Our Montessori Life: Our workspace at 5 years old. 

Every year, as Quentin’s birthday draws near, we pause to take stock of our space. Specifically our Montessori work space. This year as we observed him, it became quickly clear that Quentin is passing into the Second Plane of Development. It also became clear that his space is quickly becoming obsolete. 

It’s hard to believe we have come this far. 


This is how our space started. There is a post about it here that was written less than a week before his first birthday. It was a space that Quentin, an infant on the movement mat with his bell and ring mobile, and his big 12 year old brother needed to share. Over that first 18 months it worked extremely well. 


A year later we did a major overhaul of the space a year when Quentin turned two. You can read about it here. Just like in any toddler Montessori environment, movement needed to be at the forefront of our focus. He needed a large floor area and items that called to his need to move his body. He also needed more shelf space as he was showing a capacity to sit with table work for longer and longer periods. The space for materials was important because he had not yet started school but was very eager to do tray type activities. Anthony had also grown out of the need to have his things stored in the boxes shown in the first picture. The overhaul worked beautifully and the space continued to be used by both boys. 



A year later a minor overhaul was done again as Quentin turned three. We removed his book basket and installed a book rail so he could display and easily access more titles. Anthony no longer required the space preferring his work table be moved to his bedroom and the space became solely Quentin’s. We also got a new work table set that better fit him and took up less space since he was better at containing his tray work. You can read about that change here


As Quentin turned four only the smallest of changes happened. You can see what our entire house looked like here. We changed the artwork and really started to make use of the new designated art area (shown behind the open backed shelves with second desk and upright cube storage). 

The space still worked but we could see changes would need to be made.

And so, as we sit with Five less than 24 hours away, we have decided me must change the space. 

Here’s what still works in this space:

  • Light and airy
  • Clean lines and clutter free
  • Open space to move around in and lay out a work mat
  • Clearly designated area for art
  • Reading corner still comfortable and a good fit size wise

Here’s what doesn’t work in this space:

  • Cube shelves are no longer required. He knows where his work goes instead of needing an empty cube reminding him
  • Too many cubes. He actually needs less shelving for work materials 
  • Limited display space means collectibles and non work material aren’t always displayed well
  • Work table is too small for some larger works
  • No upright long storage for his Waseca Biomes mats meaning we now lean them against his shelves with his work mat

This and the accompanying shelves shown here from Restoration Hardware seem perfect for us. Some big storage baskets like the large rope one shown above are also appealing but I’m not sure if my inner minimalist will love them in real life. 
We will be sure to post pictures of the reno process and of course you will hopefully be seeing the finished space soon. 

It’s amazing what can happen when you stand back and evaluate a place in your home through the needs of a child. 

Our Montessori Shelves: 5 years old

Unbelievably another year has passed and so once again we are examining Quentin’s Montessori space. 

We have noticed some big changes in the last few months and because of that we have decide to completely revamp his space in preparation for him entering into what Montessori described as the Second Plane of Development. 

I’ll write a post on that in the upcoming days but I want to give you a sneak peek at some of the things on his shelves as he heads into 5 years old. 


These were his shelves at this time last year, as he was about to turn 4. You can read about the details here


These are some of the things on his shelves now. 

It’s really fascinating to me to see the evolution of the materials, especially this last year. Many of the materials have remained the same but have evolved in difficulty. As a Montessori child gets older this is the norm. In infancy, materials are mastered quickly and new materials must be rotated in often. As the child develops, the materials remain longer and longer on the shelves and it is simply the way in which the child works with them that changes. 

Top Row left-right: 

  • Nature Study materials (you can find all our Nature Study posts here)
  • Flags of the World puzzle & geography work (purchased here)
  • Landforms Geography Mat (purchased here)

Middle Row left-right:

  • Time telling clock cards (purchased here)
  • Our Nature Table with some of this month’s materials (purchased here)
  • DIY Stamp Game (he’s now doing dynamic addition)

Last Row left-right

  • Montessori Green Series Language cards (purchased here)
  • Montessori paper Moveable Alphabet (purchased here)
  • Primary writing journal (purchased here)

These are only a few of the things that hold Quentin’s interest. He has many open ended items as well, some of which can be seen in this post about our home. He also loves spending time outside. 

As we prepare for him to take his fifth walk around the sun we are mindful of how this space has stayed the same over all these years and now, how it must change for a boy who is growing and it would seem is entering the Second Plane. 

Our Montessori Shelves: 4.5 years old


Freshly cleaned shelves and rotated materials. Such an inviting space and a great way to start the weekend.
Top left – right:

  • Children of the World atlas
  • Heartfelt Emotional Intelligence doll (later placed on shelves)
  • Little Passports suitcase and Big Ben 
  • Montessori Continents Globe

Middle left – right:

  • Musical instruments figures & cards
  • Montessori Blue Series Language cards
  • Moveable Alphabet 
  • Composition book


Bottom left – right:

  • Diatonic Bells & felt notes with mat
  • Montessori clock work (hours & half hours)
  • Montessori Large Number Cards
  • DIY Montessori Stamp Game


Top left – right:

  • DIY light box 
  • Walking the line bell
  • Nature Tray
  • Nature Study samples 

Middle left – right:

  • Seasons puzzle
  • Parts of a Pumpkin puzzle
  • Animals of the world tokens
  • Heartfelt Emotional Intelligence doll

Bottom left – right:

  • Knitting fork & wool
  • Parts of a Pumpkin 3 Part Cards
  • World Landmarks figures & cards 
  • Orchestra toy

They are ready and waiting for a small boy. Enjoy your weekend. 

Our Montessori Day at 4yrs old. 

Quentin and I are off together on Wednesdays. I thought it might be nice to capture our day in pictures. 

We don’t keep to a schedule. Like school he is free to choose his own activities. We also have limited academic focused materials in the home. True learning is holistic, and like and authentic Montessori environment, there is so much more to experience than just the academics. 

Instead it is more of a gentle rhythm that guides our day. 

And so here it is:


8:00am 

We are finished breakfast, gotten everyone else out the door, and have tidied up. I set up an art invitation. Quentin rarely chooses Art independently. Providing a prepared invitation while keeping Art free form can give the reluctant artist a chance to explore new things. 

In Montessori, Art at this age should never focus on the product. Only the process.


9:00am

Quentin chooses a Nature Study walk next. We head upstairs to get dressed and pack. At 4 he chooses his own clothes and dresses himself completely independently. Sometimes his socks or underwear get stuck, but for the most part it’s all him. Then it’s teeth brushed, hair combed and face washed. Having a Care of Self space in the bathroom mean these tasks (with the exception of toothbrushing) are also independently completed.

9:20am

Quentin escaped “preemie-hood” almost scot free. His lungs still need extra help everyday. 

9:30am

We arrive at our selected spot for the day. We live in an extremely eco-diverse region of Canada. We are lucky enough to have so many different nature choices around us. 

Today, Quentin chose the rainforest. Our Nature Study is child led. We stay as long as he wants to, stopping to observe something when interested. 


11:00am

We have come out of the forest and into the grocery store for lunch necessities. Small carts and lots of patience from adults help a child contribute to the family food prep. 


12:00pm

Back at home, and groceries put away, he decides on a hot sandwich to have with his fruit and veggies. A real child sized kitchen is essential in the Montessori Home environment. This is were Practical Life began all those years ago. Now, he stands quietly concentrating. He knows the skillet is hot and requires his attention. 


12:30pm

His reading is really picking up. He can read most CVC words and is beginning to work on phonograms. He chooses to come to his work space after lunch and get out his current reader. 


1:00pm

Self directed rest. He rarely makes it past 1pm. 

I find him in bed holding our current chapter book. “I’m ready for my rest Mama.” He is asleep before I finish reading 2 chapters. He usually naps 2-2.5 hours. 

1:00-3:00

This is my time to do what I need to. Dishes some days, cleaning or laundry others. This Wednesday afternoon was unexpectedly sunny and warm, and it couldn’t have felt more like Autumn. 

So I took advantage of the rare moment and took my book and a cup of tea out to the front deck to bask in all the golden warmth of the afternoon sun. 

Parenthood can feel like a whirlwind. Self care is what we teach our children but we often forget how important it is for us. 


3:30pm

Up from his nap and a tummy full of snack, he goes to his work space and freely chooses work. The light has changed. This room gets the afternoon sun and it’s interesting to observe Quentin in this space. In the quiet blue light of the morning, his work is slow, and simple. In the afternoon light, it changes completely into quick paced and purposeful. He works quickly laying out materials, finishing, and getting out the next thing. 


Next he chooses the DIY Stamp Game we made together over the Spring Break. This is a long work requiring lots of steps. Montessori allows a child to choose work when they feel called by it. To ask him to complete the Stamp game at 9am would have led to disaster. Him choosing to do it at 3:30pm when he is alert and in the right mind space leads to complete success and the positive experience to come back to it again another day. 

4:00pm

Anthony returns from school and my husband returns home shortly after. Quentin will often continue in his work space, choosing different activities or come up to the kitchen and help prepare dinner. 

After dinner there are walks in the neighbourhood if it’s nice out or playing together as a family if it’s not. Then the bedtime routine of bath and story and he’s asleep by 9pm.

Our days rush by all too quickly it seems. Stopping to capture them is something I need to do much more often. 

Our Montessori Shelves at 4 

This time next week Quentin will be four. It was time to examine his shelves. 

As many of you know Quentin attends Montessori school Monday thru Friday. We don’t homeschool in any formal way. Now at 4, his materials are often ones that he has requested. He will sometimes say “I’d like to work with some new words”, or show an interest in a particular topic. We then make an effort to stock his shelves with those items. This isn’t to say that we rush out and purchase everything. But making time to really observe him and engage him in meaningful conversations will usually narrow down some ideas. Then we look for good quality. Also, the majority of his materials are homemade.

Here are Quentin’s shelves at 4.

  
Top row: sewing basket with current sewing project, Pink Series Language cards found here & DIY Stamp Game

Middle row: knitting basket with French knitting fork, nature exploring kit for the monthly          subscription program we are enrolled in & moveable alphabet found here

Bottom row: Rhythm bells with DIY felt notes & music staff, chalkboard and chalk for writing & telling time cards found here

These are his favourites at four. Looking back at previous posts about his shelves makes me reminiscent. He has used this space for such a long time now and it is the same, but it is also constantly evolving. It follows the child like we do. 

These are simply some of the things found on his shelves. I will post again early next week on his other materials and spaces around the house. Have a great weekend!

Sunday Book Club: Our favourite Big Idea books

This week has been busy for us. However, we have been exploring big concepts with Quentin and I thought I’d share some of the best books for children that look at abstract ideas. 

  
 

All of our selections give interesting facts and leave the dialogue open for more discussion. We purposely looked for facts that were interesting but not alarmist for a young child. 
    

You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey

“If you were a planet, you’d be a lot like the Earth. Rainforests on land and algae in the oceans are the Earth’s lungs.”

A book detailing the connections between the Earth, it’s creatures and the child. So stunning and absolutely fantastic. 
 

   
 Wild Ideas by Elin Kelsey

“If squirrels can learn to cross roads by watching people, what can you learn by watching squirrels?”

A book that celebrates the nature of problem solving. It shows children that it’s okay to have problems, and just like animals people are capable of using their minds to come up with a solution. A valuable lesson for all of us. 
  

If: A mind bending new way of looking at big ideas and numbers by David J. Smith
“If the Sun were the size of a grapefruit, Earth would be the size of a grain of salt.”

I love big concepts. This book is ideally suited to the next Montessori Plane of Development, however Quentin can grasp some of the concepts and we enjoy talking about them. 

  

4,962,571 by Trevor Eissler
This is a long time favourite here. Written by Montessori advocate Trevor Eissler it tells of a boy who wants to count to a really big number. It is an excellent book for any 3-6 child who has moved on to the Golden Beads in the classroom, or a child who is intrigued by the prospect of counting leaves on a tree. 
Happy Sunday 

Our Montessori Life: Materials at 3

How has this year passed so quickly? No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to slow time. To bring it to a standstill. Even just for a short while. And so, because if this, we find ourselves once again reevaluating Quentin’s space. 

Not much has changed in the physical space you see here. We have moved his garden to sit beside the slide. I’ve also added a dedicated art space, but that’s it. So, really it’s more of looking at the house as a whole. His shelves have had an update too.

Quentin attends a beautiful, peaceful 3-6 class in a traditional Montessori school Mon-Fri. There is no need for us to have traditional Montessori classroom materials in the home. Instead the materials here are similar to and compliment his school experience.

 When I get asked if Quentin has toys I always manage to fumble my answer. “Yes. Well, no. Well sort of.” Instead what I really mean is that we have things that envoke joy in him. His day is spent doing things he finds enjoyable. Things that he is passionate about. 

Here are some of the materials on his shelves:



Top Row: Rhythm Hand bells & felt notes, Nature observation kit from my beautiful friend Deb, DIY cinnamon scented playdough & basket of loose parts including cookie presses from my good friend  Kylie

Middle Row: Safari Toob Landmarks & cards, Safari Toob Instruments & cards, DIY Moveable alphabet & CVC word cards with storage box

Bottom Row: DIY Salt tray & tracing cards, Montessori Letterwork/Numberwork books, Number/Quantity Recognition (up to 10 in the box)

These materials are chosen freely by Quentin. We don’t teach or instruct him, and there isn’t “school time” here. We simply answer any questions he may have such as “What is the Statue of Liberty made out of?” and “Why is the clarinet black?” Mostly he loves teaching us. “Ok Mama, you will watch & I will show you how to make a “fuh” for fan.”



Quentin also has “open-ended” things such as his garden and his barn, both made by my parents. 



What has changed on his shelves is that there is very little Practical Life on them anymore. 







This is what Practical Life now looks like. All the baking, cleaning, laundry etc. of our family, he is invited to assist with. Most of it he can do himself. He continues to love his kitchen (sold here). I get a lot of questions about his kitchen set up. “Real or play kitchen? What about play food?” My answer is always the same. The things in this space are all real. Real food prep, real consuming, real mess, real clean up. His kitchen continues to store his dishes, and silverware on the left (real porcelain seen here & real glasses) and his food prep tools (mixing bowl, egg slicer, cutting board & knife etc.) on the right. He stores his cleaning supplies and tools as well as his overflow baking supplies in the closet we have renovated for him beside his sink (inside seen here).



He sets up his dish washing independently, completes the job, then goes and gets his mop to clean up the drips. He usually does this all while singing. 



The only thing we will change for him in his room is a new bed. It’s time for a twin size bed even though he has lots of space left in his cot. A “Big Boy Bed” at his own request. Above all his room will remain peaceful, uncluttered and made for resting. The only toy he keeps in here is his farm my Father made for him. The reading corner teepee I made him still houses a cosy sheepskin and custom pillow. In the morning the sun fills it’s white canvas with soft light, and it’s the perfect spot to curl up with a book. 



I will do a separate post surrounding the unveiling of his dedicated art space. It was something that was really lacking for him. He had art trays on his shelves but this is much different and has resulted in a huge difference in his willingness and want for the artistic world. 



I will also do a separate post on his outdoor activities, because those are the ones that have changed the most, and I promised myself that this post was only going to be so long. 

So, after all that what are our must haves going into 3?

  • Figurine and matching cards (everything from Life Cycles to Landmarks)
  • Trays and baskets that he can easily organize work into (small trays are no longer helpful) 
  • Lots of language activities, tailored exactly to his level (he loses interest if it’s too easy)
  • Lots of different, accessible Art mediums from paint to chalk to pasting
  • Lots of activities that offer movement (he’s 3 he must move)
  • Lots of access to the day to day chores of the house
  • Information about how everything in the world works and PATIENCE from us while he has to try it all out himself.                                    

That little tiny baby we once spent weeks watching through an incubator is unbelievably almost 3. 

“A child is both a hope and a promise for mankind” -Dr. Maria Montessori



Yes he most certainly is.