The children seem to be changing as quickly as the weather! We are now fully settled into our rhythm and the children are breathing fully into our days at school. While waiting for everyone to arrive, the children play freely in the play yard. To start our day, we fill the bird feeder. It is truly amazing to watch the chickadees gather above in the trees, waiting patiently for their breakfast. The wind from the flapping of their wings can be felt on faces below. Afterwards, some children like to run off to play with the Kindergarten children, while others gather in the sandbox and use the morning dew to make sturdy sand castles. The sound of Gregg's flute plays and the Kindergarten gathers for "Good Morning Circle Time". I do not ask the Sprouts to come over to sit with me during this time, but by the end of the circle most of them are in my lap.
Children three and under learn primarily through imitation and the Sprouts have the rare opportunity to learn directly from their peers as they joyfully sing seasonal songs! They often imitate the hand gestures and sometimes sing the words while observing. I often hear these same songs later in the day and it always makes me smile.
After the circle, we gather to have our "knicker knack snack" in our metal camping cups. The children sit in a circle and eat raisins, sesame sticks, banana chips & crackers as I tell a brief story about the morning, which usually consists of the weather. Last week there was a lot of talk about "dragon's breath" as the days began with foggy mornings. When everyone is finished they hand me their cups and meet me at the gate and it's off to see the chickens. As we enter the chicken fence, the oldest child tip toes behind a fluffy headed chicken, reaches out, picks her up to say, "Good Morning Mrs. Fluffy Head." She offers a chance to pet the hen to each child and most smile and stick out a finger or five. I'm so impressed by the adventurous spirit of this group! They all are so comfortable and gentle with the chickens.
By this time it is just about ten o'clock. We start to head back to the schoolhouse to get ready for our lunch. Once inside, the children sit on the bench and begin to take off their outdoor gear after I softly say, "Taking off your outside things." During this time, I assist the wee ones in undressing and give friendly reminders to the others that it's time to take off their boots. I encourage everyone to take off their own things and if they ask for help, I will often start the task and have them finish, such as with a zipper. The older two's can fully undress themselves and place their things into their cubbies while the younger two's can take off their boots and jacket. Rain pants can be tricky, even for me! When a child is fully undressed, I'll sing out " ___ is ready" signifying that this child may enter the classroom. Immediately upon entering, I'll call each child over to wash their hands. The older ones can do this task completely on their own. All I say is "___ turn to wash his/her hands." They wash first and I use this time to change diapers. With the younger ones, I call their name just the same and assist them in washing. I'll make a fish pond in the sink with bubbles and have them wiggle their fins. After a minute or two, they'll rinse off, step down from the stool and grab their drying towel from the rack. It's impressive to watch little fingers carefully open the loop in the washcloth to place it on the knob. Allowing the young child ample time to complete each task at an unhurried pace is essential for healthy development.
Once everyone is washed and ready, I bring in our lunch basket filled with cups, spoons, and napkins. I call out "It's lunch time!" and the children gather at the table. This group is quick to come to the table, however, most of them will stand in front of their stumps and look around. I go around and securely tuck everyone in and sit down. I grab the matches and say a short, simple verse as I light the candle in the center of the table...
"Here is a spark of Father son's light
See how it makes us so warm and bright."
We then join hands and sing our blessing..
Earth who gives to us this food
Sun who makes it ripe and good
Sun above ( while raising arms over head)
And Earth below ( while lowering hands)
To you our loving thanks we show
(folding arms across chest)
"Blessings on our meal and peace on Earth."
I like the children to sit at the table even if they are done eating, so that the others can finish up. Imagine the impulse control it must take for a two year old who has just learned that they are their own person?! Of course toddler moments will happen and I will just give friendly reminders such as "spoons are for eating" or "sitting on your bottom, please."
To end our meal we sing..
Blessings on our blossoms
(making a tulip with hands)
Blessings on the roots
(interlacing fingers and point downward)
Blessings on the leaves and stems
(open left palm, facing up then opening the right palm, facing up)
And blessing on the fruit
(cup hands and place one on top of the other)
"Candle, candle burning bright. Thank you for your radiant light."
Once the candle is out, children go off to play as I clear the dishes, wipe the table and sweep the floor. This is also a time when I call the older children to use the bathroom. It is just about 11:15 and we are ready to clear away and sing our circle songs. I sing out our clean up song until the room is tidy.
"Tick, tock goes the clock,
What does it say?
Now it's time, time for us
To put our things away"
We gather on the carpet to sing our circle songs. To end circle time and transition into rest, I close the curtains and I will ask a child to turn off the light. I then ask one to help with pillows and another to help with blankets as I lay down the mats. I've noticed that since actively engaging during this time, the children appear to be more calm and are falling asleep more often than not. I lay each child down at their spot, tuck a pillow under their head (if they use one), swaddle them, and rub their back. I hum softly for the first half hour, and lay in the center of the carpet. Each child lays quietly on their mat for 45 minutes while I'm in the room. At that time, I head to the kitchen with the children who are awake to wash the dishes. We then put on our outside gear and head to the play yard where the whole school is out and about. As the sleeping children wake up, I am able to go in to get them dressed while Ms. Morse or Julie keeps an eye out. We stay out in the play yard until just about 1:20p.m. when we head in to eat our prepared, farm fresh lunch!
After hand washing and diaper changing, the children play freely while I feed the babies. I do not call them to the table for our afternoon snack. Instead, they head over if they are hungry and stay seated at the table if they are eating. I clear away the dishes from our snack and start to tidy up the classroom. By this time, it is about 2pm and we gather on the carpet to read books until pick up/aftercare time. Each child happily greets their parent at the end of their big day. They are ready for the adventure home.