Back to school shoes: Softstar review and giveaway!

September has seen us settling back into the school year routine.

We are often asked to recommend a quality indoor shoe that is appropriate for the Montessori environment. Ever since Quentin started Montessori school, our recommendation has always been Softstar Shoes. You can see him wearing his first pair here and here.

So when Softstar contacted us with a gifted pair for both Quentin and I we jumped at the chance.

We love these shoes for so many reasons but the most important reason is that they support the natural development and strength of feet. Feet, especially those of little children were not meant to be in a hard and un-flexing soled shoe all day. They need to move, to breath and the toes need to be able to grip the floor.

Quentin loves that they are completely customizable from the design colours to the materials. Quentin choose all black (perfect for schools requiring a black uniform shoe) with the rocket button in whiskey orange and gold in Sublime leather. Mine are a gorgeously soft Pebble Grey in Nubuck leather and I let the Elves choose the button motif which ended up being a star in Indigo. A perfect choice for an understated classroom look that goes with everything.

They are absolutely perfect for someone who is on their feet all day in a bustling Montessori classroom. Roo Moccasins are lined with cosy sheepskin and so they are a pleasure to pull on in the morning and keep our feet odour free and breathing all day.

They are also perfect for cosy play at home as the Autumn weather sets in.

We love them so much that Softstar has graciously offered to give away pairs to one of our followers!

Head to our Instagram feed here for your chance to win!

The Unprepared Environment: When a child loses their Peacefulness

It was a hard week. A combination of things that in hind sight could have been spaced more evenly to allow for Quentin to better process them.

It began on the Saturday with his big brother leaving. Anthony took a position doing what he loves that will keep him away at least all summer. It’s happened before but Quentin was much younger. Perhaps the difficulty stemmed from the fact that he’s older now. Or perhaps it stemmed from the realization that this is a sort of practice run. That his big brother is now an adult and with high school finished will soon be moving on and moving out.

The very next day was Sunday and while Quentin left for his grandparents house to spend a week of too much media too many snack foods and late bedtimes, his parents left on a week long trip of their own.

It was perhaps all too much to take on for one small boy but then the unimaginable happened. His beloved cat whom had gone missing 6 weeks before and we’d long since written off as dead returned.

Emaciated and traumatized he was miraculously unharmed. We covered him with tears and kisses as we learned from his vet that the likely reason for his remarkable resurrection is that although he pried the back door open independently, after that someone stole him.

The questions from Quentin immediately came.

“But you can’t steal a living thing, can you?”

“Why would someone take my kitten? Don’t they know I love him?”

Needless to say it was a very long week.

So. What do we do when our child’s rhythm and Sense of Order has been thrown so completely off course? What happens when a normally happy, peaceful, engaged child becomes rude, hyperactive and defiant?

We take a breath, or two or three or more, and we go right back to Montessori basics.

We start by acknowledging and empathizing with their feelings and offer our own perspective. Yes Huxley was taken which was horrible and I can see you are very sad and angry. I’m so thankful he was clever enough to escape and find his way back to us.

And then most importantly we repair the Prepared Environment.

For us this means predictable early bedtimes even though it’s summer holidays to ensure lost sleep is caught up. It means healthy food options at predictable times that the child can easily prepare, and access to lots of water to stay hydrated.

For us it also means rotating in some special activities that we can do together as well as activities that the child can do quietly to regain their independent play moments. A container of water beads and a few sea creatures seen here is the perfect option to help extend independent quiet moments. A new water colour pallet to ring in our yearly summer tradition of sitting under the maple tree in our front yard painting and reading goes a long way to help us reconnect with each other. Outings to the library or other regularly visited favourite places of the child can actually help a child get back into their home daily rhythm.

And finally the most important aspect of repairing the environment is love. Extra words, extra gestures, extra closeness, extra time and extra patience. It’s knowing who your child is, knowing when something is off, and patiently and lovingly helping them through it.

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.

Montessori friendly STEM activities: Rainbow crafts

Sewing is one of our favourite Practical Life activities to do in the 3-6 Prepared Environment.

We love that this kit by KiwiCo is focused on the science behind rainbows and that it comes with everything your child needs to create some fantastic fibre arts projects!

Like their “Tinker” subscription box for 9 years and up that we reviewed here, this Koala level is well laid out with easy instructions to follow.

Kiwico is offering Our Montessori Life followers a free one month trial of any subscription box in their lineup!

Follow this link to see their entire selection of subscription boxes and choose your free one!

Summer Screen-Free Activity ideas: Montessori compatible subscription boxes

With Summer right around the corner in this part of the world, we’ve been planning lots of exciting outdoor time and some fun indoor activities to help keep us off screens as much as possible.

I absolutely love subscription boxes and we have used many over the years but I have struggled to find Montessori compatible ones that were good quality, mixed age specific and above all tailored to a child’s general interests while being a “one stop shop”.

So when KiwiCo approached us to review some of their subscription box options we jumped at the chance.

KiwiCo is focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) with hands-on projects delivered each month, and there are 5 different lines for kids up to 16 years.

Although this particular box is ages 9+ Quentin can read at a 12 year old level. The words “walking robot” sucked him in right away and he immediately wanted to try this one first. I was sceptical I have to admit.

Each box comes with everything you need including all parts, instructing and an accompanying zine. As you can see the instructions are extremely clear and easy to follow. At just turned 6 years old, Quentin could easily follow along. He liked that the parts lists were clearly laid out so that he could easily see what he needed to gather before reading the instructions and making the next step. I liked that many of the parts are actually wood, not something we often see in boxes like this.

We were so thrilled with this set and we can’t wait to show you the others.

KiwiCo is offering all Our Montessori Life followers a free one month trial of any subscription box in their line up!

Follow this link to see the entire line of boxes and get your own!

This will be perfect for those long summer days when we are in need of a little downtime together inside or under the big tree in the front yard with a glass of lemonade.