October: The goings on inside the classroom and out

The Autumn months seem to fly by so quickly with everyone in school mode. This is usually around the time when everyone is feeling a bit burnt out by the return to school and it is also the time when classrooms are finally settling in.

We often use this time to slow down and reconnect at home. This includes snuggling up with a good stack of books together on the couch.

Our October/November bookshelf consists of seasonal favourites and some new additions. The Dog That Ate the World is a gorgeous new fable from Sandra Dieckman that talks about the darkness spreading across the earth and how despite it, one small village banded together to keep the fire burning and the music playing. It’s absolutely excellent for starting big conversations with children 6+.

We also make extra time for being in some of our most favourite natural spots. There isn’t a set learning agenda here. Just a chance to get away from it all. Long school days become balanced by our time spent watching the waves roll in or staring up at the rainforest canopy or simply the Milky Way from our own back yard.

Inside the classroom, small themes are slowly making their way in. It’s pumpkin season where we live and so our 3-6 Montessori classroom shelves reflect that with some gorgeous wooden anatomy puzzles and 3 Part Nomenclature Cards from Puzzle Heads Educational Products.

The frenzied pace of the new year is also starting to settle. Children are beginning to choose age appropriate work that piques their interest independently and there is less of a need for a teacher to constantly be hovering.

In many schools this is also the time of year when the first parent/teacher meetings are happening. These can be an exciting time for families as they may not have had a chance to be in their child’s classroom yet this year and parents are often eager to check in with the teacher and ask their questions.

I wrote a piece for Milkweed Montessori a few years ago and I’ve included my words here as I feel they are incredibly important for parents going into meeting season.

“I have had the incredible privilege to sit on both sides of the table for this. First as an over eager slightly paranoid Mother and then as a patient and slightly paranoid Casa teacher. First, before going to the meeting, think about and then write down your 3 most burning questions. Just 3. Each school sets the times for their meetings differently but one thing is certain. They have not reserved your time spot and the following 3 spots for you to empty out your questions list. Usually meetings last under 20 mins. Be prepared to leave when your time is up and make your time count.

That being said, a good Montessori school will have also properly prepared some very key points that are important to your child’s day. If your child is 3-4 you may hear lots about Practical Life. If your child is 4-5 you may hear lots about the Language or Culture areas and if your child is 5-6 you may hear lots about Math. Or not. The Montessori classroom is a vast one with many options.

What you are listening for is: “Your child loves (this)”. Or “Your child has recently really been interested in (this).” This shows that your teachers are really observing your child. If you don’t hear these statements, make sure they are one of your 3 important questions to ask. You are looking for signs that your child is loving the environment. That they are connecting with the materials. This should be evident regardless of age.

This is a first meeting and you may not get a lot of progression statements unless your child is a returning child. If they are a returning child one of your teachers points should be a progression statement. A statement about how your child has made progress with a particular area of the classroom. This may be as general as “Your child has gained independence in our transition times” (gets ready for home by themselves). It may be specific such as “Your child has made huge strides with the Language area.” Each of these statements are equally important in the eyes of a teacher.

The Parent Teacher meetings can be nerve racking, but they are incredibly insightful. You enter the world of the child. Listen with truly open ears and an open minded heart. Ask your 3 questions that are important to you gaining a better understanding of how your child’s day looks or what is in the future for your child.

More often than not, you will find yourself feeling just like the teacher. Absolutely amazed.”

We hope your Autumn has been a safe and happy one. We’d love to hear how you mark the changing of the seasons and how you are coping with back to school.

Back to school shoes: Softstar review and giveaway!

September has seen us settling back into the school year routine.

We are often asked to recommend a quality indoor shoe that is appropriate for the Montessori environment. Ever since Quentin started Montessori school, our recommendation has always been Softstar Shoes. You can see him wearing his first pair here and here.

So when Softstar contacted us with a gifted pair for both Quentin and I we jumped at the chance.

We love these shoes for so many reasons but the most important reason is that they support the natural development and strength of feet. Feet, especially those of little children were not meant to be in a hard and un-flexing soled shoe all day. They need to move, to breath and the toes need to be able to grip the floor.

Quentin loves that they are completely customizable from the design colours to the materials. Quentin choose all black (perfect for schools requiring a black uniform shoe) with the rocket button in whiskey orange and gold in Sublime leather. Mine are a gorgeously soft Pebble Grey in Nubuck leather and I let the Elves choose the button motif which ended up being a star in Indigo. A perfect choice for an understated classroom look that goes with everything.

They are absolutely perfect for someone who is on their feet all day in a bustling Montessori classroom. Roo Moccasins are lined with cosy sheepskin and so they are a pleasure to pull on in the morning and keep our feet odour free and breathing all day.

They are also perfect for cosy play at home as the Autumn weather sets in.

We love them so much that Softstar has graciously offered to give away pairs to one of our followers!

Head to our Instagram feed here for your chance to win!

Book Club Summer Edition Part 4: Books about Food and where it comes from

Summer is my favourite time of year to be outside, and one of my absolute favourite places to be is surrounded by green an growing things. This includes stocking our bookshelves with our favourite books about gardens, food and where it comes from.

A beautiful story of compassion set in a cold and wintry world where adults chase a lost fox away, and a young child brings it food and offers it shelter in a beautiful greenhouse full of flowers. “Fox’s Garden” found here is perfect for even the youngest child and older children love imagining the story in read-aloud sessions.

We absolutely adore the Anatomy series by Julia Rothman. “Farm Anatomy” found here is a complete guide to all aspects of a farm from the machinery to planting to different kinds of barn doors. We love the ideas and recipes in it and the detail is second to none. It’s absolutely perfect for children beginning at 2 years as a vocabulary book and it remains a favourite well into the elementary years.

“Eating the Alphabet” found here was one of Quentin’s favourites as a toddler. The vocabulary building opportunities are endless and the rich colours draw both the adult and child in. The children in my 3-6 Montessori classroom love it because it’s a great conversation starter for that age group around food, what you’ve tried and what you definitely don’t love to eat. For Quentin it’s tomatoes.

We wrote about “Green Green: A community garden story” here when we showcased some of our community/allotment garden plot. We love community gardens. So many opportunities to connect with your neighbours, grow fresh food without the need for growing space at home and teach children about the food cycle.

We love Elisha Cooper books. Of all of them this is our favourite “Farm” found here is a beautiful story that touches my heart and makes me homesick for my childhood days of hiding in corn rows and the smell of the hayloft. It follows the life of a farming family for one year and Quentin loves the rich detail. It’s best suited to children 5+.

“Grandpa’s Garden” has been a favourite for years. We love Barefoot Books and this one follows a boy and his grandfather as they slowly wait for their garden to come to life. Barefoot has an excellent selection of garden and food related books for every age and their rich use of language and inclusive and diverse books keep us coming back.

Do you have a favourite thing to grow in your field, garden or planter box? We’d love you to share it. If you’ve never tried growing vegetables, lettuce is an easy one and perfect for kids to grow.

The Unprepared Environment: When a child loses their Peacefulness

It was a hard week. A combination of things that in hind sight could have been spaced more evenly to allow for Quentin to better process them.

It began on the Saturday with his big brother leaving. Anthony took a position doing what he loves that will keep him away at least all summer. It’s happened before but Quentin was much younger. Perhaps the difficulty stemmed from the fact that he’s older now. Or perhaps it stemmed from the realization that this is a sort of practice run. That his big brother is now an adult and with high school finished will soon be moving on and moving out.

The very next day was Sunday and while Quentin left for his grandparents house to spend a week of too much media too many snack foods and late bedtimes, his parents left on a week long trip of their own.

It was perhaps all too much to take on for one small boy but then the unimaginable happened. His beloved cat whom had gone missing 6 weeks before and we’d long since written off as dead returned.

Emaciated and traumatized he was miraculously unharmed. We covered him with tears and kisses as we learned from his vet that the likely reason for his remarkable resurrection is that although he pried the back door open independently, after that someone stole him.

The questions from Quentin immediately came.

“But you can’t steal a living thing, can you?”

“Why would someone take my kitten? Don’t they know I love him?”

Needless to say it was a very long week.

So. What do we do when our child’s rhythm and Sense of Order has been thrown so completely off course? What happens when a normally happy, peaceful, engaged child becomes rude, hyperactive and defiant?

We take a breath, or two or three or more, and we go right back to Montessori basics.

We start by acknowledging and empathizing with their feelings and offer our own perspective. Yes Huxley was taken which was horrible and I can see you are very sad and angry. I’m so thankful he was clever enough to escape and find his way back to us.

And then most importantly we repair the Prepared Environment.

For us this means predictable early bedtimes even though it’s summer holidays to ensure lost sleep is caught up. It means healthy food options at predictable times that the child can easily prepare, and access to lots of water to stay hydrated.

For us it also means rotating in some special activities that we can do together as well as activities that the child can do quietly to regain their independent play moments. A container of water beads and a few sea creatures seen here is the perfect option to help extend independent quiet moments. A new water colour pallet to ring in our yearly summer tradition of sitting under the maple tree in our front yard painting and reading goes a long way to help us reconnect with each other. Outings to the library or other regularly visited favourite places of the child can actually help a child get back into their home daily rhythm.

And finally the most important aspect of repairing the environment is love. Extra words, extra gestures, extra closeness, extra time and extra patience. It’s knowing who your child is, knowing when something is off, and patiently and lovingly helping them through it.

The Montessori Toddler: A Giveaway’

There are so few books about implementing the Montessori pedagogy at home. Maria Montessori’s own writings are textbooks intended for those in training and although they are a must read for anyone wishing to know more about this pedagogy as a whole, they are heavy reading and aren’t specifically tailored for a caregiver at home looking to change their way of living with their child.

In February of this year all that changed with the launch of my dear friend Simone Davies’s book “The Montessori Toddler”. Who better to share their immense knowledge of the Montessori world than a AMI trained 0-3 Guide who has years of experience not only with her own children but with the toddlers of her beautiful school in Amsterdam.

Each chapter of this book is thoughtfully laid out. The attention to detail is vast and every topic is covered in an easy to read and easy to implement format.

At the back of the book there is comprehensive list of age appropriate authentic Montessori activities for toddlers. These activities are true to Montessori’s scientific knowledge of the Plane of Development for a child and give caregivers so many tools to aid their child’s natural development.

Along with a chart of activities there are also gorgeous pictures of authentic Montessori homes from around the world. We were extremely honoured to be asked to be apart of this section of the book and our own pictures are featured next to some beautiful examples of what Montessori truly looks like in homes both big and small.

Above all, this is the most important message of Montessori and it is displayed so beautifully here.

That each child is unique with their own interests and talents and curiosity.

We love this book so much that we are giving away a copy on our Instagram account found here! The contest is open internationally in hopes that everyone everywhere will have a chance to add this amazing resource to their collection!

Sunday Book Club: One last one for 2017

It’s hard to believe I started this little book club two years ago. There have been so many amazing books over the years and 2017 was no different.

One of our very favourites was Here We Are. We are madly in love with Oliver Jeffers children’s books.

The artwork asks the audience to stop and take a closer look, something that’s important to me. So many books miss this critical aspect of a good children’s book.

Then there’s the written message. Does it speak to you and the child who is absorbing the story? This book speaks to us very very much.

If you haven’t had a chance to read this one, go and see it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for joining us on this journey of seeking out well written, gorgeously illustrated, diverse books.

We will be back early in the new year with our latest finds.

Sunday Book Club: Montessori Peace Education

This is education, understood as a help to life; an education from birth, which feeds a peaceful revolution and unites all in a common aim, attracting them as to a single centre…This is the bright new hope for mankind.” – Maria Montessori

Montessori Peace Education is at the forefront of my approach to the pedagogy and so when I was asked on our Instagram account last weekend to host a theme on another site, Peace Education is what I chose.

These are some of the materials use at home and in my Montessori 3-6 classroom. It is a simple exercise kept in a basket or tray that children can choose freely in the same way they would choose any other work.

The Emotions and Mindfulness cards are from Diamond Montessori and can be found here.

They are 3 Part Cards so there is an accompanying set of solo picture cards and also a set of solo word cards to match. They can be used with even the youngest of toddlers by simply exploring the different faces each child is making and we love that there is a wide range of ethnic diversity in them.

Our Love Light house. Both in my classroom and at home we use the concept of a love light, an internal light that can either shine brightly from each person or can be extinguished with nothing more than a little hot air. The concept comes from this book and we adapt many activities found in it to suit our needs.

This little dish was a gift from a dear Montessori friend and teacher. It is a beautiful pottery piece made by a local First Nations artist. We keep it in our Peace Tray and we fill it with freshly ground lavender when Quentin wants to. Sitting with it on a work mat a child can choose to smell the sweet and calming smell.

This book is a new addition and couldn’t have arrived at a better time. We have been anxiously awaiting it as it is absolutely perfect for a 3-6 year old child to actively engage with.

The pictures are simple and so is the text but the message is a powerful one.

Each of these activities and many many more are so easy to take the time to do with children. The sense of calm they can invoke in a child is remarkable and will help a child with so many important social emotional aspects.

An Autumn book and activities for Thanksgiving Monday

The air was crisp and the skies sunny today. 

We spent it quietly together. 


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. 

Sunday Book Club: Life by Cynthia Rylant

We love books about “the big picture”. Books that ask us to take a step back and appreciate what we have. This is an important concept to introduce to children. It helps build resiliency early and is one of the building blocks of Montessori Peace Education.

Life by Cynthia Rylant is a gorgeous new book that speaks to us all starting out small, and that it won’t always be easy but we will all grow. 

The artwork is what drew me originally to the book. It’s understated but full of colour. 


This is one for every Montessori home and classroom. Younger children will enjoy identifying animals and older children will be able to use it as a jumping off point for empathy and resilience discussions which are so incredibly important starting in the 3-6 age group and continuing right through to adulthood. 

We have absolutely love it. 

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 we 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.