Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time to Breathe and New E-Book Releases!

For the last two months, we have been working feverishly around here writing and creating two wonderful new e-books through Little Acorn Learning.  The children have been helping me with the crafts and in the evenings and on weekends I have been carving out time to write.

My partner in this Festival Series project, Sara Wilson of Love in the Suburbs, is so amazingly talented and organized and it has been a pure pleasure to work with someone who is such a kindred spirit.  We have truly become dear connected friends on opposite sides of the United States and I am so grateful to have her in my life.  I look forward to phone calls, emails and texts from Sara to brighten my spirit when the deadlines are creeping up behind me.  One day maybe we will even meet in person now that we have written a ton of books together.  :)

One of the things I love most about this work I do is that it fully includes my children.  While it is very time consuming to plan, organize, write, create and upload the material - the entire process could not be without  my girls by my side.  They are my testers, my crafters, my assistants, my idea generators and my little person point-of-view go-to team.  They are my loves.  

I hope they will not only remember a mama who worked many hours and needed to spend a lot of time in the evenings on the computer running a business.... but I hope they also remember the special time we shared together as these e-books took form, almost as they were given to us from above - a pure gift.
 My hope is that our labor of love will also be a gift to other families.  I hope you spend time crafting and singing and getting your hands dirty with your children as you work through our books.
I hope you know that we not only do this for an income, we do it with the hope, that in our own little way, we are somehow making the world a better place for children and their caregivers.
As the beauty of the winter season approaches, know that with everything we do - your families are in our hearts and minds and we wish you love, peace and joy with your family and friends this holiday time and always.
So without further ado, we are PLEASED, EXCITED, RELIEVED? to announce the release of two huge e-books (that were supposed to be one winter e-book but grew so big we had to split it in half!):

The Advent and Saint Nicholas Festival E-Book
The Winter Festivals E-Book

handcrafted with love from all of us at Little Acorn Learning


Friday, November 23, 2012

Kite Paper Giveaway Winner!!!!

A big thank you to all who entered to win the beautiful Kite Paper from A Toy Garden!

We are excited to congratulate our winner - Michelle of Busy Bee Daycare!!!!  Our winner was chosen by using a random number generator. 

We truly hope Michelle will enjoy making beautiful window stars and other crafts with her daycare children. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kite Paper Giveaway from A Toy Garden!

We are so thankful for YOU at Little Acorn Learning!  

To celebrate here is a wonderful Thanksgiving Giveaway from our friends and one of our favorite sponsors, A Toy Garden!  
For 12 years, A Toy Garden has offered an extensive selection of mostly hand-made toys made by the owner, friends in Northern California, around the United States, and around the world. Whenever possible, A Toy Garden purchases directly from the artisans. In general, these toys are made from wood, cotton, wool, silk, and other natural and high-quality materials and are open-ended, leaving lots of room for the child to develop and use his/her own imagination and imitation skills. A few items are just plain fun and A Toy Garden couldn't resist offering them to you. A Toy Garden also buys from a few larger manufacturers that have strong ethical and safety policies whether manufacturing in GermanyUSAThailandCanadaChina, or elsewhere.

FREE Kite Making Paper!!!
This is a block of Kite Paper which is 6 ¼ by 6 1/4" inches big. There are 100 sheets in 10 rainbow colors. This is the perfect size for folding and making starts to hang on the window. The paper is a waxed paper from Germany. Our children love to make extra stars and bring them to neighbors or mail them to far away friends to bring light and love to their homes. Block of paper comes without instructions. Instructions can be found online or in the book Magical Window Stars (available at www.aToyGarden.com)

How to Enter:

1. Become a Facebook Fan of A Toy Garden as well as Little Acorn Learning

2. Leave a Comment Here Answering the Following Question:

What is one Thanksgiving Day childhood memory you have from your youth? 

The Winner will be chosen on Friday, November 23rd and Announced On Our Blog Here utilizing a Random Number Generator to Pick the Winner.

Good Luck!!!!

Learning Through Play

"Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold."  ~Joseph Chilton Pearce

Can you think back to your days in preschool and kindergarten?  What were they like?  Do you remember working on math sheets, letter writing and learning how to read and write?  Or, do you remember playing, dressing up, creating art and music ?  
For me, most of my memories of my very young years in school are filled with dress-up, circle time, songs, outdoor play, playing blocks, toys and making friends.  I do have one vivid memory of an early time in kindergarten when the teacher was working to have us all memorize our address and phone number and learn to write it down correctly.  

I  remember feeling very stressed and frustrated because it was very hard for me to retain the correct numbers and letters.  I remember feeling not yet ready and pressured to be able to complete this task like many of my classmates were able to do.  Looking at what children now have to learn so young, I can hardly imagine how much more stress and frustration they feel than I did way back 30+ years ago.  

I'm not sure if I ever did get those numbers and letters right that year but somehow I was able to  move up to first grade without being a fluent reader and now I write for a living and can usually remember and print out my address and phone number if I've had enough cups of coffee each morning.  
Times were different then for sure.  Modern day kindergartens would probably laugh me right out of the classroom.  Children are expected to know much more and most kindergarten classrooms pride themselves on having their students all reading fluently by the end of the year, whether or not they are ready.  It is a one-size-fits-all model being presented to children at all different levels of development.  But, at least they are learning best - or are they?  
We already know that our children are playing outdoors less and less.  With the huge advances in technology and screen-based entertainment, there is very little need to walk out your backdoor for fun anymore.  Public schools limit outdoor play to 10-20 minutes per day and expect children to practice their "skills" at home with a fairly hefty amount of homework, sometimes even at the kindergarten level.  

In addition, parents paying for a preschool or kindergarten tuition often expect more than "just play" for their money.  When once preschool and kindergarten was an extension of the home for social and creative benefits, we now have a entirely new image on what early childhood education should look like in our society.   
Many parents and educators believe the young child's mind is like a sponge at the critical age before three years old and that we should jump on the opportunity to fill our children up with as much information as we possibly can while the "learning is good".  Fear can fuel our decisions, wanting to make sure our children are not somehow left behind the rat-race.  Is a play-based kindergarten really the best place for our children in the new world we live in?

Time and time again, research is saying YES and I would venture to say that it is MORE important now than ever.  

Even some rough play may not be a bad thing after all.  Mammals of all types exhibit play-based behavior as they are developing into adolescence and when they are deprived of ample time to play, there are serious consequences.  "If you suppress rough and tumble play during the developmental cycle of a rat and then release it into normal adulthood, it can't tell friend from foe and is quick to make enemies, it can't manage stress and it can't reproduce."  Stuart Brown,  M.D.

So we must ask ourselves what the consequences are going to be for our children when they are "released" into the world.  The truth is that play is not just for fun,it is a necessary developmental tool for learning itself.  When we realize this, we will understand how very important it is to protect play in early childhood, support it and pay for good teachers and schools to facilitate it. 
A strong foundation, free of anxiety and hurry, needs to be built first before we expect children to turn into little scholars.  There is so much to be learned in this world and we need to allow our youngest children to learn the basics first.  The opportunity to create and imagine will lead to a confident child who understands they are capable of making things happen.  
Allowing children the time to play helps them to find themselves and figure out how they fit into this world they have come to.  They practice being mothers and fathers, restaurant owners, teachers, builders and artists.  They can experiment, find what they enjoy and what they are best at.  They can communicate without stress and learn to express their needs and wants and be free and whole human beings.  
I am very grateful that I was able to immerse my children deeply and fully in an early childhood experience free of pressure and forced academics and rich in creativity, play, song, art and movement.  I am also grateful to be able to offer such an environment for other children in my playgarden each week.  

What method of early education have you chosen for your children?  What have been the struggles and successes you have encountered in doing so?  What are your fears and concerns for your children as they grow and participate in this fast paced world  around us?  

Can I challenge you to protect one full hour at least of complete and full free play for your children per day, every single day this week?  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tree Block Making

Today is Martinmas but we have been working very hard as a family to fill up the Little Acorn Learning  Etsy Shop so instead of lanterns we made Martinmas Tree Blocks today.  :)  Tomorrow the girls are home from school and we will have time to make our lanterns and do some baking together to celebrate the right way. 
 This is one activity that everyone gets involved in.  I have learned how to use the saw to cut our blocks.
The girls help by using electric sanders and sandpaper to make our blocks smooth and safe for our customers.

The best part, of course, is hunting for the perfect branches.  We were lucky today was so warm and beautiful.  It made for a fun hike in our yard to find the right wood to bring into the workshop. 

 The girls were able to play with the blocks as we worked.  Keira created this very cool Gnome Home... She doesn't know it but I hope to make each girl a set of blocks as one of their gifts this year too.
 And we have two beautiful sets on Etsy for sale of our blocks.  Each set includes 35 blocks of all shapes and sizes.  I think it is a perfect Christmas gift for a child to receive and we truly appreciate all of our customers who support our home family business all year long.  
 Brian has mixed emotions on us taking over his workshop on football Sunday where he likes to go watch TV. Sometimes I wonder what he is doing in there all the time.
But I'd say it was worth it.  What types of gifts are you planning to give this holiday season?  Will you make some of your own?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Helping After Hurricane Sandy

After power was restored and we were able to see the horrific news of so much devastation so close to our own homes, we wanted so badly to do something to help.  I scoured the Internet looking for places we could volunteer our time and services but it was very difficult to find a good source and place to go.  I decided one thing that I could do was to offer 25% of all of my sales from Little Acorn Learning to the American Red Cross for the month of November.  I feel good about this decision.  It will take some income away from our family but others need it much much more right now.  We have heat, food, lights, warmth... a home.  If I could not give to others at a time of need so great as this, I do not deserve the abundance that I have been given in this life.  

Then one of my amazing daycare moms organized a Brown Bag Lunch drive for residents of Breezy Point who are just suffering so badly right now and it will be months before many of them will see heat or power at all.  We were so excited to be able to do something tangible to help.
 The girls and I worked hard to fill 21 brown paper bags with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, chocolate chip cookies and V-8 juice for those in need.  
 We also wrote special cards to people who are struggling to survive in this freezing cold right now...
 And then we delivered our meals to the drop-off site...
 When we arrived we could not BELIEVE our eyes.  The amount of food and support that poured in from our amazing community was mind-blowing.  
 Mothers and fathers and grandparents spent their entire Saturday packing lunches and gathering supplies...
 One by one, they kept coming and delivering food...
Children were next to their parents, understanding that something very bad happened but now THEY could do something very good to make a difference..
It was so extremely beautiful... I think everyone who walked away had tears in their eyes... 
 It made me realize that as much bad as there may be in our world each day... as worried as we may be for our children, our future..... 
 There truly truly is so much more GOOD.  
 There is hope... people are truly good and they want to help.  They care about others and they can be depended upon when help is needed.  This gives me so much hope for our future... and fills my heart with gratitude.  
There was so much food that they had to rent a UHaul to get it down to Breezy Point.  2500 peanut butter sandwiches and hundreds of other supplies.... all passed out and used up before night's end that evening.  That's how great the need was.  
If you are looking for something to do to help, please consider donating blood to the American Red Cross as the hurricane has cancelled many blood drives and there is a huge shortage.  You can also send them a donation to help with Hurricane Sandy relief.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Merry Halloween!

Despite having no power after the hurricane, we were able to enjoy Halloween with good friends and family.

We bought two nice pumpkins but one of them began to rot on the bottom so we were only able to carve one.  We've done this a million times but it never gets old, does it?
This year it was nice because Brianna is older now and able to really participate.  She worked hard to help trace the design on the pumpkin and empty the inside out with Maia. 
 Keira and her father were the carvers this year and they did an amazing job...
Don't you think?
 The girls and their friends Haley and Jake came up with a GREAT idea this year.  They decided to go trick or treating as a Christmas Theme together.  Maia and Brianna dressed up as Christmas presents :) 
Keira was an elf (check out those ears!)...
 Haley was a Christmas Tree and Jake was Santa.  They looked so awesome!  
 And don't worry, the grown-ups were sure to play along - we were all Santa's reindeer... 
 It was a fun night together of laughing and going door-to-door.  
Then we came back to the house and enjoyed a little Irish Coffee made with whatever supplies I could find in the house.  The hours flew by and the next thing we knew it was midnight.  Great times with great friends.  We've shared so many together and I'm grateful.