Recess Time!

Amidst the influx of research showing  the importance of recess, free play and movement for children’s development, rest assured that recess is alive and well at Villa di Maria. Except in extreme weather, children have the opportunity to have extended time outside every day. And they love it.


Fostering a Love of Reading

Most of you reading this post have already been inundated with the importance of reading to your children from very early on. Many probably follow the 20 or 30 minutes daily rule to foster a love of reading in your child.

Reading to your children is wonderful. Please keep doing it. If you’re not already in the habit of reading to your child every day, start the habit now! Bedtime is the classic time but for those children who wake extra early, morning reading can be a great way to enter the day. Any time that works for you family is a good time.

Another powerful way to foster a love of reading in your child is to simply read yourself. Pick up a book and read – to yourself, by yourself – and let them see you doing it. Children emulate what we do. They learn how to navigate the world from us. So, if you want reading to be part of their lives, make it a part of your life in such a way that they can see it.

Many adults read at night before bed, and as relaxing as this may be for us, our children do not typically observe this part of our day. So, yes this is your excuse to let the dishes sit in the sink and read. Show your children the magic of being caught in a book so good that you can’t put it down. When you’re sitting in line at dismissal pick up your book instead of your phone. Make regular trips with your children to the library and make sure they know that at some point it’s your turn to look through the stacks for books or pick up the books you’ve requested. Read. Just like they will want to play on your phone if they see you on your phone… they will also want to know the magic of books if they see that it’s a part of your life. Let reading permeate the culture of your family.

Thank you Melinda for all your mad photo taking skills.

On Choice: Part 3 – Choice, Community and the Montessori Classroom

“There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it, which comes through experience of freedom within the community.”

-Dr. Montessori

Building on our appreciation of choice and the importance of limiting choices, let’s take a look at one part of choice in Montessori environments. The story of choice in Montessori is often told as one of individuality –  They choose their own work! They work at their own speed! And while the development of the individual is wonderful (and fostered through choice!), this is less than half of the story on this subject. In fact, the understanding  of choice in relationship to the development of community in the classroom is equally or even more glorious.

There is great freedom given to the children in each environment, with the primary limitation on their freedom being the other humans who share their space. Think of the materials in the classroom. With the exception of a few materials there is only one of everything. This means that there will definitely be times when children want to do something that is not available.

The child walks over to choose something only to discover that their classmate is working with the material. Through this the child learns to wait, take turns, exercise patience and practice delayed gratification. Self-control is born of being part of a group. Not out of depravity does the child learn these things but out of an understanding of community.

Children have the freedom to move in the classroom but their movements may not hurt others and may not disturb others’ work. Their freedom is curbed in so far as they are part of a group. Individual allowances are made – children can understand why their classmate needs extra space at a table to do their giant long division problem. In fact, such allowances are easier to make because children know what it means to share space, to give and to take.

How powerful to realize that our individual freedoms and choices must  exist within the context of other people – that we cannot choose without our choices impacting others. The fierce individuality that Montessori environments foster through choice is misunderstood if not contextualized with the deep reverence given to interdependence and community.

The ever talented Melinda Smith generously shared her superb photography skills once again. Melinda you are wonderful.  Thank you.


Parenting is fraught with mistakes, big and small. They are an inevitable part of the journey. When we mess up as parents, whether it’s losing our temper or dropping the ball, it can be incredibly disquieting. We need to find a way to gracefully navigate making mistakes as a parent.

We shouldn’t abdicate responsibility for our mistakes, however many of us beat ourselves up over our every failing, shortcoming or momentary slip. I’m going to suggest that we instead embrace forgiveness. Yes, you’ve made a mistake. Yes, you can find a way to move forward. Let’s make an effort as parents to deal with our mistakes in a manner that we’d want our children to emulate as they inevitably face their own shortcomings. Show them how to face imperfection.

Treat yourself the way you would like your child to treat themselves. Your child is learning from you just how hard to be on themselves. Take responsibility, find a good solution and forgive yourself.

All photographic credit is due to Erin Drago.

On Choice: Part 2 – Parenting and the Art of Limiting Choices…

Making choices is a huge part of adult life. Our days are packed with choices, big and small. While many of us may wish to rid ourselves of the seemingly endless decision making, we can’t deny that it’s a central part of life – and that being good at it is advantageous.

To help our children cultivate their choice making competency, we must offer choices within a framework. As wonderful as choice is in a young life, unchecked, unlimited choice hinders children’s ability to choose and learn the nuances of making a choice. Limits are crucial. So, let’s look into some of the parameters we can implement around choices.

1. The first limit on choices is to remember that some things are not choices. Whether or not your child is buckled into the car before driving is not an option. Don’t offer choices that are not choices. Read more on offering real choices here.

2. Offer appropriate choices for your child’s age. Young children do not need the same choices as older children. For example, think of a progression of choices regarding play. An appropriate choice for a toddler would be, “Would you like to swing or go down the slide?” For a child in the Children’s House it might be, “Would you like to go to the playground or play in the yard?” And then for the elementary child it could adjust to, “Would you like to go for a bike ride alone or with a friend?” Think about the choices you are giving and consider whether they are appropriate for your child. (If you need help, ask your child’s guide or chat with another trusted parent!)

3. Don’t give too many options for any choice. We’ve all experienced the overwhelming feeling of having too many options! Limiting options allows a child to really choose – to have the possibility of making a thoughtful choice. So, when your young child is dressing, instead of asking “Which shirt would you like to wear?” try, “Would you like to wear the green shirt or the red shirt?” As your child gets older they will likely be able handle more options, but we should still be considerate of the options we give. For example, as your child progresses to choosing their clothes from those available in their dresser, limit their options by making sure that all of the options are good ones. Tank tops don’t need to be available in December! (Full disclosure, your friendly blogger has failed to be diligent on this count, resulting in a 2.5 year old walking into their Children’s House in a swimming suit…)

4. Only offer children low stakes choices. They need to practice making choices; they don’t need to practice recovering from catastrophic choices. Children cannot always predict the entirety of the outcomes of their choices before making them – don’t offer choices that the children will be sorry they made or won’t be able to recover from.

5. Don’t offer a choice that consists of a terrible option vs. a great option. Generally when we do this to our children, we are really trying to make them choose one thing over another. This is not fair to your child. They are practicing making choices, let them practice.

Again, seek help from someone who excels at this. Reach out to a guide or one of the many folks here to support us as parents. The nuances of choices are important and the payoff is well worth the effort!

Melinda, your photos make everything better! Thank you.

Thanks as well to Brigid Jhee and Anna Schwind for ideas, examples and conversations that improved this post.