How to Sprout Little Gardeners

It’s that time of year again, right around the corner….GARDENING!!!!! For many gardeners, it’s hard to contain our excitement - now is the perfect time to start planning.


This is an ideal activity for your children.


First things first! Where are you going to put the garden? Allow your children to help select an area. You want a sunny location close to a water source. I have found it helpful to select a few spots and then give my child the option to choose.


Next, choose your garden layout. Will it be a tilled area in the ground? A raised bed? Or in containers? For those with limited space, a vertical garden is an excellent option, particularly suitable for those in apartments or condos. No matter where you live anyone can have a garden. Get creative!


Some cities have community gardens. Community gardens make gardening accessible to almost anyone and benefit the environment, as well as the health and wellbeing of the community members. Your Parks and Recreation Department may be able to supply information on your local options.


Now that you have chosen your location and type of garden, select the seeds you will plant. Some easy crops for first-time gardeners are squash, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, onions, and beans. You may also want to include flowers to make herbal teas and plants to benefit pollinators.


Order seed catalogs from your local seed vendor (yes, you can still get seed catalogs) or visit their website. Invite your children to participate in selecting seeds for the garden. This activity is not only relaxing and allows for free exploration, but it’s a great science activity that includes discussing your climate and the effect it has on planting times. Gardening allows your child to reconnect with nature and teaches them where their food comes from.


After you have selected your seeds, you may start your seeds inside if you do not wish to wait for the last frost or wait until the danger of frost has passed and plant the seeds straight into your garden. My personal preference is to wait and plant my seeds into the garden. Some people use milk jugs as greenhouses to plant their seeds.


Create a watering schedule. This would be a great time to have children look up how to create a drip line watering system.

Make sure to label your garden. If your child enjoys arts and crafts, this is an opportunity for them to be creative with labels. You can use popsicle sticks, rocks, paint sticks, whatever you choose just make sure it can withstand the weather conditions.


Once your seeds start sprouting, this would be a great time for older children to research what is needed for each group of plants. For example, tomatoes need to have support so they won’t break. Allow your child to figure out what will be used for support. Tomato cages, stakes, cattle panels are all good options. Some plants will need to climb such as squash.


Once your garden starts growing, for the child who loves art, allow your child to make pieces of art to put into the garden. Ideas would include making a sign out of wood. Paint old watering cans. Make stepping stones. Allow your child’s imagination to flow.


There are many extension lessons that gardening offers and would be a perfect addition to learning at home.


Subscribe to ShillerLearning below for more ideas. We’d love to see your child's garden. Tag @shillermath @shillerlearning on social or share in the ShillerLearning Facebook Community Group.


We look forward to gardening with you!

Jessica Zahner

Jessica Zahner has been working in education for 15 years - in both AMI and AMS Montessori schools. Assisting children with learning challenges, including students on the Autism Spectrum and other at risk students, is one of her specialties. As a homeschool mom she and her daughter are traversing the unique experience of home education of an only child. Jessica is fondly known for her passion for Practical Life and loves teaching parents why and how these skills are foundational for their children. The Zahners live on a working ranch and enjoy farming, gardening, and country life. When not caring for their livestock, enjoying practical homeschooling with her daughter, or working with ShillerLearning customers, you might find Jessica enjoying a perfectly brewed cup of tea from herbs grown in their abundant tea garden.

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Why Does Montessori-Style Homeschooling Work for Special Needs?

Why Does Montessori-Style Homeschooling Work for Special Needs?

The Montessori method was developed specifically for the education of students with special needs. Using a Montessori approach in your homeschool supports students of all abilities and learning styles, including special needs such as physical disabilities; learning differences in reading, writing, spelling and/or math; ADHD; and autism. Common contributors to learning struggles with traditional education models are language processing delays (students have trouble processing what they hear) and visual-spatial challenges (students have difficulty processing information received by the eyes). Montessori materials are a game-changer for students with learning challenges of all stripes.

Learning differences are not singled out; all children are presented lessons using all four learning styles: visual (seeing is believing); tactile (those wonderful Montessori materials); auditory (things like listening and singing along to music); and kinesthetic (body movement). What differs is the length of time and how often each child uses the materials or revisits activities. Some grasp concepts easily, moving through the curriculum quickly. Others spend more time exploring and interacting with the materials until concepts are mastered. This pace of personalized repetition and learning accommodates academic strengths and weaknesses in all children.

The ability to individualize and differentiate the curriculum to meet the needs of every child, whatever his or her strengths or challenges, is one of the many beneficial aspects of incorporating Montessori materials and activities into your homeschool.

With a multisensory Montessori approach to education, students learn by doing and use the materials to develop subject-related language, conceptual understanding, critical thinking, and application skills. Homeschool topics of all kinds are introduced in the concrete. As students achieve competency and closure, they are gracefully transitioned to working in the abstract. If this critical support is missing from instruction, students may struggle for years trying to build on a foundation that does not exist.

Our goal at ShillerLearning is to help students of all abilities fulfill their potential. If you have a student who is struggling with homeschool math or language arts, ShillerLearning offers diagnostic testing and a personal lesson plan builder to efficiently find and fill any gaps from earlier on that are sabotaging today’s success. Helping homeschool parents and children in the 17 years I have been at ShillerLearning has brought me indescribable joy. Explore the ShillerLearning Homeschool Blog and YouTube channel for homeschool freebies and homeschool help. Together, we can make a difference.

Antoinette LaGrossa

Veteran homeschool mom Antoinette LaGrossa has been homeschooling since 2001. Having experienced her family’s frustration with multiple math programs, Antoinette understands the struggle that can come with teaching math. That changed in 2004 when she tried ShillerMath. She joined the ShillerLearning team and has been supporting home educators for almost two decades - sharing hands-on learning tips, encouragement, and practical experience from home educating five children. Antoinette speaks at conventions across the country and is host of ShillerLearning’s Tuesdays@2.

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Language Arts Kit A (PreK/K-G1)

Language Arts Kit B (G1-G4)

Boost Homeschool Morale, Performance, and Relationships with Mentoring

Why encourage students to guide each other?

You cannot be successful in small business nor a major corporation if you don't mentor and have mentors. Yet students are seldom given this opportunity in a traditional classroom setting.

A Montessori classroom models the mixed ages of a family. Multi-age environments encourage older children to serve as leaders, both academically and socially. There is no better way to learn than to teach. Mentoring cultivates leaders and self-starters who love to learn. Children also tend to be attentive to and learn effectively from peer guidance and collaboration.  

Mentoring opportunities abound in the homeschool environment - whether with siblings, peers at co-op, or similar occasion. Dr. Maria Montessori noted an intelligent interest on the part of the older children in the progress of their little companions. Children will model the kindness and patience shown to them in their own instruction. Mentoring develops self-confidence, intellectual independence, collaboration, and diplomacy.

And a hidden benefit for multi-child families? You do not have to do ALL of the instruction nor be the only person manning the help desk.

If you notice a child losing focus, offering an additional leadership responsibility can help advance them in their academic, emotional, or social development and maturity.

How can you encourage child mentors?

You’ve probably seen this develop spontaneously many times. You can also help the interaction to blossom.  

Closely mentor and guide older children to model desired behavior. It’s not just about asking the child to help or telling the child how to assist – it is about showing the child. Model the behaviors and techniques you would like your child to imitate.

When you spot something in which a child could help another, make note that a need has been observed in one of the other children that may benefit from their support or guidance. Once aware, the child will initiate offering assistance.

You can also encourage children to present lessons and activities that they had when they were younger to other children. Mentoring is made easy with ShillerLearning's scripted lesson books (yay, no lesson preparation; just read what's in quotes!). The ShillerLearning script incorporates respect of the child in both approach and language, and the Parent Guide provides suggested responses for common situations. Children can use the script to easily mentor others. Even a child who is not yet reading can present a lesson using language arts or math manipulatives.

It is heartwarming to see a homeschool student gather a group of siblings (or coop peers) for a presentation and see the audience on the edge of their seats or engaged in meaningful dialogue.


Peer mentoring is not always from older to younger child. It can go both ways. It is important that the interaction not include body language or verbal expressions of, “You didn’t know it and I did.” Any disrespectful behaviors can be coached with a reminder of the goals and values of your family or organization. It is beneficial for students of all ages to recognize that someone younger can be a capable instructor in an area of their talent or expertise.

Ultimately, children are their own teachers; we are simply there to guide them in the journey to become functioning adults able to cultivate healthy relationships. Mentoring supports that goal with benefits for both parties - boosting morale, performance, and relationships. Children see that they are an important ingredient in family and homeschool success.

Share your favorite mentoring moments in the comments below or tag @ShillerLearning and use hashtag #childmentor or #mentoringmoments.


Antoinette LaGrossa

Veteran homeschool mom of five, Antoinette LaGrossa has been homeschooling since 2001. Having experienced her family’s frustration with multiple math programs, Antoinette understands the struggle that can come with homeschooling. Everything changed in 2004 when she tried ShillerMath. She quickly joined the ShillerLearning team and has been supporting home educators - sharing hands-on learning tips, encouragement, and practical experience from homeschooling five very different children. Antoinette speaks at conventions across the country and is host of ShillerLearning’s Tuesdays@2.

See Inside Our
Montessori-Based Kits

Language Arts Kit A (PreK/K-G1)

Language Arts Kit B (G1-G4)

Benefits of Music Education for Multisensory Learning

All learning that we experience throughout our life is multisensory - taking in all sounds, touches, smells, tastes, and sights from the environment that’s all around us. Developing theories and exploring the possibilities over many attempts is what aids children in learning how to walk and talk. There aren’t any limits to this type of learning since it’s an essential step in all people’s progression and development.


When it comes to learning music, multisensory learning is also important. Music uses at least three out of the five senses, and in some cases can be incorporated into all senses. Music education also provides a multitude of benefits to children and is essential in multisensory learning, so music education should be considered a very valuable tool.


Such senses like taste and smell may not be completely associated with musical education, but teachers tend to use dynamics in music and certain words that can be associated with those senses, such as a “sour note” or a “sweet melody.” Those words immediately can trigger those senses of taste and smell, which in turn, give a better understanding of what it is meant when utilized as a musical term.


Let’s explore the many advantages that students can gain from music in their multisensory learning.


Enhanced Cognitive Development

Brainpower is the ultimate goal of most types of learning, whether formal, like in the classroom, or more informal. With more virtual learning today there are options for online music and instrument lessons right from home, as well.


When provided musical education tactics including learning how to read and write music, those cognitive skills are put to work. Now, cognitive development happens at a multisensory level, because instead of just reading and writing the music, you’re involving the sounds each note or rhythm makes.


Senses including sight, sound, and touch will all be used simultaneously because students would not only listen to the music but also have to manually count out beats doing things like clapping or patting, which would involve the sense of touch. They might also use their bodies to feel the music as well.


There has also been a direct correlation between music and memory recall with the brain - using songs to help children memorize words and lyrics carries over into other areas of academia also when having to recall specific things for exams. It incorporates not only the sight, but sound and touch sensors, which help increase overall brainpower - when people can learn and receive information utilizing more than one sense, the understanding is greater. It also is worth mentioning that having multiple variants for teaching something is extremely helpful because not everyone is the same in how they learn.


There was a previous study done that showed academic achievements were contributed more highly to those with musical inclinations, than those who did not. Those who participated in creative arts had more success in school, greater increases in IQ scores and tests, as well as better skills in more specific subjects such as math and reading.


Expression of Feelings and Social Skills 

As children, most of our language is learned through listening to sing-song type music, a lot of the time using rhymes. This can carry over into multisensory learning, as a way to teach children how to communicate in other ways besides talking. Experiencing music visually and emotionally can create moods and feelings, and ways in which we are moved, which helps us to convey feelings that otherwise might be difficult to communicate with words.


Sometimes understanding music is a way of understanding ourselves. Certain musical genres, types of instruments, and/or voices that appeal to us provide a window into our souls, so to speak. They can open up doors to creativity and provide us with unlimited access to potential. Not to mention, social skills are equally enhanced since we can find common ground with others who share the same interests. Since music and performing arts rate very high on the creative scale, music demonstrates a powerful way to express oneself.


Along with expression, musical emotions and feelings give us insight into others. Empathy and compassion are greatly acknowledged within music, and being able to relate those feelings when you sense those feelings in others is something that it also provides.


Confidence Boosting

Performance and expression in creative arts is a judge-free experience, and one where students can feel comfortable in learning and developing without feeling that they are doing something incorrectly. This guides students in leaps and bounds to feeling more confident and sure of themselves, which also paves the way for taking more risks and obtaining a leadership-type role throughout life.


For example, teachers can provide a multisensory learning experience with music for a simple song such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” In this case, students learn rhythms and use their sense of touch doing hand movements for the spider crawling up the spout, they use sound for intonation to match the pitch/notes that are being sung or played, and they visually see either the instrument being played or the mouth that is singing to mimic what they hear. All this learning is rolled into just one simple song. It is easy to see with this reference how music reaches multisensory levels.


Another example of multisensory learning in education with music is by having students create homemade instruments. This learning experience not only helps students learn how to make music with something that they have created, but the “making” portion also ties into learning art, which is another creative subject that should be cultivated in multisensory learning.


Music is an excellent tool for learning and should always be included within the curriculum. The benefits that come from musical education reach varying degrees and are an essential part of development. Learning music at a multisensory level gives us not only fun but aids in the enhancement of real-life skills that include self-confidence and expression, ways to communicate more easily, and academic success.


Mother and writer

(word ninja to her kids)

Nicole's motto is, "Always be learning."


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Montessori Activities With Plastic Eggs

Why Plastic Easter Eggs Are Awesome for Multisensory Learning

One of the best-kept secrets in multisensory learning for kids is likely nearby. You probably have dozens sitting around at home. They’re beautiful, hold up well to little hands, and have dozens of uses. Perhaps they’re part of a pretty display in your home.  


I’m talking about Plastic Easter Eggs.  

Why Plastic Easter Eggs Are Awesome for Multisensory Learning


Surprised? I’m not kidding. Plastic Easter eggs are an incredible tool for children. Not only can they help teach dozens of concepts, but they can teach children about creative thinking too. When we present children with an object in a totally different way than they’re used to seeing it, minds open.  


As children move from concrete to abstract thinking, they begin to see the world in a new way. This is a critical skill for growing the brain and raising lifelong learners. We can help facilitate this process with activities like these. It sounds simple - a plastic egg - and it is simple to us. To a child, especially a young child, it can be surprising. These are also perfect for keeping a younger toddler occupied while working with an older child.


Your child may even laugh or seem puzzled when presented with these activities. This is normal and ok. Remember that children are still learning to see “shades of grey” so to speak. They’re still learning that objects can have multiple uses. Not only are you getting a versatile (and inexpensive) teaching tool, you’re expanding your student’s mind!

The Top Educational Activities to Create with Plastic Eggs


Gather up your Easter egg stash and together a few of these fun activities:


  • Use old egg cartons to sort eggs by color


  • One color onto each row or each crate


  • Color the inside of an egg carton, match the eggs to the proper color


  • Separate eggs and match the proper color


  • Place into a sensory bin


  • Use several different sizes of eggs


  • Sort by color


  • Sort by size


  • Practice nesting the sizes


  • Make a color wheel


  • Match to similarly colored paint strips


  • Put magnets inside for magnet fun


  • Fill each egg with something different, the child may guess what’s inside


  • Match pom poms or beads by color
  • Create egg shakers for music


  • Make two of each pitch to match the sounds


  • Make patterns


  • Motor skills work


  • Opening/ closing the egg


  • Using tweezers to pick up a half


  • Using tongs to pick up a full egg


  • Filling and emptying an egg


  • Filling an egg with pom poms with a spoon, scoop, or tweezers


  • Let a toddler who loves opening & closing things have at them!


  • Poke holes on each end to string onto a string


  • Fill with water


  • Number each egg


  • Put eggs in number order


  • Sort eggs by even/ odd


  • Skip count with eggs


  • Use in place of number cards for math


  • Match fractions with decimals


  • Write a monetary value on the outside


  • The student fills the egg with the proper coins to make that value,


  • Or write the value of a coin on the outside and allow the student to sort coins into the proper egg,


  • Match the number of dots to the proper number


  • Put a letter on each egg and use for spelling (use one egg color for vowels and another for consonants)


  • Create compound words- one portion on each half


  • Write common word endings on one side with possible beginning letter combinations on the other


  • Fill with snacks


  • Decorate with washi tape


  • Balance the egg on a spoon while walking around


  • Build with egg halves


  • Save for next year, fill and bring to a children’s hospital, retirement home, or similar location


  • Make homemade putty to fill the inside


  • Learn how to do this in our Sensory Activity Pack


  • Write a state or country on one half and the capitol on the other half, separate eggs & children find the proper match.

Have another favorite use for plastic Easter eggs? Let us know about it so we can add it to our list.  

We love to share creative ways to reuse common materials for education here on the blog so stay tuned for more.

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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.

20+ Pages of Montessori Sensorial Sensory Activities for Kids

Montessori Sensorial - Sensory Activity

Sensory-based learning and multisensory education have become buzzwords in the last few years. As rates of ADHD, Asperger’s, Autism, and other learning disabilities rise, so does awareness of sensory stimulation in education. It’s worth noting, however, that a multisensory education is excellent for all children! Teaching to all the senses, especially with young children, is nothing new.


Sensory Activities for Kids With the Montessori Method


The Montessori Method has focused on sensory lessons since its creation. Known as “sensorial works”, the senses are engaged in even young kids. Dr. Montessori identified how much more effective learning becomes when sight, sound, taste, hearing, and touch are all involved. She began building her educational philosophy with children that would today be identified as learning disabled. Early on she discovered that as the senses we brought to life in all kids, the easier it became for them to learn. Kids also were more willing and excited to learn when their senses were involved.

Infants all the way through teens (heck even adults) can embrace concepts and develop a love of learning when all their senses get to take part! While it’s easy to find resources for preschoolers, finding sensory activities for kids, especially for older children has not been easy. Sensorial works are a key part of Montessori toddler and preschool programs. They remain incorporated throughout the older years too. Finding at-home resources has proven to be difficult for ShillerLearning families.


Sensorial Lessons for Children of All Ages & Abilities


We are happy to bring you our activity pack to help solve this missing part of Montessori homeschooling. Today we’re proudly introducing our Sensory Activity Pack! At over 20 pages long and designed for all ages, we’re thrilled to bring multisensory learning to your family in an easy and accessible way.

Here’s what you’ll love about this pack:


  • Wide age range- We’ve worked hard to select Montessori-inspired sensorial activities for all ages. The minimum age on the activity is simply that- a starting point. We’ve provided ways to expand the works for all ages, even teens! If a starting age is in the single digits and you’ve got a double-digit kid- still give it a chance. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!


  • Involves kids heightened senses- Did you know children hear more sounds than adults? How about the fact that their eyes perceive different colors and brightness than ours? Their sense of touch is also much more acute than an adult’s is. And did you know their taste buds are being developed in a way that actually causes them to taste differently than we do. When your children state something is too spicy, too loud, too itchy, too bright, etc. it’s because it really is!! Their little bodies are developing and learning how to interact with the world around them. Everything is heightened. This is even more true for children with special needs. As we grow we lose touch with what that’s like for children. In this pack, we’ve made sure to involve all their senses in a gentle and delicate way. All the works can be adapted for the level your children are at.


  • Excellent for Special Needs, Learning Disabilities, and Typical Development- A multisensory education isn’t for one type of learner. If your child has learning disabilities or special needs, they can benefit from this pack! If your child doesn’t, they can benefit too! You know your child best, some works may push them to the limit of what they can tolerate. Particularly with works involving touch and taste. If you know your child struggles with a particular area, start slow. It’s ok if you don’t get through all the steps of a work at once. Perhaps you simply get through one bullet a day. Or perhaps you simply introduce the work and explain it a few days in a row before diving in. We offer this as a guide to help you curate your own journey. Take it at the pace that’s best for your child and family.
  • Expands Sensory Awareness for Parents- As we grow older, we become less in tune with our senses. It is our hope that by engaging in these activities with your children you’ll get back in touch with your senses too! These are all activities that can be enjoyed by adults. When combined with our listening pack, especially the sitting in silence activity from that pack, adults can grow their sensory awareness. Mindfulness is a practice we can all benefit from- and that the Montessori method encourages. Not only are you setting an example by engaging in these activities, but you’re also developing your brain too!


  • Includes a bonus song!- Everyone who downloads this pack will get a bonus of a downloadable song from ShillerLearning. Incorporating music into learning is a great way to help make it come alive!


  • Easy & Inexpensive- The materials needed for this pack should be mostly things you already have at home. You’ll need to purchase a handful of materials, should be under $15 for everything! Plus it’s all open and go. As long as you have your materials ready, there is no extra prep-work required. We even have the quinoa kit ready for you with the perfect amount of quinoa available. The activity pack itself is only $9.95, an amazing deal- similar packs sell for $20+!


It’s Not On Sale Forever, Grab It While You Can!


Make sure to download your 20+ page sensory activities for kids pack! You don’t want to miss out on these awesome Montessori Sensorial activities! We’re going to begin charging for these packs soon. Right now we want to get them into as many hands as possible for this low price.


Combine this activity pack with the right language art and math kits for your child’s level, plus our Around the World in 80 Activities Geography Pack and Grace & Courtesy Pack and you’ve got yourself an entire Montessori curriculum. It’s much more cost-effective than anything else on the market. Plus there are no other open & go Montessori materials on the market right now!


Grab your pack today and make sure to grab all your complementary resources. We can’t wait to hear how it helps benefit your student!


Like this?  

Check out these materials from ShillerLearning:

Quinoa Set



Wooden Blocks

Individual Manipulatives

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. When not homeschooling, she also blogs, works as a virtual assistant, and loves creating hand-lettering pieces.