Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood & The Big Bad Ofsted Wolf

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Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf….

Little Red Riding Hood

Once upon a time there was a girl called Little Red Riding Hood.

One day she decided that she loved learning so much that she wanted to help children have fun and learn new things. So, she decided to work in Early Years. Off she went into the wide, open fields and leafy, green hedgerows of Early Years. As she skipped along through the fields she found that the children she met were excited and curious and she learnt many new things from them. Little Red Riding Hood loved her job, even though the pay was low and the hours were long. And she always wanted to do the best job that she could.

One day her mother said “If you want to be the best you can be, then you need to get an Outstanding Ofsted.” “What do I need to get one of those?” asked Little Red Riding Hood.
“Well” said her mother “here is your basket of ‘Preparing for Ofsted’ goodies with everything you need. But do watch out for the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf (BBO) – you never know when he might appear”

Well, thought Red Riding Hood, Ofsted is a scary word but what does that really mean for me every day with my lovely children? As she thought about it she realised that outstanding quality might look different in each nursery that Ofsted visited. But her basket of goodies had some exciting things in it. There was the currant bun of skills and confidence. How wonderful she thought. So I need to show the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf how we’ve helped those little ones who were very nervous when they started, but are now happy and settled. I need to make sure the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf sees their ability and confidence in climbing trees, looking after their friends and making cakes; especially when they were very worried about even leaving mummy when they first came in. Those skills might not look very great or have a quality that was easy to measure but Little Red Riding Hood knew they were invaluable for those precious little learners.

Maybe I need to have some great stories to tell the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf, she thought. Maybe quality isn’t all about gathering information through assessments, results and grades, maybe it is more about telling the story of each child. Yes, thought Red Riding Hood, talking about children’s skills and confidence is a very important item in my basket of ‘Preparing for Ofsted’ goodies.

Picnic basketThen she found a delicious listening sandwich tucked away in her picnic basket. That’s a wonderful thing to have in my basket of goodies, she thought. I love listening to children, to their plans and ideas, to their worries and problems and to their dreams and stories. And I know how important it is to listen to parents.

Little Red Riding Hood thought about how little time anyone had to listen to each other nowadays. She loved to listen as children acted out their lives, and she knew so much about each one and understood them so well. I need to make sure the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf listens to the children, she thought. And he needs to listen to the parents and their experiences. That’s definitely a tasty morsel to give the BBO when I meet him.

So Little Red Riding Hood gathered up her basket of goodies and headed through the dark, gloomy SEF forest and on to Grandma’s house. There was Grandma tucked up in bed. But something seemed to be very wrong. It looked like Grandma…..but it sounded like the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf.

“Why Grandma” said little Red Riding Hood, “What big eyes you have.”
“All the better to observe you with” said the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf. “I’m going to look closely at EVERYTHING you do in the Early Years inspection. I’m going to look closely at every interaction and scrutinise every move you make. My big eyes will be watching you through my joint observation window and my tracking children binoculars.”

“Why Grandma” said Little Red Riding Hood, “What big ears you have.”
“All the better to hear you with” said the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf. “I’m going to listen to all your questions and discussions to hear if there is stretch and challenge. And I want to hear assessment, recapping and differentiation of activities all the time. And if I don’t hear the child’s voice then you will be in big trouble!”

fairy tale forest“Why Grandma, what big teeth you have” said Little Red Riding Hood.
“All the better to eat up every minute of your spare time” said the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf. “If I don’t get detailed planning, excellent outcomes, innovative partnership with parents and comprehensive characteristics of effective learning…………then I’m coming to gobble you up!”

With that the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf leapt out of bed.

Just at that moment the woodcutter of Teaching and Play burst through the door.
“I’ll save you” she shouted, and she swung her axe of ‘no preferred style of teaching’ over the wolf’s head. Quick as a flash the Big Bad Wolf was gone !

“How can I ever thank you?” asked Little Red Riding Hood.
“Well” replied the woodcutter, “Take my axe of ‘no preferred style of teaching’ and use it wisely in the Early Years fields of learning. Why don’t you let your children choose what they want to cook and help them find the recipes? And why don’t you abandon your lesson plans that go weeks ahead, and listen to your children’s chatter? Then you can show the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf how that is meeting the needs of all your children.” “Why don’t you go for a walk to talk about the birds and plants, and climb trees. And why don’t you let the children mix and pour and tip and create and run and jump and laugh and sing and dance? Why don’t you let them make the rules in nursery to think about how to keep everyone safe and secure?

Don’t let the Big Bad Ofsted Wolf gobble up your enthusiasm and skills. Show him what a great job you do in the Early Years fields.”

Little Red Riding Hood was so relieved that she skipped off towards the River of Equality and Diversity with a song in her heart. As she came up to the bridge her way was blocked by the Big Ugly Troll of Legislation. But there was no stopping Red Riding Hood now. She reached into her basket of preparing for Ofsted goodies, and took out her risk assessment pie and her policies cake and launched them into the river. The Big Ugly Troll jumped in after them, ate his fill, sank to the bottom, and was never seen again.

Looking through trees in forestAs Red Riding Hood headed for home she wondered if her long days in the SEF forest and the hours baking her risk assessment pie had really accomplished anything, or helped the children blossom and flourish. Then she remembered some of the stories she knew about her little ones. She especially remembered Goldilocks.

When Goldilocks started in the Early Learning fields two years ago, how nervous she had been. Too scared to even build with the bricks or try and pour her own drink. And how moving it had been when Goldilocks poured the drink for all the children; and climbed to the first branch on the smallest tree.

Red Riding Hood remembered when Jack and Jill had started. They had hardly spoken to each other the first week, but over the weeks they became good friends and helped each other out. She proudly remembered how they had built the well and how much they laughed and giggled when carrying buckets of water around. “Oh wait” she suddenly said out loud, rummaging in her basket “now where did I put that vinegar and brown paper?”

Lucy Waterman © 2016

Heart Matter – Parenting

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Becoming a parent is one thing that changes our lives forever and some days it all just seems to be too much. 

Wherever we look there is advice coming from every direction. And what is right one week may not be the right thing to do next week! Then we are to build “partnerships” with parents in our work as well. Sounds like a complicated job.

I remember as a young mum that I always worried about getting it wrong, then one day a dear friend said “don’t worry so much. God is the perfect father and even He has problems with His children!” That certainly put things in perspective. And that is the hope we can share with the all parents we meet and work with, whether as friends, in church or at work.  We get it wrong, we make mistakes but we have a great God who refuses to condemn us.

Of course there are the times when our children won’t eat the meal we worked so hard to cook, they seem to constantly fight with their brothers or sisters, or they have a tantrum in the shop……again! It can feel exhausting and we feel such failures. And then we see other mums and dads who seem to have everything worked out and never have a bad day. Before we know it we are worn out and convinced we are useless parents.

But our loving Father never tells us to work harder, to try to be better, to strive and wear ourselves out.

His call to us, to our heart,  is to “be still” and know that He is God. He calls us to seek Him, follow Him and rest with Him. Ok, that might not seem easy in our busy family lives but we can make the time we need to draw aside. For me this was always time in the garden. For others it is dog walking or the early morning just before everyone is up and about. And this isn’t about “me time” so much as being “Him and me time”.

Because that’s where the heart of this lies. God never thinks of us as a bad parent – He delights in us. And in the end, it is all about Him. His amazing grace, His love for us, and His unfailing faithfulness.  And even more amazing, His new and unending mercies, freely available to us every day.

So will quiet time alone  with God suddenly transform our children into angelic beings who behave perfectly? No, but it means we have the strength and faith to go through the tricky days, knowing His love and care for our children is beyond all we could ask or imagine.

He truly delights in us, He truly is faithful. And we can show His love and care for the parents He brings across our path.  Maybe it is time to be honest about the challenges we face, and thankful for His provision and grace. This could be the greatest way to show His love to other parents. They might not believe in Him, but  we can show that He believes in them. We can share that, even on the difficult days, we all have a loving Father who says “you’re doing a great job”.

Our Abba, Father,  is on our side, and He REALLY understands what it is like to have challenging children !

Psalm 40:2-3 – You “pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire.  You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm, and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you. Many will see this, and they will honour and trust you, the LORD God.”


Heart Matter – Sing and Make Music From Your Heart To The Lord*

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From the moment our daughter could make any sound at all, she has been a singer and music maker.

I have a vivid memory of her as a one-year-old, pushing her walker full of wooden bricks and whistling! It seems that music is part of her DNA, and it is undoubtedly part of her spiritual DNA. It is such a blessing to hear her worship; and I’m triply blessed as I also have a daughter-in-law with a beautiful voice and a son who plays guitar in their church band. Our house was always full of songs and I cannot imagine it any other way.

What is it about music that seems to get under our defenses and connect with our hearts like nothing else can?

Whether we are crying out in adoration and praise, or from the depths of pain and sorrow, it is often listening to a praise or worship song that allows us to express deeply those intimate feelings. We know that David could calm the rage of Saul, and we see time and again the use of music to lead God’s people to victory. It seems that the heartbeat of God, His love and compassion, His joy and creativity, they all flow through music and songs and touch us more than anything else can.

And this brings me to the sadness I feel when it seems that music and singing are disappearing from our preschools and nurseries. 

When we visited the Kindergartens in Hungary a few years ago, we were overwhelmed with the beauty and quality of the singing by such young children. There is an expectation that teachers will be excellent musicians and this is reflected in all aspects of Kindergarten life, where children sing with enthusiasm and joy. Is the loss of singing here to do with lack of confidence, inhibitions or just a feeling that it is not important enough?

I suspect it may be all of those and so I would encourage you, wherever you are, however nervous you feel, to take the plunge and start singing again with the children in your care. If you’re not confident then practice at home. Ask some of the other adults to sing along with you, you can do it. Look up those gentle lullabies for our babies, timeless and soothing, we need to ensure we don’t lose them. And don’t be afraid to make up songs about everything from sweeping leaves to skipping home!

A life for young children without music or singing around them seems a bit like a black and white childhood, rather than one with the fullness of joy and colour.

And it may mean they do not have those times where God can reach through the dark times and use music to soothe their souls and lift their spirits.  If we sometimes need to weep in worship, to dance and jump for joy, or sit quietly while the love of God washes over us through music, then I am sure that young children need these times too.

There is no disadvantage to bringing young children and music together and, by experiencing it frequently in many ways, singing to the Lord from their hearts just may draw them that much closer to their heavenly Father just when they need it.

*Ephesians 5:19 my paraphrase

Tales of Adventure, Risk and Stormy Seas

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After our very first visit to the New Wine Summer camp as a new Christian family, the car journey home was full of singing.

Captain Alan Price had made an impression that would never be forgotten as we heartily sang “It’s an adventure following Jesus. It’s an adventure learning from him”.

Those days were our first introduction to life in the Spirit and the joy that came from knowing we were blessed, loved, accepted, forgiven and set free. But… if we thought that also meant comfortable and cosy then nothing could be further from the truth. For a start, there were now songs forever imprinted on our memories that even 30 years cannot erase. Thanks Captain Alan! When we were finally tired of singing about adventure, then there was no stopping our two children from launching into:

“Life is like a big wide ocean
And we’re sailing the ocean with Jesus our friend
The journey is long and the weather uncertain
But Jesus is with us from beginning to end”

So, where am I going with these thoughts. Our initial encounters with the Holy Spirit were wonderful and freeing, but as the bible says: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”. John 3:8 NIV

If we had any plans about how life should look in the next few years they were soon set aside as we set out on the “big wide ocean”. As a lover of the Shipping Forecast (BBC Radio 4),  I should have known that when the wind picks up then we should be ready to set the mainsail and make way.  My desire to batten down the hatches might have felt safe and secure, but God’s call involved risking it all for His purposes.

Living in Wiltshire, we’d chosen the schools for our children, found a house we adored and made good friends in our church.  Life was settled and calm. Then along came that wind, blowing and disturbing everything. Blowing just where it pleased. And blowing us across the country – new schools, new church, Bible College and ministry. No home to call our own (that was a tough one), and no work to go to.

It all felt like being tossed around on a stormy ocean that would never settle. Our time there was one of responding to many changes that felt like “southerly 4 or 5, perhaps gale 8 later”. We became part of teams that ministered in immigration detention centres, we struggled with personal grief through untimely loss, and we travelled to countries we never imagined we would visit.

Yet through it all God did wonderful things.

And that place became home. We chose schools for the children, found a house we adored, and made good friends at our church. Life was good and the ocean was calm. (Have we been here before?)

Then came that wind, filling the sails, building up the waves and churning up everything. This time blowing us back to where we started – I never saw that coming! We don’t have to find schools this time, we do have a house we adore and we once again making new friends in our church. And? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jesus the greatest risk taker. Jesus the captain of our ship. Jesus the adventurer and guide.  He is the one leading the way. Risky? Yes! Scary? Frequently. Worth every challenge? Without doubt.

So, have fun on whatever adventure you are currently on, and let those little children climb, run, fall, get up, jump in puddles, get wet and sing loudly. Why?

Because that’s how they are learning that “life’s an adventure”. They are getting a little bit of practice at taking risks so they are ready. Who knows where the wind will blow them in the future? Wherever they go, it may be difficult and it may be risky but He will never leave them and never forsake them. The general synopsis?

There are warnings of adventure and risk in all areas of Kingdom life. Fasten the lifejackets, man the rigging, let’s get this ship afloat!


The Joy Of The Lord

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Who can fail to smile at this lovely photo?

Pure, uninhibited joy and laughter.One of the most wonderful things about working with our youngest children is how easily they laugh and how much fun there is every day.

God tells us “the joy of the Lord” is our strength. There is nothing like laughing together, and nothing will life our spirits more than laughing out loud, even when things seem stacked against us. We can lose sight of the joy we have in Christ when we face daily paperwork, ever changing expectations and stressful situations. But God really is the source of joy and strength for us every single day.

He doesn’t tell us to grin and bear it, to stick on a smiley face or to pretend everything is ok. But He does provide an unending source of joy and hope in Him.

Take a few minutes to listen and join in with the sounds of laughter from the children around you or the wind in the trees…stopping to re-focus on God can release us from so much tension. Let the living, bubbling water of the Spirit flow from within.

Be still just for a few moments and think that even the “trees of the forest will sing for joy”.

Train Up A Child..

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Train up a child…

This is such a well known verse and is perhaps the aim of many of our Christian nurseries and preschools around the country.

I love the photo of the two boys running off as there, just ahead, is a corner. We cannot see what is just around there. There is a mystery that we cannot solve!

Isn’t that like our aims with nurturing our youngest children? We do not know where God will lead them or where their path will go, but we pray that God will always be at the centre of their lives and decisions. How can we help to “train them”?

Much of what we do daily impacts them and show them God’s nature in action. How we are with each other, with families and with our little children will be a living demonstration of who God is, how He sees them and the plans He has for them.

Children playing in a Christian nursery have the wonderful opportunity to see God’s life and love in action daily. Their image of their heavenly Father will be influenced for ever by the atmosphere around them and the words of truth they hear. Be encouraged. You may have unsaved families and children who seem far away from God, but you are the ones who set the spiritual atmosphere in your nurseries.

You lead the way by example, by love and by faith. Never feel that what you are doing will not work. Be encouraged in the Lord. You are working with the word of God. Be confident. As you walk with Him and look to Him, as you expect help from Him, He will never fail you. He is training up those little children. It may be that you never see around that corner; never see where their lives go, but they are changed forever by being with you and in the daily presence of God.

Be encouraged – you are making a difference, a difference that will last for eternity!