9-29-14 and 9-30-14

It’s now almost the end of October, but I feel like I need to wrap up my month of September posts. This will be short and sweet because I have a race to recap!

Monday, 9-29-14

Today Orlando and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary!! Well we did our celebrating during our trip to Fort Ticonderoga.

In the morning I met my friend Mary for coffee and a walk. We strolled around the college for 2.48 miles. Then I hit the gym for some strength training. Later in the day I snuck in a 3 mile run with my friend while our boys were at swimming practice. We made it back in to watch them in their diving class. The afternoons go by so quickly. Once home it was shower, dinner and bedtime for Carlos. I took a short nap before going to work.

Tuesday, 9-30-14

I went to one of my favorite Vinyasa yoga classes at 9am. Then I met my friends Kimm and Kaye for a long overdue coffee date at my favorite coffee shop in town. We chatted for about 3 hours before any of us realized how quickly the time had passed. We took a walk around the college before I had to run and pick up Carlos. It was such a fun, relaxing day. Carlos and I had a couple of hours to spend together before I had to go to bed before work.
That’s it for September! I thought I could blog daily for a month. Ha! Not so much. It’s much harder than I imagined. I don’t know how you do it Biz!

9-28-14

Fort Ticonderoga

I won’t give a history lesson here, but if you are interested in the Revolutionary War time period or have children who are studying it and you don’t live too far I would highly recommend visiting Fort Ticonderoga. It was immensely interesting and very engaging for all ages.

Before I get to the fort let me rewind to the early morning. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run in a new place so I set off on foot to discover a little bit more of Hague, NY. I was expecting a crisp cool fall morning, but the temperature was warming up quickly. The area is very hilly, but beautiful in every direction. I ran back past the Hague Market, along a wooded trail and then up a huge hill where I came across an old cemetery. I stopped at the cemetery and walked around a bit before heading back to the resort. The foliage was so rich and colorful. My run was slow with lots of photo breaks.

After my run I grabbed Carlos to go kayaking. We each had our own kayak and we rowed out away from the dock in silence, Carlos leading the way. Carlos went to a kayak camp this summer for a week. I watched him in awe as he maneuvered the kayak effortlessly over the calm water. He was confident and strong. We didn’t talk much and just enjoyed the peacefulness of the lake and the gorgeous scenery.

I could have stayed out there all day, but we really had to get back to the cabin and get a move on if we wanted to make it to Fort Ticonderoga. After checking out of the resort we returned to Libby’s for breakfast. Then it was time for the main attraction. From the parking lot it doesn’t look like much, but once we passed through the welcome center which houses the gift shop and restaurant you go through a door to be greeted with a spectacular views all around.

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We wandered around for about 20 minutes awaiting the next tour. There was a wall with chronological information. You could peruse the cannons on display. The fort was strategically built overlooking the outlet of the La Chute River which connects Lake George to Lake Champlain. This was an important area because it essentially linked New France to New York.

Fort Ticonderoga was built by the French beginning in 1755 and originally called Carillon. The fort changed hands a number of times. In 1759 the British defeated the French there and took control of the fort for the next 16 years. In what is considered the first American victory of the Revolutionary War, Fort Ticonderoga was captured on May 10, 1775 by Benedict Arnold, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys.

The tour began with a lengthy history by our very intelligent and sarcastically witty tour guide.

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Once inside the fort you could roam around checking out the various rooms like the shoe workshop, the tailor’s shop and a bunk room. There was also a museum on the top floor of the building with historical artifacts, weaponry, clothing and paintings.

We were invited to return back outside of the fort to watch a demonstration of muskets being fired.

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From there we took a tour of the King’s Garden.

The corn maze adventure was next on our list. It was actually quite easy which worked out great since it was beginning to get very warm out and we were all hungry for lunch. We ate lunch on site and enjoyed the gorgeous views. On our way out we were given directions to Mount Defiance. For a small fee you also received a ticket to drive up Mount Defiance just across the river from Fort Ticonderoga. During colonial times the mountain was deemed too steep to fortify with troops and weaponry despite the major vantage point from the top until finally in July 1977, British General Burgoyne ignored past skepticism and brought his cannons up the mountain forcing the Americans to abandon the forts below.

Once at the base of the mountain I did my best to convince Carlos and Orlando to hike up the mountain. It’s only about a mile up. They reluctantly agreed and complained the entire way up! Wimps!! However, once at the top we were treated to amazing views all around.

We decided to take the nearby ferry across Lake Champlain into Vermont on our way home. The small ferry crosses in only 6 minutes on cables to a dock directly across the lake. You can even buy Vermont maple syrup and a few other goodies on board.

Whew! That’s it for our weekend getaway. I would highly recommend checking out north western Lake George and the Ticonderoga area.

9-17-14 and 9-18-14

Wednesday, 9-17-14

I met a friend for coffee in the morning after dropping Carlos off to school. This is the mom of a friend of Carlos’ from his old school. I hadn’t seen her all summer so it was great to catch up.

After that I had plans to meet Kate for a long run. It has been so much fun helping her to train for her first half marathon. The summer was really tough for her because of the heat so she scaled back her training. Kate recently mentioned that she was struggling to get her breathing under control so we decided that we would really emphasize breathing this week particularly during the long run. She admitted that she was getting very caught up in her pace/mile and even felt some competition from an acquaintance who just began running.

I think it is so discouraging for new runners to worry about pace. There seems to be a lot of concern about minutes per mile. I had always run alone and was very reluctant to discuss running early on so I really had nothing to compare my time to. There are almost always time goals going into a race, but mine were very personal and private. Running and particularly running races has become much more common. With apps like Map My Run it is easy to view friends’ progress. This can create an unhealthy sense of competition.

To avoid unnecessary stress related to distance and pace we are focusing on overall time running with a goal of working up to a three hour long run before the half marathon. Kate and I ran a very consistent 7.32 miles in 1 hour 42 minutes. The goal was 90 minutes with a slow cool down. Her breathing was in control for most of the run and when it became an issue we took short walk breaks to get it under control. If she continues to train this way I think she is going to exceed her expectations on race day.

For me this is a great opportunity to get back into long runs without any pressure to improve my own time. I am running at Kate’s pace which will also help me to avoid injury during this training. It’s been a fun change running and chatting with a friend. since I’m so accustomed to running alone with music. Honestly the 90 minutes flew by.

Later that afternoon while our boys were at swimming lessons we took advantage of the gorgeous weather to stroll another 2.06 miles around the pond at the college. I’ve been trying to include more walking into my days. I think it’s a great way to include mindful activity that isn’t forced or stressful. I enjoy it alone, but it’s more fun walking and talking with a friend.

Thursday, 9-18-14

I started my morning with a nice 75 minute Vinyasa yoga class. I love yoga and really hope to begin doing it more regularly.

It’s Big E time here in Western Massachusetts! OK I’m not actually that excited about it. The Big E, is said to be the largest fair in the northeast. It opens every September and runs for 17 days. There are buildings dedicated to each of the New England States, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont…no New York is not part of New England! The fair showcases agriculture, animals, musical performances, a midway of rides and games and butter. Yup butter! Each year there is a new butter sculpture on display. Go ahead click on the link to see this year’s butter sculpture, you know you want to! There are also parades including a Mardi Gras style parade where you can catch beaded necklaces. There is an old colonial village you can tour. There are horse shows. The Better Living Center is a mecca of goods including my favorite, the Vitamix demonstration.

However, for most people the big attraction is the food. Each year there is something even more disturbingly unhealthy than last year. It’s not exactly a vegan’s dream dining experience. I definitely do not go for the food, but according to friends and family that love “the fair,” I’m weird! Everyone I know that attends the Big E each year goes for some specific treat or two or three. This year it seems that bacon is the most popular item. Bacon ice cream, chocolate dipped bacon, fried dough topped with maple syrup and bacon, and more I’m sure. If you’re a bbq fanatic you might love the pulled pork parfait. It’s all the fixings plus the pulled pork all in one handy dandy cup! And if you’re feeling particularly undernourished or maybe you just ran a marathon go for something deep fried, anything, literally anything you want like an Oreo, banana, Kool Aid (I don’t get it), peanut butter and jelly, cheesecake or butter. Yup butter…deep fried butter! No not your thing? How about the Craz-E Burger, a bacon cheeseburger served between two halves of a grilled glazed donut. Last but not least you absolutely cannot leave the park without eating a famous Big E Cream Puff.

Not exactly a vegan’s dream dining experience. In fact all I ate was a free packet of dried cranberries. I get the whole YOLO (you only live once) mentality, but I’d be concerned about making it out of the Big E alive if I were some of these folks.

 

 

 

9-15-14 and 9-16-14

Monday, 9-15-14

Because I work nights and don’t sleep until later in the day I basically have my days free to sit on the couch, eat bon bons and watch soap operas to myself now that Carlos is in school full day. Most people are of the opinion that I should sleep during the day, but I’ve only ever done that on rare occasions and I end up sleeping less than I do in the evening. I don’t like it. When Carlos went back to school we decided to just keep things as they were because I felt it worked best for me. However, if Carlos has something important in the evening then I will sleep during the day so I don’t have to miss it.

I have no problem keeping busy and typically have a bunch of things I try to get done each day. One perk of being home during the daytime is that I often get to visit with friends who are also home or I meet other friends on their lunch break from time to time. I encourage meeting up for coffee/tea and then going for a walk or doing some kind of activity to kill two birds with one stone. So on Monday morning my friend Mary picked me up, we grabbed coffees and then walked around Mount Holyoke College gabbing for about an hour and 15 minutes. It was a nice slow stroll as she has knee and back issues.

Back at home I managed to fit in a short body weight strength routine before running (literally) to the library to give blood. The town just built a gorgeous new library almost exactly one mile from my house so I ran there, donated blood and then walked home. The guy manning the snack table was so worried that I would pass out if I ran home he made me promise to walk. I agreed and called my mother on the walk home. It was a positively gorgeous day.

I picked Carlos up from school and went over my friend Kate’s house. The boys wanted to light saber battle before swimming lessons. So we went for a walk to the college while they battled. They settled into their stroke lessons and Kate and I decided to go for another walk around the pond just outside the college’s athletic center. We fit in a little over 2 miles before returning to watch their diving lessons.Carlos is just learning to dive so he’s a little apprehensive. Kate’s son is amazing, dives in like a porpoise with hardly a splash. I love that these kids get out there and give it their all for two hours of lessons!

After swimming the night sped along with dinner, bath and before I knew it I was in bed for a short nap before work.

Tuesday, 9-16-14

Do you ever just feel completely off kilter? Well this was that kind of day. Yoga class was horrible. I was off balance literally and I just felt inadequate and ungraceful. The weather was bitter, grey and dreary in the morning. I came home and sat in front of the space heater which killed me because it’s not even officially fall. I actually managed to get a few financial things done.

Finally I got off my tush and did some body weight strength training. I’m just trying to fit it in when I can, some lunges, squats, ab stuff whenever wherever! The sun came out. I warmed up a bit. So I decided to go for a short run. I ran 3.20 miles in my neighborhood.

I picked up Carlos from school and met my mom at the mall. Carlos went home with her to spend the afternoon. I went home, cleaned up, finished folding laundry and made Carlos’ lunch before going to bed.

It doesn’t sound like a bad day, but I also felt like a black hole when it came to food. I went to bed trying to analyze my chaotic at times eating habits. It’s an uphill battle for me, but I’m determined to win.

I woke up startled thinking I had overslept, but was relieved to see it was only 8:30. I slept for another hour and 15 minutes, got up, showered and got ready for another night of work.

 

And so are the days of my life…

9-10-14 to 9-14-14

Where do the days go?

Wednesday 9-10-14

I’m starting to get my running mojo back. I decided to run up Mt. Holyoke and then hike my way back down. I ran up the access road to the top rather than the trail because I am still being over cautious about injury. It was an awesome feeling making it to the top. It’s not a huge climb and only about 1.65 miles to the top, but it really gets the heart pumping. I took in the view from the top and then strolled down the trails for a total of 3.15 miles.

Panoramic from the top of Mt. Holyoke
Panoramic from the top of Mt. Holyoke

I practiced a little trail running on flat stretches of trail. It was a leisurely hike down. As I was getting close to my car I greeted an older man who was walking his little furry white dog. The dog was bounding along quite happily. We said hello and then the man informed me that 6 months ago the dog was paralyzed! I said well she’s made a remarkable recovery and now I can tell you all about the dog, the man’s daughter who lives in Maine, his workout schedule, etc. People love to share their stories with me! This summer at our favorite little local lake, Carlos ran into a friend from school. When I walked down the small beach to get him to go home I met his friend’s grandmother and her friend. The grandmother’s friend suddenly began explaining that she was wearing a big floppy beach hat because she was in menopause and taking hormones and didn’t want to get a sunburn. I learned all about her daughter who was a new Chemistry teacher and more about menopause. It’s amazing what people will share!

Later in the afternoon I had a phone call to make and I was doing some computer work at a coffee shop near the bike trail. It was a gorgeous day out so I decided to walk and talk. I was surprised that I ended up walking 4.35 miles. I moved for a total of 7.5 miles.

Thursday 9-11-14

I have been itching to do a long run, something more than 5 miles. I had plans to run with my friend Kate, the one I will be running with in the Baystate Half Marathon next month. However, things didn’t work out quite as planned. I left the house and decided to run in her direction. I ran 4.47 miles before meeting up with her as she got delayed by a couple of unplanned issues. We then did some hill work and a mini boot camp of lunges, squats and tricep dips. The weather was really undecided, it was grey and gloomy, but a bit muggy and breezy. Rain was imminent and of course as we headed back to do more hill work it began raining. We decided to just get back on the road and run to my house. Luckily the rain fizzled out.  I ran another 4.04 miles for a total of 8.51 miles!

Back at my house we indulged in a little homemade facial. I made a face scrub out of almond oil and coconut sugar which smells divine! We cleansed our faces with my new Beauty Counter cleanser and then did the scrub. My skin felt so nice and smooth!

Little known fact…I really wanted to be an esthetician when I was in high school. I used to practice doing facials on my friends and family. I was so interested in it my mom took me to the Elizabeth Grady School in Boston for a tour and informational session. Of course once my friends started looking into colleges I wanted to do the same. I am still interested in skin care, but these days I am more interested in how to care for the skin as naturally as possible by eliminating chemically laden products in exchange for more natural organic remedies. Something tells me at some point my career path might come full circle.

Friday 9-12-14

I have been itching to get back into strength training. I hit the gym after bringing Carlos to school. I didn’t have much time, but managed to fit in a good 45 minute session including a quick warm up on the bike. I am aiming for one day a week at the gym.

Later I met my oldest and dearest childhood friend for lunch. It was a belated birthday lunch for me. It’s always nice to catch up with her as we don’t see each other too often. She is a busy nurse practitioner with 4 sons! She had 3 of her boys long before I had Carlos. As kids we used to talk about how we would live next door to each other in California and have children at the same time. Well by the time I got pregnant with Carlos I figured that dream was long gone. Ironically she got pregnant a few months later with her fourth son. Carlos and Domenic are great friends and although they don’t see each other often they act as though no time has passed when they do get together just like their moms. Now I just have to figure out how we are going to live next door to each other in California!

Saturday 9-13-14

I brought Carlos to soccer practice in the morning and went for a run while he was there. It was a really enjoyable 4.36 mile run. After practice we went home so I could shower. We picked up our farm share, went to Barnes & Noble to pick up a gift card for a birthday party that afternoon and back home for lunch.

The birthday party was for one of Carlos’ new school friends. He loves to dance and takes dance lessons. His mom said he really wanted a dance birthday party so the studio let him have the party there. The two dance instructors spent about a half hour teaching the group of kids a short dance to one of the songs in the most recent Muppets movie. Then the kids performed the dance for us. They had cake and ice cream in the lobby area before going back into the dance room for another performance. The dance instructors put other music on and led the kids in a little freestyle dance party. It was nice to see the boys participating too and having so much fun. My husband is a great dancer and Carlos has inherited the natural rhythm that every Mozambican boy seems to be born with thankfully!

Sunday 9-14-14

I ran 4.40 miles at my happy place, Ashley Reservoir, for a much needed run after work. At home I whipped up my favorite black bean and corn salad for an afternoon barbecue. Carlos had skating at 11:30. At 1:30 all went to the barbecue at the house of one of his class mates later in the afternoon. This new school is very small. There is a strong sense of community. This family invited the entire class over to get to know the families. The teacher and one teaching assistant also came. It was a beautiful afternoon. There was tons of homemade food. The company was enjoyable. It was so nice to chat with everyone, get to know the parents and kids a little better and make ourselves more visible. Carlos is settling in very nicely and we are beyond thrilled with the transformation we have seen in him in the short time he’s been back at school.

We love Montessori and what it is doing for Carlos, but we are quickly becoming aware that not everyone shares our enthusiasm. At soccer practice a boy from Carlos’ old school told him that his mom won’t let him go to Montessori because they let you learn whatever you want to and that’s not right. There have also been a few quips made to me by parents about the lack of structure in a Montessori classroom. I don’t say too much other than to encourage people to visit a Montessori school before criticizing. I tend to preface any discussion about Carlos’ new school with, “Montessori school is not appropriate for all children, but it is a great fit for Carlos.”

So how was your week/weekend?

 

9/3/14

Carlos and I had a pretty amazing summer. We spent tons of quality time together. There were lots of get togethers with friends. We were outdoors a lot. We talked and played. We also both read the first Harry Potter book. Carlos finished before me and kept trying to spoil the ending!!

However, I have been working a ridiculously insane schedule to cover holes in the schedule and my husband’s has had to work longer hours since August. Unlike summers before I simply couldn’t do it all and something had to give. I already mentioned that training for a race was nearly impossible and even my regular level of fitness was interrupted. I did the absolute best I could with what little free time I had. I started working out at home more and introduced new things to my workout routine like push ups, kettle bell swings and squats.

The other thing I did was put away my electronics as often as possible. I didn’t want Carlos on his electronics so I tried to set a better example. I admit it…I like love my iPhone and my iPad. This summer I barely blogged, took Facebook breaks for days at a time (I don’t have a huge presence there anyway) and essentially tried not to be attached to a device. I realize that time is of the essence with Carlos. He’s 7 now and still loves hanging around with me, but I know those days don’t last forever.

I really enjoyed the summer, but inside I felt very unbalanced and by the last week of school vacation I felt like I was burning the candle at both ends. I put a lot of effort into parenting this summer, but failed to nurture my marriage or myself. Even my house suffered a bit of neglect. I don’t even want to talk about sleep, or lack thereof. I know that some things need to change before next summer rolls around. I cherish my time with Carlos, but I need to find a better balance between work and home life.

On a positive note, I did learn to let go of a few of my hangups this summer. I learned to let some housework go in exchange for a morning walk or jog with Carlos. I let my list of “things to do” grow and grow if it meant meeting friends out at the park. I learned to tackle only the priorities. I think my mantra of this summer was “it will get done -eventually.”

I saw this video for the first time yesterday and thought it was a simple way of making a very important statement.

9/2/14

I’m off to a great start today. I dropped Carlos off at school. I vacuumed my car and cleaned the inside. There is just something refreshing about a clean car. Then I ran to Trader Joe’s for a few things to complete my grocery list for the week. I planned my route accordingly so I could run on a bike trail near Trader Joe’s. It was almost 9 o’clock by the time I got there and it was already hot and humid. I’m waiting for you fall!

I hit the trail for a 4 mile run and I felt amazing. My legs were finally acting they knew what to do. My breathing felt great. I ran along at what felt like a slightly speedier pace than what I’ve been running and smiled the entire way. It was an awesome run. After that I browsed around Bed Bath and Beyond for some toiletry organizers. Boy is it easy to lose track of time in there! I found a few things, drove home and immediately threw two pots of water on the stove, one for quinoa, the other for brown rice. I just zipped off a couple of emails and now I’m writing this post.

Today is Carlos’ first full day of school. He had two half days last week to get acclimated which was helpful as he transferred to a new school for 2nd grade. Last winter it became apparent that Carlos needed a different learning environment. I had decided that if we were unable to find another school to meet his needs then I would home school. Prior to becoming a nurse I was a teacher. I was confident that I could learn the ropes of home schooling and reignite Carlos’ love of learning.

Carlos is inquisitive. He loves to explore a variety of subjects. He learns quickly and retains an astonishing amount of information. He is imaginative and creative. He reads at an advanced level. He is bright, not brilliant or a genius, but clearly intelligent. Education is very important in our home. As first grade progressed he was coming home increasingly more frustrated. He finally said what I had suspected, “I’m bored.” I think I’m to blame in part. Whenever Carlos gets interested in something we allow him to explore it in depth. For example he had fascination with Benedict Arnold last fall. We found documentary type videos, stories geared toward children and historical facts. He soaked it up and that led to more questions about the Revolutionary War, George Washington, etc. We found answers to his questions if we didn’t know the answers.

His boredom was compounded by the fact that his school had limited facilities for indoor gym and recess which only led to more aggravation during the long cold winter. The outdoor playground was a parking lot and by the year’s end kids were so restricted that they could simply walk around and talk to each other. Kids need to run and play during the day. The kids were discouraged from taking books out of the school library. Spanish class was little more than coloring and watching movies in English (yes that’s right!). Despite a small class of only 13 students the teacher told me personally that they were a difficult group to manage. Carlos began coming home with headaches because of the constant yelling his teacher was doing to discipline the class. I’ve known these kids for the last four years and I find it very hard to believe that an experienced first grade teacher would have any trouble laying down the law from day one. Her major complaint was that the kids talked too much. I’m sure Carlos did his share of talking, but he was not a behavioral problem. Carlos’ teacher abruptly retired at the end of the school year prompting thoughts that perhaps she had some personal issues going on which made it difficult for her at school.

By February I began exploring other options and after visiting a Montessori school I knew immediately that Carlos would be a perfect fit for the school. Carlos spent the day at the school back in June and loved it. He was beaming when I picked him up and wanted to go back the next day. The feedback we received about his visit was so encouraging and made it an easy decision. Carlos acknowledged that although he would miss his friends he really wanted to attend Montessori in the fall. This was a positive sign that we were making the right decision.

Last Thursday he was quiet on the way to school. He was excited, but appropriately nervous. I walked him to the play area where they spend the first 15 minutes before heading into the building and I waited until he found another boy his age. He turned and said goodbye, gave me a quick hug and off he went.

I couldn’t wait to pick him up that day. I saw the director of admissions when I got to the school and she told me that she had seen Carlos midday and he told her it was the best school day ever!! Carlos got in the car shortly after and was a bundle of excited energy. He talked nonstop on the way home about his day. This, in and of itself, was a miracle because most days over the last year he would simply grunt “fine” in reply to my question “how was your day?”

Carlos couldn’t wait to go to school on Friday. It was another great day. Carlos even said to me this weekend, “I wish there were no weekends now so I could go to school everyday!”

So what is so magical about this new school. Well these are the things Carlos loves the most:

  • When you are finished with your assignment you move on to something else.
  • If you have to go to the bathroom you are allowed to go without asking the teacher.
  • Snack is provided by the school and children are able to eat it when they are hungry rather than all together at a designated time.
  • The playground is amazing!
  • No assigned seating, no desks and the freedom to move around the classroom.
  • Mali, the school dog.

Things I love the most:

  • The huge smile on Carlos’ face when he talks about school.
  • The environment. The school is newly built and looks like a large home. It’s calm, bright, clean and inviting.
  • The school’s commitment to giving back to the community.
  • That independence is valued and children learn to problem solve.

Prior to this experience I knew very little about Montessori, but I’ve since read a bit about Dr. Maria Montessori. Her story alone is fascinating. What drew me towards a Montessori school for Carlos is that it encompasses the whole person. Montessori is much more a way of life than an educational philosophy. Dr. Montessori developed her program through observation of young children. Though the children operate with a certain sense of independence it is within an environment specially designed for them and prepared to meet them where they are at individually.

Some think of Montessori and think disorder, but actually it is quite the opposite. Children learn that everything has a place and they are taught to respect and care for their environment. In my brief time at the school I witnessed a rhythmic flow of activity where the children seemed to know what they needed to do without being told. There was peace, quiet and calm. Carlos’ teacher, known as a guide, is genuinely kind, caring and clearly enjoys what she is doing. She is soft spoken yet in a very understated manner she is in control of her classroom. There is a mutual respect throughout the school.

A Montessori school may not serve well for every child though I am inclined to believe that some of the principles might just be worth giving a try in mainstream classrooms.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” Dr. Maria Montessori