The Family Place Blog


Aja Majkrzak, Suzuki Violin Instructor
Aja has been playing the violin for over 20 years. She received her Bachelor’s of Music from the University of Minnesota in 2011 under the tutelage of Mark Bjork, and her Master’s of Music from Louisiana State University in 2013 studying with Espen Lilleslatten. Since then she has performed with many regional orchestras and is currently a member of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra and serves as principal second violin with the Buffalo Community Orchestra.

Orchestral playing is the focus of her career but Aja is also a member of the Latin jazz group Charanga Tropical. In June 2015, she traveled to Havana, Cuba with the group to become the first band from the United States to participate in the International Danzon Festival.

Recently, Aja completed her teacher training for Suzuki Book 1 for the cello. She has also completed trainings for violin and viola through Suzuki Book 4. Follow the link for more information about the Suzuki Association of the Americas.

Aja Majkrzak began giving violin lessons to the children at The Family Place.  It is so much fun but, also, it is a huge benefit to the children in many ways.  To learn more about the beauty of the Suzuki method, please read this article:

We are very fortunate that she shares her time and talents with Casa de La BellaMontessori!!!!!

Alexis Staley: A Wonderful Volunteer!!!

Alexis Staley grew up in Baltimore and started dancing at five years old. She has yet to stop!

Alexis graduated from Baltimore School for the Arts, studying classical ballet and modern dance. In 2014, she went on to graduate from Alonzo King Lines Ballet BFA in Dance and Dominican University of California. During college, Alexis completed a minor in Women and Gender Studies. She was involved with Juntos Collective: a nonprofit that organizes undergrad dancers around the country to use their art form for social justice work in their communities and throughout Latin America. She traveled through Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua performing, teaching, and participating in dance workshops. She realized that she could contribute her talents, skills, and passions to make a difference locally and globally; this desire drives her current goals and aspirations.

Since college, Alexis has danced professionally with San Francisco Opera, River North Dance Chicago, and TU Dance. She also teaches Pure Barre fitness class! When she is not dancing or teaching, she is doing other active things like exploring bike paths, trails, parks and lakes in Minnesota, her new home state.

We are very fortunate to have Alexis in the Twin Cites and at The Family Place!!

Thank you, Alexis, for your service to our community!

Montessori Education Week at Casa de la Bella

Lead Guide and Head of School, Susan Dyrud MacDonald, and Toddler Guide Debbie Bar, made this week a bit extra special for the children. From trying new fruits such as kumquats to doing experimental planting of wheat grass to usher in
spring, the children reveled in all things new. This is the look of education.

Dr. Maria Montessori was quoted as saying: “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” Casa de la Bella and the guides truly believe this and act in accordance with the teachings of Dr. Montessori’s brilliance and insight into the child.

To schedule a visit contact:


Support Community Gardens!!


Check out our 2014/2015 Bi-Annual Report!

The Family Place Bi Annual Report 2014 2015 large

Dr. Montessori on Children

Dr. Maria Montessori had some of the most beautiful ideology forming into poetic words in regard to the child. Here are but a few of those words (excuse the non-all inclusive language):

“Little children from the moment they are weaned are making their way toward independence.”

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

“It is the child who makes the man, and no man exists who was not made by the child he once was.”

The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiments.”

…and my favorite…”The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.”


Casa de la Bella is a Safe, Learning Environment for Children!


Thank You Skidmore Family and Friends!

Thank you for your generous donation of gardening times! The children will LOVE learning about butterfly transformation and growing vegetables!  We look forward to working with you in other volunteer capacities!

New Montessori Guide to Transform the Environment!

susanSusan MacDonald, AMI primary certified Montessori guide, will help create magic in Casa de la Bella on March 23rd and we couldn’t be more pleased. Her calm, positive demeanor and loving ways bring the perfect energy to our casa. The children will gravitate to her spirit. She will change their lives and they will change hers! Welcome to The Family Place family Ms. Susan!!




Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927