Tuesday, October 30, 2012

RIE Principle #4: Freedom in Peer Interactions

RIE Principle #4 says  "Freedom to Explore and Interact with other Infants"

One of our main goals at Tumbleweed is to provide children the opportunity to become confident and successful communicators.  We've found that by supporting awareness of emotion, struggle, empathy, and emotional intelligence, we show them that they are heard and what they are feeling/saying/seeing/noticing/experience is important.

One of the ways we support children as communicators is by allowing children the freedom to interact with each other.  If both children feel comfortable with the interaction we refrain from interrupting the experience.  We step in only when it's necessary to ensure that everyone feels safe and secure.  If a child doesn't like the touch they're receiving, we narrate how they are sending us that message so that both the communicator and the listener build skills.  This work with infants and toddlers helps them blossom into both confident communicators and socially aware members of their society.

When we observe a child working to communicate, we orate information that will help all children involved build a sense of emotional awareness as well.  We bring attention to what's happening, what we notice about how it's affecting children, and what's working or not working.  We talk openly about the connections between what's happening and emotional reactions.  The children learn to recognize the cause and effect patterns and connect emotion to facial features and sounds.  Sometimes I draw their attention by saying something like, "Oh man.  Look at H's face.  It's scrunched up and he's feeling strongly.'

When children are able to interact freely with each other, naturally and with the support of positive communication and observation, they are able to develop their own awareness and emotional vocabulary.  When children discover emotions for themselves they gain ownership that can last a life time.  This moment becomes especially powerful when this awareness stems from the interactions of two children.

For us a Tumbleweed, we value the creation of an Emotionally Intelligent Child.  This happens through peer interaction, self-awareness and ownership, and support from a well prepared caregiver and environment.  None of this can happen without freedom or giving the child space and time to come to this awareness in their own way in their own time. 

A New Addition To TPH!

Last week, we welcomed GH to the Preschool House. He spent most of his time learning Tumbleweed culture and developing relationships. In other words, he engaged in a whole lot of play.  

Here are some of our favorite moments:

Looking at an airplane in the sky: "I'm trying to control this rocket ship!"

Singing: "Squishes the mud, squashes the mud, squashes the mud, mmmm."

"There's treasure in the sand!"

"It's a magic motor machine!"

"The boat is not moving!"

                                                                                                     "It's changing to green!"

During group time on Thursday, the children discussed friendship: how it starts, how it can change, and aspects of it that feel really good.  We look forward to embarking on this journey of friendship with GH and his family. From all of us at Tumbleweed, welcome!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Joy in the Moment

We are sitting together on the rug.  C is having some milk and H is nearby watching closely.  It is one of the first bottles C and I have together so we are learning what works best for both of us.  She enjoys holding it, but I am ready for when she needs help.  We look at eachother and spend this time bonding and learning of eachother.  H watches my interactions with C, C drinking mama's milk and my own interactions with him.  He moves towards and away from my legs where C is resting.  She turns when he comes near.  They reach for each other, feeling faces, ears and clothing.  I quietly talk about what is happening and we share smiles and eye contact.

This is the moment we live for.  When we are immersed in the flow of the moment, time seems to stand still.  I find they can be hard to capture, because I am in the moment and documenting is difficult and distracting.  When I am able this joy is something I glorify and want to share with their families 

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Toddlerness often comes hand in hand with trickiness. We each require more space to explore. We are intensely interested in cause and effect and how what we do causes another to act or react. There are more struggles for toys as children assert themselves and work on independence. There are internal struggles with wanting to be carried, held, and cared for while simultaneously wanting to do it for yourself, to refuse help, and to master new skills and challenges. This last part is the most apparent to me as I watch Cohort 5. It is an internal struggle that will exist for the rest of their lives. With each new skill they gain, they will yearn to move both backwards and forwards. It's an internal struggle that I deal with even as an adult.

Working with children and having children are life changing experiences. Observation and attention to what these unique individuals spend significant amounts of their day working on often causes me to process about my own choices and struggles as an individual. The trickiness of our day makes me question both their motives and my own reactions. What are they trying to say? What is it they are needing? Is it space? Is it my help? Why do I instinctively want to react in certain ways? What if I ignore that instinct, does another one take its place?

When a child cries, why do I instinctively want to rush to comfort them? Is it because they really need my comfort, because I need them to need my comfort, or simply because I need to feel comforted by comforting them? When a child cries after a toy is taken, are they mourning the loss of the toy, the sudden change in circumstances, or do they desire to have that toy given back to them? Why not let them cry and grieve the loss of the toy while I'm close to comfort them if they initiate it? Why so often do I feel the need to return the toy to them, as if I am capable of deciding what's fair and what isn't? As if I am capable of protecting them and keeping them from every being wronged?

These struggles and this processing, I believe, are part of what makes humans so different from any other life form. It's much like a scientific method, though there is often no clear ending. There is observation, the mastering of challenges, a desire to understand the process and the why behind those challenges, and a need to seek out new opportunities and challenges which causes us to return to observation. I can only hope that I approach this process with an attentive nature and a mind that is open to seeing outside of the schemas I have created for myself throughout my individual journey so that I may see the experiences of the children in Cohort 5 as opportunities to learn along with the child rather than to teach them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Virtues of Selfishness: PART TWO

Awhile back, I proposed that selfishness isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I advocated for a child's right to say No, make choices, and do things their own way in their own time

But selfishness isn't just a right.  Selfishness actually WORKS.  When children make choices to be kind not because they are required to but because it works well (i.e. it feels good, others are more likely to listen, they are more likely to achieve their intended outcome), intrinsic motivation flourishesIn other words, the positive behaviors have positive effects (for everyone involved), and so children are likely to repeat the positive behavior because it works.  
We've found that when we support the natural connections between doing something that works and feeling good, children are naturally and selfishly kind to each other:  it feels good to be kind! 
And you want to know a super cool thing that happens?   
Selfish kindness, or perhaps kind selfishness, spreads...

W connects with A.
T is comforted.
T comforts W.
A connects with L.

L's sister comforts S.

S connects with J.
J connects with W.
 So c'mon!  Be selfishly kind!  It works.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

TPH has turned 1!

A couple of weeks ago, we had a big get-together at the Preschool House to celebrate our school being open for one year. To prepare for the TPH birthday party, the preschoolers wanted to make a fall treat consisting of pumpkin, so we decided on pumpkin muffins. The preschoolers were excited at the idea of making muffins together. I bought Amber Cup squash, which taste very similar to pumpkins, and one day they were placed on the table, ready to be cut open!

The preschoolers made guesses as to the color inside the Amber Cup. W exclaimed, “Blue!” TB and MR chimed in, “Orange!” So I slowly cut the first squash open and all three preschoolers said, “Yellow.” TB then said, “Well yellow is a type of orange.” W replied, “Yeah.” They made guesses about the second squash and this time they said “Yellow.” As soon as they saw the inside, a resounding “Orange!” was heard. Each preschooler had a half of squash to work with, scooping out the seeds into their own wooden bowl. 

CE came over to see what TB was doing, watching her closely as she scooped seeds out into her bowl. Once all of the seeds were scooped out, they were placed in a bowl of water and were available for rinsing. TS and W both took a turn rinsing the seeds off, stirring the seeds in the water.

  The squash was cut up into smaller pieces, placed in a baking pan with water, covered with foil and put in the oven to cook until the squash was soft. The seeds were roasted in the oven with cinnamon and roasted in the oven for afternoon snack. The skin of the squash was taken off and then the flesh was ready to be mashed! 

Once the squash was mashed, it was time to make the muffins! This is how the preschoolers create food together, given basic trust and as many opportunities for independence as possible:

They break eggs:

    They measure:                                                                  They pour:

          They stir:                                                                                                                   They make muffins:                  


The next day we enjoyed our muffins while visiting with recently graduated Tumbleweed Preschoolers and current Tumbleweeders and their families. Face painting and color mixing were available for the children to explore their own identity and connections with others. We enjoyed spending time with everyone. It was an event of celebration and reconnection with old friends and new friends alike. Thank you everyone who has made it possible for TPH to have this one-year birthday party. We are so grateful to have each and every one of you in our lives!