Our Continued conversations series highlights the experts behind our content. Meet the presenters, contributors, and guest editors who make a difference in their fields and inspire our learners to do the same.
Karen Deerwester, EdS, is the owner of Family Time Coaching & Consulting and directs the Family Time classes at B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Florida. She is the host of the weekly podcast See Me Hear Me Love Me and the author of three parenting books: The Entitlement-Free Child (Sourcebooks 2009), The Playskool Guide to Potty Training (Sourcebooks 2008), and The Potty Training Answer Book (Sourcebooks 2007), which won the 2008 NAPPA Gold Award for parenting resources.
Deerwester’s influence in the field of parent-child programs can be seen throughout the public and private sectors, where she has developed award-winning programs for public schools, faith-based organizations, hospitals, and private for-profit centers. She has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, including NBC, NPR, Parents, Parenting, Real Simple, Women’s Day, and Essence.
Deerwester has been a featured presenter for Continued Early Childhood Education since its inception.
What led you to pursue a career in early childhood education?
It was a roundabout journey for me. I initially studied philosophy and never even considered early childhood education in my undergraduate years or while earning my master’s degree. It was after I finished my first year in a philosophy PhD program that I had my “aha moment” and decided to leave philosophy to work with kids. A friend and mentor told me that when you don’t know what to do with your life, go and volunteer. So, I went and volunteered in a preschool, and when I observed those teachers, I thought they were magnificent. This was in 1982, and I’ve been in the field ever since, growing and changing and discovering new ways to keep the field vital and exciting for me. Going into this field was one of the most perfect decisions I ever made in my life, and I would encourage anyone to follow their heart if they’re feeling that same desire.
Once you realized you wanted to pursue a different career path, what did you do next?
I continued volunteering in the preschool setting while I simultaneously earned all the certifications I needed at the time for the field. I then began working at a for-profit early childhood center in Florida while I pursued a second master’s degree in education. This was in the 1980s, which was such a monumental time in the field of early childhood education. So many of today’s great educational practices were being researched and developed at that time, and I felt to lucky to be a part of it.
"Going into this field was one of the most perfect decisions I ever made in my life, and I would encourage anyone to follow their heart if they’re feeling that same desire."
You now own a well-known coaching and consulting business. How did your journey lead to what you’re doing today?
After spending time as an early childhood teacher and then administrator, I spent a number of years developing and leading the early childhood education program in Broward County [Florida] Public Schools and then went on to open my own child care center. When I closed that business, I took some time to do writing, consulting, and training. In doing this, I realized that I missed being in the classroom. I always needed to be that person crawling on the floor and having that engagement with children, but I also needed to keep stretching and challenging myself in other ways. That’s when Family Time Coaching & Consulting was born. Family Time operates the parent-child program at the Ruth & Edward Taubman Early Childhood Center in Boca Raton, Florida, which gets me back on the floor doing what I love with kids. My books, blog, podcast, and training are how I share the world that I get to live in every day.
What makes you so passionate about the early childhood stage of development?
There’s magic and wonder in this developmental stage. To be able to see the world through a child’s eyes is so profound. This stage creates the scaffolding for life and the bridge that connects to lifelong skills. It’s the foundation of all future relationships and growth. Early childhood is when children develop skills that will enable them to be masterful and confident in all areas of their life. It’s a stage of mistake-making, developing, refining, and celebrating the process. Early childhood gives us the ability to make mistakes, live with mistakes, and have the emotional competence and confidence to live in an ever-changing world. There’s no other stage like early childhood.
"To be able to see the world through a child’s eyes is so profound. There’s no other stage like early childhood."
You’ve been a part of Continued Early Childhood Education since its inception. Why do you consider online education valuable to your field?
Online education is the most important new trend that is happening. Continued is meeting a tremendous need by offering early childhood providers with easy access to magnificent courses that can be done at any time of day that is convenient for them. I respect the work Continued is doing and have enjoyed being able to share and collaborate with a larger scope of people.