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Ideas for Working Parents to Help with School Involvement

Posted on: September 5th, 2018 by ctpadmin

Ideas for Working Parents to Help with School Involvement

I know that at times we all feel guilty when we leave our child at daycare.  Although I never sent my children to a center-based daycare, they were in care since they were infants.  How can working parents maintain involvement with their child’s care and education, and why is it important?

Here’s a quote that may sum this up:

“Researchers at the University of Oxford found that children whose parents participated in the Peers Early Education Partnership (a program geared towards supporting families of children ages 0-5) ‘made significantly greater progress in their learning than children whose parents did not participate.’ These strides where found in children ages 3-5, and included progress in vocabulary, language comprehension, understanding of books and print and number concepts. In addition, these children also exhibited higher self-esteem in comparison to children of non-participating parents (Evangelou & Sylva, 2003).”

One of the things I made sure to do was learn what my children did during their day. When they were very young, the conversation was often centered around their physical needs and development.  As they got older, I would exchange information with the caregiver about favorite books or activities.  If the caregiver didn’t have a certain toy that was a favorite, I might bring an extra one to leave at her house, or make sure we brought it occasionally so they would have something to share.  All this was helpful in showing an interest in the caregiver, as well as arming me with information that I could use in conversation with my children when we got home.

•Create some kind of special communication with your child’s caregivers – email or text may work well (at PSA, our staff only uses their phones in case of a serious emergency-so information is shared at the end of the day in person)

•Share books from home that are special

•Suggest a routine that works well for you that you would like continued in care

•Learn what is of interest to the caregiver

•When your child enters school, try to set up a date to introduce yourself to the teacher (my kids’ teachers often wondered about this, but when they learned that I was just trying to have a working relationship with them, we got along famously)

•Be willing to volunteer whenever you can in the classroom or for special activities

•Share a special snack (make sure it isn’t an issue with allergies)

preschool, numeric education, early childhood education, daycare

Counting with everyday snacks!

Get rid of the guilt of leaving your child and enjoy the time away from your child knowing he/she is cared for and loved in your absence.

Sue Leavitt

It’s Harder On Me Than My Child! Getting ready for school.

Posted on: August 23rd, 2017 by ctpadmin


It’s harder on me than my child!

How are you doing at getting ready for your child to go to school. It was a very long time ago that I sent my first child to Kindergarten as a working mom. The excitement of buying a new outfit or two, getting a lunch box, new shoes, and a backpack were all part of the preparation.

I didn’t have the excitement of seeing him off on the bus, because I went to work earlier than he left for school. The childcare provider had that pleasure. However, about the end of October I was going to a workshop that didn’t start until later, so I was able to drive him to the daycare lady a little later and then watch him get on the bus. Mind you, he had already been in school for two months. I watched him embark and then followed the bus all the way to school and cried the whole way.

Fast forward 13 years to the college drop-off. As we pulled into Carnegie Mellon to unload all his stuff at his dorm, I couldn’t even talk to the student directing traffic because I was so choked up. After we had Bob comfortably installed in his dorm room, we got back on the road for our long trek from Pittsburgh to Ashford, CT. and I probably cried for the first three hours. Most of the tears were happy ones, but there also rested a small bit of nostalgia at the loss of childhood and probably innocence.

I don’t want to scare you, just tell you that I actually survived the experience quite well and enjoyed every moment of my children’s education. Sometimes it was easier than others, but I tried hard to be an involved and interested parent who understood what was going on in and out of the classroom. Now I’m a proud grandparent who enjoys many similar things with my growing grandchildren.

Several of the things I’ve learned along the way may be helpful:

  • Know what is likely to take place during the day – usually the teachers and/or school administration will send home information about routines.
  • Learn what the curriculum is addressing for your child.
  • Familiarize yourselves with the teachers with whom your child will interact.
  • Know the rules of the school and classroom.
  • Talk to your child about his/her day using things you may have learned from emails or other info from the school.
  • Give your child some down time to decompress from their day – a snack, some outdoors time, or even reading a story together can be a good way for the child to relax.
  • Make sure you keep up with all the paper work (it’s probably email messages today – remember I’m old!) that comes home from the school.
  • Although we know that our children are perfect, if there is a disciplinary issue involving your child, try to get ALL sides of the story. If you don’t get a straight answer from the teacher, don’t be afraid to pursue it further in a quiet, respectful way. Most educators truly want your child to be successful and hopefully want to partner with you in that success.
  • Enjoy the new year and all the adventures that await you and your child.  Let me know how many hours you cried!


Music Makes Kids Smarter

Posted on: May 5th, 2016 by ctpadmin

Music Makes Kids Smarter!

When I was teaching baby music classes, we made sure that we did movement activities with even the smallest babies.  Using the nursery rhyme, “Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John” we would move the baby’s legs in time with the rhythm of the rhyme.  The child would just laugh and want more – we would do it slowly, or quickly, speaking in a high pitched voice, or a low one. While we were having fun, the educational piece was developing rhyming, rhythm, bilateral motion, vocal differentiation, and tempo. Some of those things are musical terms (it was a music class, after all), but all of them are things that apply to children’s learning.IMG_5246

At all age levels we add in things like scarves and hand percussion instruments to help put a feeling of the beat into the children’s body.  At a very young age, the child feels music through their entire body. Music with Mrs. Johnson        Movement

As the children grew older, we would give them rhythm sticks which we would use to keep the beat of the music we were listening to.  The educational components of that activity were many –

Listening to good music

Selective listening skills

Keeping a beat

Practicing bilateral motion (see article)

Crossing the midline

Following non-verbal directions


“Rhythm is an integral part of both music and language,” Kraus says. “And the rhythm of spoken language is a crucial cue to understanding.” – See more: in this article.

078One of the important aspects in learning to read, is for a child to be able to cross the midline.  The ability for crossing the vertical midline begins at a young age.  This is when we are able to cross our body to use our right hand on our left side or vice versa.  Very young children use the hand that is closest to the object, rather than crossing the midline.  Sometimes they will even move their whole body to avoid crossing the midline.  If the child never is able to cross the midline, they will have a difficult time reading as their eyes will stop when they get to the middle of the page, rather than reading all the way across.

PSA values the importance of outside play, movement, and musical activities in the educational curriculum across all ages.

Sue Leavitt


Sing a Song of Sixpence – Music and Nursery Rhymes

Posted on: April 11th, 2016 by ctpadmin

Last week I promised more on the use of nursery rhymes as they may impact musical development. Here we go.

As I begin to write this post, I am struggling with what to share, so I have decided that sharing some of my observations in teaching music to young children for many years may be the best way to proceed.

IMG_2607The ways that I see music and nursery rhymes impacting development are as follows:

•They are short – making them easy to memorize

•They have a limited melodic range – making them easier to sing

•They rhyme – creating predictability and listening skills

•They are fun – can play with sounds and tones of voice

•They have rich language – useful in vocabulary development and possibly in musical sounds

•They create opportunities for movement – important for young children

After about 25 years of teaching music in the public school at all grade levels, I began my own music school to create classes for the very young child along with their parents.  It became very evident to me that children need exposure to quality music at a young age.  I learned about research that was concluding that brain development was greatly enhanced by exposure to music as a baby, and that the window of opportunity closes much earlier than most of us had supposed.

Most of the literature I used in those classes was based on nursery rhymes.  I would chant “Diddle, diddle dumpling” with infants as the parents and I moved their legs in time to the rhyme or bounce the child on my knee while singing “I Have  a Little Pony”.  As the child grew a bit older, I might give them a scarf to bounce to the rhythm of a chant called “Allee Gallee, Galloo”. One week a parent returned to class sharing that they had watched their toddler bouncing their scarf to a steady beat with no sound present!  This was really exciting because the child was hearing the chant internally. The development of inner hearing is a very important skill in silent reading.  This skill is called audition.

We played lots of circle games, singing the nursery rhymes or acting out the finger plays as we sing and/or chant.  If there wasn’t a finger play, we might pat the beat of the rhyme on our knees.  Steady beat is another aspect of music learning that is very helpful to children as they learn to read. This article may be of help in understanding the importance of steady beat.

What did I learn from all this? Singing nursery rhymes with your child can do the following:

•Share unimaginable joy with your child as you sing and chant

•Stimulate the brain

•Focus on the child

•Develop musical skills

•Increase vocabulary

•Show the child you love them

•Learn to rhyme

•Be silly together

•Create observant children

•Increase synapses in the brain

•Develop memory skills

I am passionate about having parents sing to their children because it is a priceless investment in their future development.  The personal touch is much better than using recorded music.  The child loves your voice because it is “you”.  Don’t worry if you aren’t the best singer.  Nursery rhymes make it easy!

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocketful of rye!!!

Humpty, Dumpty; Twinkle, Twinkle; Hickory, Dickory; Peas Porridge; Diddle, Diddle Dumpling

Posted on: April 5th, 2016 by ctpadmin

Humpty, Dumpty; Twinkle, Twinkle; Hickory, Dickory; Peas Porridge; Diddle, Diddle Dumpling

Can you finish all those lines?  Do you know more nursery rhymes?  Why is it important for your child to learn these?

Lots of questions for us to ponder today –

The introduction of nursery rhymes is very important in the development of young children.  Here are just a few areas of importance:

  • Language development-learn to differentiate between vowels and consonants, intonation, increase vocabulary
  • Pre-reading skills
  • Focused listening-we learn first by listening, then practicing orally.
  • Cognitive development-Creating imaginary pictures
  • Musical development-the development of rhythmic skills comes from the predictable cadence of the rhymes.
  • Physical development-finger plays that go with the rhymes are helpful in developing fine motor skills.  Acting out nursery rhymes can help with gross motor skills.

I just read an mind-boggling statistic -“…In 1945 the average elementary school student had a vocabulary of 10,000 words. Today, children have a vocabulary of only 2,500 words.” Article  The reason for poor vocabulary acquisition is probably because we are reading less to our infants.  That can be easily remedied by using nursery rhymes as a beginning step.IMG_2602

Nursery rhymes are a great way to stimulate a child’s imagination. They often are quick, (you can remember them, so, as a parent, you are able to recite them to and/or with your child at any time), they have rich vocabulary, usually have a very rhythmic cadence to them, can stimulate feelings, and are easy to memorize, for just a few examples.

Let’s focus just on language development today (even though I really want to talk about musical development – can you guess why?)

Vocabulary: Nursery rhymes have a rich vocabulary that may be learned by the young child through the context.  For example: There Was An Old Lady uses the words “squiggled” and “absurd”.  Those are vocabulary expanders.

Pre-reading skills: Rhyming is a common element in most nursery rhymes.  Because of this it is a tremendous tool in beginning reading skills.  All children must learn to rhyme to become better readers.  If a child can rhyme cat and bat, they will quickly become capable of linking sat, rat, hat, etc.  When they are eventually exposed to the written word (when you are reading aloud to your child), they will begin to recognize that they all end with the same letters.

Focused listening: How did you learn to read?  The very first steps were hearing sounds in utero.  After birth, you heard people speaking to you, to which you responded with some form of babble.  The auditory preceded the oral which preceded the written.  In order to achieve these steps, it is very important that children learn to differentiate between sounds called phonemes.  An example would be to recognize that map and moon both begin with the same sound.  It would also apply to ending sounds that rhyme.  The ability to identify and distinguish between phonemes is auditory not linked to the written word. Phonemic awareness is not phonics (Here is a good article – with more in-depth information than I can give you here.)

Tone: Do you ever speak with your children about tone of voice?  Where do they learn about that? Of course, it is first from their caretakers.  Nursery rhymes are a great way to experiment with different tones of voice.  Try saying Humpty Dumpty in a high voice, a low voice, an angry voice, a happy voice, a witch’s voice or like a robot.  The children will love the silliness of it, you can bear repeating it many times, and they are learning about tone.

I hope this helps in helping you recite and read nursery rhymes with your kids!

Why don’t you twinkle while you diddle and fall off the wall!

Playing is Educational!

Posted on: March 3rd, 2016 by ctpadmin

Playing Is Educational!

Today we talk about the importance of play.  The last sentence of the philosophy of PSA states: “We believe children learn best through play and the discovery of concepts that are a result of their own creativity.”  There is great controversy in the educational arena over this subject because there is such a big push to increase the “academic” skills at younger and younger ages.

As stated in our philosophy, we believe that the power of play outweighs the drill and “kill” method of teaching letters, numbers, counting, reading and other skills that will come soon enough.  Often times, those letters, numbers, etc.,  come through the play in which the children are involved.

Important kinds of play include the following:

  • pretend play
  • block play               photo 3
  • gross motor activity

Each of these activities include opportunities for the child’s growth such as:

  • problem solving
  • critical thinking
  • social interaction
  • language development
  • cognitive growth

During pretend play, a children are creating a scenario in their mind.  They may be using pieces from a story that caught their imagination, or from a real-life situation which they have experienced.  Often they will be engaging other children in their play.  If they are creating a story about a trip to Grandpa and Grandma’s home, they may set out by first packing their suitcase filled with doll clothes, and getting in a car which they may have created out of cardboard boxes outfitted with a pizza tray for a steering wheel.  The seats of the car may be large blocks from the block are, or even a couple of their little chairs.  They may create buildings with large blocks en route.  Possibly, the grandparents live on a farm, so they may construct a farm using some of the small animals they have set aside.  During this play, the children are problem solving – “How do I build my car?”; using critical thinking skills to decide what animals will be on the farm – “Would there be a tiger on the farm in Vermont?”; socially interacting when they invite another child to join them; increasing their use of language as they talk through the various aspects of their play.

All these are contributing to the children’s cognitive development as they put it all together.  They may have drawn a map where they have labeled places along the way (literacy), they may have to pay a toll (math) on the highway.  Every aspect of this pretend play has children thinking out of the box to create aspects that will carry them through much of their future academic development, while also building fond memories.

The really exciting thing about this kind of play is that it takes very simple, everyday objects and simple, basic toys to create this rich learning environment.  Happy playing!

Here is a Link  that addresses the importance of play. is a very helpful place, particularly for parents of infants and toddlers.


Life is Our Classroom

Posted on: August 13th, 2015 by ctpadmin

As fall approaches, there are signs of a new beginning.  Parents are scrambling for spots in “daycare”, buying school clothes, lunch boxes, arranging schedules for after school activities, and saying good-bye to vacations!  The air even changes!

This can be a time of great stress or a time of celebration.  My hope is that you will make it celebratory in nature so you and your children are able to enjoy all the new options that lie in wait for all of you.

Although I haven’t been in the classroom for a few years, and our preschool/daycare center is a year round operation, I still approach fall with an eager anticipation.   I think life is our classroom.  It is a time to reflect on the achievements of the past year and look forward to the new learnings that will happen in the coming year.  I look forward to the new opportunities I have to share my knowledge with my staff, my piano students, my singers, and my grandkids.   I find that although I may feel that I have information to pass on to others, most often, I learn major lessons in life from my students.

Let me share a few ideas with you to help you reduce the “back-to-school” stress.

  • Help children get back into the school year routine ahead of time.
  • Return to the school-year-bedtime.
  • Read!
  • Eat healthy foods and snacks.
  • Even if the budget is stressed, get at least one thing that will be shiny and new for the kids to take to school.
  • Read!
  • Talk positively about the new people your kids will encounter.
  • Be excited about the places they will go and the things they will see.
  • Read!
  • Plan a special time when they return home from school the first day.  Listen to their adventures and try prompting them with things you know must have happened.
  • Take a picture of them at the beginning of the year to compare with the one you will take at the end of the year.
  • Read some more!!

I hope you enjoy the new year and the new lessons you will learn from your kids.  You will only recapture these moments in your memory, so please make the most of this time together and expand your classroom!

You really want me to change?

Posted on: July 13th, 2015 by ctpadmin

What have you tried that’s new recently?  My last blog was about the importance of routine and establishing ritual.  Now that I’ve challenged you for that, I would like to challenge you to step outside your comfort zone to try something new. Sometimes comfort zones are good, but sometimes we get stuck in a rut. Trying something new can provide you with opportunities you never knew were possible.

When I retired the first time, I took a quilting class and a watercolor class. I discovered a side of myself that I not only didn’t know existed, let alone one at which I might actually do rather well. The painting was a pleasure that I enjoyed until I went back to work and didn’t have the time to spend doing it. The quilting has become a passion and has given me many opportunities to reach out to ones I love through special gifts.

IMG_9156  IMG_9153

Children will take their cues from their caretakers. Parents and teachers have more influence than they know oftentime.  By setting an example,in this case, stepping our of your comfort zone, you are able to encourage your child to try something new.  My kids and I had never downhill skied until John came into our lives.  One night he took us to a small local ski area and determined to teach three of us to ski – forty year old mom, nine year old Tara and thirteen year old Bob. John brought us to a little rope tow, in itself, rather intimidating, and managed to get us to the top of a very little bunny slope.  It was accomplished by putting Tara under one arm as he held onto the rope with his other. All she kept saying was that she wanted to go home.  After two trips down the bunny hill, we were all hooked.  Had I stayed in the lodge sipping hot chocolate, I don’t think my kids  would be skiing. Now they are proficient skiiers and are teaching their children. We were willing to get out of our comfort zone.

You   might start by doing some little thing. Say you have always had your furniture in exactly the same position. How about changing up the room?  You might find a whole new perspective. What if you always order the same dinner when you go out to eat?  How about trying something new?

This is a neat example to set for children. Yes, we want them to be secure in reading a book, but when they are introduced to something new, they are expanding their horizons. I believe that once a child is secure in their routines they will be more willing to try new things.

Happy change. It can be a lot of fun to accomplish a new challenge and it can also feel great to return to our comfort zone!

Do I really have to read that book again?

Posted on: June 8th, 2015 by ctpadmin

Routines and rituals-very important for kids!  Why?  Children like to know what is happening   They need the security of repetition in a world that is ever changing. Think about it-who likes change?  It is much more comfortable for us all as adults to have a routine that is predictable, go to work, have our meals, enjoy our hobbies, etc.

Children need that predictability

IMG_3612even more than adults. If you establish a routine at bedtime, life will be more even-keeled. When my kids were young we had dinner, played briefly, took a bath where we were able to play and just talk together, followed by brushing teeth, reading a story or two, saying our prayers and then saying good night. We were able to alter the routine slightly, if we had been out a little later, by omitting the bath, but still reading the story. (We knew what the shortest book in the bookcase was for those very late nights!)

Leaving a child at daycare is another example of an important ritual.  You should talk to your child about what he/she should expect when they get dropped off at school .  It is good to remind them that you have to go to work, but you will be back to pick them up before supper.  (You might talk about something fun you can do on the way home or what you will cook for dinner.  Maybe your child can help you  come up with an idea of something to look forward to.)  It is good to have a special good bye.  “I love you,” out the door with a wave from the car is always good.  All our schools have a “good-bye” window.  It is always important to exit quickly (don’t sneak out on your child – they may find it more difficult when you leave the next day).

Holidays are another time, when rituals that are uniquely for your family, are very important.  We have a tradition at Thanksgiving where everyone shares one thing for which they are thankful, following grace.  It is very interesting to hear what the children have to share.  Even very young children will have something for which they are thankful.

Remember that rituals arise from routine, and routine comes from repetition. How many times have you read Goodnight Moon or Green Eggs and Ham?
All that repetition helps children learn security, love, and grow in their emotional and academic development.

Happy rituals!

Mama, Dada – The Importance of Talking to Your Child

Posted on: March 12th, 2015 by ctpadmin

How do we help our children develop?  One of the most important ways we can help children grow to be literate adults is to speak to them from the time they are born.

Much discussion is being brought to the forefront on early language acquisition and the way it affects many parts of the child’s development.  In all the reading I have done on this subject and from my personal experience watching children grow, I am convinced that the most important way to help a child with language acquisition is to talk to him/her.

concept buildingLet’s think about the way we all learn to run.  First we creep, then we crawl, then we stand, then we totter as we walk, then we walk with more assurance.  Along the way, we may try to run, but we always must return to acquiring the walking skill first.  Eventually, we will run.  Language is very much like this.  First a child listens, then babbles, then tries simple sounds, progressing to one syllable words, on to simple two syllable words, and then truly recognizable words.  Eventually, these words will be strung together into sentences, at first simple and probably without connecting words.  This is all part of the development of language.

I tell my piano students all the time that practicing is very important, and it is more important to do it every day in small chunks than to sit down on the last day and practice hours.  We don’t have to tell young children to practice language because they are doing it naturally every time they listen to someone speaking or when they are babbling.    We do have to be aware of just how much children learn as they listen – it might not be appropriate language!

That being said, it is important to speak to your child.  Language acquisition has been shown to be linked to socio-economic situations but can be corrected with education for  parents.  One study in 2003 showed that children followed from seven months to four years showed disparate rates of language acquisition.  “Children in well-off families-where the parents were typically college-educated professionals-heard an average of 2,153 words an hour spoken to them, whereas children in families on welfare heard an average of 616 words.  By the age of four this difference translated to a cumulative gap of some 30 million words” (Bhattacharjec 70-71).

Another experiment was done where children nine months old from English-speaking families were taught Mandarin by native speaking Chinese tutors through play and reading.  Another group was taught by the same tutors through video, and a third group was taught through the audio track of the video.  At the end of the study, children who had the live tutors were able to differentiate as well as native children.  Neither of the other groups showed any learning (71).language for a group

I found this terribly frightening.  What a responsibility we have to speak with our children.  As we talk, sing, and read, we are introducing sounds, vocabulary, ideas, and concepts that will grow our children to healthy, literate adults.

You might find the following links interesting reading on this topic:

Works Cited

Bhattacharjec, Yudhijit. “Baby Brains.” National Geographic January 2015: 70-71. Print.