Harmony Newsletter
2nd June 2002


Dear Parents

 It’s near the end of the financial year and winter is well entrenched with some much needed rain (although we could do without the sore throats and other illnesses!). We take this opportunity to welcome all new children and also congratulate parents on the birth of new siblings to children in Harmony. There is very important information in this newsletter, so please read it straightaway.

Staffing

Our wonderful team of caring educators is working very committedy for the wellbeing and education of your children, and are to be congratulated for their planning and special effort to make sure that your precious children have the best fun while learning in Harmony. In fact one family recently put her gratitude in writing, referring to many details such as the aroma of home cooking and our funny looking chook (Ping), and also of course recognising the “feeling of harmony…incorporating safe, hygienic, fun and stimulating learning environments for both physical and psychological development”. Prior to Harmony, the mother had visited three centres in our area but they “just did not meet the standards of care I expect for my daughter”.

On this note, we refer you to yet another photo and article about Harmony, written by the editor of Perth Woman magazine, Christina Morrisy, following her interview with Robin a couple of months ago (see the four photocopied pages of the Winter 2002 edition at our front entry.

We are very happy to welcome Briony as our part-time Cook, who now is permanent in Harmony because Kathy is not returning from Broome. Briony had never cooked for large groups previously but she has proved that every day she can whip up healthy and varied dishes (and sandwiches) to satisfy picky eaters and those with food allergies. Briony has given up her afternoon job and has decided to join Brooke, Kelly, and Alisha as a Trainee and study for a Certificate III in Child Care. This means that Briony will cook in the morning and, after lunch, will work in all age groups as Relief Assistant, for Janet when she does admin work and for the other Trainees during their study time. It will be great to have the same person doing most of our casual relief work, because it is a real struggle for Harmony to find, and then keep, good staff for our Relief list (if parents know of any committed and responsible young people who may be interested in relief work, please see Robin as soon as possible).

Harmony recommends that staff take at least a one-week mid-year break/annual leave for rest and to gain strength for the onslaught of winter. Therefore, parents will notice that Dana has been replaced for 1 ½ weeks by Ben, who is a qualified and experienced Early Childhood Educator, who has worked on and off for Harmony since he left high school seven years ago, and who has just finished his thesis for B.A.(Honors). Ben also recently become engaged to be married—our warm congratulations to Ben and Nicole. Following Dana will be Yvonne, then Ginette, then Janet, then Blanche, each taking between one and two weeks annual leave—to be replaced by Ben or Georgie whom some of you have already met.

Donations

Some parents have been so helpful in thinking of Harmony when they’ve had a clean-out at home.  We really appreciate and thank the following parents for their valuable contributions— Sean’s parents for bright safety aprons (like road construction workers wear) and several CD-ROMs of learning games for the Kindy/Preschool children; parents of Dane & Brae and of Jakob for bags of high quality baby toys; Kain’s grandma for plastic items; Aaron’s dad for wood pieces for Holiday Program woodworking; mother of James and Michael and mother of Gemma and Chelsea for end of Holiday Program homemade party food (yum yum!);  Clancy’s parents (who have a farm in the wheatbelt) for a bag of wheat which Ping just loves; parents of James and Michael for the prawn net hanging in the 2 y.o.’s room; Claudia’s mum and Gayle of Ruth’s CCC for rolls of drawing paper; and our own Janet for donation of toys and handbags for imaginative dressup play.

Amazingly, we’ve run out of plastic shopping bags, so donations would be much appreciated.

Accreditation

Harmony is again preparing its paperwork and files for the valuable process of quality assurance known as Accreditation, through the independent National Childcare Accreditation Council in Sydney. Our first process through the mandatory Accreditation resulted in 52 highest ratings in all 52 principles, meaning that none of the 6,000 child care centres in Australia can score higher than Harmony, and our second process resulted in 51 highest rating out of 52. The procedure has been modified this year to consolidate the principles into a total of 35.

We would be grateful to have several parents on our Accreditation Committee which meets on Monday evening for an hour every two months (light meal included)—please see Robin or Janet if you can help. Previous committee members have remarked that it’s a fantastic opportunity to know what goes on in a child care centre, especially with regard to the expert and broad knowledge of staff and the way children learn.

Nearly every industry magazine that has been mailed to Harmony over the past four years has referred to the importance of three critical impacts on children in the first five years of life—health, nurturing, and stimulation. In fact, the scientific research showed that the quality of neural connections in the brain, and therefore learning, relate directly to the quality of those three inputs. The same research refutes the survey by a Melbourne psychologist, who was featured recently on TV. There is more about the Canadian study of 1999 and also a lot of excellent information about families and children of all ages on www.voices4children.org/earlyyears.htm

Staff Inservice Training

Bearing in mind Harmony’s commitment to high quality service to families, several staff have recently attended half-day and full-day workshops to learn more about assisting children with additional needs. These workshops have taught us practical strategies to deal with many aspects of day-to-day living, independence, and learning and will greatly enhance the children’s learning and progress through childhood developmental milestones.

Increase in CCB Subsidy and Fees

From 1st July those families eligible for Child Care Benefit (CCB) will receive an increase in benefit which will commence from week ending 7/7/02. Unfortunately some of this will be offset by an increase in fees (for full-time children only) as follows—

Full-time only

As you may be aware from recent media reports, significant increases in business operating costs have been set from 1st July, with child care centre public liability insurance premiums increasing by 30 percent, compulsory employer-contributed superannuation from 8 to 9 percent, and water by an amount yet to be announced. Therefore, we regret that we have no alternative but to raise fees, fortunately by not more than $1 per day. Part-time, i.e. the daily rates, for all groups do not increase at all and, in fact, may actually reduce for families because of the new increase in CCB.

We remind families that payments can be made by the usual cheque and cash, but also very convenient these days is Eftpos and Internet—see details for Internet Transfer attached to this newsletter. 

High Speed Kindercams Web Cameras

Two weeks ago Harmony commenced its high speed, broadband ADSL internet connection, in order to provide much faster pictures (almost “real time”) for families when they log on. Our aim is to have as many parents as possible enjoy seeing their child/ren playing and interacting during the day, by registering with Kindercams for a low $40 once-only fee. 

If you would like a demonstration of how it would look from your computer at work or home, please see Robin. Registration forms will be available for all families by next week.

Harmony’s website is also worth taking a look at on www.harmony.com.au  This site has pages of interesting information for parents and is continually updated.

Child Development Reports

Our three qualified Early Childhood Educators (Carissa, Dana, and Blanche) are currently writing up Developmental Records for all full-time children and should have them distributed by end of June. These “snapshots” are a summary of several observation sessions within a short space of time, and are important for tracking the development of children to check that they are on target for their age.  The Educators also use the information to discover the children’s interests and to schedule extra activities in the Weekly Program that would address any delays in particular skills, e.g. cutting with scissors, eye-hand coordination, taking turns, etc.

The Curtin University Research Project

A psychologist, Sharon Elsley, who is one of a team in Perth, has just concluded testing and assessments of 12 Harmony three year olds, as part of a study called The Abilities Project. The aim is to document what children aged 3 to 14 years old know, compared with children of the same age in the past. Results will be summarised and a copy of the report available for parents. Thank you very much to all parents of those 12 three year olds for their valuable contribution to an extremely important study.

Parent Staff Night and Speaker

The next get-together will be Monday, 22nd July, from 7.00 pm in Harmony—they are always a fantastic night out, for fathers too. Parents can book 10-minute appointments to talk with Early Childhood Educators about their child’s progress (full-timers are encouraged to bring along their child’s June Developmental Checklist). We will have a special speaker with a topic of great interest to parents, as well as a demonstration of the Preschool Letterland phonetic alphabet. It’s also a relaxed and fun way to meet other families in a social setting.  Please make sure you inform your child’s carers that you are attending, to assist with catering of refreshments and child care—we will provide free child care in our Babies room if at least 8 children are booked in.

Fundraising

» Harmony—Clothing Labels and $10 Family Portraits

  1. Iron-on clothing label orders are due now—an investment of a few dollars to avoid the huge pile of lost clothing at front entry. If you do not intend to order labels, would you please bring in your order forms, so that newly enrolled families can order labels.
  2. Family portraits have been extended to Saturday, 6th July—this is the last chance for a great bargain and gift that will last forever. Invite friends, neighbours, and relatives too.

  Please see Janet straightaway for both order forms.

» SIDS

Harmony staff will be programming Everything Red for SIDS Day on Friday, 28th June, e.g. red pikelets, red kidney bean lasagne, red jelly, red clothing, red paintings, red collages etc. If you would like to support this very worthwhile research into infant deaths, please put a donation into the moneybox at the front entry during the last week of June.

» Genes Research

Carissa is kindly coordinating fundraising efforts for Jeans for Genes Day on Friday, 2nd August. We will have the moneybox for donations, and order forms for good quality t-shirts at $12 each, both at the front entry during July. Staff will be permitted to wear jeans on that day, if they make a donation.

» Animals

Our beautiful animals have had a rough time lately, and we are very sorry to say that we have lost three of them recently—our black Chinese chook, Chong, and our little rabbits, Ziggy Baby and Stardust. To keep them safer we plan to build a better pen, and we will think about replacing them at that time.

» CCB Lump Sum Claims

All parents (no matter what their income) who did not receive any CCB subsidy during any part of the 2000/01 financial year (i.e.1/7/00 to 30/6/01) may be eligible for a lump sum payment. Because CCB eligibility and family income tax returns are now linked by the commonwealth government, any shortfall of CCB paid to families can be paid in a lump sum—but families have only until Friday, 28th June, 2002 to claim it through lodgement at any Centrelink, Medicare, or ATO office. Phone Family Assistance Office on 13 61 50 if you have any queries.

Programming

» Babies (news from Blanche, Brooke, & Kelly)

The babies’ main focus since Easter has been art and creative experiences. We have been creating unusual art using different tools, such as playdough cutters rolled in paint, and sponges with handles. Parents can see our wall display for our Old MacDonald’s Farm theme, with a peacock that has fingerpainted hands for its feathers—we think it’s a really unusual aesthetic mural. You will also notice our painted tree, which will become covered with different fruits and will give babies an understanding of what grows on trees and plants.

Our singing has focussed mainly on the body—“Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes”, “Hokey Pokey”, If you’re happy and you know it”, “Open, Shut Them”. We’ve been into a lot of messy goop and slime play lately, including wet & dry sand, slimey spaghetti, playdough, handpainting, to encourage sensori-motor development through exploration and discovery of what’s possible with the material.

As parents can see, our room is constantly changing. This allows the children to experience a wide variety of learning centres, such as home corner, book corner, manipulation/eye-hand coordination area, and art table. Over the coming winter months we will be doing a lot of outdoors type activities (obstacle course, sandplay in our water trolley, bathing dolls, etc.) but inside where it is warmer. We want to make sure all areas of development are covered by activities in the written Weekly Program.

» 2 year olds (news from Dana, Janet, & Alisha)

The two year olds have been exploring themes for several weeks at a time, including Environment, Insects, and Food.  One of their favorite activities was their clay modelling and handprints (fine motor skills) for Mother’s Day. Our Magic Bag created a lot of interest—we asked the children to identify different fruits and vegetables by feeling them in the bag (intellectual skill). Two favorite group activities are playdough (social interactions) and stories which are read by carers and then recalled and discussed by the children (intellectual and language skills).

Every day the children are being encouraged to develop self-help skills for toileting and handwashing. During group activities they’ve enjoyed games like musical chairs, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, ten pin bowling, and bean bag throwing (social interactions and gross motor/large muscle skills). Their arts and crafts have ranged from food prints, chalk gratings, finger and brush painting, egg carton spiders and caterpillars, dyed “honey ants”, collage, to sand and glue prints (fine motor/small muscle manipulation). 

» Kindergarten/Preschool (news from Carissa, Yvonne, & Ginette)

Our many recent themes have included Zoo Animals, Pets, Music, and My Body, which involved all sorts of creative, transition, problem solving, and group activities. We measured each other’s height, looked at eye and hair color, and discussed how we are different and yet similar, thereby promoting acceptance and tolerance. We touched on a music theme, when the children thoroughly enjoyed using the two electronic keyboards, as well as many other instruments. In our  Letterland alphabet we are now up to the letter “j”, so parents should be hearing at home all sorts of cute songs to help the children understand how words are made, and also what sound their name starts with.

In our Virtues Project we have been focusing on Cooperation (including taking turns) and Self-Esteem (which lead to the creation of our Language Box). The children take turns in taking the box home and bringing back an object from home as a topic for conversation.  This has been not only very interesting (even for adult Educators!) but has been really positive in improving the children’s self-confidence, language, voice control, self-worth etc. The children also sang and talked in front of their peers using a microphone, followed by much clapping and cheering. Every child’s confidence was amazing—we may have discovered some budding young stars!

As you would know by now, we have the Cushion Concert planned for Tuesday, 25th June, for children attending on Tuesdays. This is the second time Harmony has participated in this fabulous concert. It is performed by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO), which incorporates both popular children’s songs like Bananas in Pyjamas and classical music like Flight of the Bumble Bee. Please see staff asap if Tuesday children are interested in going.

The Holiday Program is coming up (8th –19th July) and we will be having many exciting and fun-filled activities and excursions, such as ten pin bowling. Please remember to get your signed permission and money in as soon as you have read the Program, which should be printed next week. We desperately need helpers, so please see Carissa if you can assist in making sure that the excursions go ahead.

All Harmony children were delighted recently when Robin spotted mounted police passing by the centre. Of course we all rushed outside, and the friendly police officers allowed children to pat the two beautiful horses and ask many questions. We were informed that the horses are ex-racehorses and their names (from their previous career) are Fairly Ugly and Don’t Shoot!

Please remember that you are always invited to talk with any of the Kindy/Preschool staff if you have queries about what’s happening in Harmony or are concerned about your child.

French as a Second Language (news from Ginette)

Bonjour to everyone! Your children continue to progress very well and are now learning about Animals—le chat (cat), le chien (dog), l’élephant (elephant), la poule (chicken). They’ve also added some simple sentences to their vocabulary—Tu veux…? (Do you want…), Peux-tu me pousser? (Can you push me [on the swing]), Lave tes mains (Wash your hands). The children are doing absolutely fine and I am very happy with their enthusiasm and learning. I use French words with them in our day-to-day conversations, and they do not have any difficulties pronouncing the words they have learned so far. Have any concerns? Come and chat with me.

Au revoir--Ginette

Emergency Evacuation Drill

Parents will be reassured to know that on 22nd May we had one of our regular emergency drills, and every child and adult (including some visitors) got out of the building to their designated Safe Site in one and a half minutes. We also gathered up the Sign In/Out Files (which is why it is so very important for you to sign in and out every day, so that we know what children to look for), Emergency Bags (containing nappies, water and cups, biscuits, toys and games, spare clothing), computer back-up disk, mobile phone, and photo albums.

Book Clubs

Every week there are all sorts of books and other items, for sale at bargain prices, displayed on top of the Kindy/Preschoolers backpack cubicles—please pay cash to Yvonne prior to delivery.

Lost Property

Please look in the crate at the front entry for lost items, which include expensive jumpers and even shoes.  Clothing left after 27th June will be donated to the Save the Children Op Shop in Scarborough. Remember that labelling your child’s belongings will ensure that they are returned to you—see our iron-on labels fundraising effort earlier in this newsletter. 

At Your Service

Just to reiterate that all staff, including our Cook and Management, are here in Harmony for you. We dedicate our whole day to caring for and educating your children and supporting families in many diverse ways. All you need to do is ask any of us, and we will try very willingly to deliver.

Robin Garbutt                                Janet Johnston

 Never look down on anybody unless you are helping them up.
The higher one climbs the tree, the further one is from the grass roots