Why Your Child Falls Apart After School, And 5 Ways to Help


While I recently sat with a group of friends, all mothers with children ranging from 3 and 10 years old, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between all of our stories about the dreaded after-school slump. Regardless of the school – public, private, Montessori, language immersion – all of us had experienced the 3:30/4pm meltdown from our lovely offspring. Not even the ages of our children provided insight into what we were seeing, aside from the way the meltdown was expressed. Some form of “blowing off steam” or expression of disappointment, crying, whining, general feeling of being overwhelmed, or even epic tantrum (often after reports of a great day at school!) was inevitable almost as soon as they set foot in the car. The phenomenon is called “Restraint Collapse,” and our Elementary Guides have been fielding many questions from parents about this topic. Why do our children melt down at the end of the school day? And what can we do to help them? Continue reading “Why Your Child Falls Apart After School, And 5 Ways to Help”

Who We Are: Suzanne and Paraig Farrell

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Villa di Maria: Tell us a bit about your family.

Suzanne Miller: We are a family who LOVES to travel and will do so as much as possible. Our oldest, Margot, visited NYC, the OBX twice, and 6 countries in her first 10 months. Having new experiences and meeting new people is something we love to do as a family.

My husband Paraig and I moved back to St. Louis in 2007 after I was away for around 15 years. Paraig and I met in Ireland where we lived for 6 years. Margot made us parents in 2009 and Rory completed our family in 2011. Our furry children are two very smart Westies called Lulu and Georgina (Georgie for short).

VdM: Can you tell us about your background and education?

SM: I grew up in the St. Louis area and attended St. Louis University where I created my own major of International Affairs, which emphasized French, Political Science and Economics.  I mention this because I’m so grateful SLU gave me a ‘Montessori-type’ experience where I crafted my own studies.  From that I did an internship at the US Department of Stage and the US Information Agency.  I stayed on in DC in public affairs and then transitioned to financial communications in NYC and San Francisco. I had always wanted to live overseas so combined that experience with getting my masters in Dublin, Ireland. I met Paraig the first few months I was in Dublin and the rest, as they say, is history.


VdM: What do you do career-wise?

SM: When I was in Ireland I started my own marketing and communications consultancy called Magellan Communications. After doing this for 15 years, I’m ready for a new challenge and now in stealth mode on a new venture that I hope to launch next year.


VdM: Do you have any hobbies? How do you and your family enjoy spending your spare time?

SM: It seems I can’t read enough and recently have really enjoyed working in my flower garden. Photography has been a longtime passion of mine and I even did portraiture as a side business before the children arrived. As a family we love to ski. But second only to Christmas for Margot and Rory for being the best day of the year is a day on the beach as a family.

The last two summers we have gone to Ireland and stayed on the island where my mother-in-law grew up.  When the weather looks like it will hold, all the extended family (sometimes numbering up to 40) take small fishing boats over to another island that is no longer inhabited but where my children’s great grandparents lived.  We picnic, hike, swim and the kids play soccer and rugby with the most breathtaking scenery as a backdrop.

VdM: How were you introduced to Montessori?

SM:  My mother helped co-found a co-op when I was small so attended that school, which was called the Acorn School.  We had materials at home that my mother would use to instill some lessons in practical life, and math (the golden beads).  For my own children, I was looking for a Montessori program and the stars aligned that the Lab School at Grand Center opened three years ago-just five minutes from our house.  Margot and Rory were students #5 and 6.  After the first day at that school I knew this was our path.

VdM: What are you most looking forward to this school year?

SM: Now that we have both children in the same school, we’re excited to get better acquainted with the VDM community, but I’m also enjoying observing Margot and Rory enter the second plane and expand their collaboration skills and social circles.

Thank you, Suzanne, for sharing your family with us! 


The Fourth Great Lesson: The History of Writing


The Great Lessons are presented in a specific order, every year, so that children may experience these large concepts over and over again, thus solidifying the big picture stories they convey, as well as inspiring curiosity and a sense of wonder at the beginning of the school year. Before learning about the advent of written language, Lower Elementary children are introduced to the Coming of the Universe and Earth (1), the Coming of Life (2), and the Coming of Human Beings (3). Today, we peek in on Lower Elementary Directress Anna Schwind, as she gives the Fourth Great Lesson: The Story of Writing (also referred to as Communication in Signs).  Continue reading “The Fourth Great Lesson: The History of Writing”

Hoe Down!


This past weekend, Villa di Maria celebrated its 50th Anniversary on a beautiful evening with a hoe down! There was live music, line dancing, great food, drinks, and wonderful company. See a whole heap ‘o photos below! Continue reading “Hoe Down!”

Modeling and Facilitating Conflict Resolution: What Parents Can Do at Home


During the first Elementary Parent Education Night here at Villa di Maria, Directresses Megan Eilers, Anna Schwind, and Rebecca Callander discussed “Conscious Social Growth of the Elementary Child,” including the complex characteristics of the 2nd plane child. While an attempt to recap the fantastic, informative (and indisputably entertaining) evening would certainly fall short, an important take-away from the event was a discussion involving how parents can best support their 2nd plane children in conflict resolution at home. Below, we share several ideas on guiding your 2nd plane children (ages 6 – 12) through their conflicts with siblings, friends, and family members. Ideas were originally presented by the Directresses.  Continue reading “Modeling and Facilitating Conflict Resolution: What Parents Can Do at Home”