Friday, 18 April 2014

Good Friday

Blessings to you and yours! Enjoy this weekend -- however long or short it may be for you!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Maple Syrup Season

Perhaps one of the best parts of living in Canada, and definitely a highlight in our long, drawn-out winters, maple syrup season lasts for about a month every Spring and it is delightfully anticipated by parents and children alike. While our New England neighbours have their own traditions, Canadian Maple Syrup Season is a bit of a mish-mash.

In Quebec, the world's largest producer of maple syrup, the French-Canadian traditions associated with maple syrup production are much different than the traditions that continue in Ontario, and those traditions vary from farm to farm. During the month of syrup production, many "sugar bushes" open themselves up to the public and offer horse-back carriage rides, tours of the sugar bush and production facilities, as well as a "pancake breakfast." Some producers allow a third-party charity to come in and run the breakfast so its hit or miss what you get: some places offer just a couple of sausages and pancakes, while others offer a full spread of baked beans, coleslaw, sausages, "Canadian" peameal bacon, bacon, toast, pancakes, french toast, muffins, fruit cups, and most importantly, samples of the coveted maple syrup to help diners decide if they are going to bring a jug of syrup home with them.

Every single sugar bush produces a different tasting maple syrup; they are subtle differences, but there are key differences that are influenced from everything from the soil quality surrounding the maple trees to the production of the sap into syrup.

Each tree is tapped with a small metal tube that either drains into a small metal bucket or connects to a UV-blue tube that feeds into a larger collection tank. These wires have to be "walked" by the producers every day to ensure that an animal hasn't caused damage to the line. Maple sap will only run between the temperatures of -5 and +5 degrees Celsius, and so unusual winter weather can have dramatic effects on the industry (as with any other agricultural production). The sap is then collected, cooked down to remove water, and becomes syrup. The sap is watery and earthy, while the water tastes just like plain ground water (it is)... but the syrup is thick and sugary. Maple syrup can also be crystallized to make maple sugar, which is equally delicious.

Sugar bush visits (or cabane au sucre in Quebec) are a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with agricultural processes and a bit of Canadian history. We had the very exciting opportunity to witness the different ways that maple syrup was historically rendered -- in hallowed logs with hot stones for aboriginals, to cast iron cauldrons for pioneers and settlers, and now in industrial vats with scientific equipment. Children also gain a greater understanding and appreciation for tree biology, as well as the hard work of agricultural production.

Maple syrup has an extensive list of nutritious attributes, as well as a long and interesting history -- for example, some abolitionists exclusively used maple syrup prior to the American Civil War as molasses and sugar were products of slave labour.

Please share with us your favourite maple syrup recipes or sugar bush experiences!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Montessori Materials Review (Sensorial)

This post is one in a series reviewing our current Montessori materials and I will update as we purchase more.

This review will attempt to touch on and assess the value and quality of the Montessori Sensorial materials that I have personally purchased. I will not go into use, presentation, or extensions but will link where possible. I compare the cost of the discount products to Nienhuis because they have been largely considered the standard in quality Montessori materials, although I have never purchased from them.

Toddler Cylinder Blocks, Montessori Equipment, $22
Originally, I didn't think that I would/could invest in the full size set of Cylinder blocks so this seemed like a great option. Since I own the full size set now, I obviously wish I hadn't purchased the smaller set as it is redundant. However, for a family who could absolutely not purchase the full set (along with the knobless cylinders) I think these are a good value at the current price and they are definitely good quality; they still expose children to strategic and mathematical concepts and they are an attractive material. However, children do "master" this set quickly, so you won't get the same usage out of them and you have less possibilities for extensions than with the bigger set as they aren't compatible with the Knobless.

Cylinder Blocks, Adena, $102.10 for all four (compare to $319.60 at Nienhuis)
The best purchase that I made from Adena. The cylinders are solid and the weight corresponds to the mathematical concepts that the material is trying to teach. I have not yet attempted to check to see if the holes match up with the Knobless cylinders that I have from Montessori Equipment, but if they didn't fit together I wouldn't be quick to assign blame to either brand since I would have no idea which company made the error. These are an expensive material, one that I hope I recover some of the cost from through reselling eventually; I would only purchase this if able to also buy the Knobless cylinders, as the concepts are only taken halfway by either material. (And if only able to purchase one, I would go with the Knobless.)

Knobless Cylinders, Montessori Equipment,$44  (compare to $195.50 at Nienhuis)
These were a great material, with no off-gassing and even the smallest pieces were solid and I don't think they could be "snapped." I'm really hoping that these will correspond with the Knobbed Cylinder blocks -- will update this post when I find out!

I don't think that these could be adaquately or affordably DIYed, and if you had to choose, I would buy only these and not the knobbed cylinders; and if you couldn't get these, I wouldn't bother with the knobbed cylinders (at least not at full price).

Pink Tower, Montessori Equipment, $36 (compare to $137.50 at Nienhuis)
My Pink Tower was a lovely surprise; solid, no off-gassing and has not chipped or dented with some serious toddler abuse. This is possibly my favourite Montessori material and I am really happy with the quality of this purchase. A friend has had a PT from Montessori Equipment for many years and it shows major use but nothing that damages its purpose and the paint hasn't flaked.

Pressure Cylinders, Adena, $25.25 (compare to $131.60 at Nienhuis)
While there is a discernible variance between the cylinders, I am not sure that I would recommend this set to anyone on a budget -- just because the material is not necessarily one that is "deep" enough to warrant investment. The quality is good, nothing cracked, the cylinder pressures match perfectly, etc.

Geometric Solids, Learning Resources, $16.64
These were not purchased from a Montessori supplier; I thought this fun alternative was more affordable and would convey different concepts, but my first set arrived with chips. I contacting the company and was sent a replacement set -- also pre-chipped. My friend recently purchased the proper set from Montessori Equipment and they are great quality.

Binomial Cube, Adena, $15.18 (compare to $101.50 at Nienhuis)
Really happy with this product and its quality, especially for the cost. The material is beautiful, I can't remember if it had off-gassing but if it did it was nothing major that required it to be set outdoors. The box was well-constructed and the hinges worked properly -- some suppliers sell the box alone for the cost of this whole material, so I consider this to have been a really great investment. In my mind, this is an essential material that has no equivalent DIY options.

I'm a huge fan of the DIY -- but not when it compromises the integrity of the concepts. This is an affordable option, but I do fear that the paint will chip once it sees heavier use, so I would be prepared for that. The blue square on the box is the wrong shade of blue, but I'm okay with that and am not looking at fixing it. Adena also offers a $20 cube, which might have a slightly higher quality when it comes to the paint.


Touch Tablets, Montessori Equipment, $17 (compare to $35.40 Nienhuis)
I didn't find these to be an attractive material and while it served its purpose, I already had a DIY version that I am much happier with given the small time commitment and cost! Good quality, though.

Sound Boxes, Montessori Equipment, $30 (compare to $89.90 Nienhuis)
Great quality, pleasing to the hand and discernible differences between cylinders while still being challenging. The boxes look beautiful set out on a shelf. I have DIYed several versions but there is always one child who wants to pry a DIY version open and investigate!

Baric Tablets, Montessori Equipment, $18 (compare to $69.90 Nienhuis)
Beautiful feel, good quality. I think this would be very hard to DIY -- you need three very specific types of wood and I think it would not be worth the cost unless you already had access to free scraps. The set comes with a full box of each tablet type, so I split this set with two friends for $6 each!

Thermic Tablets, Montessori Equipment, $20 (compare to $60.70 Nienhuis)
Beautiful look and feel, goo quality. I gathered the supplies to DIY this material and I can honestly say that the amount of time I spent sourcing materials and the amount of time it would have taken to ensure that all of the materials were safe enough for frequent toddler/preschooler handling was not worth the DIY efforts.

Box with Prisms for Brown Stair, Adena, $10.56 (compare to $55.50 Nienhuis)
I had a friend DIY my brown stair for me, so I was really happy to be able to affordably buy prisms that matched up! The prisms are natural coloured, not available in brown which is curious to me, but they are good quality and lightweight.

Geometric Cabinet, Montessori Equipment, $135 (compare to $506 Nienhuis)
I'm very happy with the quality of this cabinet, especially when compared to my Adena Botany Cabinet...The insets are plastic, but the knobs are connected to the shapes, so there is no risk of the knobs falling off. The cabinet "drawers" can be easily removed for tray work/presentation and the unit is solidly built.

Schylling Musical Handbells (compare to $979 Nienhuis)
(Canadian Amazon link*)
These are not Montessori handbells, but I love them and have two sets -- the price just can't be beat as most affordable Montessori sellers don't have a version of the bells. Many bloggers have posted about painting one set black and one set white; I might paint the outside of one set white, but I couldn't paint both -- they are simply too beautiful.

What has your experience been with Montessori Sensorial materials? Any reviews to share?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Montessori Materials Review (Math)

 Recently, I posted to a Montessori Facebook group asking for other people to share their opinion and experiences on affordable Montsesori products. I was tired of the assumption that because these were lower-priced products that consumers gave up the right to expect a modicum of quality in the products. "You get what you pay for" had become over-used and I found myself bristling against the phrase because I don't believe that lesser quality should also equate to no quality; while these "discount" products might not have the outstanding quality of their higher-priced counter-points, I don't think that schools, daycares, or parents on a budget need to give up all hope at purchasing good Montessori learning materials.
This is one post in a series covering all of our Montessori materials and I will update as we purchase more.

This review will attempt to touch on and assess the value and quality of the Montessori Math materials that I have personally purchased. I will not go into use, presentation, or extensions but will link where possible. I compare the cost of the discount products to Nienhuis because they have been largely considered the standard in quality Montessori materials, although I have never purchased from them.

Hanging ten bar, Adena, $14.03
Hanging teen bar, Adena, $20.76
 Reviewed together because they are essentially the same. Simple, not sturdy but doesn't really have to be. The hooks were very small, I think for a classroom setting they should be thicker/blunter, but they work well. This material could be cheaply DIYed to the same results, so if you have the time and are looking to save money this is one material where you wouldn't lose anything by going the DIY route.

Scale, Montessori Equipment, $20
I did notify James (owner) that I was unhappy with this product and he disclosed that they are phasing it out. It appears to be the same one sold at a couple of other discount sellers, but I'm not positive. The scale works, but is incredibly flimsy -- those plates are basically tin plates suspended by fishing wire. I am much happier with our Learning Resources one*, which has more opportunities for exploration but is not "official Montessori."

Long division material, Adena, $69.56 (> $255 Nienhuis)
Its hard for me to truly grade this material, as I haven't experienced better quality versions, but I will say that for the price its a mixed bag. The painted materials feel plastic-y in the hands and the boards feel chunky rather than sleek and heavy. That said, while it would be hard to replicate or DIY this material exactly, I think I might have tried to find a bulk pack of game pieces (like those from "Sorry") and some wooden bingo chips/tiles, and then just made laminated "boards"; I will be doing a similar DIY for additional multiplication, addition, and subtraction boards. But, if you're committed to having a wooden (real) version, this is the best price that I have seen, and the quality is not bad -- I do think it will hold up to heavy use.

There is also the option to download Making Montessori Ours' long division printable; at $7 it is a great deal and will save you the hours it would take to figure out a DIY version!

Gold bead material, Adena, $38.15 (> $65.50-159.50 Nienhuis)
I'm tempted to just write "ugh" for this review and leave it, but I'll give you more to go on... These beads are unattractive, dingy plastic. While the tray provided is decent (not flimsy, but not what I'd consider sturdy either) I just find the whole presentation so unappealing which will inevitably detract from its worth and use in the classroom. I am planning on DIYing the rest of the bead material; if you were doing the bead work, I would either DIY or go for a higher-end product (like Nielhuis which uses glass beads).

You can also see from my close up to the left that the beads are slightly different colours and the edges on the hundred and thousand cubes are "rough" -- almost as if the beads were shaved off of a larger unit.

That said, I know this material was very affordably priced compared to other options and most DIY options would still end up costing at least half of this price, so this is a personal judgment about the (lack of) attractiveness of a material and what savings that is worth.

Spindle Box, Adena, $21.32 (> $115 Nienhius)
Very light-weight spindles and boxes; properly divided in the original "two box" format and the spindles are thick enough to avoid being snapped. A box to hold the individual spindles was not provided. A great value for the price, but this is an easy DIY so unless you really were committed to having the "real thing," I think you could achieve the same means with dowels or even popsicle sticks.
(If you do purchase, make sure you select the two box option, not the singular box, as this gives you more options and is easier for storing.) 

Hundred Board, Montessori Equipment, $25 (> $85.50 Nienhuis)
I couldn't tell by the pictures on the website, but these are good-quality, wooden tiles -- smooth and durable. Personally, I would recommend just buying the 100 Number Tiles separately and DIYing the board, saving $18.  The board is good quality, but I don't think its worth $18 for its purpose (considering you can get another material for that price!)

Stamp Game, Montessori Equipment, $23 (> $97.70 Nienhuis)
Highly recommend -- I know that this can be DIYed, but the effort that would go into finding the properly coloured, sized and weighted tiles, as well as matching the chips and the pegs, and then numbering all of the tiles... I think this DIY would potentially cost more than just buying the material (and I don't think paper can substitute). If you were committed to DIYing, you could buy the tiles and then fashion the pegs and chips from clay, but it would still be more work than the savings.
Great quality, this material is used for addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication so its well worth the investment.

Large number cards, Montessori Equipment, $23 (> $68.50 Nienhuis)
These are great quality, very durable but lightweight -- although I think with this material, being lightweight is an asset as children have the carry the whole box at once.

Multiplication board, Montessori Equipment, $16 (> $37.40 Nienhuis)
A simple, good-quality material. I think for the minimal investment its definitely worth buying rather than attempting a makeshift DIY.
 If you did do a DIY, I would try to make a magnetic version so that the beads/chips didn't move and proof frustrating.

Table Number Rods, Montessori Equipment, $23 (> $120 Nienhuis)
I purchased this after also having made a DIY version with dowels -- the only added benefit this has is the number tiles. Great quality, a much more affordable investment than the full-sized number rods (which I also DIYed). They have a great, sleek feel to them and I find the children are very drawn to them -- the smallest piece is a choke hazard though so it would not be appropriate for some 3 year olds who might otherwise be ready for the number rod's concepts.

Addition Strip Board, Montessori Equipment, $25 (> $65.50 Nienhuis)
Subtraction Strip Board, Montessori Equipment, $23 (> $112.50 Nienhuis)

Again, essentially the same materials so I'm reviewing together.

These  boards appeared white in the Montessori Equipment online pictures but are actually a light khaki green; I'm not sure why that is, I would think the material should have been left white or natural wood, as green is the colour for division. That aside, I'm impressed with the general quality, though I wouldn't hesitate to encourage someone else to DIY, or purchase a printable version. I don't think much would be lost from using laminated strip boards and either DIY the wooden number strips, or purchasing those separately.

Sandpaper Numbers, Montessori Equipment, $14 (> $29 Nienhuis)
This is a material that will get heavy use so good quality is essential. This version has held up well to a lot of use, but I would still probably go for a DIY version if you had access to dye-cuts and were interested in doing DIY sandpaper letters as well (as it wouldn't be much extra work). just to save the $14 for a material that couldn't be as easily DIYed.

Decimal System Material, Montessori Equipment, $160
This is a small portion of the full set of materials, which is extensive and takes up a large basket all on its own.
The materials are good quality, much more attractive than the Adena golden beads described above, but the weight of the hundred blocks is simply not there -- its good for visual representation, but the reason that these materials were traditionally beads is because of the weight that it creates. The full set of golden bead material is $100 more, so if you were willing to pay $160 maybe that's not much more of a stretch... but personally, I would advise buying a smaller set, a cheaper plastic version or DIY.

Ten Board and Teen Board, Montessori Equipment, $60 for the set (> $150 Nienhuis)
These materials were purchased together, so they'll be reviewed together! I'd say they're great quality for the price, but I'd leave it up to individuals if they think the purpose/function is worth the price. It would be a hard DIY if you were committed to wooden, and I feel that something would be lost with most paper versions unless it was something truly ingenious -- has anyone seen a really great DIY?

Printed Arrows with Boxes, Montessori Equipment, $35 (> $97.90 Nienhuis)
The boxes alone are worth purchasing, but the arrows would be a simple (but time consuming) DIY if you weren't concerned about the boxes or already had a good solution for them (small Tupperware or mason jars). Very happy with the quality of the plastic boxes.

Bead cabinet, Grandpa's Montessori
This is one of three materials that I have purchased second-hand from Grandpa's Montessori. It is incredibly sturdy after use in a daycare and is now reversed and being used as a stage until my kids are old enough to use it for its intended purposes. I'm pretty sure that Grandpa's is out of business, but I would not hesitate to buy any of their materials second-hand.

I also have several beaded materials from Montessori Equipment that I am happy with, but I will be looking at DIYing the remaining beaded material. The beaded material is an easy DIY with minimal equipment needed -- but you do need to be willing to invest the time. I'd rather save a couple of hundred dollars than a couple of hours.

Please share your own Montessori math materials reviews!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Mama Musing: Purging Books

I'm not a minimalist. (That has to be the understatement of the year.) I like pretty things, I like being busy, I find white walls and sparseness depressing. But, I am striving towards my own definition of minimalism, and am constantly redefining what that means to me.

Over the past five years, I have undergone several possession purges -- the same ones that most of us endeavour before a move or after a big life change. They helped reduce the bulk but they didn't challenge my beliefs or values surrounding possessions. Last year, I purged a great deal of things that didn't fit my current lifestyle as a mom (or my new body-type as a mom, ha!), but I think its somewhat easy to identify clothes that don't fit or are out of style, furniture that doesn't serve enough of a purpose to warrant its presence, etc, but its quite another to look at something that you own and want, and question on a deeper level why you own and want that item and whether its place in your home is completely empowering.

That's a lot of meaning to place on an inanimate object.

My most recent purge, I gave myself the better part of a month to execute. (Full disclosure, I was also neck-deep in assignments and starting some big changes, but more time and energy was dedicated to this purge than any previous one.) I set out to make this purge deeply uncomfortable. I wanted to push myself to question any possession and ensure that anything that remained in my house was something that I was proud and empowered to own. For me, this meant ensuring that every item was in my house based on an authentic choice made by a confident and whole person. With every new category of item I questioned its purpose, its meaning, and whether or not I would pay the full replacement value for the item again. Unless it was incredibly purposeful, anything that I wouldn't pay the full replacement value again was added to the purge pile. Everything was going reasonably well... until it came to the books.

I decided that I needed to majorly purge my remaining books to clear room on our main three bookshelves for Miss G's Montessori materials. Part of me seriously considered getting rid of most guest seating and our dining table as an alternative to purging my books and I was forced to confront what I was allowing my possession of those books to mean about me. Even though I have deeply dealt with my past, it was interesting for me to see how some former insecurities had become emotionally manifest in my books.

I grew up as a "military brat," with my first move being at six weeks old. Our family rarely stayed in any place longer than three years and some of the places that we were stationed to were unstable and unfamiliar. I had learned to read young so books were always a constant and one of the few things that my mom left alone during her own "possession purges;" toys, clothes, and adult things were my mom's to purge, but the books were left alone. I think any child who moves constantly and lacks the consistency of extended family or long-term friends as a result can place an unhealthy amount of emotional security in the permanency of possessions. Glamorous pictures and movies featuring home libraries were wonderfully validating, so I never saw a reason to get rid of a book unless it was truly horrible and my book collection grew to rather large proportions by the time my family home dissolved when I was a teenager. My sister and I, the eldest children in our family, both lived on our own for the majority of our remaining teen years with a few chaotic stints attempting to live with our divorced parents. In the eight years that followed that dissolution I moved a total of seventeen times. Actually, technically it was nineteen times in eight years but two of those were in the same building so I'm not counting those.

I moved seventeen times in eight years. (My personal best was six in one year.) Each time moving more books, cementing their worth and meaning to me in their combination of inconvenience and hope. Many of the books remained unread, but promised to be read in my new home, or had been read years ago and offered comfort in their constancy, validation and escape. In the stress of each move, I felt more and more on my own; my possessions dragged on me and I resented not having a family home that my possessions could stay at and that I could return to at will. And, of course, resentment of not having parents that could have provided that permanency. The thought of giving up the books felt like giving up hope of ever finding permanency.

So that's how I found myself just over a decade later, having purged the not-so-great or the emotionally distrubing books, but still in possession of four bookshelves full of books. Oh, and those four bookshelves? The books were stacked horizontally, so that's more like five or six bookshelves. My last move had been before becoming a parent, so the books now had the added value of having been a part of my family home.

I started out with great intention. I bought a Kobo and started looking up the books that I could replace with free downloads. Easily 50 or more classics no longer warranted shelf space. And then I logged onto my university's buyback page and Amazon's trade-in store; selling 85 books could bring in $324 (sounds great, but most books only warranted .50cents to $2). I found myself resenting my university's pithy offering of $1.50 for my copy of Great Expectations. My first Dickens! A book that took me nearly a year to read as a preteen (several false starts) and which transformed me as a reader of classics. Receiving no offer for my copy of Crime and Punishment (another transformative classic) was less insulting. I made lists and organized my books into piles and boxes, but was struggling to part with my complete collection of Shakespearean plays before my mom called. She was expecting me to have been productive and onto new tasks and was surprised to hear that I was still(!) dealing with the book situation. What unravelled in our conversation was incredibly healing for me and allowed me to acknowledge my books for their very important and treasured place in my life, but recognize that they were holding me back.

In a warm and non-confrontational conversation, I asked my mom about her constant need to purge and why she didn't keep any of the small momentos that I now cherish as a mom (what few non-book things I have remaining from my childhood were ones that I squirreled away) and I learned about her own hurt that had her react in an opposite way than me, determined to not make imprints on her possessions or develop attachments to things. I became freer after that conversation. I understood my books as symbolic and was faced with the choice to continue to imbue them with meaning and romantic notions of "walls of books" lining my home or I could let them go.

While I still love the idea of a beautiful and stocked home library, I know that letting go of the books would truly be the biggest step that I could take towards freedom from material things. And, while I have romantic notions about giving my daughter my own underlined copy of Great Expectations, she doesn't need me to impose upon her a library of my own reading accomplishments. When she is old enough, I will buy her an eReader with library access and stocked with a few pieces that I think she might enjoy (a classic or two included) and hope that she fills it and her mind with beautiful works, that can then be stored away or deleted, with the freedom to re-download and re-read an ever present possibility.

What has been the most difficult thing for you to purge?

Friday, 11 April 2014

Link Love, Volume 2

Thanks for sticking with me through a week of reviews! Below are my favourite links from the past week -- please let me know if you suggest any links or have a blog that you'd like me to consider for future inclusion. Please share any thoughts in the comments!

While I know that not everything is ideal in France, I think the government's unwaivering commitment to a work-life balance is amazing, and this new development making it illegal for companies to expect employees to be available after 6pm. Having just come off of a job that routinely required about 10+ hours of unpaid work per week, I hope that more countries take note... though we're already about 15 years behind France when it comes to (certain) employee rights!

We're loving this 16 minute long audio story from the Philippines, Aponibolinayen and the Healing Oranges. Storynory is a great site that exists thanks to donations, so while you can listen to the stories for free, I have been donating $1 for each story that we listen to -- we really enjoy these during the transition from lunch to nap time. (You can also read the entire script through the link if you want to pre-read.)

I have been loving Pepper Design Blog for a few years now, and though her content is mostly related to the ongoing renovations and decorating of her amazing Spanish bungalow, I cannot help but share a link this week after she shared a couple of the home's before and after pictures (or should I say before and current?) I think the word transformation is almost an understatement and it speaks to the amount of possibility and potential that any home can have with the right attitude and determination. (Some of the most significant changes are primarily decor-based so don't get too intimidated to click over!)

A not-so-quick but still easy DIY light bright board for overtop of your light table!

This article on Project-Based Learning is a touch-stone for me, as I haven't yet had time to delve into more substantial readings on the topic.

In tandem with last week's article on the importance of risky-play, Forbes' article on the importance of play-based learning this week

A couple of Christian reads that I think are of interest (for those who are interested): Jonathan Merritt's piece about Jesus befriending sinners (and not necessarily those interested in forgiveness, yet) and Rachel Held Evan's post about the connection between patriarchy and abuse -- in developing nations and in churches. I am proud to belong to a movement of Christians speaking out against the abuses that she describes.

Have a beautiful weekend!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Link Love, Volume 1

I read such a great variety of blogs and articles throughout the week that it seems a shame not to share the love! I'm hoping to make this into a weekly series where I share the blog posts and articles that I find the most inspiring or exciting. Some of the websites and blogs will likely appear weekly, due to consistently great content, but I think we'll see a good variety of faces here -- and while most posts might be brand new, some I might only stumble upon months after they were originally posted!

If you'd like to send me your blog post or website for possible inclusion, please comment on this post and I'll review you for future inclusion!

Everyone is talking about it, but just in case you haven't checked out Hanna Rosin's Atlantic article The Overprotected Kid that heavily features the Land "adventure park." I think the article is a bit romantic in its depiction, but it brings up some great points about giving our children opportunities to learn natural consequences and the psychological/developmental importance of allowing children to engage in "risky" behaviour (and lose some of the fear that has come to accompany modern parenting). I would even argue that the concept of trusting one's child to go and be "safe" at these parks is very in line with Montessori philosophies of trusting children to safely handle and operate real tools.

I'm loving this idea by Cherine of Making Montessori Ours using pencil cases for the phonics series (her daughter, Ava, is on the pink series). We're just starting to gather our objects together, and there are some really creative ideas in those pictures (love the playmobil hair for "wig").

Rachel from Racheous and Kate from An Everyday Story both write beauitful blogs that also combine Reggio and Montessori (Kate seems to lean more towards Reggio, while Rachel towards Montessori) and the two Australian bloggers have teamed up to create one of the most exciting series that I have seen in a while -- 30 Days To Transform Your Play, a thoughtful and in-depth approach to transforming everything about how we approach and set-up our children's play and play spaces. I'm following along as I try to make a separate play space for Miss G, away from the "common" one that she now shares with our playgroup kids (while also keeping in mind their play personalities and adapting the main play room for them as well).

I always love Janet Lansbury's posts, though sometimes you do want to check back in the comments for clarifications on her opinions (same with my posts sometimes!); this week she posted about "9 Best Ways to Stay Unruffled with Toddlers" which I think should  be required reading BEFORE your child is actually a toddler.

Love this piece by  David Lebovitz about modern state of French cuisine, which to be provokes a further conversation about national identity and food -- and the changing landscape of both. Is it patriotic to hold onto a traditional version of your nation's cuisine, or is it leaning towards xenophobia?

I always look forward to Cheryl Sternman Rule's sometimes sporadic posts; this past week's was no exception. To describe it would ruin it, so I'll just say, its a beautiful tale of perfectionism that accompanies a mouth-watering recipe.

Princeton just released a study on infant attachment that reveals that 60% of infants are securely attached (they focus on the 40% who are not), which to me is not surprising given that in 1970 Ainsworth estimated that less than 70% of infants were securely attached (previous to the discovery of disorganized attachment). Unfortunately, this is not going to be of interest to many parents who are not already concerned about attachment, but I hope that the study may support efforts by public interest groups that do outreach to parents who do not yet have information about secure attachment and its importance to development.

A bit out of what I normally post or talk about, but I'm very interested in the cross-section of social justice and psychology, and have been trying to learn more about mother-baby units in prsion. Its hard to find non-academic sources on this, but I think its a very interesting concept so this article is quite old but touches on more issues than most public pieces.

What have you been reading?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Spring Play Dough

We've had a couple of false starts to Spring where I live but I'm hoping things are headed for warmer weather soon! (As far as I'm concerned, once Maple Syrup Season is over, there's no point in having cold weather anymore.)

To welcome Spring, Mr. R helped me whip up a batch of homemade play dough which he generously shared with the other children. I also made a second batch of corn starch (corn flour) and hair conditioner play dough (which I first saw over at Montessori Life as We Know It) as an experiment for Miss Z who has sensitive skin -- I still love our oatmeal play dough recipe for sensitive skin, but I wanted to find an option that would be a bit more visually versatile. It is just one part conditioner to two parts corn starch. This recipe was incredibly soft and I loved how the colours turned out -- but I am a bit curious how long the dough will last, so I'll update when I find out!

I used Wilton Coloured Gels to dye the play dough, and they remain my top choice for keeping on hand for projects like this. They are more versatile and cost-effective than liquid food colouring and I find the colours can be more easily manipulated. I used Violet, Teal, Pink, and Lemon Yellow. Bellow I did a side by side comparison of how my "traditional" homemade play dough looked beside the corn starch versions -- the same amount of dye was used in each.

One thing I liked about this new recipe is how the colours blended into a lovely marbled purple when the individual colours inevitably became mashed together.