Author Archives: Katrina Selawsky

Starting a New School Year

It’s common for children to experience some anxiety at the beginning of a new school year, even if they are returning to a school and to people that they know well. There are so many adjustments to make – summer activities are ending, daily routines may change, there may be new teachers and children to get to know. And the children themselves have grown and may be thinking about their upcoming school experiences in new ways.

Some children adjust to change very quickly and others will need more time. Many experts suggest that it’s not uncommon for children to experience typical separation anxiety for up to ten weeks before routines settle in.  Your consistent positive support can make a big difference as children form deeper relationships with their teachers, who will be their primary supports while they are here at school. Remember that it’s ok for children to take the time they need, and that each child’s feelings need acknowledgement and understanding. And while acknowledging feelings, family members can set up consistent routines, kindly but firmly remind children when you’ll be together again, and develop strategies together that help ease the transition period.

Here are some practical tips to think about:

1. Look for the special ways your child handles the transition time comfortably; take your cues from your child.

2. Support your child – try to be positive. Children are very sensitive to your ambivalent feelings; these can represent doubt to your child, and add to his or her sense of insecurity.

3. If you enter the classroom and choose an activity to aid in your child’s transition, choose something that has a definite end (puzzle, book, etc.). Let your child know that upon completion of this activity, you will be leaving. Then stick to it.

4. It is helpful for some children to bring something from home – a favorite stuffed toy, book, photo of a family member, note, etc. This connection to home can be very reassuring.

Here are some helpful phrases you might use when it’s time to say good-by:

“I know it’s hard to say good-by.” “Mom and dad will always come back.”

“This is a special place, just for children.” “Will you make me (daddy, sister, etc.) a special drawing today?”

“I’ll be back to pick you up at lunch time.”

“Have a fun day.”

I’ve included some links below to articles on NAEYC’s “For Families” website with more tips on handling transitions into school:

A Few Thoughts on Separation Anxiety

Tips for Easing School-Time Anxiety from a Mom Who’s Been There

13 Tips for Starting Preschool

Have a Concern about School? Tips for Talking to the Teacher

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What I Did this Summer at Learning Circle Preschool

We’ve just finished another wonderful summer experience at Learning Circle Preschool!
The Summer Science and Arts Program at Learning Circle Preschool is an integrated arts enrichment program with a focus on the natural sciences, storytelling and puppetry, art, music and creative movement.

Each day, the program includes time for children to participate in activities featuring science, the visual arts, construction and music/creative movement, along with time for snack, free play activities and outdoor play, in a highly individualized and nurturing setting. Teachers observe the children’s interests and, guided by an understanding of child development, organize the curriculum to extend the children’s thinking and knowledge about topics of importance to them.

Teachers are partners in learning with the children, and model the curiosity, research and documentation skills, ability to ask questions, and engagement over time that are hallmarks of deep learning. Diverse experiences, learning styles and interests are all valued as children and teachers cooperate together to create a “community of learners.”
The result is an experience that is both fun and serious – children actively involved in playing and learning at the same time.To see this in action, look at the pictures in the gallery.

On the last day in session, parents are invited to join the program for presentations and activities planned by teachers with the children.

It’s not surprising that, given the natural environment surrounding the school, the children were very interested in investigating woodland habitats, especially the wide variety of birds we heard and saw daily around our playground. Children also developed their observation skills as they examined the many types of insects, worms and spiders inhabiting the playground and other freer areas around the school. Butterflies capture everyone’s imagination!

Teachers offered some basic gardening experiences to the children early in the program so that we could all take care of our gardens over time. Our first task was to think together about what new plants would need, and to prepare some gardening spaces. We planted seeds and plants during the first week, including chard, beans, peas, tomatoes, pepper, and a variety of herbs. We planted flower container gardens as well, with a variety of sizes and colors of marigolds. Everyday jobs have included watering our gardens and checking to see if our other plants need water. The garden did well enough for children to enjoy a few harvests.

We found that the group of children attending this summer were all very interested in creating and constructing with a variety of recyclable materials, tape and glue. Children worked on individual projects over many days, and decided to work on one collaborative project (a fire truck) all together. This took a great deal of planning, coming to consensus, problem-solving, working together, listening, and researching in addition to the construction itself!

If we shared one “big theme” this summer, it was about forces in motion. What is wind? What makes a wave? Why do some objects roll and others slide? How can we design ramp systems for balls to roll faster or slower? How does a pump work? How can we move water from one container to another?

There are always many stories unfolding when children come together and begin to form a classroom community. Some of those stories attract the attention of the group as a whole, and these become central themes that teachers can support with conversation, materials and time. The examples above are only a small sample of the many experiences the children shared this summer.

Many of these summer “stories” and interests will inform our decisions on experiences to continue to offer children this fall, as a new classroom context begins to unfold. We look forward to continuing this learning dialog!

Enjoy these summer program photos:

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What Can We Do with a Leaf?

This is a wonderful time of year for collecting diverse materials from nature for play and education. The “loose parts”* that we can find all around us offer many diverse opportunities for sensory play, focused observation and exploration. We concentrate on color, shape, symmetry and other properties, and research into where these items come from, grow and change over time. And when we encourage the open-ended creative and imagination-rich exploration of these materials, children can show us eye-opening and varied ways to use them to realize their ideas.

Most recently the children have been especially interested in using leaves. How many ways can we use a leaf? Can we combine them to make something new? Can we sort them? How are they the same and how are they different? Do we enjoy their textures when they are fresh and when they dry out? Have we watched them falling from the trees or blowing in the wind? What sounds do we hear when we walk through leaves? What else can we notice about our leaves?

By watching the children and listening to their ideas, teachers can get a window into the children’s thinking and motivations, and can extend opportunities.

Books can be sources of inspiration and information. Here are a few that have been in the classrooms recently:
A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas
Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
Red Leaf Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger
Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins

*There is a growing conversation among educators about ways to incorporate “loose parts” – materials that can be used by children in their own unique and open-end ways – in support of play, divergent thinking, problem solving and learning that is child-driven.

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The Learning Circle Preschool and Kindergarten offers visits to prospective families Saturday November 6, 2021 and by appointment through the fall

Now is the time to think about registrations for preschool for the 2022-2023 academic year! It may seem early if your child is just 2 years old, but now is the time to start planning for preschool.

Parents looking for preschool or transitional kindergarten options for the academic year beginning September 2022 are invited to tour our classrooms at 3 Blue Hill River Road, Canton on the morning of Saturday November 6th, 2021. We ask that interested families call or email the school to set a time for an individual indoor tour for the morning of the 6th. Weather-permitting, the playground will be open for those waiting.

The Director, Katrina Selawsky, will be on hand to describe the program and answer any questions you may have about the school, its mission, and the enrollment process.

Learning Circle Preschool, accredited by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) offers morning programs with two, three, or five-day options, afternoon enrichment programs, an option for early arrival (7:30 a.m.) and extended day options that run until 4:30 pm. Facilities include three state of the art, open, sunny and spacious classrooms, a welcome room with library and a spacious playground at the foot of the Blue Hills, and features a highly individualized, creative, and engaging curriculum.

With a curriculum inspired by the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, children enjoy engaging, hands on experiences that build a strong foundation for learning with individual attention and project work in small groups, respectful and nurturing interactions, opportunities to plan, reflect on, and work on projects over time, and an integrated language arts, creative arts and science curriculum. Features include:

• An emergent curriculum model developed from observations of the children’s play
• A focus on projects and collaborative learning
• An integrated approach to learning using the graphic arts as tools for both cognitive and social development
• Carefully organized and aesthetically pleasing classrooms and common spaces
• An understanding that the school environment can teach, and sets a tone for a comfortable and engaging place for learning.

The children’s work is extensively documented using photographs, the children’s own drawings, dictations from the children, and videos of classroom projects in action. This documentation helps teachers develop curriculum meaningful to the children, and helps children remember and share their experiences together. Documentation also gives family members a concrete picture of each child’s day at school.

Parents enjoy on-going communication, detailed documentation of each child’s growth and development shared in a portfolio system, newsletters and other written information about the program distributed regularly, parent meetings and discussion groups on educational and parenting issues, and a welcoming attitude towards parent participation in the program.
Class sizes typically range from 10-14 students, each with two highly qualified and experienced co-teachers. Decisions about placements for the fall of 2022 will begin to be made in December.
Please email the Director, Katrina Selawsky at info@learningcirclepreschool.org or call 781-828-4800 for more information or to arrange a tour of the facility if the November 6th date is inconvenient. This year, tours are arranged for late afternoons (when most children have gone) or Saturday mornings.

Learning Circle Preschool
info@learningcirclepreschool.org
www.learningcirclepreschool.org
781-828-4800

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Making Sense of a Changed School Environment

As we prepared for re-opening this fall, we had many of the same underlying questions that many educators of young children have shared:

• What will distancing look like for preschoolers?
• Will many children struggle with the necessity of wearing a mask?
• How will children feel about the need to connect socially with teachers and peers, but keep a physical distance?
• Will the program still look and feel developmentally appropriate, joyful and driven by the interests of each group of children?
• Will small and larger group project interests grow organically within each group, even within new constraints and protocols?

It turns out we didn’t need to worry as much as we did, but to trust the children and see them as the capable and resourceful individuals they are. We can confirm that taking the time to set the environment carefully with our values in mind, and taking the time to watch and listen to the children has led us to a multitude of engaging beginnings and projects. Through this process, we have re-discovered that some of the important developmental business of the children is to move towards mastery of the environment, even an environment with new and unfamiliar constraints, using all the opportunities offered as experiences unfold.

Our meetings may look different at first glance, but still offer opportunities to greet and listen to each other, share informal conversations and think together about “big ideas” that come up in our days together. Opportunities to investigate, ask questions, share our theories and knowledge, and then document our current thinking about the world are a part of every day, indoors and outdoors. We see projects unfolding in every classroom – around self and family, seeds and plants, seasonal changes, insects, owls and other animals that share our environment outdoors, story-telling, and story writing. Children are listening to each other, learning from each other, and following each other’s lead as they play and learn together.

Now that the children are settling into our new routines, we are beginning to see that children are becoming able to spontaneously maintain the protocols of distancing for safety even as they develop their play themes and share experiences. Under the play structure outdoors, where children often meet for pretend games and conversation, we see spontaneous small groups settling in at an appropriate distance as pretend themes are developed each day. We are beginning to observe that when one child goes over to play an instrument on the playground, it’s now common for others to join at a different instrument – connecting the idea and the music at some distance. When children run together, or wait for a turn on the balance beam or to use an obstacle course, we see them giving each other space without a teacher’s reminder more and more. Children create their own small groups to read, share photos or talk together, giving each other appropriate space. When investigating a sunflower, we see one child at each end of the table more and more. In other words, by setting up a clear expectation and interest in considering each other (it’s kind to wear a mask and give each other space as it shows we are thinking of each other), children are beginning to move towards mastery of their environment here at school, and are increasingly able to find their own creative and thoughtful ways to connect, share, learn and grow together.

As you look at this set of photos, all chosen to illustrate how children are connecting and learning together, I hope you’ll consider how this evidence of competence and resilience is unfolding after such a short time (just 4 or 5 weeks) together.

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