Kindergarten Conversations 2021

Our kindergarten conversations have quickly become a community favorite. Join us as we talk, laugh, and hear directly from local educators and leaders about what kindergarten is today. This is open to families in our community and provided at no cost. You will walk away knowing what a typical kindergarten day is like for kids, how lunch and snacks are handled, what typical communication looks like between families and schools, best practice for technology inclusion in the classroom, what it means to be “ready for kindergarten,” and much more.

Due to COVID-19 precautions we are not holding face to face conversations this year. Please register below to receive the zoom link, or join us on our FB page for the event!

Check out last year’s conversation HERE.

THANK YOU to Nature’s Pointe for sponsoring this event!

Books & Film

There is nothing we love more than igniting conversations about learning in our community. Too often we get caught up in thinking about the mechanics of school, early education, and parenting. We can bypass the mechanics by focusing our energy on conversations around school, early education, and parenting that are grounded in learning.

Book Study Good Stuff

What School Could Be (by Ted Dintersmith)

THRIVE (by Grant Lichtman)

Most Likely to Succeed (by Tony Wagner & Ted Dintersmith)

Why learning?

Learning has been at the core of our contributions since day one. Here is why…

If nothing else in this life I have become a keen observer of humans as individuals, colleagues, leaders, community members, and parents/families. As I’ve continued my efforts to impact eduction, it has become clear that beyond our connected thread of humanness there is another layer that connects us. That layer is our innate curiosity that drives us to learn. The science and attitudinal beliefs about learning are as complicated and conflicting as the stories and histories of us as humans. As a graduate student at the University of Kansas I sat through the state level arguments challenging how schools would teach human history. The premise for the argument; Do we teach creationism? Do we teacher evolution? Do we force the selection of one over the other? Watching that argument play out was my first experience with passionate, conflicting beliefs about humanness and at the same time teaching and learning. I had read books, written too many things to count, led organizations, yet not until that state level argument did I realize the conflicting messages around learning that had been and continued to be erupting within our communities. From that point onward my role as a keen observer started to solidify. I nationally observed the growth challenges of communities struggling to reposition their value and slowly figure out how to position their schools (often without ever clearly stating their organizational beliefs on learning). When we had kids, that observing turned to action, and the Early Learning Alliance Network was born as a means to activate dialogue around one of the most important components of our lives: Learning. As we go on this journey we invite every community to engage, explore, connect, and commit to our kids. They deserve our very best. With gratitude for joining us on this journey…. Jody

Curiosity & Key Skills

The Six Cs & Young Children

Check out our new overview that provides definitions of the sic C’s, what those look like in young children, and what to look for in classrooms that promote and encourage those skills for young children. (see the PDF document here)

Learning Reflection Tools for Kids

Check out examples from ELAN’s team for helping kids reflect on their learning and help educators document learning over time! (see the Learning Reflection example for preK-4th grade here)

My Post-24

Curriculum/Materials/Programs Review

Looking for new curriculum or materials? Take a peak at our new curriculum/materials/program review doc and leap forward with materials that meet 2020 expectations! (see the full rubric here)

Early Intervention Supports

We are committed to supporting all of our youngest learners

Our Disabilities Advocate and network of educational leaders in special education and support services stand ready to help the families throughout our community!

Need an advocate?

Reach out to our Early Intervention Specialist who can provide parent coaching via phone or in person. Peg is an IN-Source certified advocate and has years of experience working to support children and families with unique needs.

Learn more about IN-Source online here.

Autism Support

We are paying close attention to the needs of young children and their families who are facing the challenges and opportunities of an Autism Diagnosis. Read our report here about our work to inform elected officials around recent insurance cuts. 

Terms, Terms, & More Terms

There are so many terms and it is confusing! If you too are confused about all the terms that get thrown at you during early intervention, 504, and the IEP process here is our “friendly” list of terms that we hope help you as you navigate the process. Remember we are here to help, reach out if you need us! (Learn more here)

Key Considerations When Preparing for an IEP Meeting

Take a peak at our tip sheet and resource for families and key consideration when you are preparing for an IEP meeting. (Read more here)

Join our Disabilities Advocacy Network

So often the families that are most impacted by disabilities legislation aren’t aware of the opportunities to share their stories and use their voice. Join our ELAN4Kids Advocacy Network, we will email you when we need your voice to support and advocate for children and families. 

Parents and Preschool

Looking for Support with Kindergarten transitions for your family?

Check out our kindergarten support page here.

Coming soon our questions every parent needs to ask tip sheet for getting ready for kindergarten.

What Should You See In Your Child’s Classroom?

nterested in learning more about what you should see in your child’s classroom? Take a peak at this new resource that was developed by a leader in a  local district.

In the document you will find more details on:

  • How the environment reflects the learners in the room
  • How the teacher assists with building strong relationships in the room
  • How a growth mindset is nurtured
  • How experiential and hands-on learning is valued
  • What conditions of learning are fostered in the classroom to ensure engagement

Take a peak… it is a great resource that will help shape your expectations of what school could be!

Equity and Racial Dialogue

There is renewed call to action for our children and families to understand issues of race and equity. New research clarifies that our children are taught racial prejudice starting at a very young cage. When we know better as parents and educators, we can do better. Check out our resources and support page here.

Parents and Preschool

Join us in our community conversations tour with preschools and parents. During this interactive meet-up parents will get to talk about preschool, their needs, and get some tips and tricks for finding, locating, and vetting preschool programs for your child/children. These are free events that are facilitated by our Networking and Outreach Coordinator, Mrs. Sara Mills Henderson.

Help in Choosing a Preschool

Our team of experts has developed a guide for parents that can help you to choose a preschool for your child/children. Take a peak at this forward thinking document that is grounded in learning science and developmentally appropriate practices. (Read more HERE)

Interested in hosting a parents and preschool conversation?

Drop us a line to get your event scheduled.

Outdoor Learning & STEM

Our STEM Commitment

STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) present a unique opportunity to cultivate curiosity, self-direction, problem solving and much more through play in the early years. As part of our commitment to reignite curiosity in our children we are striving to serve our network in 2020 with a strong focus on STEM.

Outdoor Learning Resources

We are committed to helping educators in our network access and support outdoor learning opportunities for students of all ages. Need help? See below for our tool kit!

STEM in Early Learning

There are so many opportunities to ignite the natural curiosity of our kids. We are committed to helping our network develop STEM Lab experiences for young children and facilitate research on the use of STEM Labs as an opportunity for higher order thinking and developmentally appropriate practices that help all kids see the value in wondering.


  • Read Jody’s latest on Outdoor Classrooms and the benefits of Outdoor Learning [Read more here
  • Teacher–child conversations in preschool classrooms: Contributions to children’s vocabulary development. Findings indicated that professional development increased teacher–child engagement in multi-turn conversations, child-initiated conversations, and teachers’ strategy use. In addition, teacher–child conversations with a high concentration of teacher elicitations and extensions were positively associated with children’s vocabulary gains. [Read more here]
  • The Power of Play: Research demonstrates that developmentally appropriate play with parents and peers is a singular opportunity to promote the social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain. Furthermore, play supports the formation of the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with all caregivers that children need to thrive. [Read more here]
  • Dramatic differences in tests assessing preschoolers’ language skills: Preschool is a crucial time for language development. Children born preterm who display deficits in language skills are unlikely to catch up with their full-term peers. That’s why it’s imperative to accurately assess their language skills to determine if they need early intervention. [Read more here]

A Single Thread

Read our new flip book (created by our founder and her kids) that tells the story of how ELAN came to be. Our story is an accidental but passionate tale, thank you to our friends at Puravida Bracelets for creating a custom ELAN bracelet that represents our story.

For a limited time we have these high quality celebrations of our mission and our belief in children to thrive when there is connection, curiosity, empowerment, purpose, and understanding. Make a donation $20 and up, and as a thank you we will send one your way!


Pure Vida Bracelets Create for the Early Learning Alliance Network - Our Single Threads
Pure Vida Bracelets Create for the Early Learning Alliance Network - Love

Executive Orders: Please pay attention

On August 21st an Executive Order was issued for the state of Indiana. The order sought to increase child care options for parents with preK- Grade 12 school-aged children participating in remote or e-learning. The order suspended relevant provisions of Indiana code, to permit in-person supervision at a physical location for remote or e-learning for no more than 10 children (children includes ages 4 and up). The physical location would be a residential structure, allowing care only on school days during school hours.

The following are questions from the Early Learning Alliance Network related to that Executive Order. The italicized text provides the response from the Indiana Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning.

  1. Because the order specifies child care settings not currently licensed, what are the expectations/restrictions for currently licensed programs to provide this type of care? One main objective for the Executive Order is to allow flexibility for families who wish to congregate together specifically for E-learning, not to expand existing licensed child care home businesses. Programs that are currently licensed would not be able to provide care under the Executive Order unless they wish to enter into an agreement with a school corporation for its latch key program.
  2. To clarify, there is no expectation for background check, basic first aid, or insurance at the residential location where ten or more children can be provided care (for pay)? When programs are exempt from licensure they are not required to follow rules outlined in state or federal statutes and thus OECOSL cannot enforce expectations around background checks or other regulatory rules. OECOSL does highly encourage families to select caregivers that are appropriately screened and qualified to work with children.
  3. What is the date of expiration for the order? The Order expires at the end of the state public health emergency or if amended or replaced by a future EO.
  4. Does the exemption from licensure apply to children who have been withdrawn from public school and are enrolled in either a home school program or virtual only charter school? The executive order only outlines what type of environment is exempt from licensure, the age of children that can participate and that the children participating are engaging in E-Learning. This would not apply to children who have withdrawn from a traditional educational environment.
  5. Are K12 schools collecting any data from families as to the location of their children during remote or e-learning? That question would be better suited for the Indiana Department of Education.
  6. To clarify, can a licensed (non-home based) center be exempt from licensing expectations if they choose to operate a remote learning care center in a private home with pay coming to the center? (i.e., if a center sends a staff member to a private home, can the center be paid for offsite care under the order?) If a provider is currently licensed they do not fall under the Executive Order.
  7. To clarify, care can be provided by any individual regardless of age or background in a home with up to ten children under the order? Also, if an individual has had an in home center that has been closed down by the state for issues related to safety, staffing, etc. can they reopen for the ages and purposes under this order? The intent of this portion of the Executive Order is to allow families who have chosen to come together to form a learning collaborative to support the needs of their school age children to meet their E-learning needs. Families would be encouraged to identify individuals who are qualified to meet the unique needs of their children and can provide the educational support that parents have identified as necessary. In order to meet the exemption, supervision would have to be provided for the purposes of supporting the student’s E-Learning needs and if a program had opened for some other purposes they would not meet the Executive Order.
  8. If neighbors are concerned about the safety of children participating in the programming allowed by the order, who do they call with concerns? Any time that community members have concerns about the safety of children they should report those to the Department of Children’s Services. Reports can be made at 1- 800-800-5556. If a community member has a concern that an environment is operating outside of the parameters in the Executive Order they can contact our office at 877-511-1144.

When a City Commits to Racial Equity

For nearly twelve months our founder has been working with stakeholders in the city of Fishers, Indiana in coming together to take collective action towards racial equity. The work was led by a nationally recognized organization and was at times frustrating. Frustrating, not because of the topic but because of the pace and because of the stage in which racism, privilege, and mis-understanding were evident.

No one ever reaches a point where they are done learning about equity work.

The work of Fishers is ongoing, but courageous. The outcomes are yet to be achieved. The only thing we can collectively do is keep talking, keep learning, keep raising the bar, and keep holding others accountable to the community we wish to see.

One that is committed to racial equity, and looking ahead to achieving equity in access to all.

What is Interrupting Racism Now Training? Interrupting Racism Now is a one- or two-day training by national equity firm, Soul Focused Group. Led by moderators Mahdi Davenport and Dustin Washington, the training addresses the realities of systemic racism in America, both historical and present-day.

Why is this a priority for Fishers? Understanding the historical context of racism and the systems that perpetuate the existence of racism, even if subconscious, is critical to having productive and effective relationships to mitigate racism’s impact on communities of color. In early 2019, Mayor Fadness identified equity and inclusion as a key area of focus for his administration. As community members began participating in discussion groups and planning sessions, it became clear that race relations and disparities are the highest priority for Fishers to address. Interrupting Racism creates the foundation necessary to take action in a systemic and impactful manner.

What can I expect in the training? The training will begin by educating the group on the origins of race and racism and how those decisions impact the systems and biases we all participate in today. Throughout the session, the moderators will weave historical references with modern day examples and personal experiences to help participants identify the role racism plays in their everyday lives.

What’s the difference between the one- and two-day sessions? The one-day class is a modified version of the full two-day session. You’ll learn the basic foundations of Interrupting Racism, but may not experience the immersive portions of the training.

What else is the City working on to improve racism and inequities in Fishers? The launch of Interrupting Racism training is just the first initiative from the City of Fishers to address systemic racism. For more information, visit

Tips for Safe/Legal Learning Pods

Are you interested in running a learning pod for your friends and neighbors? This is a time where so many families are being creative about childcare and options for school-age children who are in virtual learning situations. While we love the creative initiative of families we are also very cognizant that there are rules.

So for those of you in Indiana here is what we know…

  1. If you are taking in school aged children (into your home or organization) to complete e-learning activities you may want to consider having families sign an internet use policy (here is an example that we like) 
  2. Consider testing your internet bandwidth before kids show up (take a peak at the education superhighway for one possible test here
  3. There are expectations for licensing that deal specifically with children under age five. Because a child can enroll in Kindergarten (before turning five) please do your due diligence with licensing. If you have more than five unrelated children in a home, without individual parents of children present, and receiving payment for care you may (and probably do) fall under licensing rules. Please do your due diligence and contact a licensing specialist here.
  4. Be cognizant that if anyone in Indiana that has more than five unrelated children (example “my two children and five others”) you will need to be licensed in most cases.
  5. If a pod or program is running with more than five unrelated children in a home and paying someone (or a business) to provide care that home owner may be responsible for securing a child care license, and meeting licensing expectations. Please do your due diligence and contact a licensing specialist here.
  6. Once you receive funds/payment to provide care for others (in your home or elsewhere) you may be responsible for different components of licensing. 
  7. If you are planning a pod/school age care/in person e-learning support program you may want to consider first aid training and back ground checks (licensing can assist with securing the best possible back ground check for your efforts). This will be required among other elements for licensing, however even if you do not have more than five kids, five days a week in one home with someone being paid to take care of children in the absence of families please be diligent in your search for support staff.
  8. It is important that those working with school aged children understand the process and needs for abuse and neglect reporting. Find out more here
  9. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has several documents that can help guide you to provide safe opportunities for children. Make sure to follow mask guidance and requirements and please do your part to prepare for limiting contact, mitigation, etc. during this difficult time. 
  • Guidance for if you have a positive COVID here 
  • Guidance for school aged programs here 
  • Mandatory vs. Recommended practice here
  • Learn more under the guidance heading here 

See our overview document for pod considerations here.