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 

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

Friday, July 5, 2013

We are Bloglovin!

I am joining Bloglovin!
So far I like what I see.

Deb's Top 10 Reasons Why I'm Lovin' Bloglovin' post at Living Montessori Now says it all.

So now you can choose to follow this blog via Bloglovin.
Follow on Bloglovin

Sorry I've been so quiet for the last couple of months.
I've been busy making new Montessori materials for the Etsy store
and I do have some great materials-making ideas to share with you! 
Coming SOON!

~ Suzanne ~

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Friday, April 26, 2013

Montessori on Etsy!

I thought I was addicted to Pinterest, and then along came Etsy!

Jessica from Garden of St. Francis suggested to me that I start selling my handmade Montessori materials on Etsy. I reluctantly decided to follow her advice and opened my Livable Learning Etsy store in August of 2012. I am now completely enjoying the experience! Livable Learning Etsy features handmade Montessori materials and family handcrafts, especially crochet. The new logo for my Etsy store is below:

I've been learning the ins and outs of selling on Etsy but I recently started joining Teams on Etsy to help promote my store and a whole new world opened up to me! Etsy teams are a community feature where people with common interests connect and collaborate. You can see my Livable Learning teams HERE. It was through the advice of a team member that I learned how to add my Etsy SHOP directly to my Facebook page. Jessica is the captain of the team Montessori, whose members sell authentic Montessori items on Etsy. Using the search box on Etsy you can type in teammontessori and member's items that are tagged will be displayed for you.

This blog is called Teaching from a Tackle Box but it all grew out of a book that I wrote in 2003 called "From Creative Chaos to Livable Learning." It was written as a guide for homeschooling parents who desired more order in their home.

Mary, founder of the Montessori egroup playschool6, reviewed the book and stated:
"The simplicity of your book is genius. Everything seems to be broken down very simply, yet completely, which is a plus for homeschooling moms (who live in chaos). I have been making Holy Hours with the kids and this is a great book for me to focus on change. You know, the MM teacher must grow."

The ebook is now available at the Etsy store for the lowest price I have ever offered it for. 
It is available as either an instant download or an PDF to be emailed.  

 So Livable Learning is now 10 years old! I started my Livable Learning website shortly after I wrote the book and I have been designing Montessori materials ever since.

To celebrate Livable Learning's anniversary 
everything in the Etsy store is 50% until May 3rd, 2013. 
Use code ANNIV2013. 

Etsy also allows members to create Treasuries and to curate collections of their favorites from other member's items or a collection of items based on a theme. It's an honor for a shop owner to have items chosen for an Etsy Treasury. And it's an adventure to create your own Treasury based on other member's items. Lat night I created my first collection and you can view the Treasury "Sensational Sensorial" HERE.

Up to 16 items may be listed in a treasury. The code of ethics for creating a treasury is that it is not for self-promotion, so you should not include any items from your own Etsy store and it is recommended that you only have one item in the treasury from any particular Etsy shop.

If any of you have a Montessori Etsy shop please share..


Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Child Creates His own Work - Montessori Repetition

Montessori education has taught me to stop and observe the child. It's amazing when we step back and see how often the child is actually creating his own work, in contrast to looking at the child with the world's eyes which tells us the child is just annoying us and getting into trouble, and touching things he is not supposed to touch.

I was cleaning out my fabric scraps when 3yo picked up a cloth strip - he carried it around like it was his most cherished treasure. Then he started to roll and unroll, roll and unroll. That pattern of repetition is what tells us that the child is creating his own work. He is meeting a basic innate need to teach himself.

I love what Baan Dek says about repetition:
Why repetition? Well, it helps us focus. It helps us concentrate. It gives us confidence. It also helps us to "perfect" and refine our senses, as we learn to navigate and appreciate the world. Repetition takes perseverance and determination. What beautiful characteristics to develop. 
Ifra N. Khoso, of Montessori, a Candid Approach  states the following on repetition:
Coming to one's own conclusions, making and self correcting one's own mistakes and learning through one's own repetition is far more fruitful and long lasting. It is this experience that makes learning fun and lively. This important freedom to repeat and explore instills lifelong love and thrust for learning and exploration in a child which is utmost necessary to progress in practical life.
This post Repeat... and Repeat Again is worth taking your time to read it all.
Here Cathy says, "Allow it to happen!":
It is so easy to overlook these precious moments, to storm in and interrupt. Though I'm sure I have unknowingly interrupted Finlay's moments of repetition from time to time, I try to make it a rule that before approaching him I always stand back for a moment to watch and see if he is busy with something. This can be really hard! We are so used to living our lives on our own timetables that it is difficult to slow down and allow these moments to reach their own conclusions.
So whether your learning environment is unplanned or prepared it is important to observe your child - to see, if in fact, he is creating his own work. The ideal is the prepared environment and Montessori Print Shop explains it well in her article Allow Time for Repetition.
When the prepared environment and materials provide feedback so that the children learn from their errors (and not from the adult), they become internally driven to repeat the exercises until they master them. 
If you need more information To the Lesson just posted on What is the Prepared Environment.

The Fabric Strip this child was working with is simply a piece of lightweight cotton fabric cut 21 inches by 4 inches. Fold in half lengthwise with right sides together. Sew a 5/8 inch seam on the long side of the fabric. Trim seam with a pinking shears. Turn the fabric so right sides are out. Press the fold. Turn under the short ends about 1/4 inch, press and sew ends shut.

Fabric Strips

I guess this is my upcycling project for the week. These were originally fabric covers for elastic pony tail holders that I used to sell at craft fairs. They were cut and sewn several years ago before my days of a rotary cutter, so they are a bit askew and not quite straight on but at least you get the idea....I suppose if you made them just a bit wider you could slip the finished roll into a napkin ring -- but 3yo seemed to be perfectly happy with the material as is.

Practical Life - ROLLING:
These small Fabric Strips exercise pincer grasp which aids preparation for handwriting.
In addition, the child can learn to roll napkins, table top work mats and later a rug.

Rolling a Bamboo Mat and a Napkin
Rolling & Unrolling a Mat

Practical Life - TYING KNOTS:
We also discovered that these Fabric Strips also work great with little hands for learning to tie knots. Another child, 2yo calls this activity "Making an X." It is much easier for 2yo and 3yo to make a knot with this material vs. a shoe string or yarn.

  • Place the Fabric Strip under the broom stick handle
  • Make an X 
  • Put strip in right hand behind and under left to make a simple knot.

Making an "X" 
(on a broomstick handle)

The Knot

The younger ones also love using a short piece of clothesline and tying knots on the doorknob or the leg of a desk. More knot tying practice HERE and HERE. More knot tying activities HERE.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Montessori Short and Long Bead Chains - Skip Counting

Along with the Decanonmial, the Long and Short Chains (and beaded squares and cubes) are my favorite Montessori Math materials.

Most home educators, however, look at these chains in terms of traditional skip counting as shown at Math is Fun. There skip counting is defined as "counting by a number that is not 1". The counting proceeds and ends at random numbers. 2's go to 20 or 100, 3's go to 36 or 90, 4's go to 48 or 120. Or you will see the fill-in-the-blank worksheets like this one from Super Teacher Worksheets.

Montessori skip counting with beads is far more than random counting schemes and indiscrimiate practice of math facts. The Montessori Short Chains are the precise squares of a number and the Montessori Long Chains are the perfect cube of a number.


Take the Short Chain of 3. 
Skip Counting you are saying:   "3,   6,   9".

But if you fold up the chain you get:

3 sets of 3    
which is the same as

3 x 3   (three by three or three times three )
which is the same as

3(three squared) 
~  9 beads  ~ 

Try a larger number - Short Chain of 6.
Skip Counting you are saying:   "6,   12,   18,   24,   30,   36".

But if you fold up the chain you get:

6 sets of 6    
which is the same as

6 x 6 (six by six or six times six)   
which is the same as

6(six squared) 
~  36 beads  ~  

HERE is a video that shows the Montessori presentation with a short chain.


So if you continue on to the Long Chains, you now are working with the cube of a number. The Long Chains make sets of squares and the squares stack up on top of one another into a cube.

 So take 3 again.

If you take 3 sets of 3 sets of 3,
which is 3 x 3 x 3   (three times three times three)

in other words 3 sets of squares of 3,
which is 3 x 32   (three times three squared)

You get  3(three cubed)
~ 27 beads ~


And here is 6 again.

If you take 6 sets of 6 sets of 6,
which is 6 x 6 x 6   (six times six times six )

in other words 6 sets of squares of 6,
which is 6 x 62   (six times six squared)

You get  6(six cubed)
~  216 beads  ~

HERE is a video that show the Montessori presentation with the progression from the Short Chain to the Long Chain.

I think A Montessori Classroom says it best with Every Day Counts - the Bead Chains:
At its simplest, this activity is good for practicing the order of the numbers. That after 29 comes 30, and after 39 comes 40, etc. On the next level, it illustrates skip counting; counting by twos or threes or fives. On another level, an older child will see the multiplication tables. And finally, this material illustrates the squares and cubes of these numbers and their relationships with each other.
I have a confession to make! It took me til I was in my late 30's and working with my children with Montessori materials to know that the square of a number really makes a square and the cube of a number really makes a cube! Now dontcha feel smart?



NOTE:  So keep in mind when you are purchasing or making the Montessori Bead Chains - you also need the Montessori Beaded Squares and Cubes to do the complete presentation.

Free Long and Short Chain Arrows printables at Hope4ME
Montessori Print Shop shows How to make a Montessori Bead Chain Chart
Discovering Homeschool - Worksheets for Short Bead Chains and Bead Squares
Plain Counting Chain Arrows from MontessoriMom

Skip Counting  - Moteaco
Short Chains - Montessori Album
Skip Counting:  Linear Counting - Wikisori
Short Chains, Long Chains - Montessori Commons
Sensorial Experiences with the Chains - Shu-Chen Jenny Yen

Linked to:
Montessori Monday, Live and Learn

Friday, January 4, 2013

Top 12 in Montessori of 2012 - My Personal Picks

I'm approaching this list of the Montessori Top 12 of 2012 in a slightly different manner from the some of the other bloggers in this blog hop. I have already listed my top three TTB blog posts in participation with The Very Best Kids Activities from 2012 blog hop. Besides, if I listed my top 12 blogs for 2012, that would be half my blogs? So I am opting for my favorite all-around picks for Montessori 2012. Since I was new to blogging last year, in fact new to all forms of social media, it's all so wonderful to me and really hard to hand pick a list of favorites when there is so much out there. But here goes...

Top 12 Montessori in 2012 and Blog Hop
from Teaching from a Tackle Box

The Top 12 Montessori in 2012 Blog Hop is co-hosted by Lisa Nolan’s Confessions of a Montessori MomSmiling Like SunshineJDaniel4′s MomVibrant WanderingsLiving Montessori Now


1. Favorite Montessori Pinterest Board

Livable Learning - Infant Mobiles
After studying Montessori methods for over 10 years, I'm not sure quite how I lost it or never absorbed the fact that there are specific Montessori mobiles for babies. But when someone posted a question about the mobiles earlier this year on montessorimakers I had go online and search it out. This was the very first board I started with to feed my Pinterest passion. Yay!

Infant with Gobbi Mobile   Wooden Musical Mobile  Butterflies Mobile - (10-16 weeks)   Munari Mobile - 1st in Montessori Visual Mobile Series  (3-6 weeks)


2. Favorite Montessori Photo Stream

Montessoritoni at PhotoBucket
This photo stream is incredibly detailed. A wonderful source for Elementary Montessori. Thanks to Montessoritoni I finally got the visuals I needed to understand the Decanomial, Who Knew? Be warned though -- you could spend the next month or two perusing her massive collection of photos!



3. Favorite Montessori Media

I absolutely LOVE Montessori Madmen and their awesome videos. These men are precious asset to Montessori education! Montessori fathers who are all dedicated to advocating for Montessori. Be sure to click through to their web page and see what they are up to!


Be sure to watch all three videos:          


4. Favorite Montessori Observation and Favorite Find

Button Sorting from Teaching from a Tackle Box. This is from my blog and still one of my favorite posts. It was so incredible to set up this material and then observe how children of different ages responded to it.



5. Favorite NEW Montessori Book

Magellan Montessori's Homeschooling Early Elementary.
Watch for my book review coming soon on this blog...


6. Favorite Montessori Online Album

Montessori Album I'm not really sure who started this but we all owe the site owner a debt of Montessori gratutude! I will let the site's description speak for itself:
This wiki was created to give Montessori teachers a way to look up lessons online without having to lug out their albums in those giant binders, and a place to share extensions, variation, and original lessons that they have come up with. This site is also for those who are not Montessori trained to learn more about the lessons that are taught in a Montessori classroom, such as parents who wish to use Montessori elements in a home-school environment.


7. Favorite Montessori Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Blog

Seeking the Plan of God  by Jessica. This is an amazing woman. She has developed an online training program for Elementary Montessori called Keys of the Universe, and she is a regular contributor and mentor at playschool6. Plus she blogs at Montessori Nuggets and Montessori Trails and according to her Blogger profile about a dozen blogs in all. This CGS blog is my favorite of all that Jessica publishes. With Seeking the Plan of God she is pioneering an effort to bring awareness to the value of this method of teaching the faith using Montessori principles, which Maria Montessori started and Sofia Cavalletti developed.



8. Favorite Montessori Infant Blog

Well, the following two blogs are my favorites for 2012 and since I could not choose my favorite between the two I am going to pick both of them! At Home with Montessori and How We Montessori get my vote for best infant blogs of 2012

.    DSC_0067


9. Favorite Montessori Toddler Blog

Aquiring a Life-Long PhD in Cross-Cultural Homemaking - This is a blog I discovered just as the year was ending! What a great addition to my favorites list! Great photos, observations and album pages with each entry. How can it get any sweeter?


10. Favorite Montessori Elementary Blog

What DID We Do All Day? by My Boys' Teacher - This is one blog on my blog roll that I read every single day! The greatest compliment I ever received from a local Montessori teacher was "she gets it." She was talking to her mom, also a Montessori teacher after they browsed through my printables at Hope4ME. And I will say the same for My Boys' Teacher - "she gets it!" She says that she spent more time researching Montessori for her children than she spent on her Phd dissertation. I love to follow the daily progress of her boys in action. This is one Montessori blogger who maintains the integrity of the authentic Montessori method and materials. Her blog is also home to the Ultimate Montessori Blog List and the Ultimate Montessori Homemade Materials Collaboration.

  What DID we do all day?


11. Favorite Montessori Montessori-Friendly Manufacturer

Melissa & Doug Home 
 I first became interested in Melissa and Doug online when I heard about a Melissa and Doug Twitter party through We Teach. It was absolutely the craziest, most confusing, yet thrilling thing that I have experienced all year online! Through the party I felt like I got to know Melissa, her family and her company, and I was drawn to how family friendly and down to earth they were. After the party I became a distributor for Melissa and Doug and my favorite story from my sales rep was when he first came to Melissa and Doug he was told how diligently the company tests their products for safety and durability. The sales rep shared that he personally saw Doug product testing a toy by running over it with his Hummer. Now that's dedication, LOL! Watch for a post coming soon on my favorite Montessori-friendly products from Melissa and Doug. Meanwhile, you can check out their blog HERE.


12. Favorite Online Montessori Resource

SchoolThe World's 1st Comprehensive Online Video Library by Livable Learning - This collection was my personal brain child. Thanks to my son, I discovered You Tube this year and I couldn't get enough of it! I started accumulating links to some great Montessori videos and needed a better way to keep track of them. In the process I noticed one of the most popular questions on the Yahoo egroups was "How do I get Started?" So I developed an outline of the steps that I feel are necessary for a successful Montessori experience. It's still a work in progress but you can learn more about "How to Get Started" with Montessori education HERE.


Shared at Montessori Monday

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