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Connecting Through Meaningful Conversation

November 21, 2017
By The Walden School

With this being Thanksgiving week, I thought I'd share a little dinnertime tradition I have in my house. We call it "Happy, Sad, and Silly" and it occurs so regularly it's as important to our day as dinner itself. It's how we check in with each other and connect as a family. 

This little tradition started when my oldest was in preschool. He's currently in 5th grade, so it's stuck for a while now. It's a little dinnertime practice of reflection and gratitude that continued, even years later as each new sibling joined the table. Every night when we sit to eat together, someone always shouts out, "Let's do happy, sad and silly!" We go around the table and everyone takes a turn sharing one happy, one sad, and one silly thing about their day. Its pretty simple. 

While it is a good opportunity to sneak in some practice with manners, as we try to listen politely and not cut anyone off, it's also a great way to start meaningful conversation. The best part is that our kids have become enthusiastic to tell us about their day. We hear about recess, school, friends, playground interactions, new ideas, anything on their mind. We hear how their day went from their point of view. It's very telling. In turn, they are enthusiastic to hear about our day, too. They hear about work deadlines, traffic, hobbies, or whatever stress or joys we've had in our adult lives. It shows them that even adults have ups and downs, just like them.

As a family, it helps us all know more and care more about each other. It helps us reflect on all of the things we're grateful for, and discuss or learn from any negatives that may have come up. And in those minutes of sharing the energy completely resets in the room. It's like we all breathe a deep sigh of relief and mentally say, “Ok, that was our day, but we’re over it now. We're all here together, it’s time to enjoy this moment and this dinner..." 

Hearing about someone else's day, the ups and downs, is a nice way to teach empathy and to help children realize everyone- their friends, their siblings, even their parents, have good and bad things happen each day. Children care. They are curious and very much interested in learning about you as well as from you. Try telling your kids one thing that made you happy today, one thing that may have made you sad, and don't forget to add in the silly, because it reminds us to not take everything so seriously. As adults, especially, if by dinner time nothing silly has happened yet, perhaps it's time for an impromptu family dance party?! It's important to remember to have a little fun. 

Do you have any family traditions to practice gratitude and connect with each other? Around the dinner table or before bed are good times to create a little routine of reflecting. 

I hope you enjoy some time with family and friends this week. Happy Thanksgiving - Jen 


Posted in Learning Together

Lifeskills: The Middle School Edition

November 14, 2017
By Lauren Conway

I recently attended a speaker series that featured Dr. Lisa Damour, the best-selling author of Untangled:  Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood (which I highly recommend).  While she shared her blueprint for understanding adolescent development, one particular idea sparked my interest.  Dr. Damour leans toward the belief that our adolescents are not necessarily addicted to technology, but rather, they are addicted to each other.  Just as we spent countless hours talking with our friends on a phone with a cord, in 2017, our children are doing the same, but it just so happens to be through a wireless device.  While I think it’s actually a bit more complicated than that, the bottom line is that adults and adolescents are learning to navigate this new wireless, social world together.

In recent weeks, issues regarding cell phone use, social media and friendships have flowed into our middle school classrooms.  Specifically, concerns that group texts have on peer relationships and perceptions of others.  In response, during our Lifeskill lessons, I have been able to incorporate some of the complicated challenges that cell phone use brings to peer relationships.  However, these recent concerns were a gentle reminder that this is a team effort!  

If you have a child who has reached the milestone of having their own cell phone, I encourage some sort of parent/child/device check-in.  What and how that might look will be different in every household, but reminding our students of general responsible cell phone use, and providing them with support for when things get sticky, is always a good thing.  Topics of basic safety rules for texting, calling, taking pictures, apps and downloads, and posting are a great place to start, as well as the impact that smartphone use can have on our friendships.  Common Sense Media ( is also a great website that can provide you with additional resources on issues such as checking your child’s phone, limiting usage, setting parental controls and signing a “Family Media Agreement”.  

It really does take a village and I am happy to answer any individual questions or concerns that you might have.  Please feel free to reach me by calling the school or via email at


Thank you for your continued support, 

Lauren Conway 

Leaf Art Inspirations

November 06, 2017
By Kate Goodwin

In grades 1/2, we explored two different types of Natural Art for our Fall Fun Friday activity. After reading, "The Leaf Man," by Lois Ehlert and "Look What I Did with a Leaf!" by Morteza E. Sohi, the students created their own art using  a variety of different types and colors of leaves. The students were inspired to make animals, ocean creatures, pets, trees, etc. While the students finished up their work, we watched several videos demonstrating the Ephemeral artwork of Andy Goldsworthy. We learned that the term Ephemeral means "only happening once" and "short-lived." The artist, Andy Goldsworthy, uses pieces of nature to create beautiful images left in the natural world. We went outside and collected a variety of colors of leaves for our very own Ephemeral art in the school yard playscape. The students were proud to create a ring of rocks and leaves for the rest of the Walden community to enjoy.

Posted in Elementary

Learning Together: Monday Message

October 17, 2017
By Jennifer Heness

Hello Learning Together families, 

I hope your weekend was lovely. I am happy to advise you that the registration for the winter session is now open on Walden's website ( I would suggest that you act quickly to secure the space for you and your child, as the spaces will be open to the public after October 23. I look forward to continue getting to know you and your children. 

For this week's message, I wanted to touch on independence, something we aim to foster in the Montessori classroom. Children seek independence from a very young age. It's partly what makes the toddler years so challenging! My todder's favorite words are, "me!" and, "I do!"  So how do we, as parents or caregivers, aid them in their quest to, “Do it all by themselves?" 

To start with, I always ask myself these questions before stepping in to help:

Do they actually NEED help, do they just WANT help, or do they EXPECT help because it is always present? 

By pausing our adult reaction to swoop in and do it all, we give a child the chance to accomplish a task on their own. Of course, it is a natural reaction to help. However, for their confidence and independence to develop, try to pause before stepping in. Observe if they are truly struggling, or are they just working on developing a new skill and need practice. A child is capable of learning to do many things for themselves, but not if someone automatically does everything for them. 

I also find these phrases very helpful:

1. "You did it all by yourself!"

So simple, yet so powerful. “You did it!” gives a child ownership over their accomplishment. They are able to step back and say, “I did do it, didn’t I?” and gain confidence in their abilities. Even the simplest task done independently feels very satisfying. 

2. "Go ahead, you can do it! I’m right here."

Sometimes we know a child is capable of doing something on their own, but perhaps that day they are feeling tired, unsure, or extra needy. Reassuring a child that you’re nearby to help if needed often gives them the encouragement to try something independently once more. 

3. "Would you like to try?"

Children are keen observers and are always watching. Notice your child as they watch you go about everyday tasks. The next time your child is watching you sweep the floor or put laundry in the dryer, ask them, “Would you like to try?” This is an open invitation to be just like mom and dad. They love copying our everyday tasks.

Words of support and opportunities to practice are often all a child needs to keep working on a new skill. As their mastery grows, so does their confidence and independence. We also foster independence in the way we speak to children. Rather than asking yes/no questions, offering limited choices gives them a say. Allowing simple, age appropriate decisions not only helps toddlers develop their independence, it also helps reduce tantrums because they feel heard and included. 

In a Montessori classroom these concepts are in full swing. Children are given the chance to do things independently, the time to practice, a space to make mistakes and learn from them, as well as the opportunity to make decisions and use their voice. I am happy to discuss, give examples, or answer any questions this may bring up. See you all this week, Jennifer 


"Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed." - Maria Montessori

Recent Posts

11/21/17 - By The Walden School
11/14/17 - By Lauren Conway
11/6/17 - By Kate Goodwin
10/17/17 - By Jennifer Heness
10/17/17 - By Jennifer Heness