Thursday, July 19, 2018

Child Led Project Based Learning: Building a Dam

Our outside area includes a mud pit. It is exactly what you think it is: a sunken area filled with mud.

There was a small problem with our mud pit. Last summer the adjacent patio was removed when the deck was replaced. This left a depressed area with nothing to keep the mud in the pit. The weather warmed up, we began using water, and the mud began moving to parts of the yard where we (I) didn't want the mud to go.

For a quick fix, I moved one of the logs to that space. I knew it wouldn't hold back all of the mud, but it would slow it down until I could put in something more permanent.

The children noticed a problem with this almost immediately.

With the new log in place to block mud and water, they set to work making a giant puddle. Which worked well for a few minutes, but the water began to seep under the log.

The first attempt to block the water involved layering rocks. That slowed the water, but they didn't have the puddle they wanted. The next time we met, they used both mud and rocks to block the passage. This worked much better, but there was still come leaking. The third attempt blocked all of the water from getting through. The main difference in this attempt was that there was time for the mud to dry.

Drying Mud

 Successful Dam!

Follow up research included watching an episode of Peep and the Big Wide World. There are a few episodes that have to do with building dams and understanding how water moves. This led to discussions about beavers and how they make dams.

Friday, May 18, 2018

I am not helpless.

I know I "shouldn't" make a political post, but here it is anyway:

Today we are faced with yet another tragedy in our schools. Families and friends in Santa Fe, Texas are mourning losses and beginning to wade through the grief of being a survivor.

I just read the story moments ago. First, reading for facts and in disbelief that this has happened yet again. Then, reading the first person accounts and personal connections to the school.

And I cried.

I cried because it is truly senseless violence. I cried because my heart hurt for the children and teachers who go to these places intended for creating a passion for learning, eagerness to explore and grow, building community and kinship - but instead have fear that they might not make it through the day.

I cried because I felt helpless.

Then, I cried a bit harder because I realised I am not in a position of helplessness. I, and you, can make a difference. For myself, There are three ways I’m going to face this problem head on and make a positive difference, make my community safer, help our children to grow to be healthy, mindful, and caring adults. (To be honest, I just teared up again.)

Becoming a caring, respectful person doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen when you turn 18, magically finished with childhood and now legally “adult.” It happens slowly, over time, starting at birth. Child care providers are the first teachers and their work is so, so important. We’ve all heard that the first three years are prime time for learning. I think what is lost in that is that the focus for learning is social. Its language and problem solving skills. All skills that require lots and lots and lots of playtime with peers and playing with adults who are modeling behavior and social skills. Not reciting from flashcards or being forced to try to read.

You learn to interact with others by interacting with others. So, I will continue to use my child care as a place where children can learn the skills they will need to be successful, healthy adults.

In that same vein, I am a board member to our local family child care association. This is an organization that licensed providers join for professional development. It gives me a unique opportunity to not only positively influence the children I work with directly, but to help train other teachers and hundreds more children than I ever could on my own. I will push for classes that teach how the brain works, how it grows and responds to various stimuli, and how children learn through play.

Additionally, I am actively involved in my town’s SEPAC. A SEPAC is an advisory council to the school committee for families that have children with special needs. With the others in this group, we will be able to give input on protocol during crisis events for children with special needs. We will be able to push for changes at the state level in IEP and 504 Plans so that they  include individualized instructions, practice, and training. We will be able to share information with parents about how to talk to their children if an event occurs. We will be able to help find information and specialized training for teachers, staff, and emergency professionals. We will be able to advocate for programming that includes social and emotional lessons across all levels of development and ability.

Am I still sad?


Am I still going to cry about it?


But I am not helpless. I am going to make a difference - not repairing what is broken, but by raising children who do not need to be fixed.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

2017-18 Update

Hi everyone!!

I don't know about you, but for me this year has been INTENSE.

Baby #3 joined our family last spring.

Our local SEPAC  became re-established over the past year and as of January I became the chair of that organization. Which, if you didn't know, is basically like taking on a second full time job, but it is all volunteer work.

I have continued serving on my local Family Child Care Association's board as Vice President - whose duty is to schedule and host all of the workshops for the year.

There is a new division of GFC called FCC Coaching. It is new, it is SO FUN and rewarding, but it is also a ton of work.

So, while all of that was going on, I was also running a Reggio Emilia Inspired child care program for children ages 1-4. Here are some photo highlights of our studies, adventures, and fun!!

Finding ants in September

Feathers as loose parts in September

Making sensory bottles with items found outside in September

Exploring gourds in October

Sending balls through a tube in October

Sending balls through a tube round #2 in October

Exploring gourds round #2 in October

Mud Kitchen in October

Exploring lines using whipped cream in October

Mixing colors in November

Usborne Book Fair in November

Making instruments in November

Exploring color theory in November

Building with big outside blocks in December

Loose parts tic-tac-toe in December

Taking risks in December

Making patterns with loose parts in December

Exploring texture in January

Exploring line making in January

Sorting & classifying in February

Getting outside for real world sensory experiences in February

Making gourmet mud pies in February

Sometimes the sensory experience is better if you actually get into the sensory table?

Painting on ice in March

Exploring ice in March

Doing some hard work in the snow in March

Testing out how rocks "roll" in the big tub in April

Painting in April

Cooking with loose parts in April

Painting on outside easels in April

I wish I could capture the hugs, giggles, and love that happens here each day in a photograph. <3

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Does my child count in ratio?

New Website
As GFC branches out to include FCC Coaching, there will be some changes on the website. For now, all blog posts will be made here. Once the new website is built, posts for parents and families will continue to be made here. Information for family child providers will move to its's own space reserved for educational consulting.

Does my child count in my ratio??

This question should be cut & dry for family child care providers, but it isn't. There are multiple variables that sometimes contradict each other within the regulations. So, let's try to wade through the regs. This list is for day time care, not evening or overnight care.

My understanding of ratio regulations for you own child:

My 0-4 year old
 - The child is on site during child care hours.
 - The child is home schooled.
 - The child has special needs.*
 - The child is off site during child care hours.
 - The child is on site with their parent (not the FCC provider) for less than one hour.**

My 5-9 year old
 - The child is there more than 3 consecutive hours for 5 or more days in a row, not including weekends and holidays, such as: summer vacation, extended school leave for illness or suspension.
 - The child is home schooled.
 - The child has special needs.
 - The child is there less than 3 consecutive hours and the child is there less than 5 days in a row each week.
 - There is a half day of school or no school for less than 5 days in one week, such as: professional day, snow day.
 - The child is on site with their parent (not the FCC provider) for less than one hour during one of the instances listed above where they would count in ratio.

My 10-15 year old
 - The child is home schooled.
 - The child has special needs.

My 16-17 year old
 - The child is home schooled.

* A child with special needs "may include" infants and toddlers on IFSP's for early intervention services. A child with special needs "may include" school age children that have a disability as  determined by evaluation. The qualifications of what would be included is not defined below.  More information on school age definition for special education can be found here and here

** "Child care child" is not defined. "Child" is defined below. There is no distinction between a child that lives in the home verses a child that does not live at the home. Care for the visiting child cannot impact care for other children in care at that time.


If my child stays home sick from school, do they count in my ratio?
No, usually. 
Your school age child that is 10 or older does not count in your ratio.
Your school age child aged 5-9 does not count on a sick day up to 4 consecutive days. After 4 consecutive days, school age children count in ratio if they are there more than 3 consecutive hours per day.
Your school age child that is age 5-16 that has special needs does count in your ratio.
If your child is less than 5 years old, they count in your ratio - unless they are visiting for less than an hour, are accompanied by a parent that is not the provider, and their presence does not impact the care for other children.

Does my child count in ratio on school vacation weeks?
No, usually. School age children do not count on holidays, if there is a holiday on the vacation week, do not include your own children on that day. School age children count after 4 consecutive days of being present for 3 or more hours each of those days.

My 4 year old goes to half day preschool somewhere else. Do they count in my ratio when they are here?

My 5 year old isn't in kindergarten yet, so they are here full time in my preschool program. Do they count as a school age child?
Yes. According to the definitions below, a 5 year old is a preschool child and a kindergarten child. School age child is partially defined as kindergarten children. If you have a license for 6+2, then your 5 year old would count as one of your +2.

I'm having a difficult time helping my 9 year old with homework, because they have behavior issues during academic tasks. It makes it very difficult to keep an eye on the other children. Do they count in my ratio if I'm helping them with homework during child care hours?
Yes. Your care for your own children cannot negatively impact the care for other children. If you are able to do homework during a different part of the day so that their behavior is not negatively impacting the care for other children, then they would not count in your ratio during the school year. Alternately, if the behavior issues during homework were resolved, the child would no longer count in your ratio during the school year.

Relevant Definitions

"Child – Any person under fourteen years of age, or sixteen years of age with special needs."

"Children with Special Needs – Children under sixteen years of age, who, because of temporary or permanent disabilities arising from intellectual, sensory, emotional, physical or environment factors, or other specific learning disabilities, are or would be unable to progress effectively in a regular school program. This may include, but not be limited to, a school age child with disabilities as determined by an evaluation conducted pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71B, § 3, and as defined by the Department of Education in 603 CMR 28.00 et. Seq, or an infant or toddler with an individual family service plan (IFSP) receiving early intervention services."

"Family Child Care –Temporary custody and care provided in a private residence on a regular basis during part or all of the day for no more than ten children younger than fourteen years of age or children under 16 years of age if such children have special needs. Family child care shall not mean an informal cooperative arrangement among neighbors or relatives, or the occasional care of children with or without compensation therefore."

"Fixed Age Group: A group of children within the same age range, such as infants, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarten, and school age."

"Kindergarten Child - A child who is five years old or who will attend first grade the following year in a public or private school."

"Mixed Age Group: A group of children within two consecutive age groups, such as Infant/Toddler, Toddler/Preschool, Preschool/School Age or Kindergarten/School Age."

"Multi-Age Grouping: Ten or fewer children from birth through thirteen years (or sixteen years, if such children have special needs) assigned to a single group"

"Older School Age Child – A child at least nine years old."

"Preschooler/ Preschool Child – Any child at least two years and nine months old but not yet attending first grade."

"School Age Child – a kindergarten child or a child who is attending a public or approved private elementary school"

Relevant Regulations

"Unless specifically noted within the regulations, all requirements within these regulations apply to all programs providing non-residential services to children under the age of 14 years outside their own homes, regardless of the care setting or the age of the children served."

7.03 (5) (c)
"Determining Capacity.
The following children will be considered to be in the care of educators:
1. every child who lives in the family child care home who is younger than a school age child;
2. every child who lives in the family child care home who is home schooled, regardless of age;
3. every child under the age of ten who lives in the residence and is present for more than three consecutive hours on each of five consecutive days, excluding weekends and holidays;
 4. every person under the age of fourteen who does not live in the residence and is present during the time that child care is being provided;
5. during overnight care, every person under the age of eighteen who is present in the home."

7.10 (4)
"Multi-Age Grouping.
A group of children ranging in age from birth through thirteen years (or sixteen years, if such children have special needs), may be assigned on an ongoing basis to a single group, provided all provisions of 606 CMR 7.10(4) are met. The Multi-Age Grouping ratios and group sizes specified at 606 CMR 7.10(4)(d – h) may be used by:
(a) family child care and small group and school age -child care programs"

"group size: 7 or 8 children
Minimum Number of Educators Present: 1 educator
Limits on Ages of Children: No more than 3 children under two years of age, including at least one toddler who is walking independently. Additional children must be older than 24 months. All children over capacity of six must be school age."

Relevant Policy

Visits to the Family Child Care Home
606 CMR 7.10 et seq. specifies the number of children who may be present in the child care home and the means for determining licensed capacity. In addition, children visiting the family child care home will not be counted in determining licensed capacity if the visit lasts less than one hour and the children are accompanied by:
• the parent of a child care child
• a parent who wishes to place a child in the family child care home
• an adult with his/her own children who is visiting for the purpose of dropping off or picking up a child care child
Visitors must not impact the provider's ability to appropriately care for and supervise child care children."

These answers are based on the regulations and policies as they are written in July 2017. This is not legal advice. GFC and/or Alison Barnes are not responsible for any actions taken based on this information.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring 2017 Update

Hello World!

Our newest little one, Zadie, has joined the GFC family. Thank you for your patience over the last few months. We've been a bit busy with extra cuddles and getting to know her.

I'm starting to work on updating the website information, contracts, & parent handbook for the 2017-18 school year.

There are a few part time spots for toddlers and preschoolers over the summer. Full time & part time spots will be available for ages 6 months - 3 1/2 years beginning in September.

School age spots will be reserved for siblings of enrolled infant/toddler/preschoolers. At this time, those two spots are filled.

Some exciting changes coming up for next year:

Averaged Monthly Billing - This means I will calculate each families tuition for the year, then divide by the number of months enrolled. Families will pay the same amount each month, regardless of the actual days of programming in that particular month.

Flexible Payment Options - Invoices will be sent monthly. Families will be able to choose to pay from their checking account online or with a credit/debit card online.

Infant & Toddler Fun - Enrollment and programming will be geared towards our younger friends, specifically designed for those under 3.5 years old.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Baby Announcement!

The Can You Say That in English Please? series will continue in a few weeks. Keep an eye out for the next section: DEEC FCC Regulations 2010 - Can you say this in English, please? 7.06 Curriculum and Progress Reports.

For those who don't know, we are expecting a new little bundle in early March! New enrollments are on hold for the time being and the following memo addresses the upcoming closures related to our little girl's arrival.

New enrollment will begin in June for infants, ages 3 months-14 months, and toddlers, 15 months-30 months.

Maternity Leave Memo

We are so excited to be welcoming our new little girl to the world soon! So far, things are happening “on schedule,” but we all know that babies make their own timelines. In order to help your family plan, here is what will be available for child care with me over the next few months. The schedule is based on a due date of March 2.
Should I go into labor while children are here, my backup emergency person will come in. One of us will call parents for pick up and the backup care person will stay until you arrive.

Regular schedule will continue
Mon Jan 16 - GFC closed
Billing will switch to weekly payments, due the Friday before that week begins
Payments will be due Feb 3, Feb 10, Feb 17 - so long as baby doesn’t come early
Mon Feb 20 - GFC closed
Feb 21-24 will be full day care for school age children over Mid-Winter Break*
Feb 24 will be the last day of child care before I take my scheduled leave

There will be no child care and no tuition due for March 2017
GFC will be CLOSED Monday February 27 - Friday March 31
Monthly billing will resume on Fri March 31

Pending Ali & baby’s health, GFC will resume limited hours on Monday April 3
Fri Apr 14 & Mon Apr 17 - GFC closed
Full time care will not be available for school age children over April Break**
Expected hours***: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 830am-5pm
Tuesday, Friday: 3pm-5pm
Mon May 1 - GFC will resume regular full time hours

*If your school age child will not be attending GFC full time over February break, please let me know so that I can plan accordingly.
** GFC will not provide full time school age care April 18-21. Please make other arrangements.
*** Expected hours are based on current enrollment. If your children’s attendance is changing, please let me know so I can plan accordingly.

Thank you everyone for your support and understanding during this exciting time. We’ll be sure to post a few updates and pictures on Facebook!
Image result for baby girl clip art

Monday, November 14, 2016

DEEC FCC Regulations 2010 - Can you say this in English, please? 7.05 Interactions Among Educators and Children

This article looks at Massachusetts regulations and policies for licensed family child care providers. All information will be presented in English, however regulations can be found in Spanish and Portuguese by visiting this page.

DEEC FCC Regulations 2010
Can you say this in English, please?

In the field of family child care, there are people from many backgrounds. Experience, education, and motivation is different for every provider. While the regulations and policies that have to be followed are available online and in print when requested, it can be difficult to pin point exactly what the State is looking for.

This is especially true for regulations that are purposefully ambiguous. Why would the State do that? It is frustrating for many providers who just want to be following the legal requirements for their business. The purpose for ambiguous regulations is so that the DEEC, Department of Early Education and Care, can apply the regulations as stringently as possible in the best interest of the children involved.

HEY! I thought you were going to do this in English?

Sorry. The rule that works in one home to provide the safest environment, might not work in another home. The rules need to be just a little flexible so that the greatest amount of caution can be applied, as needed.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of regulations, but they are really the basics for providing a safe and healthy environment for young children. If you have ventured down the path for higher levels of QRIS or NAFCC accreditation, then you know there is plenty of room for more stringent rules, guidelines, and policies.

My Goal:

I'd like to make a list of the current regulations (November 2016) that is easily read. It is not meant as a replacement of the official regulations and should not be used as the sole resource for setting up your child care. As a provider, it is your responsibility to know, understand, and adhere to these regulations. Your license is proof of your agreement and ability to provide a safe and healthy environment for young children. Any variance from that agreement could lead to non-compliance reports, suspension of license, revoking of license, or a 51A report made to DCF.

These are the sections of 606 CMR 7

7.01 Introduction
7.02 Definitions
7.03 Licensure and Approval
7.04 Administration
7.05 Interactions Among Educators and Children
7.06 Curriculum and Progress Reports
7.07 Physical Facility Requirements
7.08 Family Involvement
7.09 Educator Qualifications and Development
7.10 Ratios, Group Sizes and Supervision
7.11 Health and Safety
7.12 Nutrition and Food Service
7.13 Transportation
7.14 Applicability and Effective Date

This is one of the shortest sections of regulations. I changed almost nothing, because it is fairly straightforward. If you are having difficulty with any of the regulations in this section, please email and I will do my best to help come up with a solution that fits your needs.

The following is an abbreviated version of a single section of family child care regulations.

7.05 Interactions Among Educators and Children.
The following requirements apply to all programs, including family child care, small group and school age and large group and school age child care.

(1) You must pay attention to and care for each child's individual needs. Help them to develop self-esteem, express themselves, independence, social skills, and school readiness.

(2) You must be nurturing and responsive to the children.

  • frequently expressing warmth to individual children through behaviors such as holding babies, social conversations (including response to babies’ vocalizations), joint laughter, eye contact, and smiles, and communicating at children’s eye level; 
  • providing attentive, consistent, comforting, and culturally sensitive care; 
  • being consistent and predictable in their physical and emotional care of children, and when implementing program rules and expectations; 
  • recognizing signs of stress in children’s behavior and responding with appropriate stress-reducing activities. 

(3) You have to support their development of self-esteem, independence, and self-regulation by:

  • demonstrating courtesy and respect when interacting with children and adults; 
  • encouraging appropriate expression of emotions, both positive (e.g. joy, pleasure, excitement) and negative (e.g., anger, frustration and sadness); 
  • providing opportunities for children to develop self-help skills as they are ready; encouraging children’s efforts, work and accomplishments; 
  • assuring that all children have equal opportunities to take part in all activities and use all materials; 
  • offering opportunities for children to make choices and decisions. 

(4) You must help children develop social skills by:

  • promoting interaction and language use among children and between children and adults by talking to and with children frequently; 
  • encouraging children to share experiences and ideas; 
  • modeling cooperation, problem-solving strategies and responsible behavior for children; 
  • assisting children in learning social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and working together; 
  • encouraging children to listen to, help, and support each other;
  • providing guidance to assist children in resolving conflicts, finding solutions to problems, and making decisions. 
  • helping children to understand and respect people different from themselves; 
  • helping children learn to respect each other’s possessions and work; 
  • helping children to learn effective ways to deal with bullying, teasing, or other forms of intolerance. 

(5) You must discipline through guidance. You must have positive and consistent responses to behavior. You must base your guidance on the child's abilities and needs.  

  • encouraging self-control and using positive child guidance techniques such as recognizing and reinforcing children’s appropriate behaviors, having reasonable and positive expectations, setting clear and consistent limits, and redirecting; 
  • helping children learn social, communication, and emotional regulation skills they can use in place of challenging behaviors; 
  • using environmental modifications, activity modifications, adult or peer support, and other teaching strategies to encourage appropriate behavior and prevent challenging behaviors; 
  • intervening quickly when children are physically aggressive with one another and helping them develop more positive strategies for resolving conflict; 
  • explaining rules and procedures and the reasons for them to children, and where appropriate and feasible, allowing children to participate in the establishment of program rules, policies and procedures; 
  • discussing behavior management techniques among staff to promote consistency. 

(6) You need to have a way to communicate well with each child. This could be spoken language, pictures, sign language, ACC, etc.

(7) The guidance you give must be for the purpose of helping the child grow and develop. You must be protect the group and individual children.

(8) Do NOT do these things. The following practices are strictly prohibited:

  • spanking or other corporal punishment of children;
  • subjecting children to cruel or severe punishment such as humiliation, verbal or physical abuse, neglect, or abusive treatment including any type of physical hitting inflicted in any manner upon the body, shaking, threats, or derogatory remarks; 
  • depriving children of outdoor time, meals or snacks; force feeding children or otherwise making them eat against their will, or in any way using food as a consequence; 
  • disciplining a child for soiling, wetting, or not using the toilet; forcing a child to remain in soiled clothing or to remain on the toilet, or using any other unusual or excessive practices for toileting; 
  • confining a child to a swing, high chair, crib, playpen or any other piece of equipment for an extended period of time in lieu of supervision; and 
  • excessive time-out. Time-out may not exceed one minute for each year of the child's age and must take place within an educator’s view.