On Giving…

Walking through Villa di Maria’s campus is striking to experience. Growth is visible in the new facilities; the Magic Circle beckons with its inviting benches; there is no shortage of space to run, play and explore. Look inside any of the buildings and you’re met with stunning classrooms full of beautiful, well-crafted materials. Best of all, inside and out there are children who are thriving in these environments which have been diligently set up to meet their needs. This is truly a place of great joy.

Villa di Maria is lucky to have an active and supportive community that brings the Montessori vision to reality. One of the many facets of our community is that we collectively make seemingly impossible things possible. This includes supporting the school’s long-standing commitment to being as affordable as possible. As tuition does not cover the cost of all that Villa di Maria provides, we have kicked off The Fund for Villa di Maria and are asking that you join us in supporting the future of our school.  Below Jade Venditte, VdM’s Director of Development, Diversity and Inclusion answers some frequently asked questions around The Fund.

What is The Fund for Villa di Maria?

The Fund for Villa di Maria is an annual giving campaign raising money for the school’s current-year operating expenses. Gifts to The Fund make up the difference between what tuition covers and the actual cost of running the school. These dollars pay teacher salaries and benefits, classroom materials, continuing education, caring for the grounds and necessities such as toilet paper and light bulbs!

My family is already paying tuition. What does my child get when we donate money as well?

Gifts are necessary because tuition does not cover the cost of everything we offer at Villa di Maria. It supports the people and programs that make Villa di Maria so special. This means exceptionally trained guides and directresses (aka teachers). Beautiful environments. Authentic Montessori materials. Real-world experiences.

 Wait, we aren’t simply raising money for a chicken coop?

Nope. The school needs to raise much more than a chicken coop. BUT! Fundraising should be FUN! By coming together to close the tuition gap, we are strengthening our community tangibly, but also creating a sense of collective impact. It’s motivating to have a goal and fun for the children to see that when we all work together, we can achieve great things! The chickens are a reward that is meaningful and will impact care of the environment for years to come!

How does financial aid fit into the fundraising picture?

Your gifts help VdM offer the financial aid that supports an economically diverse student body. The Fund for Villa di Maria is raising money for operating costs, and that means that the school has more funds available to offer financial aid. Your gifts make the school affordable to a wider range of students, bringing the benefits of social and economic diversity to the community .

How much difference can my gift make?

As a small independent school, VdM has many fewer supporters than a university or a larger charity. Your gifts to Villa di Maria are an investment that truly has a high return.  And, because the number of people who will give is small but the need is large, every gift counts even more.

Note: This content is inspired by the National Association of Independent School’s publication, The Gifts That Keep On Giving: Frequently unasked questions about why your independent school wants both tuition and a donation.

Many thanks to Melinda Smith for sharing her beautiful photos.

Lunch… (Part 1)

The topic of packing lunches often elicits a deep sigh. One more thing to do, one more thing to remember. Let’s try to shift our perspective by looking at lunches through a Montessori lens.

Like most things in the Montessori classroom, lunch is a multi-faceted opportunity for growth. It provides occasions for choice making, self-sufficiency and increasing hand strength and dexterity. It’s a time to practice social graces, build community and learn table manners. Our work at home regarding lunch preparation can feed this work in the classroom, allowing the children to get the most out of mealtime at school.

When thinking about lunches, we must keep in mind how much our children work while they are at school. The youngest are building their personalities, refining their movement, expanding their language and working with numbers. Elementary children are figuring out their social selves and actively pursuing new learning.

After a three-hour work period, children need to replenish their energy with a healthy lunch. Extended day and elementary children need their lunch to provide the nourishment for their afternoon work.

While we’ve all had the occasional day where we pretend that the cheese flavoring in the bag of Doritos counts as protein and fruit snacks are actually fruit, we also know this has to be the exception rather than the rule in order for our children to have what they need at to thrive at school.

In the Children’s House a protein, fruit and vegetable will suffice for most children.  Elementary children will likely need larger portions; figuring out how much they need is a conversation you can have with your child at the end of the day.  (Strategies and tips about the actual packing of lunches coming soon!)

While adjusting the choices available for lunch, school can be an excuse to deflect pushback. “This is what <insert name of teacher> said…” goes a long way.  Use it sparingly and use it wisely, but if you need extra support packing a lunch full of healthy options, this might be one of those moments.

Photo credit: Jessie Braud

Because lunch is an opportunity for the children to exercise their ability to choose, think about sending the children with a few small things to choose from rather than one large “all in one” dish. Also, it’s ideal to try new foods at home rather than sending an unfamiliar item into school.

Next, consider the lunchbox. Children going into the Children’s House need to be able to open their lunchbox. This allows them to function more independently in the classroom and take ownership of their mealtime. Have your child practice with their lunchbox at home. Remember to practice opening and closing the lunchbox when it is full of containers as that’s trickier to manage than when it’s empty.

Finally, let’s talk containers. Reusable containers are ideal. Again, practice with your children so you know they can be successful with them. A little bit of a struggle is okay (it will build their hand strength!) but they must be able to open it. Another benefit of a few small containers is that if a child tips over an all in one box with compartments, they lose their whole lunch. If they tip over just one box, they only lose their blueberries – much easier to recover from!

DSC_0075Photo credit: Lauren Knight

Lunch in a Montessori environment gives the children the opportunity to learn how to eat politely in the company of others. The children set the table, use silverware and eat off of plates. Let’s support our children’s opportunity to eat with dignity!

Welcome back!

We are so excited that 2018-2019 is officially underway!

Five minutes into the school year and the outdoor environment was in full swing!  What better place to do watercolor painting than out in the sunshine.

The children wasted no time connecting with nature and caring for their environment.

Welcome back fort builders!

From the very beginning, we end our day with jobs.  Taking out the trash and recycling gives the children the opportunity to contribute to the whole community.

Here’s to a fabulous year!

Preparing the Environment…

The prepared environment is central to Montessori theory and crucial to its practice. Each environment is specially designed to meet the needs of the children who occupy it. Our guides, assistants and staff have been working tirelessly to prepare each of our environments for the children. And we cannot wait for them to come!

In preparing the environments, guides have taken into consideration everything from the sequence of the materials to the natural light in the room. They have contemplated daily routines, how the children will move through the room, and placement of artwork.  Each decision was made while holding central the needs of the children.

It is not just the physical space which has been prepared. The guides, assistants and staff have also been preparing themselves through the summer and over the past few weeks in particular.

Preparation of the adult is an ongoing process. It requires self-reflection and conscious work so that we offer the best of ourselves to the children. Self-preparation takes many different routes. Some read books, some catch up on much needed self-care, some attend lectures or workshops. As a whole, the staff has engaged in anti-bias, anti-racist training. All of this work is to bring our best selves to your children.

Our guides do not model perfection but rather curiosity, kindness, and a friendliness toward error which results in true learning and resiliency. Guides model human beings who choose to walk on the path toward reaching their potential. This is the very path on which we invite the children to join us. It’s the path we lay for them by preparing the environment.

Welcome and welcome back!

All photography is thanks to Melinda Smith.

Happy Summer, and One More Good-Bye

34493845022_9176bb01d3_hWe’ve wrapped up another year for the books here at Villa di Maria, and we hope you’re already enjoying the start of summer. On a personal note, this is my final blog post before passing the baton to the next Montessori blogger. The past two years (and exactly 270 posts!) have been a wonderful, enlightening experience, and I’ve learned and fallen even more in love with the Montessori method and with this school – something I didn’t think possible. As a last farewell, I’ve compiled a list of my personal favorite blog posts from the past two years – I hope you enjoy them! Thank you for the opportunity to contribute here, for your support, for the opportunity to learn more about this incredible method of learning. Most of all, thank you for reading.
Lauren Knight
Blog Manager 2016 – 2018

  1. Loose Parts Play: A Montessori Playground (November 14, 2016)
  2. On Peer Conflict (February 16, 2017)
  3. 6 Ways to Foster the Nurturer in Your Child (February 23, 2017)
  4. Why Dirt is Good for Your Children (March 30, 2017)
  5. An Introduction to Practical Life (July 24, 2017)
  6. On Climbing Trees (September 21, 2017)
  7. Why Your Child Falls Apart After School, and 5 Ways to Help (October 19, 2017)
  8. The Role of the Adults in the Montessori Environment (November 17, 2017)
  9. The Benefits of Handwork for Children (November 30, 2017)
  10. On Independence: Allowing the Young Child to Dress Himself (January 18, 2018)
  11. Advice to Culminating Primary Children (From First Year Elementary Children) (January 22, 2018)
  12. Parts of a Flower: An Introduction to Reproduction (February 5, 2018)
  13. On Sharing (February 22, 2018)
  14. Development of the Will: Movement in the 0-3-Year-Old Child (March 8, 2018)
  15. 7 Ways to Show Respect to Children (April 12, 2018)