Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sewing Book

Simone reviews the book, "Sewing in the Montessori Classroom" by Aimee Fagan

I loved this book from the opening page where Aimee says she is looking for practical life activities to include in her classroom. "I knew that I wanted activities that were culturally and socially relevant and appealing in my classroom, but what could those lessons be? ....For me, the answer was sewing."

The book shows the sequence of sewing activities you could do with your child even at home. Each activity has very clear steps and beautiful photos.

* The beginning sewing activities build from threading beads on a string to sewing cards.
* Intermediate sewing activities  include learning to sew button bracelets, bookmarks and simple felt finger puppets.
* And more advanced activities progress to making pillows and drawstring bags.
* Embroidery, french knitting and finger knitting are also included.

All with really clear, simple instructions to follow.

A really lovely modern Montessori book with projects you would love to make with your child. Available on Amazon or order it from your favorite independent bookstore!

I have no affiliation with this book. Just think it is worth sharing!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

For the Love of Books!

We love books!

It has been a pleasure to watch the success of our new bookstore, Content (the purveyors are parents at our school) here in Nfield. We are also excited to have Booker back on the road this summer and hope to hear the "beep, beep" in our parking lot during summer school in June and July.

Just because we love books so much, this post is a share from two favorite bloggers--Simone Davies at The Montessori Notebook and Dr. Dave Walsh at Mind Positive Parenting

In a nutshell--keep it real and let them chew on it.

 1. Keep it real

Young children are interested in the world around them (rather than fantasy) so choose books with pictures of real objects and stories about known experiences, such as visiting grandparents, going shopping or getting ready in the morning.

One of my favourite books for young children is Sunshine by Jan Ormerod -- it has no words but the most beautiful illustrations of daily life.

It is also nice to have books which show children from all cultures.

And, in keeping with having books based on reality, save books with animals driving cars, animals talking or animals going to the supermarket until your child is a little older. Last time I looked, there were no teddy bears driving down my street.

2. Choose beauty

If you have been learning about Montessori for a while you would have heard of the term “absorbent mind”. Young children are like sponges and absorb everything - good and bad (!) - from their environment.

So when we choose books, we should also make sure that they are beautiful so that the children can already build appreciation for beauty.

When we choose beautiful things, how carefully we hold them as if they were works of art. And it wont be lost on the child if the adult is also super excited to explore the book and admire the beauty.

3. Make them age appropriate

The age of the child will also impact the choice of book.

Board books are great for children under 1 who also enjoy exploring books with their mouths. Lift-the-flap books get interesting from 12 - 18 months and sturdy pages are also a good choice for toddlers. Then as the child gets older and are able to handle the books more gently, we can choose paper-back books and, for special editions, hard-back books.

Number of words
A book with one picture on a page is perfect for an infant; then a picture with a single word; then comes a picture with one sentence; followed by simple and then increasing complex stories.

For me, there are no strict rules though. For a very young child, I might make up my own sentence to sum up a page for a wordy book. Or often we have not even followed the story instead discussing the pictures, for example, “What do you think they are doing?” or “What can you see?”.  And I have read books numerous times in reverse order as the child turns the pages from back to front, sometimes quite quickly. Hilarious.

4. Choose books with rich language

Even though the child is young, my favourite books use descriptive words, accurate language and avoid baby talk. Children under 3 also enjoy books with a nice rhythm and rhyme. Hairy Maclary from Donaldsons Dairy has great realistic pictures and a beautiful rhyme - one book that the children will ask to read again and again.

5. Look for books with attractive details

I am sure I do not have to tell you that your child will want to read the same books over and over again. So it is extra fun when the books have lots of details in the illustrations and you can find new discoveries to discuss each time you read it.

A great example is the book by Dutch author/illustrator Charlotte Dematons called The Yellow Balloon. Again without any words, the pictures are so full of details that adult and child alike love to pore over this book to find new things, as well as look for the yellow balloon on each page.

And before I go, here is a small selection of the books that are being read over and over again in my classes at the moment.

For children under 1 year

For children from 1 to 2 years
For children from 2 to 3 years

So find a nice corner of the house, add a small chair or cushions, a small selection of books in a basket or front facing shelf, and you have a cosy reading corner that I am sure will be well used!

Please come and visit me over at Jacaranda Tree Montessori ( and if you are ever in Amsterdam, I would love you to pop by and say hello!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


This time of year brings many visitors to the children's house. While giving tours to prospective families and answering questions about decisions looming for parents of matriculating students, I stretch in my role as communicator. Striving for key points to stress about Montessori and education in general I am drawn to the idea of connection. Young children tend to develop emotional attachments to what is familiar and comfortable for them. The Montessori philosophy of education holds the environment of the child as one of the most important elements in development. Many who have not perhaps read much about Montessori, or see it in daily action as we do,  may not realize the importance of this environment.

A central tenet of Montessori’s pedagogy and philosophy holds that children must be free to follow their natural interests, leading to opportunities to develop their potential and increasing their knowledge of the world. Within the prepared environment, the child must experience freedom in a number of ways, including: movement, exploration, ability to interact socially, and the freedom to learn and grow without interference from others.
Structure and Order
On the surface, structure and order may seem at odds with the importance of freedom in the prepared environment.  The prepared environment is meant to reflect the considerable structure and order of the real world and presents an organized system that children must learn to understand in order to make sense of their surroundings and, ultimately, the world.  The ordered environment supports children’s ability to reason and provides consistent opportunities for children to validate their expectations and interactions with the world around them in predictable and consistent ways.

Social Environment
The multi-age classroom groupings provide tremendous benefit to children as part of the prepared environment.  Any number of benefits accrues to children as a result of learning within the Montessori social environment.  The opportunity to be the youngest, middle and oldest student cohort over time affords children unique perspectives and experiences at each stage.  At different times they receive help from older children or aspire to do things that older children do, they serve as role models or mentors for younger children and they have regular opportunities to develop compassion and empathy for others.  In addition, children’s ability to work and play in a variety of group settings is explicitly supported by the social environment that is intentionally created as part of Montessori’s methodology.

Intellectual Environment
The prepared environment ultimately aims to develop the whole child, not just the intellect, but intellectual development will not occur without the previous aspects of the environment in place.   The above aspects of the prepared environment, coupled with the Montessori curriculum and unique Montessori materials, supports children in moving from simple to complex ideas and from concrete to abstract understanding and manages to do so in a way that is truly individualized and differentiated.
Experiences in Nature
The opportunities we give them to interact and develop a relationship with the natural world, will help them to develop tools for environmental responsibility and ecological understanding. With young children sometimes spending up to 50 hours per week in early childhood settings, early childhood educators have an important role. Opportunities for our young children to explore the wonders of plants, bushes, trees, flowers, and animals are diminishing. We have to give them time and places to explore and interact with nature and living elements before they can understand it well enough to want to look after it.

It is a lot to explain on a short school tour... and the purpose of this post is certainly not to overwhelm parents during the decision making process.  Our goal is to impart a bit of this way of looking at the world of the child. They truly know their own child and can envision an environment in which he or she would thrive. We hope that in their time with us they feel just that, a real sense of connection.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Getting Into the Dirt

Happy Spring 2015!
Although it happens every year it still seems like a mini-miracle. Planting seeds at MCH with joyful, hopeful children. They are so close to the wonder of nature and we are ever fortunate to be working with them.

Reconnecting Children with Local Food and the Land