Posts tagged Elementary-Aged Children

Help Your Child Learn Better (#2) – A Lifetime of Inspiration


In my last blog post we talked about how to help your child learn better by keeping learning styles in mind. In this blog post we’ll talk about an even more important step – how to inspire your child to design their own learning situation, to ask for what they need, and to set themselves up to learn what, and how they want to.

Here’s what I mean.

A little while ago, my daughter, age 9, was complaining about learning division at school. She’d been shown a new way to do long division, and as she continued in her complaint, she said, “But I didn’t get it, because he didn’t make us do it ourselves!” Then she asked me to help her with it, and told me how to help her. She had identified that she would have learned the division better if she’d been walked through actively doing it herself, but more importantly, she took charge of the situation, and showed me how to teach her.

A few days later, she was trying to show me how to crochet something, and I grinned at her and said, “I don’t get it – you need to make me do it myself!” She laughed, provided me with my own crochet hook, and walked me through it, while I did it myself. (I crocheted a beautiful flower, by the way, all by myself, under her tutelage!) See the picture – Flower I crocheted!but please note that it looks better in real life.

So, backing up a bit – my daughter decided, from her exposure at school, that long division was worth learning, she knew how she would learn it best, she assigned me the task of teaching her, then told me how. How would this have been different if I had heard her complaint, then decided that she should learn long division, on my terms, in my way?

To do this key step of inspiring your child to design their own learning situation, to ask for what they need, and to set themselves up to learn what, and how they want to, it’s important to earn your child’s trust, so that he or she feels safe learning from you along the way. Here’s how I’ve earned my daughter’s trust over the years – and why she has often said to me (though she loves her teachers!), “Mommy, I wish YOU were my teacher.”

1) I notice what fascinates her, and offer her more of that. When I respect her interest, I encourage her to trust and follow her own inner direction, not to stifle all of her questions and curiousities.

2) I ask, before showing or telling her something. I ask, “Would you like a lesson on this?” or “I have some interesting information about that. Would you like me to tell you?” If she says “no” (maybe 25% of the time) I SHUT UP! If it’s really important, I will likely ask again later, or sometimes, I’ll say, “This is really important. Can I please share it with you?” Because she trusts me, usually she says yes. And, when she wants to learn something new, she often comes to me and says, “Mom, can you help me with this?”

3) I do not pretend to know everything. When she asks about something I don’t know, I connect her with other resources, and, for as long as she’s been old enough, I’ve shown her how to find those resources herself.

4) I respect her different way of learning, and don’t expect her to move to the next step or into a different style until she asks or accepts my offer. When she has many experiences learning at her pace, in her style, she comes to know how she learns, and learns how to set up situations that work for her. I love to learn by jumping in right away. She likes to learn by watching for a long time first, then tentatively stepping in. I give her the space to do it her way.

5) Over and over again, I let go of my agenda for her learning, and instead, I do my best to discover and support her agenda.

I hope this blog post helps you to observe and support your child to discover their own passions and pursue them with gusto! Check out my other blog post on this topic HERE.

If you’re also looking for the schooling environment that will best meet your child’s learning needs, I’d also love to invite you to my next Alternative and Traditional Schooling Options in Calgary class, or to purchase the audio and workbook version of the class.

I’d love to see you there!





Help Your Child Learn Better (Part 1)


It’s fairly common knowledge these days that people have different learning styles, but the conversation about different teaching styles isn’t as common. I’m going to share about why teaching style matters – whether in a school or a home setting – and how you can adjust your “teaching” interactions with your child to be more effective and connecting. 

Here’s the bottom line: How we teach may matter more than what we teach. 

And here’s why – when we teach effectively, we engage the person who is learning in such a way that they can learn effectively. Since everyone learns differently, this isn’t always easy.

There are lots of ways to categorize broad learning styles. Some of the more commonly described learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, but it goes much further. People are more likely to learn concretely, or abstractly. They are more likely to learn socially, or in a solitary way. Some people learn by flatlining for a long time, then leaping into a high-level skill, while others learn by taking many small steps towards the new skill. An individual’s learning style is much like a personality style – it is complex, and can be defined, understood, or categorized in many different ways. Much more important than the categorization is the recognition of the individual who is learning, and the support of that person’s preferred process.

So, how do you support your child’s learning style?

First, observe, observe, observe. Your child has been learning since birth. How did he or she learn to walk? To talk? Did she start speaking by naming everything within sight, or was she silent until she spoke in complete sentences? Did he hold your hand, balancing carefully with each step, or did he propel himself up and off and into everything within reach?

Next, offer different options and see how your child responds. Think about how you learn best, how your spouse learns best, and what you’ve observed about your child’s process, and start with these. If your spouse listens to books on tape and then effortlessly spouts off information that has seemed to magically seep into her brain, try playing auditory games rather than using flash cards with your child who is learning math facts.  If your child learned to talk all at once, after listening for a year, consider that he or she may learn to read this way, too, and read aloud while giving your child the opportunity to see the words. If you learn best in a conversation, asking questions, in order to really understand something difficult, then take your child to Heritage Park and give her the opportunity to grill the young man in suspenders who knows more about Canadian history than anyone you’ve ever met.

Now, here’s the most important step, one that I’ll go into more detail about in my next blog post – inspire your child to design their own learning situation, to ask for what they need, and to set themselves up to learn what, and how they want to. This is key! More important than teaching your child something of your choosing, in a way that is roughly suited to their learning style, is giving them the tools to manage their own learning.

If you successfully manage the first two steps, you will help your child feel comfortable in his or her own learning style. When you get this third step figured out, you set your child up for a lifetime of adventure and inspiration. Keep your eye open for my next blog post!

In the meanwhile, to learn more about the schooling options in Calgary, and the teaching styles of different schools, including Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, public, private, charter, and more, check out my class: Traditional & Alternative Schooling Options in Calgary.

And please share below what you’ve learned about your child’s learning style! It may help someone else who’s trying to understand their own child better.

School and Learning and Life – Read This To Be Inspired


In this moment, I am profoundly inspired by my awareness of the perfect individuality of every child.

On the eve of a new school year, I want to call out to all the parents who worry that their child will lose her “spark”, be stifled at school, or worse yet, not learn his math facts.

I invite you to fan the flame, encourage the learning of full self-expression drenched in kindness and consideration for others, and nurture the love of math for its own sake.

Here is the bottom line.

Your child has a profound spark, a fire within, that drives him or her to learn, to grow, and to live in positive, nurturing, connected relationship with others. He or she is always driving towards, leaning in, even when he or she seems to be pulling back, afraid, or shutting down. The fire is always there.

You have a profound ability to see your child’s spark – and a profound ability to see his or her failings, too.

Your unfaltering affection for your child, your deep, deep trust in his or her worthiness and glorious human strengths, your constant redirecting of everyone’s attention (including and especially your own) to the shining of those strengths, to the places where growth has occurred, and to the wise and vulnerable soul of your precious child, is key.

In some ways, this is a message for your child’s teachers, BUT, when your child comes home to YOUR unwavering awareness of the miracle of his or her being, and to your dedication to his or her potential for joy and kindness and learning and skill and meaning and the GIVING BACK of those human strengths for the good of others, THAT is where the spark is fanned, the fire is fed and the reaching for powerful human potential becomes firmly entrenched in your child’s way of being.

If I were in school right now, that would be a run-on sentence. But, read it again. It will empower you to be the support your child needs.

From the beginning, respect your child’s learning process. Every child is a perfect individual – there is no other alike. Revel in the glorious humanity of your child, harness strengths, make peace with their process, and help them see their own way of learning. 

When you can do this, successfully and consistently, yourself, you will empower your child to thrive in environments away from you, AND you will hone your own awareness of whether the school or schooling situation that you’ve chosen for your child is truly nurturing to him or her. If it is, you will celebrate in your heart. If it is not, you will know how to look for another – you will feel the alignment of the teacher or school with your own habit of glorying in your child’s being.

Last night I stayed up late reading one of the most inspiring books I know – it is called “Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful” by Donna Bryant Goertz, and it will give you the inspiration, and tools and keys to see the profound beauty of your child’s individuality. If you’re faltering now, worrying about math facts or handwriting or bullying or whether your child will live up to someone else’s (or your own) standards of right learning this year, and if you’re losing your own focus on the miracle of humanity that your child is, I invite you to pick up this book, and stay up late, tearful and joyful, as you are re-awakened to your own appreciation for your child’s potential. If you’re in Calgary, you can call and order the book through Self-Connection Books (403-284-1486), or click here for the link to order on Amazon. I’d love to see this book in the hands of every human. Adults need this kind of care, too.

May your child’s school year start off with joy and fullness, and the knowledge of his or her own brilliance.

For practical ideas on how to support your child’s school experience, click here.


So…Should I Give My Kids Allowance? (Part 4 of 4/Kids & Money)


If you’ve been following the money conversation so far, you’re probably wondering, “How does allowance fit in to all this?”

Personally, I choose not to use an allowance, but I don’t believe that allowance is necessarily a bad thing, depending on HOW YOU FRAME IT.

What I do is prioritize helping my daughter earn money in lots of different ways, and let her know that I’m available to support her to earn money for whatever purchases are important to her. I remind her in good time before something is coming up that she might need spending money for, and make sure I put aside time to spend helping her figure out how she’d like to earn that money. I also offer her opportunities to earn money. For example, I was hired by a school to interview potential new families to the school, and she came along to greet the families at the door, show them where to hang their coats, and introduce each family to me and to the teacher who would be working with the child. I then paid her a percentage of my earnings for that day.

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether and how to use an allowance:

To teach a child that every family member is responsible for caring for the home and family, I generally recommend avoiding connecting household chores with allowance, especially if you are going to dock money for chores not done. It becomes too easy for the child to make a negative connection…”Oh! Well, I don’t need the $5, so I’ll just take the week off of my chores.” Instead, help the child to understand that household chores are what we ALL do to make family life work.

HOW you talk about the way you share money with your children is extremely important, and leads them to establish beliefs around money and the relative value of other things, products, services, generosity, etc. For example, if you give your child an allowance of $20 every week, with no explanation, they will absorb something different than if you give your child $20 each week and say, “In this family, we all share the fruits of our labours. This week, I earned money at work, and I am sharing it with you. You and I worked together to clear ice off of our sidewalk, you cared for our dog, and dad cooked dinner tonight. We all benefit from all of our work for our family.”

On the other hand, if you give your child an allowance of $20, after asking, “Were you good this week? Did you do your homework? Did you listen to your teacher?” your child will absorb the idea that money is a reward for somebody else’s definition of “good” behaviour. Remember that when a person sees something as a reward, the intrinsic interest in the activity needed to earn the reward DEcreases, and the desire for the reward INcreases. So, if you are using money as a reward for “good” behaviour, your child will become LESS motivated to produce the “good” behaviour independently, and more interested in the money.

This, of course, brings up the question of whether money is a “reward” for work when we are adults. Remember that our beliefs make a big difference here – the meaning we give to the exchange matters a lot. If we see money as a reward for drudgery, bestowed upon us by a judging external “boss” or “The Man”, our relationship with both work and money will be affected. If we see the results of our work as valuable to the world, and the money we earn as equally valuable, we are comfortable with the exchange, and we maintain our intrinsic motivation.

So, as I mentioned in the first part of this series, YOUR beliefs about money matter a lot, and will be passed on to your children, unless you are intentional about sharing something different, AND changing the beliefs you don’t feel serve you. Hint: To figure out if you have any unhelpful underlying beliefs about money or work hidden in your psyche, start journalling with sentence starters, “Work is….” and “Money is…” Repeat the sentence starters over and over, and write stream of consciousness until you’re empty of associations.

The bottom line about allowance is, AFTER you’ve clarified the beliefs you want to share with your children around money, IF you choose to give an allowance, decide HOW you’re going to frame the allowance so that your child is receiving the healthy messages you intended to share. One example of framing the allowance in an intentional way is above, in the quotation beginning with, “In this family we all share the fruits of our labours.”

There are lots of healthy, creative ways to support your children to become responsible with money, but the underlying beliefs are always key. Make sure that the messages you are sending your children are clear, and NOT wrapped up in the muddy waters of rewards, punishments, praise, shame, or fear. This way, your child can start off his or her lifelong relationship with work and money feeling confident and positive.

Please share how you support your children to understand money! We’d also love to hear any questions that you have.


Messages Our Girls Need to Hear

Dancing Princess

As this year’s Princess Training Camp draws nearer, I am thinking about some of the key messages that I want to share with the girls, in a positive, light and fun way. Here are some of them:

Our girls need to know that their bodies, personalities, strengths, and beliefs are unique, and that this is A Really Good Thing.

Our girls need to know that each of us, in our individual & quirky & chosen & born-that-way kind of ways, is exactly perfect, and that we can collude with our friends to create supportive, loving Circles of appreciation and respect, where each of us can shine and share the yearnings and beauty and passion and power and love in our hearts.

Our girls need to know that being a princess is about serving, not about being served.

Our girls need to know that beauty is powerful, and that physical beauty is not about erasing, hiding, correcting, or photoshopping. It’s about being who you are, sharing your you-ness, whether that means frilly dresses and jewels, or plain comfy jeans, or funky unmatched socks and a bright orange t-shirt, today, because every day is different, and how you feel and how you want to show up in the world can change daily and hourly.


Our girls need to know that the purpose of make-up is to draw attention to the eyes, because the eyes are the windows to our souls, and the doors to connecting with other people’s hearts.

Our girls need to know that dressing up in fancy clothes and wearing make-up and doing our hair can be Fun, but that it is not a requirement for beauty or happiness or love.

Our girls need to know that we live in the most privileged time in history, that we have access to so much more than most “real” princesses ever had, that gratitude is the key to happiness, and that our greatest privilege is that we can make a difference in the lives of others.

Go here to find out all about Princess Training Camp for your 6-9 year old daughter, and please post below about what messages you think our girls need to hear!

How to Handle Tantrums, Meltdowns, and General Unrest

mama holding children

When I was coaching one time, I asked the dad in the family what he did to express his feelings in a healthy way. He stared blankly at me as if to ask, “What feelings? Are parents allowed to have feelings?”

This is a very common theme amongst parents. We often think that in order to be “good” parents, we shouldn’t have feelings.

That is just plain not true. In fact, the worst thing you can do for your kids is to act like you don’t have feelings. How will they know how to express their feelings in a healthy way if you don’t provide a strong example for them?

Kids have big feelings. Parents do, too. Click <here> to find out how to support your kids when they are having big feelings, and how to set the example for them.

First, shift your perception. I prefer the word “meltdown” to “tantrum”. “Tantrum” implies anger, defiance, and disobedience, and inspires your opposition. “Meltdown” implies overwhelm, lack of control, and a need for help, and inspires your compassion. When your child is overwhelmed by big feelings, he or she needs your compassion, not your opposition.

Next, think ahead and set your child up for success. Meltdowns are caused by overwhelm, lack of control OR hunger, thirst, or tiredness. DON’T spend a whole day at the mall when you know that your child can’t handle it. DO bring along healthy snacks and drinks. Every child is different. Know your children and plan ahead to meet their needs.

No matter how much you plan ahead, most children will have meltdowns sometimes. It’s a normal and natural part of growing up. To support your child’s big feelings, no matter the age of the child, show them that you hear and understand them by reflecting what you see about their feelings, needs, and wants. For a toddler, use very simple language. For all ages, reflect tone and body language, too.

For a toddler: “Yes! You WANT that little truck!” (Stomp your foot.)

For your elementary child: “I hear you! You really are NOT in the mood for spaghetti AGAIN!” (Speak emphatically.)

For your teenager: “I get it! This whole situation is really, really frustrating for you.” (Reflect your teen’s tone.)

Then, KEEP LISTENING while your child talks or shows you his or her feelings. Your child may be kicking and screaming, but the more you reflect and listen, the shorter the meltdown will be. (Unless you have been shutting down feelings for a while – if so, reflecting will give your child permission to let it ALLLL out, and meltdowns may get worse before they get better.)

At another time, when your child is NOT melting down, clarify which behaviours are okay with big feelings, and which aren’t. (These will likely be different at home or when out.) During the meltdown, if your child is doing things that are unacceptable, firmly repeat, “You CAN stomp feet, yell, jump up and down, punch pillows, run around, or growl when you’re upset.” With smaller children, give fewer options to keep it simple.

Then manage the situation to prevent the unacceptable behaviour (ie put away things your child is breaking, lovingly hold the child so they cannot hit their sister, take a loud child outside if they are disrupting the restaurant).

Lastly, help your child say what they need to say. “You CAN say, ‘I did NOT like that ONE BIT!!!'” or “You CAN say, ‘I need you to be fair when you play games with me!!'”

And, all the time, set the example. If you’ve been yelling AT your children or expressing your feelings in an aggressive or unacceptable way when you’re upset, instead growl and stomp around, do the “mad dance”, or otherwise release your energy harmlessly into the Universe, then come back into conversation with your child when you’ve gotten it all out and are able to be respectful.

YES, mom and dad! You CAN stomp around, yell, jump up and down, punch pillows, run around, or growl when you’re upset! Just don’t direct negative energy AT anyone or at breakable things. What’s acceptable in every home is different, but I encourage you to broaden your idea of what is acceptable behaviour to express emotions.

As your next step, if you need extra support, give me a call and let’s set up some coaching time – I’d love to help you to stay connected with your kids, and to help you to help them thrive in today’s rapidly changing world. Enjoy, and please comment below about how YOU help your children through tantrums, meltdowns, and general unrest…I love to hear from you!



Sometimes You’re in Your Child’s Way


The fastest way to get out of your child’s way and increase your child’s ability to learn new things is to pay close attention to another Montessori principle: “Never substitute your own activity for the child’s.”

Montessori described “sensitive periods” for the acquisition of new skills or understanding. These specific time periods are the ideal time for a child to learn a skill – the child is fascinated by the skill, and learns it most quickly and easily.

To understand the power of sensitive periods, think about how easily most small children learn language, and compare their skills to the language skills of many adults who have spoken a second language for many, many years, but still have not perfected grammar or pronunciation.

Some examples of general sensitive periods are: the 0-6 year-old is in sensitive periods for order, movement and language, and the 6-12 year-old moves through sensitive periods for imagination, working with other people, and morality.

As the child passes through each sensitive period, the adult must observe, give basic lessons in advance when possible, and then – and this is the most important part – stay out of the way and allow the child to explore, make mistakes, and deeply concentrate on each new skill.

Each time we substitute our activity for the child’s, we are intervening into the work of the child. Each time we take the child’s shoelaces into our own hands as she attempts to tie them herself, we take away the child’s opportunity to explore and pursue that skill in that specific moment. If we keep in mind that the sensitive period for a skill exists for only a limited time, we will naturally tend to avoid the interruption as much as possible.

Each time we punish a child for lying, rather than asking “How did it feel in your heart when you told your friend that?” we take away the child’s opportunity to explore their internal moral barometer by distracting with frustration and anger towards us.

So – to help your child learn more, get out of the way!  Give your child time and space to explore, make mistakes, make a mess, figure it out, and concentrate on whatever he or she is trying to do. Do your best NOT to interrupt, and NOT to do it for them.

Please share your thoughts below!  I love to hear your feedback:).

Montessori Tip #2: How 5 Year-Olds and 7 Year-Olds Are Different

The other day I was chatting with some friends, a group of parents of 7-year-olds.  When I told them that I was going to write a blog post called “What’s the difference between a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old?” one dad said, “Tell them: everything. Everything!  EVERYTHING!!!”
If you have a 7-year-old, you’ve seen a lot of amazing changes over the last two years, and you may be curious about why certain things are happening.  If you have a 5-year-old, you may be wondering what might happen next.  I’m going to tell you a little about the developmental processes at these ages, and give you a little bit of Montessori perspective on the transition that is occurring.
5-year-olds are at the end of a major developmental stage, and 7-year-olds are moving into the beginning of a new one.  It’s pretty exciting to watch, and both 5 and 7-year-olds (and the cheeky 6-year-old in between) can be tough on their parents as they navigate new waters.
5-year-olds begin to be very interested in working WITH others, doing hard things together.  5-year-olds have a developmental need for LOTS of playdates.  This need ramps up for the 6-12 year-old, as the imagination expands and the child’s fascination with social interaction push the child to focus on imaginative play.
While the younger child begins to have empathy, can know that you’re sad and kiss you better, your 5-year-old can project how HE would feel if that happened to him, and sometimes respond accordingly in the moment.  A key question at 5, especially, is, “How would you feel if that happened to you?”
Taking empathy so much further, your 7-year-old can see you feeling sick, and, all on her own, without being asked, spend the evening getting herself supper so you can lie down, bring you a drink, offer to put the music on, say she loves you, and read you a bedtime story.  (True story!  This was me last week, heart-melted!)
The difference is that the 7-year-old can THINK it all through, FIGURE it all out, and CHOOSE to act, and sustain action, in accordance with values.  The 7-year-old is CONSCIOUS.  Feel the magic of that!!
Your 5-year-old, for the first time ever, begins to realize that others have opinions of him or her.  You may see the beginnings of shame in your 5-year-old that weren’t there before.  This socially-interested 5-year-old will bloom into the socially-obsessed 7-year-old.  (And I say that very lovingly.)
Dr. Maria Montessori described children as going through “sensitive periods”.  During a sensitive period, a child is internally driven to learn or explore whatever is the next step of their natural development.  During the sensitive period for walking, your child will want to walk, all day, and sometimes all night.  He will exhaust himself walking, even to the point of crying in exhaustion, but cannot stop, because the internal drive to walk is so powerful.  Your 6-12 year-old is experiencing sensitive periods for social understanding, imagination, and morality.
Your 6-12 year-old (you’ll see the first glimpses in your 5-year-old, and start to feel it full-on in your 7-year-old) will be DRIVEN to understand who he or she is SOCIALLY.  He or she will play, breathe and question in the social arena.  This child will ask about government and rules (how PEOPLE organize themselves), psychology (why PEOPLE do what they do and act how they act), and morality (why PEOPLE do bad things and how they make choices).
This is why you see your 6 and 7-year-olds trying on different ways of talking and acting.  For the first time ever, they don’t just say or do whatever comes to mind, in the way it comes.  Instead, they can CHOOSE how they’re going to act.  They can recognize that their behaviour has an effect on others, and they can adjust accordingly. They try on what they see and hear around them.  Your 7-year-old girl will flip her hair, put her hand on her hip, and say “Like, ummm, Mommy?  You have GOT to be kidding me!” with great flair.
And, yes, they may sometimes be cheeky.  Or even downright rude, as they try on different ways of interacting.  They are watching you closely to see how you will react to each nuance of language and action. (Except when they are so busy reveling in the sound of their own voice, and all the various nuances they can explore!)  They are looking for feedback about what’s right and wrong, good and bad, acceptable and not, in the social world.
Your 5-year-old may be explosive, emotional, and overwhelmed.  They may experiment with threatening, hitting, and/or saying “very mean” things to you.  Your 5-year-old is in a very unstable time of change.  A BIG change is coming, but he or she cannot understand it yet.  It’s as if he or she is looking through a very foggy window.  “There’s something I’m supposed to understand about people, but I don’t see it yet.  For some reason I care about what that person thinks, but I don’t feel any control over their opinion or behaviour.”
The 7-year-old gets that others have opinions, and has the feeling that those opinions might change if he or she just does or says the right thing or is the right kind of person – and the 7-year-old feels that THAT is entirely in their control.  There’s a beautiful power there – “I can be who I choose!” AND a terrible vulnerability as they learn, “I cannot make everyone love me.”  Friendships can be powerful and painful, often infatuation-like at this age.
It may feel as if your 7-year-old is playing with your reactions sometimes – and, they are!  They are methodically testing out behaviours and ideas on you.  They are finding your triggers and figuring out how they work.  

7-year-olds are scary to us parents, because they will judge us.  Today, you may be pronounced the best mommy in the world, or the worst one, and you can be pretty sure that your 7-year-old has actually measured you up against other mommies before making the proclamation.  

Your 5-year-old and your 7-year-old BOTH will need you to help them understand social dynamics, personalities, and moral questions. Rather than telling your child what to do, socially and morally, help him or her understand the dynamics that are at play, and increasingly invite them to make decisions about HOW they want to be, socially and morally.

We’ll be talking a lot about Montessori’s insights into the developmental processes of your growing child (age 0 through 15) and how to meet your child’s (physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual) needs as they change, in my upcoming course, The Happiness of the Child: Montessori Information Series.  You can register or find out more here.  

This is the only course I hold in my home, as it focuses partially on the home environment. I look forward to sharing my home with you for this very special course!

Call me to register by phone, or click here to register for The Happiness of the Child online!
Go to Top