Turning the Page on 2020

I am so proud and excited to announce a special Story Spark Christmas Project. I hope you’ll  join me in helping make the holidays extra special by spreading peace, love, and books!

Our goal: to bring books and book-based learning opportunities into the homes of economically struggling families in our community in order to make this Christmas extra special.

Our mission: In creating Story Spark , our mission was to enrich the Amarillo, TX community by bringing together families, children, and caregivers through book-based enrichment [classes] that SPARK deeper bonds, curiosity, and a love of learning. While I am unable to hold classes during these times, we can still uphold our mission and support our community by helping get books and book-based learning opportunities into the homes of families who may be struggling with finances or overall family well-being. 

I believe that every child should grow up with QUALITY books and QUALITY play materials, loved items that stand the test of time and cultivate a life-long love of books, reading, and learning.

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Books open doors for our children. With Story Spark, I have always strived to help little learners and their families make the most of book interactions and literacy experiences. A book is a wondrous thing, but the way we pair books with everyday learning and play experiences is truly magical and life changing. When we interact meaningfully and dive further into books, they can spark not only joy and self-awareness, but also social skills, language and communication skills, problem solving, mathematical and scientific thinking, curiosity, empathy, and a love for art, music and so much more. 

My plea: Please join me in spreading the Story Spark experience to families in need this Christmas, by visiting our GoFundMe to donate today, spreading the word, and nominating any families who would benefit from the wondrous gift of books and going beyond books.

Donations will allow me to curate gift sets that include a quality book and materials for a related extension activity such as a quality toy, art supplies, science/math manipulatives, etc. Each gift set will cost approximately $20.

Our deadline: in order to allow time to select gifts that match individual families and deliver them by Christmas, we will be accepting donations until December 14th! 

Please help spread the word by sharing our GoFundMe link to at least one person.

Thank you so much for supporting Story Spark and our community! Let’s spread peace, love, and books together!

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3 Little Pigs, Play, and a Streetsweeper

As a little girl, I remember my sisters and I tagging along occasionally in the summers as my Dad visited his classroom for various reasons we often paid no attention to. While he might be doing an inventory of equipment and compiling orders of beakers, burners, and other scientific tools, we would explore the old and often empty building, climb up and down what we thought were dramatic staircases, play school, draw on the chalkboards, etc. My memories are foggy but happy ones.

Continue reading 3 Little Pigs, Play, and a Streetsweeper

Part 3 of Worthwhile Toys for the Early Years

Remind me next time not to make such a big list, but seriously, all 15 of these play materials are worth the money and space because they lead to some rich and deep play that spans various ages, stages, and interests. So today, I will finally share more “totally-worth-the-space-and-money” play items on my list!

It’s been a good while, so first of all, yes, we are alive!!! Continue reading Part 3 of Worthwhile Toys for the Early Years

Part 2 of Worthwhile Toys for the Early Years

I shared the first part of this list 15 Worthwhile Toys for the Early Years a few weeks back, because the toy industry, children’s movies/TV and related products, Pottery Barn Kids, Target (both of which I LOVE!), educational products, etc. can be SO damn cute and manipulative, much like our little ones… and then bam! Or “CRUNCH!” Or “OW!” You’ve stepped on one of thousands of toys or supplies… no matter how much your munchkins actually help put them all away.

Continue reading Part 2 of Worthwhile Toys for the Early Years

15 Worthwhile Toys for the Early Years

If you’re like me, you like keeping money in your pocket/bank, you don’t like your house being overrun by toys, and basically you hate wasting time and money on anything your children will outgrow or lose interest in within the lifespan of a housefly. (They don’t live long folks.)

As the twins (now 1 years old!) have really begun playing more independently, jointly, and with things, I’ve lost myself in thought about toys. I’ve been pretty picky about toys, so thankfully, I am fairly happy with the amount of and type of toys in my house, for the most part. But let’s face it: not all toys are created equally. Some toys stand the test of time and parent/teacher sanity, and some don’t.

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Rigor in Play, Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the definition of rigor and it was a bit alarming at first.

In Part 2, we focused on achieving rigor through play by intentionally challenging our little ones, challenging being one of the key terms in our definition of educational rigor.

In Part 3, I want to really drive home a point about rigor:

Rigor may feel uncomfortable at times, but we have to embrace that in order to optimize and allow for learning to occur.

Continue reading Rigor in Play, Part 3

Rigor in Play, Part 2

Rather than argue why rigor and play are not  opposing ideas or camps in early childhood education (see Rigor in Play, Part 1), isn’t the best way to demonstrate the point, simply to show HOW we achieve rigor through play?

To do so, let’s pull out some of the key elements from our educational definition of rigor. Let’s start with challenging.

Ensuring that children’s play is challenging requires a few things from us (maybe even challenging ourselves first). 

Continue reading Rigor in Play, Part 2

Rigor in Play, Part 1

If you are a teacher or follow educational trends, you are quite familiar with the term rigor. You probably have a love/hate relationship with it. Yet many teachers struggle with really defining it or explaining it to parents.

So, let’s search Google for a dictionary definition. Wait, wait, nope, that’s startling. Hell, even depressing.

Webster’s definition includes words like: harsh inflexibility, severity, unyielding or inflexible, strictness, austerity, even cruelty, extremity of cold, rigidity, stiffness, strict precision, and a definition for the medical term rigor mortis. Yikes, people! How does this word belong in education?

Continue reading Rigor in Play, Part 1