On Thursday, December 4, All Our Kin hosted our third annual benefit at Bridgeport’s Bijou Theatre celebrating our work with family child care providers in Bridgeport, Stamford, and Norwalk. Natasha Auguste-Williams, one of the dedicated providers in our Bridgeport network, graciously agreed to share her experiences as a provider with the audience. We hope you enjoy reading her story as much as we enjoyed hearing it!
Hello everyone, and thank you so much for coming out to support such a wonderful event! My name is Natasha Auguste-Williams. I have been a Bridgeport day care provider for over four years, and I have been attending All Our Kin Network meeting and trainings for the past three years. I am so excited to be speaking with you all tonight.
I had been a nanny for over 16 years when I decided to start a family with my husband. I wanted to work from home and raise my children. My dream came true 18 months ago when I gave birth to a wonderful, smart baby boy. He is very smart; I’m not even biased. Howad-Gabriel Miles Williams. We called him Miles because we love to travel. We went house hunting because I wanted a house close to public transportation and schools, in a neighborhood with a lot of kids.
Another big reason I wanted to open a home day care is that I wanted to make a difference in a child’s life, especially children from single-parent families and low income families. I wanted my program to be different because a lot of people think that when you have a home day care the kids just come and sit inside and watch TV all day. I wanted to change that. I wanted start a program where books are within the child’s reach, and where there are opportunities to learn and explore. Although most of the children in my program are English speaking, I teach them basic Spanish and Sign Language as well. I love my job and won’t trade it for anything.
About three years ago I got a letter in the mail from All Our Kin. I’d never heard of them before and was a little skeptical. They were offering training on children from birth to age 3, which I was interested in. As a childcare provider, I am always eager to learn and educate myself how to care and educate children. The children that are growing up nowadays are smarter so I have to be three steps ahead.
All Our Kin provided me with the opportunity to get my Child Development Associate’s credential. I showed up every day for my classes even if I wasn’t feeling well or if I was tired, because I really appreciated that I had the opportunity to take such an important class. After I obtained my CDA credential, I participated in a variety of projects from All Our Kin. Three of the programs that most stood out to me were The Garden Project, Read, Count, Grow!, and the Business Series.
The Garden Project was such a success. I grew up on a farm in St. Lucia, and I wanted to
share some hands-on experiences with my son and the other children in my program. The children loved it. They wouldn’t eat the vegetables on their plate, but they would eat the vegetables right out of the garden. After our meals in the summer we would go outside and eat carrots and tomatoes. They love taking fresh vegetables home and sharing them with their family. The children loved being outdoors, and being able to weed and water the garden. They also loved it when Mrs. Stephanie Lorek came by to teach them about the garden. There were vegetables and plants they never saw, ate or touched before, so it was an amazing experience for them.
We also loved it when Miss Maureen came over for Read, Count and Grow because the children knew that we would be doing something fun and different. A funny story we have is that my son always calls Miss Maureen “Sticky”, and at first we didn’t understand why. After he called her “Sticky” a couple of visits, we figured it out: Every time she visited she would bring something that was hands-on, and most of the projects were sticky. For example, Miss Maureen made goo with cornstarch and water. That was sticky. Then, she bought pumpkin paste. That was sticky. She made sand with flour and baby oil. Sticky. She bought pumpkins to carve. The inside was sticky. I read my son books on sensory, so he knew how sticky felt. It is amazing how much children learn by reading a book.
I did the Family Read with Marina, and something stood out to me after reading the book The Art Lesson. It was about a boy named Tommy who wanted to be an artist when he grew up. His family used to hang all his pictures everywhere, and he loved that. Then, he went to school and the teacher wanted him to draw a picture just like hers, so he rebelled. He wanted to draw his own. He met another teacher who gave him the freedom and materials to create his own art, which he enjoyed more. Now, I definitely understand why children don’t want to work on someone else’s creation. I used to do the same thing in my own curriculum, but it would be frustrating when I put the coloring pages in front of the children and they would turn the page on the blank side to create their own art. I began to understand why the children did that after reading The Art Lesson. I stopped giving them coloring pages and instead, whenever we read a book or went on a nature walk, afterwards I gave the children plain paper, scissors, paint and makers, and let them use their imagination to create their own picture.
I used to ask the children “What’s that?” about their pictures. But then I saw that they might get discouraged and become less confident in their art skills. Now, instead of asking “What’s that?” I say “Tell me about your picture.” All the children’s creations are unique, so I ask them about their pictures and ask them to tell me what is interesting about it.
I also help and encourage the children, let them explore, and allow them to be independent both indoors and outdoors. I encourage them to get dressed, put their shoes on and feed themselves. I encourage them even if they make mistakes or be messy. We all make mistakes; even as grown-ups we still do.
Miss Maureen also taught us that teaching doesn’t have to look like children sitting in front of a chalkboard. Teaching reading and counting can be part of every game and activity you do during the day. I teach the children in my program their letters and early math while we read books, sing, wash hands, go on walks, ride in the car, while changing diapers and at meal time. I also have letters and numbers posted at eye level and on labels posted in my day care.
It’s so funny that when my son was three months, we always did our fire drill and I would spell the word EXIT while we go outside because I have Exit signs posted everywhere. When he was 8 months old we went to a swimming lesson and he pointed to the EXIT sign posted at the door and said “EXIT.” We were so amazed. Sometimes we think that babies are not learning but trust me, they are. One day everything you teach them will come out, and you would be like “Whoa, how did you know that?”
I also take the time out to go to network meetings. These meetings are very important because I learn so much from other providers. I also learn a lot from the All our Kin team, like different ways to recycle things that you already have in your home to use in your space. You do not have to buy expensive furniture or materials. For example, you can use an empty water bottle and add rice in it or colorful cereal and make a musical instrument. You can use the top of empty laundry detergent to teach colors and sizes.
I want to mention another series I attended with Sharon Redman, on Early Child Development. This series help me so much to pass my CDA, but it also helped me to become a better provider and parent. I learned that people develop from the time they are born until they die. This is fascinating for me; it means that children, their parents, my husband [laughter], my child and I are still developing. It is very important to recognize every child individually. Every family has a story. I started looking at everyone in a different way.
I am currently doing the Business Series with Janmarie. She is very patient and knows her stuff. I learned how to raise my prices, how to advertise, how to recreate my contract and handbook, and what to claim on my taxes. Since starting the Business Series I’ve had two new children enroll because she taught us ways to have a business concept and what to say when someone call looking for day care. The Business Series has helped me to raise my own income and build a better business.
I want to make a difference in a child’s life. Seeing children in my program and watching them learn new things makes me feel good. With All Our Kin’s support, we can do it! We can provide the highest quality day care to children who need it.
I’m grateful for this opportunity to share my story, so thank you again for everyone who is here tonight. I’d like to thank All Our Kin especially. Thank you so much Nilda (I call her Smiley because she is always smiling), Miss Maureen Myers, Marina, Janmarie, and Christina for welcoming me to the All Our Kin family and teaching and helping me so much to be a better educator and childcare provider. I hope everyone has a wonderful evening here tonight. Thank you.