Category Archives: Holidays

Montessori Holidays

I’m excited to be co hosting the Montessori Moms Holiday Hop with Confessions of a Montessori Mom, Living Montessori Now, Making Montessori Ours, and Smiling Like Sunshine. I haven’t written much about Montessori activities this holiday because we haven’t been doing anything that really screams Montessori. Annabelle is at a point where she’s not wanting to be shown how to do anything, and she’s not particularly interested in doing prescribed activities right now either. At the moment, she’s all about getting as many things out as she can find and arranging them just so as she uses her imagination to craft stories with all of the items she collects as characters. I’ve tried to be responsive by offering plenty of open ended items for her play, which means that the sort of activities I put out for her last year aren’t really appropriate for her right now.

While we’re on the subject, though, I may as well show you some of the loosely Montessori-inspired things we have been up to:

While we don’t celebrate Christmas, many people who are important to us do, so we tell the Christmas story in their honor and Annabelle has been reenacting it with this nativity set.

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Here's how it looks all neatly laid out in the basket. The star is the topper and the red felt is the tree skirt. Annabelle has been taking this out every day.

Montessori Monday: Winter Has Arrived!

… even if there is no such thing as winter here at 14 degrees north of the equator.

When I was teaching, I always loved the first day back to school after Thanksgiving. We teachers would have put away any and all fall related work and decorated the classroom to correspond with the season. It was such fun to see the awe and excitement on the children’s faces when they arrived to see their classroom transformed.

Now that Annabelle is a bit older, I was able to do something similar with our home. On the day after Thanksgiving, I put her to bed and then busily went about the decorating, putting up the tree, switching out the books in her baskets, and changing out the activities on her shelves. I had far more fun than you can imagine, giggling with excitement all the way as my husband sat and wondered what he had gotten himself into. Below are a few photos to show what Annabelle has been working on since winter arrived in our house.  Continue reading

The Toddler Pumpkin Extravaganza

Scraping the bowl after making the cookie icing

After reading my bloggy friend Jessica’s enthusiastic plans to host a pumpkin themed toddler Halloween party, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I pushed my nerves aside, and decided to throw a party for the toddlers and moms who attend the weekly play group I organize. Generally, we meet at different parks around the island to give the children a chance to run and enjoy some fresh air, but it is the rainy season, so I thought I would invite everyone to our house to eliminate the need for a contingency plan. Our party was on Friday, and I was thrilled that almost everyone we invited was able to make it. On an average Friday, we have no more than half a dozen moms at play group, but we had eleven moms at the pumpkin party. It was a bit chaotic, but it was tons of fun and totally worth it.

Of course my planning was inspired by Montessori, so I felt it only appropriate that I share the details for Montessori Monday with One Hook Wonder and Living Montessori Now.

The Activities

My goal was to make sure that everything was edible and safe to explore. I also wanted to offer a few different things to do so that the toddlers could choose whatever appealed to them. There was no schedule of events – I just set up the activities and the food in advance so that the kids could lead the way. We did: Continue reading

Celebrating the Solstice

Perhaps my absolute favorite event of the holiday season is the winter solstice. There’s something awe-inspiring about the consistent rhythms in nature and remembering that those rhythms continue year after year, with or without me,  is both humbling and freeing. It’s a great reminder of how vast and grand is nature, and how it connects all of us, insignificant though we may be.
On this particular solstice, a series of minor, but unfortunate events had resulted in the destruction of my kitchen on a grand scale, with a very time-consuming dinner that turned out to be sub-par at best waiting at the eye of the storm. I was having one of those days. (You know, the days where it feels like nothing is going quite right, yet if you really stopped to reflect on the real problems in the world, you would feel downright silly for making such a fuss.) Despite all that, however, I was looking forward to the literally astronomical event that was soon to take place. 
When Annabelle and I stepped out of the house and I turned my attention away from my petty problems, it was suddenly a pretty spectacular day. It was a bit too cloudy to see the complete lunar eclipse, but we had a most incredible solstice sunset and Annabelle, enjoying being outdoors, toddled about and danced while we waited for the clouds to pass. We finally saw the moon when it was about eighty percent eclipsed and we played together in the fresh air until it was nearly full again. It was just the evening I needed.
In the future, I would love to celebrate the solstice in a bigger way, but this year we celebrated by simply enjoying, and that was more than enough for me. Annabelle currently seems to find equal enjoyment in every day that involves people who love her, space to explore, and plenty of milk, so as far as I can tell, it appears that our observance was good enough for her as well.
Did your family celebrate the winter solstice, or watch the lunar eclipse? Do you have any holiday traditions involving the solstice?

Family, Tradition, and Spirituality

Years ago I read a book that discussed spirituality using the analogy of a wheel, with the outer rim representing all of the questions humans have been asking for generations: what is the meaning of life, what happens when we die, how did mankind come to be? The author discussed the idea that the role of spirituality is to attempt to answer these questions, and each religion has its own way of doing so. The spokes of the wheel, then, represented each religion, or each set of answers to these age old questions of humanity. The center of the wheel represented the truth, and each person could make it to the truth by genuinely following the path that their own answers led them along.
While I have long since forgotten the title and the author, and really everything else about that book, this analogy has stuck with me. You see, I have been fortunate enough to meet some absolutely incredible, genuine people in my life: Buddhists, Jews, Christians, and Hindus. I have met Muslims and Atheists and Unitarian Universalists, and I really have a hard time believing that any of these people have all the right answers. I believe that they are beautiful, genuine, and passionate people and that the path they are following gives them purpose and a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that. For me, none of these paths feel genuine or right and that can make things like religious holidays a bit complicated.
I grew up in a Judeo-Christian family where Christmas looked much like it does in many other American homes. We had a tree, we had stockings, we had presents, and I was sure that one day I would finally catch Santa in the act. Now that the New Daddy and I have started our own family, we have the opportunity to reinvent some of the traditions we grew up with. We don’t want to toss them aside altogether, because they do have value, but we also don’t want to continue the parts that simply don’t make sense. We do have a tree, but the jury is out on whether we’ll fill one another’s stockings. As for presents, we’re opting out for reasons I discussed earlier, and we’ll appreciate the legend of ol’ Saint Nick as we appreciate all good fiction. A tree and a story do not a magical holiday make, however, so I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what will make this time of year special for us, and for Annabelle as she gets older.
What I love most about the many religious celebrations observed around the world is that they give those who participate in them a sense of belonging, and that is something I really don’t want our children to miss out on.  I want this to be a time of year that we can all look forward to – a time that truly does feel magical. To facilitate that, we will recognize the natural phenomenon of the winter solstice and enjoy bringing light into our home at the darkest time of the year. We will feast, we will share stories, and we’ll check in with family far and near. As the years go on, our traditions will surely evolve, but no matter what, the goal is for them to bring us together.
What do holiday traditions look like in your family? Have you made your own, or taken most of them from generations past? Are they consistent, or do they change from year to year?