Talking with Children About Scary Weather

Spring in Missouri, a time for crocuses, chickadees, wild flowers, frog songs… and terrible, loud, scary storms. For many children, the sights and sounds of a storm—or even the idea of a storm—can cause a lot of anxiety. Their imaginations are powerful and they might not be able to make the distinction between what could and what is actually happening. And if they’ve heard of or seen footage of a recent weather disaster, of which there are many in here in Missouri, their anxiety might be heightened.

Here at Villa di Maria, we practice our severe weather protocols with the children a few times during the school year, in sync with the city’s severe weather/tornado sirens. While they are necessary to ensure our safety, these drills can be tough for children who are especially prone to weather anxiety. So, what can we (and you) do to help ease the anxiety?

Rebrand it.

This is a small, but very effective, change: rebrand “tornado siren/drill,” as “severe weather siren/drill.” For many children (and adults), tornadoes are particularly frightening and conjure up very specific scary images from books, television and movies. Not all storms are tornadoes, so there’s just no need to trigger that fear with every siren or drill.

Answer all of their questions. All of them.

If you know a child, any child, you know that children learn and process information through questioning. When it comes to easing the anxiety behind the questions, the very best thing we can do is answer them truthfully and with clarity. In the classroom, class discussions about weather events can be very helpful for children, not only because they have the opportunity to ask their questions but also because they can see that their worries are shared by some of their peers. At home, talk as a family about scary weather and, because children always have more questions than we grown-ups can readily answer, have some books or websites handy for reference.

Turn off the media coverage…

… or at least, keep your children away from it. As adults we might be able to reason through the shock factor that the media can bring, but children really cannot. Hard reasoning, without the influence of imagination, is just not something that has developed in children’s minds. Media coverage of a potential or ongoing storm is likely to exacerbate their fears.

Prepare and practice (and do it on a nice day).

Nobody wants to give up a sunny weekend to think about storms, but carving out some time on a relaxing storm-free day, at a time when your child is not actively anxious, to talk to her about her weather anxiety can do wonders. Have her help you design your family’s severe-weather plan. Ask for her input about what to include in an emergency kit—Flashlight, check! Blankets, check! A copy of her favorite book, check!

Then, practice! Stay calm and focused just as you would during a real storm. Make sure to acknowledge what you’re doing and answer her questions all along the way. And, while it might be tempting to call it off or turn it into a game if your child is getting upset, stick with the plan. Show her that there is a comforting end to the process. In the end, she’ll have a greater sense of security because she was involved in the planning and she was able to get through something very scary.

Find the positives.

Last, but not least, help your child remember the positives of severe weather. It’s important not to minimize your child’s fears or pretend that storms aren’t potentially destructive. But remembering that there are also some good things does help. Thunder and lightening are actually pretty cool—talk to your child about what’s happening in the sky. And there will most certainly be puddles (puddles!) after a storm.


Numbers on a Page – The Addition Stamp Game!

Parents of young Montessori children don’t often see a lot of “work product” from math lessons coming home with their children. There are no work sheets to complete over the weekend. No times tables to recite over dinner. This can seem foreign to those of us who learned math by rote learning—through drills, practice, memorization and workbooks to complete at home—and lead us to wonder, is math really happening in the Children’s House?

The answer is yes! Math is happening in the Children’s House, and it is happening in a meaningful and intentional way.

Like everything in the Children’s House, the sequence of math lessons is designed to follow the natural development of the child. Math is introduced to the very young child in a concrete way, with sensorial materials that she can touch, feel and manipulate with her hands. With these hands-on materials, the child learns how to count, to measure, to recognize and predict patterns, to compare, and she begins to discover what happens when numbers are put together in different ways. These first materials also introduce, from the very beginning, place values—ones, tens, teens, hundreds and thousands—giving the child a solid, foundational number sense.

As the child develops the ability for abstract thought, she’s introduced to materials that maintain the hands-on involvement while also offering opportunities to think abstractly. She’s introduced to the four operations, one at a time, as she begins to think analytically and to solve problems. And she is introduced to the purely abstract numbers on a page.

The Addition Stamp Game is the child’s introduction into the world of abstract calculations. By the time she’s introduced to this lesson, the child has mastered the foundational math materials that gave her a number sense and she has been introduced to the first operation, addition, with the golden beads.

When working with The Addition Stamp Game, the child is given an addition problem on paper and asked to calculate it using small tiles, or stamps. She is practicing an abstract calculation while using familiar, concrete methods of mathematical thinking.

The problem combines two 4-digit numbers so the child will use her knowledge of place values. The tiles are color-coded and numbered to represent the groups of ten. As she works out the problem with tiles and comes to a solution, she writes her answer on the page, practicing her number writing and learning a new way to represent her work.

After she has mastered the Addition Stamp Game, the child will have more opportunities to bridge her foundation in the concrete with her newly abstract mind with Stamp Games in the remaining three operations—subtraction, multiplication and division. The progress will be careful and deliberate, following the pace of the child’s development.

As she moves toward and through elementary, her work with math will become progressively less concrete until, ultimately, she will develop purely abstract mathematical reasoning.

We are VdM: The Jacoby Family

The very best part of Villa di Maria is our people. Our community of families, faculty and staff is something to be proud of. In this series, We are VdM, we’ll highlight the energies, talents, humor and wisdom of some of our amazing people. Today, we’ll meet Jessica, Daniel, Aria and Adalyn Jacoby. The Jacobys joined VdM last year—Aria in Mrs. Steinman’s Children’s House, and Jessica and Adalyn in our Parent-Child course. This year Adalyn joined us full time in Mrs. McAuley’s Children’s House.

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

Jessica: Dan and I are St. Louis natives and currently live in Ballwin. We met in high school. I went to St. Joseph’s Academy and Dan went to Chaminade. We both attended college in Arizona and were married there, before returning back home to St. Louis to raise our family. Aria will be turning 5 years old next month and is in P3. She loves gymnastics and anything related to art. Watercolor painting is her favorite! Adalyn will be turning 3 next month and is in P1. She loves helping me cook and playing with our two fun-loving Labradors, Brody and Layla. We are counting down the days until baby girl #3 arrives this summer!

VdM: How did you find Montessori and what brought you to VdM?

Jessica: I became intrigued with the Montessori method when Aria was an infant and even practiced some in our home. When it was time to start researching education options for Aria, we knew we wanted a hands-on experience that fosters independence and a lifelong love for learning. I had gone on a lot of tours and spent hours researching schools and none of them felt like a good fit for our family. After taking a tour of VdM, and visiting with Laura for over 2.5 hours, we felt right at home and knew this was the perfect place for our girls.

VdM: What is your favorite activity to do as a family?

Jessica: We love exploring outside and going hiking. We also love taking advantage of all the amazing attractions St. Louis has to offer, frequently visiting the zoo, botanical gardens and science center. When we aren’t going on adventures, we love baking cookies, watching movies and playing games together.

VdM: What do you and your spouse do, career-wise?

Jessica: I am a graphic designer and own my own shop called Paprika Paperie, which specializes in customized wine and beer bottle labels, invitations, and paper goods for all of life’s special occasions. You can check it out on Etsy here.

Daniel works at Malikso Engineering in downtown St. Louis as a consultant for the process manufacturing industry. Currently he advises some of the largest dairy manufacturers in the country.

VdM: A question specifically for Aria and Adalyn: What is your favorite animal and why?

Aria: I love unicorns because they poop rainbows and have horns.

Adalyn: I like giraffes! Because they are big

Thank you, Jessica, Daniel, Aria and Adalyn! We are so happy that your (growing) family is a part of ours.

Photos provided by the Jacoby family.

Black History Month 2020 – Events for the Week of February 24

I swear to the Lord I still can’t see why democracy means everybody but me.Langston Hughes

Each February we pay tribute to the generations of African Americans who’ve suffered, struggled and fought for the right to become citizens and to be treated humanely and fairly in the United States. This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of Fifteenth Amendment, which gave African American men the right to vote in 1870. While the right itself has at times not been enough to truly allow African Americans their voices, the ratification is a true and profound achievement.

Throughout February, those of us in the St. Louis region have many opportunities to recognize, honor and celebrate the achievements of African Americans who’ve played central roles in U.S. history with events at libraries, museums and other venues. Below is a list of events for the final week in February.

Coming up this week, February 24 – 29

And finally, St. Louisans have access any time of the year to the following museums and historical places to learn more about African American History: