Friday, January 21, 2022

The Hallmark Of A Truly Educated Person

History is sprinkled here and there with the idea compulsory schooling going back at least to Ancient Greece, but it was never implemented in any meaningful way until the early 1500's when the Aztec Triple Alliance instituted mandatory universal schooling. By the middle part of that century, compulsory educational systems, usually attached to the church, for boys only, were set up in Europe and it's from these seeds that our modern idea of schooling has grown.

The idea of mandatory schooling in Western thought, at least, can actually be found some 900 years earlier with Plato's original idea of compulsory schooling. As a student of Socrates, his idea of universal education (excluding slaves and "barbarians," of course) was based on his idea that an "ideal" society would emerge if the entire population were trained as philosophers, seekers after wisdom and truth. The goal was to enable everyone with the intellectual tools they would need to pursue their self-determined goals. There was no notion in this vision of learning vocational skills or to engage in religious indoctrination. That was to be left to life itself. And there was, in this vision, no pre-determined curriculum, but rather the one that emerges from the learners themselves.

In other words, Plato was concerned with self-directed learning supported by teachers who, like Socrates, were there to listen and to occasionally ask questions when the learner was stuck. This is what play-based education is all about. It is what self-directed learning is all about. It is what unschooling is all about. 

The compulsory schools that actually emerged, however, have always cynically payed homage to Plato's ideas, while doing the opposite. 

Today, school as it is conceived is a kind of day prison in which children are shepherded through 12 years of disconnected information that committees of bureaucrats have determined will comprise the curriculum. We still give lip-service to the idea that we are preparing children to achieve their own goals. We tell them they can be anything they want to be, while actively preventing them from pursuing their own happiness. The central principle of compulsory schooling is control, not thinking.

Indeed, most schools are not for children at all. As philosopher Ivan Illich wrote, "School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is." And heaven help any child who rebels against this.

Parents are recruited into this effort by such things as grades, these measures that compare one child to the next. High marks, they are told, is a sign of a successful child. No one asks the child if they feel successful. No one asks the child what they think about anything because school is a kind of competitive battlefield that rewards those to conform best to the norms of society as it is. In fact, when a child happens to express a thought or idea that does not match what already exists, they are often reprimanded, even punished. Or perhaps worse, psychologized. Parents are required to care, and care deeply, about their child's academic progress. Their own pride is satisfied when their child wins and they are shamed when their child fails. 

Periodically, there is a call for a "return to basics" in education that tends to coincide with societal upheaval, something we are experiencing right now. "Society as it is," for instance, wants to strip our schools of anything that challenges the status quo, such as alternative interpretations of history or sexuality or race. This urge is usually accompanied by calls for harsher discipline, straighter lines, more rigorous testing. There is a dismissal of anything that smacks of "otherness." 

Mandatory schools have never been for children. Children do not need schools as evidenced by the 99.99 percent of human existence that did not involve schools. Society as it is needs schools and children trained as philosophers, people who seek after truth, wisdom, and beauty, are a grave danger.

There are those of us, however, who are following in the tradition of Plato. We are the ones playing with children. It can be discouraging to know that most children will leave my care to enter into our system of compulsory schooling, yet I also know that I've done everything I can to prepare them for the battle ahead. They will suffer from injustice there, they will be misunderstood, and society as it is will seek to crush the things that makes them special. I can only hope that the time they have spent with me will gird them for this. I can only hope that the light of self-direction stays with them, and that despite being victims of injustice and misunderstanding, they will know that the only thing that really matters is that they continue to seek to understand, in the spirit of philosophy, and that they do not commit injustices themselves.

That, for me, is the hallmark of a truly educated person.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

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Thursday, January 20, 2022

We Just Don't Yet Know

Richard Becker

The children we are teaching in our preschools today do not remember a time when there wasn't a pandemic. Wearing a mask to go out in public is similar to having to wear pants, an annoying, but apparently necessary convention. Keeping one's distance is as natural (or unnatural depending on the child) as not hitting or not snatching things from the hands of others. Washing hands was already something they did more frequently than most adults. And the open-closed-open-closed pattern of school is new for us adults, but that's just the way school has "always" been for these youngest citizens.

Many of us are concerned about the children's mental health through all of this, and rightly so. This generation is having a different school experience than past generations, so it stands to reason that there will likely be different outcomes, perhaps horrible ones. Indeed, these kids are having a different life experience. We all are. And it's still all too new to have the data we need to tell whether or not our worst mental health fears (or hopes) have been realized.

Experts are penning articles warning us about the mental health harm, but if you read them, you find they are mostly based on anecdotes and fear, both valid bits of data that might point us in the right direction, but hardly conclusive evidence. That said, there is little doubt that some children have been harmed. Many have lost parents, for instance. At the same time there is also little doubt that others are thriving in the current state of things. I expect that families who have managed to simply opt out by homeschooling or unschooling over the past couple years tend to have children who are weathering this, on average, better than others, but that's just a prejudice I have, a theory that may or may not wind up being supported by data. 

I also know that many adults are suffering from increased rates of anxiety and depression right now, probably at rates that exceed those of children, but again, it's just a theory.

I mean, after all, it's not as if the "before times" weren't incredibly stressful for a lot of us. We were already experiencing historic levels of mental illness in young children. So it's completely possible that not being in school is actually improving their overall mental health. I'm not saying this is true. I'm also not denying that the pandemic experience has been a tragedy for many. What I am saying is that all we can see are the tips of a few of the waves that may or may not indicate what we think they indicate.

For instance, the Journal of the American Medical Association recently published an article that found that  teen emergency room presentations for self-harm, overdose, and hospital admissions from both have decreased by nearly 20 percent during the pandemic. That doesn't prove anything, but it is clear that something has changed, in this narrow case, for the better.

And this isn't the only data to suggest that the pandemic has actually been a good thing for older children inclined toward self-harm and suicide. This study found that acute mental health ER admissions did not increase during the first 12 months of the pandemic. This one finds that the frequency with which youth were prescribed psychiatric medications has fallen since the beginning of the pandemic. The CDC reports that for the first time in history, kids died of suicide during school months at the same rate as summer months, in other words, dramatically fewer.

This, of course, doesn't tell the whole story, although suicide and self-harm rates have long been considered pretty reliable leading indicators of increased stress and declining mental health. It's possible that there are other factors at work here, but my point is that we simply cannot make a blanket statement that the pandemic and the resulting chaos in our schools is harming our children's mental health.

There is no doubt that the pandemic and our response to it has caused a great deal of pain for a lot of people, including children. Some of that was unavoidable, like with other natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, although we could have planned better. And I'm certain that we, as a society, are suffering from some self-inflicted wounds, but it is not at all certain that it has damaged an entire generation.

Indeed, a lower teen suicide rate could be telling us something, particularly about the institution of schooling. If it spikes when we return to "normal," will the same experts who are bemoaning school disruptions take note?

As an educator, I'm interested in lessons learned. The pandemic presents us with an opportunity to take a long hard look at what school really does to children, both good and bad. It makes me a little sick to think that today's children are accidental guinea pigs in this accidental experiment, but then again, that's always the plight of all of us, no matter when we were born. We are all always guinea pigs in this experiment of life. We fret and worry and hope, but we never really know the impact of anything until it's behind us. That's the nature of data: it is always a sign from the past that may or may not signal the future.

One thing I do know, however, is that this generation will be different. Every generation is. We just don't yet know what that difference is.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

"Gamification" Steals Play Away From The Experts

The internet is cluttered with articles and discussion threads about the latest and greatest ways to motivate students. This is not something play-based educators need to think about, of course, because the children we teach are, always, self-motivated.

Perhaps the trendiest of "motivators" is what folks are calling "gamification," which is essentially the idea that teachers who have boring things they must teach, which is to say, things most children have no interest in learning, are to figure out a way to make a game of it and, Ta-da! the children are tricked into learning it. What an alien concept for those of us who spend our days watching the children themselves create their own games, infusing them with the ideas and concepts they themselves want to explore.

Indeed, children have been gamifiying their learning for as long as there have been children. The hubristic notion that adults can devise better "educational" games that children is absurd, even if they are "video games." This is exactly what I'm writing about when I warn of those who try to disguise their distrust of children with phrases like "play with a purpose," attempting to steal play away from the experts, children, in order to exert their power over what, when, and how these young humans learn.

Gamification is just the latest, sweetest carrot in the control-freak game of carrot and stick. Carrots and sticks are for motivating stubborn mules to pull heavy loads. The fact that we've managed to turn learning, something that we do joyfully from the moment we are born, into a heavy load should tell us all we need to know.

Children are born to eager learn and they do that naturally, instinctively through their play. If you find you must "motivate" children to learn then you are simply doing it the hard way, the wrong way, the way that will ultimately burn them out and leave many, if not most, completely de-motivated by the time they hit middle school. "Eduction" that is not about freeing children to follow their curiosity, their interests, to ask and answer their own questions, isn't education at all, but rather (as I wrote about here) an exercise in institutional power, one designed not to educate children, but simply to make them "normal," a misguided, even cruel, attempt to fill all of their heads with the same pre-approved "knowledge."

I have been teaching young children for a long time, no two alike, each of them uniquely curious about their world, each of them motivated to satisfy that curiosity, and each of them fully capable of discovering their own truth without being tricked by a carrot or beaten by a stick.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Only Way To Learn To Make Decisions Is Practice

My dog was the first to spy the two rabbits. They were grazing on something tasty in my neighbor's lawn. They seemed at peace until we got close, then suddenly dashed into the shrubbery. The dog wanted to go after them, but I held the leash tightly and we walked on by. When I looked back over my shoulder, the rabbits were back out there on the lawn, munching away.

Most animals experience what we call fear. It's the basic instinctual emotion that tells them to either run, hide, or be prepared to fight. When the cause for fear is removed, say the predator has prowled off after less well-hidden prey, the fear goes away as well. At least that's what animal behaviorists tell us.

There is an assumption in scientific circles that when early Homo sapiens appeared some 300,000 years ago, we shared this instinctive fear response with other species, responding in more or less the same way as other animals to objects of fear. Being afraid was essential to our survival, and that ancient feeling of fear is still with us, even if we don't always respond by dashing into shrubbery, although we might feel like it.

Humans experience fear as other animals do, but over the course of our continued evolution as a species, our brains have evolved the capacity to use our conscious judgement to override the fight-or-flight instinct, replacing it with reasoning (which is not the same as saying "logic"). Some of us, for instance, have a deathly fear of dogs just as those rabbits do. When we spy them, our hearts beat harder, we might break into a sweat, our muscles tense up, but our reasoning tells us that the dog is on a leash, it isn't behaving aggressively, and so we override our urge to run away in the face of this feeling of fear.

Here's the thing: With those rabbits, the feeling of fear disappeared once the cause of their fear (my dog) was removed -- they were back on that lawn the moment the coast was clear. But for humans, the feeling of fear remains in our uniquely conscious minds long after the danger has passed. We retain a memory, not necessarily of the danger, but of the fear. It stays with us as anxiety. We stew on it. We begin to worry that there will be a dog around the next corner and the next. Our minds race through all the possible dangers: the next dog will slip its collar and it will "get" me; there will be a rabid stray around the corner; a malicious owner will actively sic their trained throat-dog on us. Our reasoning might tell us that none of these things are likely to happen, but for many of us, that does nothing to quell the unresolvable feeling of fear. 

Fear is not the only animal instinct that our conscious minds struggle with. The feeling of sadness we feel over some sort of loss is turned into depression. Feelings about mistakes are turned into guilt. Our ability to recognize patterns and predict results turns to worry. Indeed, many of the ailments and tribulations of modern life can be blamed on the fact that we've evolved conscious minds. Instead of simply responding to the dictates of our instincts in order to survive and procreate, we now must learn to use reasoning to make decisions about everything. And decision-making is stressful.

Making our own decisions is perhaps the single most important thing we must learn, because we can no longer count on our instincts. And the only way to learn this is through practice. The more experience we have with decision-making, the better we get at it. This is why we say that making mistakes, the result of poorly reasoned decisions, is so important, especially for young children. We must learn to apply past experiences to new ones by tapping into our memories. We must learn to apply our ability to anticipate the future based on our experiences. And, hardest of all for many of us, we must learn to live with our emotions on our shoulder because they alone are no longer the best guide to behavior.

There are those who say that is this, the evolution of the conscious mind, is the fall from grace found in so many creation myths.

Unfortunately, school for most children is about adults making all their decisions for them. They don't have to decide such basic things as where they will go, when they are to eat or defecate, what they are to know, and how they are to come to know it. They are taught, both explicitly and implicitly, that important decisions, those that cause the most stress, are best left up to the grown-ups. And then, after decades of having learned to depend on others for the stressful project of decision-making, we expect these children to suddenly start making their own decisions about nothing less than "the rest of their lives." 

We take consciousness so much for granted that we often don't recognize that it is the first tool that we must learn to use. A childhood full of self-directed play is how humans are meant to learn to use the magnificent blessing, and horrible curse, of consciousness. When we play in a safe enough environment, we practice applying what we already know about the world to reason and make decisions. The inevitable mistakes are how we hone this tool. Asking and answering our own questions, trail-and-error science, applying memories, and learning to recognize patterns all emerge from our play, and are essential because the more conscious we become, the less reasonable it becomes to dash into shrubbery at every fright.

Children with playful childhoods tend to grow into adults who know themselves, who are self-motivated, and who are better able to handle their inevitable bouts with anxiety, depression, and the other illnesses of a conscious mind. 

What we tend to forget is that the human mind continues to evolve. Consciousness itself is evolving, just as it has evolved over the past 300,000 years. We might dream of a return to the garden, that place where we dashed into the shrubbery when something frightened us, then returned calmly to the lawn when that frightful thing moved on. But we are now forever outcasts from the Eden of instinct, stuck instead with the stress of making our own decisions about every damned thing. 

The only way to learn to live with the irrepressible stress of decision-making is practice. 

And the best practice is play.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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Monday, January 17, 2022

"The Triple Evils"

And one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. ~MLK

What I'm saying to you this morning is that Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the Kingdom of Brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of Communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated. ~MLK

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems. And I'm going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn't popular to talk about it in some circles today. I'm not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love, I'm talking about a strong, demanding love. ~MLK

On this Martin Luther King Day many of us will listen to snippets, perhaps all, of his great "I Have A Dream" speech, and we should, but civil rights was not the only cause this great American championed, and it is not the only reason we celebrate his life today. He was also a great advocate for ending the war in Vietnam and on August 16, 1967 he gave what many consider his finest speech on poverty in America at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta.

Usually entitled "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community?" this is long, powerful, and to this day controversial speech that reminds us that almost nothing has changed when it comes to poverty. Millions of our citizens of all races remain poor, but people of color bear the greatest burden. One in five black children lives in poverty. And while the powerful in our nation are engaged in a misguided, punitive approach to reforming our educational system, they are turning a blind eye to the core issue with education in America: poverty. Let this speech be a reminder that whatever we do in the classroom, until we address the "triple evils" of racism, poverty, and war, we will, as a nation, ultimately fail.

This is a magnificent, thoughtful and inspiring speech, one that taken in its entirety is guaranteed to make you think, make you sad, and may even make you angry. MLK calls here, for instance, for a "guaranteed national income." I know that's a non-starter for many people, but so was civil rights, so were at one time most of the great things humans have ever done. One reason we celebrate this man today is that so much of what he stood for has proven to be prophetic. If nothing else, we must think about what he has to teach us.

I urge you to find an hour today to listen and think, and even to dream, because when it comes right down to it, nothing will change until we have a dream.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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Friday, January 14, 2022

Just Beyond The Limits

Yesterday morning as I sipped my morning coffee a five-year-old girl emerged from the house next-door, walking a puppy. 
My neighbor's son, his wife, and their two children have been visiting her for the past couple weeks and the kids have taken over dog-walking duties, although this is the first time I'd seen the girl walking the dog without her older brother.

You don't often see preschool aged children out and about alone, even in our quiet area, so I anticipated that I would next see the boy running to catch her up, but when, after several minutes, he didn't appear, I began to wonder if maybe the girl had slipped out without telling anyone.

It's the kind of thing a young child might do, one who feels she's being treated as a "baby," one who feels the urge to taste independence, who wants to prove her competence to herself. I've noticed that her ten-year-old brother tends to "mother" her a little, earnestly instructing and correcting her when he's the responsible one. Maybe she was attempting to escape that.

I wasn't worried because, after all, I had eyes on her, but I imagined that her parents probably would be rather frantic if they should find her missing.

A five-year-old out walking the dog alone would have only been unusual in my childhood neighborhood because back then we didn't feel the need to put our dogs on leashes. Not coincidentally, it was also a time when dogs were often, sadly, killed by cars. Our family lost two beloved pets that way. Parents would often warn us about the dangers of traffic as they shooed us out the door, even as they, perhaps contradictorily, allowed us to play in the street. They warned us about other potential dangers as well, like rattlesnakes and rabid dogs. I never came across either in my day-to-day play, but I still experience a shadow of fear about snakes and stray dogs. I don't recall being warned about strangers, maybe because we knew and trusted our neighbors, and strangers rarely turned up on our quiet suburban cul-de-sac, and also because the media hadn't yet begun to make the rare horrors seem so imminent. 

I once more live in a place where the neighbors all know one another, where rattlesnakes and rabid dogs are not an issue, and while there might be traffic, the path upon which the girl was walking the dog is one that winds through a greenbelt, not adjacent to traffic.

As the girl receded farther along the walkway, I wondered how far she would go. As a boy, we often roamed just beyond the limits that our parents had imposed. When I was this girl's age, we were expected to stay on our street, but often stepped just beyond that limit, hearts pounding. That's where the adventure was and it called us despite our parents' admonitions. For instance, there was a new house being constructed one street over. How could we resist the lure of a partially constructed house? Today, it would be called an "attractive nuisance," but as a kid, these unfenced sites were impromptu playgrounds. The best places always seemed to be just beyond the limits.

There is a point where the greenbelt walkway turns. Would the girl take the corner? If she did, she would have been out of sight. When she got to there, however, she stopped, waited for the dog to relieve itself, then started heading back. It was at this moment that her father emerged. He stepped cautiously from the door, craning to look along the walkway, peering toward his daughter. Then suddenly he hopped back out of sight, obviously not wanting her to see him.

My heart melted for him. I expect the girl had argued for the right to walk the dog "all by myself." I imagine she had negotiated this adventure, agreeing to go no farther than the corner. I also imagined how the father was feeling, fluttery, nervous, his baby out there on her own in the world. He hadn't been able to stop himself from checking on her, but he also knew not to rob her of her moment, which is why he hid before she spotted him. I imagine my own mother would watch us from the windows, feeling at times as this father did. As she said to me when our daughter was born, "You want them to be independent, then you worry when they are."

As the girl headed back toward home, she walked briskly, then broke into a full on run, the tiny dog struggling to keep up. She cut across my lawn, shortening the distance to home. Her face was flush and full of joy.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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Thursday, January 13, 2022

Playing Within The Context Of Community

Here's a simple, yet fascinating experiment you can try at home.

Ask someone to sit across from you and say words, pausing after each word to give you time to write them down. Whenever they say a plural noun (like "dogs" or "children") reply "good" or smile or repeat the word in a pleasant voice. Before long, the frequency of plural nouns will increase significantly.

There are a number of basic psychology 101 experiments like this. If half of a class is secretly asked to compliment anyone wearing blue, before long their classroom will be a sea of blue. If an entire class conspires to pay rapt attention to their professor only when they are, say, on the right side of their lectern, the professor will begin to spend all their time to the right of their lectern.

These are examples of unconscious learning or what is more often called "training." This can be used for benign purposes, like in the examples above, but it can also be used by bad actors, like con artists, to cause people into doing certain things or feeling in certain ways. 

It's tempting to view this phenomenon in a negative light, and when it is consciously employed as a training technique or as a way to manipulate others perhaps it belongs there. But the truth is that we are all, every day, in every conversation, unconsciously training and being trained by one another. Indeed, the sheer volume of what we learn from our fellow humans in this way far outstrips the relative drips and drops that we acquire through the kind of conscious learning we place front and center in our schools.

We all know that the kind of remote learning that we've been forced to pursue due to the pandemic is inferior to in-person learning and I would assert that this is largely why. It is much, much more difficult to "read" one another through a screen which means that most of the learning we do on a day-to-day basis is lost. We unconsciously miss our unconscious two-way street of connection were most of our person-to-person learning happens. This is why we get bored so easily, why we struggle to pay attention, and why we find it so exhausting.

Most of us learn best within the context of community because this is how our species has evolved to learn, which is to say it is an adaptation that has made us more fit for survival. The important feature of this phenomenon of unconscious learning is that it is a two-way street in which we are all "teaching" each other and while I've worried about the impact of remote learning on our youngest citizens over the past couple years, I'm far more worried about the one-way educational method we, as a society, have adopted toward them. The evidence seems to be that we learn best in the context of colleagues, peers and equals, yet we persist in shaping our schools as hierarchies. And it is in the nature of hierarchies to train and manipulate.

Our ability to learn from one another in this unconscious way is perhaps our greatest superpower as a species, yet we, at best, squander it in our current educational environment. Playing within the context of community, however, is how we unleash this superpower. Imagine what we could do if everyone understood this.


If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy one of my books. To find out more, Click here! 
"Ready for a book that makes you want to underline and highlight? One that makes you draw arrows and write 'THIS!!!!!' in the margin? Then you are in for a treat." ~Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., author and Early Childhood Specialist, Ooey Gooey, Inc.

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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