspired by real life events. I always had someone like my sister or brother in law telling me to cover my eyes during the racy parts.

I have so many memories from playing ball, driving around pretending to be on MTV Cribs to witnessing drug raids to people dying. This was my reality. So, I understand many walks of life. I was and am blessed to be surrounded by real, authentic type love. A rare kind of love that you cannot find. They never had to buy love or material possessions. Getting Chinese takeout, laughing, yelling and crying a lot, playing monopoly and playing ball was enough. It was my foundation of what a family is all about. Not perfect but perfect if you know what I mean.

As a grownup, I am working towards planting seeds where children will make a better life and ultimately a better world by reaching mutual understanding across cultures and perspectives. A world where people will know who each other is the moment they walk in the door. Questioning eyes will fade. The who are you will turn into I know who you are. A place where different families exist and it’s cool and unquestioned. People will stop and stare for how beautifully dynamic and powerful differences are. A place where it’s cool and dope to be different aesthetically, creatively and intellectually.

Let Your Voice Ring. Sing Everywhere. Even if You’re Off Key. 

I remember singing in the car with my older sister during my formative years. Janet boomed from our car speakers: “Thats the way, thats the way, thats the way love goes.” We would sing our hearts out. I reminisced about my childhood memories of singing a lot during my last night drive with my other sister and we sang a lot during our road trip.

When is the last time you sang in the car? In the shower? With your family? Singing has endless benefits for our young and old. An Alzheimer’s patient may not remember their name but you know what they can remember? They can remember their favorite song!

Singing in the early education classroom is one of the keys for brain plasticity and growth. During the first five years of life the most connections (think synapses) are made out of the entire lifespan.  Every year of a child’s life is precious, but when it comes to development, the first 8 are the most important. This is when a child becomes the person they are going to be. It is when they learn appropriate behavior, boundaries, empathy and many other important social skills that will remain with them for life. Guess what else will stay with a child for life? Their favorite jams!

Babies are born with more synapses than adults. In a child’s early development stages, the speed of the synapse formation is the greatest from birth until 18 months of age. From 18 months until 3 years of age during the process of cognitive development in kids, synapses continue to form and expand. The number of synapses reaches about 1,000 trillion at this age and because of that a toddler’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s brain. This is also the reason why toddlers enjoy heavy outdoor activities such as running, jumping and climbing. From 6 to 9 years of age in kids’ development stage, the brain reduces the number of synapses which are not used and they eventually die off.

So sing. Sing your heart out! Play Motown to Country. Most of all sing and dance to your favorite songs and ask families for their favorites. Home school connection is powerful. Even change the lyrics to the songs.

Here are 7 benefits of singing. For more benefits click: https://takelessons.com/live/singing/health-benefits-of-singing

  1. Singing creates a better sense of well being and causes us sensations of feeling good.
  2. Improves concentration, alertness and memory.
  3. Singing strengthens the immune system. That’s right it’s good for our health like an apple. A song a day keeps the doctor away.
  4. Singing is in fact exercise
  5. It helps with sleeping well and getting a good night’s Zzz.
  6. It lowers stress levels
  7. It’s a natural anti-depressant

So, turn the speaker up and sing like no one’s listening or watching!