Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Montessori Blindfold - what you don't see, will TEACH you!

The hand is the chief teacher of the child. ~ Maria Montessori
The Montessori Blindfold

With a blindfold on, the hand becomes the tool of the brain. Using their hands to ‘see' the features of the material, the children are able to build on an abstract picture of the material they have built in their mind during their previous experience and use it, in order to complete the activity. ~ Southside Montessori

"There is nothing in the intellect that is not in the senses."  ~ Aristotle 

The Montessori Sensorial materials help the child to order and classify the impressions of their senses by contrasting, comparing and grading materials. Each sense is isolated so the child can experience purely the senses of sight, taste, touch, smell, taste and Montessori's sixth sense "stereognostic" which is defined as touch with movement.

I have a page at my Livable Learning website on the purpose of Sensorial activites HERE

Montessori Info Guide has a great page on Sensorial work HERE 
Montessori Commons describes the Aims of Sensorial Activities HERE
Montessori Commons explains the Three Period Lesson with Sensorial materials HERE.

Montessori presentations from Montessori Commons with the blindfold

Stereognostic Materials
Thermic Tablets
Materials for Touch 
Baric Tablets
A blindfold is also a great way to reignite a child's interest in familiar activities and take these to the next level of extension and abstraction. If a child in your Montessori classroom is breezing through the Cylinder Blocks perhaps removing the visual clues could bring a whole new dimension to this experience! If your child seems tired of his or her old puzzles at home - or says they are too "easy" - perhaps adding a blindfold to the mix can increase the challenge and inspire renewed interest! ~ Montessori Child

Images of children using the Montessori blindfold:  

Blindfold with Pink Tower
Blindfold with the Red Rods (Long Stair)
Blindfold with Knobbed Cylinders
Blindfold with Tactile Tablets
Blindfold with Tactile Fabrics
Blindfold with Thermic Tablets
Blindfold with Baric Tablets
Blindfold with Mystery Bag
Blindfold with Stereognostic activities - see pic with leopard blindfold
Blindfold with Sensorial sorting activities
Blindfold with Identifying Types of Shells
Blindfold with Geometric Solids
Blindfold with Trinomial Cube

"If children learn more quickly and with less fatigue through their fingers than through their eyes, why not take advantage of this peculiarity - a peculiarity which extends even more vividly to child-memory, for it is established beyond question that a little child can remember the "feel" of a given object more accurately and quickly than the look of it."  ~ Montessori for Parents by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (p. 58 c. 1965)

While the Montessori materials themselves isolate the senses, the blindfold heightens the sense that is being explored... And sometimes the blindfold can serve as an aid to education in the most unexpected ways:

In the following two links the children used the blindfold to enhance their Math experiences:

Blindfold as an extension to Hierachical Materials
Blindfold as extension to Skip Counting Chains

Here's an interesting story from The Movable Alphabet about a girl and the blindfold which she saw as the 

"shield which keeps the thoughts in my head."

Teaching from a Tackle Box

~ Suzanne 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Montessori Homeschooling - Pros and Cons

Suzanne Wilhelmi
Check out my very first GUEST blog post 
at Learning To Walk by Alecia

Click on the Montessori badge below to view the post:

Thank you Alecia for your great topics!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Top 101 Homeschooling Sites to Watch in 2014!

This Teaching from a Tackle Box blog was listed in the 

101 Homeschooling Sites to Follow in 2014

The honor came from ElementaryEducationDegree.com whose main readership is elementary teachers, most of whom teach in classroom settings. Teaching from a Tackle Box is listed as #100 and this is what they had to say about my blog:
Suzanne runs a 24/7 daycare and is a full-time homeschooling mom, artist, writer, website designer, and social media maven. Learn more about how she fits everything into her daily life, including Montessori materials review, (also book reviews), printables, Kindle books and her own homeschool observations. 
- Recommended Reading: Montessori Materials Reviews

I had to look up the meaning of the word maven:
Merriam Webster - a person who knows alot about a particular subject: one who is experienced or knowledgeable; expert. 
I had to giggle a bit to be known as a social media maven, especially considering that I didn't know ANYTHING about social media three years ago. 

As you know I stepped out of the cyber world for the first five months of this year (2014) due to a couple of deaths in my family. Well, I guess I better get on it and get some reviews published! I owe it to ElementaryEducationDegree.com - Stay tuned....

~ Suzanne

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Montessori Infant Clutch Ball - Puzzle Ball

This ball is an intriguing sensorial activity for Montessori infants.

 Baby Clutch Ball - Puzzle Ball

I first discovered this wonderful infant manipulative at a La Leche League meeting, back when my oldest were babies and we knew them as "clutch balls." Over 30 years ago, I used to recycle old clothes and cut out pieces for the clutch balls, and then sold them at craft fairs and at consignment shops. I am now making clutch balls for my Livable Learning Etsy store. The ball is made of 12 sections each made with a wedge and a cone sewn together, stuffed with poly fill and then assembled into the ball shape.

Nowadays these balls are more commonly known as puzzle balls, a name which my children despised because they said it implied the ball should be taken apart. In researching for this post I did indeed find that there is a way to make them so you can take them apart, but you will most often see them permanently sewn together. Personally, I think they are called puzzle balls because there are so many different says to assemble the balls! Oh my!

Many fondly remember their mothers or grandmothers making these fabric balls for them. This ball holds a tradition of the pattern being passed onto friends or down the generations to family members. One of the oldest names it was called by was Whimsy Ball. You can also find it by the names of: Clutch Ball, Puzzle Ball, Amish Puzzle Ball, Baby Fabric Ball, Infant Sensory Ball, Takane Ball, Grab Ball, Toss 'n Play Ball, Brainy Ball, Snuzzle Ball, and Cuddly Ball.

A few Montessori moms share how they have used the puzzle ball with their babies:

At WikiHow it is called an Amish Puzzle Ball and Look at What I Made has a tutorial for a Crochet Amish Puzzle Ball and a Amish Puzzle Ball Crochet Pattern at Ravelry. Americana Antiques features a 1900c Amish Puzzle ball used as a pin cushion as well as some Amish history on the ornamental use of the ball. Cat Lady Antiques shares some more on the history of the ball. The antique balls were used a favorite type of pin cushion/whimsey among the Mennonite and Amish which expressed their religious traditions that nothing is perfect save the Creator, so one of the 12 wedge sections was deliberately in a fabric slightly a different color from the rest.  Honeysuckle Lans's Simple Joys shows off her collection of antique pin cushion whimseys. Dig Antiques features a straw stuffed puzzle ball with a pin cushion dove atop.

These balls can be made in all sizes from smaller 3 inch diameter balls that can be used as Christmas ornaments to balls as large as 21 inches diameter that can hold a baby bottle. The Purl Bee shares a tutorial for Puzzle Ball Ornaments. Connecting Threads offers clutch ball patterns for 3,4 and 5 inch balls with their baby quilt pattern. Look at What I Made offers patterns for Anamani - Amigurumi Amish Puzzle Animals, including kiwi, octopus, elephant, rhinosaur, giraffe, turtle, dinosaur, fish, horse lion and cow patterns. Amazing!

Who knows, maybe this will all lead to World Peace with Fabric Balls?

Be sure to click through on all the highlighted links in this post!
And I have more ideas for infant materials pinnned at my Montessori Infant Sensorial Board

Check out my clutch ball treasury at my Livable Learning Etsy store:

~ Suzanne

Linked to Living Montessori Now

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Time to Collect One's Forces...

Sorry all, I had to step back for a while. Hard to believe it's been nearly seven months since I posted to this blog. I have felt a bit like Shakespeare's Macbeth:
"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day."
However, as for Macbeth, according to the Wikipedia explanation:
"Depressingly, he reflects that if it could have been, if he could have gone back, there would have been time to consider that word death, and mourn properly."
In the many things I have gotten myself into in the past couple of years, namely all sorts of social media and Etsy, my priority always has to be family first, especially in the midst of crises or loss. With the death of my mother-in-law September  2013 and the death of my brother in January 2014, among  a handful of other challenges, I chose to drop out of the cyber world.

Our family at my mother-in-law's funeral (missing one son who couldn't make it).

According to the wisdom of Shakespeare, one has to take the time to mourn properly, something which our world no longer willingly accepts. But it is the strength of Maria Montessori that now moves me on, and it is my favorite Montessori quote that brings me back to the computer:
"To collect one's forces, even when they seem to be scattered, and when one's aim is only dimly perceived...this is a great action and will sooner or later bring forth fruits. 
~ Maria Montessori

So here I am collecting my "scattered forces" - stay tuned for more blogging to come :)

~ Suzanne

NOTE:  I was reconnecting with Deb Chitwood's blog Living Montessori Now  and I discovered an inspirational blog Spring Snow Publications written by Deb and her husband. It gave me just the refreshment that I need as I step back to writing.  

Here are a few great posts for fellow bloggers who might need some inspiration:
Write without Writing
Balancing Motherhood and Writing
Blogging for God

Friday, October 25, 2013

Death, Destruction and Deadlines

Wow - so you are thinking - strange title for a Montessori / Teaching from a Tackle Box post?

....Well that is exactly what has been keeping me from blogging over the last couple of months.

My mother-in-law passed away early September.

Early October, my 12 x 12 foot deck fell off the back of my house during a historic record-breaking snow.

My back deck Friday afternoon October 4th.

 My back deck Saturday morning October 5th.
About 8:30 am I was standing in my kitchen and 
there was a rumbling that shook the whole house.
Then a crash and a thud...

 The stairs from the deck wrapped around to the side of my house and the wooden bracing 
had landed on my gas meter. So we immediately set to work....

 It took eight of us TWO hours to dig out the snow 
and to cut out out the stairs away from the house.

Homeschool Engineering 201
The next day we had to pull down the rest of the deck via the one standing pole.

 And so each day we do a little more... 
My shirt reads "Too Blessed to be Stressed."
That says it all!

My kids practiced a few ninja skills... 
My daughter with her steel toed boots... 

 And my son with his flying hammer jump...

So each week we add more to the garbage...
I can live with the deck going down...
But all those beautiful trees that were damaged and destroyed...
Now that's what makes me sad. 

And now I am going crazy still trying to catch up with orders from my Livable Learning Etsy store and my Livable Learning website store at www.jmjpublishing.com 

So someday when life gets back to normal... Oh wait, that's just not going to happen is it? 
Ok, so someday... I WILL find the time to blog again!

~ Suzanne

Friday, August 2, 2013

Montessori Fabric Matching - Part 1

The Montessori Fabric Box is one of the Sensorial works. I have not been very impressed with the fabrics offered by the typical Montessori supplier. Each collection should be aesthetically pleasing both in color and appearance, in other words, colors and patterns in the collection should harmonize and not conflict with each other. Stay away from popular and brightly colored children's prints. I have found the best source for Montessori fabric matching materials is upholstery remnants and Hobby Lobby is my favorite place to find them. Upholstery remnants include a great variety of textures, pleasing patterns, reasonable price and and elegant feel.

I organize the materials into sets of six pair of matching fabrics. The first set has great variation in texture and easily discernible differences in color an pattern for visual sorting and for ease in setting up a control set. I have used fabric matching with toddlers and when I do so I set out one of each fabric in a horizontal row. Then I randomize the 2nd set of fabrics in a row below. I show the child how to feel the material and how to find the match. (I will be sharing with you my version of the "Ultimate Montessori Fabric Collection" in a post to follow this one!!)

The second set of materials has more subtle differences in color so that the child has to rely more on the texture. And the third set as mentioned in Montessori on a Limited Budget is based on patterns for basic nomenclature: solid, dotted, striped, checkered, plaid, and paisley.

I refuse to pink the edges because I think the pinking is a distraction from the material itself. So I either use Fray Check on the edges to prevent raveling or I hem the edges (which I will show you how to do in an upcoming DIY Montessori Fabrics tutorial).

The size of your fabric squares should depend on your baskets or boxes or storage method.
I designed fabric sets for my Teaching from a Tackle Box Sensorial set.
So they are minis and measure 3 x 3 inches square. You could do 4x4 or 5x5 inch square.

Teaching from a Tackle Box - SENSORIAL BASICS I
My favorite explanation of the work is from one of my favorite books, the Montessori Manual for Teachers and Parents by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. She states that the formal Montessori apparatus contained seven drawers with various fabrics. I am still not sure exactly how these were organized but here is her description of the fabrics:
These fabrics consist of two pieces of the following materials: velvet, silk, wool, fine and coarse linen, and fine and coarse cotton. It is very important that absolutely pure fabrics should be used for these first exercises; in short, the mother should be quite sure that the linen she is using is not partly cotton. 
She goes on to say that those materials can be supplemented from the "infinitely diversified fabrics used in the furnishing of any home." The child is first allowed to handle the fabrics, drawing his attention to the difference in their textures. Later the child is told the names of the fabrics, one or two at a time, "the mother taking the greatest pains to pronounce the words, clearly, distinctly, and SLOWLY."

When the child has learned to match them by sight then he is to distinguish them by touch.
The child can be blindfolded, or can look up at the ceiling, and , sitting in front of a mixed-up pile of pieces, takes them up one at a time, pronouncing their names.
Fisher says that once the child has done this enough times and is quite sure of himself (usually after about a week of  working with the materials) then there are games that can be played with the materials.
If there are other children in the family, the playing of "games" is easier, but even for an only child they are possible. 1st - The pieces are divided into two piles, each having the same number of pieces of the same fabrics. Then the mother picks out a piece of velvet, without naming it, asks the child is he can find a piece like it in his pile (of course without looking)...If two children play this game the victor is the one who first finds the piece of velvet without looking at his pile. 2nd - the mother's ingenuity can devise many other variations on this game,and can see to it that the child goes on observing the fabrics used in different parts of the house, the materials of which his own (clothes) are made, the stuff used in upholstery, table linen, curtains, etc.He can also be told the names of the different materials used in building a house - wood, iron, tin, glass, stone, and brick; and the materials of cooking utensils - china, tin copper, etc. There is an infinite variety of material in the humblest home which can be the most valuable educational apparatus for the well-trained child, even in quite early childhood. Once the child's interest in this problem is aroused, he will in most cases go on educating himself, and all the parent needs to do is to have the patience necessary to answer innumerable questions.

I found this chart interesting!

So there are a variety of ways you can approach this work. Shu Chen Jenny Yen uses only four pair of fabrics: silk, cotton, linen, wool. See her album page HERE. Montessori Album HERE states 3 or more pair of fabric and the lesson actually shows what would probably be a second presentation with different fabrics but of the same color. Montessori Primary Guide recommends three sets of materials HERE with 8-10 pair in each set; the three sets being natural materials, course materials, and fine materials.

You can view one of my favorite You Tube videos for older kids for Fabric Matching HERE.
And HERE is a video of a 2.5 year old matching fabrics.

Happy Fabric Matching!
~ Suzanne

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