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.

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. 

Montessori Geography for the 3-6 year old child

The prepared environment whether indoors or out is where a Montessori child finds Awe and Wonder. The beauty of the environment sucks them in and doesn’t let go. 

The Culture section of this environment is my absolute favourite. It is diverse, centres around Peace Education, and opens a child’s eyes to the world around them. 

We have been using the materials of Waseca Biomes for years. ​

They are detailed, diverse and above all beautiful. 

The Seasons Mat and Celebration Sun was an early favourite. Not just for birthdays but also to learn the months and seasons  of the the year. 


We recently purchased the Landforms Mat and we have been continuing the work Quentin has done in his 3-6 classroom with the landforms. It is an awesome material because it brings the landforms together in a holistic way while gently moving into the abstract. Quentin loves following the prompts from the Level One cards such as “Fly, drive or sail to a body of water surrounded by land on 3 sides. Above he chose to move his sailboat to the Peninsula. There is a Level Two set and Level Three set included so this material will be relevant to him for years to come. 

We love these materials so much that we wanted to share them with other families. 

  
We are giving away this full set of the Africa Savannah Theatre Mat. It includes the theatre, grammar card set, animal tracks rubber stamps and sequence cards. 


To enter head over to our Instagram or Facebook accounts. 
We are so thrilled at the thought of a child being awed by this gorgeous material. 

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. 

Montessori family reunion: A social experiment 

What happens when you take two Montessori from Birth children, who live thousands of kilometres a part, who have never met, never spoken to each other, and place them in a Prepared Environment? 

  

    

  

You get instant friendship. 
We had the extreme pleasure of hosting Jasper and his family from Milkweed Montessori.

What transpired in our all too short visit was Grace and Couresty, as they prepared snack together, demonstrated materials and talked about their lives. Jasper talked about his trip and friends back home in his own Montessori Casa. Quentin talked about our recent family goings on and the up coming school holiday. 

Their was a quietness to both of them and it was magical to watch them both move around my classroom. Jasper tried the binomial cube (and completed it successfully) while Quentin got out the geography flags. They sat side by side as if they had done it 100 times before and it was beautiful. 
We are off on Winter holidays now, and my classroom is closed up, the shelves draped. 

Our upcoming weeks will be filled with peaceful home life and we will do our best to not fill it with busy holiday nonsense. To aid that, I’ll take a break from this space in order to fully be in the moment. 

Thank you to all my followers and friends. This has been a good year. I will see you on the other side of 2016.