Back to School

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And just like that, summer is drawing to a close.  School is right around the corner, and we’re here to give you some tips and tricks to get the kids (and yourselves) ready!


Now is a great time to start gathering school supplies if you haven’t already started.  Take into consideration your child’s age and what they will really need for school.  Most Montessori classrooms utilize community supplies that are shared, but many teachers have a wish list or requested supply list for parents. Be sure to check the letter you received from your child’s teacher over the summer.

As children get older, they may need more traditional school supplies.  Again, we recommend checking with your child’s teacher, but it’s helpful to have pencils, crayons, scissors, and paper on hand at home for projects.  Older children may need notebooks and more specialized supplies.


Long summer days and less pressure to wake up early often leads to later bedtimes for children.  While this is great for family fun, it’s helpful to reassess your child’s sleep needs before school starts.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:

  • Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

  • Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

  • Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

  • Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

  • Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

To make sure your child is sleep-ready for school, consider what time they will need to go to bed on an ideal school night, then start slowly inching bedtime back each day from now until the start of school. 


Children thrive with routine.  While it’s not always possible during summertime, it’s super important to reestablish routines when getting ready to head back to school.

Bedtime isn’t just about sleep, but also the hour or so leading up to it.  Create predictable steps and order so that your child can focus on rest and not anticipation of what’s next.  You may want to begin bedtime with a warm bath, followed by putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, and reading a story in bed.  

Morning routines are helpful, too.  What do you expect your child to do independently, and what will they need help with?  Again, try to keep the same order and timing each day so everything runs smoothly.  Children who need reminders (read: most kids) often find it helpful to have a visual reminder.  Post a note in your child’s bedroom or the bathroom listing the order of what needs to be done.  For children who aren’t reading yet, a picture list can be made.


Will you need to make lunches for your child when they head off to school?  If so, it doesn’t hurt to think ahead.  Once you gather these supplies they should last for years. Again, check in with your child’s teacher for recommendations.

Lunch supply basics:

  • A reusable lunch bag

  • Reusable lunch containers (bento boxes, sandwich wraps, snack containers, etc.)

  • A reusable water bottle

  • Small cloth placemats and napkins

  • Reusable cutlery

When school does start, it can be helpful to make lunches the night before, and your children can help!  Older children can begin making their own lunches each day.  


Begin talking with your child about the upcoming school year.  Chances are they’re excited, but if it’s a new school or a new class, they may have some reservations.  Let them know what to expect and encourage them to ask questions.  Some possible talking points:

  • If it is a new school, feel free to take a drive by to show them or remind them what the building looks like.

  • What will drop-off and pick-up be like for your child?

  • Are there any changes in their class this year? You might discuss new teachers, new students, or anything else that will be different.

  • To the best of your ability, describe what their days will be like.

  • Ask your child what their hopes are for the year. This is especially helpful and important for children in elementary and above. They can include hopes and dreams not just about academics, but friendships, special classes, and whatever else they can think of.

Lastly, if there is any information you need from us before the start of the school year, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.  We are looking forward to seeing your children and starting off another great year!

Montessori at Home: The Secrets to Successful Toy Rotation


Have you ever walked into your child’s bedroom or playroom, taken a look at the state of affairs, and quietly backed out to temporarily avoid dealing with the chaos within?  We know the feeling.

In this post we will share tips and tricks to help you take a Montessori approach when it comes to your children’s toys.  The secret lies within rotating toys, much like Montessori guides rotate at least some of the materials on their classroom shelves.  

Why bother rotating toys (or Montessori materials, for that matter)?  The benefits are numerous and wide-ranging: your children will engage more fully with toys that are available to them, cleaning will be easier for children to complete independently, and children will likely appreciate what they have in a new way.  As a bonus benefit, you will become more mindful about what toys are really useful in your home and what your children do not necessarily need or want.

Follow our handy six-step guide to creating a gorgeous, inspiring, peaceful, and fun space for your children to play at home.

Step One: Observe

While you may be eager to jump right in and purge, take your time in making informed decisions.  The first step is to find a notebook and pen and sit quietly aside as your children are playing.  Try not to engage with them too much and encourage them to play independently.  After a bit of time this will allow you to observe their play in a more authentic way.  Resist the urge to intervene or question their choices, unless, of course, they encounter a safety hazard! 

As you observe, consider the following:

  • Is there a particular toy your child tends to gravitate toward?

  • Are there obvious developmental skills your child is working on?

  • Are there toys your child seems disinterested in?

  • How is your child interacting with the environment as a whole?

  • Notice the space itself and how it suits your family’s needs or doesn’t.

Continue this observation for a few days.  Keep your notebook handy during the day so that you can make a quick note of any thoughts or observations your make elsewhere in your house.  Really think carefully about what your child’s interests and needs are.

Step Two: Assess

This is perhaps the least pleasant step for many of us.  Best done when the children are not around (while they are at school or asleep), grab a cup of coffee, put on some music that you love, and commit to muddling through!

Clear a large floor space and lay out all your child’s toys.  As you sort through, set aside any that could be passed along or donated, recycled or thrown away, or boxed up and stored elsewhere.  Going through all the toys at once will give you a clear picture of what your child has and better prepare you to create the ideal play environment.

Step Three: Prepare 

In this step we focus on the environment itself.  As your child grows and changes, their needs from the environment will change as well.  Consider what they need for now and envision the space you think will serve them best.  Some ideas: 

  • A clean space, preferably with natural colors and soft lighting.

  • Hidden storage for toys not currently in use: perhaps bins in a closet or baskets on high shelves.

  • Low, open shelves. Avoid toy boxes as they become dumping receptacles.

  • Comfortable, delineated areas for different uses or ages. For example a comfy reading nook, a low table for creating art, or a desk for an older child.

  • Baskets or trays to contain small objects or toys with multiple pieces.

Step Four: Select

Now for the fun part!  Look back over your observation notes. Consider the toys your child has and think about which ones they would appreciate most at this time.

The most important piece of advice we have here is to keep the options minimal.  Rather than neatly putting all of your child’s toys on the shelves, select only a few.  This will vary depending on their age and how much time they spend at home, and you will get a better feel for the selection process as time goes on.  Just remember: less really is more.

Step Five: Guide

Once the room is prepared, invite your children in to see the changes.  Discuss your expectations for cleaning up; all children should be able to pick up after themselves with the exception of infants.  They will, of course, require modeling and reminders from time to time, but a more minimalist play area will make cleaning up easier for your child when playtime is over.

For at least the first few days, guide your child through the cleaning up process.  Be sure they understand that toys should go back to the space they were originally retrieved from.  If there is any potential for spills in the room, keep child-sized cleaning supplies handy so that they may pick up after themselves independently.

Step Six: Repeat

One of the biggest questions parents ask is: “How often should we rotate the toys?”  There are so many variables, but a good basic guide would be about once a month.  In the days leading up to your next toy rotation, sit with your notebook and observe a bit.  You may notice there are toys your child is very interested in.  Those are the toys you may wish to leave out.  Any toys that have been forgotten in recent weeks are, for whatever reason, not appealing to your child at this time.  These can be replaced with toys from storage that may meet the current needs and interests of your child.

Looking for inspiration?  Check out these links to see some beautiful Montessori-style play spaces.  Keep in mind your home does not need to look like these to function in the same way.  True minimalism relies on using what we already have in our home, so don’t feel pressured to go out and buy anything fancy!

An infant and toddler family:

A bilingual family with a range of ages:

An elementary homeschool family:

A Peek at the Montessori History Curriculum


Montessori elementary classrooms certainly do lots of work with math and language, but they also rely heavily on what is often referred to as cultural studies.  These cultural studies include geography, science, and history, and today’s post will focus on the latter.

Think back to when you first learned anything about history.  Perhaps your earlier lessons were based on holidays we celebrate, or on the political history of the nation.  Later (in high school), you may have been introduced to more about the history of the world and expanded upon earlier learning.

The Montessori study of history is much like all its other subjects: we start with the largest, overarching concepts, then gradually zoom into the smaller details.  With that said, we officially begin teaching history in the first grade, and it all starts with the birth of our universe.

It starts with a bang

Imagine this: one sunny afternoon, very early in the school year, the children come in from recess.  The classroom is dark and soft music is playing.  Second and third year students immediately know there is an exciting surprise in store, and they do everything they can to contain themselves so as not to spoil the magic for the younger children.

The guide is at one end of the large rug, and in front of her lay a series of curious items.  The children sit facing her, with the youngest ones in the front so that they may have the best view.  The guide waits for the children to settle into silence, then begins her story.

She tells of a time when our darkest night would have seemed blindingly bright, and our coldest winter would have been warm in comparison.  She continues into tales of particles forming, connecting, and repelling away from one another.  She incorporates information about states of matter and weights of liquids, giving demonstrations as she speaks.  They talk about the vast quantity of stars in the universe, the incredible distances, and eventually, the formation of earth.  The children hear how the particles on earth heated up and cooled, how the water filled in the crevices, how storms raged and volcanoes exploded (they see a model revealed from beneath a black cloth!), and how eventually all was calm and our planet was ready to support life.

In addition to the scientific view of earth’s beginnings, the children may hear creation stories from cultures around the world in the weeks following.  The stories may be read to them, or they may read them or perhaps even act them out.  They will have a sense that there is always more than one version of history.

Impressionistic lessons

Following the creation story, there are several materials that give the students a deeper understanding of time.  

The Long Black Strip is just that: a strip of fabric that is nearly 100 feet long.  (Dr. Montessori’s original was much longer and had to be unrolled by teachers holding it on a dowel and riding bicycles!).  As the guide unrolls the strip she talks about the beginning of the earth, how the planet changed over time, the coming of the first single-celled organisms, early plants, the evolution of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals.  By the time she gets to the end of the fabric the children will notice a tiny strip of fabric at the end, just a fraction of an inch wide.  She tells them that this tiny strip represents the time humans have spent on earth.  This can be an amazing lesson, even for adults, when they see it for the first time. What a concept to grasp! 

The Clock of Eras gives the children their first look at how life began to evolve over the course of time.  Earth’s geologic time periods are represented as if all of our planet’s history were on a 12-hour clock.  The circle chart shows representations of the various eras via colored pie slices.  Check out this fun stop motion video made by some Montessori students:

Time through an evolutionary lens

The Montessori guide may introduce various timelines in the classroom to spark curiosity among the children.  Through a series of discussions, research, reading, and other activities, children learn about the evolution of life on earth.  This history work connects directly to a large portion of the lower elementary science curriculum, which is based in botany and zoology.  

These lessons, oftentimes stemming from a material called the Timeline of Life, give children a deep understanding of the connection between our physical world, the living things on it, and how species have changed throughout history.  

Human history

As you may have noticed, human history is not the focus in the Montessori curriculum.  It is important however, and an emphasis is placed on how humans have changed over time and to the various contributions different groups of people have made.

Much like the Timeline of Life, many Montessori classrooms use a timeline of early humans.  There are also several other areas of human historical study that are covered, oftentimes connecting children to other areas of study in the classroom:

  • The history of writing

  • The history of mathematics

  • How different civilizations have met the fundamental needs of humans

As a final note, you may be wondering why Montessori schools begin teaching such deep concepts at such a young age.  Our reasoning lies in the readiness of the children and a deep respect for the elementary child’s capacity to grasp larger concepts.  Our methods rely less on what has been traditionally taught to children in schools (as well as the traditional timing), and more on what is developmentally appropriate and engaging to children.  We know that elementary aged children, even those as young as 6, are incredibly eager to learn about the world and their place in it.  By giving them a larger historical framework in which they can place the immense amount of historical, geographic, and scientific information they acquire, we are providing them with a better understanding of themselves and the world (and universe!) around them.  

Curious about our methods?  Want to learn more?  Please contact us with questions or to schedule a visit today.

Creating Family Rituals


Think back to your own fond childhood memories.  What sticks out the most?  For many people, it’s the little things that leave the biggest impressions.  Perhaps it was the cookies you made together every Christmas, or staying up late to watch that special movie that only came on once a year, or maybe even the silly song your parents would sing when it was time to wake up for school.  No matter what rituals you remember from when you were young, they meant something to you.  As parents, it’s both fun and important to create some for your own children.

First, let’s define ritual.  Rituals are based on routines, and routines are a necessary component to raising children who feel safe and loved.  While children do need some element of choice in their lives, they benefit greatly from structure as well.  For example, a bedtime routine may include starting at the same time every night and completing tasks in a certain order.  Doing this allows your child to know what to expect so they can focus their learning and energy on other things.  Routines set expectations for the way a household operates.

The shift from routine to ritual is really about the identity of a group of people (in this case, a family).  Having dinner each night at 6:00 is part of the routine, but sitting together at a table and each sharing one good thing about the day turns it into a ritual.  Rituals create deeper connections between family members, allowing everyone to feel good about the time spent together.  

Looking for some ideas?  Try a few of the following:


  • Make eating dinner together at the table a priority as often as your schedules allow. Even if the meal doesn’t last very long, it can be a nice way to make time for each other.

  • Add special touches: light a candle each night, or use pretty cloth napkins. Little details that make everyone feel special make a big difference.

  • Find a way to get the conversation going. Some families share their “roses and thorns” - what’s going on in our lives that we’re not happy about, and what do we have to celebrate?


  • Is there a silly element you might add to the morning routine? Sing a song about toothbrushing, dance to a song that gets everyone moving, or make up a handshake.

  • Meditate together. For kids the key is to keep it short and sweet. Try breathing buddies with your little ones ( ) or loving-kindness meditation with older children ( ).

  • Be sure to sneak in some family cuddle time!

  • Have a special bedtime routine. Consider having a few special songs to choose from, a special light to use while reading together in bed, or a sweet saying when you tuck them in (your own modern version of “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite!”).


  • Mealtimes are often the easiest way to build in regular rituals. Think Taco Tuesdays, breakfast for dinner day, and ordering a pizza on Friday nights.

  • Find something local that you can do every weekend. Some families go to church while other visit their farmer’s market.

  • Make a fun time out of cleaning the house together (really!). Even your toddler can have a blast with a dustpan, and elementary-aged children and teenagers can be so helpful. All family members will have a sense of contribution and togetherness. Play some upbeat music that you know will get everyone moving!


Most families have these rituals in place already.  Holiday rituals are often sacred to us; they’re the ones we carry on from our own childhoods and are eager to share them with our children.  Consider whether you already have some of the following rituals in place:

  • Special foods for different holidays

  • Songs that you can sing together in celebration

  • Movies that you watch each year

  • Gatherings you host or attend together

Other ideas

  • Go camping together once or twice a year. The whole process, from packing to setting up the tent is packed with unforgettable rituals.

  • Stay up late to witness special astronomical events outdoors.

  • Volunteer together. Shop for a can drive, help out at an animal shelter, or spend time at your local soup kitchen.

  • Enjoy seasonal outdoor activities together. Go apple picking every year, make a snowman, hike, or go swimming.

We would love to hear more ideas.  Please share any unique ritual ideas your family enjoys together!

Want to learn more?  

Family Routines and Rituals May Improve Family Relationships and Health, According to 50-Year Research Review

Why Family Routines and Rituals Are Important

Family Rituals: What Are They?

Montessori Basics: Respecting the Child as an Autonomous Person


The title of this post may seem a little unnecessary.  You may be thinking, “Of course the child is an autonomous person, and of course we respect that!”  If you are here reading this, chances are you care deeply about your child’s education, and more importantly, you care about your child as a person.  When it comes to parenting, however, our inclinations are often to protect and guide.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this (in fact, we can all agree those are our critical tasks), but our good intentions can sometimes get in the way of our child’s individual path.

You’ve probably heard Montessori guides talk about how we “follow the child”.  What this means is that we suspend our own assumptions about how things ought to be done and instead observe the child to see what they actually need and/or want.  Sometimes we forget that children are capable of doing more than we realize, or that they have interests that are vastly different than our own.

We want to show our children that we trust them.  We trust them to learn, to do things for themselves and for others, and we trust that they know what they need.  

What does this look like in the classroom?

As a teacher, especially if one is trained in traditional methods prior to discovering Montessori, there is a sense that we are obligated to engage with the child at all times.  Our society leads us to believe that stepping back and allowing the child to work without us must mean that we are not doing our jobs.

Dr. Montessori, however, had other ideas.  She said, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’”

We want to guide the children in such a way that they are eventually able to direct their own learning.  Our job is to present new material in a way that drives curiosity rather than conveying ready-made answers.  We want to create a classroom environment that supports each child in every stage of development to do as much for themselves as they are capable of doing.

When a child doesn’t need us?  We consider that a win.  Of course, as they grow they will need help in other ways, but the long-term goal is to gently help them reach their potential as they work toward adulthood.  We want them to trust themselves and their abilities, so we show them that we trust them.

Some examples of what you may see in a Montessori classroom that honors a child’s independence:

  • Open shelves at an appropriate height for the children using them.

  • Real (not toy), child-sized cleaning supplies like dustpans, brushes, sponges, buckets, and mops.

  • Clearly defined spaces to store personal belongings on hooks and shelves that the child can easily access.

  • Freedom to use the restroom whenever the need arises, without having to ask permission.

  • Snacks and water available to serve oneself whenever the child feels hungry.

  • Freedom to choose work that feels important and meaningful.

  • Freedom of movement; children may sit wherever and with whomever they like.

  • Work occurring at an individual pace. Children are not expected to all learn the same thing at the same time, but rather progress through skills at a pace that is right for them as individuals.

  • Children using materials that are not typically seen in other settings: glass cups and containers, knives for cutting, and so forth.

What might this look like for families?

Some moments to consider: 

  • Let your child (even your toddler) choose their own clothing. Perhaps you wouldn’t pick the cow-print pants and the polka-dotted dress, but does that make the choice any less valid? Relish in their delightfully unique sense of style! It’s okay to set some parameters; for example require pants instead of shorts on a cold winter day is perfectly reasonable.

  • Show your child how to do something rather than just demanding it be done. Remember, even if you have shown something once (or even five times), learning requires repetition. For example, instead of telling your 6-year-old to make their bed, give them a short lesson on how to do so.

  • Consider your child’s physical autonomy. Don’t force them to hug and kiss relatives if they are uncomfortable. Talk to them about how we are all in charge of our own bodies, and that they have the right to say no (even to you!) if they do not want physical affection.

  • Make sure your child has access to toys and supplies around the house. This might mean having a low shelf in the kitchen stocked with their own bowls, cups, utensils, and even snacks. A designated area in the refrigerator could hold a small pitcher of water, milk, or juice for the child to pour independently. A small dustpan and a basket of rags should be accessible to allow them the ability to clean up their own messes. You will be surprised at how often your child will be motivated to take care of themselves rather than asking you to get or do things for them.

  • Create routines. If your child knows that in the morning they are to use the toilet, wash their hands, brush their teeth and hair, and get dressed, then they know what to expect every single day. Support them with reminders as long as they need it. Some families find a visual reminder helpful - a small note can have a list with words or pictures to keep the child on track.

  • When the urge to intervene strikes, remind yourself to pause and observe. When we see our child struggle it’s natural to want to help, but jumping in and fixing their problems all the time does little to convey that we trust they can do it for themselves. If you see their frustration building, try saying, “I’ll be over here if you need anything.” They will ask if they really need you.

Questions?  Interested in seeing one of our classrooms in person?  Contact us today.  We would be happy to help!

5 Reasons Your Child Should Journal This Summer (and how you can get them started)


Whether you have a major family vacation this summer or you plan to take a more low-key and local approach, your child is sure to have some fun experiences and adventures.  Capturing these experiences can be done a variety of ways, and one way is to write them down! Journaling has many benefits for children (and adults, if you would like to join in on the fun).  Even very young children who are not yet writing can journal!

First things first: it’s important to make sure you get the right journal for your child.  If your child is a writer, take them to your local bookstore or office supply store and have them select a journal or notebook they like.  This small act of choice will make them more likely to use it than if you decide for them.  Keep in mind the size of the lines on the pages should be a consideration; early writers often need slightly larger lines to make handwriting a bit more comfortable for them.

For children as young as three years old that have not started writing yet, a drawing journal is your best bet.  We love this one, as its large, spiral-bound pages hold together well and provide plenty of space!

In addition to the journal, you can just use whatever pencils, markers, or other writing utensils you have on hand.

Journaling can be done daily, whenever the child has experienced something special, or just as the mood strikes.  Remember to encourage your child to date each entry, or date it for them if they are on the younger side.

On to the benefits…

1. Journaling is an excellent creative outlet.

Whether the journaling consists of drawing, writing, or a combination of the two, having a designated place to record our thoughts is a perfect way to encourage creative thinking.  This is a space that is truly the child’s own, and they get to write their own perspective in a way that is pleasing to them.  They are likely to explore rich language, dialogue, or testing out phrases they have heard others use.  Use of color can help convey different meaning and feeling, and they will experiment with this!

Creativity is the place where we come up with new ideas, ways to solve problems, and take risks in a way that feels safe and supported.

2. The practice can help children observe the natural world.

Maria Montessori was a scientist who believed strongly in the power of observation, and as educators who follow her methods, we hold this practice in high regard.  Taking the time to notice what is going on around us, using our senses, and recording these observations helps us make sense of our experiences.

Did you and your child move worms from the sidewalk after a rainstorm?  Did they discover pieces of a crab shell on the rocks by the beach?  Did you spot an interesting mushroom while walking in the woods?  If it sparked something in your child, encourage them to write about it as soon as you get home.  They likely learned something important in that moment, and writing about it will solidify that learning, and perhaps lead to even more.

3. Journaling is a great way to explore emotions.

Children experience the same range of emotions we do, but they have not yet developed all the skills for making sense of them or regulating them.  Having a place to write down their feelings is a healthy habit to build, and a positive way to work through difficult situations.

There is something to be said for getting our thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper.  Even if no one else ever reads it (and your child may prefer it that way), finding words that express our emotions can feel validating. 

The next time your child is feeling sad, angry, frustrated, or even joyfully elated about something, remind them that their journal is a great way to feel their feelings and figure out what they can do with them.

4. Using a journal helps children record important memories.

What would you give to have a childhood journal detailing your summer vacation adventures?  Perhaps you do, and it’s a treasure you will hang on to and share with your own children.  Starting a journal while we are young is a gift that keeps giving.  In the moments that a child writes in it, they reap so many positive benefits.  Months or even years later when they return to their writing, they will be able to relive the memories.

So many of the small moments we experience are fleeting.  If we don’t take the time to acknowledge them, they are gone forever.  A written record helps us enjoy those moments forever.

5. They will become better writers (even if they’re not writing yet).

Just the act of retelling what happened - in words or pictures - is great practice for writers.  Features such as logical sequencing, main events, and supporting details will become naturally woven into the pages of your child’s journal.  Like anything in life, the more we practice, the more proficient we become.

For those that are beginning to write words, they will have unlimited opportunities to experiment with vocabulary, punctuation, and sentence structure.  Without the pressure and confines of standardized conventions (like a teacher correcting spelling), they will feel free to stretch and take risks as writers.  While conventions are important in formal writing, the development of unique and authentic writer’s voice is just as difficult and perhaps even more important.  Having a journal all their own creates the perfect space to learn what their own voice sounds like.

We hope your child enjoys trying our journaling this summer.  If you find the idea inspiring, give it a try yourself and journal right alongside them.  Happy adventures!