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January 2008

let me tell you 'bout the birds in the trees ...

2 :: 365

You know that little 50's tune, right? If not, I apologize for my seemingly boring post title. :)

I didn't mean for six days to pass since my last post, but the hard drive on our desktop has run amok. I still have my laptop, but Patrick has commandeered it to do his work. Fortunately, we were able to back up most of our files - but this one-computer-between-two business means that I will have much less time in front of the screen. I plan on compensating by focusing on my behind-the-scenes work and snatching some precious moments to put up posts when Mr. Montessori By Hand is sleeping.

I have this little twinkle bouncing around in my head - a bit of a crafting series, so to speak. Stay tuned - it should be fun!

Also - be sure to check the children's book list from time to time, as I'm constantly adding new titles. I added a button in the side bar so you don't have to go fishing for that particular post whenever you are looking for something in particular for your next library trip. Hope you find it useful!


what's in a name?

a new obsession

She has a new obsession. Once you learn how to write your name, the graffiti-urge takes over. You write it on paper, in the sand, with paint - I envision the child's inner Julie Andrews twirling about while singing: "The hills are alive ... with the beautiful letters of my name!"

What a fantastic moment.

As a child, did a good part of your doodle-time consist of trying out different ways to write your name? I remember going through the peer-pressure induced "the dot over the 'i' in Meggie must have a heart" phase. Or the dramatic cursive slant that mirrored my "I'm a deep-thinking artist" phase at age 16. Then came the default scribble with a hint of an "M" post-secondary. My handwriting turned out to be more like my father's than I would have ever dared to imagine.

All of this talk of handwriting makes me nostalgic. Even in my generation, beautiful handwriting is not a staple. We are the masters of the keyboard. How wonderful would it be to exchange handwritten letters with a loved one? Of course, we all sign our names and write in a few cutesy sentences in birthday cards. But when was the last time you poured out your soul onto paper? I personally can't recall. I do all of my emotional release in person, on the phone, or through email.

And this makes me wonder - will my children ever handwrite much more than their names? What society doesn't necessitate - does it become needless, with little value? After all, the written word is powerful, possessing the ability to transmit thoughts and feelings across space and time. But, of course, this can be done just as easily with the help of a computer keyboard.

Many answer-less questions. What I am certain of, however, is that children are meant to adapt to the society into which they are born. From language acquisition to musical ability, the child's brain is wired to become adept at situations that he or she frequently encounters. For example, if a child grows up in a household that has the luxury of books and parents who love to read, the child will have a deep desire to learn to read, too - just to fit in. If books are not a part of the child's daily life, the child will not be as inclined to express an interest in the written word.

The world changes, but children continue to adapt. The question is whether or not these adaptations are neutral, helpful, or harmful. I tend to think that the question of handwriting versus typing is fairly neutral when it comes to the health and happiness of a person and of society at large. There are other questions that are more pressing, such as the dramatic negative changes that television and child-directed marketing brings about in the mind and body of a child.  More on that later.

In the meantime, I'm considering reading this book, or perhaps this one.


would anyone care for some pears and chocolate corduroy?

messenger bag pear and corduroy 1

messenger bag pear and corduroy 2

messenger bag front close-up

messenger bag inside zipper pocket

messenger bag back pocket

Yum! A new version of the Mischievous Gnome Messenger Bag (available for pre-order tomorrow afternoon if you're on the mailing list!)

Wishing all of you friendly folks across the border a happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day - may we all pause to reflect upon the triumphs over injustices in the past, and not neglect the urgency of eliminating the injustices currently plaguing our society.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.


notelet front

I think I have a sewing high. You know the feeling - once you finally pick up some projects and run with them, there's nothing to stop you. It's a nice groove to finally be in, as I felt a bit lazy after a whirlwind November/December of pattern making/writing/pattern re-making/pattern re-writing. I kind of wanted to stay in Honduras and bury my head (or at least feet) in the warm sand. Once we returned from our holiday, it took a while to get the creative energy pumping through my veins once again, but I now I'm feeling it full force and reveling in it.

open notelet

This afternoon I put together this Notelet as a birthday gift for my head of school (and friend) Adriana. We Montessorians are freakishly obsessive note takers, and I think that this 7" x 9" folio will be a well-used gift.

I had forgotten how quickly this pattern comes together, especially the mini-version. (I made a full-sized version as a back-to-school gift for myself.) Really. It's awesome. The only thing keeping me from getting WAY ahead of the game for next year's holiday gifts is my limited supply of Timtex.

notelet button

The best part of it, in my opinion? My virgin voyage to covered button land. And let me tell you, I've returned a changed lady. Oh my. Coordinating fabric buttons, little embroidery designs - eeek! Was I the last person in blogoland to discover this jewel? I found my covered button kit at Reprodepot.

the wonders of metamorphism, the cute way

Remember my eyewitness account of metamorphism last summer? Here's a more snuggly version from the wee wonderfuls pattern:




chrysalis - faux suede 6" x 6" blanket with bias binding


y with detachable wings (velcro)

 Yet another lovely pattern by Hillary.  I made just a few modifications which make it, quite possibly, the coolest science softie ever! Hand sewing is so liberating - I mean - who could imagine hiking down to the hot springs at the bottom of a canyon, and while sitting down there, granite walls soaring upwards on either side of you ... being able to create something so lovely with your hands. That's the best of both worlds. It's about time that the inside hobby breaks out of it's dimly-lit mold and into fresh air. I must make a note to myself to put more hiking and hand sewing on the calendar.


emmeline in dots

Emmeline Apron for Tie One On Polka Dots

EDIT: Pattern is now available at my store!

I couldn't resist making a polka-dot Emmeline apron for this month's Tie One On. For those of you wondering about the release date for the Emmeline Apron and the Mischievous Gnome Messenger Bag patterns, your wait is almost over. The patterns should be shipped from the printer's at the beginning of next week.  They just might arrive in time to do a first shipment of orders before my parents (a.k.a. warehouse and shipping managers) head off once again (poor souls) to Hawaii, where they will be until the first week of February.

So here's what I'm planning on doing: sign up for my mailing list in the side bar, and you will receive a special discount and the ability to pre-order. In about a week I'll be sending the pre-ordering instructions to the list, along with a firm shipping date for the patterns - either January 26th or February 7th, depending on the speed of the printers and UPS.

Excitement! I can't wait to get these patterns out and see what your brilliant minds and agile sewing machines come up with!


List of Recommended Children's Books

*********Edit: You can now find these books/links and more by clicking on the "Sew Liberated Book Corner" box in my left side bar. Here's the direct link:**********

Here it is - an ever-evolving, ever-growing, Montessori/discovery-based education inspired book list.

What qualifies as a good children's book? It depends on the age and the particular child. For example, a young child who cannot yet distinguish between fact and fantasy would best be served by reality-based books such as biographies, books about the natural world, reality-based fiction, etc. An outlandish fiction might just confuse the young child, who is trying her best to understand how the real world works, and to discover her place in it. That said, I have known young children who had a firm grasp of the difference between reality and fantasy, and have greatly benefited from the language of fanciful, imagination-inducing poetry and prose. In general, I would warn against fantasy-themed books for a child under 5. The real rule of thumb, however, is to observe and "follow the child," to use Maria Montessori's own words. Your child's own interests and reactions will let you know if you've introduced the right book for her.

In general, Montessorians look for books that are beautifully written and illustrated/photographed, scientifically accurate, and multi-cultural in scope. Here's a short list of some of my favorites, organized by age and theme. **The list is small now, but be sure to check in periodically, as I will update it whenever I come across another treasure or am reminded of an old favorite!**

Click on the book titles (not the photos) for detailed descriptions of the books.

2 1/2- 6 year-olds

Favorite Poems Old and New
You probably won't need another collection of classic poems. I love this book because it's organized by theme, making it useful for choosing poetry that touches on something of interest, be it a particular animal, season, food, or feeling.

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems

Miss Rumphius My all-time, favorite children's book, which has been a favorite since I was a girl. This is the first book I bought for my own book collection for teaching.

Pelle's New Suit

Caps for Sale  For a while, I thought this book was perhaps too "fantasy-heavy" to introduce in the classroom. But then I hung out with white-faced monkeys in Honduras. Monkeys are TOTALLY capable of stealing caps! Okay - in the European countryside which seems to be the backdrop for the book? Maybe not. But still, it was one of my favorites as a child and I couldn't pass it by.

All by Myself! Truly, you can't go wrong with any book by Aliki. Feelings, The Five Senses, Corn is Maize, My Hands, and My Feet are just a few of my favorites. Fortunately for my students, several of these titles are translated into Spanish.


The Gift of the Tree The first time I read this book I was in awe. A simple, poetic account of the cycle of life of a majestic oak tree, The Gift of the Tree eloquently points out the interconnectedness of animal and plant life.

Footprints in the Snow -This is a favorite in my classroom - I have the Spanish translation. The simple prose makes it ideal for a child who is practicing reading several words at a time.

This Place in the Snow

In the Small, Small Pond

The Snowy Day

Snowflake Bentley A true story about Wilson Bentley, a Vermont boy who was fascinated with snowflakes. Bentley is credited with taking thousands of photos of these unique, six-sided wonders.

Owl Moon Incredibly beautiful, moving book. I love the special time outdoors shared by father and daughter.

The Seashore Book  Also, don't miss Charlotte Zolotow's Caldecott honor book, The Storm Book.

Cloud Dance

Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic

Summer: An Alphabet Acrostic

Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic

Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic

the carrot seed
The Carrot Seed Anyone who has planted a minuscule seed and seen it grow into something beautiful and edible will love this story. I recommend reading it in conjunction with some real-life botany experiments.

Alison's Zinnia I first came into contact with this book during my Montessori training. What a boon! I learned more about flower nomenclature from these knock-out illustrations than I had ever known before. You and your children will be able to walk through gardens and identify many common flowers.

Flower Garden



Children Just Like Me

Houses and Homes (Around the World Series) Any book by Ann Morris in the Around the World Series comes HIGHLY recommended. Young children are so interested in "everyday" necessities such as shoes, clothing, food, and modes of transportation. These books highlight how all people have similar needs, yet each culture comes up with unique ways of  meeting such needs.  A lovely addition to your cultural curriculum.

Get Dressed (Small World) Like Ann Morris's books, the Small World series allows the child to see that, while we might look different, all humans have the same needs. Other titles in the series that you should look into are:  Wash Up, Bedtime, Eating, Tidy Up, Celebrating, Smiling, and Carrying.

Corn Is Maize

Stone Soup Jon Muth takes the traditional European tale and sets it in China. Lovely illustrations. It would be interesting to read both the original and this version, and compare the similarities and differences.

Our Big Home: An Earth Poem

Colors of Mexico Also check out Colors of Australia, Colors of China, and Colors of Japan.

Children of Native America Today

Art and Music

The Quilt Story A very touching story that follows a handmade quilt though many generations in one family. If you are a crafter, treat yourself and your family to this gem of a book. It's a wonderful way to introduce a child to the value of "handmade."

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed

Age 6 and up


One Grain Of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

How Much Is a Million?

Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians Volume I
Mathmaticians are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians Volume II

Arts and Literature

Acting and Theatre

Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook If you love to sing, or have family music-making time, then this anthology is a must-have. Even if you don't know how to play chords on a guitar or piano, the lyrics will be extremely helpful. I couldn't imagine being a teacher without it!

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices A Newberry Medal winner - need I say more?

D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths You now it's a good book when you bring it to college with you to use as a reference. It is one of my most well-used books from childhood.

The Oxford Book of Story Poems

Unwitting Wisdom: An Anthology of Aesop's Fables


From Lava to Life: The Universe Tells Our Earth's Story

Earth From Above for Young Readers

The Stars: A New Way to See Them Bring this book, a flashlight, and an old quilt and lay outside with your children to observe the stars, in all seasons. You'll be in for some unforgettable evenings!

Muscles: Our Muscular System
Bones: Our Skeletal System
Guts: Our Digestive System - (and any other book by Seymour Simon)

Reference Books

Animal A real feast for the eyes. I have this one, and can't wait to get the rest of the series (see below) when I get back to the states. I consider this a must-have for any family library.

Human We were so excited to find this in Spanish at Sam's Club in Chihuahua. My students love perusing it, and especially love the photography and drawings of the different systems of the body. The sections on human culture are equally fascinating.



Festivals of the World: The Illustrated Guide to Celebrations, Customs, Events and Holidays

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

Common Birds and Their Songs A fascinating book featuring photos and facts about nearly sixty birds, PLUS an audio CD with their calls and songs.

One Hundred Flowers

National Geographic Atlas of the World

Education/Montessori books for the teacher/parent

How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way A good introduction to Montessori for the curious, and a great handbook for parents of children ages 0-6.

Discovery of the Child  If you want to read anything by Maria Montessori herself, this is my top recommendation. In it, you will find wonderful ideas to try out in the classroom and home.

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling A thought-provoking read that put me on the path towards Montessori after a difficult experience teaching in an inner-city public school.

The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom

Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage I wrote my Master's thesis on Paulo Freire. His writing makes you reflect upon education's role in the face of grave inequality.

Nurturing the Spirit: In Non-Sectarian Classrooms

a chronicle of 2008, the year of change

I've made a commitment. To myself. To do my best to see the mundane and catch it in my proverbial butterfly net, eventually transforming it into a treasure of sorts. I've signed up for Project 365.

My intentions are simple - to chronicle the last six months of our lives here in Mexico, and to provide you - and the future old lady within - a glimpse of what daily life in my 26 year-old skin was all about. Because, as Ali so eloquently stated, blogging shouldn't be the art of word-smithing around real life. It's about community and friendship. And like any dear friend, I would want you to have an un-latched window into my world, be it fascinating, boring, thoughtful, ugly, stunning, hilarious, or pensive.

I'll keep you abreast of my comings and goings every few days. Let me begin by telling you how cold it was this morning when I got in the car to drive to school ...

January 9, 2008
Ice crystals from inside my car windshield


doing the happy dance

lightbox tests 1 Spool Flashback, from Mom's sewing basket

Woot! I built my own lightbox - thank you, Dallas, for the inspiration! It works fine with my fancy pants flash, which is a good thing, because I'm sure my local hardware store doesn't carry fancy pants lights.

I'm sure this would be an excellent solution to anyone's craft photography winter woes, from the short sunlight hours to the constant grayness to my own issue of high-elevation glare. It's nice not to have to depend on so many extraneous factors just to be able to shoot a nice picture of something you've sewn/knit/cooked/made.

I know what I'll be giddily fiddling around with when I get home from school tomorrow ...



the thirteenth day

On the thirteenth day of Christmas, you all get to see some of the handmade lovelies that appeared under the palm tree on the 25th of December in Honduras.
wool scarf by kwoozy
wool scarf by kwoozy 2
This scrumptiously soft wool and fleece scarf traveled all the way from Pei in Australia. What isn't there to love? The tiny details, the colors, the coziness - ever since we returned to below freezing temps here in the mountains, this scarf has been my constant companion.

Then, of course, there were the oh-so-stupendously-amazing dresses by Jenny. What can I say? Jenny is a such a superstar. And thank you, Patrick, for taking my hints so seriously! ;)

ellybeth dress
tova dress
Side note: I'm having such a difficult time taking pictures nowadays. We live at high elevation so the sun's glare, at all hours, is intense. What's more, EVERYTHING is brown and gray. My house is surrounded by granite rocks and leafless trees. The house itself has tiny windows and little light and is painted yellow, purple and orange on the inside. Plus it's just generally ugly and certainly not photogenic. So even though I got one of these from my uber-thoughtful parents, I can't bounce the flash off of a white wall or ceiling because we don't have any. (Did I mention that most of my ceiling is particle board? It's bee-u-tee-ous.) Any suggestions? I'm feeling frustrated. Check out Jenny's photos of my Ellybeth dress in better light.

Ahem. My apologies - long side note.

So anyway - back to the uplifting content. The handmade holidays went well for our family members, too. Here's a little peek at what loved ones received from us:

For Mom and Dad - a cutting board
For my sister-in-law - cotton market tote
For my niece - velvet elephant
For my brother-in-law, an actor - moustache and beard
For the grandparents - felt soap

There's more, but I'm being coerced into an evening yoga session. Perhaps this post will come in two parts!


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