Big and Powerful

Frequently, I am in the yard with kids when we find a spider (or, they find a spider and come get me, the resident bug fan). The kids are interested in knowing if it may be a brown widow, a very common venomous spider to find in our yard. Together, we examine the spider, looking for clues. We look for the right body shape, we look for striped legs, and when we look at it through the bottom of a clear container, we can see Continue reading →

Holding Our Values

  We are starting a brand new school year at Cottage. Classes have been filled, teachers have been assigned, and everyone is anticipating this fresh opportunity to work together as new groups of children, parents, and teachers. I am beginning to step back from our daily classroom routines, to make space for each of the teaching teams to find their own rhythms together, but I am staying to observe, play, and participate in conversations. The teachers are having lively discussions about our classroom environment, inside Continue reading →

Enacting Our Mission

In revisiting our mission statement this week, as we move into a new era, I read something new that had never occurred to me before. In the past I had emphasized the terms, “child-directed”, “social emotional development”, and “conflict resolution”, and that has served me well in recreating the mission on the ground in our classrooms each day. But this time, as I read, there was a different part that stood out, as if in bold print, for the first time. Right near the end, Continue reading →

Cottage Speak

“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”     -Rita Mae Brown   Among the most distinctive aspects of being a part of the Cottage community is the way we talk to each other, and we call it “Cottage Speak”.  Probably if you have spent any length of time with us, you have found yourself saying, “what’s your plan?”,  not just to your child but to your spouse. It’s funny when Continue reading →

Stories of Resilience

My daughter loves to hear stories of terrible fates befalling people and animals. Dog bites, broken bones, illnesses, car crashes, and pet deaths are all favorite topics. She asks to hear them over and over, many stories in succession. Sometimes I don’t have the emotional energy to tell a story about my close friend driving drunk and going to jail. I ask, don’t you want to hear some other kind of story? I’ve got lots of good stories! No, no. Tell it again. We discussed Continue reading →

The Cottage Way

You know, one of our Cottage-speak catch phrases is “the Cottage way”. I used it in another post, without further explanation, because we are cultural insiders here.  Families use it all the time at debrief and in our surveys, to indicate whether or not something was in line with our collective philosophy.  It’s …something about…child led?   A “yes environment”?   If you want to be fancy, “emergent curriculum”? In conversation with a Cottage friend the other day, I realized that we, who are shaping Continue reading →

Teaching Consent

Twenty years ago, when I was a Gender Studies major, long before my children were born, I had already started thinking about the great honor and responsibility of teaching my kids, daughters and sons, about consent. I was imagining a future when boys and men know the importance, and understand how to listen to girls and women’s words, as well as the silent language of our bodies. I was hoping for a future where girls and women think our voices and opinions mean something, and Continue reading →

The Right Kind of Help

“Teacher Jocelyn, can you help me?” Kids ask for help many times a day, for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes the task they need to do is too physically difficult for them to manage at the age and stage they are,  like putting doll clothes over stiff little doll arms,  or manipulating scissors to cut paper. At other times, kids ask for help in order to respect our limits, when in actuality, they are capable of doing the task on their own.  Examples of this Continue reading →

The Lesson I’m Still Learning

The other day, my kids and I were at a friend’s house. My daughter came to sit at the table and eat a snack while the other kids were playing. After a minute, a child who lives there came up behind her, furious, glaring over her unknowing shoulder. We adults saw the problem. She had sat in his special chair. Everybody knows that’s his chair. It always is. Before he was able to convey his feelings to my daughter, I quickly reflected what I saw Continue reading →

It Came Out of Nowhere!

  As adults, we often find ourselves being called to join kids in play when suddenly we hear, “Hey, stop!”, or, worse, surprised crying. Kids who, moments ago, appeared immersed in joyful cooperative play, are now facing off over some angry gesture. Imagine this is you. These children were in the middle of some kind of game that everyone was enjoying, and now one child is crying. What happened? What do you do? Say you go over there and the crying child says, “She hit Continue reading →