Sunday, December 21, 2014

Just a Few Things This Week

We didn't do any formal school time this week and probably won't next week either. 'Tis the season for celebrating! And learning hard lessons on being patient while waiting for exciting holidays.

DJ received the Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards for his birthday. His initial response was frustration when he didn't have the dexterity to make the patterns without the tiles sliding all over. After getting some great advice, I began playing with the tiles without the pattern boards. In this picture, I made the flower. DJ was inspired and before I knew it, he had designed the circle to the left of my flower! He asked me to hold the yellow hexagon still but he placed all the squares and triangles himself.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Still Learning

DJ started out his "school" this week by having me help him put this world puzzle together that he got for his birthday. While he has mastered the 12 piece wooden Melissa & Doug jigsaw puzzles, a puzzle with this many pieces and such a complex picture is still beyond him. I simplified the task by stacking the pieces into 7 piles corresponding to each continent. We started with Antarctica and worked our way clockwise around the map.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

More School Days

DJ and I went to a puppet show of the Very Hungry Caterpillar this week. The puppeteers were from Nova Scotia so when we came home, we pulled out the World Map puzzle to see where Nova Scotia is. DJ's grandparents recently went to San Diego for the winter so I showed him where we live, where San Diego is and where Nova Scotia is. I had told him it would take two days to drive to San Diego, which made a big impression on him. He keeps saying "it's really far away!"

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Game Day

DJ received this My Very First Games - First Orchard Game by Haba for his 2nd birthday a year ago. It said on the box 2+ but DJ wasn't really ready for it last year. He didn't understand taking turns and the goal of the game was lost on him because he WANTED the crow to eat the fruit and couldn't be bothered with rolling the die. He played with it for a bit and then ignored it for a long time so it got out in the garage and forgotten for months.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Week

This was a short week with the Thanksgiving holiday. DJ selected the Brown Stair and Pink Tower together. Ever since I showed him examples on the internet he's been very interested in building them himself.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Let's do skool!

Earlier this week, DJ surprised me by saying, "Let's do school!" Before this he hadn't really shown an awareness that the fun things we do for school were different than playing with toys. I had hesitated initially to even call it school, but so many of his friends are in preschool now, and school is mentioned in books and TV shows and even his hairdresser asked if he's in school.

Friday, November 14, 2014

School Day

The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity that has amazed and excited me. But at the same time, I've been noticing that DJ hasn't been settling into his schoolwork. Instead of being more focused, he's been flittering from one project to the next. Instead of procedures becoming good habits, he's been avoiding even the steps, like using a work mat, that he initially enjoyed. In my reading, I've learned that one way to get back on track is to return to Practical Life activities. We've done a lot of Practical Life around the house, but I've never had much of it on the shelves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Parts of a Car Free Download

My son LOVES cars. Well, to be more accurate, he's obsessed with anything with wheels - cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, anything. If he is nearby, a toy vehicle is not far. One of his favorite activities is to sit in the driver's seat of my car and pretend to drive.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Happy Birthday!

DJ's birthday was this week and he's now officially 3 years old. When it came time to light the candles, DJ began singing Happy Birthday to himself! It was adorable.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bringing books to life

In the past few years, I've read several blogs where a favorite book was brought to life through miniatures, felt boards or crafts. I've been secretly envious of the ingenuity of the moms who were able to make that happen. But this week, the cosmic forces aligned and this phenomena happened in our house!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! This week has been full of a lot of fun and DJ had his first experience Trick or Treating door-to-door in our neighborhood. He loved it! He received this Boo, Bunny book last year and has had me read it to him countless times over the past two weeks. So many times, he can now repeat the book word for word as he pretends to "read" it. That's a new thing of his lately, requesting his books to be read 2-3 times back to back and now that he counts to three, he makes a point to specify when he chooses a book, "read this...3 times".

Friday, October 24, 2014

Counting 1-2-3

DJ worked with the red rods quite a bit this week. These are supposed to be solid red at this stage and are used to get a sensory experience of the difference between 1 to 10. The basic use of these is to set them out in random order and then line them up from longest to shortest, with the left side aligned to show the different lengths along the right side.

In this photo you can see DJ has three bars (8-10) in place and he has selected #7 to move next. If you look really closely you'll see he has a little red truck in his hands. He was using the truck to pretend that it was towing each piece into place. This took a long time but he actually stuck with the activity and completed it all the way to the shortest rod.

DJ can consistently count objects to 3 now. If he tries to count more than 3 objects it comes out as 1-2-3-1-2-3. 😜 While many children DJ's age might have been taught to count by rote to as high as 10 or more, Montessori avoids memorization until after there is comprehension. So he won't be expected to count to 10 until he understands what a group of 10 items is, or in this case a length of 10.

I finally introduced the Touch Tablets to DJ this week! He has had the Rough/Smooth Boards (also seen in the picture) on his shelves for months now, but I held off on the Touch Tablets for two reasons, I didn't think he was ready for the blindfold and he doesn't really like to match things.

After our recent blindfold game, he has been eager to put it on several times so I figured now was a good time. The Touch Tablets help develop the sense of touch with his fingertips, which is a key part of the sandpaper letters that are used to teach writing & reading in Montessori.

I presented the activity as described in my albums but things went a little downhill once he had the blindfold on. He is so used to being able to see that he's very clumsy without his eyesight and fumbled with the boards as I handed them to him. A couple of times he felt the back of the board instead of the sandpaper side and then declared the pair the same. Heh, well they're all on the same wood so it was just confusing for him. This is the first time that I've wished I could see an experienced teacher giving this lesson. I'll have to see if there is a youtube video before we try this again.

DJ selected a knobbed cylinder block again. He's worked with these so much, I decided to try one of the extensions - a distance matching game where we put the cylinders across the room, then I put a stick in one of the holes and instruct him to go find the matching cylinder. He did well with the largest and smallest that I chose first. But when I tried to choose a random hole next, he said no and moved the stick to the next largest hole. I told him that wasn't how the game was played, that I select a hole and he finds the match. He relented, looked at the hole I chose and ran to get the cylinder. But when he returned with the wrong one, he just moved the stick into the hole of the cylinder he'd brought over. Doh!

DJ also selected the folding activity again which I'm glad to see after it sat unloved for so long. Only this time he did them all in the double-horizontal fold, ignoring the markings showing that two had diagonal folds and the other a single horizontal fold into a rectangle. But I didn't say anything. Folding them all into squares is good practice so it didn't really matter that it wasn't completely correct.

This week I made up this Plants vs Animals activity since DJ had shown such progress with the Living vs NonLiving activity. I had expected this to be an easier task for DJ, but it was definitely a lesson for me to see the world through a toddler's eyes as strange and confusing. There is SO much for him to learn and I take his abilities for granted so often.

After talking with DJ about the difference between plants and animals, I showed him the cards and said let's sort them. Looking at the first card, DJ said it was a butterfly. I asked him if it was a plant or animal and he said, "It's a butterfly". I listed off the characteristics that made it an animal and said, "A butterfly is an animal." He looked at me strangely and said, "No, it's a butterfly." Haha. Yeah, we're going to have to work on this some more.

Next we looked through the /a/ sound box. We've been doing a lot of sound games in the car each day. Every so often I see a glimmer of understanding from him but it hasn't really clicked for him yet. Today he happened to be eating an apple when we started this activity and he had fun pretending to eat the plastic apple too.

While working with this box, he started shrieking /a/!! So I laughed and said, "What does alligator start with?" He shrieked /a/! "What does astronaut start with?" He shrieked /a/! After a few more, I said "What does dog start with?" He started to say /a/ but stopped himself. He thought for a moment and then said /b/. Yay! Ok, he wasn't right, but that's not important. What's important is that he understood what I was asking him. Slow, slow progress, but definitely progress.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Folding & Baking

We had a busy few days this week so we didn't do much with the Montessori shelves but as usual, there were a handful of activities.

This is something that is most exciting for me. This folding activity has been on the shelves for months, gathering dust. In fact, the last time he worked with them was back in June. He couldn't figure them out then, so he just rolled them like work mats. But today, he did it! He folded all 4 of them and was so proud of himself.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


We went to the pumpkin patch this week and brought back a BIG pumpkin. DJ actually helped plant this pumpkin himself back in April, sort of.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Homeschool Art Co-op!

DJ had his first art class with our homeschool co-op for kids 3-6 years old. He was supposed to start last week, but he was sick so we had to miss it. I was SO sad. But today, he was able to go and he "HAD A LOT OF FUN"! (His words as we left to get lunch).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A little of everything

We've been home more than usual since DJ has had an early fall cold. So we had two good days of "school" this week.

Days of the Week

I've had a project in my head for awhile that I finally completed this week! I've had this Tell Me About Today Calendar for awhile and I like it for a number of reasons. It's relatively small, it has Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow in a logical order and the pillowy weather, season and date icons are fun.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No Pictures?!

I recently learned of this book for children that has no pictures, titled The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. I watched the video linked at the end and instantly went to Amazon to buy it. Here is the book cover:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fire Safety!

This week our homeschool group visited a fire safety event at a local fire station.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Farm Life: Apple & Grape Picking

Our toddler group visited a U-Pick Farm owned and operated by a mom of two. It is incredible to think of the work she has put into this farm while also raising her daughters. Such an inspiration!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Map work and more

I finally got the courage to bring out the World Map puzzle. DJ loves it! I showed him how to match the puzzle pieces to the control sheet. This will become more important when we get to maps like the US or Asia where there are a lot of little tiny pieces.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Alfie Kohn: A Voice in the Wilderness

My husband and I had a rare treat tonight - an evening out together without our son. Even better, we attended a speech by Alfie Kohn titled Unconditional Parenting: Beyond Bribes & Threats.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Practical Life: Care of Plants

Continuing our studies in the Practical Life album, I came across the section on Care of Plants. This is not my forte. I do not have a green thumb and plants tend to wither in my presence. I'm hoping to give DJ a chance to know more about plants. So we're starting simple with a house plant.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Brown Stair Activity and more

Because we were away for vacation most of last week I had expected I wouldn't have any Montessori activities to write about. But Friday afternoon, DJ surprised me with a whirlwind of work, including more work with the Brown Stair than any other time since he first received it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vacation 2014

We're on vacation this week and DJ had an awesome time as we stayed at a lake house with friends.

Bike Riding

Friday, September 5, 2014

End of Summer

We've been really busy the past week so this is going to be a full post. Many kids are going back to school this week and if DJ were going to go to preschool, he likely would have started sometime this month so I'm starting to feel like our homeschooling is getting to be a bit more "official". So far we haven't done any back to school special activities. We still "do school" at DJ's whim. Whenever he decides to choose something from his Montessori shelves is when school happens.

Monday, August 25, 2014

New Lacing Cards and a lot of activity

DJ received these new-to-us Lacing Cards this week. I bought them secondhand for $10 and they're great. They are 9x12 heavy cardboard with adorable pictures of various tools. Perfect for a little guy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Asleep in a Chair

After a few weeks of ignoring these opposite cards, DJ selected them out of the blue one evening. We laid out half the cards (30 sets total) and I pulled one card at a time from the other stack. Then DJ found the matching (opposite) card. In this photo, I have a long rope and he's looking for a short rope. He actually did about half of the matches before losing interest. How did I know he had lost interest? He started sitting on the displayed cards, tossing them in the air, shaking his head and making silly noises. You know, basic toddler speak for "Mommy, I'd like to not do this anymore."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Little of This and a Little of That

It's been slow in terms of Montessori work lately. The summer has been busy with swimming, bicycling, trips, spending time with grandparents and potty training so there hasn't been as much interest in the Montessori shelves. But there has been a little.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Land & Water Forms

Continuing our introduction to geography, DJ had his first presentation of the land & water forms this week. This material is used to teach the various shapes of land and water found around the world in corresponding pairs such as island/lake, peninsula/gulf, straight/isthmus, etc. While this is a very common early geography lesson, it has particular relevance to the region we live in, which is rich with lakes, islands, peninsulas, straights and a sound (which is similar to a gulf except with more than one entrance from the ocean).

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Last Week of July

DJ has been really enjoying the warm weather this month. We went to the local public wading pool a few days ago and DJ met this little boy and his awesome alligator. It was the perfect ride and DJ attached himself to it for an extended stay.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Grace & Courtesy

Image from:

One of the least photogenic areas of Montessori education is also one of the most important : Grace & Courtesy. While teaching please and thank you is a common aspect of all youth programs, grace & courtesy has a greater meaning to Montessori classrooms. Having lived through both world wars, Dr Montessori was profoundly influenced by the need to establish peace in the world. From her perspective, teaching children to coexist in a respectful manner regardless of culture, race, religion, economic status or any other differences was paramount to ending the need for war.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Out and About

This was a really light week in terms of Montessori activities. DJ has been making a lot of progress with potty training and I'm wondering if that has him preoccupied. We're so excited though to see success in that area.  Still a long way left to go though, but we'll take all the forward momentum we can get.
Maybe there wasn't a lot of "school work" this week, but DJ did his share of gross motor activity. We went to a park on Thursday and DJ had a blast. It had a water feature which is why he's wearing his swimsuit. But it was this rope version of monkey bars that caught his interest. He really wanted to climb to the top like the bigger kids. Some day, little man. Just keep trying.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bears, Tapirs and Busy Bags!

We visited the zoo again this weekend and it was an amazing day to see the animals. So many of them were in full view, it was a real treat. This is the first time we've made it to the bear exhibit and what a special visit it was! While we were watching, both bears got into the water and swam up to the glass, just inches away from DJ. He was thrilled.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

IFIT Montessori Vendor Review

 When I first began researching Montessori materials, I was very interested in any reviews I could find on the various vendors available to purchase from.  The full set of materials are expensive and the "official" suppliers are VERY expensive.  But the "discount" suppliers have been plagued with bad reviews of low quality and poor customer service.  So what is a budget minded homeschooler supposed to do?  Ultimately, I went with price and bought from the cheapest vendor I could find, which in this case was IFIT Montessori Equipment based in Surrey, BC, Canada.  In the end, I am happy with my decision, but I did hesitate to write a review because I did have an unpleasant experience with their customer service in the end.  But last week I learned that, although they refused to fix my complaint, they are fixing the product for any future customers, so I do have to give them some credit for that.  (Note:  This review is very long and detailed, but as I said, this kind of information was gold to me when I was researching so I hope it will be of help to others as well).

Helping Dad

DJ absolutely adores his dad and he also loves being useful. While he is too young to actually mow the lawn, he has decided to help in his own way. Every time my husband mows the lawn, DJ follows him with his tractor saying he's "helping daddy." If you look closely you'll see he's wearing boots and a pair of work gloves "just like dad."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Start Good Work with a Great Breakfast

We started this morning making breakfast. As usual, DJ is a big part of that. Today we made pancakes. First DJ gets the box of mix from the pantry. He uses a 1/2 cup scoop to measure out the mix (with my help to be sure it's full). Then he pours in the water. The mix that we buy is only sweetened with a little honey, so we add half a banana to sweeten it up. In the photo above you can see DJ mashing the banana with a fork.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Last week of June

DJ worked with the Number Rods this week. He lined them all up like train tracks. Although that's not the goal, he is getting a sensory experience of long and short rods. Later in the week, I saw him walking the shortest rod up the "stairs," noticing the 2+1 was the same length as the 3 and the 3+1 the same as 4, etc.  When he is able to align these rods from the shortest (one) to the longest (ten), he'll move on to the beginning of the math sequence with this tool, learning to count from 1 to 10 and then matching the numeric symbols to the proper length rod.

Monday, June 23, 2014


DJ has this great little board book called The Art of Shapes for Children and Adults by Margaret Steele.  On the left of each page is an artistic reproduction and on the right is a common shape that has been selected from within the art. DJ likes it because he can name all of the shapes and then find it "hidden" in the art.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Practical Life & the Binomial Cube

This week started off with Daddy's birthday. DJ helped me make dinner for daddy and he set the table, starting with cleaning it.  Please note that this is NOT how I told him to do this! But he was very thorough with the process and even cleaned each of the chairs several times.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Our toddler group had an outing at a local farm today to pick strawberries. 40 toddlers and 25 parents. It was a real challenge to get pictures without other children in the background! The weather was beautiful after a week of chilly rain and everyone had a blast!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

DIY Wall Mounted Art Easel

One of my favorite parts of DJ's play area is the wall mounted art easel.  My husband made this for DJ for his 2nd birthday/Christmas and I can't be happier with how it turned out.  And it has inspired a lot of free form art from DJ as he's able to access writing tools (crayons, colored pencils, markers and paint pens) and paper whenever he wants.  He can also see art supplies like paint, glue and scissors at all times to inspire him to ask for them whenever the mood strikes.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Week in action

We didn't do as much this week but Friday in particular was a day for working on his Montessori activities. DJ has had a flower arranging activity on his shelves for awhile but doesn't usually select it. That tray had artificial flowers, already cut to length to fit in the vase. Our neighbor gave us a bouquet of peonies. It was the perfect opportunity to teach DJ how to cut flower stems with scissors and he loved it! Without Montessori philosophy, I would never have thought to give scissors to a 2 year old, let alone have him arrange flowers. But he is truly thriving with the challenge.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Busy Week!

Last week was a busy one for DJ so here are some photos of his activities:

DJ was able to help spin this Kugel Ball at the Science Center. A key principle of Montessori preschool is real life experience and DJ loves any museum where touching is expected!  And of course, anything to do with water ranks up high on the preferred list.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Keys of the World Primary Albums

In my first post, I talked a bit about my planning stage at that time.  I have read all of the books I listed there and more since then, but I decided not to take the KHT Montessori training program as I thought I would.  Although I do believe, based on reviews I've read that it is a quality program, there were a couple of key aspects that led me to an alternate choice.  A couple of months ago, I purchased instead the Keys of the World Primary Albums (currently available via Garden of Francis).

Monday, June 2, 2014

Cylinder Blocks in Action

One of the very first sensorial materials introduced in a Montessori classroom are the Cylinder Blocks.  They are made of wood, with 10 cylinders cut out of each block.  In one block, the cylinders are all the same height but decline in width from thick to thin.  In another block, the cylinders are all the same width but decline in height from tall to short (this is the hardest block).  A third block declines in both height and width (Tall/Thick down to Short/Thin) while the last declines in height while increasing in width (Tall/Thin to Short/Thick).

Friday, May 30, 2014

"School Room" tour 2014

While it is common for homeschool blogs to give "school room" tours, our school room is in our living room.  So welcome to our house!  Our living room is long and narrow so it's difficult to get an overview picture of the whole room.  The picture above is DJ's play area.  These shelves have mostly toys, although there are some educational benefits to most of them.  The brown box is full of books.  Too many books, I know, but I find it really hard to choose which ones to leave, so I just put them all in.  Well, not all, he has a bookshelf in his bedroom too.  Tucked between the books and the shelf, you can see DJ's rolled up work mat.  It's a 2'x4' piece of carpet that he rolls out to define his work space when doing Montessori activities.  On the wall, you can see his art easel that daddy made for him.  I'll have to do a detailed post on that soon.  The roadmap quilt on the floor was made by DJ's grandmother for his birthday.  It's not always there, but it was today.  The child's table is a great work area for DJ and he also eats many of his meals there.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's been awhile!

I started this blog back in August with the intention of using it to plan the setup of our Montessori Preschool at home. And then life happened! Now it is May and DJ is 2.5 years old and what a difference. His language skills are amazing and it makes it so fun to be able to communicate with him.