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. 

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.