How Do We Deal With Difficult Times?

Tony Evans, fellow Montessorian, Founder and Director of Dundas Valley Montessori School writes…

“Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
This quote from Lord of the Rings, though not a traditional way to start a review of an educational speaker (I do have a slightly nerdy side) speaks perfectly to the question of how we deal with difficult times.

“Dr. Michael Ungar, an internationally recognized expert on how to raise resilient children, recently spoke to a group of Montessori parents and educators on this topic. He said the key to building resilience is to give children different levels of responsibility and trust as they mature.”

“In the last year, members of the DVMS community have gone through job loss, recession, divorce, serious health challenges, and the fact that they weren’t invited to certain birthday parties”.

“If that seems cold, it is not meant to be. In our lives, we are inevitably going to face great disappointments and tragedies, as well as deserved victories and moments of profound joy. How we respond to these events determines the quality of our lives. How our children see us react, and how they respond to the challenges and successes they experience, also affects the quality of their lives, both now and as they mature. Our instinct as parents is to protect our children from any level of heartache and suffering. However, we can wound our children if we suffocate them with love instead of letting them breathe on their own”.

“What do we as parents and educators do? We give our children respect and responsibility. As parents we get our children to help cook dinner, set the table, clear their plates, wash windows, mop, and clean their rooms. As they get older we give them weekly chores, let them go to the corner store for bread, and let them play on the street until the lights come on. The expectations placed upon each child should be different - according to that child’s nature”.

“The Montessori method is child based instead of teacher based — an approach that develops self confidence and coping skills. Students make snack with real knives, cook, wash dishes, tuck in chairs, sew buttons, and polish shoes. The practical life activities were created because Montessori observed that ‘adult work’ gave the children dignity and a sense of purpose. The sensorial activities are failure based. They have a built in control of error. The children are supposed to get it wrong the first time, and to subsequently work and reason through these ‘puzzles’ towards a solution”.

“As they get older we have to trust our children to take the same risks we took when we were kids. Montessori children are not overly praised or motivated by marks. There is not unlimited freedom as demanding, high quality work is expected. Each child, whether gifted or challenged, is allowed to use their unique interests and abilities to find a path to excellence and enlightenment”.

“At the end of the day, you need to know and trust your child and understand that mistakes will be made. True resilience comes from allowing our children to learn from both our and their mistakes, and not only revel in successes. This gives them the inner fortitude to respond to the hard times that are an inevitable part of all of our lives”.

I think that Tony’s words make a lot of sense. It is so important for us as parents and teachers to reflect upon our actions and constantly see that what we are doing is directly influencing our children. This is why what we are all doing at Westside is our passion and why we have an unwillingness to compromise when it come to the child’s needs. We are all working together to build strong, motivated individuals, responsible, confident and capable of doing anything they put their minds to.

March 25, 2009. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Swap-A-Rama, Saturday March 28th


Attention all Westside and neighbourhood parents:
WMS’s first annual “Swaparama” will be held on Saturday, March 28th beginning at 10am.
This is a chance for us all to get together, swap some lightly used children’s clothing, or toys for some other lightly used children’s clothing or toys, chat, nibble and have a good time!
Children are more then welcome to join us for the morning as well.
This is going to be a fun event that is open to anyone in the neighbourhood, so tell your friends and family!
Any items left over will be donated to the June Callwood Center for Women and Families.
Please check out their site for more details.

We hope to see you Saturday!
Liz and Jody

March 24, 2009. Parent Events. No Comments.

March Break Camp, Week 2

We had a fantastic time during the second week of March Break Camp. Last Monday morning, Mad Science and their “Wiggly World of Worms” visited the children; each child received a worm to take home for their garden. WMS received a few dozen worms for our garden. The children are enjoying digging them out and examining them on a daily basis. I hope the worms are hardy enough to survive the explorations of our budding young scientists!!

Tuesday was a great day; one of my former students, Chloe, who is now seven, joined us for a day of camp and had a great time playing with, reading “The Giving Tree” to and helping the Toddlers.
Early in the day, we all learned, thanks to Peggy, a nutritionist from “Real Food for Real Kids”, how to gauge our hunger by listening to our bodies. Peggy is an enthusiastic and energetic speaker and kept the children engaged throughout her visit.
We were fortunate to have a beautiful day for our St. Patrick’s Day Parade down Maud Street to St. Andrew’s Playground. We had a great time swinging, sliding and laughing at the park. As we had another wonderful day Wednesday, the children were delighted to return to the park.
On Thursday morning, “Creature Quest” visited us with a posse of their critters: a rabbit, chinchilla, bearded dragon, tree frog, and a python, to name a few. Duane, the presenter, used his to show the children the animals’ natural habitat. We all thoroughly enjoyed watching Jabba, the African bullfrog catch and devour five tasty mealworms!
ElleryRowanChinchilla.jpg JasperTreeFrog.jpg
Friday was our big field trip to the Lillian Smith Library for an animal storytelling session with Theo, the children’s librarian. She used a combination of songs, stories and finger plays to entertain and educate our students about animals. We had a great time, and as always, the streetcar ride just may have been the children’s favourite part of the trip!

March 22, 2009. Uncategorized. No Comments.

“My Corner Grocery Store”

Author, Joanne Schwartz kindly came to Westside to share her book “My Corner Grocery Store” with us. The children were all captivated with Joanne and her story. Thank you so much Joanne, allowing us to have this first hand experience. We hope to visit you at Lillian Smith soon!

March 21, 2009. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Shaking, shimmying and jamming…

On Friday the 13th we welcomed Chris Coole, one of Canada’s foremost banjo players and member of the Foggy Hogtown Boys (, and Sam Allison, member of Sheesham and Lotus ( to play some tunes for us.
The morning began as the children were eating snack, listening to the tuning and strumming of the banjo in the other room. They all sat up a little bit more straight and were instantly intrigued. What was that new sound coming from the other room? They could not finish their snack fast enough.
Upon entering the performance room the children were instantly mesmorized with the two musicians in front of them. Chris and Sam had a plan to introduce the children to as many instruments as they could , and they did!
The set began with Chris on the banjo and Sam introducing the jaw harp to the children.
This is where the dancing began, and it did not stop for the entire hour (yep, hour!) of the performance.
Up next was a harmonica, but this was no ordinary harmonica. This was a special harmonica custom built by Sam. It was set into a horn. Intrigued by this large deep sounding instrument, the children stomped their feet to ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’.

Now came quiz time. What is the difference between a banjo and a guitar? Yep, the number of strings. The children began to count the 5 strings on the banjo and the 6 strings on the guitar.

No Blue Grass, Old-time Rag-time High-Steppin’ Mountain Music duo would be compete without the fiddle! As Sam pulled out his fiddle the children’s eyes enlarged. The climax of the performance, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”!

I have to say that we were honoured that these two amazingly talented musicians took time out of their day to share their talent (and secrets – when you see them raise their leg that means that the song is ending) with us. Not only did we all learn so much but also had such a great time shaking, shimmining and jamming with them!
Thanks Chris and Sam!

March 14, 2009. Uncategorized. No Comments.

A Little taste of chocolate at the White Squirrel

The recipe for a perfect day…good friends…a street car ride…hot chocolate…and Trinity Bellwoods Park! We all had such a great time on our trip to White Squirrel today! Thank you so much to David and his kind staff who took great care of us!

March 12, 2009. Uncategorized. No Comments.


The opportunity to join the WMS library field trip sounded like too much fun
to pass up.
Walking through the pouring rain, gleefully jumping in each puddle on our
path, we arrived at the streetcar stop and waited for our ride. Our
destination was the library, but the short journey on the streetcar seemed
to also present itself as a highlight of the trip. Once on board we were
greeted with smiles from the passengers, amused at the order and calmness of
our group. At the library, we were directed to the children’s area, rolled
up our sleeves and dug into the bins of books set aside for us. Some were
happy to sit and flip pages on their own while others favoured rearranging
books to their liking of the Dewey Decimal System. I was delighted to have
an audience of four and read them the latest board book penned for the
diaper crowd. The hour passed in what seemed like mere minutes and once
again we were on “the rocket” to take us back to familiar ground. The
adventure was exciting and fun, and I can’t wait to hear where we will be
going next!

Jasper’s Dad (Gerry)

March 4, 2009. Uncategorized. No Comments.