Now that nearly all children are at home, there are hundreds of pages of worksheets for parents to download.  Many are for teachers to assign.  They do keep the kids busy for a while and it looks like the kids are learning something.  But most of the time spent on these sheets, by adults up and downloading them and by children doing them, is WASTED time. 


As I’ve said before, I’ve spent lots of time cooped up at home with my kids.  With the exception of a few specific assignments sent by teachers, they spent nearly NO TIME on school work.  While my kids were home, their classmates were in school, so there was catch-up when they got back.  But now, all the kids are out. Of course, there will be stuff teachers will have to go back over when school opens again. But there will be less of a gap.


This is the time to BOND, to make memories, to show love, to encourage each child to explore her/his own interests and learn something new to share with the rest of the family.  Skills that will help the family are wonderful – are they old enough to learn to cook?  Even the youngest can tear up lettuce leaves to help make a salad.  They can learn to wash dishes (yes, by hand). Maria Montessori had 3s and 4s washing their own plates and utensils.  They can dry and put utensils away, sort and fold laundry, and do lots more around the house.


If you are in a house with a yard, planting is wonderful together. Moving small rocks to make a flower growing area and all sorts of re-arrangement of the garden is productive and real work.  The vocabulary, physical science, math of it all are great additions to their knowledge.


We live in an apartment – my husband spent much of today moving plants from one planter to another – things he rooted on the windowsill are now in pots.  This is real work, satisfying work, and work that makes our world a little nicer.


PLEASE, no worksheets!!!

When my 4 kids were young, there were weeks at a time when we were stuck in the house together because of various illnesses including chicken pox (What a horrid winter!)  There was no internet then, and appropriate TV was very limited.  So I learned new skills with the kids.  Everyone who was up to it had something to do. We learned to make noodles on the hand-held pasta maker.  Everyone took turns with the wheel.  We learned to bake cookies, cakes, and other things.  There was plenty of reading and math in the recipes, especially in making half, a third, or double the amount.

The flour was everywhere. It was so much more work than just opening a box of pasta or cookies, or the like. But when they were part of the process, they were cooperative, and they LOVED the outcome.

I also did a lot of reading aloud, even to the upper elementary kids. Sometimes, we would take turns reading a page at a time to the younger ones.

Of course, I was happy when they went back to school, but those days were, for the most part, good days. There is always some skill that can be learned or taught together.  Some way for everyone to be involved in a physical task.  We will make it through these times.  We will.

I have heard parents say, “He ALWAYS gets up early. Winter and
summer, he’s up at 6 AM.” The same parents who say this in despair have
successfully changed their child’s internal clock twice in the previous year.

How do I know? Because twice a year, OUR clocks change – to and from standard time.  If we can change a child’s internal clock in October and April, we can do it any time of the year.

It takes about a week or so to get the change to work. A one
day try just doesn’t work. The keys to successfully adjusting a child’s inner
clock are:
1) Don’t expect more than an hour’s change at a time.
2) Wake the child at the same time each morning for about a week.
Soon the child will automatically wake up at or near the target time every day.

Of course, if the child is sick, she will need extra rest.
If you keep the child out late, she may wake up at the same time anyway, but be
VERY cranky. Or, she may wake up fine and get cranky later. It’s the same idea
when traveling to another time zone – and back again.
PLEASE also remember to slightly adjust meal times for the first week of a
clock change.  More adjustment at the start of the week, gradually changing
to less by the end of the week.  If the children nap, adjust those times
slightly as well.  Hungry and tired children are cranky children who can
present us with all sorts of (preventable) challenging behaviors.

I wrote this a few years ago.  I’m proud to be presenting this year (2020) at the Region IV Head Start Association (Feb), the NYS AEYC conference (April), and the NAEYC Annual Conference (Nov).  This content is still accurate.  Check the Wizard Gallery for some of my conference friends.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC)Annual Conference is in November every year. The NAEYC conference is the largest education conference in the world. There are more than 1,000 presenters offering information on every possible theme in and around early childhood education, child development, staff issues, parent and family issues, etc. There are also many other national conferences of other organizations affilitated with Early Childhood organizations. The NACCP conference is usually in the spring. So is NCCA. NHSA holds several conferences throughout the year. If you haven’t been to a conference recently, please find one to attend – there are national, state, and local conferences, and there is so much great learning and sharing happening – both in the workshops and in the exhibit areas. You also meet people from other areas, or even in your own town that you may not have known before the conference. Friendships begun at conferences can last a lifetime. Try it!

Sometimes, I ask questions and get strange answers.  In a recent workshop series I asked what I thought was a simple question.  Some didn’t answer and others told me things that seemed unrelated to my question.

The problem, as it usually is when the answer doesn’t “match” the question, is the question itself, often combined with the listener’s understanding of what is behind the question.  An example – “Do you want chicken for dinner?” is answered by “Are you saying you want to go out for dinner?”  Or the same question is answered by “What? Leftovers again?”  More clearly, I could have asked, “Do you want chicken or fish?”  or “We have chicken vegetable soup and roasted chicken in the fridge.  Would you like one of those for dinner?”

In classrooms, when teachers ask questions and children’s answers are not what the teacher expects, the teacher often thinks the student doesn’t understand the subject matter.  I’ve seen this when I supervised student teachers.  They would ask a question that I had trouble following, and when the child couldn’t come up with the answer the student had in mind, the student teacher told me that the child didn’t “get it”.

The more clear the question, the easier it is for the person being asked to come up with an answer related to the question.

Preparing for a workshop on science for infants and toddlers, I asked some colleagues for input.  Some suggested I bring special items to teach how to teach about certain aspects of science.  MY point is that special lessons are unnecessary and interfere with little ones’ exploration.

Lots of things go in the mouth. Are they hard or soft, bumpy or smooth, and which ones feel better when teething? 

They push and throw things and find out if they push something off of a table, it will fall.  After many, many tries, they find that the item always falls down – not up, not sideways.

Some things do come up again, such as balls.  But when balls finish bouncing, they are down and stay down until someone bounces them again.

These and thousands of everyday explorations are real science learning.

Adults can help by giving them materials, time, and space to explore. Adults can sportscast – “You threw the spoon. It fell onto the floor.”  Science words would be,  “It was UP on the table, now it’s DOWN on the floor.”

Every year, before Thanksgiving, there are “cute” images of turkeys.  Children are taught poems and stories and songs about the turkey who got away, children waddle around going “gobble, gobble, gobble” and in many classrooms, they trace their hands to make a turkey.

Every year, I ask the same question:  Why is this the only animal that is personified for a holiday where it’s the main food at the dinner?  I know there are children raised on farms where they eat the animals they raise.  BUT, they are not taught to pretend to BE those animals.

In early childhood classrooms, children waddle like ducks, flap their arms to “fly” like birds, “swim” like fish, etc.  BUT they are never taught to do this when that animal is going to be on the table! Yes, teachers have to be mindful of the families who may be vegetarians or vegans.  But the main focus in most classes in November is the turkey.

I’ve always wondered about stuff that others don’t often wonder about.  This one gets me all the time.  How did teaching little ones to pretend to be the food they will eat get into the story??

Back in the day when I taught little ones, the very youngest were part of learning to thank others.  Staff thanked each other and the children.  When they are tiny, they don’t need to get into the historical significance and the harm later done to the natives who welcomed them and shared food with them. 

Let’s start a movement to keep the THANKS in Thanksgiving and remember to thank each other and those who help us as we go about our daily lives.

And PLEASE find other decorations for this time of year!

Sooner or later every child who isn’t homeschooled has to start school. Many parents are more anxious than the child. There are many books for young children about starting school.

Some preschools allow parents to stay for a while (hours, days, weeks) and some don’t.

For many years, I directed preschools. The first day was short – usually about an hour. A parent was required to accompany the child. (In the few instances where it could not happen, someone close to the child came.)  During that time, the teacher and the class left the room for a few minutes and the parents stayed. The children were told to tell the parents that they (the parents ) would be safe, and that the children would be back soon. Before re-entering the room, the children were told that when they came into the room, they would let the parents know that they (the children) said they would be back and they ARE back.  This role reversal from what is typical helped many children with the transition.

I also advised parents to practice leaving and coming back, even if into another room in the house.

A large part of separation problems starting school is related to the young child’s understanding of object permanence. This is the notion that things are the same when we can see them and when we can’t see them. It’s a big reason that peek-a-boo is an important game for little ones. If you are there and I can’t see you, are you going to be there again when I open my hands and look again?

A related idea is relatives who leave and come back regularly. A parent who goes to work daily. An older sibling who leaves to go to school and comes back. Most parents take these things for granted. Just mentioning the idea starting a few months before school starts will help get the pattern recognized. The little one can be invited to welcome the working parent home, the school child home. Saying he/she goes to work and comes home helps get the idea across.

If the child ever goes somewhere with another parent or relative, welcoming the child back and saying “You went to ___ and you came back! I’m glad you’re home” can help as well.

I will always remember my oldest child’s first day of preschool. The families were invited in for a few minutes, the children started playing, and the parents were asked to leave. My daughter said, “Okay, Mommy, bye, see you later!” and I left.

Some of the other mommies left the room and left the building crying, and some, whose children were not their first, hurried off. I stood in the hallway a few minutes, having a good cry. I peeked in the window and saw her smiling. So I gathered myself together and left, knowing my child was in good hands.

Had dinner last night with one of her two married children. How can this be? She only started nursery school yesterday, didn’t she? 

 A consultant is hired by clients to help the client improve something or some things and/or services. This is rather basic.  The ideal consultation works for all – the client (from the most senior members to the most junior members) and those who are served.  In the case of ECE programs, that would be administration, staff, families, and most importantly, children.

Usually, people at the top hire consultants to help fix things that people somewhere in the middle or even lower within the agency are not doing well. 

Sometimes, the people who hire the consultants really don’t understand why there’s a problem. They may be too many levels removed from the daily situation.  Sometimes, they don’t share the negative results of some evaluation with the staff.  The funding agency says hire a consultant to improve the scores, and they interview consultants.

Some would-be hirers see the problem and think a few hours of consulting will either solve it or set them on the road to solving it themselves. It’s so much like, “Come, Ms. Consulting Expert, visit our wonderful program that scored low in just this tiny area. You can fix this in a few hours or even less. We have great staff, and if you tell us what to fix, you can be off on your merry way.” Then consultants go there and see multiple problems that will need lots of time and effort to make real improvements.

Sharing what really needs to be done has scared off many a prospective client. Not sharing what really needs doing sets up the entire process for disappointment all around.

How should a consultant proceed?

Why, just wave the magic consultant wand, fix the stuff instantly, charge a tiny amount for wand maintenance, and get rave reviews in every possible way. What? The magic wand is in the repair shop? Oh dear. What now?

I’m writing these articles in my 19th year as the owner of a successful consulting practice. If you are a consultant, take a ride with me as we explore win/win/win ways to make consulting work well for all concerned.

For several years, the term “strength-based” has been used often.  What, exactly, does it mean?  It means literally, to focus and discuss what’s going well and what is working well for the situation and to bring about change from that perspective.  Here’s an example from athletics:

A runner has a coach.  After the race, the coach notes that the time is a full second better than the last time.  Then the coach points out that the runner made some sort of arm movement going around turns that could have slowed the time a little.  The runner wasn’t aware of it, and the coach schedules some sessions to videotape the runner and work on arm movements.

What was the main take-away from the runner/coach meeting?  The arm movement and what could be done to “fix” it.  The fact that the time actually improved over the last race was not the focus, although it was mentioned first.  This the old coaching model.  The focus is on the problem that needs improvement and how the problem gets fixed.  The runner comes away feeling that there is something wrong that needs fixing, not even remembering that there was an improvement in time.

After spending years working in the old coaching model, I’ve begun my journey on the strength-based road.  Know that the strength-based road takes longer.  No superhighway here.  Let’s go back to our runner.  Supposing the coach pointed out the better time and asked the runner something like, “How do you think your time improved?” or “What do you think contributed to the better time?”  “What can you practice to get this time again?”  The runner leaves this session proud of the improvement in time.

While watching (and taping) the practice for the next race, the coach may praise the time improvement – perhaps it’s the same time as the last time, so the coach would point out that the improvement that made it happen before is still working.  Then the coach may say, “Look at your arms here.”  The runner may say “I never thought about that. Maybe if I kept them a little straighter, the time would improve.” The coach says, “Great idea.  I have some tips that may help you with this.”

Yes, this takes a little longer, but the runner is now a participant in the solution, feels good about the proposed solution, and is much more likely to keep at it.

A strength-based focus can yield all sorts of great results, at work, and elsewhere.

Do try this at home, and please share how it goes.

Who ever thought that there were so many decisions to make when making a new website? First, you need a domain name.  Fortunately, that part was done.  I’ve had this domain name since early 2000. 

Then you have to research to find a host that’s offering what you want in a website, and you want to get one that offers help that you can actually reach (this one is a big deal – note that you have to pay for this help), and don’t be too proud to use the help like crazy.

The process includes writing stuff only to have to write it all over again. There are so many new things to learn – like how to make words show in lines that don’t act like new paragraphs with too much space in between, how to add pictures – how to make them the size you want and put them where you want.  I’m still working on this one! 

Make sure you save every step as you go or you lose hours of work. Yesterday’s help session had the helper show me something to change and wonder why we couldn’t see the change. Surprise!  He forgot to click the “update” button  so it had to be done again.  

What a lot of learning! But the thing I’m learning most is to push my old brain to its limits, nearly every day. What an exercise! 

The important message is that we keep learning. Exactly what we learn isn’t as important as that we are learning.  Learn. Then learn something else.  Then learn something else.  It’s a pattern – keep it up for at least 100 more years!

Consultants are in business to help their clients.  Program directors’ main job is to maintain full enrollment while making sure the program quality is the best it can be in all respects.  

Programs relate to families and children, consultants relate to clients.  No matter what we call the members of the relationship, the first part of the relationship is about connecting to the family member or client by name. Our name is an important part of our identity. If the person has an unfamiliar name, practice saying it over and over again until it’s right. And remember how to say it. Sometimes, I make little tips for myself so in between contacts, I don’t forget.

My own first name is Ellen. It starts my business email address: and my main social email address starts with the letter E. While it’s not the most common first name, it’s a “common” name that shouldn’t be hard.

Yesterday, I was on the phone with a customer service/email/domain “consultant” who helped me fix up my email accounts. There are a few domains with emails attached to each. Since the prices for email addresses have risen, it was time to prune, move, and otherwise work on them. We were on the phone more than ½ hour, talking about all of the email addresses, some of them starting with “ellen” and some starting with “e”. With all of the deleting, moving, and keeping, the name “Ellen” had to have been said more than 50 times, and other emails starting with “e” close to the same number of times. While the “consultant”  was waiting to make changes happen, she told me how making connections with people was so important to her. I liked that.

A few minutes after the phone call, I got  the follow-up email she had told me about.  She sent it to my email address which started with “e”, with the correct account number and the correct phone number.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the greeting: “Hello Helen”!

Here’s part of my reply to her: “My name, as in every one of the emails we spoke about, is ELLEN, not Helen.”

Here’s a tip: The people in your life don’t usually notice when you get their name right, but they ALWAYS notice when you don’t.