Getting Ready….

Villa di Maria’s Upper Elementary class has been busy preparing for the Winter Concert. The play has been written, casting is complete, lines are (mostly!) memorized, blocking and lighting are all in order. Music is always a key feature in the Upper Elementary play and this year the group was lucky enough to work with Alan Stewart, a percussionist with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra!

Getting to sneak peeks at the upcoming awesomeness is one of the joys of blogging for VdM. The highlight of watching the Upper Elementary in action came when a stage hand leaned over and told me how much their classmates had improved. It wasn’t a negative comment, it was an honest observation. We all get better with practice. Consciously experiencing the shift from muddling through to mastery gives children the understanding that it’s important to work on the things we want to improve. And being part of such a big endeavor teaches the children that others also improve with practice. There are so many good things that come out of the enormous undertaking of the Upper El play – this is just one of my favorites.

The Winter Concert will be a great show… From the pride of the Extended Day children, the evident joy in that first row of  Children’s House performers, the poetry and songs of our thriving Lower Elementary classes, to … well, to a Unicorn. I’m pretty sure this one rehearsal picture says it all. Don’t miss it!

Winter Reading

As you prepare to hunker down for Winter Break, make sure you’re well stocked with books for the whole family. Below is Lauren Knight’s lovely post from last winter on children’s books for this time of year. Take a peek, run to the library and don’t forget to pick a few up for yourself!

over-and-under-the-snow-image-2With the weather patterns jumping between arctic air and icy sidewalks, we are all spending more time indoors this winter. And while we still encourage you to bundle up and experience this quiet season outdoors with your children (even for a few minutes every day), there’s nothing wrong with cuddling up under a blanket on the couch or next to the fireplace with a good book (or fourteen!). Here are some of our favorite winter reads for children of all ages. Continue reading “Winter Reading”

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.