Historical Connections

Tuesday and Wednesday of last week Villa di Maria was fortunate to host actor Erika Roberts from the Missouri History Museum’s ACTivist program. She graced us with four sessions individually tailored toward our Extended Day through Upper Elementary children. She subtly shifted the depth of each presentation based on the age of the children.

The session began with discussion and acceptance of Brave Space Rules, including refraining from assuming other people’s thoughts or feelings and using “I statements” when speaking.

Erika clarified the Brave Space Rules in terms that made sense to her audience and continually checked for understanding.

Erika then moved the students on to a discussion around rights, particularly civil rights. The ACTivist program defines rights as “things that we are all allowed, or should all be allowed, to do. Rights are important for human beings to have to make sure we are happy and healthy and treated fairly.” The children deftly identified some of their own rights and Erika adeptly clarified the distinction between rights and privileges. The next step was to define civil rights, this narrowing led civil rights being defined as “the rights that we have because we’re American citizens.” Throughout the presentation she continually engaged the children in the conversation which both engaged them and let her know the depth of their understanding. She asked children to identify ideas and events they didn’t know and used this as an opportunity for further exploration.

The conversation on civil rights naturally led to discussion of instances in which civil rights are not respected. The children brainstormed how it would feel to have one’s right removed and what they might do in a situation where their rights were infringed upon. This introduced a thoughtful discussion of why people make the choices they make to defend their, or others’, rights.

In full Montessori fashion, Erika came with a timeline of African American civil rights from 1803-present, which included national and St. Louis-specific events. It was encouraging to witness the Upper Elementary children comment on Dred and Harriet Scott’s case which they were all familiar with from past studies.

The session concluded in a performance piece which involved song and storytelling at its finest. The children were captivated by the actor’s portrayal of the life of Lucy Delaney. Even the youngest children understood the essence of the story is of a young woman’s quest for freedom. The Missouri History Museum’s program is fantastic, and our children benefited from taking part in such thoughtfully planned and skillfully executed event. Classrooms are further building on this experience and encouraging children’s curiosity through books and research projects.

For those interested, here is a description of the historical figure that was portrayed for the children: Lucy Ann Delaney, born Lucy Berry (c. 1830 – after 1891), was an African-American author, former slave, and activist, notable for her 1891 narrative From the Darkness Cometh the Light, or, Struggles for Freedom. This is the only first-person account of a “freedom suit” and one of the few post-Emancipation published slave narratives.

The memoir recounts her mother Polly Berry’s legal battles in St. Louis, Missouri for her own and her daughter’s freedom from slavery. For her daughter’s case, Berry attracted the support of Edward Bates, a prominent Whig politician and judge, and the future US Attorney General under President Abraham Lincoln. He argued the case of Lucy Ann Berry in court and won in February 1844. Their cases were two of 301 freedom suits filed in St. Louis from 1814 to 1860. Discovered in the late twentieth century, the case files are held by the Missouri Historical Society.

This blog post would not be as rich without the help of Jade Venditte. Jade, thanks for sharing information, giving insightful feedback and bringing this presentation to our community.

The pictures which truly help capture the presentation are thanks to the ever talented Melinda Smith.

Community Gifts

There are a plethora of ways that children build community in their environments at school. In the Children’s House, one way children participate in the life of the environment is by bringing in community gifts –  items for snack, vegetable cutting or pet care that have been requested by their guide.

Children take pride in bringing items into their classroom. It is a great opportunity to increase their sense of ownership in their environment. For young children, bringing in communal gifts can also help them transition into the classroom. (When my own children began their tenure at school we would often sign up to bring something simply to ease the Monday morning transition. They loved jumping out of the car with bricks of cheese in tow!)

Contributing to the greater community is an exercise in grace and courtesy. This simple act offers a chance to practice all sorts of social skills. It clearly shows children that they are part of a greater whole that they play a vital role in their community.

Gifts spark conversation and connection. We can imagine the discourse… “You brought carrots!” “Thank you for the carrots.” “Let’s talk about what we’re going to do with these …”
An opportunity for responsibility and ownership…

Community gifts allow us to choose what we can contribute to the classroom. If we’re lucky, time allows us to shop for the items with our children. The children have the joy of bringing in the item and the double joy of seeing the item used. How lovely to watch a friend arrange the flowers you brought in! As a child the experience is important. As a parent, community gifts are another link to our children’s prepared environment.

These pictures are a beautiful sequence of the experience the child has when they bring flowers in for flower arranging. As seen from the above pictures there are different rituals or routines with different items (and of course these will vary from environment to environment!).

Finally, community gifts just make things run smoothly. Of course, there are backups and contingency plans in place, but community gifts are one of those things that just make life in the classroom flow more effortlessly. And, who doesn’t want that for everyone at school? So the next time you get that link… sign on up. Please and thank you from all of us – your children included!

Many thanks go to Melinda Smith, Jessie Braud and Jess Jente for the photographs. You made the post infinitely better with pictures. Thanks as well to Reghan McAuley for ideas, brainstorming and inspiration.

Introducing Hannah Hull…

The team at Villa di Maria is delighted to announce the addition of Hannah Hull! Hannah’s work at VdM is multi-faceted, often requiring flexibility and quick transitions. She has stepped into all of her roles with grace and ease. Welcome, Hannah – it’s great to have you!

Hannah in Williamsburg, VA

Describe your educational background.

I’ve never wanted to do anything else than to work with children.  My kindergarten teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I clearly remember saying “a teacher.”  I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and have worked with children ever since.  I spent 8 years working at a preschool in my hometown and then came to St. Louis in 2003.  I worked at another Montessori school in the area and then came here in December.

How/when did you become interested in Montessori education?

I came into Montessori quite by accident!  When I moved to St. Louis I knew I wanted to work in a school but couldn’t find any that were hiring.  I happened to find an advertisement for an Extended Care teacher at a local Montessori school and decided to try it out.  Best decision ever as I fell in love!  Even on the tour during my interview I was fascinated by the prepared environment and I absolutely adored all of the materials that were child-sized.  After I was hired, I saw how much the kids loved learning and how they learned at their own pace and in their own style.  When this happened, there was no going back to the traditional classroom!

What has been the BEST part of your Montessori experience so far?

I love seeing children treated as equals rather than being spoken down to.  It’s also very rewarding to see a child master a task that they have previously struggled with.  That light in their eyes is priceless!

With her sisters and niece in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

What do you enjoy doing outside of your time at VdM?

I love spending time with loved ones, reading nonfiction (mainly history), knitting, crocheting, and binge watching my latest Netflix obsession of the week!

If you were to plan a most perfect, relaxing weekend day, what would it entail?

Sleeping in, enjoying a beautiful sunny day with family and friends, going out for a nice dinner, knitting, reading, and playing cards.  Okay that’s too much to fit into a weekend!

Hannah with her family (her mom, sisters, niece, and brother-in-law!) in Chicago!

What is something you look forward to at VdM?

I really look forward to getting to know the kids and their families and becoming a part of the Villa community.

Your Favorite:

Color: Orange

Season: Spring

Book:  The original Boxcar Children (I read it over and over again as a child) As an adult:  Too many history books to name!

Holiday:  Fourth of July (because it’s warm!)

Movie:  Sound of Music and Mary Poppins (I’m a huge Julie Andrews fan!)

Hobbies:  Reading, knitting, crocheting, planning my next vacation!

Type of Music:  Pop, musicals (big fan of Hamilton right now)

Song:  Too many to name

Restaurant: Nudo

Vacation:  Anywhere warm and with a beach

Sport:  To Watch: Basketball  To Play: Volleyball

Game:  Hearts

Fruit: Raspberries

Vegetable: Carrots (cooked or raw)

Rain or Snow:  I guess rain because it’s warmer (I really love my sunshine)

Coffee or Tea:  Hot chocolate

Morning or Night:  Night, I am NOT a morning person!

Ocean or Lake:  Ocean all the way!

Dog or Cat:  Really big dogs!

Talk or Listen:  Usually talk, but I can be a good listener, too.

Walk or Run:  WALK.  If I’m running it’s because someone is chasing me, so you better run too!

Save or Spend:  I will save if I have to, but I love to spend!

Bike or Swim: Bike for exercise, swim for fun.

Salt or Pepper: Pepper

Fiction or Fantasy:  Nonfiction

Summer or Winter:  I am definitely a summer girl!

New York or California:  California (combines two of my loves: warm weather and ocean)

Cook or Dine Out: Dine out (local places!)

Relaxing in the Outer Banks

(Re)Introducing Robyn Milos…

For some she needs no introduction… for others, well soon enough you’ll know and love her as much as the rest of us do. The team at Villa di Maria literally could not be more thrilled to have Robyn Milos return – home! – as our new Assistant Head of School.  Welcome back, Robyn!

How/when did you become interested in Montessori education?

I found my love of Montessori as a two-and-half-year-old 😊 Mrs. Pearl Vanderwall, VdM and Montessori Training Center founder, was my teacher when I was a little girl, right here at Villa. I knew after my first two sons were born that I would love to be a part of something that made me who I am and which I had always held in the highest regard.

She really is a Montessori child – Robyn at VdM!

What do you enjoy doing outside of your time at VdM?

Drinking coffee while sitting outside and hanging out with all of the Milos Boys (sons and grandsons!).

If you were to plan a most perfect, relaxing weekend day, what would it entail?

Breakfast at First Watch with my peeps, getting in the car, rolling the windows down, and driving just to see where it takes us! Road-tripping, even if for a day, is a Milos Fav.

What is something you look forward to this year?

I am just thrilled to be home! I look forward to getting to know all of the families I have not met, seeing all of the children in their environments, and being at the Best Place on Earth once again.

Ringing in 2019 and closing out Robyn’s birthday celebration!

Your Favorite:

Color: Blue, all shades

Season: Spring and the month of August. The hustle and bustle of preparing the environments for the upcoming school year and then the children coming(!) has ALWAYS been my favorite, thus August 😉

Book: The Secret of Childhood is always a favorite.

Holiday: Hallowe’en, it’s a Milos favorite

Type of music: I am a lover of music, many kinds. Songs written and performed by the artist themselves are my favorites.

Song: All time favorite… good in the shower, the car, the kitchen…”Piano Man”

Restaurant in St. Louis: Crushed Red

Vacation: Any place you can put your feet in the sand is dreamy to me!

Fruit: Blackberries

Vegetable: Zucchini

The grandsons!

If you had to choose ONE:

Rain or Snow: SNOW

Coffee or Tea: Coffee, without a doubt

Morning or Night: Night

Ocean or Lake: Ocean

Dog or Cat: Dog, our Pomeranian is named Chewbacca (and rightfully so!)

Talk or Listen: Listen

Walk or Run: Walk

Save or Spend: Spend

Bike or Swim: Swim

Salt or Pepper: Pepper

Realistic Fiction or Fantasy: Realistic Fiction

Summer or Winter: Summer

New York or California: California

Cook or Dine Out: Dine Out

The youngest Milos boys at their favorite, the beach!

Happy New Year!

Welcome back! We are delighted to welcome new families into our community as we gear up for a glorious spring semester at Villa di Maria!

The new year is often a time when folks embrace change and take ownership of different parts of their lives or routines. While these changes and shifts can happen at any time, there’s something about the newness of the year which inspires us and boosts our motivation.

The new year can also be a good time to revisit our children’s routines. Below please find a few blog posts to reflect on in terms of rebooting some of your routines at home. While too much change can be overwhelming for young children, they can handle more change when the adjustments allow routines to better meet their needs!

Here’s to a fantastic 2019!

Mornings, Screens and a Bit on Executive Functions…

Lunch… (Part 1)

The Importance of Sleep, + 5 Tips to Establishing Good Sleep Habits

Thanks to Melinda Smith for the photograph!