Back to School

I am excited to be starting my 30thyear teaching preschool.  I have been teaching at Crown Hill for 26 of the 30 years I have been with North Seattle ‘s cooperative preschool program.  I received a K-12 teaching certificate and BA in Psychology from Seattle Pacific University.  Before I taught cooperative preschool I started a private kindergarten at North Queen Anne Day Care and was a K-6 gifted teacher in the Shoreline School District.  

I decided to stop teaching when I had Joel in 1982.  We bought our house in Loyal Heights and I started an in-home daycare. I had my daycare until Joel and Nick both were in school.  For most of the time I had my daycare I took care of 6 other little boys.  We had our own little preschool! We went everywhere together in our Ford Bronco.  It was quite a sight to see us all getting out the vehicle.

I found out about the cooperative teaching job from my neighbor.  She saw the ad in the Ballard News Tribune – a local weekly newspaper.  The Parent Educator that hired me has been my friend and mentor the whole time I have taught preschool.

The college website gives this information about the preschool program. Started over 50 years ago, the NSC Cooperative Preschool Program offers a warm and gentle introduction to school and community life for young children and their families. Adults and children learn together, grow together, and actively build a community together. NSC’s Cooperative Preschools provide parent and early education for families with children from infancy to Pre-K.  For children, co-op is a safe and nurturing place in which to explore and have fun. Social, emotional and intellectual skills are learned through cooperative and creative play. For parents, it’s a place to improve parenting skills, help shape their child’s first school environment, and form lasting friendships.

I have always enjoyed working with the children and I appreciate the support given to the families by each other.  The parent education helps families as they interact with their child and as they develop relationships with other children and their families. It is a strong network that supports families during the preschool years and beyond.  I just met with some of the moms from one of our classes – their little ones are starting high school and learning to drive!   They still meet on a regular basis and have stayed connected as their children have moved through the school years.  From another class a dad sent me a note to say they were all going camping to celebrate a birthday – this weekend – in the rain!  But off they all went with the children that had all played together for the last 3 years during preschool and are still playing together as Kindergarteners.

Cooperative preschool is a time for learning and growing for both the child and the parent.  It is a time to develop friendships that will last for years – for both the child and the parents.

As we start the new year we will continue to work together in the classroom as we build friendships – some that will last for years.  I want this to be a year that builds a foundation for developing their love of learning.  I want this year to be a time for both the children, and the adults, to learn, grow, explore and engage in a safe and secure setting.

Instead of the 3 R’s we will have the 5 R’s …

Reading– together as a family activity

Rhyming– talking, singing, using language throughout the day

Routines– keeping a child’s schedule consistent 

Rewards– acknowledging your child’s achievements

Relationships– building strong, healthy relationships between children and trusted adults

I am looking forward to a great year together.

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It looks like we may have one more Snow Day before it turns back to Seattle Slush Days.

Here are some ideas I found online at They looked like fun. While it is still cold enough I am going to go try the frozen bubble idea.
Ornella, Mom of Jackson,Oliver and Wilder (in the Orcas Class)had a fun idea. Bury glow sticks in the snow and go look for them. It is similar to the colored ice cube hunt but you can do it at night! Such a great idea!

Cold Mold

Borrow some pans from the kitchen. Use them to build crystal fairy castles or to create cakes for a cold-weather “buffet”

Ice Maker

When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, blow bubbles and watch them freeze on the wand.

For the Birds

Hollow out an orange and fill with seeds to feed your feathered friends.

Ice and Easy

Freeze colored water into ice cubes, then hide them around the yard for a wintertime scavenger hunt”

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I am so thankful for each of these children and their families.  Each child, and family, brings new energy to the preschool.  Each child has a unique view of their world, genuine curiosity about how their world works and an interest in interacting with the people in their world.  It is these little people, and their love of learning, that brings me such joy.  Their desire to learn is what energizes me.  Each month I have a lunch date with two friends that used to teach in the NSC cooperative preschool program.  When we are together we always talk about what I am doing and what is new with the children.  They miss seeing that sense of wonder as a child engages in learning about their world.

I am so thankful that I can be a teacher of young children and be outside!  It has been a double blessing to be able to teach preschool while developing an outdoor classroom where these children can explore, engage and interact with nature.  As my family can tell you, I love being outside and I love the simple pleasures in nature – leaves, trees, the beach, waves, drift wood, shells and rocks.  Curt always has a pocketful of my treasures to tote back home.  Everyone in my family knows how much I love rocks.  This summer Greta’s Dad gave me some very special rocks to bring back from our trip to Door County, one year Nick gave me a glass jar full of shiny rocks as a Christmas present, my brother called and asked if I wanted a bucket of black rocks and Danielle just brought me back a bag of rocks from one of her adventures.  In the play area, you may remember that the leprechauns brought rocks as gifts to the children and you may have noticed that I hide ‘special’ rocks in the sandbox, the car table and garden area for the children to find.  I love that I have some fellow ‘rock lovers’ in our preschool.  These little ones are just as excited about a rock as I am!

It makes me smile to see the children marvel at the wonders found in nature.  The leaves as they change colors, the way the trees sway in the wind, the patterns on the snail shells and the delicate blossoms of the raspberry plants.  When they are outside they are using all five senses.  They can see the beauty of nature but they can also hear, feel, smell and taste nature.  They hear birds singing, see the wind in the trees,   feel the movement as they walk on the gravel and watch as the rain rolls off the top of the tent.  They can smell the flowers, taste the red tomato they picked off the vine and feel the prickle of the small thorns on the stalk as they look for another red raspberry.  Each experience has more than one sense – seeing the colors, hearing the sounds, touching the textures, smelling the fragrances and tasting what we grow in the garden.  When they play outside they are using their five senses to categorize what they encounter.  As well as building a vocabulary – both in spoken words and visual images – using these new skills they are developing an awareness of their body and how it works.  Being outside on uneven ground helps them learn how their body moves.  They are developing balance and coordination skills as they run, climb and jump.  This movement engages their brain in ways that smooth surfaces do not.  They need to problem solve when the ground is bumpy, they take developmentally appropriate risks as they develop some of these skills and they become more aware of how their body responds as they walk on gravel, run on uneven ground, climb on a stump or balance on a log.  They build community as they work together to build a space ship, a teeter totter or a chair using the garden timbers.  I marvel at the determination they have as they lift and carry those timbers.  They need to communicate their plan, listen to their friends as they express their ideas and work together as a team to accomplish the task.  As one child said, “This is hard work.  We did it!”

I feel so blessed to be a part of their experiences as they learn the importance of the living things in their world.  They are learning that plants grow if they are watered, that snails need to be touched gently and cared for, that mother birds feed their young and that spiders work hard to build a web.   They are learning empathy and that empathy will carry over to how they respond to their friends and family.  They are becoming caring and loving people.  How awesome is that?!  What a blessing to be a part of their world as they develop this sense of compassion for living things.

I am so thankful for children, for teaching, for nature, for being outside and for having an opportunity to share this small window of time with your children.

I hope you took time this week to enjoy the Wonder of Learning that is going on right now as your child engages in the world.  It is a special time – it is the Wonderment of Childhood.


– Teacher Janice

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Mid-Year Letter

It is hard to believe we are half way through our school year.  It is nice to see the children developing friendships, feeling more confident and watching them as they engage in learning activities.

As it is halfway through the year, and we have new families, I would like to review classroom policies and remind everyone of the preschool expectations.

Be sure to clean up your station after free play. 


This includes washing the art items and putting them away.  There is a large wash sink in the boiler room by the bathrooms.  Sweeping or mopping the floor.

Sensory Table

Be sure to sweep the area after the children go to Circle Time.  Return stray items that have been put in the table that belong to other areas.  Clean up the play-dough table items and sweep under the table.


Return the wooden kitchen toys to the shelves, put the dishes/food items in the correct plastic tubs, put the babies in their cradles, straighten the toys on the shelves.

Table Toys

Find all the pieces of the puzzles or fine motor activity then return them to the shelves. 


Organize the books back on the display shelf and return the books that were taken off of the cupboard shelf.  The books in the display shelf should be the ones that are our theme books for the month.


Return the toys to the proper bins and then place those bins in the Climbing Room.  Organize the wooden blocks in the cupboard if used that day and make sure all the pieces of the toys are in place.

Climbing Room

After the children leave it is the responsibility of the climbing room person to vacuum the entry and hallway toward the outside doorway.


This is a time consuming job.  You need to arrive early enough to set up for snack, clean the tables before and after snack, vacuum the room and the hallway, take out the garbage, wash the dishes and set up the room for Circle Time.  The float person is a helper for this job.  Please note if you are the float.

Arrive on time. 

It is necessary to be at school on time so that we have the correct insurance ratio.  For the Pre-3 families this allows the non-work day parents the ability to leave the preschool within 10 minutes of class starting.  Although, please, do not arrive too early.  I am setting up the rooms and getting organized for the day so having the little ones there earlier than 5 minutes before class is difficult for me.

Outside play is not an option. 

Except in very cold weather there may be an inside/outside option for children to choose inside or outside play  if we have adult/child ratios that work. PLAN on outside play and dress for the weather.   If we are outside, without an ‘option’ day, then all the children need to be outside.  Dress the children appropriately (and yourself as well.)  The class schedule is set up for safety and to be developmentally appropriate. 

Children need to have time out of doors and we need to have the correct number of adults outside with them.  For the Toddler classes and/or the Pre-3 parent who it is not their work day    I know it seems it should be okay to bring your child inside if they/you are cold/don’t want to be outside/would rather do something else but we need to follow the schedule set for the day.  This rule is both for insurance safety and for safety during the classroom preparation.  The rooms are not open and the adults inside are prepping for the school day.  It is not safe to have the children inside. 

For both Toddlers and Pre-3’s this is also preparation for next year when there will be fewer adults which will mean less flexibility to come inside with your child.

Come prepared for the weather.

Shoes are to be worn at all times at school.

No coffee or hot beverages.

Be attentive to the children in your assigned area. 

Pre-3’s have assigned stations throughout the day.  Please, check the schedule.

The expectation is for the children to engage in the circle time activity.  If your child wants to stand, dance, move about they can do so in the back of the room.  I have arranged the easel so there is room to move about “behind” the rug area. 

The children are also welcome to be in the hallway, with an adult, if they need to be physically active during this time.  It is a safety issue when the children are up and moving about – fingers get stepped on, views are blocked and someone gets pushed out of the way, two little ones decide to hug/dance/roll about and another little ones gets hurt by the feet/bodies of the first two. This may seem rigid but it is necessary to have the children learn to sit and control their bodies. 

If I see a need for a child to change their behavior I will say “sit on your bottom” “sit on a lap” or give a clue as to what behavior is expected. 

It is not a problem if a child is standing, dancing or moving about if the other children are still engaged in the circle time activity.  The problem is when the child’s actions cause the focus to be on that child, their actions are interfering with other children engaging, or their actions could cause other children to be hurt. 

During Circle Time children have a chance to practice self- regulation.  Self-regulation is essential in their future success — in school and as adults.

Be sure to follow the H&S guidelines for illness.  These guidelines are in place for both you and your child.  Please, be watchful of symptoms especially if your family has had someone sick during the week/weekend.  If your child, or you, has a fever or any symptoms of an illness you need to stay home. 

These guidelines include the siblings who are staying home from their school –  if they are not healthy enough to go to their school then they are not healthy enough to be at our preschool interacting with the children. 

Contact the H&S officer if you or your child has symptoms of a communicable disease.

A helpful reminder about when it’s best to stay home if your child is sick.

THANK YOU for taking the time to review these items.  This is a generic letter written to all 4 groups – Orcas, Owls, Otters and Bears.  If you have a question or concern specific to you, your child or your group please contact me so we can discuss it.

I appreciate all the work you do to make this a great place for all the children to enjoy, explore, engage and learn.

I also appreciate all the support given to the cooperative preschool, myself and the parent educators at our site.

~Teacher Janice

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December Letter

Teacher Janice writes about traditions, new and old, and how meaningful it is to simply share time together –

Winter Songs and Poems

It is Snowing

It is snowing, it is snowing

All around, all around

Soft and pretty snowflakes

Soft and pretty snowflakes

On the ground, on the ground.

Ring the Bells

Ring, ring, ring your bells

Ring them loud and clear

To tell the children everywhere

That Circle Time is here.

Ring, ring, ring your bells

Ring them all around

Ring them loud, ring them soft

And know do not make a sound.


Did you ever shake your bells, your bell, your bells,

Did you ever shake your bells on your ______

Shake them high, shake them low

Shake them high, shake them low

Did you ever shake your bells on your ______


I’m a chubby snowman short and fat

Here is my broomstick and here is my hat

When the sun come out and shines all day

I just start to melt away….

Oh no I’m a puddle!

Baby Beluga

by Raffi and Debi Pike

Baby Beluga in the deep blue sea,
Swim so wild and you swim so free.
Heaven above, and the sea below,
And a little white whale on the go.

Baby beluga, baby Beluga, is the water warm?
Is your mama home with you, so happy.

Way down yonder where the dolphins play,
Where they dive and splash all day,
The waves roll in and the waves roll out,
See the water squirting out of your spout.

Baby beluga, baby Beluga, sing your little song,
Sing for all your friends, we like to hear you.

When it’s dark, you’re home and fed,
Curl up snug in your water bed.
Moon is shining and the stars are out,
Good night, little whale, goodnight.

Baby beluga, baby Beluga, with tomorrow’s sun,
Another day’s begun, you’ll soon be waking.

Baby Beluga in the deep blue sea,
Swim so wild and you swim so free.
Heaven above and the sea below,
And a little white whale on the go.
You’re just a little white whale on the go.

Fireman Song

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding

Hurry, hurry drive the firetruck x 3

Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding

Hurry, hurry, hurry, turn the corner x3

Hurry, hurry climb the ladder x3

Hurry, hurry, hurry, spray the water x3


It’s all right the fires out now x3

Drive back to the station.

Mitten Song

Thumbs in the thumb place, fingers all together.

this is the song we sing in mitten weather

When it is cold it doesn’t matter whether

mittens are wool or finest leather

Thumbs in the thumb place fingers all together

this is the song we sing in mitten weather.

What Shall We Give the Children?

What shall we give the children?
The holidays are here.
Toys, and games, and playthings
As we do every year?
Yes, for the magic of toyland
Is part of the holiday lore
To gladden the hearts of childhood
But I shall give something more.
I shall give them more patience,
A more sympathetic ear,
A little more time for laughter,
Or tenderly dry a tear.
I shall take time to teach them
The joy of doing some task.
And try to find time to answer
All the questions they seem to ask.
We’ll read some books together
And take long walks in the sun;
Take time for a bedtime story
After the day is done.
I shall give these things to my children,
Which will weave a closer tie,
Knitting our lives together
With the gifts that money can’t buy.

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Welcome to Preschool!

Welcome to preschool!

This will be an exciting time for you and your child. The month of October we will be concentrating on the Three R’s of Preschool. (I just made that up! It is nice to have a brain that is moving out of the brain fog it has been in for the past 6 weeks!) The 3 R’s of Preschool are – Routine, Rhythm, Relationships.

Our preschool R’s will be the foundation for the elementary school R’s – Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. As your child develops strong relationships with the people in their world and build upon their successes at school, and at home, they will be creating a lifelong love for learning. Your child is learning all day long – how much water will fit inside the cup and what happens when the water doesn’t go in the cup, how loud is this sound, where does this animal live? All of this exploration is foundation for later learning – physics, music, biology.

As we explore the preschool my goal for your child is to have a safe and challenging year. I want the physical site to be safe, the relational interactions to be positive and the classroom activities a chance to explore something new and challenging while allowing the child to interact in the environment at their own pace. It is always a challenge to meet these goals when it involves 20 little (moving) people! As we go through the year I hope you will feel comfortable to bring your ideas, comments or concerns to me, the Parent Educator and/or your Board Members.

The month of September was a change, for most of you, from the random summer activities to a new routine. You need to be out of bed, dressed, fed and out the door at a specific time. Class starts at one time and ends at another. For some of you the day is more ordered than the summer months. As the children, and you, get into the routine of the preschool day they will develop a rhythm of their own. The preschool day is supposed to go this way and if it doesn’t then there may be some tears, confusion and possibly anger. That is why we try to keep preschool as much the same as possible. This will be especially true during the holiday months. We will be truly boring compared to the stores and ads on TV. To you what is boring is comfortable and predictable to  your child. It is a routine and rhythm they understand.

We will also be developing new relationships. This may be a challenge for those that are quiet – big people as well as little people. It is important to develop trusting relationships to grow. An adult that a child trusts can lift them up to make  basket in the hoop outside, find a toy they are looking for or help them hold on tight when they do not have the words to say “I am still playing with that toy.” You may make a new friend who will understand what you are saying when you describe your last 24 hours – with only 4 of them involving sleep – or laugh at the cute story you have to tell about your precious child. We will all be developing connections with people, big and little, that may change our views of the world.

We will be having Pumpkin Night this month. It is a time for the people who do not come to preschool to come and see where the child in their life goes to school. They can then visualize the site when they hear about the riding horses, play-dough or circle time. It is another way for us to build community and relationships as we start the year.

I will send out a monthly overview letter and calendar, weekly information about what we are doing in the classroom and how you can build on that at home. This information will help you understand what we are doing at school and what your child is learning when they are just playing.

The classroom is set up for play because this is how children learn best but each play activity has a learning component that will be building the base for lifelong learning.

This month we will be involved in activities that encourage: Science, Language Skills, Reading and Writing Skills, Math Skills, and Social/Relationships.


  • Cooking apples to make applesauce (measurement, size, color, texture)
  • Using magnifying glasses to look at different leaves (size, texture, categorization)
  • Talking about colors (of apples, leaves, pumpkins) and size (big and little)
  • Looking for spider webs outside
  • Watching as nature changes (especially the trees)
  • Weather changes (rain, wind, sun, and cold)
  • Learning new skills
    • How much water fits in my cup at snack?
    • Using a broom to clean up at the sensory table
    • And building a tower are a few examples.

Language Skills

  • Learning names for people
  • Descriptions of the things inside the classroom and outside
  • New songs and rhymes

Reading and Writing Skills

  • Playing with play-dough encourages small motor skills needed for writing, language
  • Awareness at the library, having stories read to them, repetition and rhyme during Circle Time

Math Skills

  • Counting (stairs, cars, play-dough balls)
  • Size (big and small)


  • This is my picture and I belong here
  • This is a picture of my friend and they belong here
  • This is MY school
  • This is MY Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa
  • I am sad when my world is not ordered the way I think it should be ordered
  • I can calm myself (with the help of others) and bring order to my world

As we start school this year, it is a time to feel challenged and calm, a time to realize everyone is different yet the same. It is a time for opportunities for growth for you and your child. I am excited for all that will happen in the next few months. You will be surprised to see how much your child has grown by the end of this year.

Teacher Janice


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The 5 “R”s of Learning

In a world of Facebook and Kindles it is easy to forget the importance of sitting together with your child and reading an actual book. It is important to teach your child a love for learning and one of the ways to do that is to foster both learning to read and reading to learn. This foundation for learning begins with babies. Exposure to books, even as babies, is a learning experience. It is a time to bond with your child and engage with them as they learn through books.

The first few months and years of life offer a wonderful opportunity to build connections in the children’s brains, and those can be reinforced to last a life time.

Pamela High, director of developmental-behavioral pediatrics Hasbro, Children’s Hospital, Providence RI.

How do you teach children to love to read?

IMG_1518Let them experience their own books, check books out from the library, make story books from pictures of places and people they are familiar with, have them witness the adults in the world reading books.  They can learn to be respectful of books.  If they are prone to tear (or chew) on the pages give them board books, buy inexpensive books or give them cloth books.  When they are sitting on your lap you can talk about how to “touch the book gently”.  Keep special books up out of reach but give them a bookshelf with their own books on it. Be sure to set aside a specific time to read to your child.

Reading to children is more about the bond and relationship than the words you are saying.  It is about building upon their interests and your attention to them that engages them in learning through books. The primary purpose of reading to a young child is not the content of the book but to engage with the child through conversation as you share time together.

The 5 R’s

The American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging parents to build on their child’s learning through the practice of the 5 “R”s:

Father and son reading together.Reading  together as a family activity

Rhyming – talking, singing, using language throughout the day

Routines – keeping a child’s schedule consistent

Rewards – acknowledging your child’s achievements

Relationships – building strong, healthy relationships between children and trusted adults

My sons have strong attachments to ‘their books’.  I read to the boys whenever they wanted during the day but their ‘special time’ was when Daddy read to them a night.  We all have fond memories of that special bedtime ritual. They would snuggle up in Joel’s bed to read their bedtime stories.  (and I never knew who would fall asleep first  — one of the boys or Curt!)  At the beginning the bedtime stories were short and simple.  As they grew older their interest in books became more complex.  What began as Curious George and Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit moved on to Beezus and Ramona, The Redwall Series and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and on to books by Tolstoy and J.R.R. Tolkien.  Even though they matured and spent more and more time reading on their own they always had time for a story told by Dad or listening to him read a chapter from a favorite book.  When are they too old to listen to a story?  Never!  We still have reading time when the guys are home during the holidays but now I get to be there and Curt usually stays awake!

They have many (!) books in their collections are varied and mirror their personalities but both of their collections include the books that Curt read to them as children.   Books connected them  to people and the world.  They learned to love reading and that turned into reading to learn.  Books are an opportunity to build a relationship with your child as they snuggle in your lap – a memory you will be able to cherish long after they are grown and on their own. 

The interaction between children and parents when engaged in literary activities strengthens the building blocks which facilitate the development of language, reading and writing skills. 

Mayra Mendez, Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center, Santa Monica CA

Take time to introduce your child to a lifetime of knowledge by learning to love reading and books.  You will never regret introducing your child to the world of books.

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They’re only playing…

How often do we hear people say that when they see children in a play-based curriculum preschool?

Yes, it looks like they are “only playing” but what are the children in this setting really doing?

Play is often talked about as a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. — Mr. Rogers

When children are actively playing they are actively learning

Preschooler playing in the sand and water.

It is through the joy of play that a child learns to enjoy learning — learning something new, taking a risk, challenging a thought, laughing, seeing something they have never seen before, making a connection between new learning and established knowledge. Play is all of that and more!

It is through play that children engage their creativity, foster language, develop problem-solving skills, reduce stress (yes, children have stress too!), create/strengthen the pathways in their brain, and learn how to interact in their world and with others.


Children need unstructured play opportunities:

  • Time in the backyard with dirt and water
  • Quiet time with animals and building blocks
  • Creative time with a box of materials and art supplies

Children also need play opportunities that have been created for them:

  • Sorting and categorizing materials that have been given to them (buttons, shells, math manipulatives)
  • playdough with tools like scissors and pizza cutters for cutting
  • magnifying glasses and plastic (or real) bugs for looking at with books or picture cards for identification

Even though the play opportunity has been set up for the child, the adult needs to follow the child’s lead. By giving the child the power to determine where the play goes, you allow the child to direct the learning. This is called emergent curriculum.

Play for young children is not recreation activity. It is not leisure time activity not escape activity. Play is thinking time for young children. It is language time. It is memory time, planning time, investigating time. It is organization of idea time, when the young child uses his mind and body and his social skills and all his powers in response to the stimuli he has met. — James L. Hymes, Jr U.S. Child Development Specialist, Author. Teaching the Child Under Six, Chapter 4 (1968)

So when your child is “just playing” remember that it is through play that children learn best. Play should be the central focus of learning for preschoolers. By giving your child open-ended, unstructured play opportunities you are creating the foundation for a life of learning and allowing your child to experience the joy that comes with that learning.

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