Ashley Wolff graciously allowed me to record and share this story with all of you. You can find her books at The Vermont Bookshop!
I hope you enjoyed it! Check back for another story tomorrow!
And visit The Vermont Book Shop to purchase your own copy!
My second book is out and doing well…it’s been wonderful reading to young children and seeing the themes resonate with them!
Here’s the description of the story:
In Honu Helps Kiyaya, we follow Honu the sea turtle as she works to help her friend Kiyaya the wolf who is not feeling like himself. Both characters listen to their inner voices to find what they need- for Honu to find the strength to support her friend, and Kiyaya to be reflective about what he needs to help him when he is feeling overwhelmed. Honu Helps Kiyaya is a much-needed story that encourages children to trust their “inner voice” and helps to cultivate empathy for others by being present and a compassionate listener. The story helps facilitate important conversations and gives voice to the complicated experiences of children. In addition to being a lovely story, it is also an invaluable resource for families, care-givers, teachers, and guidance counselors.
It lays the foundation for learning for the rest of a child’s life.
Building social connections, between both children and the adults who raise them, is critical for future resilience.
A sense of belonging develops, fortifying a sense of self worth and value. When a child feels like a valued member of a community, it fosters a sense of ownership and pride.
Opportunities to find their passions are offered…performances, guest speakers, field trips! They are part of the teaching tools used to reach a variety of learners and reach even the most introverted child.
Kindergarten offers a place for young children to develop crucial social skills like self-awareness, self-regulation, relationship development and problem-solving.
BOTTOM LINE: kindergarten isn’t about abc’s and 123’s. It’s about the child and their ultimate potential.
Children need to be included.
Children need to feel safe and valued.
Children need to have an opportunity to belong.
There are so many things in life that can be scary when you are a small child. Things that are new, big, fast, loud…you get the idea. Part of my job is to help children work through their fears, and while I can’t always predict what might frighten a child, there are some constants among children.
I’m not going to go over a whole list, you already know what they are. Just think for a moment about the why…just for a minute. Sometimes, a child is startled by an unexpected stimulus, has an experience that led to a negative association, and sometimes fear is learned from the child’s environment. By environment, I include their physical surroundings as well as the social surroundings like parents and caregivers.
You may wonder where I’m going with this…it’s simple: be thoughtful about how you respond to “scary things”. My favorite example of this is a thunderstorm…a beautiful natural phenomenon that can be frightening or magical. So here’s the favor: teach your children to love the thunderstorm.
When we were kids, my mom would all call us outside to the porch to watch the rain careen down the street (we lived on a hill). We would wrap up in blankets and sit on the porch floor with our backs against the house. Sometimes, she would make us popcorn to eat while we watched the lightening and listened for the thunder. It was a wonderful routine that still conjures fond memories…I can still hear one of her favorite songs that she’d play after the storm. Check it out here!
As if providing high quality child care wasn’t enough, I am now a published children’s book author! There is a lot to the way it came to be, and I’m saving it for my personal blog. Find it here
Anyway, the process of writing a story required some research, some editing, and some creativity. I was able to recruit the help of an artist friend who created the illustrations, as well as the digital file to send for publishing, since me and technology don’t always get along.
So without further adieu, Here is the link if you’re interested!
Children and families have been accepting my story with open arms, singing it’s praises and reminding me that we all have something to offer…
It’s only natural that child care providers are going to be caring for the children of parents (guardians, foster parents, grandparents…) whose political and or religious views are drastically different from our own…but it can be delicate. So we need to be thoughtful and intentional about how we approach these relationships.
Looking back, when I was a younger teacher, I didn’t really have strong views yet, so it wasn’t such an issue for me. Now that I’ve lived and learned so much more, I have VERY strong opinions and views. And part of my personal journey has been to be as authentic and true to myself as possible. So how do I reconcile that with the families for which I provide care? (And let’s be real-we often become like family in this small setting and intimate role)
When talking with children: (imagine the topic of heaven for example)
- Always let them guide the conversation
- Ask them what they think
- When they ask general questions, suggest they ask their families. Sometimes kids will ask their friends or look in books for answers…roll with it
- When they ask you what you think, keeping in mind their development, answer simply but honestly. For example, I had a child keep telling me that my friend who passed away was in heaven. I believe something else, so without discounting her family faith, I told her, “I don’t know much about heaven, but I think my friends’ energy is in the wind and the snow and the sunsets.”
- Trust children to be true to their family beliefs and still encourage learning about different views, after all, you want them to be open minded in the larger sense…
When talking to adults that we’re trying to build relationships with: (imagine conservative/liberal political views)
- Keep discussions limited to the child as you get to know each other
- Make sure you only talk appropriately and respectfully if children are present
- Be honest. There’s no need to hide your views. Of course it’s not necessary to shout it from the rooftops, but if someone asks about my Bernie bumper sticker, I’ll share my affinity for his work.
- Be open. This country would be so dull if we all had the same ideals…and even though I might disagree with more conservative ideas, there’s still something I can learn from hearing where the other person is coming from.
- The adults we work with are also still learning and forming their own values. How else will they know what other views there are unless they have the opportunity to talk with people who think differently?
- Remember that it is not our job to convince people of anything other than what is best for their child in a child care and family setting. Our job is to support families as they grow, and while it might be tempting to share our views, opinions, ultimately our role is to support them as they raise a tiny human.
Bottom Line: practice empathy and respect, be who you are with pride and simplicity, and trust your children’s curious minds
Michele Borba was one of the keynote speakers at a conference I attended this week. She is passionate, dynamic, and empowering. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, do it!
Anyway, so much info so I’m just going to make a list of highlights that I wrote down, and hopefully you are able to glean some key information from it. Any statistics or definitions came from her presentation and can be found in her book or on her website. She talked so fast, it was tough to note sources. My thoughts will be added in italics.
- 1 in 5 teens will have a mental health disorder wow!
- “Unless parents realize it (empathy) can be cultivated, it will become dormant” parents, guardians, caregivers…and it can be cultivated at ANY age
- Around the year 2000, empathy decreased 40%. Lack of empathy creates exclusion and polarization which is what we are already seeing in society, and if you think it’s no coincidence that this coincided with the smart phone and screens everywhere, you’re not alone
- The average middle school kid is more comfortable texting than talking to another person
- Some easy and specific suggestions and her list of habits to use: face to face contact, read picture books to your kids that have a moral dilemma, weave in the 9 essential empathy habits listed here:for more detailed information, I encourage you to buy her book Unselfie
- “Empathy is transformational. Empathy is a teaching tool” it doesn’t cost a dime and can change the culture of the classroom
- 66% of kids say we (adults) are too plugged in.
- A person learns new skills best by doing it, seeing it modeled, not by telling it.
- “You change the culture with the trickle down effect” she told a powerful story about a teen who changed the culture at his school just by holding the door open in the morning and greeting everyone
- “Look for the Helpers” Fred Rogers. She says a statement like this, “Galvanizes the good. Share the good with kids everyday.”
- “What would’ve made the difference?” She responds by sharing lyrics to the Cheers tv show theme song and what happened next was moving beyond words
In closing, you can make a difference.
More to come from the workshop she did following this presentation!
Sometimes television catches me by surprise. I enjoy tv and find it to be an effective escape at times. I was watching Grey’s Anatomy this evening and one of the characters sought some advice from an older wiser woman, a mom. She was asking about a teen that she was mentoring, sponsoring, sort of parenting. The woman was struggling with her role for this teen, and the older woman says,
“You’re building a boat…They’re going to sail away from us…it’s inevitable. Our job is to build a boat strong enough that when they decide to, they can get back to us safely.”
The boat is your relationship with your child, or your charge in the case of the character. With a strong relationship to come back to, your child will feel open to new experiences and know the freedom of being their own person.
There’s also a really wonderful children’s book that shows how toddlers look for their independence while looking back to their safety net, their anchor, their mom or whatever. And it reminds us how important it is for our kids to feel safe in order to take risks and try new things!