Feb 7, 2022

Dear Families,

So many of you have been asking education questions that I thought I would share some thoughts about the Horizontal and Vertical Curriculum with a follow-up in the next newsletter.

The HORIZONTAL Curriculum is Always there

1. There are 2 ways to think about curriculum:

Learning things in depth with thorough attention to connectedness is the Horizontal Curriculum. Lockstep progressions is the Vertical Curriculum. Everyone needs both.

2. The horizontal curriculum is always there. Just turn 10 degrees in any direction and you will see something new to learn. You could also call it a matrix. The comprehension of a matrix involves embedded understanding so that when something goes out of equilibrium, you can trouble-shoot easily.

3. When most people learn things in a vacuum, it is hard to retain that information. Seeing the information in action and in a setting, allows the learner to use the information which provides the possibility of retention and a good chance of being able to apply the new knowledge in a variety of situations.

4. The Horizontal Curriculum (HC) is doing fun stuff without realizing that you are learning; the Vertical Curriculum (VC) is the “no-nonsense”, serious business of targeting a skill or skill set in a pre-determined list.

VC Example

Changing a Tire:

Vertical Curriculum Flat tire Fixing

1. Gather jack, lug wrench, spare tire

2. Owner’s manual

3. Apply the parking brake

4. Apply wheel wedges

5. Remove the hubcap/wheel coverage

6. Loosen the lugnuts

7. Place the jack under the vehicle

8. Raise the vehicle with the jack

9. Unscrew the lugnuts

10. Remove the flat tire

11. Mount the spare tire on the lug bolts

12. Tighten the lug nuts by hand

13. Lower the vehicle and tighten the lug nuts again

14. Lower the vehicle completely

15. Replace the hubcap

16. Stow the equipment

17. Check the pressure in the spare tire

18. Take your flat tire to a technician

Alternatively, a person could spend the day with the Triple A worker as she goes around fixing flat tires. This would be the Horizontal Curriculum way to learn the skill.

5. Think about where VC comes from…..Someone has mastered something and wants to help others in the most direct way without absorbing it organically. VC is a blessing; HC is authentic.

  • Our Nature Guide is begging for you to buy it so you can be reminded of things to look for each part of the year. It’s only $10 and doesn’t take up much space !
  • Thank you for buying the heart wreaths for Families in Afghanistan. We will send the first check off, but hopefully another one soon. I think we are close to $200…
  • We are slipping a little with single-use plastics in the lunches….Please try hard to avoid these…
  • Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Thank you for remembering that we do not distribute cards or eat sugar treats.

The summer program will be on the website in a few days and registration forms will be available.  There will be a half day program through 12:30 lunch, and full day will include  pool time in good weather, ending at 4:00.

  • Our landlord is very good to us.  Please don’t ever stop your car in the driveway entrance or leave your car idling in the parking lot.  These issues are of concern…

Please stay safe on these winter roads with all your precious cargo.


Joanne White


Feb 14, 2022

Dear Families,

The Drew Woods have been saved from development. Although it is full of invasives, it has many protected plants, deer fencing, an aquifer and it’s of course, it’s a carbon sink for our area. Speaking of the bioregion, you will be getting information about the NATIVE PLANT SALE. Natives connect and cradle the local matrix of living things. Our geology is even got mineral matches to the local natives. When the unconnected plants dominate, it undermines soil in the long run. When the Europeans arrived in North America 400 years ago, there was 12 inches of topsoil. Currently we have a meager 5 inches. That’s some chilling math.

Maple sugaring is happening in NJ this time of year and we are blessed with so many nature centers. Many of them are doing demos. Lectures can be developmentally inappropriate for preschoolers so weigh the benefits with the frustration of listening and not moving for a few minutes. Older children will love it. Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center and Lord Stirling Park are the nearest with weekend schedules.

We have raised $220 for families in Afghanistan. We will send the first installment this weekend, but will continue to sell the wreaths and send whatever we can.

The summer program forms are on the website and we are accepting registrations. The registration fee is waived if you are enrolled this current school year. The check for your desired weeks and the signed 2-page form will hold your space.

Please consider buying our year-round nature guide. It’s for our local area and is useful in the backyard as well as on nature trails.

We have asked so many times for all items to be labeled. When there is a substitute teacher, they waste precious time searching instead of teaching, helping and guiding. It hurts the program and hurts the children. It hurts them when their belongings take too long to find. There’s a lot of small children and they sometimes put their belongings in the wrong cubby or under someone else’s belongings. This includes water bottles, diapers, masks and boots.

More info on Horizontal and Vertical Learning:

Vertical Curriculum and Horizontal Curriculum

The Vertical Curriculum is one in which representational/symbolic skills (or any other lockstep progression of skills)are mastered with a few practice experiences and then the individual moves on up the “ladder” to the next representational/symbolic skill…




1-1 Correspondence

Letter recognition


Letter-sound recognition


Initial consonants


Ending consonants


Consonant blends


Consonant digraphs


Short vowels


Long vowels with silent “e”


Long vowel sounds with two vowels




Word endings

2-d shapes


Fraction id

Vowels tied to “r”


Double consonants

Measuring inches, feet, yards

“igh” “ould” “ough”

Calendar calculations

Silent letters

Elapsed time

“ie” vs “ei”


(The Vertical list above goes beyond a typical 5 year old curriculum and is meant only to illustrate vertical curriculum)

Five year olds might be able to remember a few sight words and a few relevant letters and numbers, and some may be able to phonetically decipher the straight lines and curved lines into meaning and quantities. Until they are overloaded, they might even find it challenging and interesting.

With any skill set, however, there are many “horizontal” opportunities.

The Horizontal Curriculum looks sideways in every direction to think about many perspectives on the same level before moving on to more complicated representational/symbolic skills.

HORIZONTAL Examples for Early Childhood:

Wind, Water, Precipitation, Clouds, Lightning, Squirrels, Rabbits, Deer, Birds, Amphibians, Turtles, Spiders, Insects, Trees, Shrubs, Native plants, Native flowers, Fungi, Ferns, Seeds, Vegetables, Fruits, Soil, Rocks, Bedrock, Sand, Streams, Solids, Liquids, Decomposition, Forces, Energy, Sound, Light, Heat, Cold, Bubbles, Paper, Simple machines, Hammers, Drills, Balls, Spectrums, Magnets, Metals, Shadows, Floating, Sinking, Planting, Climbing, Stores, Police, Firefighters, Plumbers, Electricians, Buildings, Bridges, Tunnels, Cars, Planes, Helicopters, Bikes, Trikes, Seasons, the daytime Moon and last but not least, Native People.

In other words: studying the world and evidence

(*Literary Experiences and the Arts are “givens” as apart or embedded in both realms.)

There is a never-ending list of things to study at one’s own developmental level (horizontal) rather than “advancing” up the vertical ladder before that child is “asking” to do so. The vertical curriculum is often relied upon by teachers to impress, for parental approval, and to elicit recognition with easy so-called gains. The horizontal curriculum which almost always overlaps the emergent curriculum, requires diligence, imagination and creativity on the part of the teacher. Employing the vertical curriculum is more expedient, often ignoring the emergent curriculum. However,individualizing… the vertical curriculum honors the child’s abilities but it is rarely employed with less than a group of children.

When a child is not ready for a new representational/symbolic skill, there is always exhaustive science and social studies to ponder, savor, enjoy and retain. Some would also argue, that the unconscious malaise that sets in when students are not prime candidates for a given vertical skill, manifests itself in behavior issues.

When 15-20% of the population is diagnosed with “reading problem” and disability labels, there’s good reason to look towards the confusion of straight lines and curved lines not having been rooted in systemic meaning.

Both the horizontal and vertical curriculum are needed in the education of every child. Finessing the landscape is the art of teaching. The horizontal curriculum should be geared to the student’s own setting for genuine, systemic, immersive learning. The vertical curriculum should be more individualized than less, to avoid superficial, achievement oriented and reductionist school experiences. Boasting, even understated boasting… comes at a price.

Horizontal C. is about systems. Vertical C. is about steps. When the V.C. is not abused for pretension, both are wonderful ways of approaching a content-rich program. The horizontal curriculum is the compelling underpinning for humans to want to symbolically represent something. Without a strong knowledge base, symbols are wobbly, shallow and amusingly unnecessary. They therefore present as a pretentious hazard for too many children when developmental levels don’t correlate.

Thank you for being understanding about inclement weather decisions. Some teachers drive a distance…





Dear Families,

Summer registration is filling so get your preferred weeks before they close. FYI Some classes are already closed for September Registration.

One of our long term subs tested positive while in Europe. There was full quarantine and of course, attendance will be according to CDC and local health department guidelines before resuming work at Sprout House.

Venus is spectacular in the east around 6 am. It will last for a few more mornings if you have an unobstructed view and a cloudless sky. It’s very special.

Sorry to keep rolling out the fundraisers…and thank you for the families in Afghanistan……But our next wreath sale will be for the Newark Fresh Air Fund for children 4 miles down the road…. Now is the time everyone thinks about planning for summer.





Dear Families,

Next to hospitals, child care centers are the second most serious and sobering of responsibilities. The unmasking statements from the governor are interestingly welcome. However, best practice tells us that childcare centers consist of children and staff. In the past two years our staff has disappeared and returned, disappeared* and returned a number of times, costing us $500 dollars each time to recruit, and children losing a beloved teacher.  Some staff members live with people with compromised health and in some cases, it’s the staff member themself. Our substitute teachers are a deal-breaking part of the equation as well.

On March 5, we will survey the staff for information about unmasking, and let you know the status of that fact-finding by March 6, the latest.

Thank you for respecting everyone involved.

Seasons and sunshine,


*disappeared (meaning- taken leave of absence, or permanent elective termination)


March 1, 2022

Dear Parents,

As you know, as of March 7, 2022 the state mandate requiring universal masking in childcare centers will expire.  The NJ Department of Health is allowing schools to make their own decisions on mask wearing.

After thoughtful consideration of public health data and the preferences of parents and teachers, Sprout House has decided to make masks optionalMasking will be at the discretion of parents. Attached is a MASK RELEASE that must be filled out and returned prior to Monday, March 7. Parents will decide if they want their child to wear a mask. Note: If this document is not received before March 7, then your child will be required to wear a mask inside.

Note: In accordance with Center for Disease Control recommendations, masks will still be required inside Sprout House in the following situations:

  • After returning from isolation or quarantine (i.e., Days 6-10)
  • During periods of elevated community transmission (COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) is high (orange) or very high (red)
  • During an outbreak
  • In the event your child develops COVID-19 like symptoms (including but not limited to at least one of the following- fever above 100.4, chills, cough, runny nose) while at school. Should this occur, your child will be masked and removed from the classroom until picked-up.

Please keep a mask in your child’s backpack in case of the above situation.

We are pleased to share with you the public health data in the attachment and at this link that Morris County’s COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) is now moderate (yellow).

Sprout House will monitor the CALI data and also may revisit the CDC guidance to make adjustments as necessary to keep your children and the staff as safe as possible.

Current Isolation Guidelines

Here is a summary of the most recent guidance for those who have or may have contracted Covid.

Isolation Guidelines

Individuals who, regardless of vaccination status, test positive or individuals with COVID-19 symptoms who have not been tested and do not have an alternative diagnosis should:

  • Stay home for 5 full days
    • Day of symptoms is Day 0
    • OR
    • If asymptomatic, then the test date is Day 0
  • Children may return on Day 6, however, they will be required to wear a mask inside and outside for Days 6-10.

Quarantine Guidelines

Exposed close contacts who have NO COVID-19 symptoms do not need to quarantine if they fall into one of the groups listed below.

  • Up-to-date with Covid vaccinations
  • Had COVID-19 within the last 90 days (i.e., tested positive using a viral test)

Otherwise, children will need to quarantine through Day 5, and can then return to school on Day 6 but will be required to wear a mask inside and outside for Days 6-10.

Note: If a parent or sibling is diagnosed with COVID-19, then the child at Sprout House is considered a close contact. Their quarantine time starts on the last day of exposure to a household member.

Household contacts who can’t isolate away from a household member with COVID-19 should start their quarantine period on the day after the household member would have completed their 10-day isolation period, UNLESS the household member is able to consistently wear a well-fitted mask in the household through Day 10. If this is the case, then the quarantine period would start on the day after the household member completes their 5-day isolation period.

We strictly adhere to all these health and safety protocols and ask that you do the same. We realize this is a lot of information. As always, do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

The choices that we make on a daily basis for ourselves and our children can help prevent potential problems. We thank you for making choices that will keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible.

Thank you and stay safe,

Kathy Abbott, Co-Director

Sprout House Nursery School

200 Main Street

Chatham, NJ 07928



Sprout House Mask Release


March 6, 2022

Dear Families,

  • Play as Curriculum

Free Play, which means activities devoid of outside rules, should predominate the lives of everyone under seven years old. I often say that if higher order intelligent life came from another world, with different electro-magnetic capabilities, they might see an aura* around a four-year old child because of the intensity of the brain waves. One of the Sprout House main objectives is SELF-DIRECTEDNESS. That trait comes from satisfying play experiences. The corollary to PLAY is the use of IMAGINATION. Being new to the Earth, young children don’t really know which things go together and which things don’t, so attempts to just try everything reign. The results are enormous learning opportunities. They are making decisions in thorough contemplation, making discoveries, working out problems and ruminating on what interests them. Building a base of interest is power, because they are gathering “models” or schemas. If you gather it yourself, and insert it into your previous collection….it’s thoroughly yours. Forget curriculum for a moment, and think about understated, quiet joy. To lose oneself, totally absorbed in relaxing bliss goes a very long way.

PS Children 7-110 should also have ample glorious, free play time too.

The concept of “Loose Parts” is an Early Childhood term for a having a box of random items (but safe) for children to play with. Some teachers had the very good idea, that parents could also support this persuasion at home.

  • All previous Covid protocols are still in effect …. for now, at school, such as open windows and distanced eating.


  • Please do not send mittens on strings unless they are threaded through the sleeves. They are a constriction hazard, not to mention an extravagant tangle in 10 seconds.


  • The Bento Box has been such a great invention. If you don’t have one for next year, think about that investment. Again, thank you for not sending throwaways for lunch that will surely still be floating in the ocean when our kids are grown.


  • Looking forward to warm weather and before you invest in new shoes, Sprout House requires closed toe and closed heel shoes, even in the summer program and even for water play. The market has quite a few new styles that work well.

We are more than stunned and sad that one of our teachers has been forced to move on because of the economic structure of this “industry”. Our fundraisers try to mitigate this problem, so please support our efforts to give frequent bonuses. It is also uplifting for teachers to see that we help other causes as well. We are so grateful for this year’s generous support for the Teachers Fund, it has made a difference. The Nature Guide is local. The March entry helped me hear a Woodcock phenomenon last evening in Great Swamp. Woodcocks are very large birds with an extraordinary mating ritual. The wreaths can be decorated or used unadorned. They are the result of an environmental error. Non-native wisteria was trimmed (30+) years ago and tossed as compost in a backyard near a park. It rooted and now it slowly strangling the trees in that park. To keep it at bay, removing it to a dry place until its demise, is a good solution.

  • The CDC has published (how did they have the time?) new Developmental Milestones for Children. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002456.htm   You might want to read them on their website, but beware they are accelerated from the previous publication a few years back. The reason is that they want autism to be caught earlier. My concern is that it will make parents and pediatricians unnecessarily worried because it is somewhat alarming. Unless, there are concerns about autism, the old milestones are more in tune with development and my 40+ years in the field.

World Peace,


* Edith Cobb The Ecology of Imagination in Early Childhood


March 11, 2022

Dear Families,

We will all move the clocks forward in a few days. Children (and adults) will do best if it’s only a daily, gradual change. Bedtime could be fifteen minutes earlier every day to avoid an abrupt one-hour change. A brilliant teacher thought of it….

This is a singularly dynamic time of year. Non-Sprouts will remember that nature is awesome. We will just continue our usual zany, unhinged, delirious “forest bathing” habits. This is what we do. We plumb the environment like miners striking it rich. The bounty makes us wealthy in systems theory, content and differentiating parts and wholes. The pleasure of “owning” one’s environment, will ultimately allow for the more sophisticated need to represent it all. The healing properties, the fun and the satisfaction of nature play is now recognized by the government of Canada. Their doctors can now write prescriptions for large doses of Nature Therapy!

I will be leading a Wild Edible Walk on Saturday, March 26. at 10 AM. Admission is a donation to Sprout House. If you are interested, email director@sprouthouse.org with Wild Edibles in the subject line. This is for anyone 16 years old and up. A nearby location and other info will be provided in specific emails. The rain date is the following Saturday, April 2.

World Peace,



March 14, 2022

Dear Families,

I will be doing a Wild Edibles Walk on Saturday, March 26 at a nearby location from 10:00 until about 11:30am. This is an adults only experience. Admission is a small donation to Sprout House. Please email director@sprouthouse.org. Write WILD EDIBLES in the subject line to register. I will respond with details and location closer to March 26.

Mud Season is here with gusto. When buying a Muddy Buddy, invest in a very large one to accommodate layers underneath and future growth in a warmer season. We go out…..so protect your clothing.

As of today, there were 2 positive cases of Covid in immediate families. One was a father of a child and the other was a child of a staff member. All parties have been in quarantine and neither have more than a mild, single symptom.

Stay safe,



Dear Families March 22, 2022,

When children exhibit challenging behaviors, we launch an in-depth reflection. Unless it is a compulsive behavior, there are five possibilities for a reason:

-to obtain an object

-to get attention

-to avoid a person

-to avoid a task

-to change the level or type of stimulation

This takes more time than you think, but if you break it down into tinier and tinier parts, eventually there is clarity.

Remember, discipline has the same root as disciple and we are all behavior models, as well.

Due to Daylight Savings Time, Venus is still spectacular in the east before it gets light in the morning. As the days get longer, this won’t last long.

What are all those jingle bells you can hear near ponds and swamps all day long? It’s Spring peepers, those teeny, half-inch frogs with an X on their backs. Wood frogs are also awake and “barking” or some say “quacking” like crazy. They have a black mask across their eyes. In a pond, they might swim with only their eyes above the water; or sometimes they do the “dead man’s float”

Although we know people have strong reasons for not using Amazon….IF you do, remember to use SmileAmazon for Sprout House, or some other worthwhile organization.

Think soups, stews, fritters, salads and pestos……Last call for Wild Edibles this coming Saturday, March 26.…..See pic below.

Happy Equinox,