Teaching to a child’s passion- Is it possible?

Teaching to a child’s passion- Is it possible?

Children have so many possibilities. They are beautiful blank canvasses, waiting to flourish into the most interesting, detailed paintings; encouraged by the influential forces in their lives: family, teachers, and peers. But they come bursting from the womb with personalities that are very much their own. It may take awhile for them to express who they truly are, but I think any parent will tell you with the utmost sincerity that their child or children are unique. There is no one like them.

What we as parents want for our children (other than they be happy as their wonderfully unique selves) is to be productive citizens; successful following the path destined for them and making a living doing something they are passionate for. That last part may give you pause…”making a living doing something they are passionate about.” Is that necessary? Is it really the most important part of making a living? Do you love what you do? Do I? Would you still have the profession you are in now, had learning been tailored to match your personality and strengths? Perhaps. But many adults would tell you they would have done something else. Something they are passionate about, a word we generally save for adults. What about children, though? Can they have passions, too?

We like to think that our child’s teachers are responsible for pulling out their strengths, catering to them with a child-directed teaching style, and then setting them on the journey that will lead to their professional life. But with the overcrowding of our schools and decrease in national and state budgets for education, how can teachers actually accomplish this under impossible circumstances? Is it time to re-think the way our educational system is built? Many would say, “A million times, yes!” and the other side of that argument would be, “Unemployment is dropping. We must be doing something right.”

How do we effectively set our children up to be successful- truly educated with learning they can use on the path they were born to take?

I was speaking with Keller Williams Midtown Direct realtor, Vanessa Pollock, about this topic recently. Vanessa is extremely passionate about her calling as a local realtor, as is obvious by her brand motto: Care. Serve. Give. She has received national recognition for excellence in her service, and she gives some credit to her teachers for recognizing qualities within her that set her on the appropriate professional path. “When I was in second grade, my teacher gave me an award for my art project and explained that my “hard work and attention to detail” had made all the difference. It didn’t matter that it was “just coloring”, because I have applied that to EVERYTHING I do. I probably heard her words and understood the lesson more deeply at that age because it pertained to my childhood passion.”

Any consideration for this philosophy has to start at the first level of education- early childhood. It is at this crucial period of development where our children begin to show preferences based on what makes them feel good. They aren’t bogged down with whether they should or shouldn’t enjoy something. They experiment with discovery and play until they find the areas they have accomplishments in, and then return to those tasks again and again. Early childhood teachers have a huge benefit and responsibility here, to nurture these interests and set up a curriculum that appeals to each child’s strengths and personality. What if we treated children as mini-professionals? How would this translate into their ability to think cognitively and actually engage in what they are passionate about productively?

Could the child who loves to build, but has a hard time with the social aspects of being a team member, be a future project manager or designer? A teacher could encourage design for this child in the Legos center on a construction project; helping him/her delegate tasks to bring the creation to life.

The child who is always drawn to experimentation may thrive in research. Teachers can create a series of hands-on learning projects for this child and guide them in a compare and contrast assessment afterward.

The social butterfly in the room may be a host or a service-oriented professional, finding joy in role-playing as a nurse practitioner or interior designer. With a little assistance and literature, this child could contribute suggestions to the kind of supplies needed to help make it “real”.

Relating our children’s learning strengths to how they may thrive in the working world is crucial in how we set them up as adults. It may sound hokey or fantastical, but the overall health and success of our nation could very well depend on how we approach educating our little ones. What has been considered “traditional” (i.e. one lesson plan for all) may not be the most effective approach and may be a relic of the past eventually. Where do you stand? And what kinds of questions are you prepared to ask in the interest of your unique child? We all have a calling of some kind. What is your child’s?

In addition to helping families find the best programs for their children, I am hoping to begin consulting with daycares and preschools as well. It is my personal belief that we can find a more holistic way to prepare our children for the real world, regardless of educational philosophy or influence. And not just with a program here and there. All programs. Isn’t it time?


For more information about Vanessa Pollock and her team, check out her website at Vanessa Pollock Realty Group

Working in tandem with realtors

The Fair Housing Act provides some very gray lines when it comes to educational information and realtors. Technically they cannot give any opinions about school districts, particular schools, or early childhood programs that can directly influence a sale or purchase. This doesn’t prevent a realtor from sharing their own personal experiences, or options they have awareness of; but they are really not allowed to give comments (positive or negative) that could sway a client to put their house on the market, or only look to buy in certain areas based on these comments.

There are a few realtors in the area who pass on my information to families with small children when they feel my service could be ideal in helping with their needs. I am still surprised, however, how often new clients find me via internet searches, rather than directly thru their realtors. It makes me wonder how many realtors are aware of their limitations when it comes to this area, as one of the draws of my community is the plethora of excellent early childhood programs and day cares. I’m always happy when realtors reach out to me to write an article for their websites or an addendum to a blog post. They want to show prospective clients that they are prepared with many resources to aid them in whatever task lays ahead within the all-consuming act of moving.

Here is an interview I did for Allison Ziefert Realty Group of MidTown Direct Realty in Maplewood, NJ.


Separation Anxiety- Every Parent’s Guilt Trip

“I want my mom!  I want you NOW!”

As I deal with my own daughter’s separation anxiety while I’m at work, I think of the countless parents who are faced with this dilemma each day.  That heartbreak of parting defies logic, for they are not reasonable beings.  They only know how they feel at that exact moment, and they must express the pain and anger that comes with the desertion we force upon them.  We are terrible, terrible people…cue knife into the gut.  

Here’s the thing, though.  We aren’t terrible people.  Even though it hurts to see our little ones upset, it’s a necessary part of life to develop those coping skills that will eventually make them productive people in society.  Most childcare professionals will tell you that the crocodile tears stop flowing 2 to 5 minutes after you walk away.  Children are creatures of the present.  They are perfectly capable of forgetting about us parents and moving on to the next distraction, but only after they punish us first.  I often have to remind myself the only reason my daughter treats me so “badly” is because she loves me so much.

The process of separating from your child during drop off can be smooth or rocky.  Regardless of which reaction your child has, there is comfort in knowing your child will be loved and safe while they are away from you.  One of the questions I have my clients consider is: what does the ideal day look like for my child?  Reality may not match your vision exactly, but it certainly helps to decipher what is important to you when considering preschool and daycare programs.  It is okay to be very clear on what experiences you would like your child to have when you are apart.  While many programs have similar daily routines (i.e. snack, circle time, outdoor play, lunch, nap, centers), getting specific about your desires and needs for your child is eye opening.  If it is important to you that your child be engaged in weather-related play (rainy and snowy days), it’s critical to make sure you select a program that has a suitable outdoor space and a willing staff to make this happen.  If you know your child must eat frequently throughout the day, you may want a program that offers an a.m. and p.m. snack time in addition to lunch.

No two facilities are alike.  Make a list of your “must haves”, just like you would when shopping for a house or a car.  You will likely have to make compromises here and there, but it’s your child and your money.  Shouldn’t she or he be in the best home away from home as possible while you are taking care of business?  At least while the abandonment guilt trip is wearing off, you will take comfort in knowing they have dropped the drama and moved on to the fun day ahead of them you carefully selected.

Now, to recover from my own guilt trip for working on the weekend.  Even though my daughter would have me believe I left her needlessly with a sitter for the day, I know full well she went to the zoo and had the home spa experience I planned for her.  Life is not so horrible.

Websites: How Important Are They?

Websites, websites, websites.  In the age of technology we live in and the access we have to immediate information, we have become dependent upon a company’s website to tell us what we want to know.  Phone calls take too much time and when our schedule is packed tightly each day, we don’t want to get stuck in a situation we can’t control.  Website viewing can be done when we have the time.  We can view one or a dozen, searching until we have the answer(s) we’re looking for, as many times as we want.

Unfortunately, not all websites are updated frequently or they can be hard to find.  Even as I was developing my database, searching for all preschools and daycares in the area I didn’t know about yet, I had a difficult time finding what I was looking for.  I have discovered through trial and error, that sitting down and making the phone call is the best way for me to get the information I need.  Even then, however, when calls don’t get returned I have to physically drive there and initiate a face to face meeting.  I have the luxury of being able to do this.   In most situations, families simply cannot accommodate this.

When I am setting up tours of preschools and daycares for clients, I always include the web address in their agenda.  While I may have more in depth details for each facility, I think it’s a good idea to become relatively familiar with a program before visiting.  What happens then, when a website is not maintained?  How many families will be understanding when they are looking for tuition rates or registration applications, only to find forms and policies from the 2009-10 school year?  Will they be persistent and make that call, or will they let that program go and continue their search?

Preschools and daycares are busy.  Very busy.  Anyone who has worked in early childhood will tell you there is never a dull moment and it is difficult to find time for tasks such as website updates.  It is, however, a glimpse into what each program has to offer.  Families need to be able to envision the environment their child may be spending most of their weekday time in.  Yes, even from a website.  Is it everything?  Of course not.  Nothing replaces a personal visit.  But in this day of immediate information, it is in fact, extremely important.

Week 2 of Preschool Tours

My first week of preschool tours was an incredible peek into the world of childcare options and the variety amongst them.  I’m so very thankful to the Directors who gave me their time and showed genuine interest in my passion for helping families in this search.  I saw many happy faces during my visits and learned a lot about how differently a facility can be managed, and yet still provide a safe and loving environment for the children in their care.  My second week has been wonderful as well, and as I add appointments to my schedule, I look forward to increasing my database in order to serve the unique needs of the families I will serve.

When I leave a facility and begin the drive to the next preschool/daycare, I have had a couple of thoughts to reflect on.  I’m not sure I know the answer to them just yet, but they have been rolling around in my brain and I would love to have feedback regarding the issue of giving tuition information on a program’s website.  There seem to be two ways of thinking about it and I understand both.  The explanation for NOT posting it for the public to view, is that some programs feel  the tuition costs might turn a visitor away (whether the cost is high or low) before getting to know their program further.  They don’t want to lose a potential family simply based on the expense of the program when there may be positive areas that are a valuable asset.  The explanation for posting tuition costs on the website and marketing materials, is using the “nothing to hide” approach.  While some visitors may end their exploration of a facility simply based on price point, at least they will not waste their time on a program that is either too expensive, or not valued highly enough.  Unfortunately, this tactic may be causing some families to lose out on a school that would have been the perfect fit for their child.

I’m not sure yet, where I fall on this.  As a consultant, I find it more convenient to have the tuition fees advertised for the families I make recommendations to.  While I have this information in my database and can share it with my clients, convenience is something I strive for.  As a parent, my child deserves to have every possibility explored before deciding it won’t work merely based on the price.

Interested in hearing your thoughts on this issue!

First day of Preschool Tours

I spent the day driving to preschools in the communities of Livingston and Millburn, getting to know their programs.  It was great to see such a variety of educational philosophies, representing the array of approaches in early childhood development and education.  I’m excited to continue this process as I amp up my database and gather more options to help families in need of childcare for their little ones.  Tomorrow, more schools in Short Hills, Millburn, and Livingston!