Recently, I was over at Jordan doing some brainstorming with a teacher about a few bumps that my son is experiencing in his middle school road. Afterwards, I came back over to nursery school and discussed that meeting with the nursery school teachers. Many of the First Congo teachers have either had children through middle school or have children in middle school right now, and can both listen to and reflect upon my parenting challenges with great understanding. I can share the good, bad, and the ugly with these friends because I know that I will not be judged, my child will always be given the benefit of the doubt, and that everyone in the conversation has my and my child’s best interests at heart. We are a community of learners, learning about how to parent, and sharing our stories and experiences to help the parent who is trying to come up with a strategy for helping a child overcome a challenge.
This is exactly the thinking behind the Third Thursday and Fourth Friday parent coffee series. This past week I enjoyed meeting with parents who brought their parenting questions and opened up about challenges that they were having with their preschoolers. We drank tea and coffee, ate Kelly’s homemade baked treats, and opened up with one another sharing the good, bad, and the ugly. Every parent has a slightly different issue, but the issues are usually tied to a phase of development that are common to all three-, four- and five-year olds, so no matter what is talked about, everyone walks away with some new nugget of helpful information. Suggestions that may work for one family may never be considered by another family, and what works for one child may be a ridiculous suggestion for another child. Nobody will ever know your child as well as you do, and nobody will have as much influence in your child’s life as you have. You are your child’s primary teacher, advocate, nurturer, and guide.
The coffees provide an avenue for growth and expansion of parenting skills in a loving and safe environment, free of judgment and full of humor. Were I a perfect parent and had perfect children, I would not have been over at Jordan last week brainstorming with a teacher. There are no perfect parents and no perfect children. I strive to be a “good enough” parent who rises to the inevitable parenting challenges that come my way with my best self at the helm rather than my worried, tired, cranky self sitting in the driver seat. Some days I’m more successful than others, but my best days are when I feel the support of my fellow First Congo teachers at my side encouraging me, empowering me, and making me laugh.
Please feel free to join us at the next coffee to participate in this meeting of the minds and sharing of parenting concerns. Of course, you don’t need to wait for a coffee to ask teachers questions or brainstorm with friends, but this format is especially conducive to the kind of conversation and connection that is hard to achieve while shepherding children. In the meantime, may you always feel the encouragement of our school community at your back as you travel along your parenting road.
Keeping a playful attitude in the midst of parenting challenges can be difficult but such an attitude is a powerful tool. By ‘playful’ we don’t mean to suggest that your efforts are not in earnest, nor that you can’t be firm in your expectations. Rather, the qualities of constructive play — cooperation and collaboration, imagination and innovation — are important in setting the tone of your efforts and expectations, because they can have such a significant, positive impact on the success and enjoyment of your job as a parent and the growth of your child. Both in your opportunities to reflect on the job, as Carrie mentioned in her column above, and in your active pursuit of the very best possible relationship with your children, keeping a playful attitude, with the intention to work with rather than do to, is the surest way to smooth over those bumps in the road!
Meanwhile, as we continue to focus on the value of play in our children’s lives, we are looking forward to a Parent Ed two-part workshop that focuses on everyday learning opportunities, which of course, includes the opportunities that are afforded by play, but will also stretch notions of ‘learning’ in the sense of what and how. Plan to join us for either or both evenings! For now, the last in our series:
Did you ever stop to think?
During singing time, a child may be:
•Strengthening listening skills and beginning the task of concept development
(loud/soft, high/low, slow/fast)
•Building phonemic awareness (an important pre-reading foundational skill)
•Developing fine motor skills (through fingerplays) and a sense of rhythm
and coordination (through whole-body movement)
•Releasing energy and/or emotional tensions while exploring the ability of
music to express feelings
•Experiencing the joy of a shared activity which encourages cooperation
This final playful pastime of the morning is yet one more example of the truth in the idea that. . .
in play there is serious learning, and that play is really the work of childhood.
Upcoming Calendar Items
Paper work and deposits from returning families for 2012-13 are due on Friday, March 9th.
All families are invited Back-to-School on the afternoon of Sunday, March 18th according to this schedule:
2’s: Tuesday Class 3:00-3:30pm
Wednesday Class 3:45 – 4:15pm
Thursday Class 4:30 – 5:00pm
3’s Class: 3:00 – 3:45pm
4’s Class: 4:00 – 4:45pm
The Third Thursday Coffee is set for March 15th and the Fourth Friday Coffee will take place March 23rd.
Parent Ed Workshop
Learning Everyday — Summer Enrichment and Beyond is the title for our next workshop which will take place over two evening sessions:
- Wednesday, March 28th
- Wednesday, April 11th
Come to either session or come to both!
Celebrating Our Teachers Event
First Congo parents (current and former) are invited to join the staff in the garden on the evening of May 12th — watch for your invitation!
After receiving some thoughtful feedback from the Parent Advisory Council regarding the Books-of-the-Month program, we’re changing it up a little bit — each month’s selection will now be available for sale during the last two weeks of the month rather than the first two weeks. Not only will the books be on view and available for ordering from the table just inside the gate during those weeks, as before, but the selection will also be highlighted at the Third Thursday and Fourth Friday coffees!
Each month the selection offers a little something for each age group — Two’s through Five’s, and beyond. The titles have been carefully chosen for their added value to your home library, and the books are slightly discounted and delivered right to you at school: all this and you’re supporting a local business that brings so much to our community!
Each year the Women’s Fellowship Group at First Congregational Church Palo Alto makes a contribution to our scholarship fund, and by way of thanks, each year the First Congo community provides decorations and treats for their February meeting. This year Robyn Miller, Aimee ten Vaanholt, and Elizabeth Garr were kind enough to bake wonderful desserts, and Amy Kacher provided beautiful camellias from her garden to grace the tables. These efforts were so appreciated by the Women’s Fellowship Group, and we pass along their thanks, and add our own!
Further thanks are due to Amy McGaraghan for organizing and pulling off our second CPK fundraiser this year. This time we netted somewhere in the neighborhood of $350!
Finally, we want to express our gratitude to the Parent Advisory Council for filling an invaluable role as they donate time and energy to hatching new ideas and acting as a sounding board — for this we are truly and continually grateful!
The Smith family (Hilary, Boyd, and Brad, 2’s) welcomed baby Kate to their clan on February 7th — congratulations to the whole family!