​​How Never Work Harder Than Your Students 

validates and aligns with the Kids' Own Wisdom approach:

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a method initiated by teacher-facilitated discussions of art images and documented to have a cascading positive effect on both teachers and students. It is perhaps the simplest way in which teachers and schools can provide students with key behaviors sought by Common Core Standards: thinking skills that become habitual and transfer from lesson to lesson, oral and written language literacy, visual literacy, and collaborative interactions among peers.​

8 Ways to Teach Mindfulness to Kids

​We know mindfulness is good for us. Mindfulness allows us to be present in our parenting, choosing a skillful response, instead of succumbing to our visceral reactions.

Mindfulness is also good for our kids. There is an emerging body of research that indicates mindfulness can help children improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset and to make better decisions. In short, it helps with emotional regulation and cognitive focus. Do I even need to ask if you want that for your kids?

So where do we start? How can we teach these important skills to our children?

First things first...

Establish your own practice. You would have trouble teaching your children ballet if you had never danced. To authentically teach mindfulness to your children, you need to practice it yourself. You can start slowly with a meditation practice of just five to 10 minutes a day. Find ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily activities. Don’t let this step intimidate you — you’re probably practicing a lot of mindful habits already!

Keep it simple. Mindfulness is a big word for young kids to understand. Put simply, mindfulness is awareness. It is noticing our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and anything that is around us and happening right now.

Check your expectations. Are you expecting mindfulness to eliminate tantrums? to make your active child calm? to make your house quiet? If so, you are likely to be disappointed. While feeling calm or being quiet are nice side-effects of mindfulness, they are not the ultimate purpose.

The purpose of teaching mindfulness to our children is to give them skills to develop their awareness of their inner and outer experiences, to recognize their thoughts as “just thoughts,” to understand how emotions manifest in their bodies, to recognize when their attention has wandered, and to provide tools for impulse control. It is not a panacea, and it will not completely get rid of what is, frankly, normal kid behavior, like tantrums and loudness and whining and exuberance and arguing...

Don’t force it. If your kids aren’t interested in your lesson or activity, drop it. This is a good time for you to practice non-attachment to outcomes!

Now that we’ve got the preliminaries out of the way, here are some suggestions for how you can begin to introduce mindfulness to your children:

1. Listen to the bell. An easy way for children to practice mindfulness is to focus on paying attention to what they can hear. You can use a singing bowl, a bell, a set of chimes or a phone app that has sounds on it. Tell your children that you will make the sound, and they should listen carefully until they can no longer hear the sound (which is usually 30 seconds to a minute).

2. Practice with a breathing buddy. For young children, an instruction to simply “pay attention to the breath” can be hard to follow. In this Edutopia video, Daniel Goleman describes a 2nd-grade classroom that does a “breathing buddy” exercise: Each student grabs a stuffed animal, and then lies down on their back with their buddy on their belly. They focus their attention on the rise and fall of the stuffed animal as they breathe in and out.

3. Make your walks mindful. One of my children’s favorite things to do in the summer is a “noticing walk.” We stroll through our neighborhood and notice things we haven’t seen before. We’ll designate one minute of the walk where we are completely silent and simply pay attention to all the sounds we can hear — frogs, woodpeckers, a lawnmower. We don’t even call it “mindfulness,” but that’s what it is.

4. Establish a gratitude practice. I believe gratitude is a fundamental component of mindfulness, teaching our children to appreciate the abundance in their lives, as opposed to focusing on all the toys and goodies that they crave. My family does this at dinner when we each share one thing we are thankful for. It is one of my favorite parts of the day.

5. Try the SpiderMan meditation! My 5-year-old son is in to all things superheroes, and this SpiderMan meditation is right up his alley. This meditation teaches children to activate their “spidey-senses” and their ability to focus on all they can smell, taste, and hear in the present moment. Such a clever idea!

6. Check your personal weather report. In Sitting Still Like a Frog, Eline Snel encourages children to “summon the weather report that best describes [their] feelings at the moment.” Sunny, rainy, stormy, calm, windy, tsunami? This activity allows children to observe their present state without overly identifying with their emotions. They can’t change the weather outside, and we can’t change our emotions or feelings either. All we can change is how we relate to them. As Snel describes it, children can recognize, “I am not the downpour, but I notice that it is raining; I am not a scaredy-cat, but I realize that sometimes I have this big scared feeling somewhere near my throat.”

7. Make a Mind Jar. A mind jar is a bitlike a snow globe - shake it up and watch the storm! But soon, if we sit and breathe and simply watch the disturbance, it settles. As do our minds.

8. Practice mindful eating. The exercise of mindfully eating a raisin or a piece of chocolate is a staple of mindfulness education, and is a great activity for kids. You can find a script for a seven-minute mindful eating exercise for children here.

Above all, remember to have fun and keep it simple. You can provide your children with many opportunities to add helpful practices to their toolkit — some of them will work for them and some won’t. But it’s fun to experiment!


 Prosocial Learning


 Education Standards

​ School Climate Reform Initiatives

Mind in the Making - The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs

The highly respected author, Ellen Galinsky, provides solid for supporting children's well rounded growth towards realization of their full potential, with identification of seven research-based life skills:

1) Focus and self control   2) Perspective taking 

3) Communicating   4) Making connections     5) Critical thinking 6) Taking on challenges  7) Self-directed learning

Galinsky identifies the above life skills as essential, because each is necessary for helping children to take on life's challenges, communicate well with others, and remain committed to learning.

​​HowEssential Questions validates and aligns with

the Kids' Own Wisdom approach:

Significance of Visual Thinking Strategies:

Wordless pictures offer numerous pedagogical benefits for emerging readers, including:

√ Development of pre-reading skills

√ Sequential thinking

√ A sense of story

√ Visual discrimination

√ Inferential thinking 

In addition, there are at least 5 things that readers of wordless pictures must learn to do:
1. Give voice to the visual narrative by participating in the story sequence.
2. Interpret characters' thoughts, feelings, and emotions without textual support for confirming these ideas.
3. Tolerate ambiguity and accept that not everything may be answered or understood.
4. Recognize that there are a broad range of possible explanations.
5. Elaborate on hypotheses about what is happening in a wordless picture.

In addition to clearly focused visuals, success of the Kids' Own Wisdom's approach is built upon SOARR-ing questions. SOARR is our acronym for:

√ Stretch and expand awareness

√ Open-ended

√ Age-appropriately challenging

√ Relevant

​√ Respectful

True learning happens when there is an actual reason to learn something. If the reason is personally relevant, then the motivation is intrinsic - rather than extrinsic (external rewards, avoidance of punishment, etc.) Questions, when properly and respectfully designed, open the door to true learning ... 


√ Researched-based

√ Evidence-based

√ Understanding of psychology

√ Leading pedagogical theories

SCROLL DOWN and you'll see what we'll be adding commentary to, as time allows.

The Kids' Own Wisdom approach is all about creating consistent opportunities to LISTEN to our students ... to learn things about them that will help increase their 'currency' in your classroom.

When kids are consistently and genuinely listened to (during purposeful and focused group discussions) they experience their own significance.  

When kids listen to peers, with the kind of attention they enjoy receiving, they experience the significance of others.  They also, very often, discover commonly shared values and perspectives about which they weren't previously aware, an experience, when consistently repeated, zaps the sense of isolation and builds belonging.

Essential Questions (EQ) help target standards as you organize curriculum content into coherent units that yield focused and thoughtful learning.

In the classroom, EQs are used to stimulate students' discussions and promote a deeper understanding of the content.

Whether you are ... searching for ways to address standards - local or Common Core State Standards - in an engaging way, authors Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins provide practical guidance on how to design, initiate, and embed inquiry-based teaching and learning in your classroom.


The more accountability we give to children,

the more they rise to the occasion.

Why else would they?

Welcome to the

Validation and Alignment page.  

I tend to geek out on research, which explains why this is my favorite page on the website.

This is where we get to share many of the specific ways in which the

Kids' Own Wisdom approach aligns with the most valuable of contemporary thinking about education.

The more you learn on this page, the more confident you'll be with incorporating the uncomplicated Kids' Own Wisdom approach. 


 "Never forget, children are our elders in      universe time. They have come into a more  complete, more evolved universe than you will  ever understand, except through their eyes."

~ Buckminster Fuller 

​​How Visual Thinking Strategies validates and aligns with the Kids' Own Wisdom approach:

1) In Kids' Own Wisdom peer group discussions, children’s attention stays focused because topics are age-appropriately challenging and relevant.  Participants are invariably interested in other members' contributions. That experience, when consistently provided, establishes formative patterns of behavior for collaborative interactions.  2) SOARR-ing questions ignite children’s natural interest, curiosity, open-mindedness and innate flexibility - most naturally facilitating perspective taking capacity. (Lectures:  not so much.)   3) Communication is a two-way street and, to be really good at it,  requires practice. Confident self-expression and listening with undivided attention are characteristics of good communicators.  Peer group discussions are the easiest and most natural way for children to develop this essential life skill.  4) Many of the questions proposed during Kids’ Own Wisdom peer group discussions are specifically designed to spark students’ natural inclination to make sense of their world in bigger and more inclusive aggregates = to make connections.

5 + 6) Preparing today’s youth to make choices that are in their best interest is a mega-challenge. To succeed, kids need on-going opportunities to critically analyze popular media, advertising, politics, and cultural biases - which all stand ready to assault and neutralize critical thinking.  Thinking together about wide-spread challenges to their common sense, students gain competence and confidence in their critical thinking ability.  7) An “appetite” for self-directed learning is enlivened so much more by the right kind of questions than by lectures.

​​How Mind in the Making validates and aligns with

the Kids' Own Wisdom approach:

Kids' Own Wisdom's wordless pictures depicting age-appropriately 'challenging' situations are presented for peer group discussions.

All participants are invited to share their perspectives, explanations and personal interpretations, based on questions that open 'horizons of learning,' without defining or limiting personal observations or values. Teachers facilitate rather than 'teach.'

By viewing wordless pictures that represent familiar challenges, and listening to peers' explanations - in completely objective circumstances - no one feels any need to be defensive. Not feeling defensive, children are able to listen to others' experiences during those challenging times. Often, children modify their own attitudes and behaviors as a result of the shared discoveries during the peer group discussions. (No lectures required.)

More VALIDATIONS & ALIGNMENTS will be continuously added ...

see below to get an idea of where we're going with how widely Kids' Own Wisdom fits into contemporary thinking.

Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching 

We say that we want students to take more responsibility for their own learning, yet we continue to control every aspect of their learning.

We dictate what is taught, what are acceptable responses,  how students will learn the material, when students will learn, and how students will demonstrate what they have learned.

It's not that students are incapable of doing more in the classroom, it's just that they have rarely been asked to do so.

How will students learn to take more responsibility unless we first relinquish some of the control?

Check out this website to learn more about VTS:

Significance of "Mind in the Making":

​The intention of Galinsky's book is to assure that today's children not only survive, but thrive in the future they're growing into... a future, everyone agrees, is impossible to imagine or predict. Even though the future will be filled with challenges and opportunities we've never considered, it is fair to assume that the seven essential life skills that her research has identified will, if developed, provide serious advantages to those who have them. (And serious disadvantages to those who do not have them.)

She also explains that:  (1) The seven essential life skills need to be practiced as often as possible in order for them to become solidly established. (2) Promoting these skills does not require expensive programs or materials. (3) The earlier children start to learn these life skills, the better, but it's never too late to start helping children to learn and practice them - no matter what their ages. 

​​​​​Materials and Resources for Social-Emotional & Cognitive Skills Development

Significance of "Essential Questions":

Arguably, questioning is the most timeless and fundamental stratagem employed by teachers from Confucius to Aristotle to Descartes to engage learners... the role of the essential question has risen as a curricular compass, setting pathways for learners ... The demand for high-quality essential questions is ubiquitous, yet there is a chasm between good intention and the ability to write them well. With the current scrutiny on teacher effectiveness, the emphasis on standards alignment, and renewed focus on formative assessment ... the authors' pedagogical explorations directly serve school-age learners by leading professional educators to revisit and refine practices....

The authors freely acknowledge that it's not enough to create essential questions. No. The culture of each classroom determines whether risks are taken and meaning is made. A compelling discussion in the book is the the exploration of how to cultivate a learning environment conducive to mutual respect and connection.

of the Kids' Own Wisdom® approach:

   "When we begin to value who children are (not just what we want them to be), a shift happens in the way we think about learning and teaching.

   "Our jobs become more engaging and fulfilling, and we begin to envision a larger purpose for our profession.”  

~ Deb Curtis

Dr. Lilian Katz:




Significance of "Never Work Harder Than Your Students":

Knowing your students means more than knowing their demographics or test scores. It means recognizing what currency they have and value and then using that 'currency' to help them acquire the 'capital' of the classroom.

When students acquire classroom 'capital,' they do well on achievement tests and make good grades.  Sometimes called 'soft skills,' social-emotional-life skills are an essential currency in the classroom. In fact, any behavior that students use to acquire the knowledge and skills important to your grade level or subject area functions as 'currency,' and this 'currency' is actively negotiated and traded in every classroom interaction. While these 'soft skills' and behaviors are not often made explicit to students, they are crucial in acquiring the 'capital' of the classroom.