How to use the Montessori Shape Insets to Enhance Handwriting.

How to use the Montessori Shape Insets to Enhance Handwriting

Confusion. If I could sum up the Montessori Shapes set from the ShillerLearning Language Arts Kit A with one word it would be confusion. “Why is there a math manipulative in my language arts set?” People often wonder. We promise it’s not a mistake. This key component of a Montessori education fits in quite well with language arts once one has a good understanding of what exactly their intended purpose is (hint, it’s not to help kids learn their shapes although that is an added bonus.)


The Montessori shape insets are blue shapes that fit into a pink frame. In a Montessori classroom they will be made from metal to hold up to the wear & tear of lots of children. Ours are a high-quality polymer to reduce weight and cost. Our set includes 10 shapes, each with a knob on the back to help develop fine motor skills and muscle tone. Shapes are generally kept out on a shelf, placed right next to one another so each individual shape can be seen. Many people keep white pieces of paper cut to the same size as the pink borders and colored pencils next to these shapes for convenient, self-directed work.


So what’s the point of these shapes, if not for geometry? They help with handwriting skills. Students practice tracing the shapes, both around the outside of the blue shape and the inside of the pink outline. While students get the added benefit of learning their shapes and how to form them, they’re also practicing pencil grip and pencil control. Students are instructed to begin tracing from the top to bottom and left to write, which helps with letter formation and sentence structure. Hand-eye coordination is increased while tracing these shapes, as well as practice making straight and curved lines.


The Montessori insets are also a fantastic creative outlet. Students enjoy tracing with different colors, outlining in one color and filling in with a different color, practice color mixing and tracing with different pencil pressure. Using the shape insets helps children develop an artistic eye as well. While this might seem like a boring task for adults, young children absolutely love this work and will find many creative ways to complete it.


Incorporating shading, textures, and patterns is an additional way these materials can be used. This helps students learn about pencil angle, improves focus, teaches children about drawing lines, gives good practice with measurement and much more.

ShillerLearning includes these shapes in Language Arts Kit A. We begin by introducing the child to the shapes using the 3-period lesson. Next, each shape is inspected, traced, and interacted with. We also have students practice different strokes with each shape, and finally we have them work on making each shape independently. While we incorporate these shapes in our Language Arts Kit A, school aged children continue to enjoy these for art creations. At homeschool conventions, kids of all ages enjoy make and take art activities using the Montessori insets.


Need help incorporating the 3-period lesson into your homeschooling? Check out Shawna’s tips and inspiration for How the 3 Period Lesson changed her family’s approach to homeschooling.

See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Amanda and her family reside in an Airstream parked in Washington State. She loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, she also blogs, works as a virtual assistant, and loves creating hand-lettering pieces.

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How Nomenclature Cards Provide Vocabulary For Kids

How Montessori Nomenclature Cards Enhance Your Homeschooling

How Montessori Nomenclature Cards Enhance Your Homeschool Curriculum


Language development is a key part of Montessori education. Learning to read, often quite early, draws many parents to the Montessori method. Nomenclature cards are a wonderful way to make vocabulary words for kids fun. You can develop cards based on spelling words, your monthly school theme, or interest your student has. They’re also often found as free Montessori printables both here and other Montessori sites.

What Are Nomenclature Cards?


Nomenclature cards are cards with a picture and a word or phrase underneath the picture. They’re used to help with reading, language development, vocabulary, object identification, matching, and more. Typically, first introduced in preschool, nomenclature cards can be used throughout elementary school as well.

These beautiful nomenclature cards are included in our flower and Garden-Themed Activity Pack. Grab your own set of these FREE Montessori printables to get started with your own nomenclature study.  


How Do I Use Nomenclature Cards?


Nomenclature cards are used with the three-period-lesson. Below is an example of how to use these parts of a flower cards. You will need two copies of each set of cards. One copy is referred to as the “whole picture card,” these are cards without a line in between the word & image. Some children may only work with the whole picture cards, children that can read will work with both sets.


  • Lay the whole picture card of roots in front of the child. Say, “These are roots”


  • Have the child repeat the word “roots"


  • Continue with two more cards until you have three cards out


  • Point to each card and say the name of the object


  • Rearrange the three cards again and repeat with the other two objects


  • Point to an object and ask, “What is this?”

If your child is unable to give the name, tell them the name again and ask them to repeat it. Very young children may struggle with this portion of the work, this is ok.


  • Repeat the above steps with a unique combination of cards each time

For young children, you may choose to do 2 cards at a time.

  • Repeat until the child has closure


  • For older children who can read:

After completing the above, get out the second set of Nomenclature cards with the cut-out words.

Repeat the above process with the word portion only.

Give the child the separated word and picture cards, allow them to match the word to the proper picture.

Provide an additional set of whole cards so they can self-check their work.

Repeat as needed until the child has closure.

What Nomenclature Cards Are Common in A Montessori Education?


Common lessons in Montessori early childhood education include:


*Parts of an apple

*Parts of a pumpkin

*Life cycle of a frog

*Life cycle of an egg

*Life cycle of a tree




Anything you’d like can become a nomenclature card.


Families could make cards of relative’s faces and names, landmarks, and locations in their area, or pets and favorite objects. Teachers sometimes make cards of student’s names and faces. We include nomenclature cards in all of our monthly activity packs to help grow your child’s vocabulary.  


They’re easy to create on your own in a word-processing software or through Canva. Simply find a picture of the item you’re looking for, Wikimedia Commons is a great place to look. Under the picture, write the word or phrase. Typically words are lowercase and Century Gothic font.  


Nomenclature cards are best used with the Three-Period lesson.   Make sure to check out this video on how to use the Three-Period lesson.

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See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Her family resides in an Airstream parked in Washington State and loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, Amanda blogs, loves reading, and creates hand-lettering pieces.


How Music Aids Kids Learning

20+ Ways Music Aids Kids Learning

The power of music is indisputable. Our favorite song can fill us with joy. Music triggers memories long forgotten, attaches itself to our favorite moments, and stirs emotion like nothing else. Science has shown again and again how music affects the brain. It’s a universal language that brings us all together. Young and old from all around the world have a relationship with music. Children are no exception. They sing and dance their little hearts out. Not only is music fun to dance to, music but music can also help children learn.


Music is an excellent tool for learning. We all know the feeling of singing along to a song we didn’t even realize we knew. That in and of itself is a great example of music as a teaching tool- the song gets stuck in our head without us even trying. Children of all ages, learning styles, and abilities can benefit from the power of music. Research has shown the ability for music to physically change the brain and develop it in ways nothing else can.

20+ of Ways Music Aids Kids Learning


  1. Helps to boost alertness,
  2. Stimulates different areas of the brain than anything else,
  3. Increases language skills,
  4. Decreases stress response,
  5. Increases attention,
  6. Grows vocabulary, grammar skills, and knowledge of the written word,
  7. Teaches poetry and prose,
  8. Helps build long-term memory,
  9. Decreases errors,
  10. Raises phonological awareness,
  11. Improves auditory discrimination,
  12. Helps develop right/left brain integration,
  13. Increased neural activity and responsiveness,
  14. Boosts memory ability overall and triggers the brain to remember,
  15. Evokes emotion, and allows for emotion to be more relatable,
  16. Stimulates imagination and leads to more creative thinking,
  17. Introduces new concepts, words, and ideas,
  18. Demonstrates a unique method of storytelling,
  19. Teaches the brain mathematical pattern and rhythm,
  20. Encourages movement and full-body learning,
  21. In Learning Disabled and Special Needs students music has been shown to boost social skills, fine motor and gross motor skills, auditory awareness, verbal skills, and more,
  22. Improves focus- even long term,
  23. Provides repetition which aids in memory

We’ve most likely all heard that Classical music is excellent for the brain. This has been shown time and time again. Listening to Classical music, especially specific composers, has proven dramatic effects. Retention rates increase, test scores go up, children’s stress levels go down, and satisfaction with lessons goes up.


Students don’t only have to focus on Classical music for music to aid kids learning. All types of music have their place. A spunky song can help boost energy and provide a needed reset to a sluggish student. A fun dance tune is a great way to get the wiggles out. Time with a Country song line dancing helps with coordination, right/left brain integration, teaching music tone and beat, and more. Try to rewrite a pop song when teaching a new concept or let your kids take the reign and write their own.


Including music from other cultures is an excellent way to travel the world without ever learning home. Listening to songs in another language has been shown to boost the ability to learn that new language. Exposing children to other cultures and experiences has never been easier. Children with a background of music have been shown to learn a foreign language even easier. In fact, children who learn to play an instrument have even been shown to hear sounds other children aren’t able to hear. Not only do we open our children up to other cultures with music, but we also open them up to other sounds.


Kids don’t have to play an instrument to get the benefits. All they need is to be exposed to plenty of music, a good variety (especially classical), and let the music do the rest. Make sure to keep the volume at a lower level and follow the lead of your child. As home educators and teachers, including music comes with huge benefits.

At ShillerLearning we teach to all five of children’s senses. Including music in our lessons is an important part of what we do. We have carefully developed songs designed to help kids learn math facts, language arts, geography, and more. It is our hope you’ll all be able to enjoy these songs together. Especially now that you have a greater understanding of how music aids learning. Check out our songs and make sure to order yours!

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See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Amanda and her family reside in an Airstream parked in Washington State. She loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, she also blogs, works as a virtual assistant, and loves creating hand-lettering pieces.

12+ DIY Montessori Materials to Make from FREE Paint Samples!

DIY Montessori Materials From Paint Samples

It’s easy for the cost of homeschool supplies to add up fast. Multisensory Education means having lots of hands-on materials. Fortunately, with a little bit of outside the box thinking, you can easily create DIY Montessori materials. You’ll also find great homemade toys for kids can be made from these materials, Paint chip samples are a great way to get started. Most likely you already have some stuck in a drawer from the recent remodel. If not, head to the hardware store or hop on your favorite paint company’s website and request a few. (Sometimes local stores will even put together a little package for you to use for educational purposes).

FREE DIY Montessori Materials & Homemade Toys For Kids With Paint Chip Samples


Gather up your bundle of paint samples to create dozens of beautiful manipulatives, decorations, and projects. Not only will making these give you free supplies, but they’ll also be a great arts & crafts time for your family to work on together. Children take great pride in creating their own learning materials. What child wouldn’t be proud to give a homemade toy to a friend? Take a peek through this list and see what stand out to you- we’ve included ideas for children of all ages.


Color box- This is a classic Montessori Sensorial work. It’s also easy to make as a DIY Montessori Material. Separate the paint samples by color and place in a box. Introduce one color at a time allowing the child to explore shades of that color until they’re ready to move on.


Color matching- Dozens of different options exist for this one depending on the child’s age and ability. A few options include: providing two sets of the exact same color to match, matching household objects to the proper color, or matching items from nature to the right color. Older children can get into the detailed nuance of shade too.


Color Books- This works best with the larger size paint samples. Glue samples back-to-back and use binder rings to create a book. Children can then draw, use stickers or cut out and glue pictures that match each color. Older children can write poems or stories about each color on the pages.


Color tablets- Another classic Montessori work. This requires two sets of the same paint samples with different shades. Cut one card and keep one card whole. Kids can then place the colors in the proper light ---> dark or dark ---> light order, checking their work with the whole card.

Crafts- Once you start to view paint samples as craft supplies- the sky is the limit. Use them for mosaics, scrapbooking, card making, ornaments, homemade games, and more.


Puzzles- Use a larger size paint sample to make a puzzle. Draw a simple design or write a large word on the card. Next, cut into puzzle pieces- only a couple for tiny kids and more for older children. The color gradient helps children to match pieces more easily. This is excellent for kids who have a hard time with puzzles.


Stamping- Get out the stamps and have fun. Children can work open-ended or have stamping tasks- such as stamping words or stamping in a specific order based on the shade of the color.


Punching- What child doesn’t love using the hole punch? Paint samples are a good thickness for children to practice punching and gain hand strength. Try using larger craft size punches in shapes too. Your child may use the punched out items for color matching or crafts.


Cutting practice- These are also perfect for cutting practice. There are lines right on there for cutting already. Or draw a pattern or shape onto the card for the student to cut out. These are especially popular for seasonal shapes and objects.


Mosaic- Put those punched out pieces and cutting skills to good use with a mosaic. This is a great way to use up paint chips after your children are done with other activities. Add in images clipped from magazines or photos to really make it pop! Or add magnets onto the pack and kids can make art on the fridge.


Rainbow- Provide the child with one paint sample of each color. They can create a mosaic rainbow or place the cards in rainbow order.


Make blocks- You’ll need a little extra effort for this one but it’s so worth it. These are well loved as homemade toys for kids. The hardware store can cut the blocks for you. Make sure to measure the size of each paint sample so you’ll have just the right size. There are two options for this. One is to make blocks with each different hue of a color of a different side of the block. The other option is to create blocks of only one hue each so you have an entire set of variating shades of one color.

Color Clipping- Similar to the color tablets, this is designed to help with shade. Take a paint strip with several different shades on it. Cut off a thin strip from one side. Glue or tape on one shade of each onto a clothespin. The child then clips the clothespins onto the proper shade. Colorful binder clips or paper clips can also be used.


Mini Book- The square shaped and large rectangle samples make the best mini books. Use them as book covers with plain paper inside, alternate paint sample and paper, or use with construction paper. A bright, colorful mini book awaits. These are a fun way to make little spelling books, alphabet books, number books or short stories.


Bookmarks- Use the long/skinny samples for bookmarks. Children can decorate them, add ribbon or stickers, and enjoy. These are an easy gift project too.


Schedule Cards- Bring color to your daily schedule. Write one activity per section or use single colored paint chips and write one per card. These also make nice small desk-size schedules for kids to reference all day long.


Math manipulatives- Cut the different shades apart and you’ve got the perfect size math manipulative for little hands. Use in any Montessori-inspired Math project, number matching, or counting.


Spelling- Dozens of options exist for using paint samples for spelling. Here are a few ideas . Write one letter per word on the paint strips, cut them apart, and kids can piece them back together by shade. Write one word on each color. Turn into letter cards. Place spelling lists onto a paint strip.


Word families- This is an additional spelling/ reading idea. Write common word endings such as ing or all on one single color. Use a paint strip of that same shade to write the beginning letters on. Children then match up the beginning letter to the proper word ending. (Such as B+all = ball)


Decoration- Create a cute and colorful classroom and home decorations. Cut samples into letters to spell your child’s name. Cut out different shapes to create a one-of-a-kind art piece. Or make a colorful rainbow in your classroom.


Busy Bag- Put paint samples into a busy bag and see what your child comes up with on their own! If the child is old enough, include scissors, glue, tape, and a hole punch.


Sensory Box- A few samples inside a sensory box add extra color and texture. Add in paint samples that match the current theme of your sensory box. You may which to laminate them or cover them with packing tape to keep stronger for longer.


Like this?  


Take a look at these blogs for more ideas on free or cheap DIY Montessori Materials.

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See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Her family resides in an Airstream parked in Washington State and loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, Amanda blogs, loves reading, and creates hand-lettering pieces.

TED Talks for Homeschool Reading Inspiration

TED Talks for Homeschool Reading Inspiration

TED talks have become the gold-standard for inspiration, presenting new ideas, education ,and empowerment These are excellent learning videos, ways to encourage moms at home and introduce our children to new activities. It seems not a day goes by that a TED talk doesn’t appear in our Facebook news feeds. We connect to emotional stories and learn new skills through TED talks. There are even TED talks available for children now.  

Homeschoolers can find a wealth of information in TED talks as well. Many middle and high school students use TED talks for research. You’ll even find homeschoolers as featured speakers in TED talks!  

Today we bring you a list of TED talks focused on reading. We hope they’ll inspire parent and student alike.  Teens will enjoy many of these videos and parents can gain new information from them about reading skill and ways to present reading to their children.

“Why We Should Be Reading Aloud to Children by Rebecca Bellingham explores reading aloud. In today’s busy and digital era, many families don’t take the time to read aloud anymore. Study after study has shown how reading aloud to children improves their reading skills, reading comprehension and even social skills. Bellingham also touches our hearts and reminds us of some of our favorite childhood memories by recounting several classic children’s books.


“How Your "Working Memory" Makes Sense of the World” by Educational psychologist Peter Doolittle. This is a humorous and highly educational video which will benefit all areas of homeschooling, not just reading. Our working memory relates to our ability to process our current experiences, recall information, store memories and directions, and more. Doolittle gives techniques for building working memory which has been proven to give lifelong benefits for children.


For These Women Reading is a Daring Act by Laura Boushnak will especially appealling to teen girls. Boushnak shares her experiences with women in cultures where education is not readily available to, or not a priority for women. She shares how women’s lives have been changed by the fundamental ability to read and write.


What We Learned from 5 Million Books by Jean-Baptiste Michel and Erez Lieberman Aiden. Using books digitized by Google, over 500 billion words from 5 million books are analyzed. The researchers share interesting insights into human culture, history and perception by analyzing these books. Older children and teens will find this video especailly interesting.


Why a Good Book is a Secret Door” by Mac Barnet. This humorous talk by Barnet, a children’s author, recounts his life experiences and reminds us how a good book can transport our children, and ourselves, to another time and place. An inspiring talk that will make you want to snuggle up and read one of your favorites to your child.


How Books Can Open Your Mind by Lisa Bu. Bu describes how losing out on her childhood dreams led her to books. She says “Books have given me a magic portal to connect with people of the past and the present. I know I shall never feel lonely or powerless again. “ This is an inspiring video reminding educators, and students alike, about the power and benefits of books.  


Do you have favorite TED talks you use to inspire your homeschooling or that your children love? Share them with us in the comments below.

See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Amanda and her family reside in an Airstream parked in Washington State. She loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, she also blogs, works as a virtual assistant, and loves creating hand-lettering pieces.

Teaching Kids To Read With The Montessori Method

Teaching Kids To Read With The Montessori Method


Teaching Kids to Read with the Montessori Method

Language development is a paramount component of a Montessori education. The ability to read is an essential skill, one that children absolutely love to learn. The Montessori-based approach to develop reading skills gives children a solid reading foundation and confidence to read and learn on their own.



Read Out Loud.

Children who are read to often are proven to be more successful readers themselves. Read out loud from infancy. Let your child follow along with you word-by-word if they are interested. If the child is not interested in printed text, don’t force it. Having a relaxing, fun time reading snuggled up with a loved one is an excellent way to build reading skills. Many children enjoy read-alouds well into their teens.  

Make the Most of the “Sensitive Period”.

Children age 2 ½- 4 ½ are in what Maria Montessori called a “sensitive period” for learning letters and sounds. Introducing children to these concepts builds a solid foundation on which reading will follow. Following this “sensitive period” some children seem to intuitively grasp reading and take off, while others need more reading instruction and guidance. Both are ok and developmentally appropriate.


Use the Three-Period Lesson. This approach is a hallmark of what makes the Montessori method so effective.  

1- This is.  

2- Show me.

3- What is?


For example:


1- This Is. “This is the letter "S" The child sees the painted wood letter "S".


2- Show Me. Place several letters in front of the child and say “You may show me the letter ‘s’ “ and allow the child to choose the letter. If they select another letter, do not correct: Simply go back to Period 1: This Is.


3- What Is? Point to the letter ‘s’ and ask “What is this called?” If the child answers incorrectly, do not correct: Simply go back to Period 1: This Is.


Young children in particular love this approach and may ask to repeat it over and over with the same letter, picture or concept. Repeat the lesson as many times as needed until the child has competence and closure.

Take it Incrementally


Reading skills build on each other. Children begin by using letter sounds to make two-letter words, then consonant-vowel-consonant words. Next they match word cards with pictures, and eventually move on to phrases and sentences. Before you know it, the child is on to reading books and is an independent reader!


It’s OK to Step Back.


Children all have their own development and timeline with reading. Just because another child in your homeschool coop was reading independently at age six doesn’t mean your child will. If a child is not developmentally ready for a lesson, you can skip it and come back to it. Frustrated, crying children can’t learn: Step back and return to it later. Most children are reading by second grade with the Montessori method.  


Make Reading Part of Every Subject.


Once a child begins reading you can easily incorporate their newfound skills into other subjects: Geography, history, science, and natural history are especially easy topics to incorporate reading skills into. Reading is a skill, a discipline and a gift. Teaching a child to read is well worth the time and effort involved to see their confidence and ability to explore the world grow.  

See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits

Math Kit I - PreK to 3rd Grade

Language Arts A - PreK to 1st Grade

Larry Shiller

Larry Shiller is President of ShillerLearning, whose mission is to help kids learn - and enjoy - math. Shiller has degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Business School and is the author of Software Excellence (Prentice-Hall).

A father of three, Shiller is active in non-profits and his hobbies include working with local startups, music (Shiller is an accomplished violinist who - when not helping children learn math and language arts - performs in the NYC tri-state area), tennis (Shiller's team made it to the USTA national finals in his skill bracket), Quoridor (Shiller is a former USA Champion), backgammon (Shiller is the Voice of Backgammon, doing commentary on backgammon tournaments worldwide), table tennis, and flying (Shiller holds a private pilot's license).