FREE ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs Pilot Course

Are you new to Montessori? Perhaps you’re new to special needs? No matter which of the two is foreign and which is familiar, the FREE ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs Pilot Course is for you! Heck, it’s designed for everyone no matter how experienced or skilled you are.

But wait? How in the world will you fit this in to your busy schedule? We all know Montessori teachers and parents of children with special needs are BUSY! This course is specifically designed for those who are stressed, exhausted, and constantly trying to keep up with crazy adventures in life


FREE ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs Pilot Course

The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs Pilot Course is accessible when it’s convenient for you. If you fall behind, you can catch up, or just jump in when life settles. Those who may feel confident in one area but not in another can choose when and how often they participate.

How about those who feel completely overwhelmed and are starting from the beginning? This course works through each letter of the Montessori and Special Needs Alphabet one week at a time. That means 28 weeks of discussions and support. You will have time to process information, put it into action, and ask as many questions as you want.

On top of working through The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs, each week of the course will have a Montessori focus, whether it’s teaching multiplication or understanding the Sensorial materials and curriculum.

Yes, you read that right! Be prepared for weekly discussions about Montessori materials, resources, and accommodations that meet the needs of your child. I am so excited to have input from both parents and certified Montessori teachers participating.

The main goal of this course is to help you feel capable and confident when teaching your child with special needs using the Montessori Method at home or school.

By now you’re probably thinking this is too good to be true. How can a course this long and detailed be free? What’s the catch?


Recommended Materials


There is no catch. The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs Pilot Course is 100% FREE. The only thing you may want to spend money on is a copy of my book, The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs.

This book will be our syllabus. Each chapter will be the focus of one week of the course. By reading along you will be fully prepared to participate in discussions and ask questions.

And if you’re already starting to panic about finding time to read a book. I promise you, chapters are no more than a few pages at most.

But wait? How much does the book cost?

To make my book more affordable for everyone wanting to take the course, I have decided to have a 50% off sale on all digital copies of The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs through Thursday, February 1, 2018.

 At no other time will you ever be able to purchase this book at such an incredible price.  There is no need for a special code.  The discount is already reflected in the price.

For those who prefer the paperback version of the book, you are more than welcome to make a purchase on Amazon, however the book will not be on sale there.

How Do I Sign Up?


The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs Pilot Course will take place on The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs Facebook Community Page. There is no limit to those taking the course. All you need to do is join the group and get ready!


When Does It Start?


The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs Pilot Course starts on Thursday, February 1, 2018. Check the community page regularly for discussions, resources, periodic Facebook live sessions, and so much more.  The course will end Thursday, August 9, 2018.

In the meantime, don’t forget to order your own copy of The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs!

I can’t wait to get started! This pilot course has been a dream of mine for almost a year now. And in case you’re wondering, this will be the ONLY time this course is available for free. 

Don’t miss out on a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a community of support while taking advantage of amazing course material!

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Montessori-inspired Volcano Activities with Free Printables

Bulldozer loves geology and has shown a particular interest in volcanoes lately.  I couldn't resist the opportunity to review some basic concepts and then expand to others based on questions he's had.

These Montessori-inspired volcano activities with free printables have been a huge it in our classroom.  So much that when I rotated them out the first time, the kids begged for them to come back.
Montessori-inspired Volcano Activities with Free Printables
Here's what we've been up to!

Parts of a Volcano
Parts of a Volcano Free Printable
Using the cards provided the kids, especially Princess and Sunshine, enjoyed creating their own Parts of a Volcano books.  They colored the specific parts mentioned on each card, and then depending on abilities either traced or wrote the words of each part.

Source:  The free printable for this activity can be found at The Helpful Garden.

Parts of a Volcano with LEGO
Parts of a Volcano with LEGO
Bulldozer and his brother are very much into everything LEGO, but we've never used the blocks in the classroom until this project.  I challenged to the boys to build the layers of a volcano with LEGO bricks.  It proved to be much more challenging than they thought, but they stuck with it.  If you look closely you can see all parts of the volcano mentioned on the cards in the activity above.

Types of Volcano Eruption Match Up
Types of Volcano Eruption Match Up Free Printable
As Bulldozer was enjoying multiple volcano books we checked out from our local library he discovered that there are different types of eruptions.  This was fascinating to him and he asked for more information .We responded with this match up activity.

Source:  Jason created this free printable as part of our Volcano Printable Pack 1.  This is a subscriber's only freebie. For your free copy, click on the subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.  Once you have subscribed to our free newsletter, you will receive a thank you message with the link to the subscriber's freebie page and the password you need to access it.

Type of Volcanoes Sort
Type of Volcanoes Sort Free Printable
Not only are their multiple types of eruptions, but there are also several different types of volcanoes. In this activity the kids match up the type of volcano with it's definition and then sort the famous volcanoes by type.

Source:  Jason created this free printable as part of our Volcano Printable Pack 1.  This is a subscriber's only freebie. For your free copy, click on the subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.  Once you have subscribed to our free newsletter, you will receive a thank you message with the link to the subscriber's freebie page and the password you need to access it.

Studying volcanoes with the kids has been so much fun.  I, like Bulldozer love any chance to study aspects of geology.

If you are interested in our free printables, please click the link below.

Subscriber Only Freebies


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When Everything Seems to Be Going Wrong with Montessori

There are times during our Montessori journey that things just don’t appear to be working out as we had planned. The picture perfect philosophy that we read about in books just does not seem to translate to reality. This can be extremely frustrating and might cause us to become quite discouraged. And chances are this isn’t going to happen just once. It’s part of the journey.

These past couple months of homeschooling have been brutal. The kids show no interest in learning new things. They’re bored with old materials. Motivation seems to be MIA. And the whining, fighting and meltdowns… This has definitely been one of those times when everything seems to be going wrong with Montessori.

The question is, why? It just doesn’t make sense. And for someone who loves Montessori with all of their heart, like me, this can be devastating.



Last weekend I was at my lowest point. This wasn’t to say I was going to give up, but tears were running down my cheeks, as I tried to figure out what was going on.

And then just like that, after getting some much needed rest I woke up the next morning with a checklist in my head of things to consider and evaluate when everything seems to be going wrong with Montessori. I share this list with you today because it helped me so much. I was able to identify the problem areas and work to fix things.  Just a week later things are going fabulous!

10 Things to Consider When Everything Seems to be Going Wrong with Montessori


1. The Environment

Even those who spend a lifetime in a Montessori classroom, have to reevaluate their environment periodically. There are times when life becomes chaotic and the environment is not as orderly as it once was. Or you’re human and just don’t quite get to finish preparing activities for a set of shelves.

For children with special needs, just a minor change in the environment may set off a chain of regression or refusal to work.

2. Sensory Needs

For typical children and for those with special needs, having sensory needs met before, during, and after class time is crucial to success. A child is unable to learn and be at their best when the body isn’t regulated.

This might mean that a parent or teacher needs to make sure a child is active for a specified period of time before sitting down to work.

It could mean providing sound blocking headphones or music for one who is sensitive to noise and/or becomes distracted easily while working

Consider the senses and if your child is struggling with any, whether avoiding them or craving them.

3. External Stress Factors

There are times when focusing to learn is the farthest thing from a child’s mind. Not because they don’t want to, but because external stress factors demand so much energy and attention. This can be true for the teacher or parent as well.

A child may be dealing with illness or loss of a loved one. The child could be sick or suffering from triggers related to trauma, PTSD or other special needs.

And remember, not all external stress factors are negative. It could be the holiday season! Perhaps a birthday is near? There may be a vacation coming. Are friends or family are coming to visit? All of these situations are external stress factors that influence regular routines and schedules, sleep, anxieties and learning.

4. Health and Wellness

A child learns best when at optimum health. Optimum health is reached when the child is receiving the correct amount of sleep, is eating a healthy well balanced diet, and is exercising regularly. It also means that the child isn’t sick with a cold, ear infection, stomach bug or flu.

Then there are allergies and other medical issues to consider. Let’s not forget mental health! It is amazing to see the difference between how successful a healthy child is in the classroom or at home compared to an unhealthy child. 

5. Finding the Balance Between Too Easy and Too Hard

In a Montessori environment we encourage independence. We want to provide the child with as many chances for success as possible. This is especially important when working with children who have special needs.

It can sometimes be hard to predict which materials and activities a child will be ready for and when, especially if anxieties and special needs are considered. Yes, there’s a sequence to materials. Yes there’s the philosophy of following a child, but it’s not always as easy as it appears.

It takes a lot of effort and concentration to observe a child and know where he’s heading. Even then it’s perfectly normal to be wrong.

6. Following the Child

Following the child can be so easy at times, but in other instances, it can be extremely difficult. This is especially the case when you weren’t raised in a Montessori environment, you have the public school district to answer to and/or your child shows an intense interest in only one or two things for a very long time.

Add obsessions, rigidity, and rituals to the mix when working with a child who has special needs… Following the child can be hard!

Don’t get discouraged. It takes time, patience and energy. Even though you may be coming up short now, it’s easily remedied. Let your child take the lead!

7. Missing One of Maria Montessori’s Teachings

Whether you’re new to Montessori or you’re certified and have twenty years of teaching under your belt, there is always something new to learn. A new lesson can be learned every time you read one of Maria Montessori’s books. It may be that a new phrase stands out and it’s exactly what you need to hear at the time. Don’t ever think you know everything. Take the time to study and improve yourself.

8. Our Need for Control

As an adult, parent and/or teacher we have a need for control. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as our main responsibility is to care for the children around us. But it can lead to a lack of freedom for the child, and inhibit the ability to learn.

This goes beyond following the child, as one can follow a child and still retain control of everything a child does. It may be you’re just protective, but this can discourage independence which is so important.

9. Comparing children

It is so easy to compare your child with another. All you have to do is go on facebook and scroll through your feed. Suzie is writing. Tommy is reading. James is doing math. And your son or daughter? Comparison is such a trap!

Every child is different. Each child comes with their own set of unique strengths and weaknesses. The minute you start comparing, you start down a path that is less and less Montessori. It can really affect how you teach and how a child learns.

10. Development

Each child goes through different periods of development. When these occur the brain changes. Some changes are huge and noticeable. Others are less visible. As the brain changes one can often notice regression in skills that were once there, followed by a burst of new energy and knowledge.

You may be doing everything right.  The brain may be just hard at work on new developmental tasks and can’t handle additional information at the moment. Wait a couple months and try again. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you see.

As I went through this list and evaluated our situation I realized there were a combination of factors to consider.  November and December are the hardest months of the year for our kiddos with development and external stress factors.  These difficulties then influence sensory regulation.  Add sickness to the mix and we already had a recipe for disaster. But that wasn't all!

Our environment is still not perfect by any means and that wears on all of us.  It's coming, but it's definitely not perfect.  Sunshine has been growing leaps and bounds when she is stable to the point where I can't keep track of where she's at, what's hard, what's easy, and what she likes.

When life is chaotic I feel the need to organize, clean, and gain control.  This doesn't always go well, and I tend to stop paying attention to my children's needs for independence.  During these moments it's also hard for me to focus on following the child.

The icing on the cake was when I decided to relax by spending some time on facebook.  I saw so many examples of other people's children excelling in areas where mine struggle so much.  And that was it.  Everything seemed to be going wrong with Montessori.

The key is to remember, it's not Montessori that's going wrong.  Montessori will always work if we let it.  It's just us that may not be our best all the time.  And that's okay.  Montessori is designed to grow with the child, parent and teacher through every obstacle and challenge.  If we just read, study, and take the time to evaluate we can get things back on track.  Don't ever give up!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below:
Montessori Is Much More than Shelves and Materials Montessori Inspired Homeschooling Support and Resources The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs
10 Things to Consider When Everything Is going Wrong with Montessori

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Gift Ideas for Preteen Boys

Dinomite turns eleven this month!  I can not believe it.  How did time fly by so quickly?  I can still remember the day I held him in my arms for the first time like it was yesterday.  Yet at the same time, it seems like forever ago, as there are so many memories with him from over the years.  Only two years left and Dinomite will be a teenager.  Ack!  

Dinomite is in that tricky preteen phase where there are very few toys he still plays with.  However, the toys he does play with he LOVES.  When he's not playing he'd prefer reading books, listening to music and playing video games.

As his birthday's coming soon, I thought I'd share his latest wish list, just in case someone else is looking for gift ideas for preteen boys.  Enjoy!



Just over the past couple of months Dinomite has read the first two books in the Percy Jackson series.  He loves them and is begging for more.  He's also discovered that there are movies based on the series as well as a few other great resources to have.  I'm so excited that he has a new series to enjoy!

Percy Jackson Gift Ideas







Dinomite is head over heals in love with American history right now, especially when it involves war, military, and firearms.  He is craving more and more information.  Our library system in Virginia is nothing like what we had in New York, so we're finding it more and more important to create our own library at home.
History Book Gift Ideas for Preteens







To go along with Dinomite's newest passion of history, military, and warfare, we have introduced Mega Bloks Call of Duty sets.  Because really, what toys are there for kids who like stuff like this?  He received his first two sets last year at Easter and has begged for more ever since.  Dinomite loves that they work right alongside his LEGO pieces.  

Note: We do not let Dinomite play the video game associated with these sets.
Mega Blok Call of Duty Gift Ideas

Mega Bloks Call of Duty RIB Coastal Attack Collector Construction Set (Purchased)

Mega Bloks Call of Duty Infantry Scout Car Building Set

Mega Bloks Call of Duty Arctic Troopers Set

Mega Bloks Call of Duty Riverboat Raid Collector Construction Set

Mega Bloks Call of Duty Atlas Troopers Set

Mega Bloks Call of Duty Night Ops Blackout Squad Building Set

The world of Harry Potter is still loved and alive in our household.  I believe it will be for some time.  A wish list wouldn't be complete without requests for items related to the books and movies.
Harry Potter gift ideas

The Horcrux Bookmark Collection

Harry Potter Gryffindor Journal

Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle: The Monster Box of Monsters Expansion Card Game

The Complete Harry Potter Film Music Collection

Harry Potter Wizard Chess Set

Harry Potter: The Wand Collection Book

Dinomite has always loved cars. Those who have known him his whole life know just what an obsession this was as a toddler.  Years later, the obsession is coming back.  This time, it's even more specific than before!  Who knew an eleven year old would be so obsessed with the 1969 Dodge Charger?
Car themed gift ideas for preteens

1969 Dodge Charger Die Cast Model Car

Million Dollar Classics: The World's Most Expensive Cars

Cars 3

Classic Car: The Definitive Visual History

American Muscle Cars Coloring Book

Forza Motorsport 6 for Xbox One

I can't figure out who loves Star Wars more these days, Dinomite or Bulldozer.  But with every new movie comes a wave of passion and excitement.  These are Dinomite's newest must haves.
Star Wars Gift ideas

LEGO Star Wars Bounty Hunter Speeder Bike Battle Pack  (Purchased)

Star Wars Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide

Star Wars Clone Wars Seasons 1-5

Star Wars Battlefront II for Xbox One

Star Wars The Last Jedi Cross-Sections

Star Wars The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary

If you're looking for gifts ideas for a preteen boy in your life and he has similar interests to Dinomite, I hope you've found this list as helpful as I have. Dinomite put so much effort into making it absolutely perfect.  Gotta love that boy!

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I Just Want to Feel Safe

I was confronting Princess about her post holiday behaviors.  Quite exasperated after listening to her carry on with no explanations, it was my turn to talk.

"No matter what we do, you can't accept it.  You either destroy it or sabotage it.  What is it that you want from us?"

She dropped her head and cupped it in her hands, shaking it back and forth.  After pausing and taking a deep breath she looked up at me with tears filling her dark brown eyes.

"I just want to feel safe."  Her voice was faint and quivering.

Safe...

What does that mean?  I was silent for a moment, trying to wrap my head around what she had just said.

Such incredible words spoken from such a little girl.

I Just Want to Feel Safe-Tips on how to help a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder
This post contains affiliate links.

 Weeks later the words continue to echo in my head.

"I just want to feel safe."

I think about them as we enter every new part of the day.  I reflect on so many behaviors from the past and analyze each and every situation.  What caused her to feel unsafe when this happened?

Then the conversation in my head ultimately comes down to the same question.  Is it really just all about safety?

I don't know if I'll ever know the full answer to that.  Reactive Attachment Disorder is such a complicated thing.  There are so many aspects about it that I don't think anyone will fully understand in this lifetime. But for now, focusing on helping Princess feel safe in the ways she needs seems to be the perfect place to start.

Since our conversation, when Princess is at her best, I'll slip in a question or two about what makes her feel safe, and how specific situations make her feel unsafe.  Her answers have been incredibly enlightening and confirm so much of what we've learned.

What does safety mean and what does it look like?


1. Knowing what to expect

Whether it's daily routines, weekly schedules, monthly rituals or holiday traditions, knowing what to expect brings a sense of safety that nothing else can.  If Princess knows what's next, she doesn't have to worry about the chance of something going terribly wrong or worse, being hurt.  She can let down her guard and focus on the current task.


2. Regulation of the Senses

A child with Reactive Attachment Disorder often has significant sensory issues.  When sensory needs are not met a child feels off balance, unsatisfied, unsafe, and at times in pain.  If Princess' sensory needs are met, her ability to make sense of how her body is feeling improves.  With this comes an opportunity to relax which is always a good thing.

3. Less is Better

A child with Reactive Attachment Disorder struggles to handle even the simplest day-to-day situations.  The more that's added to Princess' life, the more unsafe it becomes, which then results in more negative behaviors and safety issues.  Whether it's toys and other belongings, schedules and routines, holidays and other events, special occasions, and even where she lives (city versus country).  Less is always better.  Minimalism is Princess' best friend.

4. Clear and consistent boundaries and rules

A child with Reactive Attachment Disorder takes a thousand times longer to trust anything and anyone, if the child can learn at all.  No matter how many times the same thing happens, Princess still wonders if it will be the same the next time and has to challenge it or try to control it.  Clear and consistent boundaries and rules take away the fear of the unknown.

5. Staying Healthy

A child with Reactive Attachment Disorder experiences pain and sickness differently than others.  A child may have an incredible tolerance for pain.  Princess has taught her body to ignore pain and push through no matter what for survival.  When a child with RAD feels sick or ill, their initial response may be the same, which causes significant health risks and behavioral issues.  Helping Princess to remain as healthy as she can be makes a world of difference in her every day functioning.

6. Being Present and Visible

A child with Reactive Attachment Disorder is always afraid of losing everything, including caregivers and family members.  By being visible and present as often as possible, that fear slowly begins to diminish over time.  Princess knows she's going to be okay so long as we are with her.

Note: This does not mean giving hugs, kisses, snuggles etc., because in most instances this feels very unsafe to a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder.


We all know when a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder feels safe, the fight or flight response lessens.  The frequency and severity of negative behaviors diminishes.  Safety can blossom into trust.  With trust comes the ability to form a secure attachment.  In some cases, when a secure attachment is formed, love is possible.

Without safety the world is too scary.  It's a dangerous place that's too big to conquer.  A child with Reactive Attachment Disorder would much prefer to rely on herself and challenge the world head on than try to function with others without safety.

Though there are many techniques and therapeutic approaches out there that may or may not benefit a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, improvement is more likely when caregivers are working to help the child feel as safe as possible. It's where to start first, when everything seems to be falling apart.

And as for Princess, creating a safe place has meant everything.  She still has Reactive Attachment Disorder. There are still negative behaviors.  But, she's ever so slowly making improvements, that we otherwise wouldn't see.  Providing safety is most definitely worth it.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.

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Chapter Book Recommendations for 5th Graders

Each year my husband and I create a reading list for our Dinomite, specific to his abilities and interests.  Dinomite loves all things related to animals, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and has shown a very intense interest in history this year.

Though Dinomite is turning eleven this month, his reading abilities far surpass his grade level.  Finding appropriate books that will take more than a day for him to read can be a challenge, because he loves to read so much.

His reading list is considered part of our homeschool curriculum for the year.  Each day we have a time set aside for reading so that he can be successful completing it.  Dinomite also enjoys reading in his free time, so finishing a book is rarely an issue.

We are so excited about this year's list. Dinomite has already finished three books since the beginning of December and is begging for more, meanwhile reading his favorite a second time.

If you're looking for some fabulous chapter book recommendations for 5th graders in your life, be sure to check out the list below!  You will not be disappointed, especially if your child has similar interests to Dinomite.

Chapter Book Recommendations for 5th Graders
This post contains affiliate links.

Chapter Book Recommendations for 5th Graders


1. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

2. As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

3. Under the Blood-Red Sun by Graham Salisbury

4. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

5. Seekers: The Quest Begins by Erin Hunter

6. In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall

7. The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

8. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

9. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

10. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

11. Pax by Sarah Pennypacker

12. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

13. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

14. Paperboy by Vince Vawter

15. Behind Rebel Lines: The Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy by Seymour Reit

16. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

17. Holes by Louis Sachar

18. Lost in the Pacific, 1942: Not a Drop to Drink by Tod Olson

19. Refugee by Alan Gratz

20. Lemony Snicket: The Bad Beginning: Or, Orphans! By Lemony Snicket

Have you read any of the books on this list? Which one is your favorite?  We'd love to hear about it!

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