If you live in the Lower Mainland, Edmonton, Calgary or on Vancouver Island, you’ll want to check out the 4cats studios. These studios are locations where children ages 2 to 15 can take a variety of art lessons. I was alerted to their programmes after my seven year old niece started a class.  She loves art and creative endeavours and has thoroughly enjoyed her experience at 4Cats.  I have been fortunate in my life to have had early exposure to serious art courses.  I was, therefore, pleased to see that the 4Cats approach respects and supports the intelligent approach that children can take to their artistic training.

It turns out that the founder of the 4cats studio is a Montessori educator.  You can see her background in the informed and thoughtful approach that is taken towards teaching art.  Each lesson has art history content included and children come away from their experience with a deep understanding not only of the techniques artists use but the approach and passion found in the art of famous and local artists.

If you don’t have a 4cats studio and think you’d like to open one yourself, be aware that there are franchise opportunities.

I will be taking a break from posting on this weblog as I prepare to deliver twins and adjust to the new routine. I hope to be able to start adding content again in a few months.
Have a great summer.

Children Learn What They Live By

Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism

He learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility

He learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule

He learns to be shy.

If a child lives with jealousy

He learns to feel guilty.

But if a child lives with tolerance

He learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement

He learns self-confidence.

If a child lives with praise

He learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness

He learns justice.

If a child lives with approval

He learns to like himself.

If a child lives with security

He learns to have faith.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship

He learns to find love in the world.

Casa Kaede home page

In my travels along the internet highway, I come across good Montessori resources. As I find them I will include them in this post.

Information about Dr Maria Montessori


Bringing Montessori into your home

The Wonder Years – A Montessori home environment

Parenting for independence blogpost

Practical life in the home - a good list of undertakings that a child will appreciate

Summer vacation – a practical life approach

Summer reading ideas

Montessori at home: the senses

Montessori prepared environment at home

How to create a prepared environment



Montessori for everyone – Montessori home schooling

Moose Huntress – Montessori at home website

Happy Hearts home schooling blog links

Adventures of a rainbow mama

Chasing Cheerios - a homeschooling weblog


The Montessori Merthod for the Infant Toddler

Parenting books for the infant years

Secrets of childhood – infant center

Baby’s Montessori room

The first three years of life


Montessori videos
on You Tube

Montessori videos on Vimeo

Montessori for infants and toddlers

A general Montessori website

Montessori content on Blogger

Montessori images on Flickr


BST Montessori Materials

Montessori Research and development


Comprehensive list of Montessori materials resources

Infant toddler supplies

Little Red Riding Hood: Supplies for infants and toddlers


Etsy stores with Montessori tags

Goose Designs on Etsy

Spore: A modern Montessori material

How to make homemade material

Michael Olaf Infant and Primary years supplies

Montessori for everyone supplies

Montessori books on Amazon.com


Itty bitty love

Montessori on the shelf

Moveable alphabet

Montessori Secrets

The following is my choice of resource books that I have ordered in preparation for an upcoming birth. I probably won’t add a medical book as you can find good medical sites online, and I have the ability to call a government nurse over the phone in the province where I live. I am the type of person who doesn’t read manuals and skips around resource books. As a result, I don’t want to order too many resource books as I probably wouldn’t read them all, and I suspect I won’t have much time for reading!

I have heard high praise about the writings and research of Tim Seldin from my colleagues in the education field and decided to order his book How to Raise an Amazing Child. For more information about the work of Tim Seldin’s organization see www.montessori.org

Tim Seldin speaks about Montessori education:

I own a copy of Sylvana Montenaro’s book Understanding the Human Being, which focuses on the 0 – 3 age group from a Montessori perspective and have had the opportunity to attend a workshop Dr. Montenaro held in Japan. I wanted to find some recent contributions to body of work about the infant years from a Montessori perspective so I chose the Child’s Play activities based book shown above and the following book by Clare Healy. Volume 3 focuses on the 0 – 3 age group.

I received high praise about the book from a new mother and decided to have it on hand as a resource. Apparently it works well with the five principles of sleep (as described in the following link) and in the Happiest Baby on the Block book. Thoughts about babies sleep are varied and often contradictory. So I hesitate to commit to any one principle too quickly without a period of trial and error and observation.

The following book appears to be a good modern version of a Dr. Spock type primer.

In a recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, David Brooks presents a tight argument for the old adage “practice makes perfect”.

If you cast your mind back to your school days, you will remember the brightest sparks in your class – the math whizzes, the artistic creatives and the sports titans, for example. As you struggled along in your own way, you may have wondered how their talents had so greatly surpassed your own.

In my case, by the time I finished high school I had attended 11 schools in Europe, North America and the Middle East, Eastern and South-East Asia. This meant that I had all kinds of educational experiences under my belt, and plenty of learning knowledge gaps. After switching to yet another new school, I entered my new math class feel more than a bit confused. As I struggled to keep myself afloat, I cast my eye about and saw that my friends brought strong math and science skills, for example, to the table. Were they gifted students? How did they get to be so talented in these disciplines? I soon understood that the schools they had attended placed a strong focus on these areas and on the need to spend time developing the necessary skills.

As I left my student years behind and reflected on my experiences, I realized that the students who were strongest in grade school also spent more time at their craft in consistent learning environments. While there are the gifted types – like my sibling – who could whip up a winning political science essay on the fly, most people have to put in the time to get the results.

..and so this became one of my strongest pieces of advice to every kindergarten student entering full day schooling. “If you don’t understand your school work, sit down with your teacher or parent and spend time trying to understand. Work hard and spend time on home work in an organized fashion.” Every time I see the young children in my life I ask them, “SO – are you working hard? Are you busting it? Are you taking a serious approach to your homework?” “Oh yes,” they assure me, “I am putting in the time.”

A few years ago research came out suggesting that in recent decades parents have spent too much time praising their children for being geniuses. Unfortunately when these students experienced their first major failures, their sense of self – grounded so heavily in their “genuis-ness” – crumbled. The findings suggest that the focus should not be how clever a child is, but rather on how hard they have worked. Note this is not the same as saying “don’t worry about how they do – just praise their efforts”. These findings helped me to solidify my own focus. My first instinct is to be thrilled when contemplating the results of a young child’s efforts. “Aren’t you clever!”, would be my first natural response. Now I am more apt to say “look how much effort you have put into this painting. It’s lovely. I like how you…..”.

David Brooks article reminds me that there is always a balance between putting in the time and cracking the whip. One hardly wants to jam a child into endless hours of practice if they are not truly passionate about the piano, tennis or an academic discipline. On the other hand adults can help students to organize their time so that they are putting in a sufficient effort in order to build a strong base. Additionally, if they perceive that the child does have an interest in an area, they can help to provide consistent and sustained opportunities to pursue these interests. These considerations must be balanced with the realization that a child’s life should not be over programmed. Free time to be bored, stare at the sky, twirl one’s hair, chat with friends and dream is essential. However this does not amount to “scheduling free time”.

In my own life my mother identified at an early stage that I was keen on artistic pursuits. She took up every opportunity she could find to introduce me to a variety of artistic experiences. Wherever we lived in the world, she took me to classes, arts events and introduced me to adults who shared my passion for the arts. Her resourcefulness in this area was impressive and persistent. Watching how she tracks the pursuits of the young children in her life today, I can see that she is continually putting in the time to support the children in her life, who will in turn also will put time into their emerging interests. I know from experience that this is an approach that worked for me and it’s exciting to see the next generation pursue their own unique talents in a focused and rewarding way.

The Genius Myth: The Danger of Worshipping “Exceptional” Students

Image Source

I’m hearing you, Newfoundland and Labrador Tourist Commission. Clearly your province and territory is worth a visit. Someday I hope to make it your way as yours is the only province and territory in Canada that I haven’t visited.

Looking at the videos promoting this region, I’m reminded of my childhood in Ireland (and similar trips to the back country of Scotland, England and Wales). If you have children in your life and you’re looking for a memorable adventure, nothing compares to the opportunity to get out into the rugged outdoors, don an Aaron sweater and run like the wind – rain or shine.

Clearly Newfoundland and Labrador is a place for the child in all of us.

On your journey through life, make sure your biography has at least one extraordinary chapter.

In a world oddly bent on conformity, there’s something strangely encouraging about a place that’s anything but.

The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.

Where is this place exactly? It’s about as far from Disney Land as you can possibly get.

Around every corner – around every turn – you are reminded that around here not every work of art hangs on a wall.

Newfoundland – The Island Home

You’ve seen them in magazines – maybe even at Ikea. Perhaps a friend has taken the plunge. Let’s face it, your mediocre art collection could be starting to get you down now that you’re no longer 24. If you’re looking for a fast way to apply a pop of colour and design to some blank walls in your Preschool, Kindergarten or home, consider using wall decals. (Also referred to as wall stickers, wall tattoos or vinyl wall art.)

Here are some options if you’re looking for temporary solutions to decorate a child’s room or playroom. Most of these wall decals are not reusable once removed; however, some are.

Surface Collective - a Vancouver based firm – call their work wall tattoos. Their unique collection includes some children’s designs.

If you’re looking for some designs inspired by nature, check out the offerings at mydigitalprints.ca

Dalidecals has a wide range of colour options that can be applied to cut-out/silhouettes. (A note about getting a 10% discount from Dalidecals.)

For some colourful, bold patterns check out Wallnutz.com’s collection.

For the nature lover who likes floral and nature inspired decals (some of which are repositionable) check out the British collection at Allposters.co.uk

Ferm living is a Danish company whose decals have a clea, woodblock print feel and colours that pop. They also have a children’s collection.

A search for decals on Etsy.com will reveal a wide selection of decals offered at a wide range of prices.

An appealing option for a child’s room is a custom made decal available from Figgy Wink (on Etsy.com)

Dvider.com offers “a mix of hip and playful vinyl wall decals designed for the young, or simply the young at heart. Baby your baby and stick em in the nursery, the playroom, the children’s bedroom…”

If you’re looking for unique, cutting edge, clean and simple lines, check out domestic.fr – a French company. (To progress to the next design company click on a name above the images.)

How to make your own decals

How to apply decals. This is a useful video if you’re ready to take on the “I hope this won’t be a sticky nightmare” wall decal challenge.

More Design for Children

Not long after uploading a post about graphic design for children, I find a portion of a website that is literally dedicated to design for children. Yum yum. I love it. It must have been the funky, groovy design elements I was exposed to as a child in the 70s. I don’t know. But I have a keen eye for and appreciation of good quality design for children’s products. In particular I am very interested to learn about innovative designs for educational settings.

Good design is also about function. Troll through this site to find useful information about new products such as the amazing Lullabub crib rocker.

There are many math resources available online and in bookstores. So where do you start when you want to learn more about fresh approaches to providing mathematics support to a student?

A quick search on You Tube, for example, will yield all kinds of math topics. Watching a video is a fresh way to review basic math principles. You can also search by topic.

A recently launched series of articles about why math matters (published in the Vancouver Sun) is a good place to start when considering mathematics and how students and parents can approach the topic.

Dr. Gupta (the author of most of the articles) suggests the following:




Set (online version)
Set Daily Puzzle
Set Card Game



The Colossal Book of Mathematics
The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems
Great Book of Math Puzzles

Further to Dr. Gupta’s suggestions, if you’re interested in how math is taught in Singapore, you can order these books online.

If you struggled with mathematics in school, the hardest challenge will be to face math with a fresh attitude. Enthusiastic support from math lovers such as Dr. Gupta is always a good support.

Information about articles attitudes towards mathematics

Ken Ken (A new numerical math puzzle from Japan)

Girlstart.com (Girlstart is a non-profit organization created to empower girls to excel in math, science, and technology.)

Math Book Helps Girls Embrace Their Inner Mathematician

Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math and not Break a Nail

Math in Art Video

Woodworking Multiplication Math Art Board Waldorf

Montessori Math Curriculum (see from 4:25)

Image source

“The importance of a child’s infant and toddler years cannot be overstated, for this is when the development of the personality occurs. Today, care of young children is increasing provided by people other than parents. These infants and toddler specialists need to be aware, knowledgeable, and qualified so that children will develop the skills, strengths, and support systems they need to create the foundations of the adults they will become; and the kind of world they create tomorrow.” – Virginia Vargus, CMTE NY, AMS Master Teacher Trainer

If you live in Vancouver, British Columbia, and you’re interested to work in a daycare for children from birth to three years old, you will want to know about the Montessori Infant Toddler’s training course being offered by the AMI Training Centre in British Columbia. For one time only (or at least in the foreseeable future), this course will be offered from 2009 to 2010.

The centre’s brochure provides more information about this exciting programme.

I have had a chance to visit three infants centres in Japan. (See reference to the Takane nursery under NAMTA DVD/Videos.) They are beautiful places and offer inspiration to professionals currently working in non-Montessori daycare centres. There is still much to learn and much information to share in relation to the early years!

A Mother’s Perspective

Information about the Montessori Infant Toddler programme and ideas about the birth to three years can be hard to access. A writer on a Montessori topic blog has provided her observations about this programme based on her training and experience raising her own children.

Commentary on Chapter 11 of Dr. Sylvana Montanaro’s book “Understanding the Human Being

The Stage 2 Child (one to four months)

The Stage 3 Montessori Environment (The first few months and how a home environment is set up based on Montessori principles.)

The Stage 4 Child (Age eight to 12 months) Further notes re stage 4

The Stage 5 Child (12 to 18 months) and further notes and more notes

The Stage 6 Child (18 to 24 months)

The 2 to 3 Year old Child

Other Resources

*Infant Toddler Training

If you cannot attend a longer, full-time programme, consider the North American Montessori Centre’s distance education programme.

* Creating a Montessori Home Environment

The Prepared Montessori Environment

Simple Montessori material for the infant toddler

Simple Montessori material – part 2

Simple Montessori material – part 3

Age Appropriate Toys (Birth to three years)

Montessori Floor Bed and More notes

Montessori Hanging Toys (From Pink House at Etsy)

More Montessori results from Etsy (some of which may inspire you to make your own items)

The famous Michael Olaf catalogue: Montessori for birth to three: The Joyful Child (includes numerous articles about the zero to three years (PDF versions).

* DVDs/Videos from NAMTA (See description below)*

What Is the Montessori Toddler Community?

This DVD demonstrates the importance of community for children before the age of three. Montessori Assistants to Infancy describe the important aspects of the day in the Toddler Community and the moments that can mean so much in a child’s life. Touching the lives of children from diverse backgrounds, the Montessori guides offer rich language experiences, meaningful social interactions, and well prepared environments to inspire spontaneous moments of personal growth. Through this DVD we meet many children enjoying the benefits of a strong Montessori community. (2008)

A companion book by AMI Assistant to Infancy Sarah Moudry (full color, 36 pages, 11 x 8.5 inches) is also available.

In a Montessori Home: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing the Home for Children Birth to Three

Three families introduce how the Montessori philosophy is in practice in their home. The DVD covers the preparation of the home from birth to three years and describes the four main areas to be prepared in a home: sleeping, dressing, eating, and playing. As you meet Alexis (4 months), you learn how her parents have prepared her home to maximize movement opportunities and create interest at her level. Ian (7 months) is home with his father, where he is beginning to eat solid food and seeks out the different areas of the house prepared with his exploration in mind. Oliver (15 months) and his older brother, Edison (3 years), introduce you to their shared room and how they participate in family life. Learn how these families have embraced Montessori principles in their daily lives and see practical ways to incorporate these same principles into your life. (2008; 17 minutes).

A companion book by AMI Assistant to Infancy Sarah Moudry (full color, 36 pages, 11 x 8.5 inches) is also available.

Montessori Under ThreeAn introduction to the Montessori infant program
chronicles early infancy, the parent-infant class, and
scenes of the infant-toddler community. (1987; 24 minutes)


Edison’s Day

“Help me to do it by myself!” Every event in the day offers 20-month-old Edison an opportunity to live naturally, to discover the everyday tasks and activities of life in the home. Getting up in the morning, eating breakfast, going to school, having friends over, going out in nature, helping around the house, preparing dinner-Edison blossoms with his myriad of joyfully accepted responsibilities. The message is gentle; the accomplished level of what Edison can do is understated and unthreatening to parents who are thinking about children participating in the home for the first time. (2006; 29 minutes)

Starting From Year Zero

Japanese children are depicted in prepared environments demonstrating the fullest potential of infant-toddler communities. This video makes an excellent parent education film as well as a
* Other Videos*

A introduction to the acclaimed DVD work shop – Bringing Out the Brilliance In Your Infant : a practical guide for Montessori in the Home, by Montessori educator – Tamara Sheesley Balis.

Bringing Out the Brilliance In Your Infant – Home Tools

“In the Beginning: The First Years of Montessori” is an American Montessori Society program for parents. The full programme is available from www.edvid.com.

* Weblogs

My Montessori House blog (covering Montessori at home and the Infant Toddler to Primary years).

Montessori Mama (Montessori education information from a Montessori teacher and Mom.)

* Helping the Developing World the Montessori Way

Montessori Around the World (Montessori programs around the world serving children in need with available resources)

* Books *

Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home from Birth to Age Three
From sleeping to eating, personal care to playing, this book helps with suggestions on how to implement Montessori in the home from the start.

How to Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way
Practical ways to incorporate Montessori methods in the home.

Link to complete content of “The Montessori Method” by Maria Montessori

Awakening Your Toddler’s Love of Learning

Understanding the Human Being

Infant Toddler Books available from the Montessori Foundation


Today I happened upon the Presidiacreative.com website where I found a number graphic design images that would appeal to children. (Click on the image sources to see larger versions of the artwork.)

The website itself is a great source for information about art and graphic design.

When Will Wright took the time to explain the significance of his childhood experiences attending a Montessori school, I gave him my full attention. Wright and his colleagues have developed Spore, an evolution video game that enables the player to interact with an entire world and experience the universe. The player can control planetary atmospheric temperature and pressure and can see the results of her actions sped up over time. Wright explains that he created the game so that children (and their adult friends!) can “compress long term dynamics into short term experiences”. Spore has been described as “Pacman, Sim City, Risk, and Star Trek rolled into one mass multi-player game, with intricately modeled biological, ecological, and social phenomenons.”

Will Wright has created a style of computer gaming unlike any that came before, emphasizing learning more than losing, invention more than sport. With his hit game SimCity, he spurred players to make predictions, take risks, and sometimes fail miserably, as they built their own virtual urban worlds. With his follow-up hit, The Sims, he encouraged the same creativity toward building a household, all the while preserving the addictive fun of ordinary video games. His next game, Spore, which he previewed at TED 2007, evolves an entire universe from a single-celled creature.

What is Spore

Spore home site

Will Wright Discusses Spore in Hour Long Presentation

Aaah – Mary Engelbreit. What’s not to love about her vibrant, sweet illustrations? Lately I came across copies of her “Nursery Tales” and “Mother Goose: 100 Best Loved Verses” publications. I purchased the latter as a gift for a three year old’s next birthday, and bought another copy for myself.

I first started noticing Mary’s work in the 1990s. Back in the day – when people still sent cards just to say “hello” – I often received one of Mary’s cards in the mail. She produces thoughtful cards with memorable expressions, eye popping illustrations and matching envelopes. Much of her work is influenced by illustrations from the 1920s, 30s and 40s that featured quotes in borders. Englebreit also credits the inspiration she gets from her “idyllic and wonderful childhood”.

(Image from Mother Goose: 100 Best Loved Verses)

I’ve since come to appreciate the funky, eclectic content in her Home Companion magazine. Her website features the many projects related to her work. If you want to bring Mary’s work onto your bookshelves or into your homes, there’s an almost endless array of possibilities.

Mary’s work is a folksy contrast to Martha Stewart and has a healthy dash of sugar and spice.

Mary Englebreit books on Barnes & Noble

In the wake of Professor Randy Pausch’s recent passing, I decided to read my household’s recently purchased copy of “The Last Lecture” and watch the related video. The video shows a lecture held by Randy Pausch a few months before his passing following the rapid onset of a terminal illness.

Pausch’s cheerful determination and the brave presence of his wife at the lecture are most admirable. He explained at the outset that he planned to discuss three topics: how to achieve your dreams, how to enable the dreams of others; and, lessons learned. While watching the lecture you realize that the scope of the talk moves beyond these topics. Pausch’s ideas are illuminating for students, everyday citizens, academics and teachers of children from the Early Childhood years onwards.

Pausch suggested that people need to decide if they are an Eeyore or a Tigger. He explained that you cannot control how the cards are dealt to you in life, but you can control your attitude about your situation and how you play your cards.

It is not surprising to hear that Pausch saw “brick walls” as opportunities for the truly dedicated to show their passion and determination. They are simply a mechanism to filter out the less committed. In his talk, Pausch illustrates how he kept pursuing his dreams and his goals even when he encountered obstacles. “Don’t bail”, he advised, “the best gold is at the bottom of the barrel.” Lead your life the right way and this gold – your dreams – will come to you.

Here are some examples of the advise he offers. For each of these suggestions you will probably think about a story or circumstance that validates what Pausch believed.

- Students learn “head fake” learning indirectly while pursuing other activities. For example, while learning a sport, children learn teamwork, sportsmanship and perseverance. Examples of “head fake” learning may be found everywhere.

- Experience is what you get when you did not get what you wanted.

- Captain Kirk was not the smartest guy compared to his colleagues, but he had strong leadership skills AND cool toys.

- To be a success focus on people and learning how to work in groups.

- Consider the important role that parents, mentors and students play in your life.

- Allow your children to paint their rooms, if they ask.

- Never lose your childlike sense of wonder. It is too important. It is what drives us.

- Help others.

- Loyalty is a two-way street.

- People will help you if you remember to tell the truth, be earnest, apologize when you screw up and focus on other people.

- Get a feedback loop and listen to it. Anyone can get chewed out, but it is the rare person who appreciates receiving difficult feedback.

- Show gratitude

- Don’t complain. Just work harder.

- Work hard. That’s the secret to success.

- Be good at something, it makes you valuable.

- Find the best in everybody, no matter how long you have to wait for them to show it. Everybody has a good side.

- Be prepared. “Luck” is where preparation meets opportunity.

For more insight into Pausch’s approach towards living his life, read “The Last Lecture“.

While watching the recording of the lecture, I could not help but think of the relationship between Pausch and the members of the audience. Surely it was filled with colleagues, mentors, his students and family members. Pausch and his audience members were emotionally invested in each other and must have cherished such a poignant moment – one of the last times that they would be together.

Even at such a difficult time, Pausch explained that he was not dying. He was having fun and was going to keep having fun every day he had left because there is no other way to play it.

Randy Pausch’s update page


The Legacy of Randy Pausch

ABC special
about The Last Lecture with Diane Sawyer.

A Putamayo CD is one of the most joyful collections of music that you can introduce to a child. Each CD release has a different theme. The two main categories are world music and music for children, with accompanying multicultural learning packages. For the full catalogue, visit their website. I first noticed their CDs while visiting a textile store in Trinidad. Since then I have noted that children have an open mind to music from different continents and cultures. The early childhood years are an ideal time to introduce children to the joy of listening to world music.

What do people think about the concept of empathy? A quick review of the tag “empathy” on Flickr produces an interesting variety of images. During her first year of life, my baby niece took part in the Roots of Empathy programme. In this programme, a mother and child visit young children in an elementary class over the course of the year. The programme is designed to reduce levels of aggression amongst school children by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. By all accounts, the programme has been a remarkable success. The children, and the baby and mother taking part, benefit. The Emotionally Intelligent Schools website focusses on creating school-wide programmes that encourage recognition of emotions, understanding the cause of emotions, labeling, expressing and regulating emotions. Although it may come as a surprise, the very young are capable of showing signs of empathy. In the following video Dr. Marc Brackett discusses how to teach children social skills, including the ability to experience another person’s emotions. However, Dr. Brackett advises that empathy may be taught from age two and up.

As an adult, empathetic listening does not always come easily. Different people have different empathy skill sets, often due to their early years experiences. Whatever your capabilities may be, when you are tired, feeling stressed or self-focussed, it is easy to be a poor listening and not empathetic. A video entitled “Got Service”, even when taken from a secular perspective, is a nice reminder that we should try to empathize more with the individuals in our midst, seeing them as members of our community rather than sources of aggravation and competition. For a nicely thought out entry on Empathy, see the Demandmore.org the website.

Stories about the seaside are always appealing. As a child, my favourite was “I Saw the Sea Come In” by Alvin Tresselt. It still sits on my bookshelf sharing a spine with another favourite – “My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World”.

In this animation a young girl explores the seaside on a windy day, encountering fantastical creatures along the way.

Recently I happened upon three websites dedicated to toys for children made out of paper. What a windfall! One is a website dedicated to providing templates for paper toys of various shapes and sizes. The second site is dedicated to flatpack toys for printing and construction. …and finally one cannot forget about origami. Here is a website that provides unexpected topics for origami folding.

Wherever I am in the world, I am a keen pursuer of traditional toys. These websites provide the type of accessible and charming resources that warm my heart!

Image Source


There seems to be so much to say about the hedgehog. As a child living in Ireland, I was aware of hedgehogs and moles. They often appeared in children’s literature – in tales about animals living in quaint cottages. According to my young neighbours, a mole was rumoured to be living in their backyard. I recall that I marveled at the possibility.

I once came across a hedgehog sculpture in New Zealand and fell in love with it. If I ever decide to collect an animal figure, it will be a heated race between the owl and the hedgehog.

When I came across the Russian animated short film “The Hedgehog in the Fog”, I was positively charmed. As one writer said, it is hard to describe the beauty and magical feeling of this little film. Whether you’re a child or a child at heart, find a high speed connection, pop open the film to full screen and sit back for 9 minutes of pure delight!

In 2003 “Hedgehog in the Fog” won the “№1 Animated film of all the time” at the Laputa Animation Festival in Japan.

As you watch this 1975 film by Yuri Norstein, you start to wonder “what other Russian animated films are out there?” Following this line of thinking, I stumbled across other Slavic animators as well. I will follow up on more of these leads in another post.

Spring Melodies (1946 animated Russian film by Soyuzmultfilm)

Image: Hedgehog in the Fog – 1988 USSR stamp.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/dRsXU4Q6a0Q" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


(Click on image to enlarge: Source: Snowcrystals.com & Livescience.com)

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.” Wilson Bentley

Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) was a Vermont farmer in the 1800s who decided to use simple photographic equipment and the natural light of the overcast sky to photograph over 5,000 snowflakes.

Even in colder climates, there is a sense of magic when the first snowfall falls. Now snowflakes can even be created in a laboratory (click here), as seen in this snowflake growing time-lapse movie of a growing snow crystal.

…and who can forget the exciting discoveries made when children learn to cut out a snowflake for the first time? Now you can even create snowflakes online.

A search for snowflakes in photo databases brings up all kinds of delightful results.

Here Comes Suzy Snowflake is a charming 1950s song (and movie) that reminds us of how delicate and beautiful a snowflake really is.

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It was by chance, recently, that I came across some content and images about the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. I know the story from childhood and was, at that time, charmed by the image of a girl in a red hooded cape going to visit her grandma. Since I did not live near either of my grandmothers, and rarely saw them in my lifetime, there was something appealing about trotting off to see grandma.

It seems there are different versions of the tale. There is the Grimms fairy tale version, a Slavonic version and the popularly known version, for example. It is also interesting to see that in the realm of video, there are shorts showing contemporary takes on the story.

Fairy tales are morality tales that provoke the reader in unexpected ways. They often thinly disguise the underlying dark realities of the world in which we live. This continued relevance is what keeps the stories fresh and relevant through the ages.

This French animation revisits the story from a different and fresh angle. The home page for this animation has some interesting content about the steps taken to make this piece.

The A A Apple Song (click on link) is about learning the sounds of the alphabet. It is a video taped version of a PowerPoint presentation (for the benefit of children who cannot access PowerPoint).

Recently a woman who was a student in the 1970s told me about her Hippy teachers at the time. They wore their hair long, sported long flowing skirts and ran across the playground bra-less.

Aah the ’70s.

…but what can we recall about the contributions these teachers made? Since most of these teachers were university students during the activism focussed late ’60s, they were and still are in the “system”, working either as senior teachers or as district administrators or Superintendents. During the course of their careers, some of the teachers from this era continued to encourage their students to take up causes and make a difference.

As a child of four going on five, one of these teachers used to like to play One Tin Soldier in my class. I was attracted to the story and could picture the low mountain and the village people scrambling up the hill to kill the mountain people and claim the treasure. (I thought of the height of the mountain in Irish terms.)

The lyrics contain a simple message about peace and people getting along.

A few years later I was taught, along with my classmates, to sing the song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”. I recall liking the concept that everyone in the world could join hands in peace and sing about apple trees and honey bees.

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As a child I had many ideas swimming around in my head, and a fierce sense of justice. During my adult years – either as a teacher, friend or aunt – I have always tried to respect the intelligence of children while speaking with them and listening to their ideas and concerns.

While watching a documentary on the Peto Institute and their approach to working with children who have cerebral palsy, it occurred to me that it would be exciting to operate an early childhood centre equipped with both Peto learning equipment and an ECE programme such as Montessori or Reggio Emilia.

This type of education – called conductive education – is available in Canada; however, specialists must be flown in from other parts of the world.

Full CBS article
Another link for the Peto Institute
First photo source
Second photo source

Today I signed up for my first copy of the Under the Chinaberry Tree catalogue. I have been aware of this children’s literature catalogue for almost ten years. My former colleague, sadly now deceased, first introduced me to the catalogue in the late 1990s. I have been carting a photocopy of some articles from the catalogue with me from place to place since then.

This catalogue presents more than 500 “fully researched, hand-selected, family-centered books and items for children and adults, contains complete reviews and is packed with interesting commentary.”

It was the commentary in the catalogues that I first noticed. As a journalist in the Seattle Times noted, the catalogue is full of “descriptions of young children’s books, parenting tips, essays on their experiences as mothers and even a few comfort-food recipes.”

Under the Chinaberry Tree founder Ann Ruethling explains that her original motivation for the catalogue was to give her child “wonderful, uplifting reading experiences that would color her whole life in a positive way and help her to grow into a caring, gentle person”.

If you are interested in children’s literature – or have a child in your life who is in need of an inspiring gift – check out Under the Chinaberry Tree. While you are reading the site, don’t miss the related Dear Friends and Musings pages.

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(Short video featuring Montessori infant programme)

The Montessori educator’s community has, over the years, developed a strong programme for children from age 2 to 3 months to 2 years. These infant programmes offer inspiration to professionals working with infants. They are warm and beautiful environments staffed by caring and well trained professions.

The Montessori infant toddler programme is divided into two stages. The first programme caters to children up until about 14 months (when the child is walking well) and is called Nido (Nest). Nest programmes accommodate up to 9 children and have an adult/child ratio of 1 – 3. The second Infant Community programme runs until the child is age 2 1/2 and progresses to the Montessori Primary programme.

An group of Infant Toddler centres in Yokohama, Japan is a fine example of the quality of the programme and possibilities for the physical environment that can be provided. One of these centres was developed with the cooperation of the local government. Local families enter a lottery so that their child can attend the centre. The interior is purpose built with a tatami area for sleeping; special Montessori equipment; child sized furniture; and, Japanese inspired Montessori infant exercises. The landscaping of the centre includes a beautiful pond and gardens for the children to explore.

The Association Montessori Internationale, Holland (AMI)lists the following components for the training programme taken by professionals working in an Infant setting from birth to three years:

- Anatomy and Physiology.
- Obstetrics: Prenatal, birth, and postnatal development.
- Nutrition and Hygiene: Maternal care, digestive system, food preparation, and health issues.
- Child Neuropsychiatry: The Nervous System and normal psychological development.
- Development of Movement and Development of Language.
- Environment: Preparation of the home and Infant Community as an aid to human development within the first three years of life.
- Music, Art, and Spiritual Development.
- Observations: practical training for observation of children in maternity hospitals, homes and infant communities.
- Material Making: Hand made materials.
- Practicum: Work in an infant community evaluated by a course staff member.
- Preparation of reference albums and curriculum albums.

It can be difficult to access AMI training centres locally. The AMI believe that it is important for trainees to have face-to-face and hands on experience. Therefore the AMI does not support distance learning programmes.

The AMI following centres offer the Infants training programme:

Australia Australian Montessori Teacher Education Foundation West Lindfield Australia Assistant to Infancy
Japan Montessori Institute of Tokyo, location Osaka, c/o Shuji Matsumoto Osaka Japan Assistant to Infancy
Montessori Institute of Tokyo, location Yokohama Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa-ken Japan Assistant to Infancy
Mexico Instituto Montessori de Mexico A.C. c/o Mrs. S. Carbone-Singh D.F. Mexico Mexico Assistant to Infancy
Instituto Internacional Montessori Mexico Assistant to Infancy
P.R. China International Training Center of Montessori Education of China Hangzhou Zhejiang Province P.R. China Assistant to Infancy
Sweden Maria Montessori Institutet Lidingö Sweden Assistant to Infancy
East USA Montessori Institute of Atlanta Atlanta GA USA Assistant to Infancy
Mid USA The Montessori Institute of North Texas (MINT) Dallas TX USA Assistant to Infancy
West USA Montessori Institute Northwest Portland OR USA Assistant to Infancy
The Montessori Institute Denver CO USA Assistant to Infancy
The North American Montessori Teacher’s Association (NAMTA) provides general information about infant programmes.

Both the North American Montessori Center and the Montessori Centre International provide distance learning programmes focussed on the infant years.

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As the summer goes by, parents around the world will start to prepare their child for pre-school and kindergarten. Many of these children will be attending an educational programme away from home for the first time. Parents can help make their child’s first experience a success by assessing their own feelings and expectations, and by looking at how they can reinforce skills that the child is required to have at school. Articles about starting pre-school and kindergarten often focus on what parents can communicate to their child as a preparation for starting school. Looking beyond these conversations, there are other ways that parents can prepare themselves and their child for school.

  • Parents can consider and discuss amongst themselves what they think the first day and week of school will be like. Do they know the routine that their child will follow? Do they have a plan if their child cries and does not want them to leave during the first few days? Are they feeling emotional about this first day? Will they experience separation anxiety after their child walks through the classroom door? Sometimes these emotions come on suddenly and unexpectedly; however, a parent will often know the answer to these questions well in advance off the first day of school.
  • While touring the classroom and school in advance of the first day, parents can consider the classroom, playground, lunchroom and bathrooms facilities. They can imagine their child functioning in these areas. Are there ways in which they can help support their child as she develops skills to look after and change clothes; function in a setting with other children; use a washroom independently; and, eat in a group setting? Has their child spent time away from the parents or a family member? Does their child know how to listen to and follow instructions? Can their child remain focussed on a task for a specific period of time?
  • Parents who feel anxious about this new adventure can talk to parents of children who are slightly older than their child. They can ask these experienced parents how their family adjusted to the new routine at school. Once school has started, a parent can make an effort to get to know other parents and socialize on and off the school grounds.
  • Parents should pay close attention to the expectations that the school has of their child. Their child will be expected to bring in and care for belongings and items requested by the teacher; complete homework carefully and in a timely fashion; show up and be retrieved on time; be well rested and fed; and bring a nutritional lunch. Parents are expected to fill in forms and even sign up to help for events or to help out. An efficient and thoughtful approach to these requirements will help to create a firm foundation for a child’s education. The interest that a parent takes in their child’s education communicates a message to their child – that the child’s education is a priority for the parents. Recent research findings indicate that a child is well served if the parents focus on the child’s efforts at school rather than beliefs about the child’s level of intelligence. By making a concerted effort to pay attention to the many tasks connected with school life, the parent can set an example of how one can make an effort at school.
  • It is not uncommon for parents to relive old and sometimes negative feelings about their school experiences when their eldest child starts school for the first time. If one or both of the parents disliked school or felt uncomfortable in educational settings, these old emotions need to addressed. Attitudes towards teachers, administrators and homework need to be reassessed with a fresh eye so that old patterns that may have affected the parents’ school years do not return to haunt their child.
  • Most importantly, once parents have selected a school for their child, they need to put their faith in the teachers and administration. Pre-schools are often privately owned, and in many cities open boundaries allow parents to choose from a number of public kindergarten classes near the family home. In more restrictive school districts, some parents will move to neighbourhoods so that their child can enter a school within a catchment area. Ideally parents will choose an early learning environment that has an educational philosophy well suited to the beliefs and values of the child’s family. Many conflicts between parents and schools could be avoided if a careful matching of school and family took place during the screening process. As an example, if parents want their child to engage in free play in the pre-school and kindergarten years, they would be ill advised to enroll their child in a traditional Montessori programme. At a time when pre-school/kindergartens compete with other educational institutions down the road for students, it is often up to the parent to discern if the marriage of family and school will be a happy one.


Image: 1st grade work sheets

In 1879, in Victorian England, a seven year old student was expected to complete the following test:

6,341 + 1,098 +3587 +209 + 4716 =

5000 – 3801 =

Add together 7/9, 12/27, 4/5, 12, 9/17, 18 6/7 and divide the answer by 2/7 of 9/11 of 20

How many minutes are there in 17/241 of a year? (365 1/4 days = 1 year)

120 years later seven year olds are asked:

6 + 2 =

7 – 3 =

There are 39 cheese sandwiches. Each costs 45p. Use your calculator to work out the cost of 39 cheese sandwiches. What is the number in your calculator display. Write it down. Write your answer in pounds.

Since 1879, some educators in England feel that standards expected of students are five years have fallen behind by five years. While some educators criticize the old curriculum suggesting that Victorian children did not understand their work. Other critics say that Victorian students left school knowing how to estimate volume, weight and volume compared to many children today who cannot complete the say tasks.

Subject: Education / Montessori / Carl Jung

When looking for information about Montessori education, it is helpful to start with the established organizations in this field. Some of them have been promoting Montessori’s educational philosophy for almost 100 years!

Information resources re Montessori education

What is Montessori? This video provides an informative overview of Montessori education.

Subject: How Smart Are You?

Are you as smart or smarter than a fifth grader? Can you outwit a fifth grader who has crammed facts before appearing on a TV show?

It seems, according to stories circulating on the Internet, that the fifth graders on the current “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” TV show read crib notes before appearing on the show. How else can you explain the fact that they all answered a question about a relatively obscure president correctly?

In a recent show a “30 or 40 something” female contestant struggled with the following questions:

On what continent does the giant panda live?

After taking time to think about the answer she said “Asia”. Where else would the giant panda live in the wild? Africa?

If only she could have answered the following question correctly. Then she could have taken $500,000 home, rather than $300,000.

Please name the only continent that is also a country?

After giving the question some thought, she gave up and decided to cash out. When pressed by the host to say what her answer would have been she answered “all of them”, and then chided him for grilling her.

One must ignore the fact that the question was flawed. The answer that the host was looking for was “Australia”. Technically Australia is a country. Australasia (or Oceania) includes New Zealand and the South Pacific island countries as well.

There are many simple bits and bytes of information that one forgets about since elementary school days; however, shouldn’t most educated citizens of the world know where pandas live?

Images source

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When a 1 1/2 year old child I know hears music being played, she goes close to the source and dances while twirling happily – oblivious to the world around her.

Another four year I know asked to see the Yo Yo Ma and the Mark Morris Dancer’s CD over and over again.

While working with students in a Montessori classroom, I enjoyed watching the children dance and twirl to world music with carefree abandon, using diaphanous scarves.

If you want to appreciate the beautiful and sensorial aspects of dance, bring a child to an evening performance and enable opportunities for dance.  The person who will learn the most in this situation will be the adult.

I was fortunate enough to see “Amelia” a few years ago in Vancouver. La La La Human Steps came to town recently to present their show Amjad.

For more videos, You Tube has a good collection of clips. This dance troupe’s multi-media presentations, along with their raw and sometimes explosive energy, and the slow building of tension towards the ending, is not to be missed. I have seen this troupe four times in Japan and Canada ,and each time the ending comes suddenly and too soon.

David Bowie and La La La Human Steps

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If you appreciate the sensorial aspects of life, it’s hard not to like the movie Scent of the Green Papaya. The film feature birds chirping nearby; rain falling on leaves; floating flowers; wind blowing a strand of hair; wooden elements and pottery elements in a home; a cricket in the garden; and, sounds on a hot night, for example.

One of my favourite sounds is the semi (Japanese for cicada). The semi repeats its song over and over again in a rhythmic pattern, with a pause in between. When you hear that sounds you know you’re in the midst of the hottest “dog days” of summertime. Semis are less attractive than the cockroach, but not reviled because they do not get into dirty places. If you can design fabric as thin as a semi’s wings, are a talented fabric designer.

Other Sounds:
This website offers up a number of well known and much loved sounds in Japan – such as the sweet potato (Ishiyaki imo) call.

Subject: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen (excerpt)

If you go owling
you have to be quiet,
that’s what Pa always says.I had been waiting to go owling with Pa
for a long, long time.


When you go owling
you don’t need words
or warm
or anything but hope.
That’s what Pa says.
The kind of hope
that flies
on silent wings
under a shining
Owl Moon.

I love both the cassette and video tape version of this story. When the children listen to this story, they seem to revel in the stillness that is created.

A boy with hyperlexia does an impressive job reciting Owl Moon

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Subject: Children (A Perspective Worth Considering)

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you, For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931) Source: The Prophet, 1923, On Children

Image source for K. L. Jones’ artwork.

When this movie first came out, I was a bit dubious about it. I wondered if it would be not quite to my liking. …but I decided to buy a copy of the movie and have since watched it many times. Since I have been a fan of magic realism in books and movies since the early 90s, I enjoyed the movie for many reasons.

If you have not seen the film and have high speed internet, get some popcorn, sit back and relax… because this clip serves up the whole film!

My Life in Pink is a rare find, a truly original, compassionate story about recognizable human beings (MARGARET McGURK, The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Does it take a village to raise a child? Not according to some home schooling mothers. For a sampling of blogs and sites dedicated to this topic, a quick search result will present a wide range of opinions.

I used to favour this saying in the 1990s, but now it has become a bit over used. In the context of a country like Canada or the United States, what exactly is a “village”? What do you mean when you speak of a village raising a child? Hillary Clinton speaks about government services. I focus on social and familial connections within a community.

The idea of seeking a village in an urban setting reminds me of Tokyo. Tokyo, in many ways, is a collection of many villages. This is why I like Tokyo so much. I have travelled all over Tokyo on a bicycle and have enjoyed the atmosphere of the different neighbourhoods – villages.

However, life is changing even in these neighbourhoods. It can be a shock to move to newer neighbourhoods in Tokyo, or newer portions in some of the older neighbourhoods, and find that the traditional relationships amongst neighbours are not as you might expect.

Back in North America, where would you find this village to help you raise your child? I read an article in Orion magazine focussed on the aboriginal people of Australia. Evidently it is the responsibility of the whole community to raise the child. This informal social contract frees up the mother to make contributions to society in ways beyond being the mother of that child.

I sometimes say that “back in the day” when my people lived in villages in western and eastern Europe, aunts, uncles and grandparents lived close to the youth in the family. My own grandmother and great-aunt used to run up the hill to their baba’s house in Ukraine when it looked like their mother might be cross with them. They lived in a Chekov-like setting as land owners who – no kidding – owned a cherry orchard and a brick factory. There’s something charming about the image of these young girls running up the hill to take refuge at baba’s. I can imagine that they ran up a steep hill, past old fences and birch trees on the way to seek solace at baba and gido’s house.

Apparently, only about 20 percent of a graduating grade 12 class will actually move away from the area where they were schooled. This means that most people are living and raising their families in regions relatively close to their extended family. The degree to which aunts, uncles and grandparents are involved in the lives of the child in that family vary. While it might be hard to recreate the vilage atmosphere of old Edo (Tokyo) or eastern Europe, the extended family can be at the heart of modern family life.

I hope that the modern equivalent of an urban “village” exists and does have a hand in helping to support the child. Children are moving towards independence from the day they are born. Different perspectives and types of support from varied members of their community can only help to enrich this life path.

Image source(cherry orchard)

Image source (Tokyo)

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.

(William Blake, 1799, The Letters)

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I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree,or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.

(Henry David Thoreau, 1817 – 1862)

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I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

(Henry David Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”)

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One generation plants the trees under which another takes its ease.
(Chinese Proverb)

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Knowledge is like a baobab tree - one person’s arms are not enough to encompass it. (African proverb)

There is something so refreshing about the simple colours and lines of the older cartoon shows such as the original Little Lulu.  It makes many of the current offerings seem hyper-active and gaudy in comparison. 

If you like Japanese children’s animation, you will want to check out a selection of Studio Ghibli film clips, along with video clips and plots summaries at Lukira.com. In particular I appreciate “My Neighbour Totoro” for the depiction of life in the countryside in Japan. The animators have presented many of the nicest aspects of life in rural Japan, including the daily routines of a traditional farmhouse or country home.

My first visit to Japan took place when I was ten. I was dazzled by the Sanrio products found at Kiddyland in Omotesando – in particular by the Kiki and Lalaotherwise known as Little Twin Star.

I also couldn’t help noticing the appealing sweetness of cartoons on TV such as Candy Candy, a 1970s cartoon.

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“I’d give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life’s decay,
To be once more a little child
For one bright summer-day.”

Lewis Carroll, “Solitude”

Image source: dailyphotolog.blogspot – location now unknown

Credit must be given where credit is due. It seems that Bill Gates found a good woman, got married and listened to his mother’s advice at his wedding to give back to others. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given out more money than the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations combined. Considering the fact that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are relatively new to the field of philanthropy, that is no small accomplishment.

The foundation focusses on issues such as malaria, AIDS, child vaccinations and literacy.

It is one thing to have had a chance to go into the sciences and like it or lump it. It is quite another to have gone down the path of no return and never have a shot at a career in the sciences – or any career that requires a science background. While one could always go back to school and start from scratch, for most people this option is somewhat of a non-option. Due to scheduling requirements, pre-requisites and the fact that I attended three high schools, I never had the chance to take a chemistry or physics class. Regardless of whether one ultimately chooses a career in the sciences, or not, it is always preferable to have the exposure first before doors start to shut.

Girlsgotech.org is a Girl Scouts sponsored site that looks at the issue of girls going into the sciences.

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The following is an excerpt from their Website:

Today, more than 60% of all jobs require some form of technology skills. According to the National Science Foundation, women currently represent 46% of the total workforce, but only 25% of the technology workforce and 10% of the nation’s top technology jobs.Despite their success in diverse areas, studies show that many women choose traditionally “female” occupations and research suggests that these decisions take root while girls are in elementary school. Studies show that by age 12, most girls lose interest in these subjects and therefore their chance at many future jobs.The Girls Go Tech campaign aims to encourage girls to develop an early interest in math, science, and technology and, ultimately, maintain that interest to help ensure a more diverse, dynamic and productive workforce.

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Watching this commercial, it reminds me of the sensorial impressions that young children receive from the world around them.  Some are positive impressions and some are not as beautiful (unfortunately).

During a walk through an avenue of cherry blossoms, the children I was  with gazed in awe as the blossoms fell around them.

Children help remind us that you don’t have to intellectualize this type of experience.  You can enjoy it without saying a word.

While living in Baghdad as a school girl, I first noticed a pomegranate hanging over a garden wall. It was ripe, with seeds bursting out. Next to the persimmon, it is one of the fruits I consider to be the most beautiful.

“The Fruits of the Earth” (Andre Gide)
Let me tell you of the pomegranate; of its juice, sourish like the juice of green raspberries;
Its wax-like flower the colour of fruit;
Its closely guarded treasure;
Its partitions in the hive;
Its abundance of flavour;
Its pentagonal architecture;
Its skin giving in;
Its grains bursting;
Grains of blood dripping into azure cups;
Drops of gold falling into plates of enameled bronze…

An interesting history of the pomegranate.

Image source .

Image source .

Subject: No Regrets / Mark Twain Posted by Picasa

Subject: Motherhood in China Posted by Picasa

In 2006, a research team from Saatchi a& Sattachi travelled 50,000 km in China by van, boat and train to discover the lives and motivations of the people. The findings have been published in a book entitled “One in a Billion: An Introduction to the People of China”, by Sandy Thompson.

In this book Thompson writes about the contemporary Chinese mother.

While Chinese mothers always appeared affectionate and attentive with their kids, we began to sense that being a mother was as much a career to these women as the career they paid the rent with. We asked them, “What makes a successful mother in China? How do you know if you are a good mother or not?”. In China, a successful mother was one who succeeded in bringing up a competitive achiever. As one young mother told us, “Being a mother is not about good or bad; it is about success or failure.” Another told us, “If she turns out to be ordinary, I shouldn’t have given birth to her in the first place. Raising a child is like working on a project: you have a goal to achieve.” For Chinese moms, kids aren’t just kids but rather a continuation of their lives – vessels for their hopes and dreams. They are an assurance that whatever they don’t achieve in this life their kids will. There is, however, one universal truth that we witnessed over and over again. All Chinese mothers, regardless of their ambition, love their children completely.

Subject: Traditional Games Posted by Picasa

There is so much to say about traditional games. Of course there are games that you play in the street, and games that you play indoors. I was fortunate enough to experience street games in the 1970s in Ireland and Quebec, and learned many indoor board and action games. As a Montessori educator, I have collected resources and photography books about traditional street games. I have also been fortunate enough to travel and collect simple games, and viewed exhibitions about traditional childhood games in Barbados and Japan.

The Streetplay.com website is a wonderful resource for information about this topic. I was also pleased to see that a Canadian sportswoman has been supporting the Right to Play initiative, along with many of her Canadian colleagues, and has recently launched a book about child’s play.

I’m not completely negative about contemporary toys such as video games. For girls in particular, they are a useful tool to develop certain neurological-muscular functions. However, I wasn’t interested in the idea of looking at a TV screen and playing a game when younger, and still find it unappealing. In my classroom, while teaching overseas, I placed traditional games in the window sill that could be used after lunch. The children loved them and would often say that their parents hadn’t told them about these games.

Olympian Silken Laumann says the solution to childhood obesity is simple: play. (Bringing back fun , April, 2006, National Post)

“The schoolyard games have been lost. Kids don’t know how to play four-square, a lot of people don’t know how to play hopscotch,” says Silken Laumann, who over the next couple of weeks will be conducting sessions across the country instructing parents on the rules of the games most of them played as children.”

Subject: Family Circus Posted by Picasa (Click on image to enlarge)

If you are a teacher of young children, you cannot help but like the Family Circus cartoon strip.

The Family Circus website.

Subject: Definition of Success Posted by Picasa

Extract from piece by R. W. Emerson

Portrait of Ralph W. Emerson

Subject: How to build a community Posted by PicasaTurn off your TV ~ Leave your house
Know your neighbours
Look up when you are walking
Greet people ~ Sit on your stoop
Plant flowers
Use your library ~ Play together
Buy from local merchants
Share what you have
Help a lost dog
Take children to the park
Garden together
Support neighbourhood schools
Fix it even if you didn’t break it
Have pot lucks ~ Honour elders
Pick up litter ~ Read stories aloud
Dance in the street
Talk to the mail carrier
Listen to the birds ~ put up a swing
Help carry something heavy
Barter for your goods
Start a tradition ~ Ask a question
Hire young people for odd jobs
Organize a block party
Bake extra and share
Ask for help when you need it
Open your shades ~ Sing together
Share your skills
Take back the night
Turn up the music
Turn down the music
Listen before you react to anger
Mediate a conflict
Seek to understand
Learn from new and uncomfortable angles
Know that no one is silent
though many are not heard
Work to change this

Author: Syracuse Cultural Workers community
Image: Mural on Tremont Street in the South End of Boston

Subject: Pediatric AIDS Foundation Posted by Picasa

What three mothers began around a kitchen table in 1988 is now the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a future of hope for children and families worldwide by eradicating pediatric AIDS, providing care and treatment for people with HIV/AIDS, and accelerating the discovery of new treatments for other serious and life-threatening pediatric illnesses.

Pediatric AIDS Foundation music CDs for children

Subject: Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Time Magazine Persons of the Year 2006 Posted by Picasa

Time Magazine’s Persons of the Year Award: 2006

Bono offers clothes with a conscience.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Subject: Children and War Posted by Picasa

Global Children’s Organization (GCO)
The GCO supports children traumatized by intolerance, terrorism, or war by providing summer camps and on-going programs

Getting an Early Start on Peace, Time Magazine

Children and Armed Conflict in Colombia

Surviving Childhood: An Introduction to the Impact of Trauma.

Disturbing photographs showing the reality of war for children in Iraq.

Links to sites about children and war (scroll to bottom of page)

War Child International.
WCI is a network of independent organisations working across the world to help children affected by war.

Subject: Education & Healthcare / India Posted by Picasa

A father’s response to the 1985 Air India bombing: The National, March 18, 2005

The Manjari Sankurathri Memorial Foundation

Subject: Early Childhood Educators / ECE salaries Posted by Hello

CBC backgrounder on ECE

A commonly told Canadian story about why ECE teachers are leaving their profession.

Many ECE teachers have completed an undergraduate degree at university. Some have completed a Master of Education or PhD degree as well. The average K – 12 teacher’s salary is well above the typical ECE salary. Recent Vancouver rates being offered to ECE teachers are as low as 18,000 – 20,000 per year. This is $5000 – $7000 less than the average starting salary ten years ago.

If we value our children and want them to have enriched educational opportunities, why don’t we, as a society, value the people who will help these children start their school careers?

Salaries for K-12 public school teachers (in comparison)

Image from MGEU (Manitoba) Postcard Campaign

Subject: Listening Posted by Hello

Active listening is a skill that both students and teachers need to develop during their time at school.

Subject: Enfance / Childhood / Emmanuelle Beart Posted by Hello

Translation available