Essential Not Expendable

Essential Not Expendable!

I am part of a Facebook group and this is the title.  When childcare in most states was “deemed” essential during this Covid-19 crisis over the last few weeks we got excited!  Finally, someone noticed how valuable we are and what we do!  However, as the days and weeks go on we have been slapped with more regulations and less funding.  Montana, for example, increased the regulations to the point that few can stay open under such rigor and the ones who are forced to close out of lack of staff or any other means will lose all funding while they are closed. Many programs will not survive this and won’t be able to reopen.  The few that remain open are forced to maintain those standards with zero extra funding.
   Meanwhile, they increased unemployment benefits so people staying at home are making more than the essential workers who are on the front lines every day.  Early childhood is an undervalued and underpaid field we aren’t getting hazard pay and because our margins are so tight most owners can’t afford hazard pay and are not even taking a paycheck themselves.  People ask why do you stay in a field with those statistics?  The truth is, we do it because we love it and we are essential to the hearts and minds of the children we care for.  We provide peace of mind for the parents as they leave their most valued possessions with us every day. 

Being essential is much more than a title given by the government, it is a state of mind, it is the fact that we know what we do is bigger than all of us!  The children and families need us but the world needs us too.  Childcare is the heartbeat of our economy.  Without quality care and education for young children, parents either can’t work or won’t feel comfortable doing so.  Early childhood needs the recognition we deserve to run the amazing programs we do and properly compensate our hardworking, self-sacrificing teachers! 
 We are caregivers (just like nurses) we are teachers (just like public school) and we have over 400 regulations we must abide by.  We are educated just like other fields and due to our rigorous regulations, we must continue our education annually.  We are Essential but we are not expendable!  I speak for all the early childhood professionals who love what we do and deserve more!  

Written By, Rachel Supalla 
Founder of Discovery Kidzone Learning Centers in Helena, Montana 
Early Childhood Consultant from Discovery Learning Group
Rachel has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Field a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Early Childhood Education.

Montessori Self-Help Skills Part 1

Montessori Self-Help Skills Part 1

     As we begin this new school year and we have some new faces, I thought it would be appropriate to write my welcome back post on self-help skills.  I recently had a teacher ask me for advice on how to teach parents the skills that the kids should be working on and how to help them be successful.  That is a great question and one that has many answers.  To make this more understandable for all I will make a list of skills that they should be working on and how we work with them at our Montessori school based on their planes of development.  Every child is different, so it is also important to take into consideration individualization. 

1.   5 reasons why self-help skills are essential

a.     Children Learn by doing.
Research has shown us time and time again that children learn best through doing not by being told.  For children to learn how to do a task for themselves, we must allow them time to practice it and let them make their mistakes.   
b.     Children need and thrive on small successes
If you are constantly doing everything for your child, you aren’t giving them the opportunity to succeed on their own.  When they accomplish these little tasks, make sure to get excited about what they did.    
c.      Self-help skills are problem-solving skills
Sadly, the world we live in today is fast paced, and everyone wants everything instantly.  Because of this, we are losing our problem-solving skills.  Teaching children to do things themselves at a young age enables them to use problem solving and critical thinking skills.  These skills will be vital to life and will help them have greater executive functioning skills which will assist them in school as well. 
d.     Independence builds self-confidence!
Self-confidence doesn’t happen overnight.  You will notice as children get older their lack of confidence can hinder them in many ways.  It is our job to build them up and give them the skills they need to prepare them.  Once a child becomes for independent they will be more confident and ready to tackle the next task.
e.     Independence teaches them responsibility and breeds good habits.
We all want our children to be responsible and have good practices.  Unfortunately, in our fast and overscheduled lives, we don’t take the time to teach our kids how to become responsible.  This is why it is so important to learn these skills when they are small.  They will thank you, and you will thank yourself. 

    2.   Ages and Stages of Self-help Skills

a.     Self-help Skills for Babies (crawlers) to 12 months
            Tell you when all done eating with sign language
            Put shoes and socks away
            Put own bib in laundry basket
            Wash face and hands with a wipe
            Feed self, finger foods and a snack
            Hold a spoon and toothbrush
b.     Self-help Skills from 12-18 months
Wash hands and begin to make “bubble gloves.”
Start practicing dressing self with practical life lessons
Brush Teeth (with help)
Start brushing hair and doll hair
Drink from a lidless cup
Eat independently with a fork
c.      Self-Care Skills from 18 months- 2-year-olds
Take off pants/shorts with elastic waist
Learn how to put on and take off shirt
Continue washing hands and making bubble gloves almost independently
Put clothes in a drawer
Take off and put away shoes
Brush own hair
Hang up coat and look for name with picture
Begin family style eating with scoops and pouring small amounts
Use a napkin at meal times
Learn how to wipe up spills
After eating scrape plate in trash and put dishes in dish tub or sink
d.     Self-Care Skills for 3-year-olds
Begin dressing boards to practice using Snaps, zippers, and buttons
Dress self without snaps, zippers, and buttons
Put on coat, snow pants, hats and mittens
Put on shoes
Put away some of their own laundry in specified drawers.  (label for more direction)
Learn beginning cooking (measuring, pouring, mixing)
Begin pouring water/milk/juice from a pitcher
Wipe up own spills (keep small squares of shammy or towels within reach)
Family style eating which includes setting the table and serving self.
Learn first and last name and what town they live in
Fold socks and put away
Ask to be excused from table and push chair in
Once fully potty trained learn to wipe bottom correctly without assistance
e.     Self-Care Skills for 4-year-olds
Begin learning to tie shoes
Master the dressing boards
Put sheets on cots and fold blankets
Start learning more advanced cooking skills (cracking eggs alone, spreading butter and jam, cutting banana slices)
Learn to wash dishes
Learn to sweep and mop
Memorize phone number and address
Can wipe bottom correctly
f.      Self-Care Skills for 5-year-olds
 Learn emergency numbers and what to do in case of a fire
 Master dressing independently
                 Brush hair independently
                 Brush teeth independently
      Replace toilet paper roll if finished
      Understand and choose weather appropriate clothing
      Master tying shoes
      Learn the food plate and how to make healthy food choices
      Use the sink to wash fruits, veggies, plates, cups
      Learn how to use microwave (with supervision)
      Learn more cooking skills (peeling vegetables, chopping ingredients with safe knife)
      Learn how to place small items in oven using mitts (with supervision)

This blog post is part one of two.  Part two will go into ideas and tips for teaching self-help skills.  I also want to hear from all of you on what you would like to know.  I have thousands of pictures of works, classroom environments, lessons and parent tips.  The hardest part for me is deciding what to write on. 

Shiny New Blog from The 3am Teacher!

     I'm BAAAACK, and thanks to my friend Michelle from The 3 am Teacher I am back in style!  I am so excited about my new blog design but mostly because she added a new tool bar with more categories.  I wanted this blog to be more than a teacher blog.  I am looking forward to the opportunity to share parenting tips, recipes, funny momisms, travel tips, teaching tools, and resources.  In addition to my new blog design I have also begun posting youtube videos on teaching tips and my Teachers Pay Teachers store is up and will have new products on it soon.

     Since I have been MIA for so long, I just wanted to give you a quick update on me.  First off, Discovery Kidzone Montessori has grown significantly.  We now have three schools!  I am back in school full time with the hope to someday have my masters degree.  My oldest daughter Abbie is now a highschooler, my middle daughter Allie is in junior high, and we are no longer homeschooling her.  My oldest son Zack is in 5th grade, and my baby Trent is in 2nd grade!  Time flies, and now I am in a whole new era of parenting.  Sometimes I laugh, and sometimes I cry, but I learn from it all and want to share it with you.  As my school has grown, I have stepped out of the role of the teacher which is sad, but I have a new role as Professional Development specialist.  I now have older and slightly bigger students.  I still pop in the classrooms whenever I want and teach the littles as that is my first love.
     My next blog post after this one will be on self-help skills.  I would appreciate your comments, suggestions, and shares.  I am feeling extremely rusty in the blogging world and may need a little dusting off.
I have missed blogging so very much and can't wait to hear from all of you!
Happy Fall Y'all!

Montessori Infant and Toddler Curriculum Part 2: Math and Language

This is part 2 in my Infant and Toddler Montessori Curriculum series.  I talked about sensorial in this post.
We are going to continue the series by discussing Math and Language.  Infants are always learning and it is exciting to watch and facilitate. 

From day one infants are surrounded by math.  We ask what time it is, how old they are, how many ect.  Math is a very abstract and small children can’t understand the concepts.  They need to experience real objects in their environment to make the concept much more concrete.  Math begins with the realization of one and then more than one.  To witness a child evolving in this area is an amazing discovery.  Math activities for infants and toddlers can include:  Stacking and nesting cubes, number and block cubes, sorting and counting materials, matching and grading and sandpaper numbers. 

From birth children are completely aware and are learning at an extremely rapid rate all about the human language.  Language is vital to the process of thinking.  The child needs to be spoken to, read to, sung to and listened to often.  Children need a broad exposure to language. 
Here are some song ideas:
Fuzzy Wuzzy Caterpillar Fuzzy, wuzzy caterpillar Into a corner will crawl. (squat and move to a corner) He’ll spin himself a blanket (move head in a spin) And then go fast asleep (pretend to sleep) Fuzzy, wuzzy caterpillar Wakes up by and by ( wake up, slowly move arms) To find he has wings of beauty Changed into a butterfly. (fly with arms)
Jack-in-the-Box Down in a box (squat to ground’ talk softly and slowly) There lives a little man. He waits and he waits, As quiet as he can Until I open the lid – POP!
Johnny Works With One Hammer Johnny works with one hammer, One hammer, one hammer, Johnny works with one hammer, Then he works with two. (repeat with 2, 3, 4) Johnny works with five hammers, Five hammers, five hammers, Johnny works with five hammers, Then he goes to sleep.
To aid the child in his language skill development the Montessori environment needs to be set up with literacy rich and language in mind.  Teachers and parents need to have books, pictures, picture labels, objects and matching pictures all thorough out the environment.
Click on the links below for book ideas for infants and toddlers:

You can find more infant toddler resources here:

 Thank you for visiting.  Let me know if you have any suggestions or comments. 
Rachel Supalla

Montessori Infant Toddler Curriculum Part one: Sensorial

The ages and stages of children vary greatly between each child.  We are all unique and special individuals.  As teachers and caregivers we play an important role to prepare the environment, follow the child, give simple lessons, observe exploration, foster concentration, document and be mindful of the chosen activities and learning outcomes.  All in all this will result in happiness and compassion towards others as the children have the opportunity to grow and learn in a harmonious environment. 
The question remains as to how do we set up such a desirable environment and how do we implement the activities that are planned?  In order to accomplish our goal we must remain focused on the center of our purpose and that is the child.  Imagine yourself as an infant or toddler.  How would you want your room to look?  What activities and materials would be fascinating to you?
An Infant and Toddler Montessori classroom is planned out by experiences.  Those experiences make up the curriculum and care of the child.  They will also build upon these skills as stepping stones to different developmental levels.  The experiences in an infant/toddler Montessori environment are:  Sensorial, Language, Gross Motor, Art, math and practical life. 
Sensorial Work
Sensorial is rooted from the words sense or senses.  These activities allow the children to focus on the fine tuning of all his senses.  Using all five senses the children will have a rich and meaningful learning experience. 

The purpose of sensorial work is for the infant and toddler to begin classifying his environment.  Maria Montessori wrote that all sensorial experiences begin at birth.  The young child becomes a sensorial scientist and by exploring his senses begins to understand and appreciate his surroundings. 
As we follow the child and learn their individual likes, dislikes and interests we can set up the environment with a variety of sensorial activities and experiences.  A few examples of sensorial activities for infants are toddlers are:  Water table filled with various liquids mixed with solids and real items (funnels, strainers, scoops, whisks ect), fingerpainting and other squishy activities, texture play and exploring, nature baskets, real item treasure baskets, shiny and crinkle objects such as foil and emergency blankets, sound tubes, animal sounds, food tasting and play, smelling jars, flowers, pine cone activities. 
I hope you are inspired to learn with your infants and toddlers.  I will post more about infant curriculum over the next couple of days.  Please let me know any comments or questions that you may have.

Rachel :)

Top 10 Tips for Potty Training (without frustration)

There comes a certain phase in every parent's life that will involve potty training.  Love it or hate it, this is a fact of life.  As a mother of 4 and preschool director with over 17 years of childcare experience I can tell you that no one is an expert in this area.  I will also tell you that no child will be going to college in diapers.  In this post I will give you my potty training tips along with a few other tips from fellow parents and teachers. 
  This unfortunately is a hard and disappointing fact for some.  I see this VERY often in preschool.  Parents will want their child potty trained to move them up to the next class, to save on tuition, save on diapers, to get them into school, to fit in with the rest of the kids his age ect.  Let's be honest, nobody loves buying and changing diapers.  However, if you attempt to potty train a child who isn't ready it will be a LONG and frustrating road for you and your child.  Your child will let you know when he is ready.  Readiness isn't something that is determined by age.  Some children will be ready at 18 months and some at 3.  Just as each child will learn to crawl, walk and read at their own pace they will also be potty trained when ready.  It is our job to catch those signs of readiness and act upon them. 
Independence, is the first sign of readiness.  If your child is beginning to dress himself, wash his hands and help clean up then it is a sign of independence.  Another sign is dry periods.  If you child wakes up from nap dry or goes a few hours and has a dry diaper it is a sign of strengthening bladder control.  Not wanting to be dirty and noticing the feeling of a dirty diaper is a strong sign of readiness and a good opportunity to gain vocabulary skills to help the child communicate potty words.  I believe that verbal skills also need to be present.  The child needs to be able to express when they have to go potty or that they are going potty.  The final and possibly most telling sign is when a child will hide or even go into the bathroom to go poop in his diaper.  This shows an awareness of what is going on and a need for privacy. 
  Potty training needs to be a team effort and something that all parties involved are totally prepared for.  If your child attends preschool or daycare you need to communicate with the teacher that you plan to begin potty training and work as a team with the teacher to come up with a plan.  Chelsea from my school told me "It is difficult if the parents don't tell us what's going on at home so we can't mimic it at school and work as a team."


Get your house, your car and your self ready.  Set up a designated potty area for consistency, buy ALOT of underwear.  I do not recommend pull ups other than nap time.  The child needs to feel wet and dirty.  If you have a lot of carpet or furniture that can easily stain I would suggest that you put the underware on then have a pull up over it.  That way the child will feel wet but it won't get all over the house.  I always packed a potty chair, plastic bags, wipes, Clorox wipes, changes of clothes and potty treats in my car because you never know when you may need it.  We used the car potty often in our potty training years.  Make sure you always have a watch, timer or clock to keep track of the last time he went potty. 

This will be frustrating and it WILL NOT happen over night!  Ashlee a mother of 4 and teacher said "potty training my children was the hardest part of parenting so far.  You constantly feel defeated!"  This is so true but trust me you are not alone and this too shall pass!  If your child feels rushed or belittled he will regress or rebel all together.  Melissa teacher and mother of 4 told me that she learned that it is ok to take a break and try at a later time to save her sanity and that of her family members. 
  A great way to start potty training is to stay home all weekend and set up an area that you will spend most of your time.  Put out tarps or mats if you don't have hard floors.  When I was potty training I put the potty chair in the living room on a mat and let my child stay bottomless for the entire weekend.  Set a timer, drink a lot of liquid and go potty every 45 min. 

 Read books about going potty, have your child go in the bathroom with you ect.  Jaymie a mother of 2 and teacher told me an experiment that she did to show her daughter what happens when she had a full bladder.  She filled up a cup all the way and walked quickly across the room.  Obviously, the cup spilled.  This is how she explained that if you wait too long the go potty your bladder would be full and leak or spill. 
  Sometimes boys are afraid that their parts will fall off in the potty.  It will help to show them pictures of their anatomy and that they are attached.  A few kids will not want to sit long enough.  It is a good idea to have a basket of books by the toilet, sing songs and make this time fun and special.  If it is a positive experience than kids will relate that to going potty. 

This is extremely important that you teach your child to wipe themselves and wash their hands themselves.  Parents think that their children simply "can't" wipe themselves so they do it for them.  When in reality this is crippling your child and will cause problems later in their preschool years.  As parents it is vital that we teach our children independent skills.  To teach a child to wipe you show the child by placing your hand on his and talk about what you are doing while you are modeling it.  The next time you allow them to do it while you supervise.  Encourage them to keep wiping on a clean part of the paper until their paper comes out clean.  Also, tell them to wipe from front to back. 
 You can reward but not too much.  You want your child to be proud and learn with out too many rewards.  More importantly, just be positive, encouraging and excited!  This is a huge step for your child and it deserves to be praised. 

Finding Mommy...a quest to find myself

Finding Mommy....a quest to find myself

Over the last 5 years I have gone from being a stay at home supermom to a homeschooling mom, to a preschool teacher mom, to a business owner, to a career woman and entrepreneur.  My husband was the sole bread winner and I was his number one cheerleader.  This past year he quit his full time job to come be my partner and help build our business.  Don't get me wrong I love the journey my life has been on and it has been fast and exciting.  However, somewhere amongst all the chaos and the noise I lost myself.

I hadn't realized this until I was getting ready for a trip and was at a magazine stand with my dear friend Melissa.  I wanted to pick up a magazine for the plane ride.  I looked at every magazine on the rack and couldn't find one that I wanted to read.  This hit me like an avalanche.  It was at that moment that I discovered that I had become a person whom I didn't know.  I don't know what kind of magazine I want because these days all I have been doing is working and treading water at home barely staying afloat.  This made me sad and made me realize that I needed to use this year with God's help to go on a quest to find myself.  Find out who this new mommy was.  The one who didn't change diapers or run for PTA or sew Halloween costumes anymore.  It has been a bit of a grieving process for me because as much as I love my job and business I miss the mommy who stayed at home and made sure her family looked good, ate good and had fun all the time!

 I thrive in a creative environment.  When I stayed home I was always making projects with the kids and things for my home, when I was in the classroom full time I was always coming up with creative new ways to make learning fun and ways to enhance our school.  This year  I am mostly an administrator and with that comes a lot of rules, regulations, policies, procedures and RED TAPE!!!  Although I know these things are a necessary evil in business and life but I miss the days when I got to create and play all day.

I don't know where my path will lead me this year but I am excited to begin.  I feel somewhat like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride where she needed to discover how she liked her eggs cooked and everything that went along with that.
I am happy to say that I am in a good place in my life.  I have a job that I love, I work with my best friends, my kids are happy and healthy and we are at a place where we can save some money for the future.
I wrote this post to let all the mommies out there know that change is OK and sometimes you need to take a timeout and with God's guidance rediscover yourselves again.  If you want to document this journey with me on instagram and facebook put a picture of yourself enjoying a new thing and your road to discovery with #findingmommy