Maria Tecla Artemesia Montessori turned modern education on its head when, at the dawn of the 20th century, she realised that by engaging with kids physically, creatively, and out of doors it did more for their learning processes, growth, focus and retention than those endless hours sitting at a school desk.

When kids were free to express themselves, or were emotionally connected with the teachings, they were more open to learning and their brains fully engaged. Despite Montessori’s impact abroad, when Shannon Kenny founded Arte al Sole, there were actually few truly engaging experiences for kids in and around Italy.

Learning Through Art

Shannon, a medieval historian and single mother of two girls, became determined that she would devise a fun-filled curriculum to allow her kids to get the most out of their Italian experience.

She employed an inquiry-based system, that when taught by professionals, helps kids arrive at their own conclusions, and make connections to their own lives – whether they’re 6 or 16. And off she went to see how much of Italy’s rich history – the people, places, piazzas, palaces and yes, pasta! could kids take in (along with plenty of gelato! even learning to make it at times).

Shannon was convinced that through wonderful learning experiences abroad, kids could become model global citizens, rather than tiny tired travellers – as their parents check off this museum and that, walking them through crowded city streets in 90 degree heat. And off they went!

Learning Through Art

Families would come on vacation and while parents enjoyed the things they wanted to do, from a wine tour or museum experience, or walking those teeming city streets, their children would be learning about the place by connecting in myriad ways to its rich culture.

In Lucca, Arte al Sole campers would learn about medieval life and times, discovering the stone animals and learn why ferocious beasts guard many beautiful places. And they would use the power of observation to draw what they’ve seen.

In Florence, the Renaissance greats are the main event. I encountered a 7 year old, who, while working on his fantastical solar system asked me, “Did you know that Galileo was imprisoned for his ideas?” And went on to tell me just what those ideas were. On Day 4, kids get to cook some local specialties with professional chefs (or a wonderfully talented Italian nonna – grandmother!) and learn how important cuisine is to a specific culture.

Learning-Through-Art

In Umbria, it’s all about the Etruscans – ancient civilisations and country life. Between soccer lessons (with a professional coach) and beekeeping, families come together each evening at I Casali di Colle San Paolo for BBQ parties around the pool, a town festival, or to chase after a wacky Prince’s dogs in search of truffles. The kids also make up their own show – so on Parent’s Day, they can show off what they’ve learned all week long.

In Rome, it was all about Aqua — so we had a host of river gods and nymphs, some who were legend, and some fantastical ones created by the kids themselves.

Learning Through Art

By sparking emotional connections — to each other, to the terrain, and through your own artwork – your brain is on fire, you’re joyfully participating…and you can recall those emotional want to come back to Italy or try out new countries…time and again.

After learning about Cosimo de Medici and his motto: Make Haste Slowly, one girl tells parents that her motto is…Always treat others kindly – that way, you’re an example for others and you can change the world.

Maria Montessori would be proud…

Learning Through Art

Arte al Sole day camps – for kids 6-13

Family tours & art workshops year round

Lisa R Tucci is Arte al Sole’s Program Director

She learned about engaging people emotionally with art when bringing audio guides to Italy’s museums.

Her Company, TestaAlta, also runs SuperCamp Italy for kids 12-18 | A life skills and lifelong learning program based on accelerated learning through emotional intelligence, and unique interactive learning (and lots of s’mores!)

TestaAlta.org • SuperCampItaly.com • ArtealSole.com

Redecorating your bedroom is a lot of fun, but that doesn’t mean you want to do it all the time. It can be expensive to put up new wallpaper or buy new furniture because what you had before is no longer up to scratch. Putting together a durable bedroom setup will help you create a beautiful bedroom that stays looking lovely for longer. If you want your room to hold a timeless look for years to come, you need to make the right furniture and decoration choices to keep it smart. Not to mention taking care of the basics like clean windows, carpet shampooing and keeping your bedroom plants freshTake a look at these tips for a more durable bedroom.

Bedroom

Bedroom

Image from Pixabay

Get Solid Bedroom Furniture

Options like IKEA are good for affordable and stylish furniture. But how long will the things you buy from them really last? They might survive a few years, but you could end up needing to replace things sooner than you had hoped. If you really want bedroom furniture that stands the test of time, you should be prepared to spend a bit more on some solid, well-made furniture. Say no to MDF and plasterboard, and invest in solid, durable materials that you can rely on. If you want to save money, try looking for secondhand items.

Invest in a Decent Mattress

Your mattress is one of the most important things in your bedroom. If it’s not right, you won’t sleep well. Some mattresses might start off comfortable, but could soon start to feel lumpy. Investing in a decent mattress that will keep its shape and last for years is worth the cost. Take a look at the warranty that comes with a mattress before buying, the best mattresses will often have a mixture of good and bad reviews too so do your research.

Bedroom

Bedroom

Image from Pixabay

Use Outdoor Fabrics

A slightly more unusual way to make your bedroom more durable is to use outdoor fabrics in your interiors. Outdoor fabrics are designed to stand up to anything, so they can be tough and sometimes easier to clean too. You can find heavier fabrics that are great for upholstering, but that you could also use for curtains, accessories like pillows, or even rugs. Choosing these durable materials will help your bedroom to stay looking pristine for longer, and you won’t have to redecorate when fabrics start to get worn out in just a couple of years.

Make Your Bedroom Easy to Clean

If your bedroom is easy to clean, you can prevent wear and tear more easily. There are a few things you might do to create a bedroom that doesn’t make cleaning too difficult. Choosing a minimal style will mean you have less to clean and dust, saving you a lot of time and hassle. Rugs are easier to clean than full carpets, and it can be more sensible to have a headboard you can easily wipe, rather than an upholstered one.

Create a durable bedroom that will stand the test of time, and you can benefit from a bedroom you love for longer.

It seems to be that there is a stigma about opening up about an unhappy marriage. You might feel judged that you did not get the happy ever after promised in fairy tales. I strongly feel we need to get over this stigma and speak out as best we can. I also think society including friends and family need to be ready to listen to our truths and to help us where they can. So I am very appreciative of this brave post from my friend Leanne which at the very least I hope will make people think about unhappy marriage and how they can change the status quo.

“I very rarely talk about my past. If I am honest it is part of me I want to forget, but I am sharing for those who may be going through something similar.

Unhappy Marriage

Young romance

When I was 20 I was a happy and confident young woman, I had a full time job working in a Building Society that I loved. I had a good social life both with friends and work colleagues. I started working in our local pub in the evenings and loved it.This is where I met and becme friends with one of the other bar staff. He was funny and we soon started becoming closer.

My 21st birthday fell on a Saturday, and I had a party where he came along, and we started dating. I had previous boyfriends but this felt special right from the start. In time we got engaged and started saving for our own place to live whilst preparing for our wedding. I loved married life, and as he worked shifts, when he was on nights I would meet up with friends.

Mental abuse

Over the years I began to change, and never realised he was the one changing me. Looking back now I can see how he was mentally abusing me and that I was trapped in an unhappy marriage. He used every trick in the book. Slowly I turned from a confident woman into a shell of myself as he knocked every bit of confidence from me. I was no longer me. He used to tell me I would never leave him as no one would ever want me. He would say “Just look at you!” and all the other lines he came out with. I believed him.

A man started phoning our house. He told me it was someone from work and he was helping him decorate at his home. Looking back I should have seen through it as he never lifted a finger to do anything at home. I did everything, including the decorating. Then he had a breakdown, and ended up sectioning himself or he would have been sectioned. Now I am not callous or hard faced but he was a good actor. I swear if I said I had stomach ache in my little toe he would have it in all his toes. He had got into lots of debt. So while he lost his job and hid away I had to pay the mortgage, bills, clear his debts and hold down a full time job and any overtime I could get. He would come home on a Friday and go back on a Sunday expecting me to give him £50 each week to go to the pub. I had been living on toast most of the week unable to afford to eat. He would get so angry and play the woe is me card as he had been stuck in hospital all week.

Breakdown

This all took its toll on me and one morning I collapsed. I ended up seeing the Dr and I poured my heart out. He wanted to put me on anti-depressants. I did not want to go on them but he promised me they were not addictive but to help me. I finally agreed and they did help for the time I was on them.

My husband left hospital and sat around at home seeing me work all the hours I could, pay the bills, do the shopping, washing and housework. Finally something snapped and I lost it and he did eventually get a job. This man started ringing again. Eventually I found out he was sleeping with this man even in our bed while I was at work, not even changing the sheets. It also became clear he was cross-dressing and spending hundreds of pounds on clothing.

Moving on

This was when I started going on chat rooms while he was out chatting to people from all over the world, having a laugh and escaping my life. One Sunday morning at a time I was never online, in a chat room I had never been on before, I started chatting to a man. I was totallly honest in that I was married, and I was not even looking to meet anyone. The man said he had just come through a divorce so was not looking either. We eventually met up and 20 years later we are still together happily married. He is my rock and has slowly made me realise who I am leading me to gain my self-confidence again. It has been a rough ride as we have been through so much heartache. We have lost 8 babies. We are now lucky to have our daughter.

Being in a mentally abusive relationship and/or unhappy marriage is never anything to feel ashamed about. I never realised how bad my relationship was until I was out of it. You can move on and can meet someone who does see you for who you are, who makes you their world and will help you become you again.”

Organisations that can help you

There are many organisations that can help you by listening, by helping you recognise signs of abuse and by helping you to move on when you are ready to do so.

https://www.refuge.org.uk/

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/

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Cuddle Fairy

Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” is on my reading list so I am delighted to share a review of it from Bijal Shah. Bijal is a book therapist, author, poet & founder of Book Therapy where she harnesses the power of literature for therapeutic purposes.

Michelle Obama

“With February being Black History Month, there’s no better book that I can think of to recommend. This is the book that I have already gifted more than 25 copies of and as a book therapist, have prescribed to every single one of my clients this year.

Yes, it’s Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”. The book has influenced me hugely. It has given me so much hope and inspiration and I’m not the only one. I have been in bookstores, accidentally eavesdropping on conversations and this has been the most-talked about book with everyone trying to get their hands on it.

On the surface, Obama seems to have it all: the picture-perfect marriage, family, career, ambition, confidence – was she born with it? No. If there was one thing that got her to this stage, it was her attitude, her mind-set, her belief in herself and her single-minded focus to never concede her identity to simply be Barack Obama’s wife.

She refused to be his follower. She needed to anchor herself in her own identity, her own capabilities, her own ambitions and motivations to make a difference. This was tremendously important to her for her own self-esteem but also that of her daughters. The following quote from the book eloquently articulates it:

“I felt like, I need to anchor myself in who I was so I wouldn’t be this woman following this man. I really felt that I could get caught up in his swerving, that I would just become part of his swerve rather then figuring out my own self. So, yes, it was destabilizing but it was a motivator. … So that I didn’t just become his woman, which I knew I didn’t want to be.”

She inspires women to pursue their identities beyond that of a mother and a wife – to truly contribute to your family and society over and above simply being a mother. How did she do this when she had her own fair share of struggles – inability to conceive children naturally, the struggles of IVF, learning to release “mum-guilt”, seeking help by attending marriage counselling, hoping to get through the daily life struggles that every couple goes through.

Michelle Obama

The key things that stood out for me personally were:

• Never give up your identity in a relationship for the sake of your partner’s. This is a lose-lose outcome for both of you.
• Don’t expect your partner to create happiness for you. Happiness is a skill and you need to work at building it for yourself.
• Ask for help – and never feel guilty about this. No one can do it alone and ditch the “should”.
• We are all unfinished products and are constantly “Becoming”.
• Consider every single possible outcome when making a decision.
• Make time for your relationship – even if you’re deeply in love.

I listened to it on Audio and instantly felt a connection with her. It truly is an intimate portrait of a lady who has inspired millions around the world and I hope it will inspire you too. It’s been added to my A-Z Book Prescription for Women’s Empowerment Book Prescription. Enjoy!”

You can email Bijal at bijal@booktherapy.io for a personalized reading list.

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