Harmony Newsletter
26 September 2002

Dear Parents                                                                           

Staffing

Not long after our last newsletter we had a change of staffing in the 2 year olds group. Dana, the qualified Early Childhood Educator, left to be with her partner in Kalgoorlie and so we took on two staff in a job share arrangement.  Some of you will already know Simmone from her time in our Babies group (she went on maternity leave to have her daughter Chelsey, who now joins other littlies in Harmony). Simmone works as qualified Educator Monday to Wednesday, and Renee job shares Thursday and Friday. Renee is currently in her third year of an Early Childhood degree at Edith Cowan University—relief staff will replace her while she is away for exams and prac. We are indeed very fortunate to have two such enthusiastic and knowledgeable Educators, especially at short notice, and Janet and Alisha did a stirling job in making the transition so smooth for the new staff and the children.

Important dates

The year is flying by and we want to help your end-of-year planning. Our last day this year is Friday 20th December (closing at 4.15 pm) and our first day back in the new year is Monday 6th January. Your children’s end-of-year concert and party with Santa is on Friday 13th December commencing at 2.00 pm. We will try to get in the Kindercams web camera again, so that your relatives and friends interstate or even overseas can watch your children on stage and with Santa here in Perth.

Re-enrolment forms for next year will be sent to all current Harmony families at the end of October. Families may enrol siblings, and change the days of the week and the number of days—in most cases, parents will get what they need. The forms will be treated in order of receipt and, in any case, must be returned to Harmony by the due date on the form. Any vacancies remaining after the due date will be allocated to others on our waiting list (already a significantly long waiting list). Enrolments will be confirmed in writing once the $30 annual admin fee for 2003 has been paid.

Clothing labels

Harmony recently had a fundraising drive with iron-on clothing labels, which had a very poor uptake by parents. The disappointing response was in spite of having collected a crate overflowing with unlabelled and unclaimed clothing etc. over a rather short period. It has come to a time when we cannot continue storing, and searching for, such a large amount of lost clothing (some of the lost property are expensive jumpers and shoes). In fact, staff waste a lot of time during the day looking for the owner of an unlabelled item and then perhaps again when parents are missing their child’s clothing and ask staff to find it.

To alleviate this problem, Harmony is ordering high quality iron-on clothing labels for every family (25 for $13.50, or 50 for $17.50), which includes a subsidy from Harmony. They are made locally and so orders can be filled quickly. The amount of $13.50 will be included on your next child care invoice. Please fill out the order form attached (family surname and phone number only) and return to Robin or Janet by 4th October. We are absolutely certain that you will save the cost during the next few months, when your child/ren’s clothing can be correctly returned to you. Harmony will set up a portable ironing board and iron so that, if desired, parents can iron on labels at the centre.

If you need more than 25 labels, you are able to order them on the attached order form, in which case a further amount will be included on your invoice.

In addition, after these orders have been filled, Harmony will offer, as optional, a deal for similar name labels, for sticking on drink containers, plastic backpacks, lunch boxes, etc. Parents will be given another order form for the stick-on labels.

Fundraising

We are happy to tell you that 16 families had their portraits professionally photographed at the Centre in July and proceeds of $160 went into the Harmony fundraising account.

Our current fundraising effort, which finishes on Friday, 4th October, is for Nutrimetics natural exfoliating soaps (displayed in our foyer), kindly coordinated by Belinda, mother of Hamish and Imogen. She is offering each soap at $5 each (or $20 for 5), with the profit going to Harmony. Our goal is to add to our balance for purchasing clean, impact-absorbing rubber matting under the swings (costing $3000). Thank you so much, Belinda, for your help with our worthwhile cause.

Also helping with fundraising is the valued donation from parents of James and Michael—high quality leather belts for children. These are brand new, in different color browns and greys, and are mostly 80 cms long. Great for gifts, too! We have only 12 of them at $4.00 each, so first-come, first-served.  Please see Robin or Janet as soon as possible for the best choice.

Donations

Thank you so very much to our parents for donating items that add to the experiences of all children in Harmony—Sandie’s mum (posters for painting on), parents of James and Michael (leather belts), mother of Callum and Shakira (baby photo), and Sahil’s mum (yummy Indian sweets for staff, called goolapjamun). Donations from our own staff are very much appreciated too—thank you Janet (threading beads and collage materials), Alisha (wrapping paper and art materials), Simmone and her mum (large roll of white paper for art), Yvonne (bias binding for art) and her mother (puzzles), and relief worker Eddie (mouse for children’s computer).

We have been a bit late thanking handyman father of our Kelly for supplying and installing shelving in the Babies admin area—every day we are very grateful to Ken!

Sick days

We remind parents about their responsibility and the Harmony policy regarding sick children. Children with a contagious condition, such as discharge from the eyes (conjunctivitis?), ears, or nose (thick green, yellow, or brown discharge), a rash, a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea cannot be accepted at the centre. Sick children with an infection pose a risk to others around them, and especially to young babies whose immune system is immature, pregnant mothers, and staff. Ideally, infections should be contained to as few people as possible, so that others stay well and able to continue coming to child care or going to work/study.


The 3 questions to ask, if you are not sure about taking your child to child care—

1.         Is my child okay now and should be okay for the rest of the day?

2.         Can I leave my child with someone for the day, e.g. relative, neighbor, friend?

3.         Is it contagious to other children, to staff, to pregnant mothers?

Courtesy

Could we please remind parents about the importance of phoning staff, if your child is not coming to Harmony on their usual enrolled day. The Harmony centre is fully enrolled but on some days there are up to 10 children absent. This makes it very difficult for staff to plan for sufficient quantities of materials for activities and for our cook to know how much to prepare for lunch. Please phone centre educators by 9.30 a.m. at the latest to let them know if your child is not attending.

We also remind that both the 2 year olds and Kindy/Preschool programs commence at 9.00 a.m. every day (our operating hours are 7.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.). We know that sometimes it can’t be helped, for personal reasons or a traffic hold-up for instance, but it is better for your child to arrive at least 10 minutes before 9.00 a.m. This way, children can settle in and have some free play with their friends and then can slip into the first activity of the day, without feeling “lost” about what is happening if they arrived in the middle of an activity. It also avoids disruption of other children’s focus if, for example, they are listening to a story. The Kindy/Preschool children learn so much in Harmony that prepares them for Year 1 in school (and for their whole life too) that we really don’t want them to miss any of the morning educational activities.

We really appreciate your help in these matters.

Charities

We realise times are difficult for families but all the same Harmony decided to organise collections for SIDS ($2.75 raised) and Jeans for Genes research ($116 raised from donations and badges—well done Carissa for organising that, and also the tee-shirt sales which raised even more). We warmly thank those who donated to these worthwhile children’s causes.

Child Developmental Checklists

All three qualified Early Childhood Educators, with valuable input from their Assistants, have just about completed the Developmental Checklists for all children who attend 2 and 3 days in Harmony (all full-timers received their half-yearly reports last June). These checklists let parents know what their child can achieve at a particular point and may also provide information about what parents can do at home to enhance skills. Children who attend one day and all full-timers will receive reports by mid-December.

Accreditation

As many parents know, Harmony has been awarded a 3-year Accreditation both times, with 52 highest ratings out of 52 during the first process, and 51 out of 52 during the second process. We would like to keep up the momentum so that we are not rushed at the end and so will schedule a first committee meeting on Monday evening, 4th or 11th November. We have had two wonderful parents volunteer to give their input (but one parent has since moved on). Therefore, we invite two parents to join us for about 1 ˝ hours every two months (light meal included). In past years parents have remarked that it’s a fantastic opportunity to know what goes on in a child care centre, especially with regard to the way children learn and why we do what we do in our actions and language with the children. If you would like to know more, or can join us from November on, please talk with Robin or Janet as soon as possible.

Payment by internet/direct debit

More and more parents are using this fast and convenient way to pay fees. Attached are instructions for those who are not already using the system. If you make the periodic payment from your own computer, there is no need to fill out a payment envelope—just print off a receipt and place it straight into the Payments Box when next you are in Harmony. If you have set up an automatic repetitive direct transfer, please continue to fill out details on a payment envelope so that your payment is credited to your account soon after the transfer is made. We have just set up a separate email address for payments—we’ll tell you more later.

Programming

Babies

As in all age groups in Harmony, the qualified Educator and the Assistants are continually observing the children as they play and explore. From these documented observations the Educator writes the program of activities and finalises them into written reports so that parents know what skills and behaviours their child displays at a certain age. The weekly programs are evaluated each day for what activities went well, what needs changing or extended next time, and what unusual things occurred with children’s actions and language. This way all children are stimulated to perform at the appropriate developmental level for their particular age.

Our babies have been busy as usual. Outdoors on sunny days they love things like the jumping mat, bathing and drying the dolls, and of course wet and dry sand in the sandpit. During winter rain we bring climbing frames inside, so that they can still get their muscle development and let off energy. They get lots of individual and small group attention and thrive on frequent praise.

Indoors they’ve been exploring slime and goop (colored cornflour and water) and jelly through their fingers. They also have great fun in the wading pool which we fill up with lots of different small items (e.g. small balls, small wooden blocks, a mixture of baby rattles and other plastic bits and pieces) and then the children sit amongst them, move them around, and generally get a great tactile experience. The babies are still very much into their music and dancing and creative artistic expressions with mesh dabbing, chalk, a nature collage with leaves, and lots more that you can see on their walls. Their paintings use all sorts of tools—flyswatter, fingers, twig, marbles, plastic cutters, black paper, sorting shapes, water colors, textas, etc. etc.

Their self-help skills area coming along brilliantly, especially for feeding selves correctly with a spoon, sitting or lying down to have their bottle, and even packing away by the older babies. We also encourage social courtesies such as please and thank you, taking turns, and sharing.

The babies have a huge amount of books and indoors equipment. Only a small number are available in the room at one time—the stored items are rotated for new exploration and so that the items being used can be kept clean to avoid contagious infections being passed on.

2 year olds

The children are always interested in animals, which make them an ideal approach to learning abstract concepts such as smooth/rough (skin), big/small. The 2 year olds talked about and made many different Farm Animals over two weeks (goat, horse, duck, etc.) out of various craft materials, then arranged them around Old Macdonald the Farmer and his barn on the wall. For another fortnight they learnt about reptiles (including dinosaurs, another favorite), and parents would be amazed at how much they remember. To develop muscle tone and coordination they practised jumping and throwing, and for social skills they practised turntaking with varying degrees of success!

Our Janet is certainly multi-skilled! As well as being a fantastic assistant and computer whiz, she has proved that she can step in and write a great weekly program of activities, when other staff are not available. Her choice was Zoo Animals (hippo, kangaroo, seal, camel, monkey, panda, koala, elephant, tiger) and the secondary colors, grey and brown. Thank you, Janet!

The children had fun using their Senses, especially at the touch table with its wool, rubber, bubble wrap, sandpaper, etc. The children mixed primary Colors and also increased their attention span (using props to help maintain their focus) and self-help skills (e.g. turning taps on and off, putting shoes on and off with some assistance).

For another fortnight the children learned about Friends and Feelings, using the video “Happy All the Time” and the Rainbow Fish story which teaches that we should feel good about ourselves just the way we are. The children talked about helping, caring, love, sharing, and being gentle with their friends. They also continue to improve their bead threading (eye-hand coordination), cutting (fine manipulation), and music appreciation. Two more weeks looked at Nursery Rhymes, including the traditional type (Mary Had a Little Lamb etc.) and the more modern action songs (The Wheels of the Bus etc.). The children provided some amusing images as they did actions to illustrate some of the rhymes!

The activities are too numerous to repeat here, so we highly recommend that parents regularly read the Weekly Program on the bulletin board, so that they will get an idea of the research and imagination that educators draw on to provide new knowledge and challenge for your children.

Kindy/Preschool

It is easy to see how Harmony is streets ahead of other Kindy/Preschool programs when you see how much learning your 3-5 year olds receive during a typical week. They know at least the first letter of their name (they have now learned as far as the letter “s” using the phonetic Letterland program) and have learned a lot of science (such as sinking and floating using items in the water trolley). The recent values they have discussed and practised under the Virtues Project have included Creativity, Patience, Cleanliness, Purposefulness/ Concentration, and Courtesy.

Under the Transport theme they made stop/go signs, developed aesthetic awareness through artwork made with plastic car wheels running through paint, and made boats from corks and toothpicks. The children went on to learn about Road Safety using pages from the Road Safety resource book, constructing police hats, riding bikes safely, discussing seatbelts, etc. The June excursion by mini-bus to the annual Cushion Concert at Perth’s ABC Studio was a wonderful opportunity for the children to see, hear, and even play instruments of a symphony orchestra, with the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra performing music like Rossini’s William Tell Overture, Bizet’s Les Toreadors, Bananas in Pyjamas, and We’re Going to the Zoo.

The July holiday program was a great hit, as usual. The children really liked the Totem Tennis (tennis ball on a rope tied to a pole) and some improved rapidly (great for developing eye-hand coordination). Excursions included: ten pin bowling (the children were fascinated with the balls popping up when they returned, and many had successful strikes); the bus wash at Transperth in Karrinyup (the bus was late picking up the children, so the driver took them around Doubleview and along the coast as well); and Newborough Primary School (for a picnic lunch and play on their different equipment). A mini-bus also took them to Aqwa aquarium at Hillary’s Marina, where the children saw many sea creatures for the first time (seals in a large enclosure, sharks that were being handfed by divers, and the touch pool where the children could feel the skin of the starfish, rays, fish, etc.). A reminder for the October Holiday Program—please sign up and pay prior to the day of each excursion.

Our July excursion helpers were mothers of Bryce (2 excursions), Jakob, Tegan, Tyler, Amber (2 excursions), Monique, Joshua P, and Sheryl. Fathers as helpers were dads of Luke (2 excursions) and Sean. Thank you so very much to these parents who are truly valued, because without you there would be no outings.

A real highlight was India Day which was coordinated by Sahil’s mother with the help of Sahil’s father and two other members of the family. They provided the recipes for Briony to cook for all meals, a display of Indian jewellery and artefacts, music to dance to, and many traditional costumes in both children’s and adult sizes (the photos at the front entry showed the beautiful colors and also what fun everyone had, including the grown-ups!). The activities included painting clay oil lamps, decorating the Indian flag, and having henna designs painted on the backs of hands. It was probably the most exciting culture day we’ve ever had in Harmony.

For France Day (close to the national Bastille Day holiday) some of the children helped make a patisserie/boulangerie (pastry and bread shop) out of a huge cardboard box. Their lunch and snack were genuine French, and their activities revolved around the French flag colors.

The focus on Sea Animals was popular, with the children playing with sea shells, coral, sponges and seaweed on the science table, and discussing all sorts of sea creatures. They watched a video about fishing and made a turtle, a starfish, jellyfish, and crabs out of paper plates. The children already know about the fish and hermit crabs that live in permanent aquariums in Harmony.

Under the subject of Shapes and Colors the children identified shapes in a “feely bag”, cut around drawn shapes, and made two large group collages with a mixture of shapes on each. They learned some secondary colors and constructed cardboard tube lens and “sunglasses”, using colored cellophane for both. Dinosaurs, a real crowd pleaser!, promoted learning involving listening, expressive language and social interaction, moving to dinosaur music, and sewing around dinosaur shapes. Current favorite stories are the “Hairy McLairy” series (easily found in children’s libraries).

Eighteen different children have really enjoyed computer sessions with learning games like “Mr Potato Head” over the past six weeks. Most children have good concentration and mouse control and are either quite confident or very confident.

The group does regular cooking activities (for eating at afternoon snack), including coconut cookies, Anzac biscuits, pikelets with red cherries (for SIDS Day), and chocolate crackles (for a birthday child and child who is allergic to wheat). The children love measuring and mixing and really liked watching the bubbles form in the pikelets, knowing that it was time to turn them.

Large muscle development includes climbing and jumping, and these also develop self-confidence and coordination (both of which have a significant impact on intellectual development too).  Hopping, skipping, jumping with both feet together, walking a balance beam, and throwing are all important skills that are practised in Harmony. They prepare children for sports in school and keep them active and healthy (parents may have seen the recent government promotions on TV regarding exercise to prevent childhood obesity).

French as a second language

Ginette teaches French to all the Kindy/Preschool children. Sometimes she runs a separate session (to learn a song or listen to a story) but also at any time during the day when an opportunity presents (e.g. cutting up fruit, in the sandpit, etc.). This method means that the children learn naturally and very easily, in context with what they are doing at the time.

When Carissa programs special themes for activities, Ginette follows the theme in French—e.g. transport (car, bus, bike, plane), body parts (eyes, nose, mouth, head etc.). They are learning songs including the Good Morning song (Bonjour Mes Amis), opposites (big/small), colors, counting 1 to 10, and stories such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Boucles d’Or et les Trois Ours). They are becoming comfortable with some special videos—“French Lyric Language” and “Mussy” for teaching French and the story “Peter Pan” (they especially like the little mermaid (la sirene) in that story). New courtesy words have been added to their vocabulary—merci beaucoup (thank you very much) and pas de quoi (you’re welcome!). You will be so proud of their achievements when you hear them at the end-of-year concert.

News from the kitchen

Briony has had some different challenges in the kitchen—everything red (red kidney beans in tomato sauce, red jelly) for SIDS Red Nose Day, France Day (quiche lorraine, crepes pommes, baguettes and fromage), Italy Day (pizzas and cassata ice cream), and India Day (batata shak, khir, and ritu with naan bread). New recipes have included corn and bacon fritters, spinach and ricotta pasta bake (not very keen), mixed bean stir fry with Benjamin noodles, frittata (omelette with eggplant, tomato, zucchini, cheese), cinnamon and apple flavored bread and butter pudding, creamed rice pudding with sultanas, and orange and coconut cake.

If parents have recipes for afternoon snacks (finger food served cold) or dips or sandwich fillings, that are a favorite with their child/ren, Briony would love to try them in Harmony.

Fees

Harmony always tries to contain fees to an affordable level for families (we realise too well that we are not the Peppermint Grove of Perth!). Unfortunately, however, following an unexpected across-the-board increase in all staff wages from last August, we find we are unable to continue without a slight increase in the daily rate for part-timers. These fees have not been raised for 1 ˝ years, and the amount should be offset by the increase in CCB subsidy last July, which should mean a zero increase overall. Following are the daily fees as from Monday, 14th October:

                                    Babies                          2 year olds                               Kindy/Preschool

Current rate                    $52                                 $52                                               $47

New rate                        $53                                 $53                                               $48

Kindercams

Parents of Babies and 2 year olds are able to register with Kindercams web cameras for $40 and then, with their password, can log on at work or home to watch their children playing and learning—please see Robin or Janet if interested. Unfortunately we haven’t yet been able to go ahead in the Kindy/Preschool room because the cost of a special web camera to take in all of the very large room is currently too expensive.

Requests

  1. A portable cot is very much needed for our Babies group (our wooden one is on its last legs) and we thought a family who would not need it again may donate it or offer it for purchase.
  2. Please check Lost Property box at front entry. All items left after 3rd October will be donated to the Save the Children Op Shop in Scarborough.
  3. Please leave personal videos at home because they can cause sharing problems and may even get lost. Harmony is a low-video-use centre and has enough videos to help with activities, such as Road Safety, music and movement (e.g. Hi- 5, The Wiggles), wet winter days, and classic stories (e.g. Charlotte’s Web, Peter Pan).
  4. Have a look at the flyer on the entry notice board re “Invest in Your Family’s Future” workshop on Saturday, 12th October, for just $29 a head.

            Robin Garbutt                                                   Janet Johnston