National Ding-a-Ling Day

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

               Today is National Ding-a-Ling Day and Poinsettia Day. So the “National” part is somewhat of a stretch when it comes to Ding-A-Ling Day. This is the day wackos come out with bizarre and crazy behavior – and I say that affectionately. This is the day to just cut loose and go a little crazy, but just for the one day.

You may think that National Ding-a-Ling Day is a day for the Salvation Army bell ringers, but it’s not. However, you can’t help but think about the good they do. Forbes rates them as one of the very best charities to donate to.

National Poinsettia Day was actually officially declared by an Act of Congress. Joel Roberts Poinsett brought the colorful plant back to the U.S. after serving as the first Ambassador to Mexico. Thank you Mr. Poinsett and Mexico for this beautiful plant!

So go a little crazy, make a donation, and buy a poinsettia!

Quotations to Ponder

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”
Julia Child


“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

Happy Brownie Day!

 MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf    

Who knew? This is a holiday worth celebrating with your children.  I know…sweets but…

What is a brownie?

“A chocolate brownie is a flat, baked square or bar, sliced from a type of dense, rich chocolate cake.” “Brownies come in a variety of forms.” “They are either fudgy or cakey, depending on their density, and they may include nuts, icing, cream cheese, chocolate chips, or other ingredients.” “A variation that is made with brown sugar and no chocolate is called a blondie.”


Blondies are a pale imitation but good too. Enough said!

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

               December 7, 1941 marks the dawn attack at the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor. This day is set aside to remember the 2, 402 people who were killed and the 1,282 people who were wounded.

On the lighter side, it is also “Cotton Candy Day” and “Letter-Writing Day.” Not many people write letters anymore. They may send a birthday card via mail service but not too many letters. There is something precious about a personal letter. The letter is enduring not disposable like email or texting. My mother wrote a letter to me every week while I was in college. She set aside time in her busy Sunday to write and I always received a letter on Wednesday or Thursday.

In my mother’s personal effects, she had letters written to her by my daughter. If your children need to practice letter writing – have them write to a grandparent!

Write a letter and enjoy some cotton candy today!

More Unique and Obscure Holidays

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

Today is “National Gazpacho Day.” Gazpacho is a cold soup made from a tomato and vegetable base….but here’s one, tailor made for toddler parents, “Put on your own shoes day!”

You could use “Put on your own shoes day” as a launching point to help your toddler become more independent. Montessori classrooms – toddler classrooms also – stress helping children be as independent as possible! This means intentionally letting them do things at their own pace.  Sometimes, the problem is that we [adults] are in a rush and the toddler wants to do things at their own pace.

My three-year old grandson wanted help with his shoes when his little sister was born. His little brother needed help, his older brother did not need help, but he just wanted help. We resolved the issue by “helping” him chose which shoe went on which foot – but he actually put his shoes and socks on by himself.
Today is also St. Nicholas Day. Nikolaos of Myra was a 4th century Christian saint and the Greek Bishop of Myra who had a legendary habit of secret gift-giving – especially to children.

Try the soup, put your own shoes on, let your child put his/her own shoes on, and give a gift (or prepare a gift).

Unique & Obscure

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

December is a month full of holidays. Children are excited about the holidays ahead including the official holidays of the winter break. Here is what we have so far this month – remember we are only on December 5!

  • December 1 was “Eat a Red Apple Day,”
  • December 2 was “National Fritters Day,”
  • December 3 was the first day of Advent
  • December 4 was “National Cookie Day.”
  • Today is “Day of the Ninja,” “Bathtub Day,” and “Sacher Torte Day”

Did apple growers come up with “Eat a Red Apple Day?” Well, ok…have you tried “Honey Crisp” apples? They are delicious! I love a crisp apple with that sweet-tart flavor – these are great for just eating!

Who doesn’t like a fritter? My husband’s favorite is an apple fritter – come to think of it, that was my dad’s favorite too!

It’s appropriate that National Cookie Day falls in December, Christmas cookies are a long-standing tradition in many homes.

Day of the Ninja is an actual holiday in Japan – maybe make time for your favorite Ninja movie to celebrate while taking a hot bubble bath while eating chocolate torte – just combine these days!

These are fun days you can celebrate with your children if you are looking for a fun family activity.

Quotation to Ponder

The role of education is to interest the child profoundly in an external activity to which he will give all his potential.  We are concerned here with bringing him liberty and independence while interesting him in an activity through which he will subsequently discover reality.  And for him this is the means by which he may free himself from the adult.

Dr. Maria Montessori in Childhood to Adolescence

Mastery, the Great Motivator

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

In Montessori circles, we talk often about mastery, self-esteem, self-confidence – that self-efficacy that I have previously blogged about.

Dr. Edward Hallowell says that the greatest motivator is mastery. When a child, or an adult, practices something until they have mastered it they want to repeat that feeling of mastery over and over again. He says fear is the greatest disabler and the more times you feel mastery, the less likely you will be to give in to your fears.  Mastery builds self-esteem and builds self-confidence.

Mastery takes many forms.  We tend to think of great musicians – I have two sisters-in-law who have mastered musical instruments – and they are both incredible musicians. I have a brother-in-law who has mastered optometry. I have a brother who has mastered all things mechanical. I have a nephew-in-law who can create unbelievable things out of what other people throw away. The musicians practiced, so did everyone else.

Practice builds self-confidence and once you have mastered one thing, it’s not too hard to figure out that you probably master something else.

I’m still practicing writing and quilting. Mastery calls and motivates.


For more information see:

Hallowell, E. M. (2002). The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to Help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy. Random House Publishing Group, New York, NY.


MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

Practice has become a dirty word. Well, it has become a word that is synonymous with drudgery or associated with emotional pain.

Edward Hallowell in his book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, says that practice gives children a sense of control as they work towards mastery.

Children practice all the time. Simple games we play with our babies and toddlers continue until they no longer get the desired reaction from the child. Children repeat activities they love – whether its puzzles, playing with cars, or playing dress-up – until it no longer challenges them and then they move to something else. Think about playing patty-cake or peek-a-boo with your baby. Repetition becomes discipline. When the baby has mastered those activities they are ready to move on to more advanced play.

It’s a simple concept. If you enjoy doing it – you will repeat it.  Hallowell stated, “Practice and discipline bridge the gap between play and mastery.”

In the Montessori classroom there is a two and a half to three hour work cycle. That seems like a long time but children have the opportunity to practice, master, and learn new materials every day.

Practice is not a dirty word when you enjoy what you are doing, desire to master it, and want to repeat the activity.

Play it Again!

MA Blogger: Brenda Bernstorf

The scientific studies into what makes for happiness both in childhood and in adulthood always emphasize that it is crucial to feel that you have control over yourself and your environment. The best way to develop that sense of control is through practice. Soon you learn that practice leads to mastery, which shows you that you can control your life, at least somewhat.

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell in The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness

Hollowell continues on to say, “Structure and discipline unlock the door to talent.”

I was very frustrated by my son’s fifth grade teacher. In creative writing the children were encouraged just to put words on the paper and “be creative.” I argued that they needed to discipline themselves to write within the rules of grammar (structure) in order to effectively communicate their ideas – because writing is about communicating.

The Montessori classroom is highly structured. There are rules…walk in the classroom, walk around other’s work…when you have completed a work, return it to the shelf…as long as you are using the material nobody else may use it, they must wait until it is available. This structure and discipline frees the child to focus on the work. It is an environment that is respectful of the material and respectful of each other. A child can return to a work over and over and over. This practice leads to mastery. The structure and discipline help give them a sense of control.  When I child struggles with the rules and structure other children help and the environment becomes self-correcting just like the materials.

My thought process in my son’s classroom came from my many years of studying music. Practice within the rules leads to mastery. Arnold Schoenberg intentionally broke all the rules of music and created a music called “twelve-tone row.” It is wildly dis-harmonic! It does take a special talent to create music of such dissonance but I don’t know anyone who listens to it. Our ears are trained to expect certain chord progressions and chord resolutions and when we don’t get that it makes us uncomfortable. Likewise, when we try to read something that breaks all of the grammatical and linguistic rules we understand, then the writer has failed to create a word picture in our minds.

Practice leads to mastery. “Structure and discipline unlock the door to talent.” Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.