Busy Toddler’s Susie Allison on what Kindergarten readiness really looks like

#real life #teachers voyv Jun 15, 2023

00:00:01    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. And today we're gonna dive into what kindergarten readiness really looks like. I got to hang out with the dreamboat Susie Allison from Busy Toddler. I could have hung out with Susie forever. We speak the same language. Also. She's hilarious. If you're not following Busy Toddler already, it's an incredible follow over on on Instagram. She's an incredible follow. Sorry, Susie, for calling you it. And I loved this conversation so much because we got to talk about the history of kindergarten and how we even got where we are and what it looked like to move forward and what really matters when we're looking at child development and short and long term outcomes. We got to break down some data and science and talk about what it does look like to be ready for kindergarten and how you can be supporting your tiny humans in getting there. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts and feedback. Will you take a screenshot of you tuning in and tag Susie and I, she's @Busy Toddler, and I'm @SeedandSew over on Instagram. And let me know your favorite takeaways or something that you're curious about or want to learn more about. I would love to continue this conversation with you over in my DMs. 


00:01:41    Alyssa

I wanted to let you know that we have a special preorder bonus happening right now for the book. So if you snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, my book that's publishing with Harper Collins in October. If you go snag it right now at seedandsew.org/book, then come right back there after you purchase it and give me your name and email and your order number, and I will send you a guide to surviving summer. What does it really look like to navigate the schedule changes, the transitions, the sun changes, the back to school stuff as it comes up. We are here to help you navigate this season, and I have a complete guide for you. Head over to seedandsew.org/book to purchase Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, and then let me know so I can send you that bonus. All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:01:54    Alyssa

Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together.  


00:02:18    Alyssa

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today I get to hang out with Susie Allison. She's a former teacher with a Master's in Early Childhood Education and a mom to three kids. Her mission is to bring hands on play and learning back to childhood, support others in their parenting journey, and help everyone make it to nap time. Susie runs @busytoddler over on Instagram. One of my favorite follows. Susie, how are you doing today? 


00:02:44    Susie

I'm doing great. It's a little early, but I'm here. 


00:02:47    Alyssa

You're here, you're here. Living that East Coast time life. Oh, my gosh. Well, I'm super stoked because I just was chatting with one of our Seed Cert directors, and last year I did a workshop for them for kindergarten for the parents of kids who were going into kindergarten, who were leaving their preschool program and really on this kindergarten readiness topic. And this year they were like, can we actually chat about preschool readiness this summer? And I had the same reaction. I was like ugh and then they were like, oh, no. We want to talk about what actually does that mean? We don't care if they know their numbers or their letters. And I was like, oh, okay, yeah, we can do this. 


00:03:29    Alyssa

Okay, now I'm into it. 


00:03:30    Alyssa

Correct. But I'm so jazzed at this conversation because we were just I feel like diving into it as a team. What do you think most people think kindergarten readiness is? 


00:03:41    Susie

I think most people think kindergarten readiness is like this very basic checklist of really what I call low level academics, which are usually memorized. Do they know their colors? Do they know their shapes? Do they know numbers? How high can they count? Can they write their name? Really basic things like that. And as you know, preaching to the choir. It so misses the mark on what kindergarten readiness actually could look like. And so I'm beyond excited to have this conversation with you. Why do you think we have that? Where do you think it came from, that little checklist? I think it's a product of the changing standards in kindergarten. Over the last decade, we saw a massive shift in kindergarten, and this started around the 2012 with common core state standards came in, and that was a top down model of creation, where they basically the committee that created those looked at high school and said, well, what do we need for a child to be college ready? And in building college ready, they started creating a list of academic skills that children would need. And by the time they got down to the kindergarten area, they had left this really big gap of what a child would have to have made up in those kind of age, four to six years. And because there was no one on that committee that had ever taught early childhood education, there was no expert on that committee to say, no, these were put in place, and they were bought off on. They were not designed by a teaching committee. And I always want to say that these were not made by teachers, and they were put into place, and it created this huge gap that kids needed to have made up in order for the path to senior year of high school work. And so we put this idea of being college ready essentially onto the backs of five year olds, and said, well, you need to step up, quote unquote, in order for this to work for the entirety of your educational career. And it created this feeling, I think, within parents and within early childhood education, that we were powerless and we didn't have a choice, and we really had to just step up. And if these experts had said that my child must be reading at this age, then I guess they're right. Well, the problem is they weren't right. And we know that through research and science and just teaching kids to read, we know these kinds of things. But it did. It created this really mountain of problems that we've been scraping our way under for a decade now, trying to rewrite what early childhood education should look like and what should kindergarten education look like. And we can see in some districts, in some states, the tides are swinging back to kind of a more play based model, and then in other areas, we're doubling down. So I think what's important for parents is to really understand that this bill of goods that you may have been sold on, it wasn't actually the best bill. It wasn't. And let's talk about what kindergarten readiness could look like and let's move away from kind of this cognitive academic focus into a more balanced approach where we add back in those foundational and those social emotional learning skills. And again, I know I'm preaching to the choir here. 


00:06:54    Alyssa

Well, I think academics, they're measurable, right? It's like when you go to the pediatrician when you have a newborn, they're like obsessed with the weight or whatever. It feels like something you can measure when so much about being a human isn't measurable. 


00:07:09    Susie

Yeah, we love quantifiable data. We love it. 


00:07:13    Alyssa

Correct. When I look at this, I'm like, oh, it makes sense that they were like, what can we measure? Oh, you know, your letters, great. Like, check. And I'm curious, curious, is that really the word? Judgmental of what we've seen, if we do look at now, like, folks who are really into data, if we're looking at this data from when we saw this shift with the Common Core, and if we do want to measure out, we call these mini stones to milestones in the book of. Like, if the milestone is they leave high school with x skill and we're doing the mini stones right. You're working backward to like, all right, what do they need at each grade level, et cetera. What are the mini stones that lead to that milestone? Are we doing that? Are these mini stones actually reaching those milestones? I would love to see that data because I'm going to wager a guess that, no, we're not seeing that. 


00:08:15    Susie

If we just look at one specific piece of data, and that's the nation's report card, and that's put out by the government. It's the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the NAEP, and they track data on kids in fourth grade. Let's specifically look at that because that's really the closest age range we have to these kindergartners. And since the Common Core standards were put into place around the 2012 era, we haven't seen a change. And in fact, in many cases, we've seen data that is showing that trends in reading and math are going down, not up. It depends on the category and the kids you're looking at. But overall, this has not been a slam dunk. It has not been the success that Common Core thought it was going to be. And so this idea of these huge academics in kindergarten to front load a child and then that would in some way make the child smart forever. If you just hyper pushed in academics when they're four, five, and six, but then that will make the child smarter when they're 9, 10 and then 15, 16, that data isn't there. And the data we're looking at, this is pre pandemic, too. So you can't argue, well, we had this major disruption in education. Yes, we had a major disruption in education, but we're talking about the decade before the pandemic. And if we just even look at that area, we did not see increases. We did not see test scores rise. In many cases. We saw them completely stagnant or fall for really one of the first times in our education history as we've been tracking this kind of data. So, again, not to overuse the word data, but it's there to say that this didn't necessarily work in the way that it certainly was built or that we were sold, that it was going to work, and that it was going to raise student achievement. If we front load kindergartners with all this, it didn't. So I think we have to start looking at a different way and a different approach to how we're teaching children in early childhood. And I don't have an answer for parents. Parents come to me and say, well, what is the answer? What do I what do I do? And, you know, we get involved. We we listen to our school district. We we start asking questions, and it also starts at home in us giving children and maybe a different set of skills than we've been told. We've been told, well, they need to be flashcarded on their alphabet, or they need to be flashcarded on their math skills. They need to come in knowing how to add and subtract it's like, well, maybe instead they can learn that kind of stuff through play, and maybe instead we could work on how to solve peer problems or how to speak to an adult and things like that. That these really foundational skills. 


00:10:51    Alyssa

Yeah, the social emotional skills. Two things came up. One, I just got a DM the other day from she's a literacy specialist in a school district, and she was like, I recently started following and essentially just kind of abandoned what I'd been taught and started just focusing on, how do I help this kid feel safe and calm? And she was like, we've made such huge traction. And I was like, yeah, we can't learn things when we're in a dysregulated state. And so much of what's happening throughout the day in a school system is there's a lot of stimulation, there's a lot of dysregulation, and then we're like, Anne, learn these things. And it's just like, from a brain science perspective, it's like, that doesn't make sense. I also think it's really hard. I'm on a few state committees here in Vermont looking at statewide systems, and one of the things that I've continued to observe is that it's really hard to say, man. We invested a lot of money and time into something, and we're going to admit it's not working out the way that we thought it would, and we're going to try something different. In fact, what I often see is, like, maybe if we had more money invested into this program that isn't working, if we look at where this program is and what's happening now, the data isn't great, and they're like, let's double down. It's easier to do that and say, face it's emotionally easier than it is to say, man, we made a bad investment. That wasn't the right program. And I'm nervous that just from what I've seen from behind the scenes of like, oh, yeah, we have this model, or we have this framework, we have this whatever that we've invested in. And I am constantly at the meeting saying, do we have data on what's happening now with the schools that have access to that? And they're like, oh, we're gathering. It's been 20 years of that program. What do you mean we're gathering it now? Like, what in what world are we not just going to talk about what are the outcomes? Yeah, I'm afraid that it's going to be a real long road to people just saying, like, you know what? We made a mistake. 


00:13:03    Susie

We made a mistake. And I think the thing that I keep saying, back in 2012, when Common Core this started in the 80s, it did it started with the Reagan administration pushed through A Nation at Risk. That was this first report that kind of came out that said that essentially vilified education and said that, well, all the problems with the economy come back to the way kids are being taught and things like that. And the data on that wasn't great, and it turned out to not be maybe the best interpretation of of data. But but the ball had been rolling, and then it rolled right through to no Child Left Behind back in 2000 with the Bush administration, and it rolled to Race to the Top with the Obama administration. And then eventually we get to this point where we're at the we have a business person come in and say, I have this idea for Common Core, and it gets funded largely by the Gates Foundation, and it gets pushed into public education. So it is amazing, the money and the double down and the fact that this has been an issue for almost 40 years, and we're only now at this point where we're saying parents like us and educators are saying, wait, listen to us. We have some thoughts. I'm not in the classroom anymore, but teachers are in the classroom saying, we know how to teach a child to read. We know how to help support a child, to help them be successful, and we need to help them feel safe and help them be attached and help them have communication skills and all these other things. And it's not just a test score, it's a person's life. It's not just data. There's just so much more that we need to be looking at. And again, this has been an issue for a long time. And like you, I'm worried because we have a history as I just laid out of instead of reversing course, of just pulling a double down. And that's a hard place to be looking at. And it is. And that's why I think it's so important if parents can start to understand that there may be a different way to look at education and there may be a different way to look at how your child is growing and developing in these early years than just looking at this very memorized checklist and to say that, okay, well, once they learn how to identify a shape, then they're good. They're ready to go. Send them or they've done it, that they've crossed the finish line. And to look at this just a lot in a much more different frame. 


00:15:44    Alyssa

Well, the reality is, if we're talking about content, you can forever learn content. I don't care if a kid knows the life cycle of a butterfly. I don't care if they ever know it right, like, ever in their whole life. If that's never something they're exposed to, I really don't care. What I do care is like, do they know what it feels like to have a feeling? Do they have tools to say, hey, I need help. Those are things that they're going to need for the rest of their life. And I think one of the things that's lost in the content conversation is that if we build those tools, if a kid has tools to feel safe in their environment, if they have a strong attachment within this space, if they feel supported, if they feel valued, if they feel loved and worthy and they have tools, then they can build these tools for peer interaction. They can build tools for memorization. They can learn all the content in the world when they're able to navigate from a place of regulation which starts with that safety. What do you think that parents should be asking as they're approaching kindergarten? Whether they're asking the school, the teacher, or even like themselves? 


00:17:01    Susie

I would start with yourself and just ask, who is this child and what has this child learned? I think a lot of times we get stuck on what our neighbor's child has done or what our sister's child has done, and we forget that all kids are on different paths. I think we do a really amazing job when kids are babies, especially, and toddlers of saying, oh, kids grow different. They're all in a different trajectory. Yeah, your kid rolled over at this time, mine rolled over at this time, and they walked at this time. But then once they hit kindergarten, then we suddenly decide, oh no, they need to be doing everything at the exact same time and on the exact same schedule and forget everything that you learned from birth to age five about how children develop on different paths. Throw it out the window, because now they all need to be onto this very rigid schedule. And that's where I would really start, is just by looking at your child and looking at the progress day by day with that child and think back six months ago on how that child was doing. Look at their drawings from six months ago. You're looking for progress. You're looking for are they making progress on their path? And I think that's something to always be considering with small children is to look at that individual child because again, they are not going to be developing the same way that the person at church is or the kid on the softball team is. They are on their own path. And so I do think that this starts a lot at home with parents releasing the competition idea and releasing and going back to what we were so good at when kids were really little of saying that I honor your path and I'm excited to be on this journey with you. And of course, I'm looking to make sure that you're hitting milestones and you're making progress in these areas. But again, I'm going to look at you as yourself and not as how do you fit into this bigger system and are you checking boxes at the exact same time that the person next to you is? Because that's never going to be the case. They're always going to be on a different path than the other kids. And I think from especially like a preschool standpoint, because largely preschool is something that parents are having a choice in, and we're able to ask questions when we go in to decide if it's the preschool program or a daycare program for our kids. Ask what are their policies on play? How are the children learning? What's the main vehicle? If they're talking about things like, oh, they sit at desks and they do this kind of workbook, I would ask them questions about that. How are we supporting their emotional development, how are we supporting their play development, how are we supporting their feelings as a whole child rather than just the academic child? I think those are some really great questions to be looking at when you go into a school. Oftentimes we hear when people go into a daycare in a preschool, it comes back as well, the curriculum was really great, and they have the kids doing such and such kind of work, and it's like, well, yes, okay, but do the kids feel safe? Do they feel loved? Are they able to explore with their whole body? Is it a child led program or is it a teacher parent led program? I think those are some really great things. I know that was kind of a long answer, but I think and two very different two very different ideas. But I think it is a matter of reframing how we're, the parents looking at early childhood education and the way that we're looking at daycare and preschool programs, if we are able to have that kind of a choice. And to think critically about our kids and look at them again as we've been looking at them for the last five years, as their own person and to keep that focus as they head into the school years. 


00:20:41    Alyssa

I love it, and I don't think we know the value of our voice that if we say, here's what's important to me. What are your goals? And as kindergarten teachers, as early childhood educators, to say, you know what? Here's what's important to me, you're right. So much of what happens in education isn't done by teachers, for teachers. And it was one of the things that led to the Seed Certification. I was actually at one point, I was sitting in a workshop on self care for early childhood educators, and about five minutes into the workshop, I was like, oh, this person's never been in a classroom. Like, if that sounds great, if I have a spare 20 minutes or somebody to tap out to or whatever. And those are things you never have. And I just kept having these experiences over and over, and I was like, oh, they're talking about us, but they're not listening to us. 


00:21:31    Susie



00:21:31    Alyssa

And I created what I needed as a teacher. And I think that when we're looking at our power as parents or our power as teachers, it's way more than we assume that it is. Like, I going into kindergarten, will say, what are your goals for my kid this year? And we'll lay out, here are mine. We might have different goals. What the school wants from him and what I want for him might be different, and then it might be an acceptance for me of like, what am I willing to say? Then he doesn't have to be a star student in these things, because I don't actually care if he knows X, Y, and Z and can memorize and repeat on command. And I do care about these other things. And is this something that you value, too? And even just I think starting to have those conversations even if you don't have school choice, even if you can't change the system, but just starting to have those conversations and for teachers to hear this for teachers to have this conversation with administration of, like, here's what we value, here's what we think is important, and here are the parts that I think aren't as important, but that we're expected to do. Right now, we're at a teacher shortage. You have so much power in saying, here's what I value, and I think we can use that voice pretty loudly. 


00:22:59    Susie

Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And I think often with parents, we forget how much the teachers want to hear from us. And we get kind of almost like this stigma of like, well, I don't want to be that parent, and I don't want to bug them and they're overloaded right now, and I don't want to be yet another thing on the plate. There is nothing I love more as a teacher than information from parents. I loved that. I loved getting an email at the beginning of the year explaining who this child was or a phone call or at the school that I taught at. We tried to do meetings with families before the school year started at, like, a ten minute meeting so that we could just get on the same page and hear about this child from a point of view, not as an academic person and as the person walking into the classroom, but as the child inside the family and to learn more about the family unit and things like that. And so I think as parents, we're often really afraid to start those conversations just because we don't want to get labeled and we don't want to be like a burden. But when you're giving your child up to a teacher, that teacher is going to wholly love that child also along with you, and you're going to form a partnership with that teacher. And so form it. Give them information, set them up for success. If you know something doesn't work for your child, let them know, hey, my child is not motivated by XYZ, or hey, we found out that when they're kind of backed into a corner, this is how they react. Tell me that, because I'm about to find out. I would much rather know what's been working or what hasn't been working for years with your family. And I want to know what you value. I want to know what your home structure is like. I want to know what they're coming back to each day. I want to know what you're struggling with or what successes you're having with them. Because this is now a partnership and it's now a team. And being on the same team with a teacher. It can be as small as just sending an email and introducing yourself, introducing your child and giving some information about what makes that child tick or what goals like you said, what goals you have for that child and what goals you have as a family and maybe how you learned as a child if there's a spouse, how the spouse or partner learned, if there's another parent, how other children were learning, things like that. The more information that you can give, you're not being a burden, you're helping, you're giving us. We have, in some cases 20 to 25, depending on the classroom in the state, kids that we're trying to learn about. And the more information you can give me, it's like having Cliffs Notes on this kid. And that is so cool. You feel like you hit the ground running as a teacher instead of starting from day one and being like, what do I need to figure out about you? If you can front load information and be in contact with that teacher, let them know things that are working and not working, things you're seeing at home, all sorts of different pieces of information. You're not being a burden. What you're doing is you're helping your child, you're helping us. And this will be an even better environment the more information that we can have. 


00:26:05    Alyssa

Yes. 7000 times yes. You are the expert on your child. They might be the expert in child development or education. You're the expert on your child. And just like, if a teacher found something that was working really well for a kid, if they were like, I'm just not going to share that. No, I want to know that right? If you found something that's really helpful for them in different scenarios, please let me know. As the parent, you're absolutely right. Teachers are a part of our village, and I think when we can collaborate and see that, we really want the same thing and we love this tiny human, it's huge. And I think that there's a lot of shame, embarrassment, fear that can come up for us as parents of like, if I say this is really hard, or I'm having I had a parent at one point, I was teaching toddlers. They were one turning two with me, and she was like, you're always so, like, come and chill, and there's nine toddlers. And I was like, oh, because you're seeing me for five minutes at drop off, come on in at 1030 when we're trying to get outside with nine toddlers in all their snow gear and whatever, it's way less calm and chill. You're seeing me at the beginning of the day. I just have a meal. I've got fresh coffee in my body. This is not the whole picture. And she was like, oh, it's so nice to know that you lose your cool sometimes, too. I was like, oh, yeah, you're not the only one that's like, sometimes they're annoying, right? That's real. Sometimes that's true. And it's okay to think that and feel that and whatever. And the teachers think that. Parents think that we're all humans doing this, but I think that fear of, like, they're going to find out that I don't love every part of this all the time and it doesn't feel easy all the time is also real. 


00:27:57    Susie

When I first started doing these kind of not interviews, but just meetings with parents before the school year started, and it was new to me, I'd come from other schools that didn't prioritize time that way. This school incredibly prioritized, like redid professional development, the professional development week that teachers have. Before the school year started, they had completely reallocated time. And it was incredible just to prioritize this idea of. Having parents have a chance to come in or call on the phone, and you have this time to talk about your kid. And I remember asking one of the seasoned teachers, and I said, bring me up to speed, like, what's the point of this? And she said, Sometimes parents just want a chance to say things about their kid and talk about their kid before you come back and say your child struggles to listen. They want to be able to say, hey, my child really struggles with falling directions. They want to say that first. They want to have this chance to have their voice heard first. And I remember sitting there in my first meeting, and it was it was parents just wanted to talk about their kid and just have this chance to really give you this list of things about their kid that they're trying and they're struggling with and they're having successes with. I don't think ever in any of those conversations I'm trying to think back, did a parent come in and really talk about academics. They really came in and said things like, last year it was hard for them to make friends, and that's what our goal is for this year. And so anything you can do to help with them making friends would be awesome. And then that it was just amazing to give parents this voice and this opportunity. And so if your school doesn't do something like that in most schools, I think don't, because it's just the way that time is structured. Do that for yourself. Send that email for yourself. Start a meeting, get in there, especially if you have concerns about your child. And if those concerns aren't something that is like a diagnosis or on an IEP or that are written down, but you've seen them and you have this concern. I heard from so many principals and school counselors in the last few weeks on my Instagram talking about, please come to us and let us know. Even if there isn't a diagnosis, even if there isn't a written record right now about these concerns that you're having with your child or that you're seeing, let us know because we want to start that. We want to also, for placement reasons, we want to place them with the best teacher possible to support that child's development. So, again, it's just this understanding that there really is this relationship that wants to be formed often 


00:30:24    Susie 

with the school. And it's a matter of us as parents being willing to speak up and to come to the school and to say, I want to talk about my child. And then at the same time, teachers, principals, counselors wanting that information, you are not burdening them. I can't say, that enough. You're not burdening them by talking about your child. We want to have that conversation. 


00:30:47    Alyssa

Have you been scrolling the Internet? And there's all these tools for calming your child and how to regulate and whatever, and you try them and your child just gets amped up or that doesn't work. Or you find yourself in these cycles where it's like epic meltdown. Try to come back from it and you just feel like you're putting out fires all day long. If this is you, you aren't alone. And we collaborated with an Occupational Therapist to create our Sensory Profile quiz. This is going to help you learn about what helps your child regulate what's happening in their unique nervous system. We are all different and figuring out what you're sensitive to or what helps you regulate is the key for actually doing this work, for getting to a regulated state, for having tools, for calming down, for having tools for regulation. Head on over to www.seedquiz.com to take the quiz for free. You can take it as many times as you like for as many humans as you'd like, and we will deliver results right to your inbox to get you kick started on this journey. Seedquiz.com. 


00:32:06    Alyssa

What would your dream look like that folks would focus on before their kids go to school? Maybe top three skills you encourage parents to focus on. 


00:32:16    Susie 

Gosh. Really? Top three? You're going to do this to me? 


00:32:18    Alyssa

Sorry, Susie. 


00:32:20    Susie 

Well no I think the important thing is first to understand that there's kind of two different I lump kindergarten readiness into two different categories. There's this cognitive academic that we've really pushed kids into and then there's foundational. And because people have so far doubled down on that academic side, I really want to almost triple down on the foundational side. And I often think of kindergarten readiness as we're building that house. We're building a house and we have to have a solid foundation before we can put up academic walls. If you put up academic walls on a house built out of sand, then there's nothing on the foundation to hold that up. Then it will crumble eventually. The child can only do so much. They need these foundational skills. So I think for me, one of the best things that we can do for kids is to teach them how to talk to adults. I think that that's something that's going to come up a lot in schooling and to be independent. And so as you take your children out into the world, as you take them, this is so simple. But as you take them to places like Starbucks and Target and the playground and things like that, the more that you can ask them to be the one to ask an adult, you can go up and ask the barista for water, that would be great. And to help them to understand how to speak to an adult, because that's going to come up so much in school with them speaking to an adult that they may not have a relationship with. And it sounds so simple. But again, we're just trying to make this transition into independent life as easy as possible. It's very hard to learn academic skills in school when you're struggling to get your needs met by an adult, when you're struggling to talk to an adult. If you have a question about your math paper but you don't know how to engage with an adult to talk to them, then that's going to be really hard for you to get your help with math. So that translates as simple, as silly as it sounds, to going up to the target worker and saying, excuse me, can you help me find the Legos? And again, that sounds so simple, but it really is just this really big skill. And it goes also with asking questions to gain information that I always would tell my students and I tell my children, smart people ask questions. They've gotten that information because they were willing to ask a question. And if we just sit there, we're not going to get the information we need. So this all goes with being able to ask questions and being able to ask questions to adults. I think that learning how to self entertain is honestly one of the most important skills that we can give kids before they go to school. And as you know, that's learned through play. I always say that school, I loved teaching, but school isn't really the most exciting place all the time. It gets boring. And kids need this ability to self entertain and they need to be the ability to keep themselves occupied when things get slow. We often translate that into saying, like, well, they're bored in school. They're not challenged or they're this, they're that. But everybody gets bored in school. It's much more exciting to be out at recess. It's much more exciting to be on the playground and then to be in reading class or to be an advanced trig. When you're in high school, no matter who you are, life gets boring. But learning how to keep your brain going and keep yourself stimulated and keep yourself engaged in the action, that's really important. And kids learn that by being able to initiate and start play on their own. That's where that happens. It happens through their ability to play. And so if you can give your child throughout the day, structured times where they're able to play on their own, again, we get to have the benefit of like, oh, I get to do the dishes because they're off playing. But what you're also doing as far as school readiness goes, is you're giving that child an opportunity to learn how to keep their mind going when life slows down. And that's a huge part of school, is being able to find learning in all sorts of different spots. It's unbelievably crucial. And then the last one, I would say...


00:36:38    Alyssa

Can I pause you real quick? 


00:36:41    Susie 

Oh pause, because I'm long winded.


00:36:41    Alyssa

No, I love it, love it. Well, when you were talking about that one in the last decade ish we've added a fifth component to emotional intelligence prior to this for self awareness, self reg, social skills and empathy. And the fifth most recent is intrinsic motivation, intrinsic versus extrinsic. And that's what you're speaking to there. It's not just what do I do when I'm bored and how do I keep that mind busy? But it's fostering intrinsic motivation. I don't need that extrinsic reward to keep going because eventually the extrinsic reward runs out and then you need another one and another one to keep going, to keep learning, to be curious. And when we have access to independent play and I love that you brought up the dishes example because I think it's an easy way to say when they're really young like oh, I'm going to do the dishes and it gives you a set thing. They know what you're doing. It's not like I'm just going to ignore you for fun right now so that you can build in motivation. I'm going to do this task and also then that means I'm not doing it at nap time when maybe I need to chill. And so I'm going to do this task and allowing them to be bored to find that intrinsic motivation. And at first they might be on your leg or they might be crying or it might be hard and the more consistently you do those other tasks throughout the house they will find this intrinsic motivation where they're not saying like look, are you proud of me? Are you happy with what I'm doing? Do you value me? Do I still have worth to you? They're going to start to say I have worth to me and I value me and I'm proud of me, without always looking externally like you're fostering something so great from an emotional intelligence perspective when you are allowing that independence. 


00:38:40    Susie 

And piggybacking off of that. When we look in the classroom at intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic it's the difference between a child waiting for the teacher to tell them the answer versus the child going to find the answer. And after the school years run out we're tasked as adults to constantly be finding information for ourselves. But if you've spent the last twelve years or 18 years being always told what to do, told the information, told the answer, told how to fill in the blank, told what the problem is, that's going to be a harder transition out of if we can spend these kind of 18, these formative years teaching a child your thoughts are valuable. Your curiosity is valuable. Your thoughts are valuable and letting them be intrinsically motivated to find more information. Rather than sitting there and waiting for an adult or the teacher to turn and say, the answer is blank, or this is how you build this bridge. This is how you create this. This is how you do this math problem. If instead we can twist it just a little bit and that goes with play and the intrinsic motivation to let the child, see how much value the child has. You have value in finding information. You have value in creating your own path. You have value in figuring this out. That translates into the classroom for a child that is not waiting for the teacher to tell them the answer. They're off trying to figure it out. I don't need them to tell me. They said, how do you think you build a bridge? I'm going to go figure out how to build a bridge. Versus another child who has been set into a more rigorous direct instruction. Teacher led approach or parent led approach is waiting for the teacher to tell them, here is how you build a bridge. You take this, you put this here's, counterweights, here's the balance system. And again, when we think about how is that going to translate for the entirety of the child's life, then how do you ever learn more if you're always just waiting for someone to tell you the answer?


00:40:50    Alyssa

You can't be a problem solver. 


00:40:52    Susie 



00:40:53    Alyssa

And it becomes your inner narrative that you're not good at, that I can't do this, I'm not good at it, versus the confidence of, like, yeah, I can figure it out. Yeah. This was one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me, was like, we didn't have money. There was no, like, extra support funds. And I came to them at, like, 14 and was like, I want to study abroad. And they were like, totally yeah, so we can't fund this program for you, but let's figure it out. Like, how could you do this? And I did a whole bunch of things to raise money and figure it out and whatever and get myself to Austria for six. 


00:41:29    Susie 



00:41:30    Alyssa

But it was their belief that they didn't start with, like, no, we can't afford that. They were like, yeah, sure. How are you going to do it? What's it going to look like? And their belief that I could figure it out and over and over and over, that was the through line in my life, was their belief in me to figure something out. 


00:41:49    Susie 

And at a three year old level, that starts with, I believe you can figure out what to do with your time right now while I'm doing the dishes. I believe in you. I can't wait to see what you come up with. And that starts right, I mean, it's so simple. It starts right there. 


00:42:02    Alyssa

Yeah. Love it. Okay, so I cut you off for your last one. 


00:42:05    Susie 

You're fine. No, you're fine. It was a great tangent, my last one. Again, it's complicated, but kids need to know how to fail and to try again. They need to know that it's okay to fail and that failing isn't the end of something. It's just part of a process that there really isn't ever, like, an end goal. You don't really ever get to the end of something. You go, well, that's it. We move on. It's not a reflection of them as a person that they have the chance to try and to do hard work and to keep going. And that at the home environment. Again, harping into play. It goes with play. It goes with board games. Playing board games with a child is a great way to help them learn to fail and making sure that you win when you win, let them lose when they lose. It also has to do with showing them how we fail. Oftentimes kids get this opinion of parents and adults that everything works out perfectly for us, and we always have the answers. And the reason that they get that idea is because they don't hear our inner monologue. They don't hear the times that we fail. They don't hear that we burnt the dinner. They don't hear that we put the flour in at the wrong time. I messed that up. So say that. Say it out loud. Talk through your failures. I was editing something last night, and my daughter came in, and she looked at and she said, what are you doing? And I said, oh, I'm editing this book. My program. And I said that the copy editor sent it back. And she goes, well, did you make mistakes? And I said tons of them. I made tons of mistakes. And I said so now I'm going back. They found all my mistakes. I'm going back, and I'm working back through them. And she kind of looked at me like, oh, mom makes mistakes in writing too. Just like I made a mistake in writing earlier today. This is a normal part of the process. Of course, she didn't say all of that, but I could see it on her face that, wow, okay. It's okay to make mistakes when you write. And I think if you can just tomorrow, as you work through your day, if you are solving a problem, solve it out loud. If you're trying to figure out why the dishwasher didn't start running, could you talk it out loud? Oh, man, I forgot to start it, or I think I hit the wrong button. If you lose your car keys, talk about it. Talk about the fact that you're so frustrated you always lose these, and you can't figure out where you put them. Talk through your failures with your kids. They need to see what's going on. They need to hear what's going on inside your head. They need to know that this is normal, that failing is something that we all do all day long, and that that's a part of life, and we just keep going. It's not a reflection of you as a person. And again, if you translate that, we can see that at the kindergarten level. We know what that looks like with little kids, but let's turn that kid up to 16. And they've made a mistake. Do they know that mistake is not a reflection of them? Do they know it's okay to keep trying? Do they know that this doesn't mean the world is over? Do they know that they need to at that age? It's hard and we're talking about big, heavy meaty stuff and it starts in these early years that going into kindergarten and in this early childhood range that they understand that it's okay that something didn't work out for you. It's okay that you had to try really hard to get that skill. This is all part of life. But that's honestly one of the biggest ones with school because school is full of failures and that's okay whether or not you get back up. 


00:45:44    Alyssa

Totally. I love it. Jess Lahey wrote the gift of failure. She was on the podcast, episode 103, maybe something like that. If you want to dive into that. Her book's incredible and really looks at how do we teach them how to make mistakes and fail and try new things and not have fear around that. If you're interested in diving deeper into that topic as a whole, folks who are tuning in. Love that, Susie. I'm going to throw one landmine topic at you before we wrap this up. 


00:46:16    Alyssa

Oh, my gosh. 


00:46:18    Alyssa

This is going to be a little sound bite. This is the sound bite. What is your opinion on, I guess what's your privileged opinion? Because I think there's privilege in this question in and of itself of having kids enter kindergarten young versus holding them back. The privilege being like if you're paying for childcare and kindergarten is free, there's privilege in even being able to say, I'm going to hold my kid back. You have a summer birthday, you have an August birthday, whatever. What's your opinion? What's your dream world? If it was all free and accessible?


00:46:54    Susie 

If it was all free and accessible, my dream world will be send your child when your child's ready. But that's not the case. And I understand from a parenting standpoint that we look at kindergarten and we see very real that this is free childcare and I absolutely get that and that if that is what you need and that is what's going to make your family tick. I couldn't agree more because it is this is free education. But if we're talking about especially early entrancing children, because that comes up a lot is do I send my child early to kindergarten? And my plea to parents is to stop looking at kindergarten. And I say this with kindergarten readiness and I say this with kindergarten entrance. We need to be looking at the total of the child's educational path. This child is going to be going through school until they're 18, possibly 22, 25. I don't know how long they're going to be going through this path, but it's not just about kindergarten. So as you're looking at your child's age again, we're not thinking about the fact that this is free childcare and how wonderful and amazing that would be. But if we're looking at the child's total path in education, how old will that child be in middle school as they navigate social media for the first time, how old will that child be in high school? As they start to drive a car, will they be the first to drive? Will they be the last to drive? How will that feel? How will that look at college graduation, at high school graduation, how old will that child be? Where will they be when they start college? If they choose to go to college and their college starts middle of August, how old will that child be when they go off to college? I think we get really hung up on kindergarten and this idea that, well, they're ready for kindergarten, so if I don't send them now, they're going to be really bored in kindergarten. And that's such a misunderstanding of what kindergarten is and how kindergarten behaves. Because, again, like I said earlier, all kids get bored in school. This is life. But really, it's about looking at that whole child. And just like I said earlier, we have to stop considering the path of every other child and just start to look at our child. How will this look for our family? How will this look for this child as they move through the education system? What age will they be in 3rd grade? What age will they be in 6th grade? What age will they be in sophomore year? What age will they be in senior year? And it is a very privileged question to ask, and to be able to have the choice of an answer is very privileged. But my biggest urge is to stop looking at kindergarten and to stop thinking just about kindergarten. We have got to start thinking long term about these kids, particularly when we're talking about children that are being early entranced into kindergarten. 


00:49:44    Alyssa

I think that you hit the nail on the head that a lot of folks are like, well, they're going to be bored. She's so smart. I just heard this literally two weeks ago. She's so smart and she's going to be bored. I think she might even be bored this year in kindergarten. I think she's definitely going to be bored next year. And the reality is that from the teacher perspective, differentiation is real always, in that it's not like all my kids are at the same place in all of their academic skills. That's never the case. So we're always differentiating. And our job as the teacher is to differentiate to that kid's skill level. It's not your job as the parent to make sure that they're going to be in the right academic classroom for them. It's a teacher's job to differentiate academically for them, whatever classroom they're in. 


00:50:38    Susie 

Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And I love what you said. It's the teacher's job to differentiate academically. It's not our job as parents to decide what essentially to try to fiddle around and try to figure out, well, academically, where are they at? Kindergarten is a mixed bag. I taught kindergarten. We have kids who come in having no history in school. They've never been to school. We have ones coming in from a home school preschool, one's from co op, one's from daycare, one's from full time daycare, full time preschool. This is an incredibly mixed bag. There is nothing more mixed than kindergarten. And it's a really thrilling grade level to teach because you do get this unbelievable mix of children. And one of the things I've been trying really hard to explain to parents is that there is an incredible difference between a child who is gifted and a child who has been gifted advantages as they've been raised. Those are two very different things. There are truly gifted children out there. I had one child in all my years of teaching, one who I can look back and say, this was an absolutely gifted child. She was incredible to watch, learn, she was incredible to see. Her mind moved ironically, she was never bored in school because she was always able to figure out what to do next to handle her life. But she was very gifted. I had tons of kids who were gifted, amazing advantages. They were gifted safe places to live, they were gifted access to food, they were gifted soccer practices and ballet classes, and a parent who could read to them every night before bed and attachment to caregivers. And they ended up coming into kindergarten having amazing amounts of knowledge because of what they were gifted advantage wise. And what we see in children is, after a couple of years at school, the kids who came in having not been gifted advantages versus the kids who came in having been gifted lots of advantages by around the third grade, fourth grade ish now. Those kids who hadn't been to school before have been to school three or four years, and things start to really level out. And the advantages are they're definitely still there. The advantages of a safe home and a home with access to food, that's always going to be there. But as far as the academic part of it, we see those advantages start to kind of wear out and the playing field really levels and the kids all kind of start to move a little bit more on the same Ish trajectory in their education. So that's another piece to the puzzle to look at, is, yes, your child is very smart and they're very bright. They were gifted. A lot of advantages from you being a very involved parent who's listening to a social emotional podcast. If we're sitting down following parenting accounts on Instagram, then that's a very involved parent. And where their involved parents children thrive, they've been gifted beautiful advantages. And that is something that you should be so proud and happy that you can give to them and what a gift to give. But as we're looking at, again, the total of a child's educational path, we can't be so near sighted as to say, well, it's only about kindergarten, it's only about their age starting kindergarten, it's only about the readiness starting kindergarten, we must look at life readiness, we need to look at at school readiness. We need to look at whether or not they're going to be ready to stand on their own two feet without us standing right next to them, hovering over their shoulders and helping them make the best decision. And again, that's going to look different for each child, and it's going to look different for each family. And going back to how we started this conversation, it's about understanding that every child is on their own path. And instead of looking at the school system as the factory line that it has become, that we think about the way that they're growing and developing as individual people, and are they making progress within their self? And are we seeing that progress happen? And to be so unbelievably proud of who that child is becoming. And as they enter the school system, to continue to keep your eyes laser focused on that child and their development, their progress, day over day and month over month and year over year and honoring their growth, not just academically, but as the whole person they are meant to become. 


00:55:04    Alyssa

I love this so much. Thank you. Just like I have no comment. Thank you. Susie, you're a real gem. Where can people follow you? Learn from you all at jazz. 


00:55:19    Susie 

You can find me on Instagram. I'm @busytoddler and on my website is busytoddler.com. 


00:55:25    Alyssa

She's incredible. Such a fantastic follow. Do yourself a favor and go do that, if you aren't already. Susie, thank you for joining me. 


00:55:34    Susie 

I'm so glad you asked. 


00:55:36    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at voicesofyourvillage.com. Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at seed.and.sew. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag seed.and.sew to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans. 


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