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Gather ’round, kids, to hear a tale…

26 Feb



The King and The Tax Collector 

There once was a king who ruled over a large kingdom. He was a goodhearted fellow who grew up within the palace walls, never wanting for anything. The king was kind and treated his people well and all who knew him, loved him.

The king enjoyed the people’s adoration and would generally grant their requests without hesitation. He would throw large parties, hand out gifts, lend and give without thought, and did what he wanted when the mood struck. The king was young and unpredictable and fun.

Now, the king’s tax collector was a shrewd and careful manager. She did not shirk her responsibilities and expected a timely collection of the people’s taxes. The tax collector made sure everyone knew when the taxes were due and how much they must pay. She would arrive at their doors exactly on the day that she had promised and did not accept excuses for late payment. The tax collector was firm and consistent and yet undeniably fair.

At first the people resented the tax collector’s strict ways and grumbled about her amongst themselves. However, they became accostomed to following her hard and fast rules and soon enough, all prepared their taxes on time. Eventually, the tax collector found that she never had to chase down late payments nor did she have issues with the people because everyone knew what she expected and followed it because they knew that there were consequences for not doing so.



Random photo without context time!


Years went by. Instead of grumbling now, the people were prepared for tax season and handed their taxes over promptly. Many would even hand them in early. They developed a respect for the tax collector’s ways because they realized that she was fair, not cruel.

The tax collector was soon able to relax in some ways while trusting that the taxes would be collected in whole and on time. If someone wasn’t able to pay in full, she would take into consideration his or her payment history and allow the occasional late payment (though followed up consistently!). The people understood if a grace period was granted, it was an exception and they were grateful. The tax collector found her work becoming easier and more pleasant, as the essentials of her job were taken care of and she could now stop and have time to exchange pleasantries with the people, building up good rapport and relationships with them.

Meanwhile, the people had developed an indifferent attitude towards the king. They knew if they didn’t do as they were asked, he would be lenient. He thought he was being kind but his ever-changing stances and lax attitude about everything was confusing.

The king decided that in order to garner respect, he would try being strict. He began issuing harsh orders and when people did not comply, the king grew angry and doled out punishment after punishment, no matter how small the transgression. The people became confused. Then they became upset. They felt the king was being unfair and soon the people revolted against the king and demanded that the tax collector, who was always fair and did as she said, be the new queen.

The king, fearing for his life, fled the kingdom. The tax collector accepted the people’s wishes and established a functioning social democracy, serving as its first leader. 🙂

The End.


Story retold by Montessori Motherload. Original source unknown.

(If you know where this story originated from, please let me know! I have been looking around for it but can’t find it!)


Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

– Les Brown

I heard of the story of the king and the tax collector during my teacher training (I guess that piece of paper didn’t survive my two moves since then!). It was during a session on classroom management. There were three lessons that I got from this story that stayed with me:


1. Start off with firm expectations

Most teachers will tell you that they are much more strict (strict as in firm, not as in unflinchingly mean!) in September, sticking firmly to the classroom rules and not wavering from their expectations. As the school year goes on, they will know that they can be more flexible in certain situations.  As in the story, it is much easier to start out with firm expectations and then loosen up when routines are set and the students understand the rules and rhythms of the classroom. Starting out without clear expectations and then try to become stricter later just doesn’t work.

Real-Life Classroom Example 

In my first year of teaching, I didn’t know that I should establish clear expectations on how much work should be accomplished. I was in an idealistic Montessori mindset that the students will love(!) work and do as much as they possibly can in a day for they just love working with the materials so darn much. Each student works at their own level and at their own pace, so it’ll all fluctuate but somehow come up roses in the end!

Yep, so that didn’t work out so well. By October, I could clearly see that some of the students were definitely not working as much as they could have and were not putting in 100% effort. I was teaching Upper Elementary at the time, so by then most were not in the eager to please teacher mode any longer and were much more interested in developing their social lives during class time!

I had to take the problem by the reigns when it got really bad but by that time, it was as if I was late for a race that had already started. It was difficult and I regretted not having those firm expectations in place right on day one.

It took me a couple of years to learn how to really apply the lesson from the story to the classroom, and when I did, I found that the rest of the year went much more smoothly after all the rules and routines were established and the students knew what was expected of them. I found this method especially helpful when I started in a new school or when I was supply teaching– it’s so much more effective to say no if you’re not sure of the usual routine and then later being more flexible with them, than to say yes, find out that that’s not how it’s done, and then have to backtrack. At that point, the kids will have figured out that you’re not sure what you’re doing and you’ll be running two steps behind them from then on!

I think this absolutely applies to the home as well.

I am finding that it is easier if I say no or restrict something for Freestyle at first and then later gradually easing up on that rule once she understands that it is an occasional treat or rare exception to the rule.

For example, I really tried to avoid giving her sweets for as long as possible. Juice, candy, and chocolate are obviously not nutritionally necessary (though super delicious as her hypocritical mother with a sweet tooth knows!), so we just avoided it. Let me tell you, it can be hard to stand your ground when everyone else is having chocolate cake and you are not allowing your 15 month old a piece because you’ve already said no.

Today, Freestyle does have the occasional chocolate (though I am still avoiding candy as much as possible and politely turn down grocery cashier’s kind offers of lollipops at check out!) and definitely has some cake or pie for dessert when we are out for dinner with friends or have company. She has developed a sweet tooth like her mother but seems (knock on wood) to understand that it’s an occasional treat.

Now, I’m not saying that what I’m doing is the “right” way to go about handling sweets for kids. Absolutely not. It’s just what I believe is best for my kids, that’s all. However, my point is, if I had allowed Freestyle to eat chocolate and candy and drink sugary juice all the time and then suddenly, in a health-conscious guilt moment decide that NO, she eats too much sugar and is never allowed to have it again! Well, that would be a pretty tough habit to break and this inconsistency would be very confusing and unfair to her.


2. Set clear expectations

This is pretty much an expansion of the above. The tax collector in the story made sure that the people knew her expectations and what the consequences would be if they did not follow them.

In both the classroom and home, knowing what is expected of you is important for children. It makes them feel safe. When I was teaching, I made sure that the students knew the expectations in different situations (work period, lunch, recess, field trip, etc.) and just as importantly, allowed them to practice (what do you do when you need help, saying hello and thank you to to the bus driver, etc.).

Real Life Classroom Example

It is not uncommon for Montessori schools to receive positive feedback about student behaviour during field trips. I have gotten many compliments on my class’ behaviour while we were out throughout the years. I can’t take full credit since their Toddler and Casa teachers worked very hard to establish Grace and Courtesy!

What I did do, however, was make sure they knew what to expect on the field trip. We would talk about the expectations when they arrived at school that day, what they had to bring, how they must behave on the bus, how they should comport themselves when we arrived at our destination, what to expect during the program, and so on.

We would sometimes practice by role playing. For younger children, we might practice “getting on the bus” and saying hello to the bus driver while looking her in the eyes. For older children, practice might mean thinking about what they would say or do if they were sitting beside a person who was homeless on the subway (I’ve taken my Upper El students on the bus and subway for a couple of field trips downtown).

Real Life Classroom Example

I think the best compliment that I got was during a trip to see the King Tutankhamun exhibit at the ROM. My group was just exiting the actual exhibit when two older women stopped me.

Woman #1: Excuse me, we just wanted to say how well-behaved your kids are!

Me: Oh! Thank you. That’s so great for them to hear. (Turning to students) This nice lady complimented your behaviour. Isn’t that nice of her?

Students: Yes! Thank you!

Woman #2: What did you do to prepare them?

Me: (Not understanding her question) We did some research projects on King Tut, read books about his life as a class, we did some Egyptian art…

Woman #2: No! I meant how do you prepare them for the trip? Their behaviour?

Me: Oh! (Thinking) Well, they are expected to behave appropriately and we usually practice and discuss it before the trip.

Woman #1: Well, they’re just wonderful.

Me: Yes, they are! 🙂

I was particularly proud of my kids because I remember that for that trip, although we did go through the expectations as per usual, I remember that I didn’t go into them as thoroughly because it was a trip closer to the end of the year and I assumed that they knew them already. And they did! I have more stories like this one, and I think it’s just a testament to Montessori’s emphasis on Grace and Courtesy and overall respect for others.

I should also add that while you are setting the expectations, you will also need to establish the natural consequences that will follow if those expectations are not met. That might need a whole new post!


3. Say what you mean, mean what you say

This goes hand in hand with the first two lesson. The people respected the tax collector because she did exactly that. This is so important to remember when teaching young children. Being consistent can be difficult at times, but if you stop just once, just remember that it’s supposed to take 21 repetitions to make something into a habit and you have just broken that chain and have to start again at repetition #1!

It’s so much easier to just give in, but it is worth the trouble!

Real Life Classroom Example

One thing that I always told my kids was that if I said no, I mean no and they shouldn’t keep asking because I wasn’t going to change my mind. Next time you are about to cave, just remember this:

Student: (Asking for something, doesn’t matter what. Anything. Everything.) Can I, Mrs. MM? Can I, Can I?

Me: I don’t know, can you?

Student: (Rolling eyes because they get that a lot at school…and probably at home!) Okay, may I?

Me: I already told you no and I am not going change my mind, so stop asking.

Student: …Please?

Me: Do you do this to your mom/dad?

Student: Yep!

Me: (Laughs) Does it work?

Student: Yep!

Trust me, that is pretty common! And though it is frustrating to keep repeating yourself when staying firm, it’s worth the effort when the kids realize that you say what you mean and mean what you say!


Good Morning, Baby!

26 Feb

Good Morning Starshine by Serena Ryder (beautiful voice, beautiful woman!)


When Freestyle was a baby, I would sing this song to her in the morning, changing the word “starshine” to her name. Now I sing the same song to both Freestyle and Real Baby.


Good morning, Freestyle

The earth says hello

You twinkle above us

We twinkle below

Good morning, Real Baby

You lead us along

My love and me as we sing

Our early morning singing song


It’s so lovely to see the sharing between siblings with Freestyle, Real Baby, and also with their cousins. My sister generously passes down her oldest’s clothes to Freestyle, then we pass it back for her second daughter, and then it’s now coming back for another round with Real Baby. I love seeing an outfit that Freestyle wore as a baby on Real Baby. Ahh, sweet nostalgia!



I love my sisters and I’m so looking forward to seeing Freestyle and Real Baby’s sisterly love! (For now I am repressing any fighting over clothes and the phone!)


Merry Christmas!

25 Dec



Happy Holidays to you and yours.




I love this time of year and I hope you’re enjoying this nice lull in everyday life, even if you do not celebrate.







Learning by Moving: Shapes

13 Dec

Other than naming them for her or pointing them out once in awhile, I hadn’t really sat down and presented Freestyle with a lesson about shapes. Freestyle knows circles, square, stars, and hearts just through everyday osmosis.

Taking advantage of the gorgeous day outside and the generosity of my neighbours’ for allowing us to deface their side of the driveway, I took Freestyle out for a “shape game” that would reinforce her knowledge of these shapes as well as give her an opportunity to kinaesthetically “experience” the shapes.

With sidewalk chalk, I drew a large circle and square, using a rake to help me make the looking shapes. It makes for a decent driveway ruler too.


To draw the circle I marked the centre with a dot and then kept the end of the rake on it while I moved the rake around in a circle, making marks as I went. Then I connected the marks. You could also use some string and have someone hold it in the centre while you move the other end around.


Shape Game 1: Running Laps (Circle)

We ran around (well, I walked quickly as I had Real Baby strapped to me in the carrier) and around and around…and around and around…and around! I chased Freestyle around the circle and then she chased me. Once in awhile I would emphasize the word “circle”: “Let’s run around the circle. This is a circle.”


Shape Game 2: Circling the Square (Square)

We walked and ran along the sides of the square. As with the circle, I’d say and emphasize the word “square.” I have to say, however, Freestyle much preferred the circle to the square! It’s more fun and easier to run around a circle than a square, I suppose!

To draw the square, I marked the centre again with chalk and then placed one of the rake there while I moved the other end to mark the four sides. Then I used the rake again to draw the sides, using the marks as a guides.


Shape Game 3: Circle or Square? (Both)

I would call out one of the shapes and Freestyle would run and jump into the middle of the shape. This one she liked too, especially when I would repeat the same shape to try to fake her out!



I wish there was room to add a triangle, but maybe next time! If you do not have a driveway, you could try a school playground– they may have a four square square and/or a basketball court with a circle on the pavement.




Sir Clicks A Lot

6 Dec

Here’s a lazy post… Happy clicking!



One of my favourite Montessori blogs, Living Montessori Now, posted this great video that provides a nice, succinct overview of Montessori learning (with a focus on the Casa classroom, ages 3-6).



Just watching it makes me miss the classroom and also inspires me to do more at home with Freestyle and Real Baby. I do love the Casa age, they’re so adorable and their work and development are so interesting to observe.





Clean up, clean up, 

Everybody, everywhere!

Clean up, clean up, 

Everybody do their share! 

I noticed that this song is sung in many of the daycares, children’s programs, and churches around here. I first heard it when my niece would sing it years ago and now Freestyle knows it and likes singing it!

We sing this song when we are cleaning up at home now. It’s a good signal to kids that it is indeed time to tidy up and you can just repeat it until the job is done. And repeat it you will…



There was a great segment on Q last week called Are playgrounds too safe?

You know what I miss? Those huge, round merry-go-rounds. I was the lazy kid who sat near the middle so that I wouldn’t have to push!



As I’ve said before, I always read about educational issues that just point to how right Montessori is for children. I previously wrote about why Montessori schools do not use grades on their report cards here.



I read this NY Times article (Posted in the “Motherlode” section– and yes, my blog name is purposely Motherload. Had to clarify because sometimes intentional misspelling bugs me!) recently. The author puts into words what I’ve long felt about digital photo-taking but way more eloquently!

And if that’s not convincing enough, the article reminded me of a truly creepy horror movie that I watched for my Sci Fi & Fantasty Film class: Peeping Tom movie 



Let’s end this post on a more cheery note, shall we? Here’s my favourite Christmas movie (and the movie Biker and I watched after ice skating on our second* first date!):

* long story!



I want to watch it now! 😀 Jamie & Aurelia are my favourite couple!


10 Signs of My Premature Aging

15 Nov

Photo Credit


1. Out of the “Top Ten Downloaded Songs of the Week,” I recognize maybe one song and two of the groups.

2. I’ve pushed my glasses onto my head to put on some lotion. When I was finished 10 seconds later, I, in all honesty, asked out loud, “Where are my glasses?

3. I’ve started to increase the text size on websites. I just don’t want to be squinting, okay?! I don’t want to get crow’s feet- I have enough to worry about!

4. The other day, I looked at two teenage girls in short skirts on a windy day and thought in all seriousness, “They should be wearing jackets.”

5. The only text/Internet acronyms (I don’t even know if there’s a proper term for those!) I know are LOL, OMG, and WTF. Though I never actually use any of them when I text because it feels too weird. Instead of LOL I will actually type out “Ha ha” instead.

6. Me, a few years ago almost 10 years ago (Wait, what?! 10 years? How’d that happen?!):

When I was in university, an older friend called me from work one morning. We were talking when suddenly my alarm went off.

Friend: “What is that noise?”

MM: “Oh, just my alarm clock. Let me just turn it off. There.”

Friend: “…”

MM: “Um, hello?”

Friend: “It’s eleven o’clock. You set your alarm for…eleven o’clock?!”

MM: “…I didn’t want to sleep in?”

Me, today:

Before Real Baby* was born, my super fantastic sisters took me for a mini overnight trip.** We were excited because we scored an extra late check-out time of 2:00PM. One of my sisters also has kids and she was also really looking forward to sleeping in that weekend. So, what happened? She wakes up at 6:00AM and can’t get back to sleep. Ends up watching TV on the lowest volume (we were sharing a hotel room) until we woke up. Me? Oh, I did so much better. I “slept in” until…7:00AM.

7. I was reading the newspaper (I guess that may be another sign right there– I had a physical copy of the paper in my hands!) and saw an ad for a museum offering $20 tickets for an exhibit for people 25 years and under. I got so excited and was starting to tell Biker about it and how I could get tickets for us both (he’s a couple years older) and maybe we should invite Friends A and B, they’d love it too, then…oh, wait, I’m…over 25. I’m in the next age checkbox on forms now! Ahhh!

8. When single friends tell me about their love lives, I have to discreetly wipe the drool off my chin and rearrange the lascivious expression on my face into something more…restrained.

9. I’ve recently started to appreciate plain hot water as a sensible beverage option.

10. I keep getting “ma’am”-ed in stores. Ma’am? Ma’am?! Seriously?!


I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I can think of right now (OMG– memory loss?!).


 Real Baby is the nickname I’ve decided to use for my new baby girl on this blog. When I was pregnant, we talked to Freestyle about the new baby. Initially, I wasn’t sure how much she understood because her own beloved baby doll is called, simply, “Baby” (or as she says it, “Bah-bee”). I would talk to her about how there was a baby inside Mommy’s tummy and then later ask, “Where’s the baby?” and she would point at or run to get her doll. So sometimes I would tell her that I wasn’t talking about her baby doll, I was talking about the real baby in my tummy. Now Freestyle calls her doll “Bah-bee doll” and will sometimes call our baby “Real Baby!” I couldn’t stop laughing when she first did it!

** This is a MUCH better option (IMHO– Ooh! Ooh! I know a fourth one!) for anyone thinking of throwing their friend a second baby shower…we already have everything we need and I SO much preferred a night to myself (with my sisters) where I could go out and not worry about hurrying home for bedtime, getting Freestyle ready for bedtime, and…SLEEPING IN! Well, you know, in theory.


I know it’s early, but…

9 Nov

Was listening to Q today and a regular contributor on the show said that she didn’t mind Christmas music being played early.

I totally agree with her, though not all share our opinion.! 🙂

Here’s my favourite Christmas song. The actual song starts at 1:49.



Ahh, that’s the stuff! 🙂