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April 2016
Vol. 16 No. 5

Nature's Time

We are finally at the stage of the year that allows us to wind down a little and enjoy the gifts of outdoors. One of the gifts, irritatingly enough, is pollen. We are getting used to that, though, and I’m asking everyone to send in a box of tissues—we went through one whole box on Monday of this week.

The other gifts are more interesting—warm days,  breezy air, birds all over the place, interesting bugs buzzing around the compost pile, boys stepping into the lake to “just catch one fish” (and tromping mud everywhere afterward) and girls beginning to wear summer clothes that they “don’t want to get dirty”. It’s a wonderful time at school and we spend almost as much time outside as inside. The after-schoolers are spending the afternoon making magic wands (perfect for a windy day) while they work on their miraculous abilities. One year, when I was teaching preschool, I would walk around the room at nap-time and touch children lying on their sleeping bags with a magic wand, while singing about sleep. It usually worked!   

We will have field day the first week in May. I’m hoping families will send in potluck food for that day—the kids love to bring in foods from home to dramatize what a great family they have—so plan on deviled eggs, or chips and dip, or a vegetable tray (maybe). I know I’ll make potato salad. Maybe someone could bake cookies??? Anyway, field day is tricky. Bright kids often tend to be a little competitive and I want it to be fun. I’m buying prizes at Party City and I’ll set up the teams the last week in April. Usually the team eats together for the whole week before field day, so they know each other.  They get to pick a color and they will have something to remind them of their color on field day. They get to make up cheers, etc. Since there are 18 of us, we’ll probably have three teams of six. Parents can come and take pictures. Miss Brigit will take a million great pictures and John and I will try to take a few good shots (one year I took many pictures and later discovered that the film didn’t wind properly.) Now, of course, we have the digital stuff and it’s easier.

The fourth quarter at Kingfisher is not only fun. It’s our chance to cement some of our values. We do projects that emphasize ecology. Kids have jobs to do for the school to teach responsibility and autonomy. Everyone is working at doing their best work because they know the end of school is coming. We engage in the community with visits to the shopping center, singing at Northlake Mall, visiting the nature store  in the Tucker Village. Some of us will walk down to the Farmer’s Market one Thursday afternoon just to see what it’s like.   I always tell the teachers—“we’ll do what we do and maybe it will resonate with the kids”. I see more kind acts in one day at school from the children than in two weeks interacting with adults. Children really are natural peacemakers.


April 13th, 20th, 27th - Touring for families
April 14th, 21st, 28th - Tennis Classes
April 20th - Piranhas walking the Beltline through Piedmont Park
April 22nd - Earth Day at Kingfisher
April 22nd - Evening for Educators at Fernbank Museum
April 26th - Dragons picnic and walk at Medlock Park
May 6th - Field Day at Henderson Park
May 9th - Zoo Trip for Dragons
May 27th - School Awards Ceremony and Lunch with parents
June 6th - 1st Day of Summer Camp

So Much to Do—So Little Time!!!

Conversations with Little Kids

At least once a day, I hear some little kids talking about their world and I’m always surprised by how they think things work. Almost every child I know under the age of six thinks that if they get a cut and start bleeding, that all their blood could dribble out (like air in a balloon) and soon they’ll just be an empty skin lying on the ground.

Most kids under the age of seven think that going out in the rain makes your hair grow. Late in the afternoon, when it’s just Maddox at Kingfisher, we have interesting discussions about how many super-human feats he performed over the weekend. I said, “Whew, that must have been exhausting!” and he said, “Yeah, I’m not doing that, anymore.” 

One day back in the fall, one of the girls was telling everyone on the bus about problems she had with ghosts bothering her and even one of the older kids said, “That can’t happen, can it Miss Debbie?”  Was he hoping that I would discount it or did he want to be secretly reassured?  Isharai said, “Don’t ask her. Grown ups don’t know.”  She was right. I just didn’t know.
School-prepared lunches are offered on Fridays for $4/plate. If there is any money leftover after purchasing ingredients, the money goes to the teachers to spend on their classrooms.  Generally, we don’t make much on this—food is going up in price, but it’s still one of the only fundraisers the school does.

Kingfisher is Part of the Bigger School Community

We have watched, with some trepidation, the upheaval in DeKalb County, and we’re still not sure whether we know what to think. I worked on one of the “Blue Ribbon Committees” with one of the School Board members and found that after each meeting, I wondered how she kept being re-elected. I went to many School Board meetings over the past sixteen years—both my kids graduated from Druid Hills High and spent time in both private and public schools throughout their elementary and middle school years. My daughter went to an Atlanta Public School for a couple years and to a private school for a couple of years. My son went to Fernbank for two years and to Kingfisher for four years. Both of them did well and my son, especially, grew into a self-directed learner after leaving Kingfisher.

I’m not sure what I believe about the future of schooling in DeKalb. We have had kids come into Kingfisher after very difficult times at a DeKalb school and do quite well. We have also had many kids come in below grade level and make huge improvements, just due to the small, individualized learning setting. I am hoping for improvement in DeKalb’s system. No one wants to see a system that large become fragmented and for most kids, the public system is all they have to depend on. Last week’s AJC ran a series of editorials on the gifted programs and funding in Georgia and the blog comments were surprising. Parents are angry that their bright kids don’t seem to be held to any standard and that the goals are always for the lower end of the spectrum, while expecting kids on the upper end to “take care of themselves”. 

Maybe it’s asking too much to expect every 4th grader in the 5th month of the school year to read, write, and do arithmetic on a 4th grade, 5th month level. Realistically, we have children here that are 7, reading on a fourth grade level, doing math on a 3rd grade level and working in science somewhere around the middle of 3rd grade. Every student grows at his or her own pace and every student has times when he/she is ahead of or behind the pack. The CRCT testing was asking for a kind of leveling of the pack that doesn’t really speak to the diversity of talent and experience that children bring to school.  You can be a moderate reader, but a fine athlete and a great leader. You can be a math whiz, but not much of a reader and also be extremely talented in beginning engineering skills. You can be a natural science genius, a great reader, and a mediocre math student. Some kids are creative, graceful, funny, good joke tellers, and excellent cooks. People are complex and so are children.

A much larger discussion about education must be taking place all over Georgia. There are new jobs coming and those jobs might call for a kind of skill we don’t even know about, yet.  Something a police officer (one of our former parents) told me really made me think—he said that some of the gang leaders in Atlanta’s most transient neighborhoods were incredibly gifted at leading their people and not just through intimidation, but also by reminding the young men that they would always have a place in their gang. Maybe schools need to be reminding students that there is a place for them in the wider world and we need to help them figure it out. Maybe not college, but maybe health care workers. Maybe not Georgia Tech, but Gwinnett Tech with an air conditioning/heater certificate. I always remind my son that garage mechanics can make up to $65/hour in Atlanta.  Nothing wrong with making a decent living and building a happy, productive life.
One of our songs:
Round and Round the Earth is Turning
Turning always Round to Morning
And from morning Round to night


Every year we do some sort of interesting activity around earth day and this year is no exception—we will plant more flowers around the school building (I’m getting a discount at Lowe’s) and the older kids will do a litter pick up with me around the grassy areas near the police station. We will make some signs to encourage teens to keep the pavilion clean at Cofer. We will design a bumper sticker to remind others that Kingfisher stands with nature. At lunch, there will be a large salad, put together by some of the kids.  We will also write a letter to our government, praising the parks and how much we use and need them.



Everyone has really made progress this year and I have no concerns about where our kids will be academically next year. Most of the kids in John’s group are reading and all of the 3rd and 4th graders are above grade level in math. We will be doing some end of year assessments with the new kids to see where we will start next year. We use the Frye’s reading assessment, the OWL (a language test) and a curriculum-tied assessment for some of the younger kids. I’ll start doing some of that this week and by the middle of May, I’ll be done and can speak with parents about how their child is doing at Kingfisher. Not every student needs an assessment, as we know exactly where the children are in most subjects. These end-of-year tests are reserved for children that we don’t feel completely sure about. You’ll get a note to let you know if we are assessing your child and all of the fours, fives, and sixes will be assessed for phonics and reading skills. Since the assessment tools we use takes about 10 minutes, each child is tested by himself/herself, it takes time to get this done. As we finish up with each child, we’ll go ahead and give out the results.  

Problem Solving at Recess

It was funny yesterday to watch the boys grapple with a serious problem—the big red ball kept being kicked into the lake at Henderson Park and finally it floated out too far to grab. “How will we get it back?” “What is Miss Deb going to do about this?” “Now what are we supposed to do?” I remember this problem happening a lot when I was a kid and it was very interesting to listen to the leaders and followers coming up with ideas and thinking about solutions. Finally, it drifted all the way across the lake and a couple of kids were dispatched to get it. While they were over there they saw a “humungous turtle” and for the rest of the recess, the talk was about how to catch it. Free time is not always “down time” for smart kids.

How’s the Enrollment Campaign Going?

Many folks (including my banker) are interested in how the enrollment campaign for next year is going. We had a flurry of interest in January and February for younger children. Our kindergarten is famous, (along with our t-shirts) and that group is coming along nicely—two more spots  left for next year. Our elementary classes are almost full for next year—two more spots left for second to fourth grade students. We have several openings for older elementary spots—four spots left there. 

As people have seen in Tucker Times, we are still doing open houses on Wednesdays (all day) and on Saturday mornings, by appointment. We’re already at 18 for next year and I’d like to open with 25 to 28 kids.

We’ve all put out signs for the school (and I’m putting out more this weekend). I’m taking flyers around to the childcare centers that would feed into us. We’re putting a short article into the CrossRoads newspaper that serves East and South DeKalb County; and we plan to have some photos in the AJC after field day. Mr. John and his class of excellent artists have made the lobby look beautiful and Miss Brigit has valiantly tried to keep the Piranhas organized. We have a new banner to put out and new signs from the Neumanns and I’m visiting some employee break rooms to put up flyers on their bulletin boards.

I’m asking everyone to take one or two flyers to work with them to put on the appropriate bulletin board and we will begin doing some booth work at Tucker and Clarkston Farmer Markets. I’m not a marketing person—so feel free to offer suggestions. We are relatively new to Tucker and are getting used to their ways and they are getting used to ours. We know the librarian’s names and we know we like the milkshakes in the Village. We love the two parks and like walking around the village to buy small sundries. Slowly, people are getting to know us. Soon, we’ll be back to a comfortable school size and then we’ll be thinking about a little expansion . . .


Summer Camp Ideas—

Kingfisher’s Earthchild Camp is mostly for younger kids and doesn’t really work for the upper elementary kids, who want real sports and competition. Our camp is a peaceful, arty camp with lots of music and small trips and water fun. We are sharing our space with Mainstreet Preschool for four weeks this summer. We love the movies at Snellville (cheap and popcorn included).

There are sports camps a-plenty in the Tucker/Stone Mountain/Clarkston area and the YMCA camps really rock and are quite popular. My favorite of the large camps that is affordable and convenient is the camp offered by Decatur Recreation Center. The supervision is good and there’s a lot of swimming and variety. R.J. and Emerson went to the Smoke Rise Country Club swimming and tennis camp for the last 2 years and seemed to have a good time.

Naturally, I push the Zoo camp and the Chattahoochee Nature Center Camp and, of course, the Dunwoody Nature Center camps because they are like us—free flowing, outside, and loaded with interesting ideas and activities. If you are looking for something for one or two weeks of the summer, those are great offerings. They are a little pricey, however, so few families want to do that all summer.

Remember to plan your vacations toward the end of the summer when the public school kids are back in school, because there are fewer camp offerings in August. We start school on August 29th and often get calls from folks in mid-August asking if we have space in camp. Sometimes, I am willing to take on a couple of older kids, but sometimes I’m too full to take anyone on at that time. Plan ahead. Don’t be startled into finding you are hunting for a sitter so you can go to work.

What can we use to make the rest of the year easier?

  • Boxes of tissues
  • Plastic tubs to set up the porch toys
  • Old tablecloths or sheets
  • Shoe boxes (for our biomes)
  • Old towels
  • Gardening trowels
  • Poster Board (any color)
  • Lysol Spray


Don't forget the easy ways to contribute to our school!
  1. Connect your Kroger card to us. We get $ for our art program that way. PLEASE RECONNECT IT IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY FOR THIS SCHOOL YEAR. (HINT: you can see if it's connected at the bottom of your receipt. It should say Kingfisher.)
  2. Remember to use and we'll get a percentage of the purchase!
  3. Show your Publix Partners in Eduction card when shopping there (pick up one at the school).
  4. Use our Kingfisher magnets on your car.
  5. Many more ideas listed on our site!
  6. Don't forget to LIKE us on FACEBOOK! Your pictures and comments welcome!
Kingfisher Academy does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, or gender. We do not discriminate in our scholarship practices, our enrichment programs, our hiring practices, or our enrollment procedures. 
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