Giving Tuesday: Fruitful Orchard Montessori

“A child is both a hope and a promise for humankind” – Dr. Maria Montessori

We spent just over five weeks living and working at Fruitful Orchard Montessori in Nigeria this past summer. The kindness and love shown to Quentin and I by that school community could no be repaid in a life time.

However, we would like to try.

And so on this Giving Tuesday, we hi,boy ask all of you in our amazing community to join us in supporting Fruitful Orchard as thy endeavour to build an Elementary programme.

A programme that will allow the oldest of those beautiful children I fell in love with this summer to stay.

Follow this link to read more info and give to this incredibly important journey.

Montessori Book Club: Birdsong

The seasons are changing here. Autumn is definitely fleeting and Winter has crept in. It is the perfect time for family and friends and reflection.

This new book Birdsong from Greystone Books is a beautiful story of a child that moves to their new home with their mother and meets their new neighbour, an elderly woman who loves nature and art as much as they do.

It highlights each season beginning with their arrival at the new house and how things are different.

We loved how the complexity of the intergenerational friendship is highlighted but in a gentle way focusing on how the child must navigate this and ultimately finds a connection with their elderly neighbour in art.

We absolutely love this book and were thrilled that it made the Globe and Mail’s “100 Books of 2019”! If you are looking for a beautiful “own voices” story this will definitely be a favourite for years to come.

Montessori Book Club: All The Ways to be Smart

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

This book has been on our wish list for a while as its such an important topic to explore with children. The idea that everyone has something important to contribute and that unfortunately, the world does not often recognize all the different gifts and abilities of people.

We love the retro colours and overall look of it. But mostly we love the message it brings to the small people being read to.

“Smart is kindness when there’s crying.” Was one that we as a Montessori family hovered over for a while because this is something that is so often overlooked.

I also appreciate that the pages reflect a variety of children without drawing attention to it. It’s so very important at all children see themselves represented in the books that they are reading, without the book specifically touching on their differences (although books that do that are incredibly important too).

We are so grateful for Scribble Kids Books for sending us this that we are giving TWO copies away!! Follow this link to our Instagram Page to enter.

A Montessori Field Trip: A visit to Brooklyn Children’s House

I love observing in toddler/preprimary environments and so when I had the chance to observe at Brooklyn Children’s House I eagerly took it.

Lisa is the owner and her space is beautiful and so thoughtfully laid out. One of the biggest misconceptions about the Montessori pedagogy is that you need a lot of space and a lot of stuff. It simply isn’t true.

Throughout the two main rooms, children were happily working with Practical Life materials, art materials and having snack. If you have ever doubted an independent group toddler snack is possible go and visit Lisa. Three children happily sat around a toddler sized table serving themselves fruit and crackers and then putting their personalize placemats away and washing their dishes.

Toddlers are often not a quiet and calm bunch. They are also still working on their empathy, and emotional regulation. When teachers are trained to understand the underlying neurological and social development going on, appropriate and above all caring responses to that behaviour can happen. It was lovely to witness that in this space. It was also lovely to watch other very young children show empathy when asking if a child was ok, which is a testament to the hard foundational Peace and Courtesy work Lisa has put in.

I loved my visit and seeing the beautiful detail oriented space Lisa has curated for her students. If you are curious about quality authentic Montessori programmes please leave a comment and we will try to answer your questions.

Montessori Book Club: Maybe – The story about the endless potential in all of us

Have you ever had a children’s book speak to you deeply? One where the illustrations and message grab you and immediately you want to put that book into the hands of everyone you know?

That’s this book for us.

The first time I saw the cover I immediately knew it was that type of book and so when Compendium offered to send one I over I was thrilled.

“Your life is yours” it begins. If that was all of the message, mixed with the illustrations that would be enough for me to love it forever, but there was more.

“Wherever you go, take your hopes, pack your dreams and never forget – it is on journeys that discoveries are made”.

“Do everything with love. Follow your heart and see where it leads you.”

“Maybe you will speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.”

And of course because this book melds so seamlessly with the Montessori pedagogy it saves its most sage wisdom for last:

“You already have everything it takes to do big things.”

This book belongs in the hands of every child and most likely a great many adults.

This the perfect gift for new babies, children facing life changes and should be on every Montessori school’s bookshelf’s under the category of Peace Education.

Montessori Multi-age Art Activities: Colour Mixing

Colour mixing is such an easy and inexpensive art activity for children of all ages and can easily be done by the youngest child.

As with all Montessori compatible activities, art should always be child led and about the process not the product especial in the years between 0-6.

For a toddler colour mixing can simply be a transferring work. Above, Quentin at 18 months carefully transferring blue food colour tinted water from one small jar to another with a long pipette. This strengthens fine motor control and concentration. He loved sucking up the water in the pipette and carefully squeezing it out into the other container. Sometimes we would adjust the amount of blue or yellow dye to affect the shade of green that would inevitably be made from his mixing but this was for the most part involuntary by him. He was simply absorbing what was happening.

For the 3-6 age group, an easy to carry tray with the primary colours and a slotted dish, a bowl to dump used water and a sponge for clean up make colour mixing exciting. Children at this age love to experiment with each of the primary colours and it’s still very much about the process here. In the classroom we talk about their favourite colour, what happens when you mix blue with red, red and yellow, yellow and blue, but for the most part they are experimenting and absorbing the experience of those experiments.

By the time the child reaches Elementary, multiple mediums such as paper to spray invite a child to continue their experiments. Small spray bottles and containers (the exact same ones from when he was 18 months), help a child keep their work contained and orderly.

A colour wheel is clearly understood by this point and the child can follow it to achieve the desired colour or make their own.

It is always fascinating to see the social and neurological development at each stage. At 7.5 years old, he commented on the imaginary tastes of his colours such as “root beer” above, and mint tea in a previous combination. It’s still amazing to see him quiet himself as he did in his toddler days and focus on the task at hand.

There are endless colour mixing ideas on Pinterest and around social media. If you haven’t tried it with your little one here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it simple and age appropriate. Trying to explain the why and how of everything to a toddler won’t make it enjoyable
  • Be prepared for spills. Sponges, bowls, towels and play clothes help make this successful for the youngest child
  • Follow the child. Let them truly experiment with colour. If all they make is green over and over that’s ok.

Montessori Book Club: Winter Sleep – A hibernation Story

We are settling into the cosy days of Autumn here. The leaves have begun changing colour, the air is a little cooler and the sun a little more golden.

I am always on the lookout for brand new Montessori compatible nature books and so when Winter Sleep – A Hibernation Story came out last week I knew I had to grab it!

It’s the sweet story of a child who visits their grandmother’s home in the summer and loves exploring nature.

The illustrations are beautiful and whimsical but also extremely detailed.

The child returns in winter and asks to see the glade where they sat in summer, but is worried when it’s covered in snow. Where are all the flowers and the animals?

What I really love about this book is the information pages at the back.

There’s so much information on how different animals survive the coldest months of the year.

There’s also a section at the end on how people can help animals through the winter.

This is such a perfect book to share with children 3-6 years old. It will be on our shelves for years to come.

Montessori Summer Book Club: Pacific Northwest Books

When I was looking for books to bring to Africa to show the classrooms I would be teaching in my own home, the animals I see everyday and the general landscape, these two gorgeous ones immediately sold me.

A Whale’s World showcases the amazing ocean we find our tiny island home in. The photographs are stunning.

The story follows a local pod of orcas on their journey in search of food. Quentin loved showing the children here in Africa the different aspects of orca life and the many other Pacific Northwest sea animals featured.

The underwater pictures are rich and colourful and the text gives a clear and concise story filled with facts.

A Bear’s Life showcases our same beautiful part of the world but from the perspective of the forest.

The same rich beautiful pictures and engaging text take the reader on a journey through the temperate rainforest and along the beaches that border it.

The section of the Spirit Bear was particularly fascinating to the students.

These books have been a beautiful link between the classroom here in Nigeria and our home. They are perfect for children 3yrs+ who love animals or geography. For older students, they offer endless possibilities for extended self directed research projects.

A Montessori field trip: A trip to Fruitful Orchard Montessori in Nigeria

This has been a trip that has been a long time coming. 6 years in the making. And so, after months of planning, vaccinations and packing we are finally here.

I love travelling around the world to visit different Montessori environments. This one is particularity near and dear to my heart because I have been here (in spirit anyway) from the beginning. Before there was a school or children to fill it.

There is a vibrant and beautiful 3-6 classroom here and I will feature it in an upcoming post but what I wanted to focus on firstly was the Toddler Community at Fruitful Orchard. Authentic Toddler communities are hard to find in Canada and we don’t have a single one in our own community despite the fact that we have two Montessori schools that go from 3-6 all the way through high school.

It has all the tell tale signs: tiny chairs and tables, light, bright and airy, but it also has some gorgeous personal touches that the owner Junnifa Uzodike has carefully arranged.

The beautiful artwork and custom fabrics immediately caught my eye. The tiny carved reading bench with hand made cushion is just perfect for two small friends to sit together and look at books. As a side note the books featured are excellent for toddlers.

Perhaps the best part of this Prepared Environment is the tiny working sink, counter and real working oven at a toddler’s height. So often we see the opportunity to cook with heat taken away from toddlers. Here they regularly bake.

The Vocabulary shelves offer the toddlers a rich variety of new language and the chance to explore different items.

One of the most important part of a Montessori Toddler Community is the Practical Life lessons. Care of Self and Care of Others are the foundation of the Montessori Toddler years. That’s why when we knew we were coming I contacted Miniland USA and they rush delivered not only their beautiful dolls but also some warm weather outfits.

Toddlers love repeating. This little one removed the clothes of the doll, named all the body parts and put the clothes on again and again. It is so important for a young child to be able to see this Cycle of Activity through. The repeated fine motor movements and vocabulary solidifies key social neurological concepts that they move forward and build on. Dolls that a child can identify with (either by hair colour, eye colour, skin tone, genitals or physical features such as freckles, scars or implants) are incredibly important for all children. It gives them a chance to see them self and to practice all those Care of Self and Others lessons they have been working on. Often a child will mimic with a doll what they have experienced in their day.

We have been here a week and have a month left to teach in the 3-6 classroom, offer consulting and just spend time. The memories formed here will last long after we leave.

Montessori Elementary: Astronomy

“If the idea of the universe is presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and far more satisfying.”

– Maria Montessori

The beginnings of the Montessori Elementary start with the Great Lessons. Quentin’s thirst for knowledge led him into these lessons long before he reached the Montessori Lower Elementary 6-9 year old classroom. You can see him here using the Waseca Biome Cosmic Story Mat for the first half of the First Great Lesson which he absolutely loves to this day. And so when Waseca Biomes contacted us to let us know they had graciously slipped their new Solar System Mat into the mail for us, we were thrilled.

It’s a massive multi step material. As with any of the Waseca materials, it comes with a well laid out Guide to Presentations. This gives step by step instructions for the teacher to use. It also comes with so much more!

As with all Waseca Biomes materials the paper materials that accompany the vinyl mat and wooden discs are beautiful, filled with information for all different levels of learning and perfectly fit on a Montessori work mat.

Sixty six fact file cards come with this set. So many more than we could fit into these photos! They have information from the objects in the solar system to concepts like orbits. The lessons that can stem from these cards are adaptive and can almost be limitless. There is also a three level fact finding game set much like with the other Waseca mats. Quentin enjoys moving the space station, meteor and other objects around the mat, researching new ideas and much much more.

The paper materials come in a storage box similar to the Tree of Life Mat. Easy to pack everything up and put it back on the shelf when the lesson is over.

We are so in love with this set! It is perfect for our space loving child in my classroom, my students have loved aspects of this work as well.

You can find it here on the Waseca Biomes website!