W From the Co-Directors: Thanks 2013

From the Co-Directors:
Thanks 2013
Claire Bainer & Liisa Hale
hile we don’t celebrate holidays at school, we do honor the earth’s rotation in its orbit. So as the earth turns and enters the darkest season and
the shortest days we think of the light we all bring to the earth. In this darkest
season as we wait for the solstice we sing out our love and gratitude for all the
good people and their kindness that keeps this little school going through their
service and support. We all serve and are served by the children and families at
BlueSkies now and by those who came before us. In so many ways over the last
30 years BlueSkies has let its little light shine, helping children, families, and
the greater community, all the while modeling for the field of childcare how to
reinvent itself to better meet the needs of all children.
As winter solstice approaches the children color with white chalk on dark blue
paper, and talk about the bright shiny moon and the twinkling stars that greet
them as they leave the school each night. Handyman Neal has gone over the
outdoor lights so they are shining on the walk ways, gutters are clean and heaters cranked up as we settle in for winter. We thank our lucky stars for our wonderful Board who guides and advises and helps us with the tough challenges we
discover running the school. These good people show up on evenings and all day
meetings always offering their best, thinking with us as we move forward with
the labor of love that this school has become.
Upcoming Events
Tue Dec. 3
Parent Services Committee
6:15 - 7:30 p.m.
Sat Dec. 7
Umami Mart Fundraiser
2 - 5pm
815 Broadway in Oakland
Tue Dec. 10
December Coffee
7:30 - 9:30 am
Thur Dec. 12
Parent Fund Development
Committee Meeting
6:15 - 7:30 p.m
So Salud! and Three Cheers for Board Chair Tanya Veverka, Vice Chair Avis
Kowalewski, Treasurer John Kinnaman, Secretary Khadija Fredericks, and for Dec. 24 (12 noon)
the Board members at large who head up committees and oversee board projects: Jan. 1
Isavane Samanna Scovill, Darren Whitfield, Kristi Schutjer-Mance, Dawn RiorClosed for Winter break
dan, Peter Landreth, Gerry Fabella, Zoë Wood, and Linda Copenhagen.
Down in the Baby House teachers snuggle little ones who watch with wonder as
the first rain splashes on the garden outside the windows, and we are thankful
for Christa and her team of teachers who bring peace and joy to the children’s
lives at school. Shalom to Sandra, Helen, Christina, Anabel and Kiki—and to
Paulina, whose wise leadership continues even in her temporary absence. The
Wobblies are busy with holiday cheer, dumping and carrying mail and delivering discarded holiday cards and all sorts of surprises in a mail box or two as they
move through their day. Hooray! to our lovely Wobblies guided and held by Kristina and her team Rosalia, Kea, Maria R. and Hong. In the Todds group things
are stepping up and twos celebrate winter time both cozy and chilly. With
stories and naps, and jackets zipped tight and toasty, these young twos make
gluings so sparkly, and feel the crunch of leaves underfoot and the crisp winter
air as they proudly show their art to their parents. We see joy, and with gratitude we thank the Todds teachers right straight from our hearts. L’Chaim! to
Sandy and her team—Allison, Choeurt and Hong. Our Happiness and Joy shine
out on the Hedco Infant Toddler Nursery as we say Namaste to program Director Ameena for her own special kind of loving kindness and wisdom that keeps
things going throughout her group, and the school, with ease and grace.
In This Issue
P2 From the
Birthday Books
Snapshot in the
P4 Playroom
Board of
P5 Directors
P6 Staff Gift
Holiday Gift Giving
Page 1
Co-Directors Report Cont...
Playroom kids are blossoming, putting all they have
learned to good use! Dressing up in the fanciest
outfits, painting pictures covered with color, singing Bonnie songs… they can even strum her guitar if
they like! Their potties are flushing and their teeth
are brushed, hands are washed as the Playroom
children burst with pride at all they can do, beaming
with joy at their many big kid successes. So we say
Cheers! to Sarah and her team—Antenette, Mimi,
and Latisha. In the Homeroom something is cooking;
is it apple crumble from the little trees in the yard?
The blocks are piled high as buildings take form, and
roads and tunnels and bridges come into being. The
dollhouse is hopping as dollies are loved and sung to
and holiday fare is prepared by busy children dressed
up in fancy clothes, big hats, tutus and capes, wearing
clumpy dress-up shoes. Over at the art table decorations are being created by busy hands as a chorus of
children hum holiday songs, each song with its own
unique words according to the child’s interpretation.
Slainte! to Janice, Tamila and Diana, who faithfully
create this joyful atmosphere of friendship and learning. Those big Schoolroom children are hard at work
in their play. They are reading about the deep dark
winter and people all over the world doing interesting things; they chant and sing and talk, agreeing,
disagreeing, helping, and working it out. At the art
table children are learning to fold their paper and
cut lacy snowflakes, coloring them with every color.
Writers are writing new words, each letter a different
color, some frontwards, some not. In the big blocks
forts and caves are constructed; those who ask for an
old sheet to cover their structure will also need a flash
light when they slip inside to chat and play in the
dark. Hurrah! for Amy and Ben as they keep the days
rolling with new, fun, interesting things to discover
and learn. And a special Sante! to Anna, our flexible substitute, who knows every child and classroom
routine in the school, and to Janice for her dedicated
leadership in the program.
We are very pleased to welcome our new Assistant
Director, Erika Gilfether, to BlueSkies this month.
Those of you with Wobbly Walkers may have already
met her as she has been transitioning her daughter
into the class over the past few weeks.
brought this Renaissance woman to BlueSkies!
Introducing Erika Gilfether
Erika brings BlueSkies a wealth of experience with
young children, families, and teachers. She has
recently relocated from Chicago, where she taught
preschool for nearly 20 years. She has also taught
creative movement to children, a natural pairing of
her love of dance with her love of teaching. She has
performed with various dance companies and also
performed as an aerialist with circus companies!
Erika is currently completing her Master’s degree at
the Erikson Institute in Chicago, a highly regarded
early childhood program. We feel very lucky to have
Page 2
The leaves are off the trees in the yard and rakes
are out. Up in the kitchen Ma, our first employee
30 years ago, is fixing lunch, the summer menus are
put away and children are eating warm filling winter
meals—curry stew, and grilled cheese sandwich with
tomato soup, yum! So here is to Ma; her light shines
bright as she fills the children’s food with her love and
makes everything just so for the children. Ma’s second
in command is Maria S. in Hedco, who keeps everything clean and fresh for the babies. Their team of
Shwe, Ling and Kwan show their good hearts as they
work together and help us all.
Here in the office, running this gentle world behind
the gate where children are safe from the big world
adults live in, we are grateful every day for Phyllis,
our Bookkeeper and morning greeter, and Leisel, our
Fundraiser, Monaire, our Office Manager. To these
people who form the glue of the school we say Hip Hip
Hurray! Shalom! and Namaste, and all the best!
Before we know it the earth will orbit out of the dark
and into the sunny part of the year, and we will
think of shorts and summer vacation, and everyone
will be older and that much wiser—and perhaps we
will remember, as we put on our sunglasses, how we
celebrated the light in the deep dark of winter, and
that little memory will remind us of a joyful moment
and the world will be a better place for our grateful
Erika is parent to a 4-year-old son in addition to her
daughter at BlueSkies. To allow her son to complete
his final year with his friends at a co-op preschool in
Berkeley, Erika will begin working 4 days per week,
present mostly in the morning and early afternoon
hours, but you will certainly be meeting her soon in
the office or at an event.
You may recall that an extremely generous gift from
the Witkin Foundation is funding the Assistant Director position at present, allowing BlueSkies to expand
its administrative capacity so that Claire and Liisa
can have the time to develop new income streams for
long term sustainability.
Henry in the Baby House with
parents Adam & Catherine
Erika the new Assistant Director
Courtney the new Substitute
teacher for the school
s & g oin
Laywanne the new Substitute
teacher for the school
Little Gorilla and There’s a Nightmare in My
Closet from Maya E. for her 3rd birthday
I Love Trucks from Gwen for her 3rd birthday
Birthday books and CD’s are displayed in the front office
and can be purchased for BlueSkies in honor of a child’s
birthday or any other special occasion.
Coffee, Chat, Connect
Tuesday, December 10 7:30- 9:30 a.m.
Please stop in for coffee, pastry and a chat with
Claire, Liisa and other parents on Tuesday, December 10. No one will ask you to sign up for anything;
our agenda is simply to let parents stop for a moment
and say hello to us and each other. So put a note on
your calendar to build a few extra minutes into your
morning on the 11th, and
step into the Copenhagen Room after
you drop off your
Dear dear families,
Weather is bumpy these days hot, cold
and windy occasionally rainy but it is still
winter so in good faith and in hopes for
weather to behave as it should please be
sure you children have jackets with their
names in them and extra warm long pants
and socks in their cubbies just in case!
We look forward
to seeing you!
Liisa & Claire
Parent Participation Discussion at PSC December 3
The Parent Participation requirements were established at BlueSkies 25 years ago by a group of parents who
believed that everyone benefiting from enrollment should assist in supporting the program. Now the Parent
Services Committee is researching and analyzing current requirements and considering potential changes to
the system. The Committee welcomes the input of all interested parents at its meeting December 3 (6:15 – 7:30
p.m., sign up in the office). Some of the questions being discussed:
• What percentage of hours are earned vs. bought out?
• Are there enough opportunities for parents to earn hours? Does the BlueSkies of today need the same
amount of volunteer support as AOCS did in 1988?
• Can opportunities be listed in one place that’s easy to find?
• Is the requirement too high? Too low? Should requirements be eased for families with multiple children or
• What is the purpose of the Parent Participation requirement?
• Do Parent Participation hours allow more efficient use of limited staff resources?
If you have something to add to the discussion, please come to the meeting on December 3 to share your
Page 3
Snapshot in the Playroom
by: Claire Bainer
“There is a new girl in my class! Her name is Bonnie.”
(a Playroom child’s report to his mom as they leave
Going into the Copenhagen classroom on Thursday
morning I see six Playroom children, each sitting on
a carpet square looking at Bonnie. She is sitting on a
low chair with her guitar in its soft case on one side of
her and on the other side a cloth bag full of percussion
instruments. As the children sit on their little carpet
squares Bonnie begins to pat a rhythm Pat,
pat, pat on her knees; the children
follow pat pat patting their
knees. Bonnie says” let’s put
the rhythm in our hands”
then clap clap clap
clap and the children
follow; “let’s put the
rhythm in our finger”
then tap tap tap
Bonnie taps her
two index fingers
together close to her
ear, the children
follow and listen to
the soft tap of their
fingers by their ears.
Next Bonnie says ”zizz
zizz” and, reaching down,
she picks up her guitar and
begins to unzip the guitar case
with short strokes, saying “Zzizz,
Zizz, here is the head; Zizz, zizz, zizz here is
the neck… zizz, zizzz, zizzz, zizzz here comes the
whole body.” The children are watching with interest.
Bonnie picks up the guitar, plunks a few strings to
tune the guitar up and strums a cord. The children
are rapt with the sound, pleased and perhaps a little
stunned. When Bonnie starts to sing it is a song the
children know, today it is “Twinkle, Twinkle” and
as she sings she says “sing with me.” The children
watch amazed, mouths closed; slowly a few begin to
sing along. As the song concludes Bonnie switches
to another song, “Miss Mary Mack- Mack- Mack all
dressed in black-black-black.” Some children pick up
the Mack, Mack and the black, black but mostly they
watch silently. Bonnie starts another song, “Rainbow
Children,” beginning with the chorus “Rainbow
children, Rainbow children go where you’re going
to, do what you’re going to do, ‘cause love is guiding
you.” Bonnie pauses and looks at the child near her.
“Shall I sing your name, Sue? Shall I sing “rainbow
Susie?” Susie bobs her head “yes” and Bonnie begins
to sing “Rainbow Susie Rainbow Susie go where
you’re going to, do what you’re going to do, ‘cause
love is guiding you.” Sue looks pleased and a little
Page 4
embarrassed, smiling shyly at her lap as Bonnie and
all the children sing to her. Now Bonnie turns to
the next child “Jimmy, shall I sing your name next?
Shall I sing Rainbow Jimmy?” Looking startled jimmy
puts his head down and shakes his head “no”. “OK”
she says “It looks like Jimmy says ‘no thank you’.
How about you, Stella, are you ready for me to sing
Rainbow Stella?” With a big smile Stella say “Stella
and Mommy” and the little group all sing “Rainbow
Stella and mommy.” As this song concludes Bonnie
starts Shoe Lie Lou, then Down by the
Station; with a good “toot toot” and
hand pull at the end, Bonnie
starts her last song for the
group. Teacher quietly
gets up and goes to
the classroom door
to be in front of the
children as they
are dismissed.
From the circle
Bonnie sings “Good-bye Susie,
good-bye Susie,
good-bye Susie,
you can strum the
guitar if you like.”
Susie pops up from her
carpet square, walks to
Bonnie and gives the guitar
a big strum and then scampers
over to teacher who has opened
the gate just outside the Copenhagen
classroom into the Playroom yard. Sue runs out to
play. The other children in the group are invited one
by one to strum and out they come into the yard. Soon
Sue and Stella are climbing, Jimmy and Andy are
digging, pushing the big trucks and as they push they
sing “Rainbow trucks” and laugh together. Diane
goes to the carpet in the yard and pulls a book on
her lap while nearby Richard sits to make a puzzle,
humming Shoe Lie Lou. Teacher surveys her group
and nods to her teaching partner in the upper yard
signaling that this group is all out and she can take
the next little group in to sing with Bonnie.
We feel so fortunate to have Bonnie here at BlueSkies;
not only is she a well-known professional children’s
musician, she also holds a Master’s degree in early
childhood education and has years of experience
teaching music to preschool children. She is very kind
and gentle with the children, holding appropriate
expectations for their behavior, and singing songs—
often songs she has written—that are age appropriate
and about things the children are interested in.
continued on pg. 5
Snapshot Cont...
(She has a very good one about trucks and diggers
that is sung to the tune of The Ants go Marching.)
If the children get wiggly she gets them up and
teaches a song in which the children can “fly away
over yonder.” With the teacher’s help she guides the
children and helps them listen and think and feel the
music as they enjoy the fun of singing together.
This little group was having their first formal
experience at music (which the children call “Bonnie
Day”); by the time they are in the Schoolroom, in their
third year of singing with Bonnie, the children have
learned about rhythm and beat and tunes, moving to
the music and keeping time as they clap and dance
and ask to sing songs they love. In most groups
there are some children who prefer not to sing or
participate; Bonnie understands, never excluding or
shaming, and always honoring their choice. Teacher
sits with the group and sings too, later bringing
Bonnie’s songs out into the yards, singing with the
children as they play throughout the week. It is here
in the yard where the silent ones sing every word
of the songs, laughing and talking with the other
children about Bonnie Day.
Bonnie is here every Thursday from 9 to 11, sharing
her time with the three classrooms. The younger
groups divide into half the group at a time so they
can relax with fewer children in the room, and the
Schoolroom group sings all together.
Perkle for B
Support the BlueSkies Scholarship
Fund while you shop this holiday
Simple visit your favorite online
retailers through the BlueSkies
Perkle account and a percentage of
your purchase will be donated - at no
extra cost to you.
Board of Directors:
Tanya Veverka, President
Avis Kowalewski, Vice President
John Kinnaman, Treasurer
Khadija Fredericks, Secretary
Liisa Hale, BlueSkies Co-Director
Claire Bainer, BlueSkies Co-Director
Isavane Samanna
Dawn Riordan
Kristi Schutjer-Mance
Molly Rosen
Linda Copenhagen
Peter Landreth
Gerry Fabella
Darren Whitfield
Zoe Woods
Parent Committee Chairs
Michael & Kristina Paluck, Buildings & Grounds
Garrett Schwartz & Julie Fallon, Parent Services
Ellie Gladstone & Brooke Abola, Fundraising
BlueSkies Program Directors
Ameena Muhammed, Hedco Infant Toddler Center
Janice Haywood, Ellen Sherwood Nursery School
Ma Leong, Support Services
Leisel Whitlock-Petersen, Fund Development
Parents often hear their children
using phrases that they suspect they learned
at BlueSkies. Each month’s “BlueSkies-ism” will
include a phrase the teachers use all the time at
BlueSkies, and some context to help you use
the phrase at home too.
“Don’t look at me”
Don’t talk to me”
This is something
children say to try to
control children and
adults. A reminder that
we can’t make people do
things can help. Also a
suggetion that the child
could look some place
else or decide to
just not listen if they
don’t a want to hear people. They can also choose
to go someplace else.
Start shopping (and supporting)
Page 5
Holiday Gift Ideas
Dear parents, some time ago I wrote about good
children’s presents, and some parents have remembered and commented, asking me to repeat it. This is
just a little bit of the article.
An easy way to think about gifts for your child this
holiday season:
Babies need things that support their desire to move
and explore. Think about things to dump and carry,
pull and push. A small plastic trash can with last
year’s holiday cards to dump, carry, deliver and look
through is a wonderful gift for your toddler. So are
things to put in and take out; a plastic container with
a hole in the top is a wonderful thing to put things
into and empty out again; these guys also love coasters and cloth napkins, there are so many things to
cover up and pat and put on a coaster or a napkin.
Often the boxes and bunched up wrapping paper with
ribbon is the best present for baby.
a plastic ice tray to sort into even better. You get
the idea, you know what your child is interested in
and thinking about. If you are visiting grandma and
grandpa, a little car with two little cardboard boxes
each with a door and window cut into them and a few
hand held dolls suggests a nice visit from one house
to another. Your ideas about your child will always
be better than fancy toys with lights and batteries
because you are thinking about who your child is and
affirming that to them. Make them a book on one of
those web sites “all about you and your day” – here
is daddy waking up, getting dressed, shaving, eating
breakfast, going to work, working, eating lunch, working more, having a cup of coffee, coming to BlueSkies
to get his child and going home together! What child
wouldn’t love that! And even with no words it is great
for pre-literacy.
Make this holiday fun and meaningful and full of love
for you and your family.
As children move out of the go-go age you want your
gift to give the child an idea of what to do; the younger the child the simpler the idea. A plastic container
with a small car, a paper towel tube, and few small
wedge shaped blocks is a very interesting exercise
on “in and out and through.” Think about what your
child is interested in and put a little box together
about that so they can play about their interest. A box
with a family group of small hand held dolls and some
small beds and a potty is an interesting idea,
especially if someone is learning about staying dry at
night. Add a few small pieces of cloth as blankets and
you have offered your child a pretty interesting idea.
A little set with a bunch of Barbie doll shoes to sort
and match is a very interesting toy. Never mind the
doll, it is the shoes that are interesting; if you have
Claire and Liisa
BlueSkies parents have a long tradition of thanking
the school’s staff with a holiday cash gift. Rather than
buy lots of little thank-you gifts, parents pool their
cash and give it to BlueSkies to divide up equally
among the staff. Last year each teacher and support
worker received several hundred extra dollars for the
holidays, thanks to the Parent Gift Fund. In light of
the fact that the average wage at BlueSkies is about
$16 per hour, teachers and support staff count on this
check to help them buy gifts for their children and
travel to visit family over the holidays. It also takes
the pressure off of families to come up with gift ideas
for the people who make their family life work –
the staff unanimously agree that a gift of cash is their
clear preference!
If you would
like to contribute to this
year’s fund, there is a box in the office
for your check. Please contribute by December 20.
And remember, you can credit yourself for Parent
Participation Hours at the rate of $20 per hour for
cash donations to BlueSkies (be sure to write it in the
Parent Participation
Page 6
Staff Holida
y Gift
Your Contribution Is Greatly Appreciated!