I hope you all had a wonderful summer break. I had a lovely mix of travel, staycation, a secret project, and a handful of visitors.
I got to visit the beautiful Iceland with my parents and kids….
And the location for working on the secret project here in the Netherlands was so cosy I nearly didn’t leave the cabin the whole time…
That said, I am always happy to be back to class after the long summer break – whilst holidays are a nice break from the routine, my body feels more grounded with some rhythm to the week. And I’ve been busy in the classroom refreshing things so everything is feeling sparkly and new again.
Here are some take-aways for you from my mini classroom makeover:
I think about buying new shelves and tables for the space – the ones in my classroom I’ve been using since I started my Montessori playgroup here in Amsterdam back in 2008. But a lick of paint and they come up good as new. They keep working year after year and it shows families that things don’t have to be brand new to be attractive – recycle where we can. I also pulled down a rug I’d stored in the attic and added it to the music area where it makes the space look even cosier and makes a comfortable space to sit (or dance).
I should note that whenever I post a photo that I am painting everything white, I often get asked why I choose such a neutral colour when kids love bright colours. The neutral background helps the activities pop out for the children to choose from and lots of things hung on the walls can actually be too much for sensitive children. I love this article in the Psychological Science here too.
Even with white walls and furniture, the space doesn’t feel sterile. Dr Montessori called her first classroom “Casa dei Bambini,” meaning “house of children.” I’m always looking to make it cosy like a home where we can all relax. Having things like plants and artwork at the children’s height adds warmth to the space too.
2. Clear the clutter
Even Montessori teachers build up clutter during the school year – a cute plant here, a broken item needing repair, every surface filled. So I did some editing, put some things into a storage box for now, and the space feels even lighter.
3. Keep looking with fresh eyes
The area we use as our cloakroom is shared with other organisations on our floor of the building. So I never gave it much thought. Then I was talking with a parent before the summer how things get a little chaotic in there after class with everyone leaving at the same time. It’s as if we leave the Montessori classroom, and then we go back to our old ways of putting on the child’s coat for them, getting distracted by our phones, and physically not having enough space to have everyone sitting on a chair.
It’s definitely still a work in progress but for now I’ve removed the cubbies from the space to create some more room, I’ve covered the bright orange colour with some removable white sticker to calm the space more, I hung up some artwork down low, and now I’m looking for a long low bench where there will be enough space for the children to sit to put their shoes on and off and to store their shoes underneath.
It’s feeling calmer already. Let’s see!
A little tour of the space
Would you like to see some more corners of the classroom all ready for this week of classes? Maybe it looks pretty much the same as before, but who doesn’t love to look around a Montessori classroom, right?
New plants on the table, some favourite artwork back up, the Montessori decalogue printed and hung up as a reminder for us, a new watering can to try (very excited about the narrow spout which will be great to control the water flow with the toddlers), and the rug now in the music corner.
Book corner, art corner, baby corner – not many changes here…
Snack corner – fresh coat of paint on the tables and an attempt to fix the tables in place to stop them shifting around…
Some of the activities I put out for the new school year – a favourite animal puzzle from Nienhuis, a language activity of insects with matching cards, some threading activities (the wooden one from Manine Montessori and the other was from a market), and a simple scooping activity using an ice-cube tray (you can also use tongs to make it more difficult too!).
All ready! Our first day back today was lovely, the children super-focused and happy to be back. And I can’t wait to see the rest of the families this week.
How we arrive and leave
One thing that I mentioned to families starting class this week is to be conscious of how we arrive (and leave). When someone is running late to meet us they often arrive in a whirlwind and it takes some time for the chaos to settle. Even when we are not rushing we can bring a lot of that hectic energy with us.
When we are intentional, we can choose to arrive in a peaceful way (or as much as life with young children allows). We can allow time for them to take off their shoes, put their backpack on a hook, and we can slow down to think about what it’s like to take off our own shoes – something that we do automatically without thinking.
When I arrive in class I put on my apron – this helps me transition to being a teacher. Family life and other thoughts and ideas are put to the side to focus on the families coming to my classes. And at the end of the day, I take off my apron, hang it on its hook and jump on my bike and think about transitioning back to home life again. You can do the same whether you are on foot, bike or in the car.
Something to perhaps practice!
A couple of links to share
- I’m helping my friend Clark to spread the word about these new shelves from Sprout Kids – they come in different heights and sizes. (I think only to the US for now) I only tell you about stuff I would want in my home or classroom and these are so beautiful and will grow with your family.
- Honoured to have been a guest on two of my favourite podcasts – How To Talk to Kids about Anything with Dr Robyn Silverman and the Montessori Education podcast with Jesse McCarthy. Perhaps some listening for you!
Self-study version of the Setting up a Montessori playgroup is now ready!
For those who missed out on the Setting up a Montessori playgroup in June, the self-study version is now up! You’ll get all the same materials (as well as recordings of our live calls where I answered lots and lots of questions).
It costs US$349 for the most-intense 2-week bootcamp to help you start your own Montessori playgroup. You can find all the details here.
“Unbelievable amount of information and invaluable resources! It’s obvious that a LOT of work went into this well-organised course! Thank you for sharing and reminding us what Montessori is really all about ?.” – Patty, Canada
“THANK YOU SO MUCH. It was worth every penny…This bootcamp was all I needed and more! I’m so excited.” – Carmen, Nicaragua
“A million thanks Simone for an incredibly interesting, enriching and very inspiring two week bootcamp! I am so excited about all the fabulous information, very practical tips and tricks and invaluable experience you and the others shared and which made me think about my own dreams further and puts everything in quite a realistic light!” – Karen, Austria (living in Indonesia)
“Wow! This course has been so comprehensive and enjoyable, too! So inspiring and beautifully put together. I love it and am sad to see it end.” – Jacqueline, US
That’s all for now! I’ll be back soon with lots more fresh Montessori inspiration soon for you. Til then…