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How to Create a Montessori Binder

There are times when families want or need to provide a Montessori education for their children in the home, but they don't have shelves, trays, and traditional materials.

At times there's no room for these things.  Other times finances don't permit these luxuries.  And then there are times, like during the COVID-19 Pandemic where families hadn't planned on homeschooling and now find themselves in that situation.

Then you have families who enjoy traveling and want to take Montessori on the road.

I am here to say a Montessori education at home or on the road is possible without shelves, trays and traditional materials.  All you need to do is learn how to create a Montessori Binder!

How to Create a Montessori Binder when Shelves, Trays, and Materials Are Not Available

How to Create a Montessori Binder

The Montessori Binder is not a new concept for our family.  We've used it multiple times over the years in different circumstances.

When we go on longer vacations we bring our Montessori Binder along to make sure we're still learning and no one regresses.

There was a time when we could not afford a new set of shelves, and so we created a Montessori Binder for Sunshine to store all of her activities.

Currently, we are in the process of creating a Montessori Binder for Sunshine to use in residential.  It will be filled with fun activities we can do with her during visits.

Basically, the Montessori Binder allows for a Montessori education no matter where you are or plan to go.

Here's how it works!

4 Steps to Creating a Montessori Binder

How to Create a Montessori Binder from Every Star Is Different

1. Grab a 4'' Three Ring Binder.  

You'll want a binder that's larger in order to fit as many activities as possible.  Depending on how many children you have or how many subjects you're trying to cover you may want more than one.

I like using a binder that's really strong and also has a cover on the front so I can make it more personalized and beautiful.

How to Create a Montessori Binder

2. Find Cloth Zipper Pouches for a three ring binder.

Cloth zipper pouches make the perfect tray substitutes.  I say cloth, because the plastic ones usually aren't durable enough.  Match the number of zipper pouches to the number of activities you want in the binder.

I like using color coded pouches as they add more beauty to the Montessori experience and you can color code subjects or unit themes.

How to Create a Montessori Binder

3. Obtain Sheet Protectors with Zippers.

Just like in the Montessori classroom, not all activities fit on smaller trays. For bigger activities or those that include a full sheet of paper, use sheet protectors with zippers.  Those without zippers tend to be quite frustrating as items fall out.

The sheet protectors with zippers also are a great way to "laminate" sheets of paper to make them more durable and reusable.  Just think of all the possibilities when you add a few dry erase markers!

4. Prepare Montessori Activities

Using our bundles, individual products, and free printables, create your Montessori activities, placing one in each pouch or sheet protector.

Pioneer Busy Bags for Tots & Preschoolers w/ Free Printables

You can see an example of how we did this for Sunshine in the post: Pioneer Busy Bags for Tots & Preschoolers with Free Printables.  We even used one for a snack option as these were used in church each week.

5. Arrange Montessori Activities in Binder

This is where busy bags meet Maria Montessori's orderly environment.  Whether you organize by subject, theme, or whatever, you will want to organize the pouches and sheet protectors in the binder.

Using a binder to store work helps the child be able to look through the activities in an organized manner.

If the pouches and sheet protectors are just thrown into a drawer or container, they are much more difficult to look through.

See how easy it is to create a Montessori learning environment anywhere, when you don't have shelves, trays, or materials!

It may not be as fabulous as a Montessori classroom at home or at school, but sometimes that's just not possible.  When it's not, this is the next best thing.

For those who would like to receive more Montessori inspiration for home or on the go, be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter by clicking the link below.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
The Best Tips for Montessori Homeschooling Montessori Is More Than Shelves and Materials Montessori Homeschooling Support and ResourcesBallet Printable Pack Ballet Math Printable Pack Ballet Language Printable Pack Construction Site Printable Pack Construction Site Math Printable Pack Construction Site Language Printable Pack

How to Create a Montessori Binder when Shelves, Trays, and Materials Aren't Available

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The Best Tips for Montessori Homeschooling

Today I'm excited to share the best tips for Montessori homeschooling with developmental, emotional, and trauma based challenges.

There is no doubt that Montessori is fantastic for children with developmental, emotional and trauma based disabilities.  I could go on and on about the:

  • Benefits of hands on materials
  • Focus on fine motor skill development
  • Emphasis on sensory based activities
  • Significance of following the child
  • Insistence of child independence

All of these things are so beneficial to children who are neurodiverse, struggle with mental health issues and/or have attachment disorders.

The Best Tips for Montessori Homeschooling Children with Developmental, Emotional, and Trauma Based Learning Challenges

Many families rely on Montessori schools to provide a proper education for their children.  But there are times when that's not possible due to finances, the child's specific needs, personal beliefs, and now the coronavirus.

My husband and I have been homeschooling our children for about a decade now.  All of them have multiple struggles when it comes to learning.  

Some are neurodiverse.  

Others have mental health issues.  

Two struggle significantly due to past trauma.  

Then there are learning disabilities.

A few years ago we started a co-op and added more children to our home learning environment.  Many of those children also had developmental and emotional disabilities.

One could say that we've had a lot of experience with figuring out how to make Montessori work for even the most challenging students, once they're able to handle learning in general.  

Note: There are some children who at one point in time or another will be unable to learn due to feeling unsafe or dysregulated.  In these situations safety comes first and the main goal is to help the child self-regulate and stay calm.

The Best Tips for Montessori Homeschooling with Developmental, Emotional, and Trauma Based Disabilities

1. Before learning begins be sure your child feels safe and is able to self-regulate.  

My kiddos need to get outside and move before we attempt learning each day.  

If we can't make it outside then we find a way to move inside using children's exercise videos, etc.  When they don't move around, children can't self-regulate and things tend to fall apart.

Some of our co-op friends needed a meal right before learning, so they wouldn't be distracted by hunger and their brains were more alert.

Another co-op friend needed time socializing with friends to feel safe in the environment before learning.

Observe your child to understand what the needs are before successful learning can occur.

2. Make sure sensory needs are met during learning.

Dinomite needs music to focus better and block out other sounds.

Bulldozer is sensitive to temperature. If he's too hot or too cold, he doesn't learn well.

Princess needs to keep her hands and her brain busy to prevent disruptions.

Sunshine often needs to wrap herself up in layers of clothes and blankets.  

One of our co-op friends always needed something to chew on.  He was also sensitive to smells.

Sensory needs do not disappear while learning, they usually increase in intensity.  Be prepared for that and know that it's okay to meet your child's needs in this way while learning occurs.

If you need some ideas to help your child, be sure to check out some of our favorite resources:

Must Have Fidget Toys

3. Start with the hard stuff first.

In all my years of using the Montessori Method, I have never found a student with developmental and/or emotional disabilities that saves the hardest work for last and enjoys doing it.

Neurodiverse children may push through the period of false fatigue without issue, but most often choose the easiest and most fun tasks after that point.

Plan out your three period block accordingly, with this in mind.

When my kiddos were preschool age, we had our "work" shelves and our "fun" shelves.  In order to choose activities from the "fun" shelves, each of them needed to complete a certain number of "work" shelf activities.  The number of activities corresponded to their age.  At age five, Dinomite had to choose five work activities before going to the "fun" shelves.  

Activities on the "work" shelves were always very basic and required a short amount of time to complete to ensure success.  We rotated them weekly to ensure that the kiddos wouldn't do the same ones over and over again for weeks on end.

Now that my kiddos are using the Montessori elementary curriculum, the focus of the first part of our three hour block  is to complete required tasks.  Each kiddo knows they must complete the following:

  • Journal Question
  • Math Challenge
  • Language Challenge
  • Reading Assignment

They choose the order in which they complete the work.  Once those tasks are completed they move on to preferred work or projects.

Observe your child and create a system that works best.  It may be similar to how we do things, or you may come up with something completely different.

4. Minimize struggles with academics.

Bulldozer struggled with a hand preference until he was seven years old.  Not until he was eight was he able to write a sentence on his own.  Writing was HARD.  It brought so much frustration and prevented him from progressing in multiple subject areas.  

That is until we minimized the writing.  

Yes, you read that right.

Bulldozer was responsible for one writing assignment a day.  This is how our daily journal work started.  Be sure to check out our FREE Rainbow Writing Prompts.

Rainbow Writing Prompts (Free Printable)

Once that writing work was complete, all other learning assignments required absolutely no writing.  We did this for years with him.

Believe it or not, Bulldozer loves writing now.  His penmanship is beautiful.  I truly believe we owe that all to the principle of following the child and not pushing him into something he isn't ready for.

One of our co-op students was petrified of math. He would avoid it at all costs.  He reminded me a lot of Dinomite when he was younger.  Each day, he knew that he only had to complete our daily math challenge, and then he knew he could relax and not worry about more math, unless he chose to do more.

Over the course of the year this child slowly felt more comfortable with numbers and progressed through content he had struggled with for years.  

Follow your child's lead.  Battles and frustration are not the Montessori way.  Work together, following the three period lesson.  Use the FREE Montessori Three Period Lesson Visual Prompts if necessary.

Montessori Three Period Lesson Visual Prompts (Free Printable)

5. Set a learning schedule that matches your child's sensory and self-regulation needs.

It can be so easy to try to create a schedule based on the needs of the parents, instead of considering the needs of the child and following their lead.

My kiddos almost always become hungry about 90 minutes into their work.  To remedy this we have a healthy snack after required tasks.  The snack also helps the kiddos self-regulate after what is often the most difficult work of the day.

Right after snack, I present a lesson on most days.  After they're refreshed with a snack, the kiddos are at their best and ready to focus on something new. 

Giving a lesson at that time provides extra support, when they would otherwise meltdown or fall apart due to false fatigue.

Once the lesson has been presented, the kiddos have the rest of the three hour block to choose work from the shelves or work on a project.

They're usually so excited at this point to do whatever they want that we don't usually have any further issues.

There are times when a kiddo can't seem to work on their own at this point.  If this happens I usually try to create a project based learning environment so they stay more engaged, or I become their one-to-one for the rest of learning.

6. Have learning time occur during the child's best time of day.

My kiddos prefer to have learning time in the late morning to early afternoon (10 AM to 1 PM).  They function better.  They're not nearly as tired.  Their focus is at its best.

This time slot allows them to sleep in each morning, slowly get ready for their day and get outside.  If we try to have learning time earlier or later, it's usually unsuccessful.  

In Sunshine's case, her medications are working at their best during these hours.  In the afternoon she begins to deteriorate.  At night she struggles the most.

Observe your child and decide when they learn best.  Do you have an early bird? Perhaps you have a night owl?  Make adjustments to your schedule accordingly.

7. Observe how many choices your child can handle.

A long time ago I learned that the more choices of work Sunshine had, the more overwhelmed she became.  I also observed that if the work on the shelves was too spread out around our homeschool classroom, she became overwhelmed.

To solve this problem we put out enough work to only fit one set of shelves.  All of her work, no matter the subject was on the same set of shelves.  This was a huge success.  We rotated it out weekly or every other week depending on her interest level.

We also created the daily task checklistThis has been beneficial for all of our kiddos in multiple ways.

Montessori-inspired Daily Tasks Checklist (Free Printable)

Follow your child's needs and create a learning environment and process that helps your child feel calm and self-regulated.

8. Work your way up to the recommended three hour work period.

It took us YEARS to work up to a complete three hour work period as Maria Montessori recommends.

Do not feel defeated if you can't get your child to work for the entire time.  It will come when your child's body and mind are ready.

Start with a time period that ensures success for you and your child and build from there.

Remember that Montessori learning occurs throughout the entire day, not just during the designated learning time.  You are not failing if you can not succeed at the three hour work period.

Homeschooling children with developmental, emotional, and trauma based challenges using the Montessori Method takes time to adjust to.

If you're off to a rocky start, know that's okay.  As you observe and follow your child, things will get better.  

We hope these tips and resources will help you and your child excel at Montessori homeschooling!

For those who would like more Montessori homeschooling tips and resources, especially those related to children with developmental, emotional, physical, and trauma-based disabilities, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter by clicking the link below.

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

The Best Montessori Tips for Special Needs Families Montessori Homeschooling Support and Resources Montessori is More than Shelves and Materials Montessori Addition and Subtraction Bundle Continents and Oceans Printable Pack Bundle Free Printables 

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FREE Montessori Division Printable Pack

The word division has provoked fear in my children for quite some time. They have had their division facts mastered for a while now, but have shown no desire to move farther in their division journey until now.

As we started learning how to do more complex division problems, I realized that the kiddos need steps broken down farther than I anticipated.

For this reason I've created the new FREE Montessori Division Printable Pack.  

FREE Montessori Division Printable Pack

FREE Montessori Division Printable Pack

The FREE Montessori Division Printable Pack contains 50 division problem cards that don't require long division.

These cards are helping the kiddos get comfortable with seeing bigger division problems as they memorize the steps of solving larger problems, without the added long division steps.

The Montessori Division Printable Pack has been created using the Montessori place value colors, which correspond to Montessori materials.

Montessori Long Division Cabinet

If you choose to use Montessori materials while teaching division, this printable pack can be used with the Long Division Cabinet and the Checker Board with Beads.

Montessori Checker Board for Division
All of my kids ended up having preferences as to which Montessori materials they preferred when completing long division problems, but learned how to complete problems using all of them.

Montessori Division Checker Board Beads

Dinomite preferred the paper and pencil method, which is the goal in the end anyways, so we supported this.

The FREE Montessori Division Printable Pack can be used with or without Montessori materials, depending on your child's needs, abilities, and access to materials.

My kiddos have had a blast with these cards.  I actually heard each of them express how division is fun.  Now in my book, that's a win!

Source: The FREE Montessori Division Printable Pack is a Subscriber's Only Freebie.  For your copy, follow the directions at the bottom of the post.

Montessori Multiplication and Division Bundle

Montessori Multiplication and Division Bundle

If you are looking for more division and/or multiplication resources, consider our Montessori Multiplication and Division Bundle.  

This bundle is an incredible resource that provides you with everything you need to help your kiddos progress through the Montessori multiplication and division curriculum.

If you don't have Montessori materials on hand, this bundle provides you with endless practice problems to work through on paper, ensuring you don't have to think of any on your own.  I can't tell you how many times I've been so grateful to have these on hand.

Don't forget your free printable!

Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies

1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.

2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

3. Open the thank you message you receive in your e-mail, after subscribing. (Be sure to check your spam folder, as sometimes it ends up there.)

4. Click the confirmation link in the thank you message.

5. Once the confirmation is complete, you will receive another e-mail message with the Subscriber Only Freebies.

6. Click on link.

7. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and voila!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.

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

9 Ways to Practice Multiplication Facts with Montessori Bead Bars Learning the Montessori Way: Multiplication Prime Number Printable Pack Montessori Activities and Free Printables Montessori Addition and Subtraction Bundle Fractions: Division Clip Cards Printable Pack

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Goodbye Sunshine

I've procrastinated writing this post for quite some time.  

I think writing about it makes it feel more real.  

I'm not sure I'm ready for that.

I know we've done everything right, but everything feels so wrong.

On March 4, 2020 we had to say goodbye to our Sunshine.

We had known the day was coming for a couple weeks prior, but it definitely hasn't made this change in our lives any easier.  

There's a grief that I can't begin to describe.  

It's different than anything I've ever experienced before.

My heart is broken and into a million pieces.  

Goodbye Sunshine-A story about goodbyes related to mental health

Goodbye Sunshine

Sunshine's functioning started to decline in the middle of December.  We thought it might be anxieties and excitement due to the holiday season.  

Once we celebrated she'd be better we thought.

But she wasn't.

We celebrated Christmas early, trying to bring our Sunshine out of her funk.  

It didn't work.  

Christmas break was ROUGH.

We thought she was struggling because she was out of routines and schedules.

Once she returned to school she would be better.

But she wasn't.

Every. Single. Day. she declined in her ability to function around others, especially her family.

In every setting there were problems.  

One evening in the middle of January, we even had to call 9-1-1 because she was so not well.

On January 27, 2020, Sunshine was diagnosed with strain A of the flu.  She stayed home from school for the week.  We thought surely she'd be better once the flu ran through her system.

Sunshine and Mommy being diagnosed with the flu
Sunshine and Mommy being diagnosed with the flu on the same day.

We were wrong.  

She did recover from the flu, but...

On February 1, 2020 we had to take her to the emergency room.  

Sunshine remained in our local hospital for seven days with Jason or myself by her side, before being transferred to another hospital to receive more specialized treatment.

But this is where the story is different from what you'd expect.

Sunshine was very ill.  

But it wasn't with a virus, pnemonia or cancer.

Sunshine's mental health was deteriorating rapidly to the point that she was a danger to herself and others.

She had become violent.

My arms were covered with bruises.

It was a danger to have her in the home with other children.

Her brain was not working.

The seven days in the hospital were spent in a safe room waiting for a bed for inpatient psychiatric treatment.  

Why the wait?

Sunshine's case had been turned down by several inpatient pediatric psychiatric wards because of its complexity.  

Other facilities didn't have a bed available.

Why is it that a child with cancer or pnemonia, (just as life threatening) is seen and admitted immediately, but a child who's brain is sick, can't receive the help as quickly?

How is it that doctors who have taken an oath to heal the sick, can refuse to heal a child's brain?

These are just a few of the many questions that went through my mind during this time as we waited and waited, our lives being put on hold.

It wasn't until the sixth day of Sunshine's hospital stay that her case was taken to the next level where she had police supervision 24/7 until she was placed.  Before that, Jason and I were on our own, under the supervision of nurses.

Meanwhile strain A of the flu spread to others in the home.

On February 7, 2020 Sunshine was transported by police to the state inpatient pediatric psychiatric facility.  She remained there for seven days.

A police transport to the hospital

The psychologist that worked with her was the best we've ever encountered

But in the end, the psychiatrist there stripped Sunshine of two of her medications and sent her home on February 13, 2020.  

Sunshine cuddles with Mommy
Sunshine cuddling with Mommy at home after returning from the inpatient psychiatric ward.

We tried to trust the psychiatrist's decision, but those medications were added to Sunshine's regimen for very important reasons.  

Within 72 hours after Sunshine's return home, we had to call the police again.  

Once again my arms were covered with bruises.

The first time the police came, Sunshine appeared okay and they left.

Less than five minutes after law enforcement left, Sunshine was attacking my husband and I again.  

Dinomite called 911.

On the morning of February 16, 2020 Sunshine was taken back to our local hospital by police transport.

This time police were present the entire time she was in the ER.

Police supervision at the hospital

Once again, no inpatient pediatric psychiatric facility would take Sunshine's case.  And so we had to wait once again for a bed to be available at the state facility.

We waited three days in the ER until police finally drove her to the state facility to be admitted on Feburary 19, 2020.

We were exhausted.

We were devastated.

We felt broken.

How could this be happening?

But it was.

At this point we were faced with some pretty big decisions to make.  

Sunshine was very sick.

Her brain was not working.

There was no easy fix.

If we were to bring her home, we would be endangering the welfare of our other children.

More than anything we wanted to get help for Sunshine.  

She NEEDED help.

She NEEDED treatment.

She was NOT okay.

If this was cancer or some other childhood disease that required continuing care, there would be no hesitation or judgement about seeking the absolute best help.

But for some odd reason, when it comes to children who suffer from mental health issues... 

Those who's brains are not okay... 

At no fault of their own...

There is so so so much judgement.

Thankfully my husband and I did not care about this.

We fought hard for our Sunshine!

I can't begin to list the phone calls, meetings and appointments we handled over the next two weeks while Sunshine remained inpatient at the pediatric psychiatric facility.  This was all on top of caring for children at home who now had the B strain of the flu, and visiting Sunshine every chance we had.

Finally on March 2, 2020 we had secured a bed for Sunshine at a residential facility in the northern part of the state, 2 1/2 hours from our home.

With the help of a friend and sedation (for Sunshine from psychiatrist at inpatient pediatric psychiatric ward), we were able to transfer Sunshine from the inpatient psychiatric ward to the residential facility safely on March 4, 2020.

Sunshine sleeping on a blocking pad during admission to residential
Sunshine sleeping on a blocking pad during admission meetings at the residential facility.

We still remain Sunshine's legal guardians with the goal of her returning home when ready, but her case is extremely complicated.  

We do not know if or when the reunification will occur.

More than anything we want her to come home and be with her family safe and healthy.

Since arriving at the residential facility, Sunshine continues to decline.  

She has attacked staff and other children on a daily basis, multiple times a day.

She is unable to participate in basic activities, like eating in the cafeteria with other children, because she simply can't handle it.

She misses us so much and cries often.

We miss the safe and healthy parts of her and cry also.

So far we've been able to call and talk to her every evening.  

Sunshine is not one to talk on the phone, so not much happens, but we also get to speak with staff and receive updates about her each day.  This has been really nice.  

On March 12, 2020 our family made the drive to visit Sunshine, attend meetings, and family therapy.  It was so nice to see Sunshine, but she's still so not okay.

A visit with Sunshine at the residential facility
Our first visit with sunshine at the residential facility.  We decided to celebrate St. Patrick's Day a few days early.

And then an even bigger blow came on Monday, March 16, 2020.

We are no longer able to visit Sunshine, attend family therapies, or other meetings at the residential facility due to the coronavirus until further notice.

I thought I could handle residential treatment knowing I could see Sunshine once a week.

But not being able to see her at all...  

My heart is absolutely broken.

Don't get me wrong.  I am so eternally grateful that she is there, safe, and taken care of by the wonderful staff, doctors, and therapists.  

I couldn't imagine trying to care for her here in the state she is in, or having to go to the ER due to another mental health crisis in the midst of the coronavirus chaos.

I just miss her.

No mother should have to say goodbye to their young child like this.

Yet there are so many families suffering as we are from a broken system that has just become more broken.

Please keep our family in your prayers.

Please keep our Sunshine in your prayers.

We want desperately for her to be well again and return home.
We are all okay at home, but are still trying to recover from the financial hit of not being able to work in February.

A month long mental health crisis that requires a parent to be in the ER 24/7, followed by inpatient care that requires visits, meetings, phone calls and more, followed by going through the traumatic experience of seeking residential placement for Sunshine has definitely come at a price.

And then for the coronavirus to wreak havoc on our lives literally the day after...

We are working hard to catch up with e-mails from the last month.

We're trying desperately to stay afloat.

We thank you in advance for your support.  

Every blog post you read and share helps us.  

Every product you purchase helps us.

We will continue to be here for you through all of this with as much support as possible.

For those who would like to follow Sunshine's story, be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter by clicking the link below.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.

When Do I Consider Residential Treatment for My Child It's Time to Have a Serious Talk about Residential Treatment Centers How Do You Work with a Broken Mental Health System The System Failed Us Horribly She Needs a Forensics Exam Must Have Safety Resources When Parenting a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder A Safety Plan for Mental Health Our Pediatric Mental Health Crisis

Goodbye Sunshine-A story about goodbyes related to mental health

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