Montessori Culture Materials: The Tree of Life

The Cultural materials of any Montessori Plane of Development are by far my favourite and I would also humbly say, the most important. They are what we as the trained Guides use to open up the vast wonder of this world to the child.

The Tree of Life Bundle from Waseca Biomes is one of those materials that you find yourself staring at over and over and so when I had the opportunity to meet Alli and the Waseca Biomes staff in person I felt I couldn’t hold out any longer. I called ahead of time and purchased the bundle and they graciously brought it with them for me to pick up.

It’s even more stunning in person.

The entire wooden puzzle sits on a gorgeously designed thick vinyl mat. This is the control of error. The mat is perfect. It lays flat, has a good weight without being heavy and most importantly it can be wiped. A must when it will be used by classroom after classroom of children.

The child then builds the wooden puzzle over the mat. Each wooden piece is a perfect fit which is important for young children trying to maneuver the pieces into place.

The Guide of Presentation (pictured above) lists each step in the sequential presentations given to a child. The first asks the child to sort the leaves into two groups: plants and animals. This alone is tricky as some plants and animals have similar features. The conversations are virtually limitless with this work.

The art (as with all Waseca Biomes materials) is what gets me every time. Realistic, simple and absolutely stunning. Quentin loved that an Emperor Penguin was included in the bird branch and a lengthy discussion followed by some research topics evolved from his observation that the bird branch comes from the reptile branch.

We have loved using this book for years and it is the perfect companion piece to the work.

He finally sits back to admire his work.

The mat along with the information cards that come with the set will spark many more conversations in the future.

We are forever grateful for the kindness Alli has shown us over all our years of purchases. As Quentin continues through the Montessori Second Plane of Development this material will evolve into so many more discussions.

New Montessori Cultural Materials from Waseca Biomes

It’s no secret we have loved materials from Waseca Biomes for years.

It started when Quentin was two with the Seasons Mat and Sun.

He loved carefully singing the Seasons Song and laying out the corresponding cards. Our collection of materials has grown quite a bit over the years, and so when Waseca Biomes released their new series of materials we couldn’t help but jump at the chance to see them.

It was incredibly fortunate that they happen to be a vendor at the 2018 American Montessori Association conference as I am also a attending.

Seeing their materials laid out in entirety gives you a true sense of how they are integrated into each of the 5 areas of a 3-6 Montessori programme and one can also see how the sequence of the materials easily carries onward into the Elementary.

The new Season’s Mat is amazing. Rounded with an extraordinary amount of detail, it clearly illustrates the subtleties in the changing of the seasons.

There is also an update to the Water Cycle Mat (which will will do a later post about) and a brand new edition of a Rock Cycle Mat.

This is going to be the perfect addition at our house and in my classroom as both have kids that are passionate about rocks. Finding materials that reflect your child’s passions help fuel future discussions and discovery.

If you want to see the complete Rock Cycle Mat you can find all the photos and information here.

The Montessori Toddler: A Giveaway’

There are so few books about implementing the Montessori pedagogy at home. Maria Montessori’s own writings are textbooks intended for those in training and although they are a must read for anyone wishing to know more about this pedagogy as a whole, they are heavy reading and aren’t specifically tailored for a caregiver at home looking to change their way of living with their child.

In February of this year all that changed with the launch of my dear friend Simone Davies’s book “The Montessori Toddler”. Who better to share their immense knowledge of the Montessori world than a AMI trained 0-3 Guide who has years of experience not only with her own children but with the toddlers of her beautiful school in Amsterdam.

Each chapter of this book is thoughtfully laid out. The attention to detail is vast and every topic is covered in an easy to read and easy to implement format.

At the back of the book there is comprehensive list of age appropriate authentic Montessori activities for toddlers. These activities are true to Montessori’s scientific knowledge of the Plane of Development for a child and give caregivers so many tools to aid their child’s natural development.

Along with a chart of activities there are also gorgeous pictures of authentic Montessori homes from around the world. We were extremely honoured to be asked to be apart of this section of the book and our own pictures are featured next to some beautiful examples of what Montessori truly looks like in homes both big and small.

Above all, this is the most important message of Montessori and it is displayed so beautifully here.

That each child is unique with their own interests and talents and curiosity.

We love this book so much that we are giving away a copy on our Instagram account found here! The contest is open internationally in hopes that everyone everywhere will have a chance to add this amazing resource to their collection!

A Montessori field trip: An observation in the classroom of Diamond Montessori

As I’ve mentioned before in this post I love the opportunity to observe other Montessori Prepared Environments.

Ashley Speed, the founder of Diamond Montessori is not only a personal friend, she is an AMI trained 3-6 Montessori Guide and our leading resource for inclusive children’s resources such as books, card materials and community resources.

And so while I have been accessing her wealth of knowledge (found here on Instagram) I had yet to be able to observe in her own 3-6 classroom. It didn’t disappoint.

The lighting was soft but surprisingly well lit considering the amount of rain streaming down outside in Vancouver. The shelves were orderly and well planned.

However it was not the gorgeous set of bells nor the orderly shelves I had made the trip for.

You see Ashley is a regrettably rare form of Montessori Guide. She fills her environment with her own passions down to the smallest detail.

Her carefully crafted Museum full of rock, mineral and animal specimens calls to a child’s sense of awe and wonder.

Her handmade wooden calendar and cultural cards invite a child so effortlessly to learn new concepts.

Even the tiny porcelain drawers and handcrafted fabric pouches add colour and beauty to the space as well as practicality.

All of this pays off. I arrive before the morning class does and witness the ease in which each child comes into the class, transitions into their indoor shoes and sets to work. Many choose cursive writing practice. The transition is not a lengthy nor a noisy one, and the classroom has been set up to provide enough walking space between the work tables allowing for ease of movement.

One child chooses from the extensive Geography materials and sets to work finishing a local map. The hand felted solar system stored in the basket called to me and I wished I had longer to stay to work on it myself.

January is often the time when schools in the northern hemisphere are setting their classroom rosters for September, and welcoming observations. If you have yet to observe an authentic Montessori prepared environment in action, now is often the time.

Thanks to Ashley for allowing me to be part of her morning. I left very inspired.

Sunday Book Club: Strictly No Elephants

We wanted to start the new year of our Book Club off with a good one and so when The Book Report sent this over we new it would be the one.

The sweet and tear jerking story of a boy and an elephant who are in need of a friend. It’s about putting on your best red scarf to go to the party only to have your friend turned away.

And it’s the story of making those hard decisions when the time comes to be a friend, and stand up for those that are different, alone and excluded.

While some in the Montessori world may raise a fuss at the lack of realism in this book due to the miniature main character, we would like to suggest that the message of Peace Education is far greater than worrying about whether or not a child will be confused by the tiny pachyderm.

This is the message that is so very needed in today’s world. It is a must have book for any classroom and home and the discussions it starts will last through a lifetime.

Sunday Book Club: One last one for 2017

It’s hard to believe I started this little book club two years ago. There have been so many amazing books over the years and 2017 was no different.

One of our very favourites was Here We Are. We are madly in love with Oliver Jeffers children’s books.

The artwork asks the audience to stop and take a closer look, something that’s important to me. So many books miss this critical aspect of a good children’s book.

Then there’s the written message. Does it speak to you and the child who is absorbing the story? This book speaks to us very very much.

If you haven’t had a chance to read this one, go and see it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for joining us on this journey of seeking out well written, gorgeously illustrated, diverse books.

We will be back early in the new year with our latest finds.

Sunday Book Club: A Montessori compatible Christmas Book – A rare and beautiful thing

We have so many favourite Montessori compatible Winter books and were going to post them today, but we have been patiently waiting for someone (anyone really) in the Montessori social media world to post this book as it is one of the very few traditional Christmas themed books that is truly compatible with Montessori.

It’s not that it’s a new book, it’s just I suppose a little less popular than others.

We all have our favourites from our own childhoods or ones with beautiful art, but when we are looking for a truly Montessori compatible book for teaching the traditional message of Christmas, just as we do with all other books we seek for our children what are we looking for? What are we choosing?

Are we choosing books that are reality based or are we choosing books with a very whitewashed version of a humble family of Middle Eastern decent looking for shelter in Bethlehem?

Above all, are the books we choose broadcasting a strong message of inclusivity, love, hope, and peace for everyone?

This one does.

Originally read by Angelou herself at the White House Christmas tree lighting in 2005, it is a stunning book.

Focusing on the traditional message of Christmas, it brings together Christians, Muslim’s, Jews, Atheists and many more by acknowledging that whatever our differences, we can come together.

We can do what Maria Montessori asked of us.

We can build peace not only in ourselves but in the world.