It’s that time of year again, the summer is coming to an end and even though this coming school year will once again look different for so many of us, the underlying themes for kids are still there. New routines, new people, and leaving loved ones.
Over the years I’ve written a few different posts about how to incorporate some helpful tips on making the transition to school easier for children. You can read some of them here and another one here. Below are some new and old favourites on our bookshelves at this time of year to help children know what to expect at school.
Jack Goes to Montessori School will always be my most recommended and favourite book to give to new Montessori students. A gentle telling of the routine in a 3-6 classroom, children will easily recognize the materials and flow of the child led day.
If you haven’t seen the Lola series it’s a must for preschool kids! This entire series has been a favourite in my 3-6 classrooms for years because it is so relatable. This book is perfect for any child starting school not just in a Montessori setting but my Montessori students love it too because it focuses on the rhythmic flow of the day which is so important for young children who can’t tell time. Establishing the rhythm and then going over it with your child will help them know what’s coming next at school and after which activity you will come to get them. This helps them feel much more confident at school and safe in the knowledge that you will be there at the same time every day.
This is another old favourite for us. It has everything I love in a book; engaging illustrations, diverse characters and repetitive text. Perfect for the preschool crowd. I wrote a review of it four years ago and we still love it to this day! You can read that post here.
This one is brand new for us and we already love it! A sequel of sorts to the previous book and just as perfect. Focused on a group of children outdoors playing it touches on topics of disagreements and different feelings. Empathy is one of the most important things we can help bring out in children. This book is perfect for bringing up discussions on feelings, how to work through problems and acknowledging others emotions.
It’s been a lifetime since this first day of school picture was taken of Quentin. He begins Upper Elementary this year and although he’s had many years of returning to school, the principles listed in these back to school posts are still very much used to help him gently and smoothly find his way back into the classroom.
The seasons are changing here. Autumn is definitely fleeting and Winter has crept in. It is the perfect time for family and friends and reflection.
This new book Birdsong from Greystone Books is a beautiful story of a child that moves to their new home with their mother and meets their new neighbour, an elderly woman who loves nature and art as much as they do.
It highlights each season beginning with their arrival at the new house and how things are different.
We loved how the complexity of the intergenerational friendship is highlighted but in a gentle way focusing on how the child must navigate this and ultimately finds a connection with their elderly neighbour in art.
We absolutely love this book and were thrilled that it made the Globe and Mail’s “100 Books of 2019”! If you are looking for a beautiful “own voices” story this will definitely be a favourite for years to come.
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.
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.
Autumn has crept up on us. Many children have already returned to school and with our own first day less than two weeks away I thought I’d share our Montessori essentials for back to school.
The benefit of being both a mother and a trained Montessori Guide is that I live in both the home and school environment. So I’ve compiled a list of Montessori back to school essentials both from a veteran parent and teacher perspective that I’ll come back to and do separate posts on in the upcoming days.
Let’s start from the beginning:
This is the absolute most important part of a smooth transition to school. Children especially those from 0-6 years thrive on predictable family rhythms. If your day (especially the morning) is lacking the routine required for a successful start to the school day here’s our suggestions on how to get everyone on track:
Pick a time in the morning that everyone should be up by in order to get out the door on time. Then add 15 minutes and set the alarm for the adjusted time.
Make sure your child is going to sleep at a time that will allow for them to wake up rested. 10pm Summer bedtimes DO NOT WORK for the school year.
Don’t wait until the first day of school to start this. Start it ASAP, even if you aren’t going out the door today. It will take awhile for your child to adjust.
Make setting out clothes the night before part of your child’s bedtime routine. Make sure they are clothes your child can use the bathroom independently in! Speaking as a teacher, overalls, skinny jeans and long dresses just don’t work for a young school child.
I’ll get into more detail about routine in an upcoming post but those are the basics.
Just like at home, independence in the Montessori classroom is essential for your child’s success. Here’s what you need to know:
Shop to ensure you have variety for the week. Variety will help your child’s lunchbox come home empty
Too tight thermoses filled with tomato soup are a disaster waiting to happen. If your child has trouble eating a particular food at home don’t send it to school
Your child will need to open their own containers. Choose ones your child can open independently and help them practice in advance.
Make sure you know your school’s food/nutrition policy. Many schools have zero junk/zero waste policies or allergy policies. If you are unsure about what to send contact you school or pack a variety of nutrition rich foods in reusable containers.
I’ll get into what we pack and how we pack it later this week.
Above all respect the child
This is an emotion filled time for any child. Some children are looking forward to it, some are more anxious. Some will have changing feelings in the upcoming weeks as they transition into their classrooms. Just like we spoke about here, give your child lots of space, love and encouragement.
If being grilled by a loved one on all the activities you did at work today is annoying, don’t do it to your child. Instead ask them relatable questions such as “What does your playground have?”, or “What did you do that was fun today?”. Be prepared for your child not to be able to answer “Who did you play with?” “What did you do?” kinds of questions. Also be prepared for them to be exhausted. Show them how much you love and respect them by gently offering help if needed, and allow them time to just “be” when they get home. After school IS NOT THE TIME for getting out more Montessori trays off your home shelves. It’s time for reconnecting with a loved one, reestablishing trust and closeness and just relaxing.
September is always such a busy time. Back to school, work, extra curricular activities. The weather changes and we notice a change in our home too.
We try to be more mindful, and take things slowly. It’s a challenge, but it means so much to the boys. It’s the small things that make the most difference. We change our rhythm, when the mornings are still dark at the sound of the alarm clock. We add in candles and quiet sitting on the couch together as the house darkens at the end of the day. We make more time to go slowly, gently and to be mindful that even though the days are a little colder and a little shorter, it is still important to be outside.
If you have been following along on Instagram you will have seen our nature study adventures. We are using this book because it is so perfect for Montessori families both homeschooling and otherwise.
I stumbled across Calli at Sparrow and Lilies and her absolutely excellent companion Nature Study to this book. We needed something to ground us. To focus us in a gentle way while opening up the world of nature study to us. This is perfect. And better still, it’s free.
Quentin returned to school for his 3rd (already!) year of Casa. We make a point not to have the classic Montessori materials in our home space as he uses those all week at school. However, we have added some materials to his space that reference the change of seasons.
This layered seasons puzzle is still popular one year after getting it. I love that it has the control of error on the side so the child can check their work independently.
Quentin has used our Seasons mat and Sun every day when he gets home from school. He loves examining the subtle changes in the different seasons and singing the months of the year song. It is a beautiful material that takes time and care to use. I think this grounds him after a long day.
Autumn happens slowly in our part of the world. We don’t have the drop in temperature at night and frosty mornings that the rest of Canada does. It makes it a littler harder to admit that summer is gone.
I have a post in the works for our favourite Autumn themed books and would love you to share any that are your favourites.
I love tying what we have on the shelf with our bigger picture. Montessori is about immersing a child in rich, holistic experiences.
So, when we want to explore the changing seasons, it only makes sense for us to find some beautiful Montessori friendly materials.
And then, go outside.
There is so much for a child to take in when walking in the forest. We purposely seek out quiet, peaceful spots where we can really take in our surroundings. This doesn’t have to happen in the middle of nowhere. A quiet corner of the park will do. We stop, practise some mindful breathing and really listen. Even at 3, Quentin has been able to master this with practice.
There is just something about sitting beside a stream. The water starts rushing with the heavy Autumn rains where we live. We could just sit all day.
In Autumn our favourite shelf activities include: leaf garland sewing, crayon/charcoal rubbings of leaves, and using Autumn themed free printables a like this one and this one.
Materials collected from nature walks also make great counters to go with number cards.
The air has become crisp. It’s such a cosy time of year. Here are some of the things we have been doing to welcome Autumn.
Some absolutely gorgeous 3 part cards by Puzzleheads. These cards are perfect for Quentin. Great detail, and lots of other complimentary products such as matching wooden puzzles and colouring PDF’s. He can easily match the picture to picture and is learning to match the words. This is yet another way we observe and provide materials for his sensitive period for language. He is now able to sound and then make an educated guess about what larger words may be.
Quentin’s love of geography continues. He uses his Little Passports subscription almost everyday. We explore what is happening around the planet in terms of seasons. He knows our friends south of the equator are opposite to us and therefore just coming into spring. We look up how other cultures and countries celebrate Autumn.
Finally as always, there is Practical Life. The right sized tools make it fun for him. Raking leaves is such a fantastic activity because it incorporates so many parts. Gross motor, fine motor and sensorial. It also expends a lot of energy which at 3.5 years old, Quentin really needs.
Finally one of our favourite activities is making applesauce using our peeler. Quentin loves using this because he can do it but it isn’t easy. It takes lots of coordination, and concentration. The apples come out as peeled and in spirals which he also loves.
Our recipe is simple:
We hope you are enjoy whatever season you find yourself in.
If you’d like to share some ideas for Autumn activities don’t hesitate to leave a comment.