Practical Life

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” Maria Montessori

The Practical Life area is generally the first area a young child is introduced to in a Montessori Classroom. It forms a wonderful bridge between home and school. The children are familiar with bowls, jugs, trays, vases and glasses and many of them find great comfort in this area of the classroom. We often observe a Toddler simply fascinated by pouring water from a jug into a glass, a four year old becomes truly mesmerized as they create more and more bubbles while washing a table, scrubbing it ‘round and ‘round, putting their whole body into their work. As a child moves into their final year of Casa and they approach the second plane of development, we witness deep concentration as they iron clothing or embroider a piece of linen, often taking opportunity for social interaction and creating handiwork for a friend.

Through their work in Practical Life, the children develop and build their concentration, their independence and their ability to focus. Their coordination of movement is enhanced, they develop strong work habits and begin to understand that the work cycle begins with choosing a piece of material to take from the shelf, carrying the materials carefully to a table, working on the activity through to completion, then finally, putting it back in its spot as they found it, ready to be used by a classmate.

Last week, we welcomed Sandra Girlato, the Primary Director of Training at Toronto’s Foundation for Montessori Education, into our school to host a Parent Education Evening. She spoke about human development and how a Montessori Education meets the needs of developing children. The trained Montessori Teachers carefully prepare the classroom environments to meet the children’s needs.

Mrs. Girlato spoke about the Practical Life area of the classroom and discussed children wanting to help at home, she told us to give them tasks in the “real kitchen”, rather than a play kitchen with plastic vegetables and a sink that doesn’t work, we must show the children to wash real fruits and vegetables, to cut them and place them in a pot with water. Children mimic the adults in their life and they want to contribute at home. Young children are extremely capable, provided the environment is prepared for them with small tools and other items they can access independently, set up on a low shelf just like in their Montessori classrooms. It is amazing to observe our young students in deep concentration, happily working away in their classrooms.

Enjoy the below photographs that Gosha took of the children working with the Practical Life materials.

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November 21, 2013. Uncategorized. No Comments.

One Week Under Our Belts

During the last week of August, the staff had been busily preparing the children’s environments, both indoor and outdoor. Montessori materials were cleaned and strategically placed on the shelves, name tags were hung, cubby baskets were stocked and lesson plans were written. All that was left was to fill the classrooms with eager little learners.

Last Tuesday morning, there was a buzz of excitement in the air at Westside Montessori School. 8:30 am came and the Toddlers said goodbye to mom and dad and joined Yonina and Patty in their playground. There were some tears from our new children, saying goodbye can be tough.

The Casa children entered their classrooms and were keen to discover their new “cubby partner”. After hanging up their backpacks and putting on their new indoor shoes, they were excited to choose an activity to work with.

By Thursday, everyone had settled into the routine and the children were all feeling pretty comfortable. Gosha captured some incredible shots. Enjoy!

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September 10, 2013. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Open House!

Find out everything Westside Montessori has to offer your family. Tour our school, meet our staff and see the plans for our new location in Kensington Market. RSVP to

June 4, 2013. Uncategorized. No Comments.

When looking at this series of photos that was taken in our Casa South classroom yesterday I was reminded of an article I read written by Trevor Eissler, the author of Montessori Madness!, A Parent to Parent Arguement for Montessori Education. The article was published in the April 2013 issue of the magazine Tomorrow’s Child. It is titled, Montessori, A Home. A School. Man, that to me is such a powerful statement for so many reasons. And this is how I feel each and every time I walk through our school. Trevor states that “[he remembers] setting foot in that Montessori classroom. [He] sat down on a chair - a very, very small chair - near the door. [He] had just stepped into someone’s living room. Or was it a science laboratory? Or maybe an office building? [He] couldn’t put [his] finger on exactly what was different at first, but [it] was unlike any classroom [he] had ever seen. If felt different. too. Peaceful. Purposeful.”
Trevor is a father if 3 Montessori students, is a business jet pilot and flight instructor. Over the years he has taught hundreds of pilots. He is the author of 4 books, Montessori Madness!, 4,962,571, That 17th Hat, and N is for North Korea. He is also part of Montessori Madmen, “an impatient, ragtag group of dads and advocates from around the world, united by a common zeal to bring the Montessori method to millions more. Our mission is simple: to advocate for Montessori education so that one day it’s not called Montessori school; it’s just called school.” Check them out!

May 23, 2013. Uncategorized, Classroom life. No Comments.

Mother’s Day

We all had a wonderful time last Friday honouring and celebrating our Moms.
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May 13, 2013. Uncategorized. No Comments.

What have we been up to?

We’ve had a wonderful, busy few months. We all had a blast at March Break Camp, enjoyed our annual Earth Day Celebration at Riverdale Farm, welcomed our Grandparents into our classrooms and of course, worked away in our classrooms.

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May 3, 2013. Uncategorized. No Comments.

The Second Plane of Development shining through our Casa

As we come back to school after the Winter Break and the children rejoice on the thrill of reuniting with friends, teachers and old and new materials in our beautiful environment, I sense that my two graduating students are showing signs of readiness for the next stage in their lives. Calla and Waverly are moving towards the Second Plane of Development (ages 6-12) as their skills and projects slowly show a mind that is attracted to imagination, exploration, planning, research and group work. They are slowly passing from a material, sensorial plane to a more abstract, intellectual one. We guided Calla towards making one of her creative ideas into a planned project that became quite a success.

After teaching her how to peel and slice a carrot, she proposed we could make a carrot salad. When I spontaneously asked her what we would need, she came out with some ingredients off her head (some of which she changed in her final recipe), immediately wrote them down, and that sparked the beginning of a solid project. To make it a reality, she had to sit down and seriously think about the ingredients and try to figure out costs of each item to come to a rough total. Prepared with a list and money, off we went to Loblaws to get all our materials. Calla and Waverly were in charge of the whole process: checking the list, pulling the shopping cart, picking the materials, emptying the cart and paying the cashier, preparing the salad in the classroom, cleaning-up, and then treating their friends with an “amazing salad”, Calla’s words to describe the yummy recipe that most of their peers ate and approved.

It is exciting to see these signs of growth and independence in Waverly and Calla, and also to see their peers’ admiration and glee. They become inspired by their creative ideas and skills to make them come true. Ginger told me that one day she will also be a graduate and she will prepare a dish for her classmates, lovely! Justin, Nate and Julius know they will be some of next year’s graduates, and a sense of fulfillment was evident in their excitement, as they came up with some ideas. The seed is planted, thanks to Calla and Waverly.

As I continue to support their journey towards this second stage in their lives, I still revel in the fact that they are with me a few more months and that together we will do exciting work. I will support their growth to let them go, but I intend to enjoy their company and ideas to the fullest. Off you go my little ones, but fortunately for me, not quite yet.


January 13, 2013. Uncategorized, Classroom life. No Comments.

The Great Library of Knowledge


The following was forwarded to me from Nadia, who is currently in Portland, Oregon, training to be a Montessori Elementary Directress. It was originally taken from the Montessori Alumni Network web site. Enjoy! I sure did!

DECEMBER 4, 2012
The Great Library of Knowledge

This is a story I told my Upper Elementary (9-12 year old) students. It’s adapted from an analogy that my Montessori trainer, Greg MacDonald, gave me, but I tweaked it a bit. I’m sharing it here because it both informs my work as a Montessori guide every day, and also rings true for my own experience as a Montessori child.

There is a great library of knowledge, and one of the reasons we go to school is to get access to that library. Now, for a long time, the way that worked was a teacher would go take a book out of the library, hand it to you, and say, “here, learn what’s in this and then repeat it back to me.”

Maria Montessori (and a lot of other very wise people), realized that the great library isn’t something you can just go visit; every person has to build their own library in their own mind. In fact, the libraries don’t look exactly the same. My library has an express elevator up to the math floor, and secret passages from the math floor to the art floor and to the language floor. It also has a big room with books about how to help other people build their libraries, because that is my work. That’s my favorite place to hang out. Yours might have a big, comfy writing room where you like to spend time, or it might be exquisitely decorated. Or you might walk right into the justice room, and all the other rooms branch off from there. Your secret passages will be in totally different places than mine, because everyone has their own way of connecting the things they know.

In a Montessori school, you spend your years in the Children’s House building the foundation of your library and learning enough architecture, engineering, and construction skills that you can get going on the rest of the building. You have to know something about what’s in the world before you can really start organizing your library, and you need to be able to speak, and listen, and imagine, and maybe know something about reading and writing and numbers in order to build a good library.

When you come into the Elementary, your work is to build a strong library. We start off by telling you the Great Stories: The Story of the Universe, The Story of the Coming of Life, The Story of the Coming of Human Beings [or The Fable of the Savannah Ape, which is what I tell] and so on. These are like the instructions for framing your library. They tell you what floors should be in your library, so that you’ll have places to put the rooms you’re building and you’ll be able to put them in a logical order.

After that, my job is simply to help you design and build your library. Sometimes, I give you lessons to show you where you could put a new room or a new shelf or a new secret passage in your library. Other times, I help you when you get stuck and need to redesign a room or a secret passage. I also make sure you put in the things our society expects you to have in your library and that you visit every floor of your library at least occasionally. But in the end, you are the architect, engineer, and builder of your own library.

When you leave here, your library won’t be finished. In fact, it will never be finished. That’s okay. What I care about is that you know how to do a good job as the architect, engineer, and builder of your library. I care that you know how to ask for help when you need it. I care that you know how to help others build their libraries when they need it. And I care that you know your own library well enough that you can use it to help make life better for more people. I want you to be able to look at problems in the world, then look inward at your own library, and be able to say, “Ah, this is my task right now. This is what I can give.”

After sharing this story, I spent most of a day looking at maps and listening to descriptions of my students’ libraries. The descriptions were stunning, creative, hilarious, and beautiful (and included not a small number of roller coasters). Now, I’m asking you: what does your library look like? What part of your library do you like to spend time in?

December 11, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Divergent thinking, collaboration and the culture of the environment…hmmm…isn’t this Montessori???

December 5, 2012. Uncategorized, Articles. No Comments.

The Maud Street Garden Clean Up

It was a mild fall day today and a couple of the children and I took the opportunity to get into the Maud Street garden and start on the clean up.

The Maud Street garden was created out of an idea from Yonina, our Toddler teacher. She managed to corral a crew of parents on a weekend to help us build the garden in and outside of the Maud Street playground and organized a Bake Sale with the children to raise funds for plants and seeds.

Being an avid gardener myself I understand what being immersed in nature can do for one person’s health and well being, the connection to the earth, the community and the greater sense of life as a process. Since opening we have been members of the Community Garden across Richmond Street. The children enjoy the walk to the garden, the opening of the shed with the School keys, the neighbours that they see in the garden and most of all, that feeling they get when taking care of the plants. Maria Montessori said that “The best means of invigorating the child is to immerse him in nature.” That “when the children put a seed into the ground… the children are inspired with a feeling for nature…” This feeling radiates from the children when gardening. They are calm but excited, careful and cautious, intrigued and amazed. The children helped plant the gardens, helped take care of them for the season and now are seeing their project to the end, by helping in the clean up.

December 4, 2012. Uncategorized, Classroom life. No Comments.

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