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 Summer Printables Bundle Sale

School ended yesterday for us and I’ve been searching for some simple nature based materials and activities to use this summer as so many of the places we love are still closed here.

It’s often hard to find good quality inexpensive Montessori compatible materials. So I was thrilled when I discovered this huge Montessori printables bundle on sale!!

It has exactly what I was looking for and so much more and it will last us long after summer goes.

Over 2000 pages of top quality digital resources including guides, an e-book, e-courses and so many printables!! There’s tons of Practical Life, Language, Math and Nature Studies resources for children aged 3-6 and 6-9 although many of these printables could also be used for interested toddlers or older children.

The best part is that the bundle is on sale until tomorrow June 14th for 95% off it’s retail price!!

Click on the video below to see so much of what this bundle has to offer and click here to see more details or purchase.

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.

Our family’s Montessori rhythm during crisis

The exercises of practical life are formative activities, a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment and efficient functioning therein is the very essence of a useful education.” – Maria Montessori

Like most around the Earth, we are in a holding pattern: No school, no work, no in person social interactions and with all of that no typical day. And so although this can be a scary time, allowing for our natural family rhythm to find its footing and then letting it guide our days has meant some peaceful moments and also some relfection.

Breakfast is over an hour after it normally would be (we get up REALLY early for school), but we still all make a healthy meal, and sit together. We have found that some Practical Life/Cultural activities that are child led but with adult participation help get the morning started. Focusing on his interests instead of prescribed or adult centred learning outcomes sets us up for a much better day. Sometimes he decides to open an ice cream shop, sometimes he decides to help with the household laundry and sometimes he chooses to study the animals of Australia. Most lately he has been helping to renovate his workspace, laying new flooring and painting his chosen colour of a soft lemony yellow (called Frozen Banana).

Whatever it is, we let it flow at his pace, offer help to set up materials (much more effective for us in the morning than leaving it solely to him) and above all, follow his lead.

We usually bake when it’s closer to lunch. Baking simple recipes usually breads like these cheese and herb biscuits that I’ve been baking since I was a child, brings us together in the kitchen.

It’s usually at this point that he will decide to take some time for independent play. This has been the biggest difference. He is a child that has played for hours on end by himself since he was a little toddler exploring his toddler shelves. He has chosen to stay closer to us lately and we have folded that in as much as we can without drawing specific attention to it.

We make a point of setting the table for lunch and putting some music on. Something instrumental and in the background. It is a slowing down part of the day for us. Sometimes we talk or sometimes we just eat silently listening to the music. Sometimes not saying anything is important too.

After lunch (or often before if the day calls for it) we get into our gardens. Working in the earth is such a sensorial necessity for so many children. Caring for small seeds and tender baby shoots gives us a chance to look forward to something. A little long lasting project that isn’t expensive and is easily doable even if it’s just a few lettuce seeds in an old soup can on the window sill.

We plan to have some “rest time” time in the afternoon. Some space where we are available but where time alone can allow for big feelings to come out. Most often that looks like us all curling up with a good book, but sometimes it looks like Quentin actually falling asleep. He is almost 8 years old but forever a preemie. He curls up with a book and a blanket and listens to his body. Sometimes that’s on the couch with his kittens and sometimes that’s outside on a blanket in the backyard with his big brother.

In the late afternoon he will usually return to playing by himself, often with LEGO or open ended material. This is when we try to schedule our business meetings, calls and emails. It doesn’t always work like this though and we do our best to be mindful of everyone in the house as we try to balance our professional commitments.

Then its dinner making and bedtime routines and our “not so normal” days catch up to our “normal” days at this point. Sometimes Quentin helps make dinner, sometimes he continues to play with his toys, sometimes he decides to make a craft or watch some media, or go play outside in the yard. Although there is a basic Grace and Courtesy foundation of “clean up what you got out” and “help others when you can” he has no set “chores”. After dinner, he has a bath or shower, gets ready for bed and we offer to read to him which he still loves and usually chooses or occasionally will opt for reading his novel independently.

This isn’t all of it and it doesn’t always go smoothly. He misses going out to the beaches and forests and even just to the library. He knows that his birthday is in just a few days and that there won’t be any friends or extended family to celebrate with. That’s hard when you are about to be 8.

Also mixed into the days are the video check ins and assignments required by his Montessori school although we are thankful that his school has seen the enlightened benefit in “Less is More”.

Find this quote here

This came across our screens a few days ago and hit home quite hard.

We are doing what Maria Montessori implored us to do a hundred years ago:

We see the figure of the child who stands before us with his arms held open, beckoning humanity to follow.

Montessori Book Club: Books for Spring

It’s been a quiet few weeks for us here. We, like the vast majority of the world are together, safe at home, watching and waiting to see what will come. But it is also Spring.

Spring for our family has so much to celebrate. The end of the rainy season, our wedding anniversary, and Quentin’s birthday. It’s a time we look forward and make plans and that’s all changed a little bit with this new “normal” around the world.

So, to capture some of the feelings we and our children may be experiencing, I wanted to showcase this beautiful new book sent over from Grey Stone Kids.

It’s a beautiful, simple and easily relatable story of a parent tree, covered in seeds who are small and silent but will one day be big trees of their own.

It touches on the feelings of worry we as parents and caregivers have about the children we love. Will they be okay? Am I protecting them enough, and above all, maybe I could keep them little for just a little bit longer.

It shows us that we can care for them and love them and even fuss needlessly over them, but one day they will grow up and that our confidence in them and their abilities will be one of the defining factors in their own self confidence.

“Stay Little Seed” releases on April 7 just as gardens are warming and trees are waking up here.

Montessori Book Club: Solstice Books 2019

This new book has quickly become a favourite. We have paired it with our nature based crafts, baking and slow living days curled up next to the fire under a cosy blanket.

Of course we love Carson Ellis artwork and this new book is no exception. The muted tones are perfect for Winter Solstice.

It tells a simple story of the history of the Winter Solstice, one that is easy for the youngest for readers to understand. It also connects the traditions of the past, with the traditions found in other celebrations like Christmas.

There are so few good Yule books out there for kids and we couldn’t be more please with this one. I’ll post our December bookshelf in its entirety on our Instagram page, later this week.

Montessori Book Club: Birdsong

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.

Montessori Book Club: Maybe – The story about the endless potential in all of us

Have you ever had a children’s book speak to you deeply? One where the illustrations and message grab you and immediately you want to put that book into the hands of everyone you know?

That’s this book for us.

The first time I saw the cover I immediately knew it was that type of book and so when Compendium offered to send one I over I was thrilled.

“Your life is yours” it begins. If that was all of the message, mixed with the illustrations that would be enough for me to love it forever, but there was more.

“Wherever you go, take your hopes, pack your dreams and never forget – it is on journeys that discoveries are made”.

“Do everything with love. Follow your heart and see where it leads you.”

“Maybe you will speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.”

And of course because this book melds so seamlessly with the Montessori pedagogy it saves its most sage wisdom for last:

“You already have everything it takes to do big things.”

This book belongs in the hands of every child and most likely a great many adults.

This the perfect gift for new babies, children facing life changes and should be on every Montessori school’s bookshelf’s under the category of Peace Education.

Montessori Multi-age Art Activities: Colour Mixing

Colour mixing is such an easy and inexpensive art activity for children of all ages and can easily be done by the youngest child.

As with all Montessori compatible activities, art should always be child led and about the process not the product especial in the years between 0-6.

For a toddler colour mixing can simply be a transferring work. Above, Quentin at 18 months carefully transferring blue food colour tinted water from one small jar to another with a long pipette. This strengthens fine motor control and concentration. He loved sucking up the water in the pipette and carefully squeezing it out into the other container. Sometimes we would adjust the amount of blue or yellow dye to affect the shade of green that would inevitably be made from his mixing but this was for the most part involuntary by him. He was simply absorbing what was happening.

For the 3-6 age group, an easy to carry tray with the primary colours and a slotted dish, a bowl to dump used water and a sponge for clean up make colour mixing exciting. Children at this age love to experiment with each of the primary colours and it’s still very much about the process here. In the classroom we talk about their favourite colour, what happens when you mix blue with red, red and yellow, yellow and blue, but for the most part they are experimenting and absorbing the experience of those experiments.

By the time the child reaches Elementary, multiple mediums such as paper to spray invite a child to continue their experiments. Small spray bottles and containers (the exact same ones from when he was 18 months), help a child keep their work contained and orderly.

A colour wheel is clearly understood by this point and the child can follow it to achieve the desired colour or make their own.

It is always fascinating to see the social and neurological development at each stage. At 7.5 years old, he commented on the imaginary tastes of his colours such as “root beer” above, and mint tea in a previous combination. It’s still amazing to see him quiet himself as he did in his toddler days and focus on the task at hand.

There are endless colour mixing ideas on Pinterest and around social media. If you haven’t tried it with your little one here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it simple and age appropriate. Trying to explain the why and how of everything to a toddler won’t make it enjoyable
  • Be prepared for spills. Sponges, bowls, towels and play clothes help make this successful for the youngest child
  • Follow the child. Let them truly experiment with colour. If all they make is green over and over that’s ok.