About Me

sydneySelfI have been devoted to early childhood education, advocacy, and children’s rights for more then half a century. In 2005 I was honored by the Board of Supervisors of the City of San Francisco for my contributions to the field and the community.

Sometimes the professional should be unmasked, so who am I? I am fuelled and energized by my love for the arts, singing in choruses and musicals when I can, going to live music and live theater often.

I have a critical mind, and love justice, so I have an active political life. These days my focus tends to be on Children With Parents in Prison. I was the first child to visit Alcatraz. I’m also focused on Black (and all) Lives Matter. I have African-American grandsons and want them safe from harm.

That gives you some idea where my passions are located. For facts about my life, see my Curriculum Vitae. I love explaining things. So if there’s anything else you’d like to know about me, please ask.


I want to share what I’ve learned with younger people: teachers, parents, and other caregivers of young children. I’m especially invested in these areas:

1. Learning from Reggio Emilia. See my workshops for some specifics on this topic, and see my book, Seeing Young Children with New Eyes: What We’ve Learned from Reggio Emilia about Children and Ourselves

2. Offering the creative arts to children. Helping them express themselves freely and joyously in the arts (in the hundred languages of children). Music, (instrumental and vocal) dance of all sorts, sculptural and linear art forms—especially clay—making and performing stories and plays, and more.

2a. I think of literacy as a creative art. I have spent many years thinking about (and writing about) the work of Sylvia Ashton-Warner, who developed an organic, intuitive way of teaching beginning reading. I like to teach people who work with 3s and 4s how to do this work, called Key Vocabulary, or Key Words, and was delighted to have three groups in Singapore take instruction from me in 2014.

3. Children Under Stress. Helping children through the very hard stresses they must face: poverty, parents in prison (LINK) death and dying, divorce, national horrors (September 11, earthquakes, bombings, hurricanes, the Challenger explosion and whatever is coming next) and the smaller stresses as well (first day of school, moving from one home/community to another, sibling conflict, etc.) Here is a letter that gets wide use when there’s tragedy in the air.

4. Agency. I want to see a world in which children’s ideas are supported and their dreams realized. Much of what happens in early childhood in this time deprives children of this agency, this sense that they can achieve what they put their minds and efforts into doing. I’ve been thinking about this for several years, spurred by references in the work of Peter H. Johnston (linkto Choice Words) and others.

These four areas of concern are inextricably linked… children grow up in contexts that can defeat and destroy them, and we, in the field, together with parents and the good-hearted politicians we can identify, must work to lessen the bad effects and raise the good ones. Children with parents in prison need the arts to help them find optimism and balance in their lives (music saved me). Children who are atypical need a strong sense of agency, to fight the stressors of conformity and popularity. The people of Reggio Emilia have developed schools which enrich their children and have shown us some of the ways they found to learn how to be good for children.

I’m mentoring a few young people and would like a few more…it begins with SummerCamp, a trip to my home where we study together so as to make you even more wonderful with children.