Archive for May 2016

Schema booklet for Parents   3 comments

One of the benefits of networking with a wide range of early years professionals, is that sometimes I get asked to review things. Not that many things so far – a couple of books, a few blogs before they are published, a couple of products designed to support practitioners, and a few play resources – but the list is growing!

On my recent trip to Keilhau on the Rediscovering Froebel trip with Community Playthings I met several people that I had not met before – and one of them was Stella.

Stella Louis to give her, her  full name,  is an early years consultant and trainer. Stella and I chatted several times over the few days that we were at Keilhau, and on the last evening Stella asked if I could do her a favour and review some ‘cards’ that she was  producing to support parents understanding of schemas. Naturally I said I would be delighted to.

Once back in England Stella emailed me the text for her booklet and asked for my comments, both as feedback to herself and as an official review.

First I should make it clear that I have not seen the final version yet – just the format and the actual wording. However, when I do see the finished product, I will add an update to this blog.

Format of the booklet                                                                                                                          The idea is the people can use the booklet as they wish, they can read it all at once OR they can dip in and out as they need to .Due to the small size of the booklet it is ideal for popping into a handbag or pocket, so can use when out and about, as well as at home.

Personally I think the best plan would be to have a quick look at all of the booklet, just to get an idea what schemas are; followed by ‘dip in and out’ as needed , so can read up on and then use the information to support children’s schemas as and when needed.

The booklet looks at the main types of schemas;  Trajectory, Rotation,  Enclosing, Transporting, Positioning ……and a few more.

Each schema is clearly described and it is easy to decide from the list of likely actions a child might do, if the child is exploring this schema or not. There are also some suggestions of things people can do / provide to support the children’s interests and developing schemas.

The ideas suggested are low cost and easy to provide – and you decide which would interest the child and which would not. I think that once  ideas have been explored that other similar or related ideas will be easy to think of because the of the way the schemas are explained.

Once you realise that a child is following a schema you will start spotting all the things the child does – and that they do it again and again.

Not all children develop schemas – although many do. Some children only develop one schema but some will develop several schemas- over a period of time – or even at the same time!

Although this booklet is designed for parents (and I wish I had had access to this sort of information when my own children were little) I think it will also be useful  for grandparents, early years professionals, students and anyone who wants to know a little bit about schemas and how to support children.

Bit more about Stella Louis                                                                                                                Stella  is an early years specialist with an international reputation as a trainer and consultant. She is the author of a number of books, including ‘Understanding Schemas in Young Children: Again! Again!’.  Stella has developed a sustained interest in working with parents and is involved in research on sharing knowledge of young children’s schemas with their parents.Her books can be found quite easily through an internet search.

The links between Froebel and Registered Childminding and ME!   5 comments

This is my second blog connected to my visit to Keilhau, Germany for the rediscovering Froebel trip organised by Community Playthings and the school at Keilhau. If you have not read my first blog about my trip which describes what I did and includes a few personal thoughts and photos, you can do so by CLICKING HERE

Although I have now resigned as a registered childminder, I am still very much an advocate of registered childminding – and I guess I always will be, because I think a home based setting offers very young children close links to their home life, low numbers of children, learning through play and routines, and close relationships with the adults caring for them. However, I also know that a childminding setting is not right for every child, nor is there always availability to meet all parents needs. I have also been around long enough to know that as with all types of setting there is a huge range in quality and practice – so this is not a ‘anti’ group setting statement. It is just that in my experience – and in general terms – a childminding setting meets the needs of our youngest children.

My involvement with childminding has stretched over three decades and I have seen ideas come and go. I found myself drawn into the ‘childminders should be like a mini nursery’; and the ‘childminders  need to do written planning’; and the ‘childminders must have a trillion different resources’; ….. and for a very short period of time the ‘we must tick the boxes no matter what our personal views are’

However I was not happy when my practice was as above, and because of my unhappiness – and my gut feelings, time and time again I reflected and changed things – always coming back to the same question ‘WHY am I doing this?’ and then going back – at least in part to the type of setting I had when I first registered back in 1984 – that is a home based FAMILY daycare setting.

I can almost hear readers saying ‘Interesting Penny, but what has this got to do with Froebel?’ The answer is ‘It has everything to do with Froebel!’

Back in 1984 I had not even heard of Froebel – or any of the other great pioneers. By the time I was doing my level 3 in the late 1990’s, I had a very vague idea and could list a few names and realised that a lot of those on my list believed in learning through play. However I did not find out very much more because I did not read much – in fact by the time I started my degree in 2006 – I still did not know much about Froebel or anyone else – but by then I did have a lot of years of hands on experience, and had observed many children and developed my own thoughts – which in a way was good because I had not been influenced by others – but in another way was bad because I could not make links between what I believed and what people like Froebel believed.

After dipping in and out of trying to complete my degree for several years,  in 2014 I tried again and enrolled on the Top Up Degree – this time through a different route that was mainly distance learning. Within 2 weeks I was called in by my tutors who said although I appeared well read (I am not, I just ‘know’ these things) they thought I would not be able to keep up with my studies or with my peers due to my difficulties with reading and writing, so off for dyslexia assessment I went. And yes I was (am) which explains why I am not well read and why I still only had a basic knowledge of the pioneers.

Roll on to May 2016 – and despite having gained enough credits for my degree, I still only had the most basic of knowledge about Froebel – mainly gained from listening to fellow campaigners – and from books written in simple language giving an overview of the theorists – such as those written by Linda Pound.

Yes, yes – I hear you reader – you are saying ‘get to the point, Penny’ Well I am, but this ‘pre stuff ‘ is important and will by the end, make sense to you.

Through doing research for my event ‘Networking, Sharing, Making Connections’ I discovered that I had actually attended a Froebel based Kindergarten – and I have to say this started me thinking about how my own early years experiences, had influence who I had become, my parenting style – and my ethos and practice as a registered childminder.

In fact this link to my past, present…….  and future gave me the theme for my event – namely how my story is interwoven with many things including the stories of others. However, although I now had lots of bits of information, I was still not fully joining the all the dots and did not have a complete picture.

At my celebration event, Richard House gave me a copy of ‘The Education of Man’ by Fredrick Froebel. Great, I thought, I might be able to read some of the book before my trip to ‘rediscover Froebel’ – which of course in my case was more like ‘Discover Froebel for the first time!’ However, due to an oversight on my part, my copy of ‘The Education of man’ (and most of my other presents) ended up in Watford  and could not be collected until after the trip to Germany.

So off I set to Germany with a group of people who all knew much more than me about Froebel. In a way though I think my lack of knowledge before arriving at Keilhau meant that I was ready to soak everything up and to connect that knowledge to my own previous experiences from my hands on childminding career, and my gut feelings about what young children need to flourish,  rather than just reaffirming my previous knowledge or filling a few gaps.

Now that  I know a lot more about Froebel, I can say from the heart that my own practice when I was a childminder (and that of many childminders)  were Froebelian based. Of course there will be many other pioneers principles recognisable within childminders practice such as Montessori, Steiner and indeed others, but I think Froebel’s principles link very closely and it explains why I was unhappy with my practice when I tried to implement the ideas of others – to in fact tick the boxes – and why I kept questioning it and going back to my own ethos, values and principles.

I now also know that my own experiences as a child have indeed influenced my ethos, values and practice – which I hope to be able to give some insight into through this blog.

While at Keilhau (and on the various trips to the important places in Froebel’s life)  I gained more knowledge through listening , touching,  observing , doing (and even a little bit of reading), and I could ‘feel’ all the bits coming together.

My thoughts about Froebel’s early life                                                                           Froebel’s mother died when he was under one year old, and he had some difficult times in his early years  between when his father remarried  and when he went to live with his late mother’s brother. However I think (from what I heard / read) that he also had some more positive times, with memories of his mother’s love and care for him, and attachment to his brothers who he used to follow around, doing what they did. He also had positive memories of spending time gardening with his father. I think Froebel’s early memories helped him to realise what the important things in life were – and to appreciate them once he went to live with his uncle … and lay the foundations of his thoughts about education.So family groups (not necessarily in own home with close birth family), spending time with adults and with nature, both doing ‘work’ and play became central to his principles.

Links to childminding                                                                                                                       In my opinion these Froebel principles  are also central to the ethos of registered childminding, as it is based in family homes (but not the child’s own home) and adults (often one adult) spends time with child and so those essential attachments are built, through the adult and child working  and playing  together, and through the adult facilitating the environments for the child to explore whilst the adult observes.

 Use of resources                                                                                                                                    Back in the 80’s and 90’s when I was a new childminder, it was  usual in  childminder settings to use real objects like pots and pans from the kitchen, knitted teddies and dolls clothes, wooden toys (some home made or passed down through generations) and so on; along with boxes, scrap paper and card as well as recycled items – and to only have a few child sized items/ manufactured plastic toys.  Access to the natural environment in the childminders garden, local parks and woodlands was also common, and health and safety restrictions were almost unheard of  – children learnt to manage their own risks.

When I toured the Keilhau site (remembering that it is for school age children) I saw very little in the way of modern toys or equipment – what I saw were real objects, items made by the children (including lots of paper folding) – and access to the natural environment. I saw things the children had made – things that worked and had a purpose.

Although I looked round two museums connected to Froebel and his Kindergartens (and the shops selling Froebel resources) I have to admit I did not see a Kindergarten in action nor did I look round one – and so I can not really comment on what a modern day Kindergarten looks like. However I looked on the internet and I found a site on Facebook about Froebel kindergartens in the USA  LINK FOR THOSE INTERESTED  I recognised some of resources that I had seen in the Froebel museums and shops. So maybe it is fair to assume that things have not changed that much? I would love to hear from those who run Froebel based kindergartens (settings), as I am a little worried that like the kindergarten that I attended as a small child that links to Froebel have been lost over time, or that the Froebel based resources ‘the gifts’ are still around but swamped by ‘plastic fantastic’ or items with limited value in appropriate developmental terms for young children.

I think the biggest thing that struck me most in terms of resources is the role of the adult – seeing play with the ‘gifts’ being modelled at the museum based in Froebel’s first kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg, reminded me of ME and they way I spent time playing with children – not with Froebel based gifts because of course prior to this trip I did not really know about them – but with simple toys like a ball or a teddy or finger games and peek a boo – and singing and reading stories.

It was the use of language that really struck me from the modelling I saw in Bad Blankenburg – so much language and introducing new words and words that related to the object / game. I did this with my own children and with the many children that I have childminded over the years.

One of my childhood memories from the Froebel  kindergarten is of singing – and in particular singing at meal times – the song ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor’ with the prune stones.

Another think that struck me was how the adult modelled and suggested and encouraged trying again, trying different ways – while talking about what adult and child were doing – on a one to one basis. I am sure this could also be achieved with a very small group of children – such as is often the case in a childminder setting.

When I saw the paper folding completed by children, both current day as in the gifts left in my room at Keilhau, and in those in just about every building we visited; together with the historic evidence of paper folding in the museums – and then my own attempts – I was reminded of another childhood memory of my time at my kindergarten. I have clear memories (including a recollection of pride) of folding my napkin in the right way and fitting it into my napkin ring. Not paper folding but folding in a set way. Of course I have no idea how long it took me to master this skill but those positive feelings have been remembered over aprox the last 53 – 54 years (as I was 3 or 4 at the time) Powerful stuff!

As a childminder I provided similar activities for the children in my care, and lots and lots of opportunities to master skills and explore what could be done (and not done) with the resources provided – and indeed with own bodies / hands/ feet. In my early childminding career I did not have the resources that I had at the end of my career – they were not easily available and even if they were I did not have the money to buy them.

Did the children lack opportunities to flourish – I would say that actually had more opportunities because they could explore things in depth, they could use their imagination – and they had the greatest resource available – ME (the adult). Towards the end of my career I had downsized a lot of the ‘plastic fantastic’ stuff, the stuff that was not open ended, and I had invested in quality open ended resources which were supplemented with natural resources. In other words I went back to my ethos, values and principles of my early career – and what I knew deep inside was ‘right’

Play and work                                                                                                                          Getting back to the links to childminding that I saw and thought about during the trip, I have to mention the balance between work and play, and directed play and free play (by free play I mean child led without interference by adults asking questions / making suggestions)

Froebel believed that children should be involved in tasks that would prepare them for the adult world – both employment skills and life skills. As a childminder working in my family home I was able to do this through children helping me with household tasks including, cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and gardening – the emphasis was not on slave labour – it was on working alongside and slowly developing those skills. As readers know I am not one for quotes but there is one Froebel quote that I like – I can’t remember it word for word but in my own words, it is on the lines of ‘ Don’t discourage your children from helping just because it is easier to do it yourself, otherwise you will stop them from asking, or doing in the future – even when you want them to’

From what I saw and heard, my thoughts are, Froebel thought children should work along side adults; should have periods of instruction (note this is not the rote learning we see so much of these days – but play based learning with an adult); children  should also have periods when they have time with nature to explore and discover – without the adult; and times in which to do nothing much but reflect and dream

And this is very much what happened in my childminding setting – and happens in childminder settings up and down the country every day –  (whether they know it or not) all based on Froebel principles.

There is more I could say – and I will if I have time to write another blog connected to my trip to Keilhau to rediscover Froebel.

I will finish by reminding people the thoughts and views in this blog are my own – they are not necessarily how other people will reflect on Froebel and his legacy – but personally I think that is not important – as with all things people will ‘take away’ different reflections and opinions.

For me I have connected my own personal childhood and my childminding career to the  visit to Keilhau – and for that I must give thanks to Community Playthings, and the children and staff at Keilhau. THANK YOU ONE AND ALL.

 

 

 

 

The Froebel Experience   4 comments

I intend to write two – maybe three blogs about my trip to Keilhau, Germany from 4th – 7th May 2016 as there are several aspects I want to pick up on.

This first blog is going to be an overview of the trip – just descriptions about what I did – with just a few personal thoughts thrown in.

Pre Amble

So to start – how come I was included in this trip?

Well I was invited when another person could not make the trip and a friend who was going recommend me as a replacement. When I got the email inviting me – I was so excited – a trip to ‘Re discover Froebel’ based in Keilhau, Germany where Freobel establish his first school.

A quick look at the other people invited and it is easy to see that I am a bit of an outsider.

Alice Sharp ; Claire Warden ; Dan Spry ; Felicity Thomas ; Helen Tovey ; Jan White ; Jane Dyke ; Jane Read ; Jenny Gibson ; Julian Grenier ; June O’Sullivan; Laura Henry ; Lynn McNair ; Marie Doherty ; Nicola Amies ;  Ruth Thomson ; Stella Louis ; Wendy Scott

Before the trip I had only met around half the people (and admit I had to google some of the names). I quickly realise that I was to be with a group of researchers, authors, CEO’s, and lead people in their field. At first I was a little unsure about going  but then I realised that I already connected with such people and so really it was just a case of connecting with a few more.

More of an issue was the fact that my passport had expired around 10 years ago – and I had never flown anywhere – as I am just not a good traveller.

The passport issue was quickly sorted and with a few days I had my new one. I was then able to contact Community Playthings who were organising this trip to confirm I had a passport and wanted to take up the place.

I am sure most people are aware of Community Playthings – I certainly was, and had their wonderful wooden blocks and other things on my ‘wish list’. I also had used their training resources to deliver training to childminding colleagues. If by chance you are not aware of Community Playthings you can visit their website by CLICKING HERE

As readers of my blog will know the couple of weeks before the planned trip to Keilhau were rather busy as I was hosting my celebration event on 30th April and to be honest I hardly had time to even think about the trip to Germany. I did manage to reply to emails and print out information, provide my contact details and so on – but I did very little else in way of preparation as will be seen later on.

Roll on to 1st May, my event was over and although I was shattered, I finally turned by mind to the forth coming trip to Germany – in that I got a suitcase out of the loft, packed some outdoor type clothes, and checked that my friend Laura Henry was still able to meet me at Paddington Station and ‘hold my hand’ to ensure I made it to Heathrow due to my first time flying nerves. I also checked that my friends Sally and Mick were still OK to pick me up from Heathrow and provide overnight accommodation when I returned on 7th May.

And that was the end of my preparations!

Start of my adventure

On the morning of  Wednesday 4th May, I got up around 4am after a restless night of worry, and then after usual morning routines, I set of at just after 5am to walk to the train station and to catch the early morning direct train to London Marylebone. Of course I am now very familiar with this journey due to the number of times I go to London for volunteering and campaigning reason. However, I don’t usually have a suitcase in tow – and I certainly noticed the difference on the demands of my body and energy levels,  especially once I reached London. The tube from Marylebone did not stop at Paddington (which is where I needed to go) due to essential upgrades. As I don’t really know the tube well enough to plot a different route, I decided to follow the advice on the signs at Marylebone and exit the tube at Edgware Road. Once at Edgware I realised it was a choice of lift or stairs to get to street level – and as I hate lifts where you are squashed in – I decided to take the stairs. BIG MISTAKE! It is one thing to use the stairs when just me and a handbag – it is another thing when me, a handbag and a suitcase!! Half way up I thought I was going to pass out and was really struggling – however a very nice young man offered to carry my suitcase the rest of the way up the stairs – and even waited at the top until I got there. A huge thank you to that young man.

Once at street level I followed the signs to Paddington without any difficultly and made my way into the station. Just had to find Laura now! Actually I found her quite easily, and so together we headed for the shuttle train to Heathrow. It was on this train that we both had a bit of a shock when we brought tickets on the train (there had been no barriers or signs before we got on the train). It cost us £27 each for the one way journey – £5 of which was because we had not brought a ticket before boarding the train – next time I will do a little more research so I am better prepared.

Once at Heathrow we headed for the arrivals lounge – our shared dyslexia causing us issues – as of course we needed the departure lounge! Luckily we realised and headed back to the beginning and made our way to the right lounge. We decided to have a coffee while we waited as we were in good time. We met up with Kim from Community Playthings who was leading this trip and his lovely wife Ulrike. We chatted for a while and then other people started to arrive – all of those who had been invited and a few more members of the community connected to Community Playthings. I was pleased to see the people I already knew – especially Wendy Scott whose first question to me was about how my event had gone. I showed Wendy a few photo’s and told her it had gone really well.

Before long Kim was donning his hat (which was to become the sign we needed to listen or to follow) and giving us our first set of instructions – which were about checking ourselves and our suitcases in. I was glad I was with friends because I did not have a clue – however I managed to get myself and my bag booked in and to go through the security checks. We then had some free time to get some lunch – and it was recommended that we also brought a snack or a light tea as we would be arriving at Keilhau for a late tea. I spent lunch time chatting to various people about various thing connected to Early Years – and this included my event. It was a good thing that I was kept busy as my nerves were beginning to overtake me.

We all re grouped near the departure gate and boarded together. My stomach was by now churning and I knew I was going to find the next bit difficult. The plane was not as big as I thought it would be – and I found my seat was between two members of our group – one who I had met before,  Jan White – and one who I had not met, Claire Warden. Those who knew it was my first flight were offering words of encouragement.

I can now tell everyone that I do not like flying – at all. However Jan and Claire who are both into ‘outdoor things’ talked ‘shop’ for most of the trip, I listened and I learnt a lot. They did use some words that I did not understand, sometimes I asked for an explanation, sometimes I even offered my opinion – but for most of the time I just listened and concentrated on keeping my stomach under control. Thank you Jan and Claire for talking so much – it really helped me.

Luckily it was only a short flight and we landed at Frankfurt airport. After collecting bags and using the toilets, we headed off in search of the bus following KIm and his hat. However things did not go to plan as we could not find the bus / bus driver. Kim phoned the bus driver and off we set again in search of the bus. Eventually we found it – I for one was glad as by now I was tired after my early start and dragging the suitcase around.

We had been told that it would be a 2.5 – 3 hour coach journey to Keilhau – but  German National Holiday traffic had not been factored in – and in the end it was more like a 6 hour coach journey with just one stop to se the toilets and stretch our legs. It was during this stop that I realised that my planning and preparation for the trip had been pretty useless as I did not have any Euro’s – and you had to pay to use the toilets. Luckily my travelling companions came to my rescue – Ruth gave me 70 cent to gain access to the toilet and Laura lent me 5 Euro so I could buy a drink.

We finally arrived at Keilhau late in the evening – but despite this there was a welcoming party of staff and other members of the Community Playthings community – and a very welcome meal waiting for us. After introductions,(which were in German but translated for us), a quick overview of the room we were eating in, and eating our meal washed down with an amazing choice of drinks, we were shown to our rooms.

I was to stay in ‘Hanoldei’ house on the top (3rd) floor along with Laura, other people were staying on the other floors. Even though was very late we had a quick Froebel history lesson. Hanoldei was the first building that Froebel lived in with the 5 children in his care when he arrived at Keilhau -and they used a ladder to access the 3rd floor as it was the only one that was considered safe. Laura, myself (and Veronica from Community Playthings) felt very honoured. Of course the building is now not only safe but modernised.

Children usually stay in the bedrooms but as they were away due to the holidays we were able to use their rooms – 3 girls usually sleep in the room that I was given – and it was not only spotless but had been prepared for our visit. My name was on the door, there were paper folded butterflies on the wall and on the desk – and some sweets, information and a couple of books had been left in the room.

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Gift of sweets

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Gifts on desk

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Paper folded butterflies on the wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By now my poor planning and preparation had shown up another flaw – I did not have a convertor for the plugs so that I could charge my phone – luckily Laura came to my rescue and lent me hers.

After chatting in the kitchen (where there were more drinks and glasses left for us) about early years matters and our personal stories, I decided to head of to bed as I was shattered.

 

First Full day in Keilhau

I did not sleep well and so went for an early morning walk, taking lots of photos of the buildings and things that interested me (which I will use later). At 8am we all gathered in the dining room for breakfast – I was taken back by the hospitality being shown to us – everything was spotlessly clean, and beautifully presented. The range of options for breakfast was almost overwhelming – something for all tastes. I chatted to a few people over breakfast, it was lovely to have a relaxed breakfast and everything set out for us. However we could not sit and chat all day as the purpose of the trip was to ‘re discover Froebel’, and so at 9am we all gathered to start our tour of the Keilhau  campus, which was to take all morning and until 15.00 when it was time for ‘Kaffee and Kuchen’ (which I quickly picked up means Coffee and cake). We were soon to discover that this tour was not to be like any other tour that we had undertaken! This is because of Herrn Nauer who is a combination of a story telling and a walking encyclopaedia on all things Froebel – with a good sense of humour thrown in for good measure.

We toured the school buildings, the outside areas and the small on site  meseum

However I am not going to tell you everything I learnt from Robert (Herrn Naurer) because I hope some of you will in the future be able to experience the Keilhau adventure yourselves. I will however just tell you a few facts that have lodged themselves in my head – and in no particular order

  • Keilhau is in the old East Germany
  • Keilhau is the site of Froebel’s first school – not Kindergarten
  • Froebel had mixed early years experiences some of which would these days come under safeguarding concerns.
  • Froebel helped design some of the school buildings which have low windows and steps within the building on purpose
  • The children have carpet in the classrooms and wear slippers in class
  • Children learn to manage their risks – health and safety appears some what different – ie free access to tools for woodwork, to woodland and country side and so on; fully opening windows – even on the third floor
  • The children board at the school, which is how it was in Froebel’s day
  • Paper folding is very popular
  • Froebel was not popular and felt he had to move away from Keilhau to ensure it continue to exist.
  • Until women became involved there were concerns about the children’s diet and cleanliness
  • Froebel’s ideas about play were radical at the time – especially as he used to play with the children
  • Froebel’s ideas about play are in principle the same as ideas these days by people like me – but are implemented differently.
  • Froebel thought work was as important as play and children could learn through work especially around the home.
  • The clock strikes every 15 mins to support the rhythm of the day

So just a few thoughts – there will be more about play – and work in my other blogs about my Froebel visit but that is it for now, apart from these photos of some of the buildings

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Kaffee and Kuchen was very much to my liking – I have never seen such huge cakes or had so much choice  – I could not decide and so had a piece of two different cakes. As with breakfast and lunch there were lots of opportunities to sit and chat with others – and on each occasion I found myself chatting to different people which was brilliant for networking and sharing information.

During the afternoon we had some choices – but actually we managed to fit everything in – we watched a historic film of Keilhau’s early days, did a short hike to visit Froebel’s memorial and had a little bit of free time

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Froebel memorial -Sorry, not the best picture – the picture shows Froebel saying goodbye to older children and hello to younger children to mark when he left Keilhau and started his first Kindergarten

Dinner was pizza’s from the brick oven – we were able to see these HUGE pizza’s being cooked, before heading back to the dinning room to eat them – and to finish off the kuchen left overs.

Lots more chatting during the evening over yet more drinks and chocolates. I spent some time chatting to Julian about how he works with childminders and his plans for the future, and also with members of Community Playthings about how I could support them with their training documents to make them more appropriate for childminders – it seems I may have talked myself into a ‘little task’.

Second day in Keilhau

By now everyone was relaxed (if a little tired from all the late night talking) and everyone was getting used to the clock chiming every 15 mins – and listening out for it. Breakfast was another feast – hats off to the kitchen staff.

By 9am we were on the bus ready for a trip out to Oberweissbach which is Froebel’s birth place. We fitted a lot in – but again you are only going to get an overview and a couple of photo’s

  • We visited the church where Froebel’s father was a priest – it is huge and made out of wood. As a treat the organ player came in specially to play for us

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  • We visited the grave of Froebels parents
  • We toured the house where Froebel was born which is now a museum – and which had a shop. I admit I was tempted and brought some paper folding kits.
  • We had lunch in Froebelturm (Froebel’s tower) I chose a traditional dish of the area – Goulash with dumplings and red cabbage. During lunch I chatted with Wendy, Laura and Jenny about the lack of research connected to childminders – and what we could do about it. After lunch we climbed to the top of the tower to see the spectacular views
  • Then it was back on the bus to Bad Blankenburg – the place of Froebel’s first kindergarten, where we were greeted with champagne / sparkling water. We were given a talk and demonstration about Froebel’s gifts (more about this in a later blog) but for now – did you know there are 71 different models you can make with 8 wooden cubes? We also had a chance to do some paper folding – I admit I need a bit more practice!
  • After a look round the museum we walked the short distance (all be it up steps) to the historic ‘Alliance Building’ where tables had been reserved for us to enjoy kaffee and kuchen – and ice cream (yes, we were being spoilt)
  • The option then was either to retrace Froebel’s footsteps back to Keilhau or to drive back. I was going to walk but sensible members of the group reminded me that I have not fully recovered from when I was so ill last year. Therefore I travelled back in a car – which was great as had time for more conversations (and some singing of German songs), before changing vehicle and being driven up the hill to Froebelblick to meet those who had walked (and to take them some cold drinks)
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Froebelblick (and some shadows as a lovely hot day)

  • Some of the group climbed the Baropturm which is near to Froebelblick, for more views of the countryside, but I decided not to.

We finished the day with a BBQ which due to the fantastic weather we were able to eat outside, before gathering inside for reflections, feedback, thank you’s – and a song sung by all of us for our hosts.

Due to the time it had taken to travel to Keilhau on Wednesday, it was decided that we needed to leave Keilhau earlier than planned – and so were all asked to be packed and ready for breakfast by 7.30am.

Last day and travel home

We were all ready to leave on time, suitcases loaded on to the bus – and them some farewells to the staff of Keilhau and to the Community Playthings community members who were staying to continue working with and supporting the children who attend the school.

We then travelled to Rudolstadt which is a nearby town with a stunning town building and where the first general council of teachers was held. We had opportunity to have a look round the town, to have a coffee – and to buy some small gifts. I was tempted by some chocolate called ‘duplo’ which I brought just to tease my husband (as I have only just passed on some of my duplo bricks and I knew he would not be happy if I brought more duplo – I was right –  but he did find it funny once he saw it was chocolate)

By 11am  we were heading back to the bus – more farewells to staff who were staying in Germany  – then we started our long journey home. Luckily the journey to the airport only took the expected 3 hours, and we were in plenty of time to check in and have something to eat / do some shopping before the flight home. My nerves were worse than the journey out – but once again I had the support of friends – including Jan and Claire who sat either side of me – and chatted all the way back to England thus helping me cope.

Once we landed there was a rush to collect bags and get connecting trains or planes. For me I just had to stroll to the exit – where my friend and colleague Mick was waiting to drive me to his house where I spent the night with him and his wife Sally

The following day Sally drove me to the train station where I started the long train journey home. I got home for just after 1pm on Sunday 8th May – tired but so very pleased that I had taken part in the re discovering Froebel trip

Many thanks to the children and staff at Keilhau – and to Community Playthings for making the whole thing possible.

 

Part Two of my personal recall of my event ‘Networking, Sharing. Making Connections’   5 comments

Part one of my recall ended at the start of the morning break – if you have not read it yet you can do so by CLICKING HERE

To start part two here are a few photo’s from the event – to be honest I am not sure if from morning break or not – but they give an impression of what the event was like.

 

 

 

After the break (during which the room was buzzing!) I started ‘Chapter Two’ of my story off with a recall of my life once I moved to Worcestershire – much more outside play, freedom, and opportunity to develop those essential foundations. But also about school life and some important non academic lessons about equality.

Kathryn Solly then spoke about Outside Play and why it is so important, she linked it to my experiences and sadly to the impact on children these days who in general have far less opportunities to play and in particular to play outside or to take risks.

Kathryn has had many years of direct experience of working with early years children, but these days spends much of her tell inspiring others to ‘get outside’ You can find out more about Kathryn  by CLICKING HERE

After Kathryn’s presentation we moved on to ‘testing’ – I think it is fair to say just about everyone in the room is against the current Governments focus on testing for all ages but particularly for those in the early years / primary.

I spoke about my own failing of the 11+ and how it made me feel and indeed how it impacted on my opportunities. (I have to say by now my nerves had gone, I was relaxed and enjoying the event).

I also spoke about the impact on some of my grandchildren – and indeed their parents, I explained it was bad enough to feel you had failed at 11, but to feel you had failed or were ‘not good enough’ at 4 was much worse – and led to very young children being labelled and to them ‘giving up’ trying.

Next to speak was Liz Bayram CEO of PACEY, however Liz made it clear that as well as her professional view, she was also speaking as a parent of children in primary school.

Liz spoke about the conversations at the school gate, about parents worrying if their children would get into the ‘right’ schools, about the pressure to do well in the Sats, and pushing their children to ‘perform’. However, she said her own concerns were different – she was worried her children would be ‘switched off’, that going to school would no longer be fun, would no longer be a place that her children were happy to go to. Liz also asked what the purpose of doing the Sats was – did having that data help schools, teachers, parents or indeed the children? Liz spoke about the ‘prefect storm’ meaning that now is a good time within the storm of government policy to turn it to our advantage and all come together to challenge and campaign.

Like all the speakers Liz said a lot more in her 15 mins (afraid with so many speakers and needing lots of time for networking, I had to limit everyone to about 15 mins) If you want to find out more about Pacey  CLICK HERE

At the event Liz presented me with a bag containing a gift – which due to a slight hiccup when the bag ended up in Watford with my friends Sally and Mick, I did not get to open until a week later. There were a few things in the bag – but this one is worth showing a photo of here. Thank you Pacey.

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AND THEN IT WAS TIME FOR LUNCH

The venue had done us proud – the lunch was fantastic – and plenty for everyone. Below is just one persons choice

 

During lunch there was lots more networking, sharing and making connections – most people were moving round the room chatting to those they already knew and to people they had only just met – I saw lots of people using the note books provided in the goody bags to record people’s contact details

Cross sector and across LA area exchanging of contact details – Alice from an Early Years group setting  in Worcestershire with Hayley a childminder from Northamptonshire

I started back after lunch with ‘Chapter Three’ and spoke about my ethos – which I had actually put into writing in 2012. I personally think that having your own ethos (and values and principles) is very important, and helps define what you think is important.

Sally McGeown and Jennifer McQuillan were next to speak – they are both very good friends of mine – and along with Wendy Dimler who was also in the room, provide me with bed and breakfast when I am in London.

Sally spoke about what ethos means and why it is important to have one, she also spoke about how she met me which was online to start with and later face to face, and how our friendship and shared passion have developed over the years.

Jennifer also spoke about how she met me – and about the differences between nursery in this country and in South Africa where she grew up. Jennifer commented on the happy, loved children who did not have much in material terms in South Africa – and the stressed, unhappy children in this country who often have so much in material terms but who are prevented from having a childhood where they learn through play and especially outdoor play.

 

I then did a little bit about quality in Early Years and my role as a tutor and a QA assessor – as well as gaining my own quality assurance award for my setting.

Next up was Laura Henry – I have to say though that Laura had already played a key role in the day – sorting out IT issues every time I tried to switch to other peoples presentations.

Laura helping me to fix the IT issues

Laura spoke about the importance of our own stories and how it is our life experiences that make us who we are. she spoke about her own childhood, how  her story links in with mine – and about how she got to know me and how since then we have worked in partnership through sharing ideas and supporting each other. Laura’s main message was about overcoming barriers – those we are born with, those created by our early years experiences – and those created by society.

 

Laura has her own company and offers training and consultancy. Find out more about Laura HERE

The next speaker slot was the one that Neil Leitch would have had if he had not been ill. I spoke instead – not as well but hopefully captured the main point that Neil wanted to make which was about my part in the ratio debate and petitions. Neil is very aware that the Pre-School Learning Alliance is usually credited with bringing pressure on the Government – but he actually gives me credit for starting the ball rolling as it was me who set up the first petition (with support from Neil Leitch, Laura Henry and Nathan Archer). As a result of Truss making me so cross that I found a Soapbox – she unintentionally brought the sector together and in doing so made us much stronger. For those who want to know more about the Pre School Learning Alliance  CLICK HERE

The next speaker was Wendy Ellyatt from Save Childhood Movement (SCM), I introduced Wendy by explaining how we had met and about my initial confusion as to why or how I could work with SCM.

Linking with the theme of the day, Wendy spoke about  became involved in early years through her own children, and how she had also overcome her own fear of public speaking to do the things she now does. Wendy also spoke about the research that backs her opinion and also the work of SCM; she spoke about events coming up and urged everyone to become involved in whatever way they can – including passing on information. Wendy had kindly provided everyone in the room with a copy of the National Children’s Day booklet which was ‘hot off the press’. Thank you Wendy.

Those of you who did not attend information about this booklet (and other SCM documents) can be found on the SCM website – as can lots of other information. To find out more PLEASE CLICK HERE

As a member of the SCM Early Education group – I would like to signpost you to the following

CHILDREN’S DEVELOPMENTAL RIGHTS  (which you can add your name to)

GET INVOLVED (page to sign up for updates and other things)

Another of those very important refreshment breaks followed and opportunity to network and to finish all the tasks in relation to creating memories for me. People were coming up to me and saying how much they were enjoying the event and how inspirational it was.

During this break another very import thing happened. ……

……. Carol cut up the wonderful celebration cake so that everyone who wanted to could have a piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After eating cake (and taking more cake for the journey home) Garry and the children left, and it was time for Chapter Four which was all about ‘Thinking Outside the Box’

Sue Allingham spoke about how we had both been at a conference and how the subject matter of one of the workshops was not what we expected – but how it had led to discussion and reflection – and had helped Sue come up with the name of her new company. Sue spoke about about why we need to question things and to ask the ‘WHY’ and ‘HOW’ questions in our work with young children and in relation to Government policy. Though out her presentation Sue referred to her own story and mine.

Sue has held many roles during her career, and is now developing her own company. For details about Sue and her company,  start here LINK TO FACEBOOK PAGE

 

The next speaker was Rebecca Martland, Rebecca was like (Beth, Jennifer and Sally) speaking at her first ‘big’ event and was a little nervous – especially as during the break – acting on her reflections of the day, she had made a few changes to her presentation – which in my opinion is excellent practice and just how it should be.

Rebecca spoke about her own journey and how her own experiences had made her who she is and had developed her own values and practice. Rebecca’s story linked to my story in many ways as we had had many similar experiences (but not all). Those similar experiences included childminding, being a childminding network coordinator and tutoring, and writing for early years magazines . We had also shared frustrations over Ofsted inspections and how we are both considering our futures as Rebecca is also in the early stages of changing direction.

For details about Rebecca take a look at her Facebook page BY CLICKING HERE

 

There was one final speaker Tricia Wellings. I have known Tricia for a number of years due to our involvement with Worcestershire PVI consultation group. In more recent years Tricia and I had connected with things like Big Ofsted Conversation and NEYTCO. I admitted to the room that I had sort of ‘dropped’ Tricia into things when I became very ill last year – as I suggested she might like to take over the helm of the West Midlands Big Ofsted Conversation.

Tricia picked up on these comments describing how she had picked up the pieces and ensure that things not only moved forward but encouraged others to become involved. Tricia then spoke about how she had found her own soapbox and was now becoming more vocal and more supportive of others by sharing information via newsletters and social media (personally I am glad Tricia has found her soapbox as she is doing some of the things that I used to do such as unpicking consultation documents). For information about Tricia and her training company MBK CLICK HERE

And so the event was drawing to a close – the last chapter was ‘THE END’ – but was also about doors closing and doors opening – I mentioned that although I am no longer a registered childminder, I am still an advocate of registered childminding, and that I will still be climbing on my soapbox to speak up about the things that I personally think are ‘wrong’ and I will still be trying to ensure all children have a childhood based on play with the support of knowledgeable adults.

I then received my first ever Standing Ovation from those in the room – being me, I felt humbled (but also was feeling pleased that the event had gone well).

After Event Reflection

So was it a success? YES – the feedback that I have had from others has been VERY positive, in fact many have asked for a annual event (not that I can retire every year!). However there is more than just positive feedback about the event – so many have told me that they have been inspired and motivated – I have notice an increase in the number of people posting on social media or making comments, and sharing information posted by others. A few have spoken to me about doing their own blog, about attending things and speaking out – and in particular about not feeling a ‘lone voice’ and knowing others think the same. I think all those who attended will remember Rachel Matthews  who was so driven by her passion that she stood up and spoke to the mike for the first time.

 

I am thinking about putting on another event – some have said it might be the direction that I go in the future and become an event organiser – I am not so sure – but I am thinking about ‘doing’ another event.

Of course being reflective, also means thinking about the things that did not go as well as planned or hoped.

So;

Timing was tight but in part this was because of the IT issues, so my learning point is to know more about the IT side of things – or to ensure have someone on hand from the venue to help.

The ‘Thoughts from the room’ were the thing that were cut – this was a shame because the one opportunity provided some good comments and thoughts.

I did actually have to put some of my own money into this (which I did not have) as some people who booked did not pay – and some did not turn up. I wish people had been honest when booking as I took people on trust and when I checked with those who had booked but not paid and was ensured they would pay – I went ahead and booked their place with the venue. So a bit of an expensive learning curve for me. It was only just over £200 but when you don’t have any spare money that is a lot to find. However even with this knowledge – I still think it was well worth doing as so much positivity was had – and I was really pleased to share my event with so many equally passionate people as myself.

And from my point of view – that was it!

Of course things can always be improved – but at the moment I am think an individual  led event,where only actual costs have to be met is the way to go, if everyone who booked had paid – the event would have paid for itself – yes there was a lot of work involved for me and the friends who supported me by making a cake and doing the background for the finger print tree, for free – but if the next event is not a celebration event these things would not be required. As everyone who spoke did it for free (huge thanks to you all) this would not necessarily be the case next time (although a few have already said they would speak for free or just for actual travel expenses) – so any future event would have to cover speaker costs – but even so as a ball park figure I think an event could be offered for around £60 per head to cover all the actual costs. Please don’t hold me to that price – but if I organise another event there will be no profit involved.

So to finish Thank you to everyone who spoke at my celebration event ‘Networking, Sharing, Making Connections’, thank you to everyone who attended and thank you to those who contributed in other ways.

I value all of your friendship and professional partnership working – I hope that we will continue to connect and to work together to ensure  that

TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

PS This blog was written by Anne Gladstone who was the first speaker at my event. Thanks for the mention Anne

LINK TO ANNE’S BLOG

If anyone has written a blog about my event, or has info or reflection about it on their website – please let me know and I will add here

Part One of my personal recall of my event ‘Networking, Sharing, Making Connections’   1 comment

Thanks to those whose photo’s I have used – all have been posted in the Facebook event page ‘Networking, Sharing, Making Connections’ and can be viewed by anyone – along with the many other comments and photo’s added.

LINK TO EVENT PAGE

There is also a ‘Storify’ on Twitter put together by Laura Henry

LINK TO STORIFY OF MY EVENT

The preamble before the event

The last couple of weeks before my celebration event on 30th April 2016 were a tad busy, I had done as much pre preparation as possible – including booking the venue, ordering the goody bags, hand writing my contact details in the notebooks for the event (and laminating the covers for the notebooks) , preparing packets of resources that only early years people would appreciate such as packets of stickers and old but unused postcards.

However, that still left a lot of last minute things to do  – including sorting resources for the ‘Upcycle Raffle’  again things that only early years people would think wonderful – books, party hat kits, duplo and so on. The goody bags needed filling, and this involved sorting out 150 of the books on my shelves – some unused. some read but in very good condition.

 

 

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The things for the tables also needed putting together – twiddle toys, tissues, pens and so on.

And of course there was my presentation that would link the day together, other speakers presentations that needed adding to the memory stick – and a last minute idea on my part – a photographic powerpoint of images from my childminding setting.

And ALL of this had to be transported to Birmingham!

Roll forward to the evening of Thursday 28th April – everything was more or less ready for my friends Dick and Barbara to pick me and all the ‘stuff’ up on Friday morning. Then disaster struck! (My phone which had been previously dropped and broken – and held together with sticky tape and a rubber band) finally gave up the ghost and would not switch on!!!

The Pre event gathering

The broken phone meant a early morning extra task – to go and try to sort phone out on Friday 29th April. Garry and I were waiting for the phone shop  to open, and were first through the door. My options were limited – and the best one was to buy out my contract so I could keep my phone number – vital considering that I had hand written my phone number in all the notebooks for the event!

I came out of the phone shop clutching a brand new phone that was DIFFERENT to my old phone – and I did not have a clue how to use it – but far worse was the fact that I had lost all my contacts!

Up to that point I had been keeping on top of my nerves – just about – but not having my contacts and not knowing how to use the new phone – pushed me over the edge.

However there was no time to dissolve into tears – or indeed to learn how to use the phone, as Dick and Barbara arrived to collect me. We got as much of the ‘stuff’ into their car as we could while still leaving room for me to squeeze on to the back seat – good thing I am not quite as big as I used to be!

We did not get everything in, so I made a note to contact Carol (somehow) to take her up on her kind offer to transport the rest of the ‘stuff’ in her car – along with the celebration cake that she was making, to Birmingham on Saturday.

We parked in the Bull Ring car park and then carried all the ‘stuff’ through the shopping centre and through Birmingham to The Studio in Cannon Street where my event was being held. It was a bit further than I thought – and we had to make two journey’s (thank goodness Dick and Barbara were there to help)

The venue were not only very happy for us to leave the ‘stuff’ in reception for them to take up to the room, they were also happy for me to leave my suitcase in reception for a couple of hours until I could check into reception at the hotel.

What to do for a couple of hours? – not window shopping, as I was tired from all the carrying of ‘stuff’ – so I headed to a coffee shop. Luckily I was in a part of Birmingham that I know really well as near to the Birmingham office of the Pre school Learning Alliance, and I went to a coffee shop that I had visited before. After a very large coffee and a quite large piece of chocolate fudge cake, I felt refreshed. I put a message on Facebook (which I had managed to work out how to access via an internet search) and emailed a few people (again via an internet search) to ask people to text me to try and rebuild my contact list

Just before 2pm and with a grand total of 20 of my 400+ contacts in my new phone (not brilliant but a start). I collected my suitcase from The Studio and walk the short distance to the hotel – and there in the reception was someone I knew – Kathryn Solly – a friend, a colleague AND one of speakers at my event. We hugged and exchange news, then about 10 mins later another colleague, friend and speaker for my event appeared in the hotel reception – Sue Allingham. Hugs for Sue, and then a 3 way discussion.  Sue and Kathryn set of in search of some lunch – and I checked into the hotel.

After I had unpacked, I went back downstairs to the bar area to wait to greet guests as they arrived – so in no particular order (and apologies to those that I have not included surnames (due to forgetfulness or inability to spell!) :- Sue Palmer;  Hayley and Aimee from Northamptonshire Childminding Association; Jennifer McQuillan; Wendy Dimler and her daughter Rosie; Laura Henry; Sarah Edwards and Gemma; – then everything became a bit of a blur for a while!

Some of us went for dinner in the hotel restaurant (including Laura, Jen, Sue P and Sue A and Kathryn who sat on my table) with more joining us as the evening progressed. During dinner I had the message I had been expecting – but did not want to received. I had known since Wednesday that Neil Leitch was ill and might not be able to attend – but I had now been informed that he was still ill and so would not be attending my event. I was gutted, but put on a brave face and text back to say ‘Not to worry, and get better soon’

After a rather long dinner due to so much professional and personal discussion  (and rather slow, but attentive service) some but not all of us,  adjourned to the bar to continue our pre event gathering.

We were quiet a noisy bunch with lots of laughter, and everyone was having a good time – but as we had a big day ahead of us – we all eventually took ourselves to bed.

The Main Event                                                                                                                                        As would be expected I did not sleep much – I did nod off but then woke again – I clearly had things on my mind!

At around 4am I got up and was ready for the day well before 7am when  the restaurant opened  for breakfast. I was joined for breakfast by Belinda who kept my mind off things by chatting with me about other things. However I could not stay for long and had to leave Belinda to finish breakfast alone.

I checked out of the hotel and walked the short distance to the venue – more than a little nervous as this was my first attempt at organising anything like this – and a lot was being placed on trust. I had not even seen the room to be used before – apart from a few photos on the venue website (You take a look yourself if you did not attend – or if interested in hiring it yourself for an event – we were in the Innovate room on the third floor – with lunch being served in the next room called Achieve LINK TO THE VENUE USED )

After a bit of an issue with the lifts – I did not know you had to go to the second floor in one lift and then walk a little way and go in another lift to the third floor. Still a nice man spotted me wandering around lost, and directed me to the room.

I was not disappointed – it was huge and modern – and looked great. There in the room was a face I knew – Elaine (although I do have difficulty keeping up with the hair colour changes!) Elaine asked if there was anything she could do to help – well there was! My friend Carol was due to arrive very soon with the rest of the ‘stuff’ and most importantly the CAKE – but I needed to go through things with Philip about the IT things, fire exits, food and so on – so I asked Elaine if she would mind waiting downstairs for Carol to arrive. Elaine of course agreed.

Philip took me through the IT things and made sure it was all working – with hindsight I should have asked a few more questions about changing presentations and laptops – but at the time I was much too stressed to even think about it. Luckily there were no fire drills planned, and I knew where the meeting point was should there be a real fire.

Belinda then arrived and helped me personalise the room with balloons / things on the tables / goody bags on chairs. More people arrived (stress at this point means I can’t recall who or when) but everyone who arrived early helped. Carol then entered the room with the most amazing cake EVER. I am a great fan of Carol’s cakes and she has made many of our families special occasion cakes – but this one in front of me was HUGE. Carol was then busy putting the cake together and adding ribbons and so on. As I went about finishing setting up the room, sorting out my presentation and welcoming people – I tried really hard not to look in Carol’s direction as I want to see it first in its finally glory.

Finally the room was about finished – and actually in good time for the official registration time. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED WITH THE SET UP

And Carol was ready too!

I was completely bowled over – despite all the discussion beforehand, all the planning of the decorations – and the sneak pre view when it arrived in the boxes.

This is what I saw!

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My event represented in a cake!

Carol – words failed me – I know I gave you a hug  – but it was prefect – everything I wanted but I did not express that at the time.

By now people were arriving, so I was kept busy – which was just as well as the nerves were trying to take over. Sue Palmer arrived with a message from Richard House – He was stuck on a train that had stopped due to signal failures – and did not know when he would arrive!

Never mind – the room was going to be full of early years people who are used to coping with change and the unexpected – and that included me!

Lots of people were now busy – chatting – getting refreshments and doing the fingerprint keepsake that my friends Barbara and Dick had produced the outline for

 

I can now tell you the finished artwork looks fantastic, it is at my house in the kitchen, waiting to be hung on the wall in the ‘middle room’ – which is appropriate as prior to giving up childminding it was a play space. Thank you so much to everyone who left not just a finger print but also some creative artwork – am I surprise at this – no – we are early years people!

The room was busy as people spotted old friends, and chatted to new people, I was busy as well, chatting and introducing myself to people I had not met before – but before I knew it – it was time to take center stage and get the day started

 

As you would expect I started with welcoming everyone and go through the House Keeping – plus a few more things such as the Upcycle raffle (this had people searching in their Goody Bags to see if they had a ‘winning ticket’), It seems people did like the goody bags – and what a good way to pass on 150 of my books!

Northamptonshire ladies with their bags at the event

Still liking the bags on the way home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spoke about the Twiddle toys and how important it is to give children (and adults) access to twiddle things. Some one actually said to me during the event that she was taking that ‘fact’ away with her as she had not realise how beneficial twiddle toys could be. And looking at the photo’s sent in I can see that person did have fun with the twiddle toys.

 

 

Without further to do I started my ‘linking presentation’, I was feeling a bit more relaxed as the room was full of laughter and smiles – and everyone was focussed and paying attention.

The whole presentation was based on my life story (so far), with my friends and colleagues interweaving  their story and views into my story. The whole idea worked really well – in fact the idea was one of the best that I have had for a while! However the idea was so much more than just the story of my life – it was about bringing like minded people together, to share ideas and information and to make connections that could be used in the future – and it was also about supporting others – so a couple of the guest speakers were having their first go at speaking at a conference

Regular readers will know that I never give full details of presentations within my blogs about events – and that is not going to change now – however there will be my personal overview from my  memory – with a few links thrown in for good measure.

I started off talking about my home life as a child. Anne Gladstone was the first of the guest speakers (who were all speaking for free as their contribution to my celebration event) and she spoke about resilience and attachments. Anne linked it all to my early years and the woman I have become.If you want to find out more about Anne click on link LINK TO ANNE’S LINKEDIN PROFILE

 

I then mentioned  the fact that I went to school at 2yr 11m – but that despite the uniform it was a Froebel based Kindergarten. I mentioned the differences in school day then compared to now.

Richard House then spoke about three of the ‘great pioneers’ – Froebel, Montessori and Steiner. Richard read us all 3 quotes from each – and all of them were very relevant to today – and could have been written just last week. Worrying that no one has taken much notice and that Government are continuing to make policy that is destroying not just children’s education but their potential and adult lives. Richard had also done some research into the Kindergarten that I attended – it is still going – but there is no mention of Froebel on their website – not even in the ‘history bit’. Richard had an idea why this was – all to do with the Government it seems – taking over all the Froebien kindergartens by saying ‘we want to work with you’ but then destroying their very being – including ethos and practice.

Richard had a present for me – a book about Froebel – a really good gift because on May 4th I will going on a trip to stay in Froebel’s Kindergarten in Germany – thanks to a trip organised by Community Playthings.

These days Richard spends most of his time campaigning and speaking at events, as a starting point here is some information about him click on the link to Early Childhood Action LINK TO ECA WEBSITE

I spoke a bit more about my early schooling and my first school report, which was nothing like the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile – and was just a basic how I had settled and if I was happy.

Next to speak was Sue Palmer – who spoke about the research that proves that an early start to formal learning makes no difference in the long run. I was surprised to learn how long some of research ran – right into old age. The impact on social skills and life skills from trying to ‘rush through childhood’ is not in doubt – and can be seen in comparison tables – and not just about education.

Sue also spoke about how we had first met ‘face to Face’ and how my childminder stocked handbag had come to her rescue, when I was able to produce a nappy sack to hold the beads from her broken necklace. This produced much laughter in the room.

Sue also had a gift for me! It was a badge! However it was a very special badge – it was an UPSTART badge and Sue said I was now an ‘honorary member’. What a privilege, as UPSTART represents everything I believe in terms of early education – and as well as Sue Palmer, I already know another very active member Suzanne Zeedyk. For information about UPSTART  click this link LINK TO UPSTART . For information about Sue Palmer click this link  LINK TO SUE PALMER WEBSITE

Many people came up to me to mention becoming more involved in campaigns and they particularly are interested in UPSTART – one lady who lives in Worcestershire like me – is very keen to become more involved. I also saw lots of people talking directly to Sue.

I then talked about the transitions in my own childhood – new schools, new houses, mum going out to meetings and so on.

Next to speak was Elizabeth Thomas (or as most of us know her Beth Thomas). Beth spoke about transitions and how we can support children. She gave some case studies – worrying that some children do not have things explained to them, or opportunity to ask questions. Beth them went on to give some details of some research she is going to carry out in the near future.

Over the rest of the day several people came up and spoke to me about transistions – and said they were taking some thing back from Beth’s presentation that would enable them to support the children in their care more.

We should have had an open mike session then for thoughts from the room – but we didn’t as we were running a few minutes late – only a few minutes mind you – not bad after fitting in 4 speakers and 4 linking bits from me – in just 1.5 hours.

There was then opportunity  to have some refreshments and network and do some of the tasks related to making keepsakes for me.

 

I have decided to end here – and write this blog in parts – as it is already too long, and I need to do other things – so rather than keep you all waiting – I will write part two later.