Sunday Book Club: The Journey

Continuing with our theme of knowledge, understanding and tolerance from last week, The Journey was recommended to us by our friend and passionate Montessori teacher Ashley Speed of Diamond Montessori

It is a story of a family forced to leave everything behind, a mother’s courage and bravery guiding her children through an often scary unknown and ultimately it is a story of hope. 

Told from a child’s perspective, the beautiful modern images open up further discussion while reading. It is a great read for a child 6 and up or anyone looking to get a small glimpse into the struggles of refugee families. 

January Nature Study: Moon phases & constellations 

January was all about looking up into the night sky. We gathered some simple DIY materials and borrowed some books from the library. I love it when nature studies are simple. No special materials required, although sometimes they are nice to have. It’s really just about appreciating what’s around you. 


We use this book for our monthly nature study. I made some constellation tiles with some inexpensive wooden discs from our big box craft store, my electric drill and a fine tip marker. Quentin loved shining the light through the holes to make the constellations appear on the walls. It was a truly hands on experience for him and he quickly learned the name of some of the constellations. 


I set out an art invitation of making constellations with some watercolour paint and paper, a straw and a black crayon. Quentin greatly dislikes product art and it is not recommended for children under 8 years of age. Instead, its all about the process. The invitation held the prepared materials and he chose where to put his paint, how to blow the paint through the straw to get the affect he wanted, how to connect them and most importantly when he was finished. He sat for a moment looking at it, then went to get his Orion disc and found they were similar. 


This book was absolutely fantastic as an introduction to the stars. It gave a brief history of how each constellation got its name and Quentin loves turning off the lights to see the book glow in the dark. 


We used our beautiful Moon Phases cards from the unbelievably talented Alice Cantrell to learn some new vocabulary and interesting facts. 

Lastly we bundled up, packed a warm blanket and a thermos of hot cocoa and went out into the night to observe the differences in the moon phases and the brilliance found when we stop a minute and stare up at the night sky. 

Sunday Book Club: Sometimes I feel like a Fox

The Montessori 3-6 Prepared Environment has a large component focused on Culture. 

This section of the environment encompasses many things but it’s aim is to slowly and gently introduce the child to the world around them. This is the very first step of Montessori Peace Education. 


This week’s book (which can be found here) is awesome in many ways. It showcases 12 animals and their characteristics. It acts as a tool for adults working with children to  create mindfulness and open ended discussions about how these descriptions relate to them. It can also be use in dramatic games for children to act out each of the characteristics of the animals. 

However most importantly (and this is where the Montessori Culture aspect ties in) it exposes children to another people’s culture. Each of the animals described by young people in the book, is a totem animal or “doodem” in the Anishinaabe First Nations tradition. 

The author’s note explains the importance of totem animals in the Anishinaabe culture and how they can act as guides for young children. 

The importance of differences and ultimately our similarities between our cultures and our communities has always been strong. However perhaps it is even more important in today’s world. 

If you are looking for books that speak to tolerance, understanding and knowledge there are many excellent ones for children. Speak to your local librarian, teacher or bookshop owner for ideas. 

Sunday Book Club: Atlas of Adventure 

With the holidays finished we are back into our normal rhythms. That of course, means it’s Book Club time and this week’s books are gorgeous must haves for any Montessori home’s Non-Fiction Research/Reference section. 



The first book found here is absolutely stunning. It’s done in a completely different way then I have seen before and covers everything in its two page spreads from tigers in the Siberian snow, to humpback whales off the coast of Chile. 

The pictures are modern, clean lined and yet have so much detail. We are absolutely in love. 

The second, companion activity book found here is equally gorgeous. Sectioned into the continents it is a perfect at home workbook for any geography lover. So much to colour on each page and a large wall map and stickers are included. 

We purchased these books for a young Montessori friend’s 4th birthday, however on seeing their beauty and the ability to use them over the years with Quentin, I decided to order copies for our own reference materials shelf. 

Like anything else in our minimalist home featured here, we choose books extremely mindfully especially when purchasing them. Here are some of our “rules” for purchasing non-fiction books that fit with both a minimalist lifestyle but also (and much more importantly) a Montessori lifestyle: 

  • Books must be reality and science based
  • Books must be able to hold a child’s interest today, tomorrow and next year
  • Purchase a small range without duplicating a subject. We don’t need 20 penguin books. A really good one will last years and we can supplement the rest from the public library, although really we shouldn’t need to. 

Books about the world around us are some of the most important you can share with a child. A child is never too young to be exposed to that world. 

A Montessori Home: Organization, Storage, Toy Rotation and how to live a minimalist lifestyle with kids

It’s a new year. I always get the deep need to declutter and purge after the holidays. I also get asked frequently about what living a minimalist life looks like with 2 kids. So I thought I would get at least some of the details down. 

Before I start, I wanted to state that living as a minimalist looks different to everyone. Our way of doing it may not be right for another family, but it is definitely right for us. 

Most importantly living minimally also means living mindfully. We think about our home and lifestyle in a very concrete way. We think about what we want to convey to our children. What do we want them to remember about their childhood? What do we want them to remember about us? Thinking about those questions is the first step to decluttering your life. 

Step One: Self organization 


The most important part of the Montessori Prepared Environment is the adult. The entire environment depends on us as the guide to observe, and prepare it to fully meet the needs of the child. Here is this week’s pages in my bullet journal. To ensure privacy I have selected this upcoming week before things get scribbled in and filled up. Keeping a bullet journal is directly linked to my own mindfulness and therefore my sanity. This little book and our big wipeable monthly calendar on the fridge are where we write everything down. 

Step Two: Material storage & organization 


This is it. As you can see, there isn’t a lot. This is where some of the minimalism comes in. The most common misconception I see on Facebook and Pinterest is that Montessori is about the materials. In short, about the stuff. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Montessori is actually about the child. The pedagogy was originally designed for people who had nothing. Not having everything is a very good lesson to teach not only our children, but also (perhaps more importantly) ourselves. 

Another misconception is that there is a difference between toys and materials. This often allows for the excuse that we need “all the things” because they are learning materials. Yet in Montessori, learning is joyful work and purposeful play. Your child sees no difference between a material and a toy. 

Your child doesn’t need fancy teaching time clocks, balancing beams, sensory boards etc. Instead a few good quality materials offering a range of experiences are key. 

The same rule applies to “shelf work” as does in Practical Life. We don’t give them pretend food, we let them chop carrots. Why then would we give them pretend experiences? Instead, bundle them up and go out for jumping running and balancing. Allow your child to explore different textures, sounds, tastes and smells within your home and community. 


Independence is a cornerstone in Montessori. When choices or access become overwhelming, independence suffers. This is Quentin’s closet in his room. The IKEA Trofast system has worked well all these years. There is a little video of him using it at around 18 months here. There aren’t many clothes, but they are all ones he loves. The top yellow bin stores pj’s the middle one stores shirts and the bottom one pants. The basket below stores socks and underwear. How do we keep this space minimalist?  The answer is simple. We don’t buy more clothes than he needs. 4 sets of pj’s, 4 short sleeved shirts, 3 long sleeved shirts and 3-4 pants. Not having a large wardrobe means we can spend more money on the pieces he has, allowing us to choose sustainable, healthy options. 

Step Three: Prepare purposeful environments


Quentin’s room has remained the same since we switched it here. Like all things Montessori, items and areas have a distinct purpose. Bedrooms are for rest. He has a bookshelf by his reading area tipi and his wooden barn is stored here but that’s it. There are no toys or materials in this space. It is light and airy and cosy. Perfect for relaxing. 



This area (all one space) shown above is on the first floor of our house. It has been his Montessori area from birth. The area houses his open ended & gross motor play items (shown in the second picture), work table, work mat, Montessori shelves and Art table and shelves (seen behind the shelves in first pic). It has changed so much over the years but also remains the same. Everything has a purpose and a place. This is where he keeps 100 percent of his materials. There is a wall map to the left of the slide. His cube shelving holds every material out at the moment. He has both learning materials and open ended play materials in this space. 

I often see parents asking about how many materials to have out at one time and when to rotate them. I also see the answers. Some say 2 weeks, others say four. However the true Montessori answer is as always follow the child. If your child doesn’t use a material, observe to see why. Perhaps it is either too difficult or easy. Perhaps they are bored. Careful observation of your own child will tell you when you need to rotate items. 

In truth, our shelves rarely get rotated. We do our monthly Nature Study and that tray of items gets changed sometimes weekly. However at 4 years old, it is Quentin that rotates the shelves. If he is tired of a puzzle, he takes it off the shelves to the storage cabinet (shown above earlier) and switches it out. If he wants something out of his science box or geography box, he goes and replaces what is out with what he wants. Sometimes I will rotate something if I see a particular interest, and I will definitely take something out if it is no longer challenging such as his Montessori Blue Language Series, but mostly it’s him. 

How do we make minimalism work in this space? We don’t purchase many items and we don’t have multiple items that do the same purpose. Not having many items means that all items we have get a lot of use. When we do purchase or make something, we are mindful of its purpose and choose good quality over quantity. 

Here is his kitchen space. 

I feel this particular part of our home doesn’t need any more explanation here. It is purposeful, neatly contained and beautiful. If you are interested in learning more about our kitchen space, there is lots of information under the “In the Kitchen” category of this website and loads of videos and pictures on our Instagram account listed above. 

Lastly here is our living room. 


Like our media room, our dining room and my office, there are no materials or toys here. This space is intended for gathering as a family and with friends. I don’t leave my bits and pieces of crafts and hobbies here and we all respect each other by keeping our own personal things in their prepared spaces. Implementing this early on has meant that all of us as a family are mindful of bringing things into this space and the other shared spaces of the house. Because of this, these spaces don’t feel cramped with kids stuff. It doesn’t get messy and it invokes a feeling of calm for all who use these spaces.

Staying organized and living minimally seems like an impossible task but it really isn’t. 

Here it is in a quick overview:

  • Keep in your house only what you need and the things that bring you immense joy. Get rid of everything else. 
  • Organize yourself and your spaces so that you are prepared, calm & having to clean less

Most importantly the number one, easiest thing you can do is to simply put down your wallet. That’s it. That’s all it takes. Your house won’t be cluttered and your kids won’t be entitled if you simply follow this one step. 

Because when it comes down to it, your kids don’t want your stuff.

They want your time. 

Book Club Year End: Best Fiction 2016

The first Day of the new year is the perfect time to reflect on the year past. It was an amazing one for children’s literature and it was extremely hard narrowing down our favourites. 

A note to anyone new joining us, we only review books we have actually read cover to cover and enjoy having in our home. These are books we truly have loved and not simply seen on another “best of” list. 
When we finally came to a decision, these were our favourites of 2016:

Sleep Tight Farm is my favourite on this list. It is everything I look for in a children’s book. Beautiful simple pictures that fit the rhythm of the story, which is in this case, the simple act of slowing down and bundling up for Winter. A gorgeous book that fit in perfectly to our family’s Solstice celebration, this book is suitable from 2 years old and up and would be loved by any budding farmer or family looking to capture the spirit of the season. 

The Wish Tree follows a day in the life of Charles a boy looking to find the tree and tie a wish to its branches but ends up being delayed along the way. It is a book of Grace and Courtesy and it’s author is one of our favourites whose other works can be found here

A Child of Books is so simple and yet so stunning. The artwork is the masterpiece here. If you haven’t read it, you must go and find a copy. We feel it fits so well with the Montessori philosophy, and it’s message is for both young and old alike. 
The Darkest Dark was a Solstice gift for Quentin this year and combines our family’s love of science, space and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. It’s about a boy overcoming his fear and following his dreams. Perfect for any parent and child who have struggled through the bedtime routine. 
If you are looking to add some Montessori friendly fiction to your child’s bookshelf, here are our tips:

  • Reality based over fantasy for under 6. Children under six are still making sense of the world. They crave real experiences and being exposed to books they can relate to is incredibly important for normal social and neurological development. 
  • Look for descriptive language. Rhythm, rhymes and rich language build a child’s language bank. If you want them to have a large bank of vocabulary, they must first be exposed to it. 
  • Awe and Wonder. Just like in our Non Fiction post, these two words are the most important when looking for materials to fill your Montessori space. A book should grab a child and suck them in. It should feed not only their mind, but their soul. 

Book Club Year End: Best Non Fiction 2016

We absolutely adore good quality non fiction books in this house. Ones that are gathered carefully and mindfully have the opportunity to last for years. 

This year was an excellent one for children’s books both fiction and non fiction and it was hard to narrow down our top choices, but nevertheless, here they are:

Atlas of Oddities has loads of interesting facts such as Metallica was the first band to play live on Antarctica. The modern clean pictures that accompany the facts are perfect for us. With so much detail, yet easily laid out, this book will last us years. 
Shackleton’ Journey is excellent and geared towards the 6-12 Second Plane, but it also suits one particular four year old boy who loves penguins. A story of the epic journey in detail, the drawings open up deeper conversations, and give an opportunity to expand learning. 
Insect Emporium is the perfect addition to anyone’s Nature Table. The drawings are gorgeous and there is just enough info to intrigue a 3-6 year old without overwhelming them. It is a must for insect lovers both adult and child alike. 
Hello Atlas holds the illustrations of on of our favourite artists Kenard Pak. This is our absolute favourite non fiction this year. This book focuses on the language differences of peoples and cultures around the world. However it is in that focus that the reader learns just how similar we all are and that really all it takes is just a friendly hello to a stranger. An extremely important message going into 2017. 
If you are looking for Montessori friendly non fiction books here are some hints:

  • Realistic, science based and age appropriate are paramount features 
  • Beauty like anything else in the Montessori environment is important. Choose books that are beautifully laid out. 
  • Awe and Wonder are some of the most important words in the Montessori world. Choose books that invoke both awe and wonder not just in the child, but in yourself.