Spring Animal Study Materials

The warmer weather has finally found us here in the Pacific Northwest and we have been loving some new Montessori compatible wooden materials that have been added to our nature shelves!

This new 5 part tray and Life Cycle of a Frog inserts have been on constant rotation! We love the large clear illustrations and how easily the inserts fit into the tray. You can see more of our use of it here on Instagram and we plan to add some figurines next week to it as well!

It’s a great addition to our 3-6 zoology shelves and we are lucky enough to be able to go out and see this life cycle happening right in our own community! So many of the local wet areas have tadpoles right now.

For the older child we love this sorting game as part of our nature study! The inserts fit into the same tray as the frog cycle which is fantastic for me as a teacher because I can just swap out the inserts and keep using the tray. So much easier for storage.

Quentin loves not only sorting but identifying the animal on each of the tiles. He ended up wanting to play a memory game by turning each of the tiles over and then having us say the kingdom we were looking for and try to remember where a tile of that kingdom was located.

When we were done everything packs away nicely into the bag it comes with and can be placed back on the shelves for another day. We are outside more and more this month and are going to see what other life cycles we notice.

Montessori Book Club: I am a Peaceful Goldfish

It’s seems like it’s been a year of taking deep breaths! We’ve been working to carve out even more mindfulness moments in each day both in self are for ourselves and also ensuring that both in the classroom and at home, our kids have the tools to find their calm.

Right from the end pages I love this book. The children’s faces made me smile simply because they are so relatable.

The illustrations are perfect for the intended age range of 2-6 and there’s an interesting little cat in each scene that invites lots of projecting and open ended conversations such as “What do you think that cat is planning?!”

The easy to follow message on each page invites children to try each of the actions of the different breathing exercises and that all of those actions are perfect for circle times or places where you are sitting with a child. No getting up and having to move around, just focusing on the different breathing techniques.

In the end everyone is ready to try again and that’s a great message too: That waiting and taking your time doesn’t mean that you give up, just that you need a break.

I am a Peaceful Goldfish releases on April 13th and will be one to have on hand to help children build emotional regulation especially in these uncertain times.

Our Montessori Life 2020: Our Essential 9

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. ” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

As 2020 wraps up I was gathering our “9 Best”. The yearly Instagram tradition of posting the 9 most successful posts of the year. Except that this year didn’t have a lot of bests. Or at least not at first glance or from a social media filter view.

It had a lot of heartache beginning with a tragedy that rocked both our small town and our own little family deeply in February. And it seems that it’s chosen to end as it begun with another tragedy that hit our extended chosen family this past week, on Solstice.

And so, that’s what could be the focus. Bookend deaths to round out an awful year. Or, we could look for those little, impossible to see things, the things not seen by the eye.

When schools didn’t reopen after Spring Break, Quentin and I found ourselves at home together. As the days warmed we spent the time “Following the Child” and they were some of the best moments we’ve ever spent together. We gathered for the daily Zoom check in and then had the rest of the time to become completely submersed in interests.

We finally got a chance to renovate his Montessori home learning space. We used the excuse of me being laid off not as a massive source of anxiety but instead as the perfect jumping off point. Finally his space resembled and fit all the Second Plane of Development needs he had. He choose the yellow walls (Frozen Banana) and helped pick out all the new furniture.

Anthony turned 20 and moved out. Pictured is their last day as brothers under one roof. We spent it reading in our own backyard with endless cups of tea. Although it was a big adjustment for everyone, it opened up a new chapter in our lives, one that has little brother sleepover movie nights.

And, we spent some of our absolute best moments everyday, in our garden

With nowhere to go and nothing to do, we woke up each morning, at breakfast, and went outside. We let the sun warm our bodies, and our hands sink into the cool earth. We often didn’t say much as we picked and chopped each new fruit or vegetable coming in that day. We observed how even a few days makes a big difference for small seeds and ripening strawberries.

And, when “flattening the COVID cure” was working, living on a small island definitely has its advantages, which we fully took. I took Quentin on his first ever long distance bike ride to a favourite and deserted freshwater swimming hole. Our bike ride was my highlight of the entire year. We went along at his pace that included a bike portage when the trail we were riding on was blocked unexpectedly.

It’s amazing what we as adults don’t give kids enough credit for. Quentin carried his new bike down a dry river bed navigating boulders and slippery logs to reach the lower trail and our destination. It was a lot of work, or it must have been. Looking back all we can remember is laughing at some ridiculous jokes and talking about what we would do when we reached the pool. He used his camera to take some amazing shots of the minnows swimming.

Then, all of a sudden it was September, and school came calling for both of us. We were ready (yes I purposely edit out his school crest on his sweater). Back to his Lower Elementary classroom he loves so much and back to his Mastery Year in that classroom. It was important to him and so we went.

And then Solstice arrived and we’re back to the beginning of this story. We hugged each other a little tighter and sat on the edge of Quentin’s bed watching him sleep a little longer. Beyond grateful for what we have, what could so easily be taken away in an instant.

This year has been a good one. Not because of the work contracts and collaborations. We’ve been lucky with those this year and we have a big surprise to share in the new year, but that’s not it. It’s not because of all the likes and follows, but we were very grateful for those too. Its something our Essential 9 may fail to capture. The good simply because we have each other. It’s been good because each morning, bedroom doors open, and footsteps and voices are heard, and we know that that very easily, could not be the case.

Montessori Book Club: A Boy like You

Quentin carried this into the bedroom in the early hours this morning and asked if I would read it to him.

It’s a book I took out of the school library to celebrate his birthday with back in April but I thought it was pretty timely he chose it today.

It has all the messages we want him and all other children but especially masculine of center presenting children to be told over and over again.

“There’s so much more than sports.” This one in particular has to be driven home time and time again in our house with a ballet loving boy.

Having books on your bookshelves whether at home or in the classroom featuring Black folks and other People of Colour is an incredibly important first step. However there is still a long way to go towards being anti-racist. Having regular age appropriate conversations with children about race is an ongoing work that involves many steps.

If you find it hard to know where to start, simply search “diverse children’s books” or “conversations about race with children”. Seek out leaders in Anti Biased Anti Racist education and listen without asking for resources or time from them. They are already doing the work. It’s your turn to get involved.

Listening and learning go a long way to furthering the Prepared Adult and thus the Prepared Environment.