All Stressed Out

Stress plays a bigger role that we know in all of our lives… Including our children. There are three tell tale signs that a person is stressed.

• You have a measurable physiological response

• You will do everything to avoid the situation

• You will feel out of control

Stress has always been a part of the human experience and a certain amount of stress is good. Good stress can make you more productive, stronger, more alert, and a more creative problem solver. In our evolutionary history we needed stress to escape a cheetah’s sharp teeth. In order to not be eaten, we could quickly and creatively make a weapon, aim it accurately at just the right time. Today, adults and children experience a very different kind of stress…sustained stress that doesn’t last but a few minutes but for days, weeks, even months. This kind of stress (chronic stress) does a number on our bodies and brain.

• Too much adrenaline scars up the inside of our blood vessels which leads to plaque

•It weakens our immune system

•It harms learning

• Children who are stressed have a difficult time doing math

• Children who are stressed have a difficult time processing language

• Children who are stressed have a hard time following directions

• Children who are stressed have a hard time concentrating

• Children who are stressed have a hard time getting along with others

• Children who are stressed suffer from deep depression

Stress hormones or glucocorticoids (cortisol is just one of these nasty molecules) are the villains that get into our heads, literally. The hippocampus in the brain is keenly involved in learning. Glucocorticoids disconnect the neural networks so we can’t remember. We can’t process what we hear. We can’t reason quantitatively. We can’t think fluidly.

There are things we can do to help our children (and ourselves) avoid stress. Each of us has a tipping point; a point at which stress becomes toxic. Children react to stressful situations at home. As a family, take time to decompress together. Turn off the electronics. Sit down to have a meal together. Read a book. Play board games. Do chores together as a family. Welcome children to contribute to keeping the household running smoothly. Don’t feel like you have to keep your children entertained every minute of the day. Go outside, take a walk, play outdoors.

At school, emphasizing the process of learning rather than the end result and embracing mistakes as the way we learn allows children to luxuriate in learning new things. Give them ample time to move. Children have to move. They are children. Nature made moving a crucial component in the brain’s development. Allow a period of rest in the afternoon. Thirty minutes of quiet time does wonders for children and adults alike. Recognize that children learn best at different times of the day. Some work best in the morning, some in the afternoon. Allowing them to choose when to do their most challenging work will get the best results and reduce stress. Get off of the test roller coaster. Somehow humanities greatest achievements came without weekly quizzes, tests or grades.


The Brain! The Brain!

     This series of blogs will discuss the brain; how its health and development affect learning and what we can do to help.

       Based on John Medina’s research, we will share the twelve principles that help children and adults alike to work and learn successfully. 

•    Exercise

•    Stress

•    Attention

•    Sleep

•    Exploration

•    Wiring

•    Memory

•    Sensory integration

•    Vision

•    Music

•    Gender

First up - Exercise

Movement is Brain Candy!

Human beings are meant to move. It was true for our ancient ancestors and it is true for us today. Because early humans needed to move to migrate and survive the journey, the cognitive development of our brains depends on constant motion. Even with all of our advanced technology, even with all of our knowledge; our basic cognitive development has changed very little.

To put it simply, movement helps children learn. Movement is an important component of:

• how well children attend

• anxiety levels

• self-esteem

 • memory

 • academic performance

A Bit of Science

Our brains use up about 20% of the body’s energy even though it only takes up about 2% of weight. It has an enormous appetite for energy! It all has to do with how our body and brain works at a molecular level. We eat. Glucose and other metabolic products are absorbed into the bloodstream. These are transported and deposited into our cells. Our cells gobble up the glucose to get every bit of the nutrients they need. The waste that is left is toxic free radicals. If we can’t get rid of them, we get very sick and die.

Luckily that doesn’t happen because of oxygen. Oxygen acts like an electron absorbing sponge. The oxygen then changes them into carbon dioxide. The blood transports them to your lungs which send them out of the body by exhaling. We can survive for 30 days without food, a week without water. But our very active brain can only make it about five minutes without oxygen. When we exercise, blood flow increases. Exercise stimulates the blood vessels to produce nitric oxide which regulates blood flow. As blood flow increases, blood can be transported to deeper and deeper tissues of the body including the brain. It stimulates an important brain growth factor called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF acts like MiracleGro, keeping brain cells young, healthy and buffers the effects of stress.

Children need to be moving! Sitting still for long periods of time is especially detrimental to their brain development. The brain needs movement to retain learning. Children need to be outdoors for longer than twenty minutes running and playing to soak up all that very beneficial oxygen.

Movement is a basic premise of Montessori at all age levels. You will find children in the classroom and outdoors in constant energetic movement!

Montessori materials are designed for movement. Children travel about the classroom as they retrieve the nomenclature needed to complete their work. They move location frequently as some lesson material is used at a table and some on floor mats.

Montessori allows for outdoor movement for an hour each day. Time is spent outdoors studying nature as well during the warmer months.

Primary Practical Life "A lesson in the practical side of life."

Primary Practical Life
(Learning the things necessary for the Practical side of life)

Here we see the child preparing food. This four year old is engaged in an important life skill. The simple act of cutting and serving an apple teaches the child so much.

1. First of all, the activity took about 35 minutes to complete. (WOW) Look at the development of CONCENTRATION. Who could believe a 4 year old could stay with an activity that long? Once concentration is developed, it is extended to other endeavors. Even to a seven or an eight year old, staying with a math problem sometimes for several days until completion.

2. The CONFIDENCE this affords a child will continue into other areas. He has completed successfully something that has been enjoyed by his friends. He has done something nice for people. (How do you feel when you do something nice for someone?)

3. INDEPENDENCE is gained by knowing you can do things by yourself. Learning to prepare your own food is carried on at each level in Montessori. It is a great part of learning independence.

4. Again, we see here the SELF DIRECTION that is required to complete this activity

5. The child must develop SELF DISCIPLINE in order to carry this out to completion.

6. The SOCIAL education that is learned though good manners goes a long ways in life. Here he has made his friends happy by offering them a treat. Learning the proper way of offering someone something and then how to gracefully accept or refuse is very important.


This little activity, which is so Non-technical offers a world of opportunity for the child’s development in many, many areas. We must not forget the “Needs of Life”. Learning these life skills does so much for the development of a child’s education. The confidence developed in interacting with others in this simple ways helps the children work collaboratively in academic settings later. 

Toddler Grace and Courtesy "The showing of politeness in one's attitude and behavior toward others."

Grace and Courtesy

This may look like a fun play activity for two little toddlers, but lets look at all the things that are being developed. The tea pot and items necessary for pouring tea were on the shelf. They had to set it all out and fill the pot with tea (water) then invite someone to join. Tea was poured without spilling, then sipped so expertly. There was cordial conversation between the children as well. After the party is over, the dishes must be cleaned, dried and put back on the shelf.

The Vital things for development that are accomplished here.

1. Learning a sequential order of how to do an activity.

2. Developing the coordination for this activity.

3. Completing the activity.

4. Putting away in good conditions.

5. Look at the opportunity for independence.

6. The opportunity for self direction by being able to choose what a child would enjoy.

7. There must be self discipline for the activity to be accomplished successfully.

8. The toddlers have An opportunity for conversation, the social development.

9. Having fun while all these skills are being developed.

Grace and Courtesy - Manners are such an important skill for a person to have. They are a “Forgotten Subject” in education of today's times. While in Montessori Grace and Courtesy (Manners) are vital skills as well as the future means for successful relationship with other people. (Which, as we all know, often has more influence than how intelligent someone is.)

Sing Peace Around the World

M o n t e s s o r i   S c h o o l s

S I N G   P E A C E   A R O U N D   T H E   W O R L D

T h u r s d a y   S e p t e m b e r   2 1,   2 0 1 7

"Come and sing the song that will go all the way around the world!" 

 Children from across the planet will come together to sing for peace on Thursday, September 21st 2017 to celebrate the International Day of Peace. The singing will commence on the shores of New Zealand and continue from country to country until it reaches the shores of the Hawaiian Islands 24 hours later.   In 2016, "Sing Peace" involved over 150,000 children from some 65 different countries. We hope to reach a quarter of a million children singing for the 2017 event. We welcome back our schools who participated last year and challenge them to bring a friend! Invite a guest!  We challenge you to share Sing Peace Around the World with a school in your neighborhood, down the street or in your community.  Spread the word that children are singing around the world for peace.  More then ever the message of peace needs to be heard from every corner of every continent.