As an elementary teacher of 12 years I often analyzed the traditional classroom setting as something of a puzzle. Aside from learning in the classroom rarely being social (which is how kids learn best) the traditional classroom is set up with kids of the same exact age levels.
For what purpose?
Most of the kids in any given classroom do not possess the same exact skills set anyway. So teachers end up “differentiating” learning.
Sure, I had been part of classrooms where two grade levels had been mixed. This was known as a multi-age classroom setting and though some parents of children in these settings were skiddish (is my older child going to be dumbed down? Will my younger child be too challenged), I always found the notion ideal and realistic to what occurs in the adult world. After all, do adults share office space with people only their own age? Do parents with six children worry that their children are different ages while sharing a home? What does the older employee in the work setting learn from the younger employee? What can the older child give to the younger child? What can the younger child offer to the older child?
These questions are easily put to the test in an age-integrated setting. Whereas childcare is concerned, this can lead to a healthy mix of children of varying ages working together and learning form one another in many different ways. For the younger child in a childcare setting, having someone a few years older to carry you over the finish line on his back during a relay, assist you as you think of ways to solve a problem, help you enhance your dribbling, throwing or catching skills, delegate responsibilities, comfort you when you are sad, or congratulate you when you do something awesome are all amazing advantages that enrich the young child’s life in the childcare setting.
On the other end you have an older child of, say, 10-12, who is starting to outgrow some of the little nuances that he so much enjoyed five years earlier. In an integrated setting he now has a new purpose as a role model. All the things he is giving to the younger child become the reward for him as he learns responsibility, leadership, and can see his confidence build as the big man on campus. He has been around for five years and knows the ropes. Now he gets to teach others what he knows and has learned. It continues a journey that has begun when the older child was 5 years old himself.
Of course, sometimes parents of children in the childcare setting can be concerned about perceived notions of older children as they mix with younger children. For instance, older children curse, infuse early sexual knowledge into the culture of the program, play too hard, can be mean and cruel etc. I am always quick to remind them that such notions are reserved for children of poor character at any age, not necessarily for children who are older. Children who have been raised in a community where the expectations for behavior are high, the rules clear, the consequences for poor choices followed through upon become aware of what their roles are as senior helpers in the integrated setting and act accordingly on this.
Integrating children in the childcare setting for convenience is one thing. If it is done without thought, without process, without leadership then the consequences can be what every parent of a child in an age-integrated setting may fear. On the other hand, if age-integrating children in the childcare setting is purposeful, the activities selected for age-integrated groups thought out, the guidance strong, then operating programs where children of all ages can come together as a community daily can be one of the healthiest environments for any parent’s child. Let’s face it, in the real world we all work together no matter what our ages for the benefit of the larger community. We can all do the same within the microcosm of a childcare program.
TSL Adventures is a Capital Region based organization that provides before- and after-school childcare, vacation programs and summer camps.
As parents, we tend to focus much attention on our children’s schooling to ensure their “success”. We attend parent-teacher conferences, monitor report cards, help with homework, email teachers with concerns, employ consequences to children not making the grade, attend school functions, spend hundreds of dollars on supplies etc. We believe that in doing all of these things that our children will grow to be responsible, “successful” adults. Whatever that means to a given family.
Childcare, however, we tend to gloss over as a part of the day that offers nothing more than an escape to what truly matters…school. We invest little into knowing about after school programs and summer camp childcare staff. We don’t view them as important enough to buy a teacher appreciation gift for. We don’t know their names. We don’t know what they truly do day-to-day. We don’t know a particular childcare program’s philosophies or care how those philosophies could impact their child’s lives. We do not know how meaningful strong social programming can impact a child’s school day, or his/her life, in general. We generally accept whatever program is in front of our eyes without ever really knowing it. Or finding out if there is something out there that may be better and offer the level of attention, interaction and creativity our children require. Yet, families invest thousands of dollars per year on childcare tuition, if nothing more than to have a place for their child to go. The school districts that house corporate programs do not know the answers to these questions either, nor do they care. Which always serves as a perplexing reality.
So why do we not care as much about childcare? Some children attend childcare programs 20 hours per week, and 40 hours per week during the summer months. That is 155 8-hour days per year, or 33% of a child’s year spent in school-age childcare. Yet, we barely concern ourselves with what quality and caliber of the people leading our children during this time. Or, what interactions are taking place, what our children are doing during those hours to better prepare them to be socially responsible adults, how it impacts their school day, how it impacts their behavior, how it contributes to their creativity and imagination, how it affects their relationships with peers and adults, and ultimately how it impacts the adult they will become.
Perhaps it is time to begin looking more deeply into what type of program is serving our children. What do they stand for? Are their childcare program beliefs practiced regularly? How? Is your child impacted in a positive way from having participated in his/her childcare program? How do you know? Are you sending them to a particular program simply to send them? Do you evaluate options? Do you know your providers? Do you want to know them? Why or why not? Do you see evidence of what your child accomplishes during his childcare time? Does he like it? Why or why not? Does your school district have an explanation as to why they house a particular childcare program? Do you ask or even care?
Only in realizing and accepting that our children are deeply impacted by their daily experiences in childcare can we begin to start asking bigger questions about the quality of that programming. In doing that, we will be taking a big step toward appreciating that this time is significant in your child’s life and worth as much attention as is given to the regular school day experience.
This article was written by Founder Tom Styles with TSL Adventures in Albany, NY. Tom has a passion for education and the overall learning process that children experience. He, along with his dedicated team of professional educators and staff members, provide first-class, creative and socially-engaging childcare programs throughout the Capital Region.
Life is busy. I think we will all agree.
We have many responsibilities to tackle on a daily basis: bills, kids, careers, planning extracurricular activities, date nights etc... The thing is, they are all important, no doubt about that. But, we all know, in our heart of hearts, that we want to leave a legacy, and that starts with our children.
Our children might drive us crazy at times but we love them more than life itself. They make us smile, they make us laugh, they get us angry, likely daily. But, we love them. We want the best for them. We want to surround them with great experiences and great association. We desire to tap into their inner creativity and show them that there is nothing they cannot accomplish.
Sometimes this is easier said than done. Remember the bills, the careers, the activities? We have a LOT on our plates and it takes a true magician to balance everything out and make time to get it all accomplished. The one thing we know we must provide is a safe, structured, positive environment for our children while we are out slaying those dragons in our careers.
We long for people who are passionate about children, their education, their development. To be able to spark their creativity as we attempt to do and treat them as if they were their own. Child care is critically important in this fast-paced world. More important, is finding an environment where children can cultivate their dreams and fulfill their potential, working in conjunction with what we teach them at home.
Enter TSL Adventures. People who love children. People passionate about positivity, safety, creativity and expression. People with roots in public education but who have invested in themselves to take their game to another level. Child care, day care, after school programs....they all require care providers who do just that: they care. They invest their time with a child. They sense hesitation and nurture the fighter from within. TSL Adventures is the premier child care organization into the Capital Region that puts their hearts in our children's lives.
Every responsible adult in Albany and beyond wants to ensure that the child care services they are investing in will be beneficial and advantageous to their child's growth and education process. Though there are often multiple options for summer camps from special interest camps that cost a lot of money and design for non-working families, to day camps run by corporations, to pop-up camps that come and go, it takes a true artist, someone dedicated to excellence in their craft to bring the best out of a child. This is the essence for what TSL Adventures stands.
TSL Adventures proudly offers year-round daycare and school age programs with a core emphasis on creating an exceptional community atmosphere. It is their mission to provide children with a fun-filled, fast-paced structure featuring a diversity of projects, games and activities that will motivate and excite children. It is critically important to nurture a child's creative abilities very early on in life. The more interaction and positive stimulus a child receives, the faster they will mentally mature and learn to adapt in all kinds of situations.
Their focus is 100% on providing professionally structured private school-age child care services to the entire Capital Region and ultimately beyond. Their services will add value to your child's day and you will experience the tremendous progress they make in their time invested with their committed and dedicated staff of passionate educators and professionals.
We know that choosing the right environment for your child is important and they expect you to do your due diligence and research your options. That being said, they thought it would be great to share a bit of their story to provide you confidence in our capabilities.
TSL Adventures was founded in 2008 by alumni from The College of St. Rose who hold or have held positions as full-time elementary school teachers. It was their vision to create an outstanding program designed to provide children with a unique recreational environment during the summer months. With children home in the summer, it adds a layer of complexity to an already-busy family's schedule. There are camps and other options that existed, but not something created specifically by actual educators with a passion to give back to their local communities at a higher level. The emphasis would be clear: to create programs and activities that would contribute to a child's cognitive and social-emotional development. As well, to create an environment where cooperation is nurtured over competition. This type of focus would keep children excited, engaged, accepted and entertained while helping to stimulate progress in their mental and social capabilities. The mission was, and still is, to provide transformative child care that adds value to a child as they continually grow, mature and learn.
There are four main services offered by TSL Adventures: early childhood care, before and after school programs, summer camps and vacation camp.
Early childhood care requires caring, patient and nurturing professionals who treat each child as their own. Nothing is more important to a parent than to know their child is in a social setting with other children and they are getting personal, quality attention throughout the day while they reach developmental milestones through lesson planning that is governed by the Early Learning Standards set by New York State.
Before and after school programs are extremely popular and offer families tremendous opportunity amidst their business schedules. Often-times, we see parents with busy schedules during the week and require quality child care before and after school. TSL Adventures maintains a rigid schedule of accountability and professionalism to ensure there is adequate staffing and that personalized attention is capable of being provided to each child. Through the implementation of a daily and interactive community meeting, options for free and organized clubs and activities in an open and age-integrated environment, children learn the essence of socializing across age boundaries, becoming role models for younger children, and most importantly having fun in a home-like environment free from rigid structural constraints.
Vacation programs are ideal if a child's school vacation doesn't coincide with a parent’s ability to take time off. TSL Adventures creates engaging, exciting and challenging activities and programs designed to stretch your child to fulfill their potential. We maintain a number of team-related activities that children love. It is exciting to see children building bonds and working together as a team to accomplish a goal. Their team of professionals and educators invest much time to create programs that constantly build on a child's social and cognitive capabilities. They employ a structure that guarantees predictability, keeps campers moving briskly from one activity to the next, and presents a wide array of diverse activities.
Summer programs are ideal for families who cannot take the whole summer off for a vacation. Much like the vacation programs, the summer programs are designed to build confidence, character, and social skills in the context of a fun and recreational setting. TSL employs a structure that is routine-based, diverse, and constantly in motion. Children work together cooperatively through various non-traditional sports, games, projects and activities that open their eyes to the essence of what community is. In the fashion of traditional day camp, children also have a daily outdoor period where they can change into swim suits, have fun in the sprinkler, bask in the sun or play outdoor games. For many campers, this 90-minute period per day is cited as their favorite part of the day.
Just a little bit about the Capital Region of Upstate New York.
Besides the fact today could be a historic snowfall day! With the potential to see 18"-24" of snow! The funny thing is that the last few years in Albany area the winters have been milder. Now, it seems, that ole' man Winter is back for just a little bit longer.
Well, for those looking to acquaint themselves just a little bit more about the area, here is our take on it.
Location is truly everything for people who like to travel and experience all the good things an area has to offer. Albany is the Capital of New York State; the area is known as the Capital Region, comprised of Albany, Troy and Schenectady. The collective region has a population of around 850,000 people; this includes Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Saratoga Counties.
The area is approximately a two-hour drive north of New York City, a two-hour drive east of Syracuse, a three-hour drive west of Boston & about a four-hour drive south from Montreal, Quebec. The Albany area is tucked right between the Catskill Mountains to the south, the Adirondack Park to the north and the Berkshires to the east, along with the Green Mountains to the northeast.
If you think about it, Albany is a convenient drive to just about any place in the Northeast, without much effort. If you are an outdoors person, you will find countless activities, events and groups to participate in. Cycling and running paths, wooded trails through parks, walks along the Hudson or Mohawk Rivers to paddle on, there is something for everyone. Albany is seeing much growth and expansion over the past decade. Home prices continually increase, having remained insulated from the uncertainty many other areas have experienced in recent years. Albany is, for the most part, a family region. Sports team are extremely popular and many school districts boast great teams who have one many state & even national championships.
If you are seeking employment in the Capital Region, you should find it relatively easier to find work. Much technological investments have been made at University at Albany with the CESTM project headed by Dr. Alain Kalayeros. IBM and many other global technology firms have invested billions of dollars into advanced silicon chip technology and there has been an incredible boom of talent being attracted to the Albany area. High-paying jobs are being introduced, bringing along all the services people of this caliber are looking for. Austin Texas has Sematech, now Albany is being seen as the next big growth area for technology in the United States.
Right now, it is definitely a sellers market, from a real estate perspective. The inventory levels, from what we have heard from realtor friends, are lower than normal, allowing sellers to hold to their asking prices. If looking to buy a home in the Albany area, we recommend taking a good look in the Delmar, Guilderland, Clifton Park and East Greenbush areas. Taxes are going up but they are still pretty good compared to other areas like Schenectady, Niskayuna, Scotia, Glenville and Troy. These latter-mentioned areas have seen exorbitant tax prices, while home values have not gone up proportionately.
If you love to travel, you will find great RV companies offering sales and service along the Northway in Latham. If flying is your thing, you will find the Albany International Airport is centrally-located with convenient access from the Northway and the New York State Thruway.
The downtown scene in Albany is slowing making a rebound with new bars and restaurants opening up. Just this year, the Times Union Center hosted its first UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) event. This, along with other sports and event opportunities will continually make Albany a more desirable place to visit in the coming years.
We are outdoors people and love having access to the many parks in the Capital Region. You can go visit Thatcher Park in the Helderbergs, south of Altamont. From there, you can get a view of the entire Hudson Valley and see for up to 25 miles to the east and north. On a clear day, you might catch a glimpse of the Green Mountains in Vermont! Campgrounds are as close of 25 minutes away depending on your interests.
If you are employed and have children, there are many affordable child care, day care and after-school programs available. TSL Adventures is a great choice if you are looking for an environment where the owners have education background and truly put the children first.
If you are a night owl and enjoy the night life, there are countless restaurants and bars to choose from. Angelo's 677 Prime or Yono's Restaurant in downtown Albany are very popular spots. Wolf Road & Central Avenue have their fair share of choices as well. If you want to go with corporate or franchised restaurants, there are plenty to choose from. Personally, we like the locally-owned restaurants like Wheatfields in Clifton Park or even newer places like Druthers, which has a location downtown Albany and another in Saratoga Springs, with plans for another in the near future.
There are plenty of great museums to check out too! The New York State Museum offers tremendous opportunities to learn about the history of New York as well as many other interesting topics. If you are military buff, you will love the U.S.S. Slater. It is one of only two destroyer escorts from World War II left in the world and is docked on the Hudson River downtown Albany. There are great tours offered & provides for a great experience. If you are interested in shows, the Times Union Center, The Egg, The Palace and Proctors all offer a great diversity of options.
Colonie Center was recently updated in the past handful of years and is now the most popular mall in the area. Crossgates Mall held that position but since lost it. There are many 100's of stores from the most popular to the most eclectic, depending on your interests.
At the end of the day, it comes down to affordability, safety and opportunity. We fully believe that the Capital Region area comprised of Albany, Troy, Schenectady and surrounding areas offer a great place to live for people with families looking for an environment that offers much diversity. Albany is a great place to live and we highly recommend giving it a chance!
TSL Team Contributions
This blog is for parents and educators to learn more about our organization. It's also the space where we share information of interest to parents.