Quality education is about relationships.

In a recent article, Erika Christakis author of the best-selling book The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups, shares her perspective on traditional educational systems and how society is failing to see the world through the eyes of children.

We compiled some excerpts from the interview which are in full alignment with Walden’s vision.

Quality education is about relationships. Caring teachers who understand child development and who know and are attuned to the children in their care are far more important than many of the measures of quality we use today, such as class size, physical environments, or a specific curriculum.

Rich, open-ended conversation is critical, and children need time in the day to experience warm, empathic oral language—to converse with each other playfully, to tell a rambling story to an adult, to listen to high-quality literature and ask meaningful questions.

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Anyone who has seen the wonder on a child’s face when they see a butterfly landing on a flower understands that learning goes far beyond a classroom.

The good news is that children are wired with the capacity for learning in almost any setting. With the loving support of responsive adults, they can learn without the bells and whistles of what we call preschool.

So much learning comes about naturally from what scientists call the serve-and-return style of communication between an adult and young child, which others have referred to as a conversational “duet.” There’s a lot of evidence that we can close some of the gaps between lower-income children’s academic trajectories and those of higher-income families by coaching parents and educators to use this approach in their everyday interactions with children. I often coach teachers to ask open-ended questions such as “Tell me about your drawing,” rather than “checking” questions like “What color is the apple?” or “What are you drawing?” The open-ended response really opens up a huge space for spontaneous and deep learning.

Why Children Need Recess

Walden Students at recess

Walden Students at recess

More and more, parents are protesting school policies that allow teachers and administrators to withhold recess to punish student misbehavior. Common infractions include tardiness, acting out in class and failure to complete homework—everyday childhood behaviors that result in numerous children having to go without recess on any given day.

The research is clearChildren need recess. It benefits every aspect of childhood development—physical development, of course, but also social, emotional and intellectual development as well. Following are seven reasons why, if we want our children to succeed, recess should not be denied.

  1. Everyone benefits from a break. Research dating back to the late 1800s indicates that people learn better and faster when their efforts are distributed, rather than concentrated. That is, work that includes breaks and down time proves more effective than working in long stretches. Because young children don’t tend to process information as effectively as older children (due to the immaturity of their nervous systems and their lack of experience), they benefit the most from taking a break for unstructured play.

  2. Recess increases focus. Dr. Olga Jarrett, with her colleagues at Georgia State University’s Department of Early Childhood Education, approached an urban school district that had a no-recess policy. They received permission for two fourth-grade classes to have recess once a week so they could observe the children’s behavior on recess and non-recess days. Their results showed that the 43 children became more on-task and less fidgety on days when they had recess. Sixty percent of the children, including five with attention deficit disorder, worked more and/or fidgeted less on recess days.

  3. Natural light improves wellness. Sunlight stimulates the pineal gland, which is the part of the brain that helps regulate our biological clock. It is vital to the immune system, and simply makes us feel better. Outside light also triggers the synthesis of vitamin D, which a number of studies have demonstrated increases academic learning and productivity.

  4. Recess reduces stress. The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends unstructured physical play as a developmentally appropriate means of reducing stress—a valuable benefit given that stress has a negative impact on learning and health. For many children, especially those considered “hyperactive,” recess is an opportunity to expend energy in a healthy, suitable manner. Outside, children can engage in behavior—loud, messy and boisterous—considered unacceptable indoors. And because recess is a break from structure and expectations, children have an opportunity to take control of their world, which is a rarity in their lives.

  5. Recess develops social skills. Recess may be the only time during the day when children have an opportunity to experience socialization and real communication. Children don’t engage in the neighborhood play of earlier generations, so once the school day ends, there may be little chance for unstructured, natural social development. After all, in class children generally are not encouraged to socialize, but rather are expected to conform and remain quiet. Some school policies even go so far as to prevent children from talking to one another during lunch. How can children with so few opportunities to socialize and communicate be expected to live and work together in harmony as adults? When and where will they learn how?

  6. Exercise is healthy. Many children suffer from obesity, but even children at healthy weight levels benefit from physical activity, and in fact require it for optimal health. The outdoors is the best place for children to burn calories, practice emerging physical skills and experience the pure joy of movement. Research has even shown that children who are physically active in school are more likely to be physically active at home, and children who don’t have the opportunity to be active during the school day don’t usually compensate during after-school hours.

  7. Physical activity feeds the brain. Thanks to advances in brain research, we now know that most of the brain is activated during physical activity—much more so than while sedentary. Movement increases the capacity (and possibly even the number) of blood vessels in the brain. This expedites the delivery of oxygen, water and glucose (“brain food”), thereby optimizing the brain’s performance. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that students who are physically active improve their academic performance, achieve higher test scores and demonstrate a better attitude toward school.

There is one more reason recess should not be withheld from children as punishment: It doesn’t work. Experimental studies and anecdotal evidence point out that in any given school, it’s generally the same children who tend to have their recess withheld, indicating that the threat is ineffective. And, as Eric Jensen, author of several books on brain-based learning, tells us, remaining seated for periods longer than 10 minutes “reduces our awareness of physical and emotional sensations and increases fatigue,” resulting in reduced concentration and discipline problems. Demanding that children move less and sit more is counterproductive. Research, and our own common sense, tells us we should be doing the opposite.

About the Author:
Rae Pica is a children’s physical activity specialist and the author of 18 books for teachers and parents.

Source: Pathways Family Wellness

Theory of Multiple Intelligences

When Howard Gardner introduced his multiple intelligences theory 35 years ago, it was a revolutionary idea that challenged long-cherished beliefs.

At the time, psychologists were interested in general intelligence—a person’s ability to solve problems and apply logical reasoning across a wide range of disciplines. Popularized in part by the IQ test, which was originally developed in the early 1900s to assess a child’s ability to “understand, reason, and make judgments,” the idea of general intelligence helped explain why some students seemed to excel at many subjects. Gardner found the concept too limiting.

“Most lay and scholarly writings about intelligence focus on a combination of linguistic and logical intelligences. The particular intellectual strengths, I often maintain, of a law professor,” Gardner explains. Having grown up playing piano, Gardner wondered why the arts weren’t included in discussions about intelligence. As a graduate student studying psychology in the 1960s, he felt “struck by the virtual absence of any mention of the arts in the key textbooks.”

That doubt planted the seed that grew into Gardner’s big insight: The prevailing idea of a single, monolithic intelligence didn’t match the world he observed. Surely Mozart’s genius was partially, but not fully, explained by an extraordinary musical intelligence. And wasn’t it the case that all people demonstrated a wide range of intellectual capabilities—from linguistic to social to logical—that were often mutually reinforcing, and that ebbed and flowed over time based on a person’s changing interests and efforts?

Those hypotheses have largely been confirmed by recent studies from the fields of neuroscience. A 2015 study, for example, upends the centuries-old idea that reading occurs in distinct areas of the brain; scientists have discovered, instead, that language processing “involves all of the regions of the brain, because it involves all cognitive functioning of humans”—not just visual processing but also attention, abstract reasoning, working memory, and predicting, to name a few. And a growing body of evidence has dramatically altered our understanding of brain development, revealing that we continue to grow and change intellectually well into adulthood.

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  • Spatial intelligence refers to the ability to represent the spatial world internally in our minds--the way a sailor or airplane pilot navigates the large spatial world, or the way a chess player or sculptor represents a more circumscribed spatial world. Spatial intelligence can be used in the arts or in the sciences. If you are spatially intelligent and oriented toward the arts, you are more likely to become a painter or a sculptor or an architect than, say, a musician or a writer. Similarly, certain sciences like anatomy or topology emphasize spatial intelligence, as does geography.

    • Visual Menu: Chart, map, cluster, or graph; Create a slide show, videotape, or photo album of; Create a piece of art that demonstrates ; Invent a board or card game to demonstrate; Illustrate, draw, paint, sketch, or sculpt. 2

  • Linguistic intelligence is the capacity to use language, our native language, and perhaps other languages, to express what's on our mind and to understand other people. Poets really specialize in linguistic intelligence, but any kind of writer, orator, speaker, lawyer, or a person for whom language is an important stock in trade highlights linguistic intelligence.

    • Linguistic Menu: Use storytelling to explain; Conduct a debate on; Write a poem, myth, legend, short play, or news article about; Create a talk show radio program about; Conduct an interview of on.

  • Interpersonal intelligence is understanding other people. It's an ability we all need, but is at a premium if you are a teacher, clinician, salesperson, or politician. Anybody who deals with other people has to be skilled in the interpersonal sphere.

    • Interpersonal Menu: Conduct a meeting to address; Use social skills to learn about; Participate in a service project to; Teach someone about; Practice giving and receiving feedback on; Use technology to.

  • Intrapersonal intelligence refers to having an understanding of yourself, of knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward. We are drawn to people who have a good understanding of themselves because those people tend not to screw up. They tend to know what they can do. They tend to know what they can't do. And they tend to know where to go if they need help.

    • Intrapersonal Menu: Describe qualities you possess that will help you successfully complete; Set and pursue a goal to; Describe one of your personal values about; Write a journal entry on; Assess your own work in.

  • People with a highly developed logical-mathematical intelligence understand the underlying principles of some kind of a causal system, the way a scientist or a logician does; or can manipulate numbers, quantities, and operations, the way a mathematician does.

    • Logical-Mathematical Menu: Translate a process into a mathematical formula; Design and conduct an experiment on; Make up syllogisms to demonstrate; Make up analogies to explain; describe the patterns or symmetry in.

  • Musical intelligence is the capacity to think in music, to be able to hear patterns, recognize them, remember them, and perhaps manipulate them. People who have a strong musical intelligence don't just remember music easily--they can't get it out of their minds, it's so omnipresent. Now, some people will say, "Yes, music is important, but it's a talent, not an intelligence." And I say, "Fine, let's call it a talent." But, then we have to leave the word intelligent out of all discussions of human abilities. You know, Mozart was damned smart!

    • Musical Menu: Give a presentation with appropriate musical accompaniment on; Sing a rap or song that explains; Indicate the rhythmical patterns in; Explain how the music of a song is similar to; Make an instrument and use it to demonstrate.

  • Bodily kinesthetic intelligence is the capacity to use your whole body or parts of your body--your hand, your fingers, your arms--to solve a problem, make something, or put on some kind of a production. The most evident examples are people in athletics or the performing arts, particularly dance or acting.

    • BodilyKinesthetic Menu: Create a movement or sequence of movements to explain; Make task or puzzle cards for; Build or construct a; Plan and attend a field trip that will; Bring hands-on materials to demonstrate.

  • Naturalist intelligence designates the human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles as botanist or chef. I also speculate that much of our consumer society exploits the naturalist intelligences, which can be mobilized in the discrimination among cars, sneakers, kinds of makeup, and the like. The kind of pattern recognition valued in certain of the sciences may also draw upon naturalist intelligence.

    • Naturalist Menu: Create observation notebooks of; Describe changes in the local or global environment; Care for pets, wildlife, gardens, or parks; Use binoculars, telescopes, microscopes, or magnifiers to; Draw or photograph natural objects.

Elementary School Kids on Why Nature Is Important

Original story posted on Sierra Club.

Honorable Mention: Katie B., sixth grader from Ellisville, Missouri -  “The Great Outdoors”

Honorable Mention: Katie B., sixth grader from Ellisville, Missouri - “The Great Outdoors”

Last spring, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids and the children’s publishing company Scholastic sponsored an essay-writing contest for children in grades fourth through sixth. The contest asked students to submit essays and accompanying illustrations explaining why the outdoors matters. Nearly 2,000 kids from across the country participated.

Katie B., a sixth grader from Ellisville, Missouri mentioned in her essay:

“Swinging, sliding, and climbing at parks are only for fun, right? Not true! Parks and outdoor spaces are not only for fun, but are actually necessary for the world. Parks and outdoor spaces improve our health, environment, and relationships. 

Parks and outdoor spaces improve our health. Specifically, by going to the park, a person’s stress is decreased and happiness increased. Researchers from Finland set out to prove that parks decrease stress. When we are stressed, we release a hormone in our bodies called cortisol. The higher your stress, the more cortisol is found in your body. The researchers from Finland found that the people’s cortisol levels were lower in the park environments than in the city. They concluded that parks relax us more than being in the middle of the city. Not only by going to the park does stress decline, but feelings of happiness increase. When you exercise at the park, endorphins and serotonin are released. Endorphins are chemicals that are released in your brain with exercise. They make you feel more positive and have a better outlook on life. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your brain that is balanced by exercise to make you feel less anxious and depressed. Overall, you feel happier when endorphins and serotonin are energized by exercising in the park.”

Walden students enjoy days filled with open air and nature based activities because we agree with Katie B. - nature does make us feel happier!

Have you heard of a Homeschool Flex Program?! Let’s talk about how to get YOUR “flex” on as a homeschooler at Walden Community School!

Post published by Stephanie Wentworth on the OrlandoMomsBlog

Post published by Stephanie Wentworth on the OrlandoMomsBlog

As a homeschooling mom of three, who has tried public, private, and specialized schools, I feel like I’ve DONE.IT.ALL. 

The number one comment we get when others find out that we’re homeschoolers: “What about the socialization?!” It always feels like a punch in the stomach and yanks me down to about two feet tall that a total stranger would think I’m not giving my child everything they need, INCLUDING the opportunity to meet friends and build relationships.

The answer is simple: “I Flex!” (part-time)

Flex-schooling is the best of both worlds! A part-time Flex Program offers homeschool children the option to visit a school part-time as a way to supplement their home curriculum and socialization! Awesome, right?! As a homeschooler, finding a Flex Program that fits your children’s needs and also aligns with your schooling technique and values is KEY!

That’s where Walden Community School comes in! Walden offers the homeschooling community a two day and four day Part-Time Flex Program for grades 2nd-12th. They also have a K/1st program from 9am-2pm, Mon-Fri class with Fri being optional. This non-profit, tight-knit, progressive school creates a one-of-a-kind curriculum that encourages students to be passionate, motivated, and collaborative. Walden’s curriculum is discussion-based with community projects, hands-on creativity, and skill mastering in mind. Students at the school still reach all of their standards  at their own pace, while also incorporating morals and values into learning!

As a Part-Time Flex parent, you can choose to send your child two or four days out of the week. The structure is pretty simple. For grades 2nd-12th:

  • Mon/Wed – Math and Science

  • Tues/Thurs – Language Arts and History

Hours: 8:30am-11:30am which includes lunchtime (more social time for homeschoolers!)

The K/1st program from 9am-2pm, Mon-Fri class with Fri being optional.

When sending your child for a portion of the day, they’re still getting tons of the perks of a regular classroom setting while also maintaining your lessons at home! Don’t worry – the full time students only move forward on the shared lessons when our homeschooled kids are back in the classroom!

We spent an entire day at Walden Community School and left feeling like family. The students were incredibly supportive and social with one another as well as their mentors and were clearly comfortable in their environment. Students in each of the classrooms welcomed our three homeschooled little guys with open arms while sitting barefoot and criss-cross-applesauce on the floor at their level! Classrooms were empty of desks and full of relaxed seating with tables and huge white boards. The walls were all lined of past projects and filled bookcases.

At Walden’s core is innovative values and realistic expectations of every single one of their students. They focus less on skill-and-drill in the classroom and more on building a hybrid, challenging environment which allows students to focus more on their fundamentals and less on competition. Their classes have a no-shoes rule. (That’s right, NO SHOES in the classrooms!) While sitting in the 1st Grade class and taking in the teacher’s lesson, I felt like she was just a mom, teaching her homeschooling kids their daily lessons while also holding her students as accountable as a teacher out of the home should. She laughed and made jokes with her students and taught her lessons with vocals I’ve only ever seen in movies. She was inviting, encouraging, intriguing, and theatrical! The boys could have listened to her all day!

As the lessons continued, the children shouted their answers in an open discussion just as theatrical as she taught. They stood in yoga poses, sat on their knees, and visited the restroom without asking permission. When the students had a question, rather than raising their hand, they would clasp their hands. My favorite part? The Swing Pass. When students in the classrooms feel overwhelmed or just simply need a break, they retrieve the dedicated Swing Pass to spend a few minutes of alone time taking in fresh air on the wooden tree swing in the center of the school! It was a homeschooling mom’s dream and everything I want for my children when sending them to a Part-Time Flex Program!


As the lesson ended, we made our way to the middle and high schoolers’ classrooms. I was overjoyed to hear about the community outreach program created and hosted by the high schoolers. They were empowered and excited to share that once a month they drop off donations they’ve collected of clothing, books, shoes, and puzzles to local children and families in need within the community. Their slogan “Every child deserves a smile, every once in a while!” was created along with the program this year! In its first year, the students have collected and donated hundreds of books, puzzles, articles of clothing, and shoes! They told us that the children at local schools receiving the donations are always lit up with joy when they’re delivered!

Before leaving for the day, the boys enjoyed playing in Walden’s outdoor classroom and checked out the student-kept garden. The outdoor classroom, which lies parallel with the heavily shaded courtyard lunch area (and looked like it was straight out of a storybook), is full of hammocks, zip lines, balancing areas, and a tire swing!

If you’re considering a part-time program for your homeschooling family, I encourage you to visit Walden Community School for a free tour!

By Stepanhie Wentwroth for OrlandoMomsBlog