A Montessori Field Trip: Westside Montessori

Although I currently teach in a Montessori Upper Elementary 9-12 year old classroom and love it, as most people know, my heart will always belong to 3-6. However, what most people don’t know is that right in the middle of my Montessori heart there is a small yet brightly glowing centre and that centre is a well executed Montessori infant toddler programme.

I have been so fortunate to know Bettina from Westside Montessori School for almost as long as Quentin has been earth side but due to COVID last year and us being in Nigeria the year before, this was the first time I’d ever been able to observe in her infant toddler summer programme.

It was worth the wait.

The attention to even the smallest detail is something Westside is known for. From simple puzzles for the youngest child to a beautifully laid out movement area for toddlers on the go, the environment welcomes everyone.

Mischa, the lead Montessori Guide whom I’ve met previously was so welcoming of me being in the space and we chatted about life as we both now have university aged kids, but what I loved most were her interactions with the children. She was kind and patient but also light hearted. Even when a young child stood precariously on top of the slide, which by the way holds the most fondest of memories for me (if you’ve been round for awhile you may remember scenes like this).

Perhaps what is the most amazing aspect of this infant toddler space is that during the school year it is an equally stunning and detailed elementary classroom (did you notice the empty bed cabinet) and so every single elementary material must be carefully packed away into on site storage and the artwork lowered to bring it down to a toddler’s sight line. So much hard work and dedication from the staff and I’m grateful to have been able to see it before I return to my own classroom in the coming weeks.

If you are new to Montessori and wondering what to look for in a school space for your child, the list is simple:

  • A clean, bright, well thought out space
  • Montessori classroom materials specific to the age group and the ability for each child to proceed through those materials at their own pace (unsure just ask)
  • A focus on independence for the child regardless of age
  • A Montessori trained Guide that cares deeply for the children in the environment, not only speaking in a manner learned in their Montessori training but also experiences joy right along with the children

Montessori Sunday Bookclub: Our new book

This has been in the works for quite awhile and I’m excited to finally be able to say it’s almost here! If you follow us on Instagram you will likely have already seen some sneak peeks of the inside but I really wanted to give you a bit more of an in-depth tour here.

I often get asked to write Montessori related content in books and other media but I’ve never before loved the intention behind it. Maria Montessori designed a way of fostering a child’s natural development that was meant to focus on the child’s own unique interests and abilities. I really wanted to showcase how as a multi level trained Montessori teacher I use the Montessori pedagogy in my classrooms. I also wanted to showcase how I’ve used my Montessori training to create a Montessori home with our two boys. A simple and easy to use recipe book that one could grab, flip through and easily set up ideas without the need to buy expensive or excessive materials.

It was also extremely important to me that some of my most cherished facts about child development and a deeper dive into the pedagogy as a whole could be included but that it would be easy to understand and implement. I’m so happy with how it turned out.

The book begins with some Montessori information specific to toddlers. As I mention in the pages, toddlerhood can be a tricky time. Not quite the independence of a preschooler but definitely not a baby anymore!

Once some key ideas about Montessori and toddlerhood are down, the next section is for the activities! I’ve broken the activities into 5 categories: Motor Skills, Art, Practical Life, Sensorial and Language.

I’ve arranged them in sequential order just like you’d find in a classroom environment from youngest to oldest. The index at the back of the book helps break down activities in age groups from 1 to 3 year olds and so it’s my hope that anyone using the book can quickly and easily find inspiration that’s age appropriate for their child.

Each of the activities in all of the 5 categories are set up in an easy to implement way. The list of materials is short and each step is laid out including what skill the activity strengthens in the child and ways you can alter the activity to better fit the needs of the child doing it.

Pre-orders are already open around the world (and can be found here). I’m so thankful for everyone’s love and support through this amazing process. I’ve loved sharing the little snippets that have made up Our Montessori Life over all these years.

Montessori Summer Printables Bundle Sale

School ended yesterday for us and I’ve been searching for some simple nature based materials and activities to use this summer as so many of the places we love are still closed here.

It’s often hard to find good quality inexpensive Montessori compatible materials. So I was thrilled when I discovered this huge Montessori printables bundle on sale!!

It has exactly what I was looking for and so much more and it will last us long after summer goes.

Over 2000 pages of top quality digital resources including guides, an e-book, e-courses and so many printables!! There’s tons of Practical Life, Language, Math and Nature Studies resources for children aged 3-6 and 6-9 although many of these printables could also be used for interested toddlers or older children.

The best part is that the bundle is on sale until tomorrow June 14th for 95% off it’s retail price!!

Click on the video below to see so much of what this bundle has to offer and click here to see more details or purchase.

A Montessori Field Trip: A visit to Brooklyn Children’s House

I love observing in toddler/preprimary environments and so when I had the chance to observe at Brooklyn Children’s House I eagerly took it.

Lisa is the owner and her space is beautiful and so thoughtfully laid out. One of the biggest misconceptions about the Montessori pedagogy is that you need a lot of space and a lot of stuff. It simply isn’t true.

Throughout the two main rooms, children were happily working with Practical Life materials, art materials and having snack. If you have ever doubted an independent group toddler snack is possible go and visit Lisa. Three children happily sat around a toddler sized table serving themselves fruit and crackers and then putting their personalize placemats away and washing their dishes.

Toddlers are often not a quiet and calm bunch. They are also still working on their empathy, and emotional regulation. When teachers are trained to understand the underlying neurological and social development going on, appropriate and above all caring responses to that behaviour can happen. It was lovely to witness that in this space. It was also lovely to watch other very young children show empathy when asking if a child was ok, which is a testament to the hard foundational Peace and Courtesy work Lisa has put in.

I loved my visit and seeing the beautiful detail oriented space Lisa has curated for her students. If you are curious about quality authentic Montessori programmes please leave a comment and we will try to answer your questions.

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 Practical Life Food Prep: Hand pressed juice

“The exercises of practical life are formative activities, a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment therein is the very essence of a useful education.”- Maria Montessori

We absolutely love the independence a Montessori Child’s kitchen provides.

Although Quentin mostly uses the regular height countertops of our home’s kitchen now at almost seven years old, he still uses his little kitchen for food prep.

Of all the juices we have pressed over the years, grapes are his favourite. Here he is at 3 years old pressing them.

And here he is today with the same little juicer that’s been going strong all these years.

One of the reasons we love this juicer so much is that it is completely useable by even the youngest child. The hand crank and the plunger keep little fingers out of the way and the fact that it’s see though means you can observe every step of the juice extraction.

The pulp exists at the end of the cone an we love examining that as well. The children in my 3-6 Montessori classroom are always fascinated by the entire process and lots of questions arise.

“Why doesn’t it taste like my juice from the store” is the most common one I get in the classroom. It always makes me smile because I remember back to that day of a little apron clad Quentin in the kitchen and his own oh so distinct Quentin answer:

“Mine doesn’t taste like the one from the store, mine just tastes like grapes. I guess cause mine doesn’t have any garbage in it.”

We purchased our juicer all those years ago from here. If your child is hesitant about new flavours, hand pressed juice is often a favourite even if you mix two flavours together.

New Montessori at Home Materials

It’s been a weekend full of sunshine and the promise of Spring here. And so I was thrilled to pull some gorgeous new language materials out of the postbox this weekend!

If you follow us on Instagram you’ll know that we love following beautiful, hard working creative small businesses and Hobbs Farm is one of our absolute favourites.

It’s even more wonderful that they are Canadian and they can be purchased here in Canada! I’m going to frame these beautiful alphabet cards to use as art in my 3-6 Montessori classroom’s Language area.

Wishing you all a beautiful end to your weekend!

A new Christmas Book

When this book was featured to be released I knew we simply had to have it. So much so that when I found it wasn’t going to released here for a while I ordered it from overseas.

We are big Shirley Hughes fans and I can remember being read her books as a child. This one didn’t disappoint.

The end pages say it all. Her beautiful realistic artwork and simple yet rich text grab the reader right away. This book has the perfect mix of interesting ideas to make, as well as some lovely stories and poems.

We used to make these simple paper lanterns when I was very young.

As with all Shirley Hughes books they have a distinct British feel with simplicity at the heart of the text. This book can easily be lovingly tucked away each year, ready to bring out the next year to awaiting little ones.

We hope you are enjoying a peaceful and restful weekend.

Montessori Book Club: This year’s favourite Winter books

We have been rotating our book shelves with week to fill them with our favourite winter themed books. We have previously posted some of our favourites here which include our favourite winter wordless book Fox’s Garden.

In November is a gorgeous testimonial to the gathering of family at this time of year and nature’s slow curling up for winter. The illustrations done in oil on paper, exude warmth and also the chill in the air.

We wrote about Sleep Tight Farm here. Two years later it’s still one that we all eagerly wait to pull out of storage and put on the shelves.

Frozen Wild: How Animals Survive in the Coldest Places on Earth has been sitting in my cart for a year and I finally purchased it for my 3-6 classroom. Jim Arnosky is an amazing artist and this book reads almost like a field journal. It’s fold out pages give some fantastic detail on the adaptive nature of the creatures with share this world with.

Earlier this week we wrote about Winter is Coming here. It’s has been read multiple times a day in both my classroom and at home. I have no idea why I waited so long to purchase it but I’m so glad it will have a place on our shelves from now on.

Lastly this is a newly released book with the text written by Margaret Wise Brown.

Sandwiched between the book ends of her beautiful poetry is her story of a new calf being born into the cold and the young boy Jonathan who cares for the animals of the barn. It’s absolutely stunning. Although we picked up our copy from our local library this would be a perfect gift for any small farm loving child and it can be found at major book retailers world wide.

What winter themed books are gracing your book shelves currently?

We will be splicing in some of our favourite holiday and tradition themed books in the coming weeks.

Book Club Summer Edition Part 2: More Books and activities a year later

One year later after we wrote part one of this post here we are settling into our summer rhythm once again. And once again we are following the Montessori approach to home learning, which means we “follow the child”. So although there is always an opportunity to foster curiosity we don’t advocate for structured, academic summer home learning.

Books and extension invitations are such a fun way for us to spend quality time together. These are some of our favourites this year.

The Darkest Dark is a favourite Canadian read here. Astronaut Chris Hadfield recounts a story of his childhood of big imaginations, big dreams and being afraid of the dark. We love the illustrations and comical and relatable moments. It’s perfect for kids 3-6.

Max and the Tag Along Moon is by the multi award winning Floyd Cooper. His soft paintings tell a gorgeous story of a small boy’s love for his Grandfather who reminds him that the same moon that shines over them together will shine over them when they are apart. Max watches the moon as it “tags along” all the way back to his own house. Perfect for kids 2+.

We have written about some of our own favourite moon and space nature activities here.

Straw painting is so easily accessible to children beginning around two years old. It requires nothing more than a straw and some coloured water. We have loved making constellations over the years.

We also watch the Perseid Meteor shower every year in August. I have fond memories of curling up with Quentin in the back yard hammock, wrapped in a blanket, watching the streaks of light cross the sky. You can find all the details of that meteor shower here. If you aren’t in a great viewing location for this space event, research what you can see. Summer is the perfect time for star gazing.

Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses was recommended by our friend Fred Ted and Company. I’m so glad they did. It’s our favourite new book on our shelves. A true story of a young boy who lives in New York and dislikes the noise and crowds. He instead decides to seek refuge in Central Park and build tree houses. A book about following your passion despite what people may say, it is an excellent read for children 5 and up.

Westlandia has been on our shelves for over a decade. It was our oldest’s absolute favourite as a young boy. Another story of a boy who doesn’t quite fit in and decides to follow his own path. There’s a reason it has stood the test of times in this house. Well written with extremely rich language and beautifully coloured pages, this story sparks imagination, follows the Montessori Great Lessons and ultimately showcases that it’s not only ok to be different from the masses; it’s essential. It is essential reading material for all children but especially those that feel like outcasts. Ideal for children 7+.

Our own front yard tree house was there long before Quentin came along and gave both the boys so much fun. Anthony especially. He would spend summer nights up there, lantern light glowing through the window, curled up in his sleeping bag reading with a snack. Regrettably it had to come down earlier this year. Quentin was devastated as he was not yet big enough to climb the rope ladder independently. We will have to consider a rebuild when he is older.

We keep all our Montessori compatible outdoor space ideas on our Montessori Outdoor Space Pinterest Board here. There is something for everyone from the beginner looking to bring in a little outdoor play to the advanced builder looking for their next project.

We hope that you are having a relaxing, exciting and memory making Summer.