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The Spectacular Science Behind Puddle Stomping

Cornerstone allows ample time for our students to be outside on our 3 acres of nature exploration! Our outdoor classroom provides many of these balancing needs .

The Spectacular Science Behind Puddle Stomping    (Source: 1000hoursoutside.com)

Have you heard that some schools have banned the good ol’ fashioned game of tag? Unknowingly, and certainly not on purpose, children are “tagging” each other with too much force, causing playmates to get hurt during the game.

It’s easy to forget about the little things kids need to learn in childhood beyond book work. There’s so much focus on the ABCs and the 123s that sometimes the developmental things, like how much force to use during certain activities, slip by us. These untestable skills hold their merit. As adults we need to know how much force is acceptable in a hand-shake and how that force differs from what’s needed to use a hammer. These are not things we innately know. They must be learned!

But how do we learn how much force to use anyways? Throughout childhood, kids will become adept at using their bodies correctly through interaction with the environment. Through the push and pull and the give and the take children experience out in nature, they will naturally develop all of their EIGHT senses. Eight you say? Aren’t there only five? I know I only learned about five in school, but it turns out there are three more and they all have super cool names.

The vestibular sense, or balance sense, helps us know where our bodies are in space. Proprioception helps us know where our limbs and body parts are without looking at them. And enteroception is the sense we have that tells us what is going on inside of our bodies.

When children splash in puddles they are doing grand experimentation and developing their proprioception sense, which regulates how much force is needed. Watching a children play in puddles is fascinating! Through sensory feedback they are answering question after question. What happens if I swoop my legs through this puddle slowly? What if I move my legs faster? If I stomp lightly, how high will the water splash? What if I stomp harder? What will happen if I jump with both feet from a small curb? Toddler science is remarkably impactful on sensory development!

Children are naturally inclined toward the things in nature that are helpful for their development. Puddles are readily available! Nature doesn’t skimp! Get a pair of tall rain boots or go barefoot! Bring a towel and some extra pants and underwear along. Clothes are washable. Don’t miss the chance for your child to learn, through experience and experimentation, the delicate balance of how much force to use! Maybe in time, we can bring that good ole’ fashioned game of tag back!


5 Lessons About Taking Risks From the Works of Roald Dahl

Cornerstone students are encourage to fail and take risks all the time. It’s woven into the curriculum. Read below how beloved author Ronald Dahl talks about taking risks.

5 Lessons About Taking Risks From the Works of Roald Dahl
(Source: entrepreneur.com)

Roald Dahl, the complicated and beloved author of indelible children’s classics such as Matilda and Fantastic Mr. Fox, would have turned 100 this year. Dahl is best remembered for his keen understanding of the vibrant inner lives of kids. His protagonists were brave and resourceful — creative problem solvers who went on simultaneously terrifying and enchanting adventures.

Dahl lost his dad and sister when he was very young and spent his formative years at austere boarding schools. Before he began his celebrated writing career, he was a pilot for the Royal Air Force during World War II. After a nearly fatal crash, Dahl worked in espionage on behalf of the British government.

In the 1960s, Dahl published some of what would become his most famous books, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, but the decade was a painful one for him. His 4-month-old son Theo was in a traffic accident that left him with brain damage. Dahl’s 7-year-old daughter Olivia died after contracting measles, and a few years later, his wife, the famous actress Patricia Neal, had a series of strokes.

In an effort to help Theo, the storyteller co-developed a medical valve to prevent fluid from building up in the brain. Caring for Patricia led him to pen a guide to help for stroke patients through their recovery. Though his life was marked by tragedy, Dahl harnessed his circumstances to invent ways to connect with and aid others. His written work reflected this approach to life.

Even if you aren’t outsmarting witches, befriending giants or taking down a terrible authority figure with telekinesis, you can derive inspiration from Dahl’s words.

1. Hold yourself accountable.

In The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, Dahl had some advice for aspiring writers. “You must have strong self-discipline. You are working alone. No one is employing you. No one is around to give you the sack if you don’t turn up for work or to tick you off if you start slacking.” When you are starting a new venture — especially at the very beginning, before your employees or investors enter the picture — it’s up to you to realize your vision. No one else is going to do it for you.

2. Go off the beaten track.

In The Minpins, Dahl wrote, “The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” And the Old-Green-Grasshopper memorably told James, “There are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven’t started wondering about yet.” Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek out new solutions to old problems.

3. Take the plunge.

“Bunkum and tummyrot! You’ll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that. Would Columbus have discovered America if he’d said ‘What if I sink on the way over? What if I meet pirates? What if I never come back?’ He wouldn’t even have started.” This was one of Willy Wonka’s spirited exhortations in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Like most things out of the candy maker’s mouth, it’s over the top and slightly incorrect, but he’s got a point. When you’re launching a company, don’t let doubts plague you. Have confidence in the idea that you want to pursue.

4. Understand the power of one.

It’s sometimes easy to get bogged down in logistics and forget why you started something in the first place. As Matilda said, “Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.” Don’t forget that your thoughts and actions could change things for the better if you keep at it.

5. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Dahl wrote in memoir of wartime, Going Solo, “a life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones.” So if something great comes your way, take the time to appreciate it. But if you make a mistake, remember that it isn’t the first one and won’t be the last. In the words of Danny, the Champion of the World, “most of the really exciting things we do in our lives scare us to death. They wouldn’t be exciting if they didn’t.”


Why Play-Based Learning in Kindergarten Is So Important

Sadly, scenes like the one in this particular kindergarten classroom are not an everyday occurrence in public schools today. With the Common Core State Standards in place and the pushing down of academics in full swing, many kindergarten students spend their days memorizing sight words and math facts while working their way through worksheets.

Despite plenty of research documenting the importance of play in early childhood development, public schools in America continue to move away from play-based learning as they push for early achievement. The problem, of course, is that the push for early achievement by way of literacy and math drilling ignores the fact that young children learn the most when they are engaged in play. In short, they need to get their hands dirty and work though concepts without being glued to their seats.

A recent report from Defending the Early Years (DEY), in conjunction with the Alliance for Childhood, calls for the withdrawal of the kindergarten standards from the Common Core Standards so that they can be rethought along developmental lines. The report argues that the implementation of the reading standard, in particular, is leading many teachers to resort to drilling on specific skills and excessive testing.

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D, senior adviser of the DEY project and Professor Emerita at Lesley University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says that the concept of learning through play is misunderstood. “Play and learning are not dichotomous,” she tells me. “Young children learn and make sense of the world around them in a different way than older children do. They need to manipulate materials, engage with their peers, engage all of their senses, and work through their thoughts and feelings.”

The benefits of play-based learning are many. Through play, children learn to delay gratification (always a hot issue for parents of young children), take turns, negotiate with peers, solve problems, cope with disappointment, listen to others, and empathize. And the benefits don’t stop there. Have you ever watched a group of young children engaged in high-level play? Imaginative play in kindergarten requires planning, higher level thinking, cognitive skills, math skills, and language skills. Ask a group of 5- and 6-year-olds to open a new restaurant and see what happens. If given sufficient time for sustained imaginative play, that group of kids will use anything they can find to set up the restaurant, advertise, and create some form of currency for their customers. If that’s not considered learning, I’m not sure what is.

If play-based learning is the best way to reach our young children, why the push for early academics? “Adults consider play frivolous — a waste of time,” explains Carlsson-Paige. “Adults don’t understand that play is the cornerstone of learning. Play builds the foundation for conceptual learning.”

The truth is the we live in a results-driven world right now, both in and out of the classroom. Parents often consult me with questions about delaying gratification and teaching kids the lost art of patience, but when I ask them about things like iPad time, video games, and structured activities, they brush me off. Kids are plugged in and over scheduled, and that results in low frustration tolerance, lack of patience, and an inability to delay gratification. When games provide rewards in 30-second intervals how on earth can a child possibly wait all day for an ice cream cone?!

While blocking out time for sustained imaginary play might seem frivolous, it’s important to remember that children do learn math, literacy, language, and social skills when engaged in play. Consider this possible scenario: A teacher reads the class a book about a polar bear. After talking about the book, the students break into small groups and build a home for a polar bear. They have to consider the natural habitat of the polar bear, how the bear will get food, how the bear will hide from predators (if there are any), and what the bear needs to survive. Through this hands-on project, students will build a habitat and learn more about the polar bear while working as a group.

Play is the language of children. Play helps children work through their emotions and learn about the world around them. While short-term achievement might seem important, the long-term benefits of a childhood filled with play are far greater than a “4” on a standards-based report card.

As education continues to move in the wrong direction, our youngest learners will suffer for it. “When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and confusion,” says Carlsson-Paige. I think it’s time we listen to the early childhood development experts on this one, don’t you?


This is What Happens When You Stop Fixing Things for Your Kids

“I’ve got this!” – how many times in our lives have we thought or said this out loud?

As moms, we’ve said and thought this countless times – we do what needs to be done. When we’re juggling 25 things at once we go into autopilot – You need 40 cupcakes made for school tomorrow? I’ve got this. You need a ride to practice, help with homework, and a costume for your presentation? I’ve got this.

Yes, we delegate and plan ahead but when push comes to shove…I’ve got this because most of us are “Fixers” at heart – we’re programmed to do what needs to be done – in our work and personal lives. We don’t always stop to think, we just start organizing and getting it done.

I never gave it any thought until my older son stopped me one day.

My boys were doing their homework at the kitchen table, and my older son (5th grade at the time) was telling me how another boy in his class was bullying him. He was making fun of my son’s large feet (a size 14 at the time) and it clearly bothered my son. When he finished I said, without thinking, “I’ve got this, I’ll send your teacher an email tonight. Then I’ll call her tomorrow and set up a meeting so we can discuss this.  Then, if it doesn’t stop I’ll…”

Why we need to stop fixing things for our kids

My son gently interrupted my stream of “to do’s” and said “Mom, I’m not asking you to fix it. I just want to talk with you about it.”  Wow – what a lesson!  I cannot tell you how grateful I am that he was strong enough to stop me and to tell me that he wanted to handle it.

Instead of me taking over and “fixing it,” I thanked him for speaking up, we talked about how he felt and what he planned to do about it. I’m not always going to be there – he has to learn how to do difficult things for himself. We all want our children to grow to be independent but how can they do this if we don’t give the chance to handle the tough stuff – the things they haven’t encountered before?  All I saw was that he was hurt, and I could make it better. I didn’t stop to think – I just wanted to take care of it.

He was so proud of himself the next day when he told me how he handled it.  He fixed it – he did it – not me. The way it should be. What if he hadn’t spoken up? In my effort to help, I would have ruined any chance for him to take care of himself. How many times had he subtly tried to tell me this before?  How many times have our children sat there while we rambled on with solutions when all they really wanted was for someone to listen? He taught me such a valuable lesson – he taught me to stop and listen. Instead of “I’ve got this,” I had to learn “You’ve got this.”

Years later when he was in college, he called me from his car. He had me on his car speaker (the “squawk box” as we call it), and he was telling me about situation at school. I listened. I asked him what he was going to do about it. I didn’t immediately offer solutions. He told me his plan, we talked about his options and what he thought was the best way to handle it.

He called me later that day to say that his friend who was in the car with him at the time looked at him funny when he hung up our call.  My son asked him what he was thinking and his friend said “That was your Mom?  You talk to each other like you’re friends. She didn’t start telling you what to do or asking you a million questions.  She listened to you. Your opinion mattered. I can’t imagine having that kind of conversation with my Mom.”

What his friend didn’t know was that if my son hadn’t stopped me all those years ago, that’s exactly what I would have done – and I may have even flown down there to handle it myself. My son told me he thought this was how all sons and Moms talked – he realized that day that it wasn’t. I reminded him of the middle school experience with bullying, and I thanked him again for speaking up.  We laughed about me always wanting to fix things and having to let that go.

We can learn so much about parenting from our children if we’re willing to listen. His younger brother benefitted from this revelation – how many times did I have to pause and ask questions (How do you feel about this? How do you think you should handle this?  How can I support you?)

I’ll admit – it doesn’t come naturally. My heart and mind still want to jump right in and make it better, but I’ve learned that sometimes our children just want to talk to someone they trust. They can handle more than we give them credit for – our first instinct may be to help and to protect but when we let them work it out, they learn and grow and become confident.

Moms are naturally Doers and Fixers. But really, who wants a grown son or daughter calling to proclaim – “You must take care of this because I can’t handle it!”?  None of us! We want to raise children who can think for themselves and take care of situations that will arise. If they want to consult with us, get our opinion or ask us to be a sounding board, lucky us.

If they genuinely have no idea what to do in particularly tough situation, we can help them figure it out. We can help them but we must resist the urge to take over. We have to understand when it’s time to move away from “I’ve got this!” to “You’ve got this!”