Saturday, October 3, 2020

Parent Night: Parenting for Self Regulation

 This is a transcript from a parent night given virtually, through Zoom, last night. We had great attendance from our parent community. If you'd like a transcript that includes the community building activities, group discussion questions, beginning ice breaker games, feel free to email me. 

Parenting for Self Regulation

A famous test was conducted in the psychology department at Stanford in the 70’s. They gathered a bunch of 4 year olds and put them in a room one at a time and gave them one marshmallow and would say “I’m going to leave the room now, and if when I come back you haven’t eaten the marshmallow, I will give you a second marshmallow.”

What happened when the experimenter would leave the room? Let's see!

Two out of 3 children would invariably eat the marshmallow. Most of them right away. But one out of the 3 would not. They would use all kinds of strategies to keep themselves from eating it: singing to themselves, looking away, covering their eyes, smelling it, one child even rested her head on the table and fell asleep.

The experimenters at Stanford observed these children and followed them for the next fourteen years. At the end of the study they found that 100% of the children who had not eaten the marshmallow had good grades, were happy, had good relationships with friends, and were considered generally “successful”.

Sure, there are some flaws with the marshmallow test. It cannot really predict what level of “success” your child will have when they are older. It only seems to work when children trust the adult’s promises, and what about children who don’t like marshmallows? More importantly, it has been proven that brains change and are flexible for longer than science believed possible.

It is a fun experiment though that gives us a glimpse into just one of the aspects that make up Self Regulation.

What is Self Regulation?

Self regulation is a whole set of skills that has to do with control in the brain (for example when you can positive talk yourself into succeeding through a difficult situation), control of feelings (like being able to calm yourself down when you get angry), and control of actions (like being able to delay gratification for a bigger reward- like the marshmallow test).

Sharing, listening, waiting for a turn, managing your emotions, problem solving, are all skills that require self regulation.

There are some aspects of it that are genetically determined at birth, but it is very teachable as well. It develops differently in every child, just like rate of growth, or like learning to read. It is a developing skill in children, and the ages of 3-6 are particularly good times to lay the foundations for this important skill.

Parents at our school receive a weekly photo album of children at work and play, and they must wonder, “Why is my child so exhausted by the end of school when all they do is play and eat snack and play outside?” Others may ask their child what they did that day and their child might respond “Nothing, I played.” or “I had lunch", further baffling them. The children are not aware that they are busy all day at school exercising the skills of self regulation that are built into so much of what we do.

Let’s have a look at some of the moments in our first 6 weeks at school of children practicing self regulation:

Putting your hand on the shoulder of someone who is working, or on a teacher's shoulder and waiting to be acknowledged before talking.

The snack waiting chair, waiting until a place becomes available at the snack table.

Respecting the boundaries of the climbing tree.

Watching a group lesson.

Taking turns talking and listening during a group meeting. 

Choosing a work, finishing it, and putting it away. Concentrating on your work.

Leading or playing a group game with friends which involves taking turns, following rules, and being a good sport at the end of the game.

Eating only the allotted amount of snack. 

Observing small creatures without hurting them. Not picking the flowers or breaking the leaves of plants.

Finding a friend to play with after someone has said "no" when you asked them.

Keeping people safe indoors by wearing masks.

Collaborating with a partner on work. 

Solving problems together by talking.

Cleaning up when we are finished eating.

Observing or carrying out food preparation without putting ingredients in our mouths.

Only hands may go into the mud pit.

Finding a safe place for insects.

Observing a friend work without touching their materials.

Rolling up rugs, putting work away, keeping the environment in order so everyone can find what they need.

Waiting to have a drink of water or to wash hands.

Why is it important?

I had a realization when I was putting together this presentation that self regulation is very similar to “mindfulness”. It is basically being mindful of yourself and others so that you can control the impact you have on the world around you. It has to do with awareness, accountability, and with respect. Respecting yourself, respect of other living beings and of your environment.

It has to do with self discipline too. The skills we are hoping the children will develop come directly from the child, not from fear of the adults or from fear of punishment, but from a place of love for themselves, others and their environment. Self regulation doesn’t diminish the child, it is the child rising to a standard of love for the common good.

In order to be able to learn socially, emotionally, and academically, we have to be able to exert some control over ourselves. To enjoy life and solve problems and have good relationships we have to be able to regulate ourselves. Learning to self regulate is the hidden backbone of much of what the children are learning at school. Even though it may not be explicitly written in the curriculum, if there’s any valuable skill you want your child to learn, it’s this one!

How to support self regulation development at home?

The home environment is the most important environment in your child’s life, and the place where they do all their primary learning. Their relationship with their parents is their most instructive model of how to be in this world. In order to foster self regulation in children at home, you can consider some of the following suggestions:

*Make sure their basic needs are met. No learning is possible is the children are tired, hungry and stressed out. On the same token, no teaching is possible if you yourself are tired hungry and stressed out.

*Remember this is a skill in development. Children are not meant to be perfect at it yet. They need your help to coach them and to understand where they are in their development. Having realistic expectations will help you temper your own response to your children’s behavior.

It is a skill in development.

*Structured environments go a long way in supporting the development of self regulation. Predictable routines at home, especially bedtime, mealtime, and after school routines help children understand the pattern of their day and be able to anticipate what’s coming ahead.

Clear rules and boundaries that are established together as a family also help a child with self regulation. Understanding why certain rules are in place and how their actions affect others, is the foundation for good citizenship. Natural and logical consequences are helpful in learning about accountability and responsibility.

*Acknowledging children’s feeling, talking about feelings, and being comfortable with their whole range of emotions can help them regulate themselves as well. Understanding that all feelings are accepted, but not all behaviors is a good distinction to make here as well. (see part about rules and boundaries).

*Coaching children by preparing them for difficult situations, practicing different skills, role playing, and brainstorming solutions to problems together not only build the skills for success in children, but also help them develop a growth mindset mentality. I can get better at something by practicing. Self regulation is a teachable skill.

*You cannot help your child or make good parenting choices if you yourself are overly stressed. Developing a strong partnership to raise your children, cultivating a support group around you that can step in when you need help, and recognizing when you need some time out for yourself are key elements in modeling self regulation for your child. It is demonstrated that parents who focus on improving their own coping and calming down skills build their own self regulation and provide a more calming influence on the children in their care.

What can we learn from the children?

In Montessori we strongly believe there is as much for us to learn from the children as they have to learn from us. I found this lovely piece written a researcher/parent Dr. Ashley Soderlund in her blog "Nurture and Thrive":

"I loved it when I would return to the room as a researcher in those delay of gratification studies and the kids who had waited would stuff both marshmallows in their mouth as happy as could be, no restraint at all. They waited until I came back and then they reveled in the fact of being able to enjoy those marshmallows. At a young age, they had learned how to really savor, enjoy, and also when to let go.

In other cases, kids would do a good job waiting, but when I came back in the room they were overcontrolled and anxious. Those kids could hardly enjoy the marshmallow. So, it isn’t just about waiting or controlling, it’s about being flexible in that control.

Having the control so you can choose when to use it, and when to let go.

Ultimately, we want our children to have the ability to control impulses when needed and to be able to let loose when they can."

Home Work

We’ve created a “Parenting for Self Regulation Checklist” so that you can see what areas of your parenting you might want to strengthen. Once you fill it out, it may clarify what skills you can work on at home and also help you recognize in which areas you are already doing well.

I encourage you to begin even with small steps. We can do this!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Full Set of Montessori Classification Cards FREE.

It was due time to refresh our much beloved classification card sets. I wanted to change their script to cursive and the task was on my to do list for years. I'm so overjoyed at having finished them, all of them! What better thing to do than share them with anyone who they can be useful to as well. The sets include cards for:

Classroom Furniture
Parts of the Body
Parts of the Face
Transportation Vehicles
Flags of the World (these include general countries, but also the countries of origin of our School Community- so they may seem random to you)

And pertinent specifically to Aruba, our:

Fish (together with Submarine Field Trip cards)
Flowers (these are ones we can find in our garden at school specifically)
Rocks and Minerals
(most of these are species/specimens that can be found in our immediate surroundings)

Please download them HERE. 
Be well.
Don't work too hard.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Protocols and Changes

For administrators or school owners or teachers to whom this could be useful I'd like to share our school's protocols and classroom modifications. They are largely based on the guidelines set by Aruba's Health Department, and I understand that in every place the situation may vary. When sharing this with parents at our school I tried my best to help everyone understand that this is a work in progress, that adjustments may be called for at any time depending on our greater environment as it evolves. I found it so useful to read what other schools in other places were doing, and especially to see photos of the changes in the classroom, since at the beginning I was resistant to making any change at all to our beloved Montessori classroom. We must adapt, just like the children, to our time and place and what is called for. This is the reality of our times. I think so far we have been fortunate to be able to maintain our group all together and have school five times a week. A week into these changes, I can say that the children, when introduced to the changes step by step as we do in Montessori, accept and roll with them without issue.
Our classroom is a one room Primary schoolhouse with two outdoor environments. We have 24 children enrolled, and 3 staff members. Typically, one of the staff members works in the kitchen and garden, but given the changes, she is now with us in the classroom especially in case one of us other two cannot be at school.

Protocols for Opening During Covid Pandemic

These guidelines are subject to change at any time depending on how the children respond to them, how the pandemic evolves, and as more information about children's role in spreading the virus becomes available. We will honor our calendar schedule and hope to be open through June 24th.

Modified Daily Schedule

Our school day will be from 8:00 to 12:00pm.

Daily Schedule:
Arrival 8:00-9:00 (to allow for staggered arrivals)
Work Period 8:30- 11:30
Outdoor Play 11:30-12:00
Departure 12:00

(We shortened our day in order to limit hours of contact with children and also because we eliminated our lunch program at school for the moment. Not wanting to have to handle all the equipment that bringing lunch to school would entail for the children, we shortened our day to 12:00. )

(We've made a visual chart to introduce the children to our new daily routine.)


Adults will maintain social distance and wait in their car so that only one child and adult are at the gate at a time.

Children are greeted as they wish with a foot kiss, air high five, air huggie, wave or just a big smile.

Children will be visibly screened for symptoms (cough, extreme lethargy, fever). 

Children will be given hand sanitizer when entering the school for during the play period.
An arrival time from 8-9 allows children to arrive in staggered times.

(We've asked parents to let us know ahead of time if their child or anyone else at home is ill, if they have received any visitors from abroad, or been in contact with any infected person. For the time being we are not taking children's temperature upon arrival. This may be mandated eventually.)


At 12:00 we ask that parents line up in their cars at the departure gate, and drive up to the school gate one by one. We will bring your child up to the gate as you drive up. You will have to make the FIRST LEFT TURN when driving into Balashi Web so that you can enter the “carpool line” in the appropriate direction.

(The first days, the pickup carpool style felt somewhat awkward especially for parents who were used to receiving their children out of school at the gate together with other parents. Now the line is flowing smoothly, I think more parents are appreciating the efficiency of the pickup time- many of them have to return to work right away.)


Children will not be allowed to come to school if they have even mild cold like symptoms including: cough, fever, runny noses, drowsiness, diarrhea, sore throat, chills.

Children will only be allowed to return if they have been symptom free for 48 hours without the help of fever reducing medications.

The reasoning behind this is to not only protect that child and the other children's immune systems but also the teachers at school. Teachers may not come to school with any of the above symptoms and this may imperil our daily functioning.

Children with sick immediate family members with Covid-like symptoms may be asked to stay home for a period of time.

When airports re-open, children who have traveled or whose immediate family members have traveled may be asked to stay home for a period of time.

Outdoor Time

We have an extended outdoor playtime in the morning and have added an extra "necklace" for children to play in our back garden. These necklaces are like a classroom work that a child can take and use for as long as they want. We may add more "necklaces" so more children can be outdoors at once. For the time being, 2 may be having picnic snack outdoors and 2 may be playing outside during the work period.

Indoor and Outdoor shoes

Children will switch into indoor shoes before coming into the classroom.

Work Period

Social distancing will be indirectly supported but not demanded among the children. It will be maintained as much as possible between children and adults, and enforced consistently among adults.

During work period staff will observe, be on hand to help, and to ensure hygienic practices among the children.

The classroom is modified to indirectly support social distance among the children. Tables are placed with larger distance between them.

Only one child will be allowed at each snack table at a time.

Small group lessons given by the adults will have a limited amount of children at a time and larger space between the adult and children. Children will be spaced out with place markers.

When children need adults assistance, marks will be placed on the floor so they can stand at a distance and wait.

Large group lessons (meetings) will be given in our lunch room with distancing among the children and adults.

We will maximize ventilation with windows open when conditions are favorable. Airco filters will be cleaned every week.

Hand washing provisions

Hand washing will be required on entering the classroom, before snack, before lunch and after using the bathroom. It will also be asked of children who have placed their hands in their mouths or noses, or who have coughed or sneezed into their hands. 

The hand washing procedure will involve washing hand with soap and water for 20 seconds, drying hands with a paper towel and following up with hand sanitizer.

All materials that are mouthed will be sanitized immediately.

Food and Beverage Related


For now, the lunch program is suspended. This will ensure we have Kylie available in the classroom, outdoors, for help sanitizing at the end of the day, as well as in case any of the other adults get sick.

Food Preparation:

Food preparation in the classroom is suspended for now.

Water Station:

Children have their own water bottle that stays at school. It will be placed at the water station for whenever a child needs a drink of water and brought to the table for snack time.
Water bottles will be run through the dishwasher at the end of the day and refilled with cold water the next morning.

Snack will be provided by the school daily throughout the work period. The children will use their own water bottles at the snack table. Children will wash their hands before snack and clean their table after snack with alcohol wipes.

(These are our handy reminders for washing hands and getting your water bottle before eating snack. Children place them on the table as a place marker before serving themselves snack to mark their spot.)

One child at a time will be allowed at each snack table. We have provisioned for 2 snack tables in the classroom plus the 2 tables outside.

Staff and Sanitation

At the end of the day, staff will sanitize the classroom thoroughly with Mikro Guard. Including all high touch surfaces, materials used by the children, tables, chairs, and materials used by staff communally. Floors will be mopped daily. Sanitation of the classroom will be done with windows open.

Staff must wash hands upon entering the school, after physically touching any child, before and after meals, and after handling any equipment children have used.

Staff will refrain from touching their own face as much as possible and wear a mask if they deem it necessary.

Gloves and mask will be worn when helping children in the bathroom, in very close quarters, or when handling any children's bodily fluids.

Airco filters will be cleaned every 7 days.

Staff Sickness

Staff that has cough, runny noses, sore throat or any other Covid-like symptoms must stay home and possibly get tested before returning to school. Parents will be notified immediately if there are any changes in staff due to illness. 

If any staff member is exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus, they will have to self quarantine for 14 days.

Parents and Visitors
Parents and other adults will not be allowed into the building for now to minimize the amount of people coming into the school and being in contact with school surfaces. All external vistors/maintenance personnel will be asked to come when the children are not present.