ReinaHosier_Combined Thesis_03-11-10

desertdysfunctionalInternet and Web Development

Dec 4, 2013 (3 years and 6 months ago)

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Chapter 1

INTRODUCTION

Currently, very few easily accessible online resources of information are available to
providers of care for young children. Instead, the family childcare provider must search
through many different websites to glean tidbits of info
rmation that may be helpful to
her in choosing how best to provide for the children in her care.

There also exists a great deal of pressure on the providers of preschool
-
age children
to offer a highly structured academic preschool program to prepare childr
en for
kindergarten. Emphasis is placed on memorizing letters and numbers, phonics, writing,
and crafts, forcing less and less time for unstructured play. Finally, few options exist for
social and professional networking to this field of employment.


The

author created a website for family child care providers that holds all of the
information they need to run their business, offer age
-
appropriate activities, provide
wholesome meals, network with others in the field, access local government resources,
and

find many other services. In
-
home childcare is a lonely and largely overlooked field
of employment, with little value placed on the educational growth or professional needs
of providers. Very few resources exist solely for the benefit of the childcare p
rovider.
Many of the available websites focus on the parents’ need, although some offer space for
provider advertising. Providers need an easily accessible source of information when
they have questions about their business, want advice on activities and

how they benefit
the child, need to look up regulations that govern their business, or want to know what is
available to them through local agencies.



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The care and education of the very young child is at stake here. Much focus is
given to the school
-
age c
hild, the subjects taught, and how these subjects are taught in
school. Some focus is given to teaching in a developmentally appropriate, or age
-
appropriate, manner, primarily directed toward preschool and what should or should not
be taught at this age t
o prepare the child for kindergarten. However, very little attention,
other than negative attention when a provider is mentioned in the news, is given to the
people responsible for raising those same children during the most susceptible stages of
their li
ves. This is true despite the fact that many of our greatest theorists in the field of
education and child development begin their research studies well before the school
-
age
child. It is important that the people caring for children in their earliest st
ages be given
as much information as possible on how to best serve this population.

This project encompassed the definition of quality care, what activities define a
quality program, and how these principles are incorporated into daily routines. The
autho
r incorporated suggestions for educating the young child through art experiences
and music and movement experiences.

The author has six years of experience working in this field, as well as several
contacts within her network of local providers. She has s
everal years of coursework in
early childhood education, as well as some volunteer experience in local preschools.
She is also a member of various provider networks that may provide valuable feedback
in the usability and value of this project.

Additionall
y, the author has spent several years studying Education Through
Music, and the power of song
-
experience games for children of all ages. The


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combination of these very diverse training experiences contributed to the overall design
of this website.

The cont
ent for the website was grouped into three major interest areas:
Business, Nutrition, and Art. This required compiling business and tax tips, menus,
recipes and nutrition experiences, and art examples and explanations. In addition, a
summary of the auth
or’s position and experience was included in order to connect with
the viewers. Links to helpful information and relevant websites were compiled, along
with articles that would be of interest to others in this field. Finally, the author explored
existing

forums and discussion pages to decide which to use for this project.

Once the preliminary design of the website was decided, the author hired a
professional to implement the process. When the website was available online, other
family childcare provider
s were asked to review the website and fill out a short survey.
This feedback can be seen in Chapter 3.

The focus of this website project was to promote solidarity and advocacy for
young children among an otherwise scattered and solitary population of chi
ldcare
providers by providing tips to simplify business practices, ideas for activities do with the
children, shared menus and recipes, articles to help a caregiver grow in their knowledge
of educating young children, and a forum of discussion when problem
s arise.

The intent of this project was to distribute information. This website is available
to providers across the nation, and possibly around the world.





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Chapter 2

REVIEW OF RELEVANT LITERATURE

“All of us learn, and what we learn is decisive in our

becoming who we are”
(Arnstine, 1967, p. 1). From the very first days of life, human beings are consumed with
learning. Infants absorb everything they see and hear in order to learn how to walk, how
to talk, how to

act, how to

be. Berger put it succinc
tly when he said, “seeing comes
before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak” (Berger, 1972, p. 7).
Young children watch and learn. As they graduate into the school classroom, they are
taught more abstract skills such as reading, wri
ting, mathematics, science, and history.
In this they move from whole body learning (seeing, hearing, doing) to cerebral, rote
learning.

As a society, heavy emphasis is placed on the “basics” of education: reading,
writing, and arithmetic. Yet all the wh
ile, students mimicking or memorizing what is set
before them to learn are picking up many unintentional lessons.

Giving certain subjects more time emphasizes their importance or acceptance by
society. The tone of voice, the choice of words, or the enthus
iasm of the teacher all add
to, or detract from, the subject matter. Eisner noted, “decisions that are made about the
school’s priorities are also fundamental decisions about the kinds of minds children will
have the opportunity to develop” (1998, p. 78).

The social standing of the adults
surrounding students also gives nonverbal cues about what is expected or respected. In
this, the education system and society shape the expectations for the students’ future.



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This begs the question: Is it good practice
to focus a majority of resources on the
teaching of reading, writing, and mathematics at the expense of the arts? There are some
who would argue that by teaching the arts, one not only teaches the aesthetics of art, but
more importantly, better prepares t
he student to be a productive member of society
through improved free
-
thinking and problem
-
solving skills. Eisner argued, “curricula in
which the arts are absent or inadequately taught rob children of what they might
otherwise become” (1998, p. 64). He w
ent on to state “It is important for schools in a
democracy to cultivate cognitive diversity in order to create a population better able to
contribute uniquely to the common weal” (1998, p. 68). Eisner is arguing that as the
basic subjects focus on single

correct answers, the curriculum is taking away from the
students opportunities to think more broadly, or solve problems with many “right”
answers, or work through multiple strategies to come to a solution, by not offering
subjects such as art that foster
this type of problem solving.

The possibilities for students’ futures may be limited by denying them this one thing.
This easily translates to a case in favor of art education. How important is art, or
aesthetic appreciation, to the career choices of toda
y’s students? Dewey argued that
even the most mundane job, if done properly, was an expression of art.
“The intelligent
mechanic engaged in his job, interested in doing well and finding satisfaction in his
handiwork, caring for his materials and tools wit
h genuine affection, is artistically
engaged” (1934, p. 4).


A noted theorist once said, “Not just a person’s job, but his modes of thought and
feeling as well are largely a function of the kind of career he chooses” (Arnstine, 1967,


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p. 357). If this is t
rue, how does education shape not only the body of knowledge
presented to the student, but also the modes of thought and feeling for the student?

The argument in favor of art in education rests largely on the premise that it is
through the arts that true i
ntelligence is shaped. Any student, if given enough time and
attention can recite back the history lesson that was taught the previous day or, more
likely, fill in the correct multiple
-
choice answer on the standardized test. However, this
same student mu
st be taught to solve problems that do not have a single answer. Eisner
maintained that:

While we say that the function of schooling is to
prepare students for life, the
problems of life tend not to have the fixed, single correct answers that characterize
the problems students encounter in the academic areas of schooling… One would
think that schools that wanted to prepare students for life would employ tasks and
problems similar to those found outside of
schools. (Eisner, 1998, p. 84)


Most every day prob
lems have more than a single correct answer. Teaching the
skills to solve such problems is the province of the arts. When students are asked to
represent something in art form, they must use skill and imagination, often approaching
the problem from sever
al perspectives to determine which is the best form of
representation. This imaginative thinking is necessary for solving problems outside of
school. Eisner argued that

“artists need skill, discipline, imagination, sensibility, and
insight, and so do tho
se doing social science research” (1998, p. 154). Thus, the skills
learned through the study of art transcend this narrow application and apply as well to
other areas of study.



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Dewey thought along the same lines when he said:

Any idea
that ignores the nec
essary role of intelligence in production of works of art
is based upon identification of thinking with use of one special kind of material,
verbal signs and words. To think effectively in terms of relations of qualities is as
severe a demand upon thought

as to think in terms of symbols, verbal and
mathematical. Indeed, since words are easily manipulated in mechanical ways, the
production of a work of genuine art probably demands more intelligence than does
most of the so
-
called thinking that goes on amon
g those who pride themselves on
being “intellectuals.” (Dewey, 1934, p.47)

As the current curriculum gets further and further removed from the classroom, as
legislators decide what, when, and how the subject matter is to be taught, it is easy to
discount

the importance of such “frivolous” things as art, music, or dance. However,
what is not acknowledged is that all of these forms of art are predicated on experience.
The experiences of the student are what foster imagination. A child cannot remember
wha
t he has not experienced. And “it is through experience that the content literacy
makes possible is acquired” (Eisner, 1998, p. 15).

Students cannot attach meaning to the words on the page if they have no experience
with what the word represents. The w
ritten word is a symbol of the spoken word, which
is a symbol of the object to which it is referring. To be able to attach meaning to the
symbol of the word on the page, the student must first have had an experience with the
object that word symbolizes in

order to “remember” what that word stands for. This is
imperative in learning to read.



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“Time is necessary in developing new ways of thinking because we all must link
everything we learn to our own prior experiences. New ideas must be accommodated to
wha
t we already know, and our intelligence is such that it is very particular


everything
must really fit to that which we already know in order to understand” (Richards, 1978, p.
7). Specifically, in order to understand a new concept, there must be some co
rrelation
between what is being presented, and that which has already been experienced. Without
some sort of similar experience, the student cannot relate to what is being learned in any
meaningful way. Dewey stated something similar when he said, “New i
deas come
leisurely yet promptly to consciousness only when work has previously been done in
forming the right doors by which they may gain entrance” (1934, p. 76). Intelligence is
impossible without experience. Experience does not come about through the

reading of
what has happened to someone else. Only through relating what is read to personal
experience can the lesson being portrayed be fully understood.

Eisner took this one step further by claiming that the country cannot maintain a
culture of progre
ss without this experience. He stated, “what we have not experienced,
we cannot remember… but to remember without the ability to imagine would leave us
with a static culture. The engine of social and cultural progress is our ability to conceive
of things

that never were, but which might become” (1998, p. 24, 25). The United
States will be hard
-
pressed to maintain the technological and innovative edge of which it
has boasted for decades if education continues to stifle the very imagination that
innovatio
n requires of future generations. “When the curriculum as a whole is so
heavily saturated with tasks and expectations that demand fealty to rule, opportunities to


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think in unique ways are diminished” (Eisner, 1998, p. 82). This begins to belabor the
po
int of the static quality of thinking in single solution problems, yet it is important to
understand the consequences of not foreseeing where this kind of training leads. How
can a society built on innovation and invention sustain progress when students a
re not
trained to think in innovative or imaginative ways, and in fact, discouraged from such
free thinking? “When one values individual vision and personal creativity, the specter of
all fourth graders marching at the same pace to the same drummer toward

the same
destination is a vision that better fits the current People’s Republic of China than a
nation aspiring to become a genuine democracy” (Eisner, 1998, p. 68).

Education of the future would be well served to revert back to the values of the past
t
o teach individuality and creativity. Arnstine suggested that “a student who is learning
to learn is, among other things, developing his own aims and purposes” (1967, p. 345).
This is the mentality that needs to be fostered. If the student has a stake i
n the outcome,
and a genuine interest in the process, he has the motivation necessary to become
successful. No greater success exists than to enable a student to learn, to solve whatever
problem he may be faced with in life, and to become the person he des
ires to be.

In this pursuit, the curriculum is key to enabling students for real life experience.
The decisions about what is taught and how it is to be taught need to reside closer to
those that have a stake in the outcome. The responsibility of the sub
ject matter needs to
be in the hands of those that can see firsthand what is needed by each student being
taught at that time. Arnstine wrote, “responsibility means that whoever selects content
for the curriculum be prepared and in a position to take the
consequences of his


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selection” (1967, p. 362). This would put the responsibility for the curriculum in the
hands of the teacher, the teacher being best suited to assess the needs of the students and
best trained to determine the best way to meet those ne
eds.

The mark of a good teacher would be one who has a “tendency to see content in its
role as an aesthetic cue, as a prod to curiosity, or as a cue to awareness of a problem, and
to see it as supplying the material for the pursuit of these initiating situ
ations” (Arnstine,
1967, p. 370). The teacher must be able to use the content put forward by the school
board, along with the teacher training he received to devise a lesson plan that actively
engages the student in the process of learning. The student s
hould take away not only an
understanding of the content, but also an appreciation for the process that he can carry
forward into his life’s pursuits.

“If teaching is conceived as the fostering of the kind of learning with which we have
been dealing, the
n it is the process by which one human being makes it possible for
another to become alert, grow sensitive to his world, and think independently. Without
making over his pupil into an image of himself such a person enables a learner
eventually to do witho
ut him” (Arnstine, 1967, p. 371). Ultimately, this should be the
goal of education: to empower the student with the necessary skills required to think
independently, become a unique individual with unique abilities to offer, and to offer
those skills and
abilities to the workplace, to society, or to the culture.

If this becomes the goal of education, how then can education move towards
reaching achievement? One method would be to include play within the structure of
education.



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Play in Education

Cultivati
ng pleasure in learning, building curiosity for learning new things, and
exploring thoughts and ideas on which to build future learning begins in childhood.
How the child is allowed or encouraged to explore and make sense of his world in early
years will
affect his desire to continue that learning throughout his life.

Understanding play, and the role it serves in education, is essential to building a
strong foundation for learning.

“If we wish to understand our child, we need to understand his play. From
a child’s
play we can gain understanding of how he sees and construes the world


what he would
like it to be” (Bettelheim, 1967, p. 35). Play is an integral part of a child’s education.
Studies have shown that play is how a child makes sense of the wor
ld around him, and
that without unstructured, unscripted, and uninterrupted play, the child cannot work
through the emotions and confusion of his life experiences. More even than that,
Bettelheim wrote that “besides being a means of coping with past and p
resent concerns,
play is the child’s most useful tool for preparing himself for the future and its tasks”
(1967, p. 36).

Yet today there exists in adults an impatience for children’s play. Often parents and
educators alike see it as a waste of valuable t
ime, time in which the child could be
learning something “constructive,” like reading and math. “Parental pressure combined
with flawed policies are among the reasons why creative play, long considered the
foundation of the early childhood curriculum, is
now disappearing from preschools and
kindergartens” (Almon, 2006, p. 1).



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This attitude has made it even more important for the educators of very young
children to understand the importance of play and why it builds the child’s knowledge as
surely as readi
ng and math. Cooper explained:

When play is viewed as “messing around,” it is hard to see its importance in the
curriculum. It’s also a leap of faith to trust a teacher who tells you that play is
important but who can’t demonstrate to you why or how it w
ill benefit your child in
the future. If you want parents to trust you as an educator, you’d better be able to
demonstrate the importance of play in a convincing manner. (1996, p. 94)

It is important for educators to understand the importance of play and

what the child
is learning and experiencing through that play. “Teachers under pressure to
teach

children, not let them play, need skill in naming what is learned through play” (Cooper,
1996, p. 62). However, with the devaluing of play, the essential n
ature and building
blocks of learning that happen through play are not being taught to educators.

So what does play do for a child that makes it such an important step in early
childhood development? Bettelheim believed that “play teaches the child, witho
ut his
being aware of it, the habits most needed for intellectual growth, such as stick
-
to
-
itiveness, which is so important in all learning. A child at play begins to realize that he
need not give up in despair if a block doesn’t balance neatly on another

block the first
time around” (1967, p. 36). This child is learning to deal with failure in a safe and
unthreatening environment, and teaching himself the value of continued trying until
success is achieved.



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A varied and healthy play life grows the imag
ination, giving a child a plethora of
possible experiences with very little outside influences. A child with an active
imagination can create an entire landscape with the simplest of items. “Developing an
inner life, including fantasies and daydreams, is

one of the most constructive things a
growing child can do. A lack of sufficient leisure to develop a rich inner life is a large
part of the reason why a child will pressure his parents to entertain him or will turn on
the television set” (Bettelheim, 19
67, p. 37).

Self
-
directed play is one area where a child is granted complete control of his
environment. Within the child’s imagination, there are no rules imposed by outsiders.
In a safe and secure environment, there are no boundaries to his play. When

a child is
intent on imaginative play, he is in charge of his time and his destiny. He is king of the
world. His confidence is high, and nothing is impossible. When describing the
developmental psychology and philosophy of Erik Erikson, Mooney stated,
“When a
child can fully develop a strong sense of self
-
control without loss of self
-
esteem, she will
feel proud and confident” (2000, p. 47). Watching a child at play gives the observer a
strong sense of the child’s self
-
esteem. A confident, happy child
knows that there is no
“wrong answer” to his make
-
believe.

Dennison went further by stating, “Play enables the learner to notice the shape,
texture, tactility, sensations, and interrelationships of his own movement patterns as he
interacts with the world.

Through play, he is able to recapitulate the movement
experiences of his ancestors and, in effect, rediscover his culture” (2006, p. 167). These


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are valuable life lessons to be learned for a child. Through play, a child discovers the
world in which he l
ives, and his relationship with it.

Parents and educators agree that the education of the very young child is vital. How
we accomplish this goal, and what that education should consist of, is where this
discussion begins. Jean Piaget believed that a chil
d’s curiosity is what motivated his
learning, and Maria Montessori advocated that children learn by doing. “[She] taught
that it is the child’s work to discover that water is wet, that materials have weight, shape,
volume, and textures. She understood th
at children will naturally explore the physical
world if given an environment in which they can move and interact with its properties”
(Dennison, 2006, p. 58). Given the proper tools, space, and environment, the child can
teach himself many valuable skill
s and life
-
lessons that will provide the foundation he
needs for formal education later and social interactions with peers throughout his life.
“Educators are now expecting children to read, to decode symbols and master facts,
without having first develo
ped a meaningful context for storing and retrieving the
information


in fact, without even having had concrete experiences with which to
connect the symbols” (Dennison, 2006, p. 176).

For example, expecting a child to read and understand the symbols (lett
ers) that spell
out “wet” without first having a mental picture of what wet is: what it feels like, where it
happens, what effects it can have. Reading about a wet monkey will be a truly boring,
and confusing, experience for a child who has no concept of
wet, nor has ever seen a
monkey. How does the child relate to this story? In effect, what purpose does reading
serve if not to provide the reader with a mental picture of the details on the page?



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Parents are being pushed into eliminating the time the chi
ld has to discover these
lessons for themselves in exchange for structured activities, “educational” computer
games, or watching other children play with these elements through a two
-
dimensional
television screen. Dennison argued the danger in this when h
e stated, “Research shows
that language has evolved so that we can talk about our experiences, not replace them.
Yet Western society has a left
-
brain bias that favors the three R’s over experiential
education. This emphasis continues to do more harm than

good


especially in today’s
educational practices” (2006, p. 110).

He then went on to explain why this is harmful to children’s education:

Before children in a school setting can enter into abstract learning with written codes
and symbols, they need a
foundation of concrete, three
-
dimensional experiences of
moving spatially, in real time. Yet most school
-
age children haven’t yet had enough
foundational movement experiences to coordinate their eyes and hands or even sit
comfortably upright in the classr
oom. They’re still struggling to organize their body
in gravity. And though they may master academic skills, until their physical and
sensory confusion is resolved, everything they learn will be associated


and
remembered


with that same physical and s
ensory confusion. (Dennison, 2006, p.
60)

Self
-
directed play, given the proper environment, is education. Feelings of
achievement build self
-
confidence and a desire to learn more. “Young children are self
-
propelled to achieve as well as to explore. It
is important to recognize achievement not
only in academic terms, but also in such concrete areas as tying one’s shoes, making


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friends, and exercising the muscles of the imagination” (Jones & Cooper, 2006, p. 22).
“The trick is to build teaching and learn
ing on intrinsically motivated behaviors


what
the learner wants to do” (Jones & Cooper, 2006, p. 20). For example, there is value in
playing with blocks. A child may spend hours patiently stacking, knocking down, and
rebuilding with blocks. What may s
eem to an adult like fruitless effort is teaching the
child about spatial relationships, gravity, shape, size, and weight. Yet for the child, this
is play. Even the sound and effect of the falling blocks creates excitement and the
opportunity to recreate
, or do it all over again.

Learning the use of language, how to express ideas coherently and efficiently, is also
a valuable life lesson. “Children practice language skills more effectively in interaction
with peers than in structured group language lesso
ns from a talkative adult” (Jones &
Cooper, 2006, p. 35). A motivated teacher can capitalize on conversations among
children. Asking open
-
ended questions when children are working out the details of a
problem can provoke further thought and discussion a
mong them. “Conversations of
this sort elicit more child talk than teacher talk, as children get intrigued and think of
more ideas. (It’s children, not teachers, who need practice talking in school.)” (Jones &
Cooper, 2006, p. 94).

Yet even with the scie
ntific studies to support play in the classroom, especially at
early ages, even the teachers that agree and want to teach through play are not given the
ability or freedom to do so. More and more, “misguided policies that require increasing
amounts of for
mal instruction


and even scripted teaching


are forcing teachers in
kindergartens and preschools to do things that they know are wrong and


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counterproductive. In too many schools, play has become a four
-
letter word” (Almon,
2006, p. 1). With discussion

of mandated preschool curriculum in progress, teachers of
this age group must be advocates to parents about the necessity of play. A statement
issued by the Alliance for Childhood appealed to educators, caregivers, parents, and
lawmakers by stating, “Pre
school education must not follow the same path that has led
kindergartens toward intense academic instruction with little or no time for child
-
initiated learning. If such practices were effective for five
-
year
-
olds, we would have
seen better long
-
term res
ults by now” (Almon, 2006, p. 2).

Some schools follow a more child
-
centered curriculum. Other schools model their
teaching method after the theorists and pioneers in early childhood education. Most of
these are private schools, and may be out of financia
l reach for many parents, but there is
a strong push for chartered public schools that follow these principles. One such
example is the growing number of Waldorf
-
inspired charter schools. “Waldorf
education divides childhood into three seven
-
year stages
of development” (Costello
-
Dougherty, 2009, p. 4). These three stages are imitation, imagination, and inspired
thinking. “The Waldorf method suggests that teachers time their teaching to coincide
with a child’s readiness to learn” (Costello
-
Dougherty, 200
9, p. 4).

For instance, children in Waldorf schools begin first grade later, much closer to the
age of seven, and they begin the learning of letters and numbers in first grade instead of
kindergarten. Reading is therefore started at a much older age, so
metimes as late as third
grade. During this second stage, from ages seven to fourteen, emphasis is placed on


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building and nurturing the imagination through mental exercises combined with physical
activities that inspire the active learning of the subject
matter.

The Dennisons, in their study of how children learn and the importance of
incorporating movement into the learning experience stated:

Many learners beginning school are not developmentally prepared for the bilateral,
two
-
dimensional skills of near
-
point work. Sometimes a student is coordinated for
play or sports activities (involving three
-
dimensional space and demanding binocular
vision only beyond arm’s length), yet is not ready to use both eyes, ears, hands, and
brain hemispheres for near
-
point
work, such as reading, writing, and other skills
involving fine
-
motor coordination. Other students show coordination for academic
skills or near
-
point activities, yet are not ready for whole
-
body coordination on the
playing field. (Dennison & Dennison, 19
89, p. 3)

In this case, education should be based on the needs of the child. Flexibility in the
classroom would give both sets of children an equal chance at excelling. “Over time, the
more gifted children would help the less gifted. The game of mutual
support would
become fun” (Dennison, 2006, p. 172).

With all of this support and research to prove that play is a valuable and necessary
means of learning in early childhood, why then does conventional education continue to
move further and further away fr
om this model? Almon argued that, “While there is
some evidence of short
-
term gains (that is, higher test scores) in first and second grade,
there is no definitive longitudinal research that shows gains after fourth grade for
children who have experienced

intensive academic instruction in kindergarten or


19



preschool” (2005, p. 2). In fact, Almon went on to say in the same article that “The
students from child
-
centered programs were more likely to have completed high school,
more likely to be employed, and m
uch less likely to have gone to jail than those who had
more academic instruction in preschool” (2005, p. 3).

The disconnect in educational practices appears to stem from policy
-
makers and
bureaucracies dictating how best to teach children without any inpu
t from those trained
in the teaching of children. “Uniform curricula and standards imposed at district, state,
and federal levels ignore the obvious fact that different children learn differently. Young
children entering kindergartens that offer no oppor
tunity for play quickly discover that
there is one right answer for practically everything” (Jones & Cooper, 2006, p. 41). In
the interest of standards, and the ability to test the “knowledge” of every student, schools
teach every student the same thing i
n the same way. Yet “making everyone do the same
thing guarantees both boredom and failure. There’s no way to design a closed task that
fits everyone” (Jones & Cooper, 2006, p. 25).

This attitude towards education moves the child further and further fr
om being
invested in the process of learning, and builds stress within the child to meet
expectations in a boring and confusing environment. “What happens to children when
we treat them as if they were all the same? Unless they’re the “type” of children
who
happen to fit the prescribed mold


and no student really fits it


they become shut down
and bored with school” (Dennison, 2006, p. 168).

Instead of encouraging a natural curiosity and love of learning innate in every child,
the education system is th
warting the very thing it is trying to achieve. By eliminating


20



the means by which a child learns, educators are guaranteeing a population of students
that are uninterested in learning and stressed by the pressure of expectations that are
nearly impossible

to fulfill.

The prospect of difficult years in the classroom makes it even more important that
the educators of the very young child, preschool teachers and child care providers, work
extra hard to provide the experiences that will give the children in th
eir care a foundation
to work with when introduced to the classroom. Play, social interactions, and an
environment with opportunity to explore and learn are much more valuable to the child
entering kindergarten than having a memorized alphabet and the abi
lity to count to
thirty.

The Value of Play


“Play is not a luxury but rather a crucial dynamic of healthy physical, intellectual,
and social
-
emotional development at all age levels” (Elkind, 2007, p. 4).

For much of human history, this statement would ha
ve been considered self
-
evident.
For hundreds of years, children have been left to their own devices to work out their
social standing, develop large and small motor skills, and through pretend
-
play make
sense of their lives without direct adult supervisi
on. Children were expected to use their
imaginations to make use of the materials at hand to accomplish their desires. Time to
play, independent of direct adult participation, was not only given but required.

However, times have changed. Parents have be
come much more involved in the
daily activities of children, scoring their success or skill as parents by the
accomplishments of their children. In this climate, play has become an enigma. Focus


21



has shifted towards filling every moment of childhood with
learning experiences in order
to give the child an advantage later in life. However, in that regard, the very definition
and purpose of play has become lost. Instead of viewing unscripted, free play as the
most meaningful learning tool, play has been del
egated to something that happens during
moments of “free time” between learning activities.

Elkind touched on this phenomenon, and the role of play then and now, when he
said:

When we played on our own, we also learned to relate to one another and resolve
our
own conflicts, even if this sometimes involved fights. Protecting children’s
innocence did not affect our outdoor play. In contrast, our contemporary fears about
children’s physical well
-
being does affect their play. Children are not allowed to
play

on their own to the extent that they once were. And much of the play they do
engage in is organized and run by adults. This robs children of the opportunity to
innovate and learn from their risk
-
taking behavior. To be sure, children today still
manage
to play on their own, but it is now the exception and not the rule. (2007, p.
80)

Parents have been bombarded with messages that learning should begin as soon as a
child is born and, therefore, toys designed to grab the attention for “educational”
purpose
s are placed around the child sometimes even before the baby’s visual capability
has fully developed. In a climate of “play vs. learning,” parents need concrete evidence
that their child has not been left behind by being given time for unstructured, child
-
driven play.



22



Yawkey, in his book
Learning is Child’s Play

(1982) posited that “What appears
to
be random, spontaneous activity, is, upon closer examination, thinking. In fact, all play
involves such thinking processes as comparing, classifying, predictin
g, and verifying”
(p. 2). A child that has been placed in an environment with materials to support her
curiosity and innate desire to learn about how her world works, alongside other children
who fuel her imagination, and given adequate time to immerse he
rself in her activity,
would learn more to prepare herself for school than had she been placed in a highly
structured, academic program. According to Cooper and Jones, “
both imaginative play
and skill learning are spontaneously initiated by young children

who have the time and
space to do so (2006, p. 21).

In the early years of a child’s life, learning is concrete. Objects need to be
experienced: touched, smelled, examined, and tasted, in order to be internalized. Dr.
Dennison stated that a
“learner’s pl
ayful interactions with their concrete physical world
bring them a sense of immediacy regarding the properties of that world


size, weight,
mass, distance, gravity, and so forth


and their place within it (Dennison, 2006, p. 167).
Bos and Chapman went fu
rther when they stated, “Just watch a baby repeatedly crumble
a piece of paper. It’s the way they learn. If they haven’t touched it, moved it, taken it
apart or manipulated it, it can’t be in their brain” (2005, p. 61). These experiences teach
the infan
t about the concrete world in which she lives.

Only when the child has had sufficient experiences to have a working knowledge of
the world in which she lives, can she associate representations of objects to a
remembered object in her mind. When looking
at a drawing of a dog in a book, even if


23



the image may be only slightly representative of a dog, she can access the memory of
having her experience with dogs, and associate that dog with the image on the page.
This remembering and associating of objects i
s vitally important in learning to read. She
cannot attach meaning to the symbols d
-
o
-
g without creating a mental image of the dog
in her mind. Bos and Chapman admonished, “Remember children must have
experiences to which they can attach words” (2005. p
. 86).

Having moved through concrete and representational thought, the child can then
develop the ability to think abstractly. This stage of development happens later in
childhood, and is the ability to extrapolate something unknown from known data. For
example, having never seen a bear in real life, a child might be able to extrapolate what
the bear looks like from a picture in a book. Seeing the shape on the page, and
imagining the consistency and feel of the fur from having felt a long
-
haired dog, or
imagining the shape and feel of the snout from having touched a dog’s nose. This is the
highest form of thought, and is necessary for learning abstract theories of math and
science.

Parents must be presented with convincing evidence that what their chil
d is learning
is valuable and educational without having worksheets and cookie
-
cutter craft projects to
br
ing home. Clements argued that


for a child’s full development, play activity should
be freely chosen by the child to meet needs arising from within
him
-

or herself, and
should be directed toward goals chosen by the child” (2004, p. 18).

For this to be true, the right materials to facilitate learning, exploration, and engage
the child’s interest must be readily available to the child. In
Playing to Ge
t Smart,

Jones


24



and Cooper stated, “
The trick is to build teaching and learning on
intrinsically

motivated
behaviors


what the learner
wants

to do” (2006, p. 20).

So how can children learn the necessary skills to prepare them for school in such a
way that
they are internally motivated to learn and have adequate time and space to do
so? It is up to the parent, armed with the knowledge of what is best for his or her child,
to seek out preschools, or childcare centers, that provide the necessary environment a
nd
tools to learn in this manner. In this case, it is important for the parent to know what to
look for, and how their child learns from these materials.

Examples of these types of play materials and settings, and what the children learn
from them, follow
s.

Dramatic Play

Having adequate materials, time, and space for pretend play provides the child with a
multitude of ways in which to use imagination and language, as well as giving the child
a forum for learning self
-
control. Tough (2009), writing for the

New York Times

interviewed the founders of the Tools of the Mind methodology, Deborah Leong and
Elena Bodrova. Their research showed that “when their students spend more time on
dramatic play, not only does their level of self
-
control improve, but so do
their language
skills” (p. 5). Leong and Bodrova based their program materials on the works of
Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist whose educational theories and philosophy have been
recognized and studied in early childhood teacher training around the world
.

In addition, this type of play is how a child makes sense of the world around him,
and his place inside that world. In many instances, this is the only space the child has to


25



assert control over his life and establish order in a way that makes him confi
dent and
content. As Bettelheim insisted, “besides being a means of coping with past and present
concerns, play is the child’s most useful tool for preparing himself for the future and its
tasks” (1967, p. 35).

Jones and Cooper joked, “In
bad
-
guys play, t
he kids will win every time. Like the
National Rifle Association, they are fiercely protective of their right to bear arms.
Confronted with teacher rules to the contrary, they simply go underground and continue
their homeland defense. Make
-
believe play
is their weapon against their real fear of
dangers known and unknown” (2006, p. 65). Although said in a light
-
hearted manner,
this is a valid representation of the purpose of pretend play for children. Often, acting
out make
-
believe scenarios is the only

way children can assert power over the myriad of
forces in their lives that they have no control over, and often find frightening.

Further applying this pretend play to the acting out of real lif
e, Jones and Cooper
argued that

“if children
are to grow up
to be responsible adult citizens, their school
curriculum should focus strongly on
playing at being a citizen



a community member
who practices sharing responsibility for solving the community’s problems” (2006, p.
30). This means that children need to b
e given the opportunity to act the roles of the
adults they see around them. By pretending to be firefighters, grocery clerks, mothers,
fathers, and babies, children are finding ways to relate to the world around them. Jones
and Cooper also argued that w
hen children are engaging in sociodramatic play, they are
practicing skills of decision
-
making within their mini
-
democracy (2006, p. 34).



26



Manipulatives

Manipulatives, such as blocks, puzzles, rods, legos, pegs and pegboards, have a
multitude of educational

value. Blocks especially, offer a large variety of learning
opportunities. For toddlers, blocks offer an opportunity for perseverance and trial
-
and
-
error learning. In both stacking blocks (early stages of block play) and building
structures (advanced s
tage of block play), the child can work for hours repeatedly
attempting an objective only to have it fail. By trying over and over, through
experimentation and perseverance, the child figures out what works and what does not to
ultimately achieve success.

According to Joan LeFebvre:

Block play teaches math and science skills. Blocks help children learn many
subjects. Children learn shapes and a great deal about size. Young children develop
math skills by counting, matching, sorting, grouping, adding, an
d subtracting blocks
while they play. When children select blocks to fit in a space, they learn the
meaning of half and whole and other spatial relationships such as area, length and
weight. Children also learn to be comfortable with trial and error as t
hey test out
their block building ideas. (1999, p. 1)

In addition, the children learn vocabulary to support the spatial concepts that they are
learning, such as “inside,” “outside,” “next to” or “on top of.”

LeFebvre went on to say that children learn rea
ding and writing skills if they are
given pencils, markers, and paper with which to make signs and pictures for their
buildings; creativity and problem solving by coming up with ideas for buildings and


27



devising ways to create them; social skills when they
work cooperatively with other
children on their building projects; emotional capacity, when they deal with feelings of
frustration and disappointment when attempts are unsuccessful, as well as satisfaction
and feelings of power and accomplishment when they

succeed; and physical ability, as
they develop large and small motor skills and eye
-
hand coordination (1999, p. 1).

Fromberg added that in addition, children “learn about fitting their own bodies into
and around the structures that they build” (2002, p. 8
6).

Bos and Chapman expanded on this by stating that “blocks provide
opportunities for
children to practice emerging skills such as sequencing, balancing, sorting, patterning,
grouping, building horizontally, building vertically and designing (2005, p. 9
6). They
then went on to make the point that “in order to understand the concepts related to
dimension, children must work in three dimensions” (2006, p. 99).


Although blocks serve many purposes in learning, other manipulatives provide
variety and thei
r own unique learning opportunities. “Puzzles are designed to teach
matching shapes and colors and part
-
to
-
whole relationships. They also help children
develop small and large muscles and body coordination” (Yawkey, 1982, p. 14).
Puzzles also require va
rying levels of problem solving skills, and provide a sense of
mastery and confidence. When the child’s skill grows, he progresses to more difficult
puzzles. Social skills are gained when children work together to accomplish what one
child may become fru
strated doing alone.

Stacking toys, like graduated rings on a pole or stackable cups, can be used in
multiple mathematical formats. Sorting by size and color, stacking, quantity, and


28



volume are all valuable math skills that can be applied later in life.
These are all spatial
skills that must be learned in a concrete format before being applied abstractly in
mathematical problems.

Pegs and pegboards improve and refine small muscle coordination, hand
-
eye
coordination, and balance. Threading sturdy string t
hrough the pegs require muscle
control and patience. Pegs of different shapes or colors used either on the board or on a
string allows the child to explore counting, sorting, ordering, sequencing, and
recognizing and experimenting with patterns. Furtherm
ore, if the child is given a task to
complete with the pegs, such as creating a path of pegs from one side of the board to
another, or connecting two points, then the child can also come up with creative ways to
solve the problem.

Sensory Play

Sand and wat
er play possibly hold the strongest appeal to children, and offer the
greatest variety of skill sets. Sand and water represent a spectrum of scientific
exploration for children. “Having no definite shape, they take the shape of the
containers into which

they are poured” (Yawkey, 1982, p. 53). This provides endless
possibilities of manipulation to the imaginative child and actively engages the child for
extended periods of time.

Sand and water are also elements that are soothing to the child. Troubled

or
distressed children can spend extensive periods of time watching the water slide through
their fingers, pouring water from one cup to another, or burying hands or fingers in sand
and reveling in the sensation.



29



In addition, science is elemental play, ac
cording to Bos and Chapman, and elemental
play takes place using the basic elements of earth, water, air, and fire (2005, p. 83).
Manipulating water is the essence of science. Water provides the means to learn about
changes in state, evaporation, motion,

properties, and mass. Adding additional elements,
like color or salt, to the play only serves to further intrigue the interest and curiosity of
children. Bos and Chapman explained how this play is chemistry in action, “
Going from
wet to dry, additions o
f salt and sand, then color changes and then returning to a solid
state with heat application was all part of the process” (2005, p. 16). Without even
realizing it, the interests of the child have been used to promote a foundation for
advanced learning.



Hartley believed that water play could be used for many purposes, but especially,
“to the development of sensation and feeling it offers more varied experience and a
keener pleasure than any other material except finger
-
paint; to intellectual development
it contributes its great flexibility and vast opportunities for experimentation and
exploration” (1952, p. 185).

Given the freedom, time, and opportunity for exploration, children will naturally
work with these base elements, engrossed in experiments and u
nself
-
conscious trial
-
and
-
error to understand the world around him. Elkind stated, “
Children cannot help but
create learning experiences with the elements. Through playing with sand and water,
balloons and kites, through dropping things, and through watc
hing and cooking with fire,
children get their first lessons about the natural world. They are also honing their


30



labeling, classification, and ordination tools. Classification tools teach children about
sameness, while their ordination tools teach them a
bout difference” (2007, p. 131).

Sand is also an excellent source of texture. Children can spend many hours
channeling, forming, building, and tearing down sand creations, feeling the sand on their
skin, and experiencing the change in shape and consistenc
y when water is added, or the
sand is compacted.

One of the most unique benefits of sand and water play is that they can be both a
delicate and a full
-
body experience. For children with sensory sensitivities, sand and
water provide opportunity for total
immersion or delicate handwork, giving the child an
opportunity to explore this sense with his entire body, if this is what he needs. In
addition, children who have difficulty with body control can work on moving sand,
pushing sand
-
filled containers, digg
ing, and tunneling, using his whole body in order to
master and refine the use of his body.

Other materials such as birdseed, rice, cornmeal, nut shells, and beans will enhance
the sensory experience for the child. These also provide substance to experime
nts with
volume and measurement when combined with measuring cups, buckets, spoons, and
other containers.

Art

Art, in a child
-
centered environment, is used as a tool for expression and creation,
and is generally more focused on the process than the end pro
duct. Bos and Chapman
explained this by saying, “
Through art, humans actualize and internalize experience”


31



(2005, p. 73). Art is about self
-
expression. Through art, children have an opportunity to
describe the world as they see it.

Art materials should
include “a variety of paper, crayons, paint supplies, pens,
scissors, markers, collage materials, tape, a hole punch, glue, glitter and any other items
that allow children to explore, experience their five sense and enjoy the freedom of
creativity” (Child
Action, Inc., 2007, p. 3).

An activity that focuses on the finished product, where the child is given an example
of what to achieve, is largely pre
-
made by an adult to be assembled by the child, is a
craft, and not to be confused with art as described here
. Art is an open
-
ended
expression of a child’s creativity, with no right or wrong way of accomplishing the
child’s goal. Art offers the child a chance at creation that is uninhibited and without
structure. Art is a means of self
-
expression that cannot
be shaped by the desires or
intentions of the teacher.

Food

Working with food is another excellent and diverse learning medium. Cooking gives
the child an opportunity to experiment with science, math, and measurement in a
personal and relevant manner. Co
oking encourages following directions, builds
vocabulary, and provides observable changes in matter and temperature.

Cooking uses all of the senses in creating a product that is meaningful to the child.
Mixing, stirring, beating and mashing are all tactil
e experiences that demonstrate
changes in property. Observing how a hard potato, when in contact with boiling water
over time, becomes a soft, malleable product is a true representation of science.


32



Mashing the potato, tasting the potato, smelling the pot
ato, and witnessing the
transformation from a cold, hard, inedible product to a hot, soft, tasty food, is a full
-
body
sensory experience.

In addition, cooking gives the child a sense of accomplishment and ownership that
can be shared with playmates. Cooki
ng provides endless opportunity for trial
-
and
-
error
experimentation with immediate feedback. Food can be manipulated to produce
unexpected results in texture, taste, and smell.

Working with food provides unique s
ensory experiences and evokes a

unique
em
otional reaction at the same time. Because food affects everyone at the most basic
and primitive level of survival, it affects each person in unique ways. Food can provide
comfort, warmth, satisfaction, joy, and trigger many other emotions. Having posit
ive
exploration with food will initiate an emotional and sensory experience that will remain
with the child for many years.


Dr. Montessori taught that it is the child’s work in the world to discover that water
is wet, that materials have weight, shape, v
olume, and textures. She understood that
children will naturally explore the physical world if given an environment in which they
can move and interact with its properties” (Dennison, 2006, p. 58). It is the job of
parents and educators to provide these
opportunities to children. Especially in a time
when it is more and more difficult for children to get these experiences on their own.
Dennison maintained that
, “
children learn what they live, and today the hours of many
young people are too rigidly sche
duled, with little allowance for play and exploration
and little or no time spent outdoors” (Dennison, 2006, p. 56).



33



While many parents and educators may resist the idea that play is necessary for
children, Jane Healy described play as vital to the develop
ment of children:

As adults…most of us believe that in order to learn something we must work hard at
it, and too many have forgotten that the process of meaningful learning can be fun,
exciting, and even playful. Yet the human brain changes during develo
pment, and
the “work” as well as the fun, that is appropriate for teenagers and adults is not right
for young children. Those who believe that “valuable time” is being wasted or that
their children will “get behind” if they are allowed to learn in a devel
opmentally
oriented, creative curriculum


which often looks like “play” even when carefully
planned


are sadly mistaken… Highly creative and successful adults are often those
who once learned to play with objects and now play with ideas and innovations.

(1987, p. 52)

Now is the time to reclaim childhood for the young people of this generation.
Starting with providing the play experiences that children need in early childhood and
preschool, and advancing that focus on the child through school age by enc
ouraging a
balanced curriculum that includes the arts, gives future generations the tools they need to
become balanced, productive, and fulfilled members of society. These children and
young people will shape the future of this country and need to be give
n every benefit and
advantage to gain the skills and knowledge to succeed.




34



Chapter 3

THE PROJECT

This project is an alternative culminating experience for a Master of Arts in
Education: Curriculum and Instruction with an Elective Emphasis on Arts in Educ
ation.
It follows Pathway V: Art Educator as Advocate and Leader Promoting Arts Confident
Teachers through Professional Development. The researcher’s project entailed using her
experience in the field of family childcare, and her business background, call
ing on the
education she has acquired while in the field, including coursework, seminars and
workshops, and investigating current research on areas of interest, to compile and create
a website that others in her field can use as a resource.

Personal Histor
y

The author started her career in manufacturing, working full
-
time after completing
high school and going to college in the evening. For five years she worked in
Production Planning, and during that time she assisted in the implementation of a
software p
rogram for the company. This shaped the direction of her career. Soon after
that she moved into the software industry fully, working as a Software Quality
Assurance Engineer for ten years. At the same time, she continued to attend college in
the evening
s to achieve her degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in
Accounting Information Systems, from California State University, Sacramento (CSUS).

The author was laid off from this job in the recession of 2003. After struggling to
find work

and having difficulty in finding care for her son, she was convinced by her
son’s childcare provider to start her own family childcare business. She considered the


35



dream she had always had of owning her own business and realized this may be her best
oppo
rtunity in a field that required little startup capital, and even less formal training.
After going through the process of getting licensed by the County of Sacramento, she
launched her business at the beginning of 2004.

The author has been working as a f
amily childcare provider, offering childcare
services in her home for six years. She has a Large Family license, which gives her
license to care for up to 14 children each day with the help of an assistant. The ages of
the children in her care range from

three months to six years. At the current time, she
cares for two children under two years of age, four school
-
age children, and the
remainder of the group falls into the two to three year age range.

Having a background in business with no childcare expe
rience, the author felt it
necessary to further her education in Early Childhood Education (ECE), and for four
years studied Education Through Music (ETM) in conjunction with ECE courses in the
local community college. She also pursued every opportunity t
o attend conferences and
workshops to hear from renowned speakers in any field related to childhood, in an effort
to better understand children and how best to teach them.

During her course work in ETM she heard about the Master’s Program at CSUS, and
jo
ined the cohort at the urging of Professor Crystal Olson. The program was for a
Master’s in Education, focusing on Art in Education. Pursuing an MA with an arts
emphasis was definitely outside of her comfort zone and stretched her natural analytical
tend
encies. Having no background in the arts, she was uncertain about her qualifications
for joining the program, but thought that learning about the arts would broaden her


36



understanding for teaching young children. The experience, however, did prove to
expa
nd her viewpoint and open her to the value of the arts in education. This new
appreciation for art, coupled with the art examples from her ECE courses, has shaped the
preschool curriculum she offers in her program.

Through the experience of feeding an ave
rage of ten children of varying ages every
weekday, the author has learned a lot about food and health. This year she participated
in a group nutrition class to find healthy ways to feed a large group on a budget.
Nutrition, especially for growing bodies
, is incredibly important, and sharing the tips she
has learned is another focus for this project. These tips include, but are not limited to,
menu ideas, recipes, and the experiences she has gained through years of feeding young
children.

At the same tim
e, she applied for and received a Site Supervisor Permit from the
State of California, certifying that she has the education and experience to oversee a
large group of children in a center setting. This is not a requirement for those in family
child care
settings, but rather a level of education and certification she has achieved
through her own initiative and a desire to offer the best services possible to the children
in her care.

Through these experiences, she has discovered a passion to teach and share

the
knowledge she has acquired with others in her field who may not have the time, money
or opportunity to go through the same process. She has held mini
-
seminars in her home
to educate providers in her local network. She has also assisted in the start
-
up process of
several new childcare providers.



37



As an in
-
home childcare provider, every location has its own unique benefits and
drawbacks. In center
-
based care, each room is designed around the group that occupies
it, with plenty of space for play equipme
nt, stations or areas for each learning activity,
built
-
in child sized washing and toileting facilities, and materials and furnishings
designed for easy cleanup and sterilization. In home
-
based care, the State requires that
the child gets as close to the
feeling of being at home as possible. Therefore, the home
must be occupied by the provider, must be set up as a home would be, with sitting,
dining, kitchen and bath areas set up as family style living spaces, yet still offer space
and toys to satisfy and

engage the children.

Because of this, every home childcare is a unique space, with varying sizes of living
space and outdoor space. Each provider uses the space she has to give the children as
much play space and equipment as possible. The challenge com
es with trying to
accommodate children’s toys, equipment, and children’s play while maintaining her
home for her family as well.

As such, providers are generally interested in how others in their field work around
the challenges of carpet, limited sleeping

space, small or no grassy areas, or mealtimes.
Additionally, advice on how to deal with child issues such as hitting, biting, or spitting,
and possibly children with special needs, is much harder to obtain from peers in the
isolated nature of home
-
based
care.

Finally, the family care provider is responsible for the daily child activities as well as
the business side of being a sole proprietor. Many in this field have no business
experience or appropriate backgrounds. They have entered into this busine
ss primarily


38



for the pleasure of caring for children. They struggle with knowing how to set up
bookkeeping, filing, tax exemptions, and receipts.

The culminating project of the author is to provide a website resource for other
family childcare professiona
ls. Because this field is secluded, most providers work in
isolation from their peers, which limits the amount of mentoring, professional
development, tips and tricks, or other professional advice one would normally gain while
working in a group setting w
ith others in their field. Because of this, disseminating
information to other providers or searching for information is difficult.

This project website provides a central location to childcare providers that combines
the kind of information described ear
lier into a single online location. It includes tips on
how to conduct business, record keeping, menus, lesson planning, and activities to do
with the children. The website also includes a forum for providers to ask questions of
each other and initiate d
iscussion. Additionally, the website offers links to valuable
resources in training (such as webinars, seminars, speakers, or college courses),
government resources (such as county resource and referral agencies, state food program
agencies, and county li
censing agencies), health, articles of interest, and childcare
organizations (such as the National Association of Family Child Care, and the National
Association for the Education of Young Children). Finally, there is an area where the
author can share he
r knowledge, gained through years of experience and education in a
mini
-
blog format. This includes all she has learned about art, music, play, brain
development, education, and health from her various experiences and the education path
mentioned earlier.



39



The Website

Content

Content for the website consists of a Home page, an About Me page, and four
distinct areas of interest: 1) Business Tips, 2) Nutrition and Menu, 3) Art, Music and
Activities, and 4) a Discussion Board.

The home page contains a section

welcoming providers and directing them to the
information available on the site. In addition, on this page is a mini
-
blog of anecdotes of
the author’s business experiences from that week, noting changes and additions that have
been made to the site. The

mini
-
blog is not an information sharing forum, but rather a
way to initiate discussion and interest, or to point visitors to the right location. Also
offered is an invitation to peers to make the website their own by contributing to the
content, share re
gional information, or expand on the tips and ideas by sharing their own
unique experiences.

The business page consists of bookkeeping and record keeping tips, mileage rates,
tax ideas, contract information, marketing or advertising ideas, licensing inform
ation,
legislation, organization membership, insurance, and links to government agencies, such
as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Social Services,
that provide relevant information.

The nutrition and menu page contains the

author’s thoughts on nutrition, feeding
practices, food budgeting, cost tracking, menu ideas, recipes, food program information
(such as the types of programs available, and the benefit of participating in them), links
to nutrition sites, coupon sites, an
d government agencies that offer information on health


40



and nutrition (such as the United States Dept of Agriculture and the American Academy
of Pediatrics).

The art, music, and activities page contains information about music and movement
methods such as E
ducation Through Music (ETM) and the song
-
experience games that
make that program effective and educational. The art ideas include examples of simple
art projects that are child
-
directed, tips on making the most of materials providers may
already have on
hand, ideas on how to accommodate the limitations of carpet or small
space, and inexpensive ways to encourage creativity in children. Activity ideas include
play
-
based preschool curriculums, hands
-
on science experiments, and ideas for learning
through man
ipulatives. There are also recipes for playdough, clay, bubbles, or other
homemade play materials.

The art, music, and activities page also includes links to articles that share
information about teaching preschool
-
age children and articles on the importa
nce of play
in the developing child. There is also a link to the information in Chapter 2 of this
project. In addition, there are links to classes that are available on the subject of art for
young children, teaching preschool, and information about alte
rnative teaching methods
such as Waldorf, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia preschools.

Finally, the discussion boards are a forum for providers to ask questions of other
providers, share tips and tricks on what works in their location, share business ideas,
a
ctivity ideas, ask for help with dealing with difficult children, share holiday planning
ideas, talk about classes taken, programs offered, or any other item of interest that may
help another professional improve her job skills. A separate discussion foru
m provides


41



an area for much needed social interaction with other adults and peers. The social aspect
is often overlooked in the workplace, but as important as it is to share business tips and
ideas, it is also important to engage in intelligent conversati
on with other adults
especially when one is surrounded by children under six years of age for 10
-
12 hours per
day. Providers need an outlet in which to socialize, talk about weekend plans, or any
other aspect of their lives.

Creating the Website

The desig
n phase for building the website began with identifying the core pages
within the site as outlined above, and writing the content that would appear on each
page. (Content can be viewed in Appendix A.) Once the content was written, the next
step was to cr
eate preliminary drawings of how the content would appear on the page by
sketching the layout on paper.

At the same time the author consulted with a professional experienced in the creation
and design of websites. Following his recommendation, the author
decided to use a
Content Management System (CMS) called Joomla. Joomla allows for easily updating
content without being skilled in writing html code.

The next step was buying the domain name. The author chose
www.familychildcareresource.com

to be the web address, and verified that this site
name was available for purchase. As it was, she purchased that name and
www.familydaycareresource.com

which

will redirect to the other web address. As
“child care” is a relatively new term replacing “day care,” many people still use the
terms interchangeably.



42



Once the website was created and available online, the author sent the link along
with a short questio
nnaire (see Appendix B) to eight fellow providers for review and
feedback. The providers chosen to be polled ranged from a woman barely a month into
her new business venture, to one who has been operating a child care business out of her
home for over 20
years. The information currently posted on the website is minimal, but
will improve with time and participation. Each new article posted will create an archive
of older articles for providers to browse through.

Seven out of the eight providers surveyed

responded to the questionnaire and all
were positive in their feedback. Overall, they each liked the layout, and thought the
website was easy to navigate and easy to read. Many providers commented about the
pleasing color scheme and the ease of navigati
on. One provider responded to the
question of how to rate the visual impact of the website with, “Great, I think it’s the
colors; attention grabbing where it needs to be and subtle everywhere else. Very easy to
read and the main menus are clear and conci
se.”

When asked about the viewer’s first impression, another provider replied,
“AWESOME! I think it’s just what providers need…a ‘1
-
stop shop’ for information and
services.”

The author also requested feedback on the web address. Although many thought th
e
address was long, the overall response was that it was clear and to the point. Anyone
coming to the website would know exactly what it was about and who audience being
served was.



43



Finally, when asked for overall impressions and suggestions, the response
s were
thoughtful. Patty from Mrs. Roger’s Neighborhood Infant Care commented, “I think
overall it is great! I’m really looking forward to seeing more on the ‘menu ideas’ section
and possibly a section on how much you spend or an average budget should be

p/child
p/meal.” Diana from Hillman Family Daycare made suggestions for seeding the
discussion boards with questions such as, “How do you deal with lying?” “As a daycare
provider, do you step in when you notice major behavioral issues in a child, or do y
ou
simply ask the parent to take the child elsewhere?” and “What is your late pickup
policy?” Kristin with Lil’ Scholars Preschool enthused, “I really liked my first
impression of the site and look forward to continue using it. This is a site I can see
m
yself utilizing a lot. I can’t wait to add my thoughts to it and connect with other
providers.”

Challenges

The main challenge for this project has been gathering the information for the
website. It has been difficult to condense six years of experience a
nd lessons learned
into soundbites of one to two paragraphs.

Simplifying the process of tax preparation into a few words has also been a
challenge. The process that took 8
-
10 weeks to complete the author’s first year in
business, now takes approximately

8
-
10 hours. It is easy to forget the chaos of record
-
keeping and tracking when it has become streamlined and familiar. It is difficult to
remember what tips save valuable time and money when it has become routine. This
very experience of smoothing out
the process is what needs to appear on this website for


44



new providers. They need to know how to set up their calendar at the beginning of the
year to track on a daily basis the information that will be the basis for their tax
deductions. For instance, th
e author’s calendar for the month of March has the name of
every child that is scheduled to be in care for every day that month, with an indicator for
the age bracket into which the child falls. Also noted are any scheduled days she will be
closed for vac
ation or holiday. In addition, this overall calendar has any business related
activity recorded, including classes, seminars, business related cleaning and planning,
record
-
keeping, trips to the bank, interviews for potential clients, or any other related

occurrence. These are accompanied by either the appointment time and duration, or the
duration of each activity.

A more detailed daily calendar is used to record attendance each day to account for
unplanned absences or last
-
minute additions. Also reco
rded on this calendar are the
meals served for each child. This can be as simple as a notation by each name that
indicates B (breakfast), L (lunch), D (dinner), or S (snack). Some providers may not
serve all of these meals. Some may serve two snacks and

not dinner. Either way,
whatever combination is chosen, the provider must indicate who was present and what
meals were served.

This detailed calendar is also used for tracking payment. Some providers may
charge monthly, or weekly, or daily. Some requ
ire payment paid in full for the entire
month at the beginning of the month, others are paid less frequently as they choose and
describe in their contract. The author charges tuition for each day in care and allows the
parent to pay in whatever frequency
best works for the parent, as long as it is at the


45



beginning of the pay period. For instance, she has some parents that pay for the entire
month on the first of the month, while others pay weekly every Monday. In this case, it
is extremely important to k
eep accurate records of each payment and the days of care to
which they correlate. In this way, the total revenues by week and month can be recorded
for each month. Any other business related income such as grants or food program
reimbursements should al
so be recorded in the month they were received.

At the end of the year, total hours worked must be calculated from these daily
records. Business hours open only account for a portion of total hours worked, when
cleaning, activity preparation, meal prepara
tion, record
-
keeping, classes, bank and
grocery trips, and interviews are added to the total. This final number, multiplied by the
percentage of space used in the home for her business, is used to calculate the percentage
of home expenses that can be dedu
cted for tax purposes, and is, therefore, of utmost
value to the provider. This is just one example for knowing how to keep accurate
records from the beginning, can save countless hours at the end of the year.

Even more daunting has been condensing four y
ears of ETM training into something
that would be understandable to someone who has never heard of it. Without the
experience of ETM, it is hard to explain the impact. Without expertise in brain
development, it is difficult to condense the teachings of n
eurology experts. At most, the
author can describe the process of integrating music and movement and the value of
engaging the whole body in learning. She can describe the language used in the songs
and how combining these words with song
-
experience
-
game
s improve language skills.


46



She can explain the lessons of regard, play, and joy and how these contribute to the
teachability of children.

On the technical side, it has been a challenge to find a website template to fill exactly
the needs of this site. In

order for the site to remain easy to read, and easy to navigate, as
content builds, the website needs to meet specific layout requirements. It was not
apparent at the beginning of this project that there would be difficulty placing
information on the pag
e in a specific format. Much time has been spent trying to
manipulate a template to fill this need when the problem lay within the template itself.

For instance, on the current iteration of the website, there is a menu list on the left
column of the web p
age (see Appendix C). These point to each of the pages mentioned
above. However, within each page are many subcategories. For example, on the
Nutrition and Menu page, the author talks about her experiences with feeding children,
includes technical infor
mation about the state sponsored food programs and how they
work, menu ideas, and links to recipes she has used or finds easy to prepare using fresh
ingredients. Although each of these falls under “nutrition and menus,” there needs to be
a sub
-
menu for ea
ch item, so they are not all thrown together on the page. This is a
limitation of the current template, and work is in process to find a more suitable layout.

Another limitation is the option to archive information as it is updated. The goal for
this web
site is to be a growing resource. As new information replaces the old, this old
data should be stored through links to sub pages within the website, so new viewers can
have the opportunity to search through the page for previously posted information they


47



may have missed. Additionally, this information would not be lost to those that may
have seen it when it was originally posted, but may want to reference it at a later date.

Conclusion

This project brought together the author’s six years of child care exp
erience, her
business background, and education to create a website that others in her field could use
as a resource. This chapter has been a description of the process of bringing together
that experience and putting it online in an easy
-
to
-
read format f
or other providers to use
as a resource. That included writing the content, building a website, and soliciting
feedback from those most likely to benefit from, and contribute to, this online resource.







48



Chapter 4

REFLECTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Althoug
h the author started her career in a completely unrelated field, her business
experience has helped shape the scope of this project. Her experience and education
gives her a perspective not often seen in the field of family childcare. This gives her a
un
ique opportunity to bring a resource to this field that has been missing. This
culminating project has also been a culminating experience for her in her business. It
has provided her a means to reach thousands of other providers, and possibly shape the
w
ay they view their businesses. Not only has this project given her an opportunity to
educate providers on the arts, and the value of art in their curriculum, but has also
provided her with the knowledge and resources to provide meaningful research to back

up this claim with documentation. In addition, she can bring her business knowledge to
a field that largely ignores the business side of caring for children. Finally, this project
has the potential of uniting a uniquely solitary field in a way that make
s it possible for
providers across the nation to share experiences, trials, stories, and skills.

This chapter will describe the author’s reflections on the project in a narrative
format. It will include the author’s thoughts on how the project progressed
and her
recommendations for this project in the future.

Because I am a person that is constantly striving to understand all there is to know
about whatever I set myself to do, I was driven by a quest for knowledge after starting
my childcare business six y
ears ago. That quest has led me through an unlikely course
of classes, seminars, readings, and research as I probed the vast number of philosophies


49



pertaining to the raising and teaching of children. Over time I refined my opinion on
what I believe is be
st for children. This is a very subjective study about a very sensitive
subject.

As I learned, and pursued information to support my theories, I realized that I needed
a vehicle by which I could share this knowledge. Every new bit of information only
gen
erated more passion to share in ways that would make others in my field better
providers, either by simplifying their business processes, or by sharing ideas to create a
better environment for the children. This project provided that structure.

When I beg
an, I thought it would be a simple process of putting together information
and creating a website. As I got further into the details of writing Chapter 2, and then
Chapter 3, I realized the scope of what I had in mind would be a continual process, long
pa
st the completion of this project. As I wrote, I refined my ideas, and recognized the
areas in which I needed much more work.

My desire was to provide real research to support the value of play in ways that will
cause a parent of a preschooler to evaluate

before rushing that child through an academic
program. This objective was realized in Chapter 2. The amount of materials I had to
read before finding what I needed astonished me. I really didn’t expect it to be so hard
to quantify the learning that tak
es place in activities that I took for granted when I was a