Power: Avoiding Struggles

The Nia House parent and teacher community gathered on Saturday morning to discuss power, empowerment, and different ways to create a family culture that fosters positive communication and peace.  

Seeking power and empowerment, we learned, is a very natural and healthy developmental norm. We all shared some highlights of the power struggles endured in the past week. Perhaps some sound familiar?!

How can we promote empowerment?

  • Approach children and self with a growth mindset. 
    • "Discovered by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, Ph.D., a growth mindset is the belief that we can develop our abilities, including our intelligence, which is our ability to think. It is distinguished from a fixed mindset, which is the belief that abilities can’t change, such as thinking that some people can’t improve in math, creativity, writing, relationship-building, leadership, sports, and the like." (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/smart-parents/growth-mindset-parenting_b_6951252.html)
  • Offer genuine acknowledgement rather than praise. (Link: How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The inverse power of praise.)
    • "Research shows that when we praise children for being smart, they adopt a fixed mindset (i.e. thinking that people are either smart or not), and as a result when things get hard for them they conclude that they are not smart and they experience higher anxiety, lower confidence, and lower performance. They also become less interested in learning, and more interested in showing what they already know how to do. While being told they’re smart may make them feel good in the short term, the deeper lesson they learn is that people are either smart or not, and when things get hard, they feel incapable." (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/smart-parents/growth-mindset-parenting_b_6951252.html)
  • Recognize the developmental appropriateness of seeking power. 
    • 0-2: child forms sense of self, including learning to oppose and separate from caregiver
    • 3: child refines separating strategies, defiance is power
    • All children need to repeat for experimentation and to find emotional safety/consistency
  • Understand underlying mistaken goals of misbehavior that lead to power struggles (Dr. Rudolf Dreikus)
    • Seeking undue attention:
      • "I only have value when I am noticed/center of attention."
    • Seeking undue power
      • "I find satisfaction from the determination and effort to get I want."
    • Seeking revenge
      • "Everyone sees that what I did or do is bad, this gets me attention, so I'll keep doing it."
    • Assuming inadequacy
      • "I usually fail or I'm corrected, so why bother- I'll just wait for someone else to do it or help."

A few practical tactics:

  • Side stepping: not fighting, not hurting, not overpowering, not giving in.
  • Choices: offer 2 very positive options, neither of which is tied to fear or intimidation.
  • Useful empowerment: offer increased responsibility and trust.
  • Surprise!: do something unexpected (funny, fun, or silly).
  • & more... Link: Positive Discipline Resources

Remember always to commit to self care! 

The tale of Thanksgiving told at Nia House


We imagine many of you are busily stocking up on sweet potatoes, apples, squash, turkey, potatoes, garlic, and thyme. Perhaps you will gather around a table on Thursday with friends and family and give thanks for your life’s blessings. We at Nia House share in this reflective season, we offer thanks for community, food, family, and provide the children the opportunity to name their gratitude. We have begun to collect ingredients from the community to make a Thankful Soup that the children will sous chef by chopping vegetables. Our community of children and teachers will enjoy the soup on Wednesday (feel free to pack a regular or lighter lunch). 

Our work as educators, however, does not end with this important lesson of thankfulness. We believe it is our social responsibility to introduce cultural celebrations and history in accurate and age appropriate ways. The tale of Thanksgiving is told in many different ways. Here is a bit of insight into how we tell it here at Nia House. 

Each circle time at Nia House builds upon and adds to the next. History is held in a linear model; stories root in a spiral form as annually we cycle through geography, place, ecology, culture, time and where we as humans fit in this interconnected continuum.  Thus, the tale of Thanksgiving never stands separate from the elements that inform this cultural celebration- history, people, place, culture, and conflict.  

We are keenly aware of the responsibilities to honor indigenous people; to offer children contemporary conceptions of North America’s first people; to provide accurate maps, precise names and locations of Native communities, folklore, and current imagery of indigenous people and life stories through books. The telling of the Thanksgiving does not adhere to a Eurocentric narrative describing the Americas as open land or a place to be discovered. Rather, the fullness of Native American life before the arrival of Europeans is detailed. 

The history of the arrival of Europeans to North America is a violent one. Educators are faced with the task of offering a true story that is developmentally appropriate to preschoolers. Though we do not shy from using the words colonialism and conflict, we are sensitive to our very young audience. Teachers use role play to help children engage and we pause to allow children to share how they would feel and what they might do differently. Here is an example of some of the language used at Nia House to describe American history at the moment of European arrival (see video below):

When the Europeans came there was great conflict, land was wanted and taken from native people; people were very angry, so angry that they shook their fists and were unkind.

Land was taken, people dislocated, and this was a hard time. This is a hard time. As we adults know, the struggle continues. With every social injustice, we remind children that sometimes people are not peaceful and luckily we here at Nia House know to use our words and act with peace. We believe it is important to remember times of unkindness so that we can instill how important it is to be kind and grateful now. 

As early childhood educators, we are graced with the opportunity to introduce the first narratives of history, to empower children with their understanding of peace and conflict resolution, to allow the tale of Thanksgiving to hold complexity, and to honor indigenous people in a socially responsible way.    

Sending everyone in the community wishes for a holiday break that lends time to reflect, be with family, and enjoy the warmth of delicious food shared with loved ones.

(The clip below came after the children acted out Nicole's narration of Native Americans thriving, growing food, having family, making art and then the arrival of Europeans, tired and needing care after a very long journey. At first, the Europeans needed care, but soon sent for more Europeans to come and take the land in a most unkind way.)

Welcome Gabriella to Nia House

gabby paloma paint.JPG

Welcome Gabriella to Nia House's teaching team.

Gabriella (or Gabby) joined Alexis's classroom as an Assistant teacher on October 16, 2017. It has been a joy to observe how quickly Gabriella has formed loving bonds with the children. In Alexis's words, "She is a true Montessorian."

Gabby is a certified Montessori teacher with over a decade of teaching experience.  

I strongly believe in Maria Montessori’s philosophy and believe that the first years in the life of a child are very important. I love children and enjoy seeing them grow and discover the world at their own pace.

We feel very lucky to have her calm presence and wealth of teaching experience in our community. Her love and respect of children is evident. 

Community Auction: Sneak Peek


Our Parents' Night Out Event is around the corner! 

Parents' Night Out: Celebrating Since 1974

Please RSVP today!

Don't miss out on the pre-party hype! The mobile auction is live. 

If you come to the event, you will have access to an exclusive Community Auction. Bidding will be open at the event only, but feel free to scope out the items!

We need everyone to help! Please sign up to volunteer.




An Auction to Applaud!

Musicals, Theater, Ballet, Symphony, Magic and more!

You can be in the audience for elite productions by bidding on our live, mobile auction.

Please share with friends and family. Let them support Nia House and have the chance to experience our Bay Area's amazing arts scene. 






Bid on your dream trip!

Get your sneak peak today and bid tomorrow at 5pm!

You can bid and win remotely.

Download the Handbid application on your smart phone or click on the links below. 


Explore the California coast with a night in your own canvas bungalow at Costanoa!

Is the Caribbean calling you?

Answer- bid on five nights in Cancun.

Seek serenity

at a retreat Airbnb with a hot tub, yoga deck, and meditation room in Nevada City.







Work Week

What, you might wonder, were the Nia Staff up to when the school was closed for a week? Well, there was a bit of slip & sliding. It is true, the Nia House teachers and staff took an afternoon to enjoy a catered lunch (big thanks to the Ikeda-Huang Family), to play, soak in the sunshine, bond, and hopefully, feel appreciated.

When we weren’t being leisurely for an afternoon, we were doing some pretty interesting things that we’d like to share with you.

Breathe California of the Bay Area came to deliver a presentation on how to identify asthma triggers, reduce symptoms, how to implement an asthma action plan, and to administer first aid. This organization offers great community resource and services including low cost health clinic referral and asthma action plan materials. Check them out by clicking here. 

Every two years, the Nia House staff gets CPR and First Aid certified. This time around, Safety Training Seminars came to Nia House and spent the day covering important emergency response and practical care skills. Though we do this recertification every two years, it is always helpful to practice and revisit these important lessons so that we are ready to act with confidence in providing care.

During this time of respite from providing care to children, the teaching staff takes time to reflect and refine teaching skills to better meet the needs of every child. This year, Eve shared a webinar- Preparing the Environment for Children with Sensory-Processing Needs. The introduction of this webinar opened our minds to the uniqueness of each child’s needs, development, and considerations for when sensory-processing is different.  

Work week is an important, productive, and fun-filled time here at Nia House. We hope you return sensing the rejuvenation and preparedness of our amazing teaching team!




Nia House Prepares for the Solar Eclipse

On Monday, August 21st, North America will experience a solar eclipse. Here at Nia House, we are ready to experience an 80% eclipsed sun. Darlene, from The Center for Science Education at UC Berkeley, presented to the Nia House preschoolers today. She demonstrated, with the help of the children, how an eclipse is possible. According to her, during the time of the eclipse it will feel like the sun is setting, the sky will darken and it will get chilly between 9am-noon. Ask your children to share more, they learned all about it!  

We will be all set to see the 80% eclipsed sun with glasses designed for safe solar viewing. We encourage you to learn more and talk about this exciting event as a family. 

Visit NASA for more information.

Donation Matching- Ask your employer!

Hi Nia House Community. You can possibly double Nia House donations!

Did you know that the company you work for might match donations that you make to Nia House? It is true! Matching gifts are corporate giving programs that reward employees’ charitable donations. Please check with your HR department or employee handbook to find out if your company participates. 

Parents' Night Out, our largest annual fundraiser, is coming up soon- Saturday, September 23rd.

Silent Auction items are rolling in and they are amazing! Items that you bid on and win count as a donation to Nia House and can be matched by your employer. You may be able to multiply the effect your generosity has on Nia House simply with awareness of your employer’s policies.

Here is a link to some common corporations that match. Many many are unlisted so ask to be sure. 

Look into it and let us know! Thank you so much for your support.

Thank you & Good luck, Raul

Nia House thanks Raul for his year of teaching at Nia House. We are so grateful for the humor, calm, and guidance that he has offered the children and his teaching team. Raul will be missed and we wish him only good things.

Raul will be leaving Nia House on Friday, July 21st. We will let the children know on Monday, July 17th. Please join in thanking Raul and wishing him well. 

Here is a note from Raul:

Dear school community, next Friday, July 21st will be my last day working as a full-time Nia House teacher. Thank you for including me in the school community. From my daughter Sofia’s time as a NH student, through my work as a staff person, I have enjoyed working with all of you and especially your children. I am so proud of my personal development here at NH and thank you for the opportunity to grow along side of your children. I am sadly leaving NH for personal reasons, but as alumni family and alumni staff member, I will always keep in touch.

Old Friends

Below are all the children that will be moving on from Nia House in fall (some sooner). These beautiful faces and beings are cherished members of the Nia House community. 

We look forward to sending them off with love and celebration at the Goodbye Party on Friday, August 25th.  

Election Results

I'd like to begin by honoring the amazing candidates in this year's elections. Not only does each and every candidate bring a unique and impressive skill set, they bring forth a sincere dedication to Nia House. On behalf of the entire community, thank you for your commitment to service and to upholding the mission of Nia House. 

Meet your Nia House Board of Directors for 2017-2018!

Parent Representatives

  • Jeff Vincent
  • Katy Love
  • Loris Mattox
  • Monica Parran  

Staff Representative

  • Nicole Dixon

Community Representatives

  • Alex Savidge

  • Aleishall Girard Maxon

Time to Vote

The children at Nia House recently took the time to nominate names and cast votes for our chick. The name Fluff won!

It is now your turn, parent community, to cast your votes for the Nia House Board of Directors. 

Vote on Wednesday (tomorrow), June 14th from 7:30am-5pm. 

For information on your candidates and to cast your vote, click on the voting guide below. 

Thank you for supporting Nia House!

Berkeley Bowl Scrip Raises Money for Nia House

There's an easy way to raise money for Nia House without any cost to yourself. It's the Berkeley Bowl gift card program - or scrip, as they call it. The Bowl gives $4 to Nia House for every $100 you spend there using their gift cards. It's pretty awesome. 

It's easy:

The way it works is that you tell me how many cards you want. Just email me (Carol Ness, Djuna's mom) at bbowl.niahouse@gmail.com or carol.ness@gmail.com and tell me how many you want. Each card is $100, so you can buy one, two, three etc. Then when you shop, they work just like any gift card at checkout.  You can just buy then when you need them, or set up a regular amount per month.

You can pay by check to Nia House and note "Berkeley Bowl" on the check. Or you can do bill pay from your bank. Then email me and I'll get the cards to you within a few days.

GETTING YOUR CARDS: I’ll leave them in the office. They're setting up a dedicated box for pickups.     


Parents who have been doing this for the past couple of years have bought around $2,000 a month worth of cards. That’s $80 a month for Nia House — or almost $1,000 a year. The more the merrier!


Yes! It’s the store’s way of giving back to non-profits in the community - schools, churches, etc.


Just email me or flag me down at school. carol.ness@gmail.com


Race, Gender and Spiritual Preparation of the Teacher

Components of children’s development of identity includes gender and race. Nia House teachers and staff spent a Tuesday evening meeting unpacking the interplay of gender and race as a social construct and delving into the role we as educators play in children’s identity development.

We began by generating a list of stereotypes associated with gender, notions of what it means to be a “boy” or “girl”. The list looked as you might suspect- boys were classified as physical, math-minded, and tough while girls were emotional, meek, and care-takers. Together we reflected on what opportunities a child might miss out on if we subscribed solely to these social constructs. Next, we considered the roles implicit biases, or our automatic and unconscious motivators of how we treat people, play in the way we interact with and structure the school experiences of Nia House children.

Often, the opportunities, commentary, or praise offered to young children reinforces gender stereotypes. Girls are noticed for their clothing and boys are encouraged with sayings like “big boy” for doing physical tasks. When a child gets hurt, girls might be gently nurtured and boys supported for brushing it off. The list goes on and on. So, the Nia House staff asked the important question- What can we do (or do we do already) in our school community to ensure that each child has access to the full range of human characteristics?

Here is some of what the Nia House staff came up with:

·       Clothing for all. Children at Nia House can choose from clothing bins that are open for all children and whatever choice they make is accepted.

·       We refer to children as “friend” or “children” instead of as “boy” or “girl.”

·       Children sit with mixed ages and genders at lunch.

·       Bathrooms for all.

·       Works are open for all children: dolls, purse, baby washing, care of environment- folding, cleaning, gardening, building etc.

·       There are opportunities for leadership and care-taking for all children.

·       Objective observations are made for all the children.

o   Instead of saying, “What pretty red shoes.” We might say,“I see your red shoes, they look ready for running.”

o   Rather than say “What a big boy you are,” We will offer, “I see you are being very helpful by carrying that lunchbox.”

The truth is, offering children access to the full range of human characteristics seems to come very naturally to the Nia House teaching team. Yet, implicit bias is unavoidable. We are guided by the teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori who tells us,

“The real preparation for education is a study of one’s self. The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character, it is a preparation of the spirit.” (The Absorbent Mind)

Montessori implored us to be spiritually prepared as educators. In the current contemporary educational climate we understand this preparation to include self-study on our implicit biases related to gender, class, race, and other identity markers.

At Nia House, we take Montessori to heart and find her teachings poignant in an educational climate where implicit bias is apparent and school success resolutely linked to gender and race. Yale University Child Study Center conducted a study in September of 2016 titled, Do Early Educators’ Implicit Biases Regarding Sex and Race Relate to Behavior Expectations and Recommendations of Preschool Expulsions and Suspensions? The answer to this question- yes.

“…boys in general, were endorsed as requiring the most attention by 76% of early education staff (52% more than expected by chance alone), consistent with research showing that boys (regardless of race) are at greater risk for classroom removal. Regardless of the nature of the underlying biases, the tendency to observe more closely classroom behaviors based on the sex and race of the child may contribute to greater levels of identification of challenging behaviors with Black preschoolers and especially Black boys, which perhaps contributes to the documented sex and race disparities in preschool expulsions and suspensions.”

Berkeley is not immune to this trend. In 2014-2015, Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) looked squarely at the disproportionate rate of suspension, expulsion and special education placement of students based on race and gender. In that year, 477 students were suspended in Berkeley grades K-12. Of these 477 students, 323 were African American. Yet, African American students make up only 17% of the student population in BUSD. The Daily Californian reports that “Berkeley Unified School District and other organizations are working on programs that explore alternatives to suspending students, such as behavioral support and counseling.” Thankfully, the efforts of Berkeley Unified are working with suspensions on a rapid decline. Efforts including Restorative Justice, family engagement, self-esteem and healthy relationship development were all cited as efforts impacting the decline in suspensions. While Nia House supports these efforts whole-heartedly, we also take very seriously the work of self-study, acknowledging implicit bias of the teacher and educational institution.

Gender and race identity are forming in the lives of Nia House children. Also included in this staff meeting was a quick look at a fascinating CNN study which attempted to understand race relations from a child’s vantage. Though complex in analysis, this video highlights the grave nature of race identity and relations from children’s perspectives.

Though no one is immune to implicit bias, the Nia House teachers and staff are committed to an education of equity and this includes access to empowerment and expression within the full range of human characteristics. Children’s greatest obstacles towards the aim of empowerment and positive identity development just might come in the form of the teacher! Montessori writes, “The teacher’s happy task is…removing the obstacles, beginning first with those which she herself is likely to present (for the teacher can be the greatest obstacle of all).” (Discovery of the Child) The teachers and staff at Nia House exercise great humility, self-awareness, and commitment to Dr. Maria Montessori and to social justice for all the children in our care- indeed, we recognize this as our ongoing work of self-study and spiritual preparation.  

Our team hard at work:

Baby Moss leads our staff meeting:

Celebrate Bike to School Day with Nia House!

Thursday, May 11th is Bike to School Day

Here are two fun ways you can participate:

Nia House is an Energizer Station.

Bike to school!

We'll have goodie bags from Bike East Bay, Acme bread/toppings. and Highwire Coffee, plus, special for Nia student cyclists, frozen melon balls! 

Join the evening Kidical Mass bike ride from Nia House to San Pablo Park. 


We'll leave at 5:15 pm and bike as a group to the playground at the south end of the park, where we'll have a picnic dinner. 

Please RSVP to me (ben.gerhardstein@gmail.com) for the ride (or just the picnic). The more merrier!

We'll be joined by the owner of the Spokes Family Bike Collective. He will bring along several kid bikes for children to try at the park!

Show your Nia House pride by wearing a new Nia House shirt for the event. On sale in the office. 

Looking forward to a great Bike to School Day!

Yard Sale Success!

A heartfelt thank you to everyone that came out to the Nia House Yard Sale on Saturday! 

Parent community- You are amazing! Thank you to all that pitched in. Your help made the event a success.

Alum and friends of Nia House- it really warms our hearts to have you return and to see your children grow.

Community at larger- thank you for buying our stuff!

This year the Yard Sale raised $7,000.  

If you missed the chance to purchase our new Nia House t-shirts, swing by the office to get yours. Each shirt is $20.

Let's continue to show our Nia House love!

Raffle Extraordinaire!

If you haven't already gotten your 5 books of raffle tickets to sell to friends and family, please come by the office. You don't want anyone you know missing out on the chance to win these amazing prizes! Further, if each family sells 5 books, it will raise over $7,000 for Nia House

Here is a list of the winnings to be had on Saturday, May 6th at our Yard Sale! Thank you so much to all of our local donors. 

11:30 Drawing

GRAND PRIZE - "SUPER SCIENCE" Bay Area Discovery Museum - 2 x family pass Lawrence Hall of Science - family pass Lindsay Wildlife Experience - four tickets CuriOdyssey - Three Month Season Pass ($298 value)

Berkeley Symphony - Two Tickets ($96.00 value)

East Bay Nursery - Gift Certificate ($30.00 value)

Rain or Shine - Gift Certificate ($25.00 value)

Pet Food Express - Gift Certficate ($25.00 value)

Shotgun Players - Two Tickets ($70.00 value)

Pegasus Books - Gift Certificate ($15.00 value)

Habitot - Family Guest Pass ($45.00 value)


12:30 Drawing

GRAND PRIZE -"DATE NIGHT" California Jazz Conservatory -two summer season passesBeach Blanket Babylon - two tickets ($1000 value)

Alma Acupuncture - Gift Certificate ($135.00 value)

Gaumenkitzel - Gift Certificate ($30.00 value)

Oakland Ballet - Two Tickets ($100 value)

La Mediterranee - Gift Certificate ($25.00 value)

Arbonne Gift Bag ($105 value)

San Francisco Symphony - Two Tickets ($230 value)

Books Inc. - Gift Certificate ($20.00 value)


1:30 Drawing

GRAND PRIZE - "FAMILY FUN" Albany Bowl - bowling party for 10 people Oakland Ice Center - family fun pack Brushstrokes Studio - five passesHappy Hollow Park & Zoo - four passes ($350 value)

The Golden Skate - Gift certificate for five people ($65.00 value)

Takara Sake USA - Tasting for two ($20.00 value)

Takara Sake USA - Tasting for two ($20.00 value)

Builders Bookstore - Gift certificate ($20.00 value)

San Francisco Zoo - Two Tickets ($38.00 value)

Ruby's Garden - Gift certificate ($25.00 value)

Pier 39 - Family Fun Pack ($313 value)

Berkeley YMCA - One Month Membership ($64.00 value)