stories of discovery

Welcome to North Star Montessori’s blog.  Stories of Discovery is a place where faculty, students and parents share knowledge, experiences and things that motivate and inspire us.

Writing About and Raising Fearless Girls

Categories: Faculty insight, Uncategorized
Authored by:
Date posted: March 1, 2018

There’s a movement afoot, a seismic shift among educators and parents, a longing to engender “Mighty Girls”*, to create “The Gutsy Girl”*; daughters who are resilient, persistent, courageous, problem solvers; female students who know themselves and are willing to push their limits. Girls who fulfill their potential, stand up to bullies, and hold their heads up high.

We know that shattering the glass ceiling, rather than wearing the glass slipper, is as much about education and opportunity as it is about temperament.

Unbeknown to me when I set out to write, “Maddie Makes a Movie”, I was to become part of this change.






Maddie is a risk taker, a resilient problem solver in the face of her many problems, and a character with her own unique identity.

“Maddie… is a heart stealer. Readers will love her enthusiasm and commitment to her big ideas.” 

(Eileen Cook, Author of With Malice)


So how do we, as parents create opportunities for our girls to excel:


  1. Examine our own fears

The desire to protect our children from harm is innate and reflexive. It can be all consuming but parents need to push through their own anxiety and let children take acceptable risks.

When introducing my daughter to the North Shore Mountain Bike trails, I asked a very experienced rider to lead the way. I still had to bite my tongue and resist the urge to scream Careful! And Slow Down! With a great deal of self-control, I replaced my concerns with a sense of joy at hearing her whoops and cries of delight.


  1. Set the example

Find genuine examples of times when you are heading outside your comfort zone and talk about the process. For me, that usually involves technology. Last summer, I wanted to create a website, and expand my presence on social media. I procrastinated to an embarrassing extent. Then feeling totally inadequate, I started, faced problems, searched for answers that seemed to come in another language, and finally succeeded.


  1. Get girls outside

Nature doesn’t care what a girl is wearing but it does teach your daughter about appropriate clothing for the adventure. Dusty trails demonstrate the effectiveness of good hiking shoes. Snow covered mountains reveal the limitations of princess dresses or cut off jean shorts and lacy crop tops. Climbing trees make leggings and t-shirts an obvious choice.


   4.  Involve your daughter when assessing risks

As adults, we are constantly weighing up the pros and cons of activities. Voicing these can help our daughters learn this important life skill. When our daughter wanted to ride her skateboard to school we asked her to write her own risk assessment. Aged ten, she listed all the potential hazards and came up with a safe solution for each risk. I am hoping the same process will work when talking about teenage parties, dating, career choices and other milestones.


  1. Allow your daughter to fail

If you always hold your daughter when she swings on the monkey bars, how will she ever know if she can get across on her own? Allow her to scratch her knees, make a mess (and clean up after herself), and construct a cubby that collapses. Then let her try again, and again. Resist the temptation to offer solutions. Instead, acknowledge the situation and the emotions that accompany it, then reassure and encourage. It’s okay. What could you do differently when you try again?


  1. What is true for girls is true for boys as well

The only constant rule I have in parenting is “never assume.” Don’t assume boys will feel brave and girls will be conscientious. Let them surprise you as they shoot for the stars.


“Maddie Makes a Movie” will be published on May 1.

You are all invited to join author, Sonia Garrett, and illustrator, Stevie Hale-Jones, to celebrate the launch of this fictional gutsy girl.

When:           Friday May 4, 5:30 – 7:00pm

Where:         Capilano Library – Potlatch Room

                        3045 Highland Blvd

                        Edgemont Village, North Vancouver




*The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure

by Caroline P

The Building Blocks for Life-Long Success

Categories: Faculty insight, Learning through discovery, Uncategorized
Authored by:
Date posted: December 11, 2017

We all want our children to be independent; to make good choices, be responsible, self-sufficient, respectful, passionate, driven, etc. But how do we set our children up for this type of success?

By providing them with particular experiences at home and at school.

The Montessori philosophy has many components but a huge emphasis is placed on our belief that children need freedom with limits. You might think of this as two totally opposite ends of a spectrum. And interestingly, this is the component that gets confused most of the time when people think of Montessori.

“It is too strict, too structured.”


“They get to do whatever they want.”

Everyone’s interpretation of freedom and limits is different but ours is very clear.

If you set up an environment with activities that you know will interest the child, where they can explore freely, make choices, and all of this is done under the guidance of an adult who sets respectful limits, the children will thrive!!

We always must start by discussing the prepared environment for Infant/Toddler, Casa, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary. Montessori divided it into three-year age ranges because she observed that children around the same age have similar needs and sensitive periods. This is the time when learning particular skills will have the most impact on the child and create lasting memories.

In each of our classrooms, there are materials that were created by taking into account HOW children learn. In the Casa, children want to connect to what they see at home so they have real-life activities that are multi-sensory. In the Elementary, children at this age learn best through their imagination so the lessons are geared around creating awe and wonder.

Because of this, children’s interest is sparked and therefore their motivation for learning increases. We can link so many key Montessori principles with current research in Motivational Theory and it is proven that specific types of educational experiences enhance student motivation. Children will be intrinsically motivated by activities that hold interest for them and when this happens, they perform activities because of the positive feelings resulting from the activities themselves. When children are motivated, it influences their interest, excitement, and confidence, which in turn enhances performance, persistence, creativity, and the general well-being of an individual.

At each of these levels the balance of freedom and limits is different. As you can imagine, at the Infant-Toddler level the ‘freedom’ component is a bit narrower than at the Upper Elementary level.

  1. At the first level of respect/respecting limits the child can only ‘obey’ someone else when it meets the child’s own needs. This is a natural phase that belongs to the first three years of life. It is built in by nature so that the child is not bothered yet by too many restrictions an can spend all their energy on self-construction. Limit setting is a very necessary part of this process!
  2. Once the child has integrated the identity, he becomes ready to integrate in a group. This brings new experiences since other people will point out their own likes and dislikes. This helps the child to move to the second level of respect. Which is being able to do what someone else asks even when it does not meet a personal need.
  3. Based upon healthy completion of the first two levels of respect, a third level exists in that individuals respect the larger whole. This is the base for respect for other cultures, international mindedness, but also respect for nature, animals, and the world at large.

What does our combination of freedom and limits look like at the different levels?

At each stage, the following steps are worked through:


  1. Clear expectations

These are our limits. There are limited options, rules, etc. set out in each of the environments.

  1. Responsibility

The child is presented with options and must make a choice, then be responsible for that choice.

  1. Independence

Every child has the freedom to act within these boundaries.

  1. Accountability

Depending on the choice, the child must deal with the logical consequences of his actions. This is not punishment. These are opportunities to learn and grow from.

Ex: Natural consequence – Child doesn’t wear a jacket outside, gets cold.

Ex: Logical consequence – Child throws paint on the floor, child must clean it up.

Ex: Punishment – Child hits brother, child gets a time-out.

  1. Evaluation

After the child lives through this cycle of making choices and living with outcome (good/bad) he will then re-evaluate his next choice with more knowledge.

The more he can live with the natural consequences, the more he will understand the world.

“If we really allow the child to experience freedom in our environment, the child will clearly know his choices, know they are in limits, be able to make a conscious choice, and be responsible for that choice. When this happens, the process of self-construction happens.”

“The more capable the child is to choose, the better prepared for life he will be.”

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