All good things are wild and free: The end of our Nature Days

This is a hard post to write and it’s hard to know where to start and so perhaps I’ll start at the beginning. Not my beginning or Quentin’s but perhaps at school’s beginning.

Early on in Quentin’s Montessori 3-6 classroom time, we decided that he should remain home one day a week. There were many reasons. He was a preemie and still tired easily napping long periods (even now at 6!). He was bright and needed some focused one on one time to give him the attention he craved to fuel his insatiable appetite for knowledge especially in language and culture. But, truth be told the real reason is I loved it and I’m grateful and ever mindful that we are privileged enough to choose not only how much we work outside the home but we also choose his schooling.

Early on Quentin identified it as our Nature Day. One day a week (Mondays) that we followed the child completely. Not having to be anywhere. A whole day of “yes”.

There soon followed what was to be for us a natural rhythm that we have kept until today:

  • Breakfast
  • Get dressed
  • Choose a home material off the shelves in his work space in a sort of loose Montessori work period
  • Choose an outing, pack up and head out
  • Home for lunch
  • Sleep/rest/read in the early afternoon
  • Baking in the late afternoon
  • Back downstairs to choose an independent activity (often a board game, art, Lego) until dinner

You can read about our Montessori day at age four here. Not much has changed routine wise except that in the last part of this year at 6.5 years old, Quentin has finally given up his afternoon nap. We now read on the couch with cups of tea and a blanket instead of him going to his room to nap.

There have been enough memories in these few short years to last a lifetime.

Trips to the ocean.

Trips into the rainforest.

And trips to all the local museums and art galleries. Every Monday we would pack a bag and go. And along the way there was work mat after work mat of child chosen activities, fantastic games and pages being poured over.

For two years we followed an absolutely fabulous Nature Study based on the book “Nature Anatomy”. You can find our first monthly post here and the rest of the monthly studies in our website category Montessori Nature Study and Outdoor Activities. It really helped us find our way and gave us ideas that were easily doable where we live.

As Quentin transitioned to the 6-9 classroom however our Nature Days have become more customized. He is able to really formulate research ideas now (check out our Instagram feed for his latest child led project) and gathers the materials himself. He finds a multitude of ideas on our nature hikes instead of preferring to stick to a solid theme.

So why the formal end to it all?

We are on the verge of a very big change.

The Montessori 6-9 classroom in a small local Montessori school Quentin currently attends has been lacking and has regrettably not lived up to our standards. And so last month when his waitlist papers were pulled at one of the Montessori schools in our area that goes from the 3-6 classroom right through high school we jumped at the chance and took the spot. It will be a world of positive difference for him. And it means he will be able to stay in an authentic school Montessori environment until he graduates high school.

And, it will mean, he attends five full days a week.

The decision was an easy one. The school has (among many other positive features) a strong nature component. It is the right choice for him.

Because of this as we prepare for him to start at the new school next Monday, today was our last official Nature Day. Of course it poured rain. And so we didn’t let that stop us, instead using our seasons passes to visit one of our favourite indoor paradises.

The warm air filled with hundreds of butterflies was the perfect thing to take our minds off the rain and the upcoming transition.

There was also a morning filled with the busy hum of a child who loves learning.

So what does all this mean for us? Well for most of our days it will be very much the same. The school morning routine that sees us through the rest of the week will now start for Quentin on Monday. I will continue to consult with families and school and teach in my 3-6 classroom.

It’s the little things that will change.

We will need to be mindful of how even just one day can add to the overall load on a child and shift our expectations and observations to be sure to catch that.

We will need to find time on the weekends to steal ourselves away into the woods and the shoreline and all of his favourite little hideaways.

And above all, we will need to ensure that he has the time to keep that fire lit outside of school. To give him the opportunity to share his joy of learning whether it’s baking a new recipe or sitting down to trudge through the differences between Newton’s Law of Gravitation and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity when talking about things that are really big and very fast (because yes, he’s that six year old kid).

I will also need to be prepared for him to miss it, this closeness we share on Mondays, but I also need to be prepared for him to not. And that perhaps is the most wonderful and most stinging part of it all. That wonderfully painful part of seeing your children grow up.

“The things he sees are not just remembered. They form a part of his soul.”

– Dr. Maria Montessori

October: The goings on inside the classroom and out

The Autumn months seem to fly by so quickly with everyone in school mode. This is usually around the time when everyone is feeling a bit burnt out by the return to school and it is also the time when classrooms are finally settling in.

We often use this time to slow down and reconnect at home. This includes snuggling up with a good stack of books together on the couch.

Our October/November bookshelf consists of seasonal favourites and some new additions. The Dog That Ate the World is a gorgeous new fable from Sandra Dieckman that talks about the darkness spreading across the earth and how despite it, one small village banded together to keep the fire burning and the music playing. It’s absolutely excellent for starting big conversations with children 6+.

We also make extra time for being in some of our most favourite natural spots. There isn’t a set learning agenda here. Just a chance to get away from it all. Long school days become balanced by our time spent watching the waves roll in or staring up at the rainforest canopy or simply the Milky Way from our own back yard.

Inside the classroom, small themes are slowly making their way in. It’s pumpkin season where we live and so our 3-6 Montessori classroom shelves reflect that with some gorgeous wooden anatomy puzzles and 3 Part Nomenclature Cards from Puzzle Heads Educational Products.

The frenzied pace of the new year is also starting to settle. Children are beginning to choose age appropriate work that piques their interest independently and there is less of a need for a teacher to constantly be hovering.

In many schools this is also the time of year when the first parent/teacher meetings are happening. These can be an exciting time for families as they may not have had a chance to be in their child’s classroom yet this year and parents are often eager to check in with the teacher and ask their questions.

I wrote a piece for Milkweed Montessori a few years ago and I’ve included my words here as I feel they are incredibly important for parents going into meeting season.

“I have had the incredible privilege to sit on both sides of the table for this. First as an over eager slightly paranoid Mother and then as a patient and slightly paranoid Casa teacher. First, before going to the meeting, think about and then write down your 3 most burning questions. Just 3. Each school sets the times for their meetings differently but one thing is certain. They have not reserved your time spot and the following 3 spots for you to empty out your questions list. Usually meetings last under 20 mins. Be prepared to leave when your time is up and make your time count.

That being said, a good Montessori school will have also properly prepared some very key points that are important to your child’s day. If your child is 3-4 you may hear lots about Practical Life. If your child is 4-5 you may hear lots about the Language or Culture areas and if your child is 5-6 you may hear lots about Math. Or not. The Montessori classroom is a vast one with many options.

What you are listening for is: “Your child loves (this)”. Or “Your child has recently really been interested in (this).” This shows that your teachers are really observing your child. If you don’t hear these statements, make sure they are one of your 3 important questions to ask. You are looking for signs that your child is loving the environment. That they are connecting with the materials. This should be evident regardless of age.

This is a first meeting and you may not get a lot of progression statements unless your child is a returning child. If they are a returning child one of your teachers points should be a progression statement. A statement about how your child has made progress with a particular area of the classroom. This may be as general as “Your child has gained independence in our transition times” (gets ready for home by themselves). It may be specific such as “Your child has made huge strides with the Language area.” Each of these statements are equally important in the eyes of a teacher.

The Parent Teacher meetings can be nerve racking, but they are incredibly insightful. You enter the world of the child. Listen with truly open ears and an open minded heart. Ask your 3 questions that are important to you gaining a better understanding of how your child’s day looks or what is in the future for your child.

More often than not, you will find yourself feeling just like the teacher. Absolutely amazed.”

We hope your Autumn has been a safe and happy one. We’d love to hear how you mark the changing of the seasons and how you are coping with back to school.

Book Club Summer Edition Part 2: More Books and activities a year later

One year later after we wrote part one of this post here we are settling into our summer rhythm once again. And once again we are following the Montessori approach to home learning, which means we “follow the child”. So although there is always an opportunity to foster curiosity we don’t advocate for structured, academic summer home learning.

Books and extension invitations are such a fun way for us to spend quality time together. These are some of our favourites this year.

The Darkest Dark is a favourite Canadian read here. Astronaut Chris Hadfield recounts a story of his childhood of big imaginations, big dreams and being afraid of the dark. We love the illustrations and comical and relatable moments. It’s perfect for kids 3-6.

Max and the Tag Along Moon is by the multi award winning Floyd Cooper. His soft paintings tell a gorgeous story of a small boy’s love for his Grandfather who reminds him that the same moon that shines over them together will shine over them when they are apart. Max watches the moon as it “tags along” all the way back to his own house. Perfect for kids 2+.

We have written about some of our own favourite moon and space nature activities here.

Straw painting is so easily accessible to children beginning around two years old. It requires nothing more than a straw and some coloured water. We have loved making constellations over the years.

We also watch the Perseid Meteor shower every year in August. I have fond memories of curling up with Quentin in the back yard hammock, wrapped in a blanket, watching the streaks of light cross the sky. You can find all the details of that meteor shower here. If you aren’t in a great viewing location for this space event, research what you can see. Summer is the perfect time for star gazing.

Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses was recommended by our friend Fred Ted and Company. I’m so glad they did. It’s our favourite new book on our shelves. A true story of a young boy who lives in New York and dislikes the noise and crowds. He instead decides to seek refuge in Central Park and build tree houses. A book about following your passion despite what people may say, it is an excellent read for children 5 and up.

Westlandia has been on our shelves for over a decade. It was our oldest’s absolute favourite as a young boy. Another story of a boy who doesn’t quite fit in and decides to follow his own path. There’s a reason it has stood the test of times in this house. Well written with extremely rich language and beautifully coloured pages, this story sparks imagination, follows the Montessori Great Lessons and ultimately showcases that it’s not only ok to be different from the masses; it’s essential. It is essential reading material for all children but especially those that feel like outcasts. Ideal for children 7+.

Our own front yard tree house was there long before Quentin came along and gave both the boys so much fun. Anthony especially. He would spend summer nights up there, lantern light glowing through the window, curled up in his sleeping bag reading with a snack. Regrettably it had to come down earlier this year. Quentin was devastated as he was not yet big enough to climb the rope ladder independently. We will have to consider a rebuild when he is older.

We keep all our Montessori compatible outdoor space ideas on our Montessori Outdoor Space Pinterest Board here. There is something for everyone from the beginner looking to bring in a little outdoor play to the advanced builder looking for their next project.

We hope that you are having a relaxing, exciting and memory making Summer.

An Autumn book and activities for Thanksgiving Monday

The air was crisp and the skies sunny today. 

We spent it quietly together. 


We spent all Summer growing this sweet pie pumpkin in our garden and it was perfectly ready for harvesting this weekend. 


Scooping out a pumpkin whether for a jack o’ lantern or for a pie is a favourite Practical Life work around here. 


This process is so amazingly rewarding because the child is a part of it right from the beginning months ago. 


There have been many Nature walks in the forest lately but today was about leaf gathering to compliment our newest book on the bookshelf. 


We loved finding many of the leaves found in the gorgeous book Fall Walk

It is a beautiful poem of a family out enjoying an Autumn day and the information regarding so many different leaves is fascinating and easily could be used for many years to come both at home and in the school classroom. 
As we Canadians sit down with our extended families over a meal this holiday weekend we wish all of you much happiness and we are so extremely grateful to have you all following along here and our other media outlets. 

Sunday Book Club: Autumn favourites 

As October ushers itself in today I thought I would share one of our favourite Autumnal books. 


Goodbye Summer Hello Autumn is the perfect story for a 3-6 child of a girl exploring her neighbourhood, taking in all the sights and sounds of the seasons changing. 

Today we chose to pack it into Quentin’s backpack and head out in search of our own changing seasons. 


All of a sudden we find ourselves back in jeans and layers. Walking through the forest on the way down to the Pacific Ocean, the air was cool and we noticed many of the leaves had already started to fall. 

We love taking books with us outdoors! Such an easy way to expand on the story. 

Happy October everyone!

Sunday Book Club: Community Gardens


We spent this glorious Autumn day in our Community Garden. We met good friends, cooked pizza in the cob oven and sipped tea from the carafe. 

Our community garden changes so much with each season, and so it’s nice to slow down and really take in all that it provides for our family. 


It is a place we gather to grow food sure, but it’s much much more. It offers endless Practical Life and Sensorial explorations for a child. The sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures are limitless. 


It offers our family not only a chance to grow affordable food, but also meet like minded people from our diverse small community. It’s a gathering place for the community and our children get to meet so many different people that they perhaps wouldn’t cross paths with during our day. 


Most importantly Quentin gets to run free. It is a big, secure area with so many things to take in and he gets complete free range here. Jumping from rocks, splashing in the creek, just having fun. 


This book is the perfect companion to veteran gardeners or also those just starting out. 

It is wonderfully diverse in its characters and tells a simple story of build a garden in an unexpected place in the city. 


It is accompanied by interesting facts and helpful tips for starting a little green space and attracting wildlife whether in an urban or rural area. 

If a garden isn’t quite possible for you this year, why not check out a farmers market near you and show your child all the awe and wonder of growing things. 

September Nature Study: Forest Floor

September is settling in nicely around here. We find ourselves wearing long sleeves and pants all of a sudden. 

Our September Nature Study is perfect for the cooler days and slower family rhythms. 

We have been using these gorgeous materials from Tanglewood Hollow to compliment our study. They are perfect with just enough information as well as being portable so we can actually take them out on hikes with us. 


Our time is the rainforest has proven to be exactly what we need. Giving us some time to energize ourselves after the first busy weeks back at school. Looking for different types of ferns, lichen and mushrooms has been a fascinating treasure hunt. 

A note of caution: We have poisonous mushrooms here and therefore we never touch them unless with a trained guide. We would recommend you do the same. 


We have also been talking about the importance of rotting logs. There are some beautiful examples of this where we live. New life growing from old and the continuation of the biome. 


There is so much see in the forest in Autumn. If you have yet to start a Nature Study, why not try a walk in the woods. 

Montessori Nature Study: Ecosystem of a pond

Our year long Nature Study begins again after a month off in July. 


The first week of August we explored pond dipping again. It is such a fun and easily prepared activity for kids of all ages. Dip a net into a pond and gently dump the contents into a clean container filled with the same pond water. You will be amazed at what you find. 

We recorded some of our findings in our Nature Journal. It’s interesting to observe how a child’s mind has grown and evolved in just one year. The different questions being asked and different observations made are fascinating. 

This year, observing the ecosystem of a pond has been particularly special. We are currently travelling and so the pond we are observing is the one from my childhood. 

There are so many things to share with Quentin. The holes dug by turtles and the remaining egg shells, the small minnows that swim past your toes. The smell of the water, and the crunch of the sand. A highlight for him was feeding the swan family and talking about their role in the ecoystem. 


Pond ecosystems are virtually endless with a wealth of information to satisfy children of all ages. Everything from naming different animals for toddlers, to life cycles to the microscope world. 

This particular pond has four generations worth of memories for my family and I’m glad I got to share it with Quentin today. 

Sunday Book Club Summer Edition Part 1: Books, activities and more

We love Summer and all that it has to offer.

With school over, the boys and I have been spending lots of time outside. We always take a Montessori approach to home learning, which simply means that we “follow the child”. So although there is always an opportunity to foster curiosity we don’t advocate for structured, academic summer home learning. 

However, we do love finding new and interesting activities and books that help spark that curiosity. Quentin has been interested in pond life and so with that in mind here are some of our favourite fiction books for 3-6 about the topic. 


Over and Under the Pond is absolutely excellent for exploring a pond biome and life cycles. It’s perfect for introducing these concepts to children 3 and 4 or opening up larger discussions for the 5’s and 6’s. 
Pool is beautifully drawn, imaginative and above all completely wordless. We love the picture story’s ability to suck a child into the story teller role. It’s so interesting the differences in descriptions and abstract depth that come when you read this book in a mixed age setting and ask them to read it to you. 
Beyond the Pond is such a favourite that we’ve featured it before. Intended for children who are in the Second Plane, we began reading this when Quentin was 4 because of the richness of the text. If you want to introduce words such as “extraordinary” and “raucous” into your child’s vocabulary, sit down with this book. 
In the Red Canoe is the story of a Grandfather and Granddaughter gently paddling around a lake, taking in the wildlife, told through the eyes of the child. It’s gorgeously illustrated and a soothing read at the end of the day. 

The lily pads are in full bloom at our local freshwater pond. We often take art supplies with us in a backpack as well as some snacks and a blanket to make a day of it. 


Watercolours are so easy to bring outside. They dry quickly, clean up easily and are just so pretty and delicate. 

I love having little ideas ready in case Quentin asks for Art, or is looking for a new game, or has an interest in a specific nature theme. Allyson of Tanglewood Hollow produces some of the best Montessori compatible Nature Study themed materials out there. She has recently opened a printables shop here. I’m absolutely thrilled as now I can get her materials and immediately download them to take with us or display in our Montessori workspace.

Last but not least a Giveaway 

Summer Giveaway 
The Summer Curriculum found here, is “a guide of 26 pages filled with summer songs and poems, art exploration, garden activities and games, science exploration, reading, and more! Make a nature weaving, do some garden yoga, race invertebrates, and build a terrarium!” 

Stay tuned Monday July 10th on our Instagram feed found here as we are thrilled to giveaway one professionally printed copy of the Summer Curriculum for you to use to help create all that “awe and wonder” that we as Montessorians are so passionate about. 

We hope that you are having a relaxing, exciting and memory making Summer. 

Sunday Book Club: Outside your window: A first book of nature

We love nature themed books and this one is absolutely stunning. 


Broken down into the four seasons, it’s the artwork that first drew me in. Stunning collages accompany songs, stories, recipes and so much more. 


Each pages collage is beautiful and perfectly captures the mood of th season it describes. 



With so many ideas to try and stories to share it is sure to be a favourite for years to come.