Sunday Book Club: Sometimes I feel like a Fox

The Montessori 3-6 Prepared Environment has a large component focused on Culture. 

This section of the environment encompasses many things but it’s aim is to slowly and gently introduce the child to the world around them. This is the very first step of Montessori Peace Education. 


This week’s book (which can be found here) is awesome in many ways. It showcases 12 animals and their characteristics. It acts as a tool for adults working with children to  create mindfulness and open ended discussions about how these descriptions relate to them. It can also be use in dramatic games for children to act out each of the characteristics of the animals. 

However most importantly (and this is where the Montessori Culture aspect ties in) it exposes children to another people’s culture. Each of the animals described by young people in the book, is a totem animal or “doodem” in the Anishinaabe First Nations tradition. 

The author’s note explains the importance of totem animals in the Anishinaabe culture and how they can act as guides for young children. 

The importance of differences and ultimately our similarities between our cultures and our communities has always been strong. However perhaps it is even more important in today’s world. 

If you are looking for books that speak to tolerance, understanding and knowledge there are many excellent ones for children. Speak to your local librarian, teacher or bookshop owner for ideas. 

Montessori Peace Education: Music Resources 

Peace Education is my absolute favourite part of Montessori and is something that is often greatly overlooked and incredibly undervalued by classrooms and homes. 

As I often advocate, Montessori has little to do with the perfectly curated trays of beautiful wooden materials and instead looks to a much greater cause.

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. Mothers, fathers, politicians: all must combine in their respect and help for this delicate work of formation, which the little child carries on in the depth of a profound psychological mystery, under the tutelage of an inner guide. This is the bright new hope for mankind.” (The Absorbent Mind, p. 15)

I had the extreme pleasure to host a fantastic keynote speaker with my fellow British Columbia Montessori Association Board Members this weekend. 

Shelley spoke about her Sing Peace Around the World movement and it is an amazing thing to behold. 

Shelly has a host of other songs for singing with children that can be found here

If you are looking for ideas or want to add to your listening corner this is a great resource. ​

International Peace Day 


International Peace Day

The work of Montessori Peace Education is not reserved to one day. Instead, we labour against the norm. 

Against a culture that often promotes hatred, fear and anger. 

Against a world that highlights our differences as unacceptable. 

Instead we share the kindness. 

The Grace. 

The Courtesy. 

And we do it with the most important, influential member of our society. 

The Child. 

#sharethejoy #desmundtutu

Sunday Book Club: They All Saw a Cat 

“The cat walked through the world with its whiskers, ears, and claws. . .”


 

They All Saw a Cat is an fantastic new release about how different animals see the world. From a bird’s eye view to a skunk’s view of a black and white world, each animal sees the cat differently. 

So beautiful, fun and educational. There is also a deeper message. We each see the world slightly differently. But it is the same beautiful world. We can embrace our differences and be mindful of everyone’s unique view. 

Grace and Courtesy: Playing Competitive board games

Do your children play board games? They seem a bit antiquated now I suppose. We love them though and we are constantly on the look out for new ones. 

Quentin enjoys Bird Bingo (seen here), and Snakes and Ladders (seen here). Today I introduced Checkers because he’s been asking how to play. 


The board was made by my father for me when I was a child. Old and worn it was a perfect match to the newly oiled wooden checkers that arrived in the mail today. 

There are so many valuable lessons to be learned from competitive games. Concentration, patience, critical thinking. All the things the latest childhood research is telling us we need to teach more of in school. 

I think there is something much more important. 


“I won Mama.” A smile beginning on his lips. Then, a hand reaches across the table. 
“Good game Mama. You tried hard.” A tiny hand shakes mine before sitting back to survey his achievement. 

“Wanna play again?”

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For us, we pretty much can keep it together the majority of the year. But come each January it all goes off the rails. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s the post holiday deflate. The holidays are over and winter is most definitely here and maybe we just get stuck in a rut. Whatever the reason I feel completely run ragged.
So… Instead of dwelling on that fact or describing the deplorable state of the house, I’ll let you in on all the changes. Or some of them anyway.

The amount of change happening with Quentin is not able to be properly described in words. His language, movement and independence are exploding. It was over our Winter school holidays that Anthony very graciously decided that he didn’t need his Montessori shelves anymore and that Quentin could use them. The eight extra spots for materials means that Quentin has a really good variety of materials on his shelves but that there are not too many to overwhelm him. The Montessorian in me wanted to set them up as you would find in a traditional Montessori classroom: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math and Culture. That didn’t happen. I just couldn’t get them grouped right so I’ve had to let that go, and be happy with the fact that all 5 subjects are present throughout the entire work space. If you want to get an idea of the materials Quentin is using at 1 1/2, you can click on the Instagram photos on this site.

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My big change is that, after years of wanting to, I finally just did it and went back to school. I applied and got accepted into the North American Montessori Centre’s 3-6 Montessori Teaching degree. Yes, some nights there’s even a little wine and good chocolate to go with the studying. It is in a completely different direction than what my formal education is, but I have been longing to do it for so long that finally I just broke down and did.
It has been exhausting, but it has also been amazing. It has affirmed what I hold dear in my heart as the right way to raise our children and has given me a real chance to think about education on every level. But that is for another post. There is another piece of the school puzzle. My husbands piece.

My husband took parental leave when Quentin was born. It was an amazing thing for them both, and something that changed them forever. My husband also decided that his year of leave would also be the perfect time to begin his Masters of Psychology in Clinical Counselling. Yes, that is why there are two wine glasses and computers on the table. Most nights we are hunkered down together pouring over course material (hmm I think I may see a pattern forming here). He is nearing the end of his program and about to start his practicum, something that will mean giving his notice to leave his position at work. It will mean so many things, and they will all play out in time I hope.

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We have been reading this book with Quentin. We are focusing on Peace Education quite a bit with him right now. He is a beautiful, gentle, kind little boy, but like any child with an Absorbent Mind he mirrors what he sees. It’s extremely important to us that his day be filled with positive peaceful (ideally Montessori) modelling whether he’s with us or not. There are many things that I am hoping to change about his day, but until I know more I won’t give them away quite yet. I will only say that there are many fantastic resources out there to help aid Peace Education at home and I would encourage anyone interested to seek them out.

Through all of the craziness, it has been the teenager that has kept it all together. Anthony plays a large and important roll in his brother’s life. Despite Anthony’s extracurriculars and course load at school, he still plays with Quentin on a daily basis and I can’t help thinking that it is his Montessori life that has laid the firm foundation for his excellent relationship with his brother. He also follows his passions deeply, and he is a loyal friend. I really couldn’t ask for more.

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This year will see many, many changes for us. Some that I have mentioned and some still yet to come. When it gets a bit much I try to remember what’s really important, and what I try never ever to take for granted: we’re happy, we’re healthy, and we have each one of us together.

The Building of Peace

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It’s right around this time of year that this message makes me really think.

What does peace mean to our little family?

Well, it is not something that I can easily define, that part is certain. Martin Luther King Jr. was certainly right when he said “Hate begets hate, and violence begets violence”, but I don’t think that’s quite all of it.

I think Peace begets Peace

Like any other area of Montessori, peaceful behaviour is something that must be modelled if we hope children to do it. In our house we use the Silence Game when things become chaotic for Quentin. A single candle lit in a dim and quiet room while we sit together and quietly watch it calms him more often than not. We try (and try is the word because we are never perfect) to use calm tones when speaking to each other. Each of us finds peace in our home in their own way, and so I would (and anyone who has been here) call our house for the most part peaceful.

We have worked hard to have a peaceful home. For Small Hands has a great selection of Peace, Spirit and Conflict Resolution materials. The North American Montessori Centre has a post with some great ideas on making a Peace Basket and encouraging peace in your environment. But that’s only the beginning I think.

What about building peace in the world? Montessori implores us to build peace in humanity. An impossible task? I don’t know. Today’s world sometimes seems impossible. But Montessori lived through and advocated for Peace Education in one of the worlds darkest times. Surely there must be a chance.

Perhaps Empathy is a good place to start. Or Understanding. The worlds borders are shrinking smaller and smaller every day. Perhaps our instinct to think of ourselves and our families first gets in the way sometimes of sharing peace with our neighbours or the so often “forgottens” of our communities.

What would happen if I shared a small kindness with a stranger? Maybe nothing. But maybe something.

I guess I’m not able to answer my own question of what does peace mean to us. I can only start with the basics which for us are love and respect. How can we ensure those things for our children’s children’s lifetime? That’s a much harder one.