A Montessori field trip: A trip to Fruitful Orchard Montessori in Nigeria

This has been a trip that has been a long time coming. 6 years in the making. And so, after months of planning, vaccinations and packing we are finally here.

I love travelling around the world to visit different Montessori environments. This one is particularity near and dear to my heart because I have been here (in spirit anyway) from the beginning. Before there was a school or children to fill it.

There is a vibrant and beautiful 3-6 classroom here and I will feature it in an upcoming post but what I wanted to focus on firstly was the Toddler Community at Fruitful Orchard. Authentic Toddler communities are hard to find in Canada and we don’t have a single one in our own community despite the fact that we have two Montessori schools that go from 3-6 all the way through high school.

It has all the tell tale signs: tiny chairs and tables, light, bright and airy, but it also has some gorgeous personal touches that the owner Junnifa Uzodike has carefully arranged.

The beautiful artwork and custom fabrics immediately caught my eye. The tiny carved reading bench with hand made cushion is just perfect for two small friends to sit together and look at books. As a side note the books featured are excellent for toddlers.

Perhaps the best part of this Prepared Environment is the tiny working sink, counter and real working oven at a toddler’s height. So often we see the opportunity to cook with heat taken away from toddlers. Here they regularly bake.

The Vocabulary shelves offer the toddlers a rich variety of new language and the chance to explore different items.

One of the most important part of a Montessori Toddler Community is the Practical Life lessons. Care of Self and Care of Others are the foundation of the Montessori Toddler years. That’s why when we knew we were coming I contacted Miniland USA and they rush delivered not only their beautiful dolls but also some warm weather outfits.

Toddlers love repeating. This little one removed the clothes of the doll, named all the body parts and put the clothes on again and again. It is so important for a young child to be able to see this Cycle of Activity through. The repeated fine motor movements and vocabulary solidifies key social neurological concepts that they move forward and build on. Dolls that a child can identify with (either by hair colour, eye colour, skin tone, genitals or physical features such as freckles, scars or implants) are incredibly important for all children. It gives them a chance to see them self and to practice all those Care of Self and Others lessons they have been working on. Often a child will mimic with a doll what they have experienced in their day.

We have been here a week and have a month left to teach in the 3-6 classroom, offer consulting and just spend time. The memories formed here will last long after we leave.

Montessori Book Club: A new book about inclusion

This is a gorgeous new book from the best selling author of The Word Collector.

Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds was released at the end of February and it has become one of our most valuable books I use in my classroom.

It’s pages are done in the same simple style that showcase a number of powerful ways children can make their voice heard.

We love that it is easy to read and can be shared with the youngest preschooler although this is an excellent book for opening dialogue with elementary students.

This is a book that can be used both at home and in schools or communities with young children to empower those who may have trouble expressing themselves or don’t feel they belong or fit in. We especially need to show these children that they are loved, their voices matter but most importantly that they can make a difference.

Montessori Book Club: Little People Big Dreams – Maria Montessori

We have been waiting for this book for what seems like forever!

If you have never explored this series you ought to. Based on an amazing and diverse group of powerful, world changing women the latest book in the series showcases the woman who’s teachings we have built our own lives around.

The pictures are done in the same style as the rest of the series and the text is perfect to share with children 3 years and up.

It follows Maria’s life timeline and although we wish it showcased more, we think it’s perfect for the age group it was intended for.

Perhaps the best part of the book is this time line in the back with more facts for the adult or older child reader. This timeline pairs perfectly with this set from Diamond Montessori!

Montessori Book Club: Anti-Bullying Books for Elementary

This week as we prepare to partake in Canada’s Pink Shirt Day, we are continuing our book list of anti-bullying books that we love!

My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig is an important book for not only elementary children but also their caregivers.

Often we recognize bullying as loud, in your face, and clearly mean. But this isn’t always the case. Far too often relational aggression is at play with the consequences being just as harmful for the target.

This book is perfect for reading at home or with students in the classroom. The watercolour illustrations compliment the story without taking over. The text is clear, easy to understand and empathize with for children beginning at 6 years of age.

It focuses on the emotions felt by the target and the importance of a child listening to their body. It also touches on the importance of a target seeking help from a trusted caregiver and the important role the caregiver plays in ending the bullying.

Books like this are perhaps difficult for an adult to read to a child, but children will often enjoy listening to them and love forming discussion groups about the topics portrayed in the pages. These are often the easiest way to reach out to children on both sides of bullying. The conversations that can be built on after reading these kinds of books hold within them a value that will last a lifetime.

Listed in the end pages of this book are some excellent American organizations, global websites, and recommended readings for adults and children that all focus on relational aggression.

During this upcoming week of Anti-Bullying we will continue to showcase books and activities that focus on empathy, acceptance and friendship.

If you have a particular favourite resource please share it in the comments. We would love to feature it here or on our social media.

Montessori Book Club: Anti Bullying Books for Preschoolers

February in Canada holds Valentine’s Day, Family Day and also Anti-Bullying Day. So many opportunities to continue conversations with children about empathy and continue our work in Peace Education.

We’ve written about some of these titles before but today we wanted to focus on one we discovered by chance at our local library.

This book was a delightful surprise. It is absolutely perfect for the 3-6 year old crowd.

It’s simple text hides big conversation starters.

We love the diversity within its pages and its powerful message.

It’s the perfect sharing book for a group of children in a classroom or just simply with our own children at home. It explains that we are who we are, it’s ok to be who you are and that the feelings we feel are also what other people feel. This is an important first step in fostering empathy with young children.

What books are you sharing with children in this month of love and kindness?

Montessori compatible Christmas Books – A rare and beautiful thing Part 2

Last year we waited patiently, while everyone was posting their “must haves” and “what to buys” and “favourite Christmas books evers” for this book to humbly be mentioned.

It wasn’t.

And so, this year, we are posting a newly published beautiful, Montessori compatible Christmas book, that also hasn’t been anywhere on the usual Montessori social media Christmas posts.

It is the simple hymn so many know.

The story of a birth in a middle eastern town to a modest young Jewish family.

When we are looking for Montessori compatible books, our first and most important goal is that they are reality based. Too often we see this story on book shelves with blond haired, blue eyed, and white skinned characters.

This is why we love Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne.

It’s pictures are stunning with bright beautiful colours, and lots for young children to look at. But most importantly, it does not whitewash this thousands of years old story.

Maria Montessori implored us to build Peace, not only in ourselves, but in the world. The very best gift we can give our children is the knowledge that our stories are other people’s stories.

That our differences are our similarities.

Montessori Summer Book Club: Back to School with a new favourite

Our summer time is about to come to an end and we are slowly gathering matching socks and finding pants that aren’t too short.

We are also rotating our bookshelves to include our favourite school related Montessori compatible books. We’ve written about some of our favourites before and you can find them here.

This year we are adding a new favourite.

A beautiful simple story of a day at school. Some look a little worried, others look excited, but no one looks exactly like anyone else and all are welcome.

The illustrations are bright and colourful and leave so much opportunity for child led further discussion.

We love that this book showcases so much diversity and yet doesn’t specifically touch on it because that’s not the point. Children reading this book can see themselves in the pages and point out the things they have in common and that’s the point.

That though we are all slightly different, we are very much the same and that classrooms and schools have the opportunity to bring people closer together and welcome everyone in.

Sunday Book Club: Giveaway!

We are always on the hunt for books that encourage kids to go beyond simply reading them. So when we were approached to review this book I was intrigued.

I grew up reading Choose Your Own Adventure books and this one is a modern day one that focus on a young boy named Danny. The concept here is that a child has the ultimate super power: the power of choice. Such an important message not just for children but for everyone.

This book allows a child to make the choices of Danny’s behaviour and to find out that one positive choice has the power to change the entire day of not only oneself but of others. It’s a great book for groups, and children have fun making the choices and finding what happens next.

We have enjoyed it so much that we are giving away two copies of the book on our Instagram feed found here. Follow the link to enter. If you have ideas of ways to empower children with the power of choice we would love for you to share them. Leave a comment and we will share some of them in an upcoming post.

Sunday Book Club: Strictly No Elephants

We wanted to start the new year of our Book Club off with a good one and so when The Book Report sent this over we new it would be the one.

The sweet and tear jerking story of a boy and an elephant who are in need of a friend. It’s about putting on your best red scarf to go to the party only to have your friend turned away.

And it’s the story of making those hard decisions when the time comes to be a friend, and stand up for those that are different, alone and excluded.

While some in the Montessori world may raise a fuss at the lack of realism in this book due to the miniature main character, we would like to suggest that the message of Peace Education is far greater than worrying about whether or not a child will be confused by the tiny pachyderm.

This is the message that is so very needed in today’s world. It is a must have book for any classroom and home and the discussions it starts will last through a lifetime.

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.