The day starts with a morning tea party, including fresh-baked blueberry muffins. Six children sit at the picnic table chatting together, sipping on their honey-sweetened rose tea, before taking their cups and saucers to the kid-sized kitchen sink, where they wash their own dishes.
Simone Kashuba, a certified Montessori kindergarten teacher trained in Austria, teaches the children, ages two-and-a-half to six, at her Hand-In-Hand Learning Centre in Spallumcheen, practical life skills.
Simone has two children with her husband, Johnathan Kashuba, and moved to Canada three years ago. Johnathan, who was raised in Vernon, moved to Austria to play baseball where he met and married Simone.
After moving to Canada, she found out that her degree was not transferable. After doing some work as a teachers’ assistant, and for the North Okanagan Neurological Association, she decided to open up a daycare in the lower level of their home.
With the help of her husband, they transformed the space into a facility catered to the children’s height, with specific areas for eating, art, circle time, washing up, and even a little wooden post office for playing in.
The daycare room is based on the Montessori teaching style. Before the children arrive in the morning, Simone has all of the activities for the day laid out in different areas in the room.
“For example, at circle time, I will show them how to weave, and then it’s just there,” she said.
“If they need help, they can come to me, but everything is set up and every day there is something new.”
Many of the activities are life skills like sewing, weaving, typing, using tweezers to hunt for hidden treasures, gluing, cutting, stapling and various other hands-on centres that teach the children fine motor skills, as well as the ability to master things that are helpful in everyday life.
“It is to prepare them in these early years, so they can do up their shoelaces, sew on a button, and other practical skills, that’s what it is set up for.”
The children embrace the trust their teacher places in them to pour their own tea and clean their own dishes, even though they might spill a little.
When asked why she thinks many parents don’t let their little ones take on some of these every day tasks, she said that many people are afraid of the mess.
“I get it, life is busy.”
Simone laughs when she describes her husband’s face when he walks into the kitchen after she’s baked a cake with the kids.
But she isn’t just teaching practical skills. The children are learning the names of the continents, with the help of a catchy song, the planets, and seasons.
“They sponge up everything, so why not teach them things like where they live.”
Simone is looking forward to spring so they can start planting the vegetable garden and exploring outside a bit more.