You may remember the beautiful piece that guest blogger and New Haven family child care provider Josie Queen shared on All Our Words this past December, in which she shares about the joy and love she feels as she helps the children in her care learn and grow. In the piece below, Josie reflects on her own process of learning and growing as an early childhood educator, relating her journey to All Our Kin’s 2013 conference theme, “Caterpillar to Butterfly: Children, Families, and Teachers Growing and Changing.”
This year’s All Our Kin conference is entitled “Caterpillar to Butterfly,” a very relevant metaphor for the world of child care; a world that is constantly evolving. There are four stages to a butterfly’s life: The egg stage, the larvae (or caterpillar) stage, the chrysalis stage and then the adult butterfly. It’s a pretty amazing transformation: nature at its most flamboyant. The life cycle of a butterfly can be applied to many things in life. Our own life cycle, while not quite as ostentatious (in most circumstances), follows the same path: embryo, baby (just like caterpillars they eat and eat and eat), teenager (they don’t build an actual chrysalis, but they do spend a good deal of time hibernating in their rooms) and adult. But for this article I wanted to compare the life cycle of the butterfly to my own transformation, with the help of All Our Kin, from someone who wanted to run a daycare in order to stay home with her newborn daughter to a full-fledged business owner with the tools and education to provide the children in her care with a good foundation for their own education.
The Egg Stage: The egg was hatched right before my daughter was born. I found out that maternity leave in the US is nowhere near as long as the full year offered to new mothers in the UK, so I decided that I needed to find a way to stay home with her and still make a living. Home daycare was the logical choice as I had a lot of experience with childcare. During my research on how to become a daycare owner in New Haven I came across All Our Kin and visited Nilda Aponte one sunny afternoon a couple of weeks before my due date. I was a little apprehensive and unsure of attempting to start a business by myself. I was amazed at the resources offered by All Our Kin and suddenly the thought of owning a daycare was not quite so intimidating. I realized, while talking to Nilda, that this was something I would not have to tackle alone.
The Larvae (or caterpillar) Stage: Caterpillars eat and eat during this stage. Ever read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle? It’s a wonderful book and a favorite among the children I care for. But as much as I love food I have to use the eating and growing as more of a metaphor here. I ingested as much information and education that All Our Kin offered as I could. Their Tool Box Project is awesome. I came home from the All Our Kin offices one day with boxes filled with just about everything I needed to start the process of opening a family day care home. There were flyers and brochures, application forms, the Department of Public Health’s rules and regulations, there was equipment to help set up the environment: a fire extinguisher, smoke alarms, socket covers, water thermometers. All Our Kin even provided CPR and first aid education along with medical administration training. Then, a final box and workshop with toys, books and supplies covering the multiple intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner: spatial, logical-mathematical, linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic. The workshop itself, held at The Children’s Museum in New Haven and funded by Sandra Malmquist and the New Haven Early Childhood Council, was exciting and powerful, filling me with inspiration. And this was just the start of all the education I would be getting, free of charge, from All Our Kin. I couldn’t get enough, I felt that I needed to gorge on everything available, to fill my mind with as much as possible. I was an absolute glutton and loved every morsel. Then I went into a kind of hibernation.
The Chrysalis Stage: Okay, so it was an unintended hibernation. It took me a full year to get any children enrolled in my daycare. I wasn’t idle during that time; I was using the information I had devoured in a nannying job I had been lucky enough to get that allowed me to be with my daughter every day. (Ironically, the little boy I cared for went on to attend Creating Kids, the daycare/preschool run by Sandra Malmquist at The Children’s Museum.) I ruminated on everything I was learning. I opened the daycare with two toddlers enrolled and, of course, my own little girl. Once I had children enrolled I qualified for the All Our Kin mentor program. Tyree Dickey came to visit and everything started fitting right into place. She offered priceless advice and modeled activities for the children. I was lucky enough to receive a free raised garden as part of All Our Kin’s Gardening Project and Shel Swanson came several times to plant the veggies, educate me on the garden and excite the children enough to get them motivated to try everything they grew – even radishes and Brussel sprouts! I received valuable business training from Julia Granata and even more teacher mentoring from educational consultant Quinn Hunter McGonagle.
The Butterfly Stage: It goes without saying that all this education, information, mentoring and encouragement allowed me to spread my wings and soar. It’s allowed me to engage the children in a variety of ways that I may not have thought of before. We create activities and crafts to go along with the books that we read everyday. We base our learning around themes such as fish and ocean life, bugs and insects, even themes as simple as colors. All Our Kin has provided me with a priceless resource of information that I can use at any time to educate the children in my care.
The butterfly stage in this example is not the end of the transformation. With All Our Kin’s continuing education; monthly meetings, workshops, classes and their yearly conference coming up, I feel that I can keep growing, keep transforming, keep soaring.