Sunday Book Club: Atlas of Adventure 

With the holidays finished we are back into our normal rhythms. That of course, means it’s Book Club time and this week’s books are gorgeous must haves for any Montessori home’s Non-Fiction Research/Reference section. 



The first book found here is absolutely stunning. It’s done in a completely different way then I have seen before and covers everything in its two page spreads from tigers in the Siberian snow, to humpback whales off the coast of Chile. 

The pictures are modern, clean lined and yet have so much detail. We are absolutely in love. 

The second, companion activity book found here is equally gorgeous. Sectioned into the continents it is a perfect at home workbook for any geography lover. So much to colour on each page and a large wall map and stickers are included. 

We purchased these books for a young Montessori friend’s 4th birthday, however on seeing their beauty and the ability to use them over the years with Quentin, I decided to order copies for our own reference materials shelf. 

Like anything else in our minimalist home featured here, we choose books extremely mindfully especially when purchasing them. Here are some of our “rules” for purchasing non-fiction books that fit with both a minimalist lifestyle but also (and much more importantly) a Montessori lifestyle: 

  • Books must be reality and science based
  • Books must be able to hold a child’s interest today, tomorrow and next year
  • Purchase a small range without duplicating a subject. We don’t need 20 penguin books. A really good one will last years and we can supplement the rest from the public library, although really we shouldn’t need to. 

Books about the world around us are some of the most important you can share with a child. A child is never too young to be exposed to that world. 

A Montessori Home: Organization, Storage, Toy Rotation and how to live a minimalist lifestyle with kids

It’s a new year. I always get the deep need to declutter and purge after the holidays. I also get asked frequently about what living a minimalist life looks like with 2 kids. So I thought I would get at least some of the details down. 

Before I start, I wanted to state that living as a minimalist looks different to everyone. Our way of doing it may not be right for another family, but it is definitely right for us. 

Most importantly living minimally also means living mindfully. We think about our home and lifestyle in a very concrete way. We think about what we want to convey to our children. What do we want them to remember about their childhood? What do we want them to remember about us? Thinking about those questions is the first step to decluttering your life. 

Step One: Self organization 


The most important part of the Montessori Prepared Environment is the adult. The entire environment depends on us as the guide to observe, and prepare it to fully meet the needs of the child. Here is this week’s pages in my bullet journal. To ensure privacy I have selected this upcoming week before things get scribbled in and filled up. Keeping a bullet journal is directly linked to my own mindfulness and therefore my sanity. This little book and our big wipeable monthly calendar on the fridge are where we write everything down. 

Step Two: Material storage & organization 


This is it. As you can see, there isn’t a lot. This is where some of the minimalism comes in. The most common misconception I see on Facebook and Pinterest is that Montessori is about the materials. In short, about the stuff. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Montessori is actually about the child. The pedagogy was originally designed for people who had nothing. Not having everything is a very good lesson to teach not only our children, but also (perhaps more importantly) ourselves. 

Another misconception is that there is a difference between toys and materials. This often allows for the excuse that we need “all the things” because they are learning materials. Yet in Montessori, learning is joyful work and purposeful play. Your child sees no difference between a material and a toy. 

Your child doesn’t need fancy teaching time clocks, balancing beams, sensory boards etc. Instead a few good quality materials offering a range of experiences are key. 

The same rule applies to “shelf work” as does in Practical Life. We don’t give them pretend food, we let them chop carrots. Why then would we give them pretend experiences? Instead, bundle them up and go out for jumping running and balancing. Allow your child to explore different textures, sounds, tastes and smells within your home and community. 


Independence is a cornerstone in Montessori. When choices or access become overwhelming, independence suffers. This is Quentin’s closet in his room. The IKEA Trofast system has worked well all these years. There is a little video of him using it at around 18 months here. There aren’t many clothes, but they are all ones he loves. The top yellow bin stores pj’s the middle one stores shirts and the bottom one pants. The basket below stores socks and underwear. How do we keep this space minimalist?  The answer is simple. We don’t buy more clothes than he needs. 4 sets of pj’s, 4 short sleeved shirts, 3 long sleeved shirts and 3-4 pants. Not having a large wardrobe means we can spend more money on the pieces he has, allowing us to choose sustainable, healthy options. 

Step Three: Prepare purposeful environments


Quentin’s room has remained the same since we switched it here. Like all things Montessori, items and areas have a distinct purpose. Bedrooms are for rest. He has a bookshelf by his reading area tipi and his wooden barn is stored here but that’s it. There are no toys or materials in this space. It is light and airy and cosy. Perfect for relaxing. 



This area (all one space) shown above is on the first floor of our house. It has been his Montessori area from birth. The area houses his open ended & gross motor play items (shown in the second picture), work table, work mat, Montessori shelves and Art table and shelves (seen behind the shelves in first pic). It has changed so much over the years but also remains the same. Everything has a purpose and a place. This is where he keeps 100 percent of his materials. There is a wall map to the left of the slide. His cube shelving holds every material out at the moment. He has both learning materials and open ended play materials in this space. 

I often see parents asking about how many materials to have out at one time and when to rotate them. I also see the answers. Some say 2 weeks, others say four. However the true Montessori answer is as always follow the child. If your child doesn’t use a material, observe to see why. Perhaps it is either too difficult or easy. Perhaps they are bored. Careful observation of your own child will tell you when you need to rotate items. 

In truth, our shelves rarely get rotated. We do our monthly Nature Study and that tray of items gets changed sometimes weekly. However at 4 years old, it is Quentin that rotates the shelves. If he is tired of a puzzle, he takes it off the shelves to the storage cabinet (shown above earlier) and switches it out. If he wants something out of his science box or geography box, he goes and replaces what is out with what he wants. Sometimes I will rotate something if I see a particular interest, and I will definitely take something out if it is no longer challenging such as his Montessori Blue Language Series, but mostly it’s him. 

How do we make minimalism work in this space? We don’t purchase many items and we don’t have multiple items that do the same purpose. Not having many items means that all items we have get a lot of use. When we do purchase or make something, we are mindful of its purpose and choose good quality over quantity. 

Here is his kitchen space. 

I feel this particular part of our home doesn’t need any more explanation here. It is purposeful, neatly contained and beautiful. If you are interested in learning more about our kitchen space, there is lots of information under the “In the Kitchen” category of this website and loads of videos and pictures on our Instagram account listed above. 

Lastly here is our living room. 


Like our media room, our dining room and my office, there are no materials or toys here. This space is intended for gathering as a family and with friends. I don’t leave my bits and pieces of crafts and hobbies here and we all respect each other by keeping our own personal things in their prepared spaces. Implementing this early on has meant that all of us as a family are mindful of bringing things into this space and the other shared spaces of the house. Because of this, these spaces don’t feel cramped with kids stuff. It doesn’t get messy and it invokes a feeling of calm for all whole use these spaces.

Staying organized and living minimally seems like an impossible task but it really isn’t. 

Here it is in a quick overview:

  • Keep in your house only what you need and the things that bring you immense joy. Get rid of everything else. 
  • Organize yourself and your spaces so that you are prepared, calm & having to clean less

Most importantly the number one, easiest thing you can do is to simply put down your wallet. That’s it. That’s all it takes. Your house won’t be cluttered and your kids won’t be entitled if you simply follow this one step. 

Because when it comes down to it, your kids don’t want your stuff.

They want your time. 

Book Club Year End: Best Fiction 2016

The first Day of the new year is the perfect time to reflect on the year past. It was an amazing one for children’s literature and it was extremely hard narrowing down our favourites. 

A note to anyone new joining us, we only review books we have actually read cover to cover and enjoy having in our home. These are books we truly have loved and not simply seen on another “best of” list. 
When we finally came to a decision, these were our favourites of 2016:

Sleep Tight Farm is my favourite on this list. It is everything I look for in a children’s book. Beautiful simple pictures that fit the rhythm of the story, which is in this case, the simple act of slowing down and bundling up for Winter. A gorgeous book that fit in perfectly to our family’s Solstice celebration, this book is suitable from 2 years old and up and would be loved by any budding farmer or family looking to capture the spirit of the season. 

The Wish Tree follows a day in the life of Charles a boy looking to find the tree and tie a wish to its branches but ends up being delayed along the way. It is a book of Grace and Courtesy and it’s author is one of our favourites whose other works can be found here

A Child of Books is so simple and yet so stunning. The artwork is the masterpiece here. If you haven’t read it, you must go and find a copy. We feel it fits so well with the Montessori philosophy, and it’s message is for both young and old alike. 
The Darkest Dark was a Solstice gift for Quentin this year and combines our family’s love of science, space and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. It’s about a boy overcoming his fear and following his dreams. Perfect for any parent and child who have struggled through the bedtime routine. 
If you are looking to add some Montessori friendly fiction to your child’s bookshelf, here are our tips:

  • Reality based over fantasy for under 6. Children under six are still making sense of the world. They crave real experiences and being exposed to books they can relate to is incredibly important for normal social and neurological development. 
  • Look for descriptive language. Rhythm, rhymes and rich language build a child’s language bank. If you want them to have a large bank of vocabulary, they must first be exposed to it. 
  • Awe and Wonder. Just like in our Non Fiction post, these two words are the most important when looking for materials to fill your Montessori space. A book should grab a child and suck them in. It should feed not only their mind, but their soul. 

Book Club Year End: Best Non Fiction 2016

We absolutely adore good quality non fiction books in this house. Ones that are gathered carefully and mindfully have the opportunity to last for years. 

This year was an excellent one for children’s books both fiction and non fiction and it was hard to narrow down our top choices, but nevertheless, here they are:

Atlas of Oddities has loads of interesting facts such as Metallica was the first band to play live on Antarctica. The modern clean pictures that accompany the facts are perfect for us. With so much detail, yet easily laid out, this book will last us years. 
Shackleton’ Journey is excellent and geared towards the 6-12 Second Plane, but it also suits one particular four year old boy who loves penguins. A story of the epic journey in detail, the drawings open up deeper conversations, and give an opportunity to expand learning. 
Insect Emporium is the perfect addition to anyone’s Nature Table. The drawings are gorgeous and there is just enough info to intrigue a 3-6 year old without overwhelming them. It is a must for insect lovers both adult and child alike. 
Hello Atlas holds the illustrations of on of our favourite artists Kenard Pak. This is our absolute favourite non fiction this year. This book focuses on the language differences of peoples and cultures around the world. However it is in that focus that the reader learns just how similar we all are and that really all it takes is just a friendly hello to a stranger. An extremely important message going into 2017. 
If you are looking for Montessori friendly non fiction books here are some hints:

  • Realistic, science based and age appropriate are paramount features 
  • Beauty like anything else in the Montessori environment is important. Choose books that are beautifully laid out. 
  • Awe and Wonder are some of the most important words in the Montessori world. Choose books that invoke both awe and wonder not just in the child, but in yourself. 

December Nature Study: Winter Solstice 

The celebration of the return of the light. 
This is the time of year we focus on simplicity. When commercialism seems to be pushed just a little bit more, we instead look to tread lightly. It’s a time when Montessori Grace and Couresty have an intent focus and when Peace Education is at the forefront. 

Here are some of the things we do to continue our Nature Study in the month of December: 



Making Nature garlands as a treat for our local birds is an excellent way to practice sewing skills for little fingers. We use a tapestry needle for easy grip and sharpness. These can be modified so that even a toddler can help and they make great gifts to bird and nature lovers. 


Cinnamon Stars are easy and perfect homemade gifts. Quentin has been using the hot glue gun for years now but if this is your child’s first time using one, we recommend giving a lesson first and hand over hand helps keep little fingers safe. 

The stars look beautiful attached to the outside of a package too. 

A homemade Yule Log is a classic favourite. Quentin loves making the meringue mushrooms. 


Nature walks on cold, crisp mornings offer a chance to follow animal tracks and see the changes the cold brings to the natural world. On this walk we examined frost patterns on leaves and watch some ducks test the ice before going in. 


We love books in this house and Solstice wouldn’t be complete without curling up together for read aloud times. This book is our favourite non fiction Winter Solstice book for the 3-6 age group. I use it in my classroom and we have used it at home since it was published in 2014. 

This book is also lovely. We enjoy different fables from around the world and Quentin loves making the connection of where the fable originated to the region on his world map. 

This one has been a favourite of our house for years. We began reading it with Anthony on Solstice night years ago and Quentin now enjoys it although it is very much intended for a child in at least the Second Plane of Development. 

Lastly we all sit as a family and light homemade beeswax candles and listen to this amazing Canadian taken all too soon singing about the above fable. It is a beautiful song of a mother’s love for her child and has been Quentin’s favourite since before he could walk (if you follow us on Instagram you may have seen him sing it).

As the afternoon sun fills our house on this the shortest day, we hope that whatever your family is doing in December, it is restful, peaceful and joyful. 

Practical Life:The kitchen

  
Practical Life, the heartbeat of the home. If I had to start all over these 6 are the ones I would rush out and buy. And, as an added bonus, each of them is under $10. 

For anyone just starting out, these 6 favourites will completely transform your child’s role in the kitchen. Your child will now (after a little guidance) be able to make their own snack and help prep family meals. Such an amazing feeling of independence for the child. 

  1. Multi use kitchen tool (our absolute favourite on this list)
  2. Glass Pitcher with lid (we use this for water at Quentin’s drinking station)
  3. Crinkle Cutter knife (Quentin has used this since he was 17 months)
  4. Vegetable peeler (ours is from Kylie’s gorgeous shop
  5.  Egg/Mushroom/Strawberry Slicer (Quentin has used this since he was 17 months)
  6. Strawberry Colander (our newest addition and already a favourite) 

Do you have favourite child sized kitchen tools? Have you found something you can’t live without at your house or classroom? Leave a comment. We are always looking for products to review. 

    Montessori Nature Study: Rocks, Minerals & Fossils

    November has seen our Nature Study really take off. It took us a few months to find our rhythm. I wanted to be sure it was not forced and that if flowed holistically into what we were already doing. We are often exploring nature anyway, but this has given us a better direction and given me an overview to prepare materials from. 

    Here’s a glimpse into our November study of rocks, minerals and fossils.


    We travelled to one of the local lighthouses to get up close to some big rocks. We brought a picnic and made a day of it. It was windy but we were well bundled. 


    We spent the day at our local museum getting up close and personal with a mummified baby mammoth, looking at ammonite fossils and adding to our gemstone collection. By the way, he’s holding cookies here. His newly acquired quartz and amethyst crystals are safely in my bag. 


    We went on a field strip to a gem and rock shop in search of treasures to add to our newly formed gemstone collection. This was an unexpected pleasant surprise. The staff there were incredibly kind to us (you can read about our experience here). 

    I hadn’t expected Quentin to be as engaged as he was there and I highly recommend looking into your own local rock and gem store for interesting materials to add to your home or school environment. 


    Last week we added geodes to our Nature Tray. Quentin loved smashing them to find the sparkly centre. This took a bit of help from me. Mostly to guide the hammer. It made me think of how to make a meaningful hammering Practical Life work for him.


    We took out many different books from the library over the month, but this one has always been our favourite. Quentin loved matching is own specimens to the end pages. 


    Today we finished our study by bundling up, packing some snacks and heading to our local beach. Quentin observed that the rocks were most likely granite but he was also cautious and curious of the waves. As winter approaches so does the storm surge in the Pacific. 

    It has been such an amazing month. As we pasted some mementos into our nature journal and slowly filled the page with watercolour, we looked back on a really wonder filled month. And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Tending to the fire of awe and wonder burning within the child. 

    If nature study and nature journalling are new to you, go slowly. Take your time, pick a topic that is easily doable in your area and as always, follow the child