September came and went….

Our first month of school has come to an end already. The new children have settled in and are arriving to school happily and eager to greet their teachers and friends. I have had the pleasure of spending time in each of our three classrooms over the last few weeks and have been in awe of the goings on in each community. We are all looking forward to the coming months at WMS.

Parents often ask, “What does my child do all day?”. During their days at Westside, your child may be reading a book, baking banana bread, helping a friend tie her shoes, carrying out a multiplication equation, apprener le francais, or dancing their little heart out. The classrooms are very busy places and at times, all of the above activities and more are taking place at the same time! Gosha has captured some amazing moments over the last few weeks, enjoy…..
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October 2, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Casa North’s First 3 weeks

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Dear Parents:

The school year in Casa North is in full force on week three and we have
exciting news to share! Many of you have probably heard about our
“special lunches”. Children enjoy it very much and look forward to it
every week. It is special because we use “elegant” tablecloths and we
move the tables together so we can be closer to more friends. We also use
a beautiful napkin and we are learning to place it on our laps, (though it
might take a while for this to be successful). When we are all together,
we say a special poem to show our appreciation for the food and our
friends, and I light tea candles placed in votives. It also feels special
because Julia and I go around serving them food and water, which gives us
an opportunity to practice our beautiful Grace and Courtesy manners. We
have background music (mostly classical) and we have had a brief talk
about the composers and the kind of music we are listening to. I have
chosen Beethoven the last two lunches, Symphonies #1 and #6. Other
options will be Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos,
Handel’s Water Music, and Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik. Everybody
participates in some way during setup and this makes it even more special.

This event has become so important that some of our friends decided to bring
in flowers for our special lunch. I want to share with you the beautiful
arrangements they brought, and I thank them and their parents for this
lovely gesture. Our special lunch this Friday will be fantastic, thank
you!

On another note, I would like to tell you that singing and dancing has
become quite an event in our classroom. We have learned an array of
songs, from Raffi’s Down By The Bay to The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. We
all sing and go through the motions, and I can tell by the enthusiasm that
children express, that we are really having a blast. I believe that music
is extremely important (after all, my two sons are professional
musicians!) so I will keep exposing the children to different musical
genres. For those who are interested, Raffi will have two concerts in
Toronto on December 2nd at Roy Thomson Hall.

Thank you for contributing to a great start of the school year!
Gracias,
Julia and Florencia

September 21, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Why we do what we do.

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I received a post today from a Facebook page called Montessori Madmen (you should check them out!) and it was just so refreshing to read. The month of September is an exciting and over-whelming month in the classrooms for all of us. We get back into our routines, there are new faces, there are new challenges, but in and amongst it all we are all working together to benefit each and every child as an individual which eventually benefits us all as a whole. While I read this post it helped me to reflect and check in again and remember what Maria Montessori once said, that “Education is not just the imparting of knowledge but must seek the path to release the human potential.” This potential is in each and every one of the children that walk through the door each morning and it is times like these (see the story below) that help us as adults to remember that.

“While showing a prospective parent around my school today, as we discussed grace and courtesy, she said “Well, I think it’s important that children are prepared to handle themselves when they encounter children who are not practicing these skills.” I explained the fallacy of the Better-get-used-to-it mentality, but I also shared with her the following story about a graduate of my school.

This child enrolled with us at 18 months old and entered into the local public elementary school upon completion of his Kindergarten year at the Montessori Academy at Belmont Greene. Two weeks into the school year, his mother called to tell me about her son’s experience. Her son came home one day and said “Mom. I have something bad to tell you. There is a boy in school and the other kids are calling him fat. They are being mean. I feel so bad for him. I want to have a play date with him.” Think he was ready for that situation?

Montessori classrooms are not Utopian societies, but a child is less likely to encounter this type of negative behavior there. That doesn’t mean they aren’t prepared to handle it when they ultimately do. Not only does Montessori provide your child with a strong sense of self and the confidence to stand on his own, it also provides him with the courage to stand up for the rights of others.”

September 13, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

The First Day of School

I bet many of you have been thinking about today; feelings of excitement, joy, even anxiety may have surfaced as today approached. Today marks the first day of school in over three decades that I am not in a classroom, as either a student or directress. Even though I’m not in the classroom, I did pop into the classrooms to get a glimpse.

I visited the Toddlers on the playground, overheard Zachary saying, “Bobby, Bobby”, then I watched a huge grin spread across his face as Bob and his mom approached the gate to the playground. Ethan spent some time walking around the playground, checking out the toys, the children and their beautiful garden. Around 9:45, the Toddlers were settling into their dining area for their group snack. It’s always amazing to watch the returning children set the examples for their younger friends. Bob, Silas, and Zachary expertly set their place settings while their new friends: Ethan, Levi, Isla watched and learned. Within a few minutes, they were all enjoying a delicious snack of quinoa puffs and yogourt.

Meanwhile, in Casa North, Hamza was practicing writing his numbers on a chalkboard, Sophia was laying out the Decanomial Square and Waverly was enjoying a new sewing lesson from Florencia. At the other end of the classroom, Jayden was busy helping Tahanna with the Trinomial Cube while Calla taught her new friend Ginger how to string beads and make a necklace. Julia and Noah took “un promenade” through the classroom together.

In Casa South, Marnie was taking care of the plants, Amelie was painting a picture and Lara read a new story to Alasdair. Jayden and Taylor enjoyed a snack together and then showed Matthew how to wash dishes. Claire and Chantal examined the pigeon skeleton at a table and Alice sewed buttons.

While there were a few tears at drop off, everyone quickly settled in, made some new friends, enjoyed a snack and worked with the Montessori materials. The next few weeks will be amazing to watch the new children’s comfort level grow as they settle into their new environments. We know we can count on our returning students to help them through this incredible transition.

September 4, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Lucky Lucy!

At Westside, as you may know if you are a parent who has a child at our school, nature and the outdoors are important. Yes, we are downtown and yes, green space is hard to find but yes, we do our best and make it our priority.

A few weeks ago I received an email from the Friends of Trinity Bellwoods. They were promoting their Park Clean Up day and also asking for volunteers for the summer to take care of some of the new saplings that the City had planted. What a great opportunity for the children. We quickly told them we were interested and are now the new care givers to a ginkgo tree just East of the playground (pretty convenient placement!). So today we headed down to TBP to pay our tree a visit,
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weed around the base of it, make sure the mulch was adequate,
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give it some water, chat with it and give it a name.

Now the naming part is always interesting with children who are between the ages of 2 and 6. You really never know what they are going to come up with (just ask Liz about the names they gave her for her baby!). After much though, deliberation and chatter they came up with (drum roll please) Lucky Lucy. How fantastic is that! And we think Lucy is pretty lucky. She (we hope it is a she) has 40 some children who are join to make sure that she is taken good care of over the summer!

July 4, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

A Really Nice Article - written by a parent of one of our graduating children

So Liz, co-owner and full time Casa teacher at the school has had an article written about her in the Grid - she has taught the son of one of the writers, Christopher Shulgan for the past 4 years. In fact, this child was one of the original first children enrolled at Westside! And he graduated, completing the entire program. It is things like this that makes all the work of opening a school worth it!
Thanks for your kind words Chris.

Check out the article here.
http://www.thegridto.com/life/parenting/an-ode-to-the-forgotten-teacher/

July 3, 2012. Uncategorized, Articles. No Comments.

Another Surprise!

2 surprise baby showers within 1 month of each other is pretty exciting! The children at Westside have had the opportunity to see not 1 but 2 of their teachers go through pregnancy this year. It has been such a special and wonderful experience for us all. From the ext a special rubs and hugs the tummies get to the very inquisitive questions that we all have to answer, it has been wonderful experience. Last week the children and staff hosted a surprise shower for Liz. While Liz will be on maternity leave for the next year, she will be in the school on a regular basis with her babe on hip. We cannot wait!!!
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And all of us here cannot wait to see the final surprise, if Liz has a boy or a girl! Stay tuned!

July 3, 2012. Uncategorized, Classroom life. No Comments.

Happy Graduation Aiden, Jackson, Rowan, Sebastian, Ivy, Noah and Myron!

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As I was thinking about the graduation, and what I wanted to talk about quite a few things came to mind. And then I realized that the common thread in each thought was process. Everything is a process. Maria Montessori said, “We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”

When I think back to the days when Liz and I were training to run a half marathon together (man that was a process, after a day of school, running up Spadina, up those Casa Loma steps, up through Forest Hill and back around) all the while we were chatting, chatting about what we would do when we opened our own school. It was the beginning, the beginning of the process.

Then me having a child and 15 months later, another child (yep, that was certainly a process), and remembering that dream we had and thinking, let’s make a go of it!

And we did. We made a go of it. Liz was working full time and I was parenting full time. We would have meetings on the floor in my bathroom while I was bathing my 17 month old and 2 month old, again part of the process.

The day that Liz and I opened the door at Westside was a day I will never forget. The road it took to get here was not at all paved. In fact, some could say there were mountains that we had to climb and there were also huge valleys that we had to get through and just when we thought, “Ok, there it is, there is the first stop on the road (because this is a journey, a process, that we embarked upon and there are going to be stops along the way) another mountain would appear.

We knew we’d get there and we knew it would happen. And then there was this woman who called to meet with us one day. She had 3 children that she wanted to enroll at our School. Yes, that was Jackson, Aiden and Rowan, 3 of the graduates sitting up here today. And Kate and Angus had faith. And Chris and Natalie had faith. And Myron is graduating today. And Westside had to happen, and it did. And Noah and Sebastian and Ivy, they are graduating today too.

It all came together and today we are here, at Westside’s second graduation ceremony along side these 7 graduates, these 7 graduates that have completed the process, all with huge success all their own, more than ready to embark upon that next process. Kudos to all of them.

It has been a year since we were here last and I still think that Westside is a pretty unique place. Each and every morning you can still walk down Richmond or Maud and witness the children running down the sidewalk excited to get into the door. Often you can see one of these graduates up here holding the door for their friends, beaming with excitement and radiating confidence. You could walk around to the Maud Street playground and witness the enormous smiles on each and every one of the toddlers faces as they happily send their parents off to work, or overhear a Casa child shouting “Good morning Neena!” as they run around to Richmond. The children love coming to school. And we love having them at the School.

Now going back to Maria’s quote and how education is not something that a teacher does, this education that she speaks of is not accomplished by listening to words, it is accomplished by experiences in the environment. Sometimes I wish I could wear a hidden camera while walking through that environment that we call Westside, and just give all of you a glimpse as to what we see each and every day. Yes, you have observations, and yes, they are amazing but what each and every one of the crew here sees daily reminds me of why Westside was started, why Maria Montessori spent her lifetime researching and devising this alternative form of education, and again, reminds me of the process. The process is amazing.

Maria Montessori said it perfectly.
“There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it, which comes through experience of freedom within the community.”

This is Westside Montessori School.

Our graduates have been at Westside Montessori for anywhere from 2-4 years, four of them since day 1. They have worked through the Montessori materials and have grown into strong leaders in the classroom; it’s now time for them to move on to elementary school.

We have all been privileged to witness our graduates become caring, nurturing individuals who both look out for and look after their fellow students. We have watched them learn to read, to write, to carry out addition, to understand that a verb is an “action word”, they have researched and written countless projects this year. The adults in the classroom have learned about everything from meerkats to blue whales to the length of countless dinosaurs, all measured using the square tiles of the classroom floor.

The children sitting here on the stage are an amazing group, we have witnessed an amazing process within each one of them as they have grown from young children, some of them little toddlers when they started at Westside, into confident, young children. I have a few amazing moments I’d like to share with you.

Jackson, thank you for waking up your younger friends in such a kind and sweet way. When you use your softest voice and whisper, “Aris-Dean, wake up, we’re having cookies for snack and your mommy’s coming soon”, Aris-Dean wakes up happily and looks forward to winding down his day at school.

Ivy, the lessons you have shown your peers this year, from yoga to baking apples, are incredible. Thank you for your patience and calm manner with the children. When you struggled to help Claire learn some challenging yoga positions, you realized you needed to alter your “lesson plan” to her level and did so expertly, allowing her to practise yoga with you, at her level.

Rowan, when you went for a visit to the Toddler classroom last week, you blew Gosha away with your kindness and consideration and she told me what a big help you were to her and Yonina as you helped Silas wash his dishes and Noah make cookies. You are always there, with a smile on your face, to help your friends hang up their artwork, zip their zippers or crack a joke and make your teachers giggle. Example: after an extremely busy lunch hour one day, Nadia barely had a chance to take a bite of her lunch, so she was grabbing a quick bite in the kitchen before heading out on her break, she was spotted by Ro, “Nadia, do you ALWAYS come in the kitchen and eat all the leftovers?”

Noah, when one of your friends is feeling sad, you approach them, put your arm around their shoulder and assess the situation. You always know whether they need a teacher’s assistance, a tissue, an ice pack or to see one of your many funny faces. You have cheered up so many friends by making them laugh, thank you for your big heart.

Aiden, you showed such maturity last week when we were talking about “Oh, Canada” and you told the children that “we must be serious when we sing ‘Oh Canada’ because it is a song about our beautiful country and we have lots of lakes and animals and oceans that many people don’t have, so we love Canada and we will take care of our country”. Our politicians could learn a lot from you, and I do hope to see you running for office someday.

Sebastian, you have taught the children to be proud of their artwork and you have shown them so many strategies that have helped them to create on paper the pictures they have in their minds. The children and teachers are in awe of your creations and your generosity in sharing your skills is truly remarkable. Last week, Henry drew a Peregrine Falcon and after you admired his picture you said, “I wish Myron was here today because he would really love this drawing”, the pride on Henry’s face was precious.

Myron, thank you for being such a determined, ambitious boy and for showing your friends that even when things are challenging, they can work at it and that it gets better. You have practiced the Map of Africa a great deal and while some of your friends worry that “it’s really hard” or “it takes a long time”, you remind them that each time is faster and that you will help them along the way. You have helped your friends understand that learning is a process and it’s something we all work at everyday.

This year has been an amazing year in Casa South, we have all learned a great deal from each other and while we will miss our graduates immensely, they are all ready for the next stage of their education and we wish them the very best in their new classrooms.

June 25, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Melanie’s baby girl!

We are so happy to announce that Melanie had her baby girl, Tara Bronwyn McInroy.

She was born on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at: 1:23 am
She was a happy, helathy 7lbs. 8 oz.

Congratulations Melanie and Mike!

Love all of us here at Westside.

June 13, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Our Garden

From Day 1 here at Westside gardening and the outdoors has always been a very important part of the our culture. Being a downtown Toronto school this takes a lot of creativity. There is a Community Garden across the street from the School and we are plot holders. The garden is one of our favourite places, whether it be tending to the plants, checking out the insects, or listening to a story in the middle of it all.
Along with gardening and the outdoors, baking has also been a big part of our culture here at Westside.
So just a few weeks ago we spent a Saturday here at School, some of us manning a bake sale and some of us constructing planters to add a bit more garden to our days!
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A special thanks goes out to all of our amazing parents who helped to make this project such a success! The children enjoy the garden each and every day, thanks to all of you!

June 13, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

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