"Uncle Neil"  



Neil Fullagar

My philosophy

I am a nanny, preschool teacher, infant caregiver/teacher, early interventionist, parent educator, and babysitter, all built on what I was before any of those: an uncle.

There's very little on this page that's original. My understandings of children and how they learn and develop, and of teaching and caregiving come mostly from experience, but the language to express them is mostly borrowed from Erik Erikson, Magda Gerber, Lev Vygotsky, Alice Sterling Honig, Ira Gordon, John Bowlby, and so on.

How children learn, and how adults teach

Young children could not stop learning if they wanted to (and they don't want to!) nor could we (adults) stop them from learning. Neither is there any choice, in any relationship or interaction with children, of whether we teach something. For that matter, if our eyes, minds, and hearts are open we probably also cannot help but learn a great deal ourselves. We do have choices, and need to take those choices very seriously, about just what will be taught and just what will be learned.

 As this understanding developed in my mind (arising both from coursework and from working with real children) I remembered having in my youith seen posted in at least two teachers' offices (one elementary school, one middle or high school, as I was very fortunate to attend a progressive K-12 school) a bit of verse on the subject. By then we had the World Wide Web, so it was not too difficult to find A Child Learns What He Lives


 In-family vs. Out-of-family

Over the years I have become keenly aware of the difference between in-family and out-of-family care. In simplistic terms, out-of-family care tends to be more head-driven, with research results, plans, policies and procedures, while in-family tends to be more heart-driven.

Once upon a time, few parents gave much thought to in-family or out-of-family care for their children. Most moms were home during the day, grandma likely lived nearby (if not under the same roof), and perhaps there were aunts and uncles (and maybe cousins to play with!) close at hand. For most families, there was nothing to consider. During the second half of the Twentieth Century we passed through a period, as out-of-family care became more common and in-family care less generally available, when many families had both the opportunity and the burden of weighing which best suited them. We seem to have come out the other side, and fewer parents have to think about it. There's no extended family within a day's drive.

But what if we could combine the positive aspects of both? Well, we can, by adding an early childhood professional to your child's family to engage both head and heart. 









More to come... 

Love is Not Enough

It's not, of course, but I think it's the best place to start.


Discipline and Limits

Discipline is not, fundamentally, something we can "do to" children. Nor is it something we can pour into them, as much as we may want to. It is something which (one may hope) develops within a child. It takes time, and experience in making choices. It can be supported by what adults do, or undermined by what adults do.

Some things adults do that tend to promote the development of (internal) discipline are clearly stating what behavior is desired/expected, acknowledging good behavior, saying thank you, setting limits, giving warnings, acknowledging feelings, and enforcing consequences. There is no parent and no adult who works with kids who gets all of these right 100 percent of the time, and if we could it would not guarantee "success" in every instance. 

Some things adults do (all too often in the name of discipline) that tend to undermine the development of (internal) discipline are focusing on undesired behavior, failing to notice anything positive, setting no limits or unreasonably stringent limits, making threats, denying feelings, blaming, shaming, and punishing. There is no parent and no adult who works with kids who has never done any of these things, and probably none who are consistently negative 100 percent of the time. And falling into one or more of these negative approaches doesn't mean we can't choose to steer a more positive course.




 510-865-8058               neil@uncleneil.com

All photos used with knowledge and consent of children's parents and of the respective photographers.