Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is $1 Cheap Enough?

I am always looking for an inexpensive and quick
 learning manipulatives.

File folder games work well for me because they are easy to store,
and can usually be self-correcting.

During back to school shopping,
Target sold file folder games in their dollar section.

That's cheap enough for me!

Using one of my favorite DIY tools,
self adhesive laminating sheets,

I quickly covered the game board...

and the pieces.

A cheaper and easier to find alternative is clear Contact paper,
but the laminating sheets are clearer and a bit stiffer.

Then using another favorite tool,
my little cutting thing,
I cut apart the game pieces.


You can use the pieces as a memory game,
with pieces turned down,
or as a matching game,
where you put down one set of cards,
then match up the second set.

The only caution in buying school materials not created by
educational companies, is to watch for inaccuracies.

I bought a poster from a dollar store that was missing
several letters from the Spanish alphabet.

Some math booklets and games progess too quickly for age level.
You don't want to jump from 2 + 2 = 4
8 + 9 = 17

A phonics item might use words that begin with the correct letter,
but not the correct phonetic sound.

Church would NOT be a good clue word for the letter "c."

The Dollar Tree stores have been known to occasionally
get a small shipment from Evan Moor company.

Be on the look out for inexpensive, easy and accurate
 manipulatives to enhance your curriculum.

What inexpensive treasures have you found lately?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why I Teach Health

At first it seemed a waste of time.
I thought Health curriculums, especially in the younger years,
just taught things that Moms should be teaching at home - 
combing hair, brushing teeth, manners and nutrition.

In the older years, they were teaching things I
wanted to be the one to  introduce to my children.

Then, I learned what other parents have sadly learned.

Just because I am teaching it, doesn't mean my kids are learning.

Physically hearing doesn't impart knowledge,
physically hearing along with a willingness to comply
 and believe imparts knowledge.

I have also learned that kids are slower to believe what I tell them because, well,
I'm just their Mom.

Not dissin' my kids, just stating a fact.

Point in case, coint in pace, CASE in POINT....I always get that mixed up...

This morning my daughter, Rebekah, said, "Mom, did you know..."

(When they say this, not only do I know, I probably told them no less than 100 times.)

"...that you're supposed to wash your hands several times a day?"


Like I have said that, stated that, demanded that,
ok YELLED that
a gajillion, bajillion times?


Kids believe other people. 
It's a sad fact. 
My oldest daughter came home from her four months stint in 2nd grade public school
 and insisted horses used to have toes. 
No matter what creation things we showed her, she wouldn't budge.

It's a frightening truth that can be used for your advantage.

Kids believe other people. 
My daughter washes her hands and combs her hair
several times a day because her book told her.

I'm not washing my hands of this health curriculum, that's for sure.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Keeping Place Value in Its Place

Place value can be a mystifying concept to young children.

Place value can be a mystifying concept for adults
trying to teach  young children.

I like to use various methods to help my kids gain understanding.

I found this old place value chalkboard,
that gives a great visual of the place value columns.

We write the numbers with the digits in the correct column.

When comparing numbers, it is easy to see which number is the least
and which is the greatest.

It also comes in handy for learning to carry,
or regroup, as some curriculums call it.

Plus, it is just fun to write with chalk,
isn't it?

To utilize a place value chart,
you can make paper charts,
they're easy to find on the internet.

You could also make your own gridlines
 on a chalkboard or a dry erase board.

Anybody else have any great ideas for teaching place value?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crayons, crayons, everywhere!

The home we live in  does not have a school room,
just a large open L-shaped room that serves as living room,
dining room, sewing room, library, school room
 and occasionally a bedroom.

When you add my sewing cabinet
and all the STUFF you need to homeschool
the room can get crowded and unattractive.

My first passion was to organize the supplies we use every day.

We tried school boxes for each kid,
but they never held all the supplies they each needed.

Each kid had their own crayons.
Then, we had a huge box of community crayons.
We had crayons with the coloring books.

It seemed easier to keep most items in a community stash.

I had my heart set on an old, wooden portion of
a library card catalogue,
until I saw the prices.

I The Lord found something that worked even better.

I say the Lord because when I found this piece of furniture,
it was an answer to prayer.
Everytime I look at this piece, I am thankful for His provision.

Each drawer holds only one type of item.

One drawer holds all my glues.
Another holds all the tapes.
Other items assigned a drawer are
scissors, edging scissors, paints, rubber stamps,
skinny markers, fat markers, coloring crayons, flashcards,
pens and pencils and dry erase markers.

When we need colored pencils,
we just put that drawer on the table.

The dresser gets a lot of wear and tear,
but since shabby chic is in style,
I don't mind the paint wearing off the edges.
In 11 years, when I am done homeschooling,
I am pretty sure I can come up with a few other uses
for this amazing piece of furniture.

But for now,
the crayons aren't everywhere,
they're in one of the little black drawers.
And I have a great reminder from
Jehovah Jireh, My Provider,
who provided something more important
than a place to keep my crayons.
He provided salvation for my soul
through His Son, the Lord Jesus.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Unblocking Roadblocks

In Beka's second grade math curriculum,
she was learning measurement.

Along with memorizing the facts of measurement,
she was introduced to the standard 12 inch ruler
and a yardstick.

There were a few questions asking if  she should
use a ruler or a yardstick to measure an item.

She was confused,
then got a little frustrated.

Over the years I have learned,
when a kid is frustrated,
repeating the instructions LOUDER
or with more FRUSTRATION
doesn't help.

I won't tell you how many years it took to learn that,
it is a span that just can't be measured.

When there is a roadblock to learning,
we need to remove it, not pile on top of the roadblock
with our frustration or impatience.

Sometimes, I just put the worksheet aside
and work on something else for awhile.

Other times, I like to find a new way to approach the matter.

I like to SEE things,
Beka likes to TOUCH things,
so we created a new way to learn the concept.

A ruler and a yardstick were found,
a chart was made,
and fun ensued.

After less than five minutes of measuring with a ruler and a yardstick,
the concept was mastered.

Best of all,
we unblocked the roadblock,
and the joy of learning raced on.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quick File Folder Game

File folder games are a quick and easy way
to reinforce a concept.
If an answer key is provided for self-correcting,
the student  can use the games alone
for quiet learning time.

Yes, I said quiet.
It happens once in awhile.

Sometimes a simple workbook page
can easily become a file folder game.

Watch for concepts that your child may need extra work to master,
or concepts your other kids will need to reinforce, as well.

This day we were learning which consonants are doubled at the end of word.

This is a page from a very old Bob Jones Spelling Grade 2 workbook,
first used by my married daughter, Jana.

We copied the pages for years,
or had the kids write their answers on paper.
Beka is the only child who gets to write in the book.

 For some reason, writing in a workbook
 is a big, big deal to my homeschooled children,
whose mother is very stingy thrifty.

My alpha and omega,
my first and my last child,
enjoying the moment
of a book that is older than half my children.

To make the file folder game,
I started by making two copies of the worksheet,
one on regular paper, one on cardstock.
I always print on fast draft to save ink.

I cut out the images from the paper copy and glued them down.

I used self adhesive laminating sheets to cover the pictures. 
 It makes the game last longer and makes it washable.

Yea, you know it,
even file folder games might get kid snarf on them.
A little bit of peanut butter or jelly,
a dribble of milk,
or a booger.

OK, there might be momma goobies on them, too,
like coffee dribbles or a crumble of chocolate that dropped while
you were frantically shoving candy into your mouth before the kids caught you.
Sometimes, mommies don't like to share.
Sometimes, mommies don't have to share.
Chocolate, that is.

Back to the game that we are making washable -

The apples on the cardstock were laminated on both sides
and carefully cut out.

Little pieces of velcro were glued...

...onto the game board

...and onto the little apple pieces.

A simple game to reinforce a concept.

The smaller pieces are kept in a small resealable bag or an envelope
and stored inside the file folder.

The game is stored in my file folder box of games
 and will be played a few more times a year.

Games break the monotony of book/workbook learning,
and they can be used interactively between student and teacher,
or individually by the student.

Years ago, my husband and I noticed that almost ALL kids are excited to start school.
Somehow, that joy of learning is lost, and kids, in all learning environments,
begin to dislike school and learning.

After homeschooling 17 years,
I learned that sometimes Mommies lose their joy of teaching.

What do you do in your home to stimulate that joy of learning and teaching?
Even if you public or private school,
I know you are putting in a lot of teaching hours with homework.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Science Shelf

It's that time of year. 

School has started,
the winter rains will soon be a guest who always overstays his welcome,
and we'll be inside a lot.

We like to get in a few nature walks before umbrella season.

I don't have a book, I don't have a curriculum,
I don't have a Science journal. 
I feel pretty good about just getting outside
with two shoes that are the same
and a child whose face is wearing less than half their lunch.

Last Spring I found a shelf with a lot of neat compartments.
I put it on the fireplace mantle - empty.

I added some Scrabble letters to label the shelf.

It sat and waited and waited and waited.

When it probably gave up hope of ever being something useful again,
we went for a walk.

A tisket, a tasket, a rainbow-striped basket.

We were looking for mostly seeds,
discussing how each plant 
 gives off seed to produce more  plants the next season.

Some seeds were good to eat.
They didn't make it home to the shelf.

While she was picking blackberries,
I was enthralled with the rotting, mossy fence.

What a great plan - all plants can replant themselves.

Genesis 1:11
Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass,
the herb that yields seed,
and the fruit tree that yields fruit
according to its kind,
whose seed is in itself, on the earth”;
and it was so.

The ol' timers in Minnesota said you can always predict winter's ferocity,
according to the mulberry bushes.

Lotsa' mulberries, lotsa snow.

Not many mulberries.
Lookin' like a mild winter in the PNW,
if this is a mulberry, that is.

You got to stop and smell the roses

You've got to count your many blessings everyday...

Each square holds a treasure.

The accent on the left is a present from Beka.
She was hiking in the mountains of Montana,
and fold this old steel can.
How well she understands her Mom's obscure taste.

As the sun shines and allows time outside,
we continue to add treasures to our shelf.

Every seed shows the wisdom of the Lord
in replenishing the earth.

Each of us that know Christ as our Savior,
carry the seed of the Word within us -
seed that can be spread and grown into new believers.

May we be as proliferate as dandelions,
the plant that is determined to take over the world.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Building Tens Family With Duplos

In first grade math, Rebekah had to add a column
of three numbers for the first time.

One of the tricks they taught
was to find  combinations of ten first.

We call these facts
The Tens Family.
Every member of this family has to = 10.

 First, I had Rebekah make stacks of Duplos,
from 1 to 10,  in two colors.

 While she was busy placing the stacks
neatly on my Quilting Mate,
I made a simple worksheet using Word.

Next, I had her fill in the worksheet,
combining the stacks of Duplos,
to find the answers.

From Left to Right
10 + 0 = 10
1 + 9 = 10
2 + 8 = 10
up to
10 + 0 = 10

I love how the Duplos clearly show the members
of the Tens Family,
and the beautiful patterning of numbers. 

They are bright, easy to use,
and make Math class feel like play time.
You could also use Legos,
if you don't have crawlers around,
who would feast on your manipulatives.

Next, I had her match up problems with the same addends.

(The numbers you add together are the addends.
The answer is the sum.)

This is the Commutative Property for Addition.
Remember that from Algebra?
a + b = b + a
1 + 9 = 9 + 1
2 + 8 = 8 + 2

For each math fact they memorize,
because of the Commutative Property,
they usually are learning two problems.

The exception?

You're right.
The doubles.
In this case, 5 + 5.

I use the term Commutative in first grade. 
Kids love big words.
If they can't remember the word, fine.
But, they can still understand the concept.

I tell my kids the smarter they are,
the less math they have to learn.
By using the Commutative property,
they only have to learn 6 problems
in the Tens Family, instead of 11.

Again, the Duplos clearly show the beautiful patterning
of the Commutative Property.
Scroll back up and admire the picture.

This is one of the reasons I love math!
You so easily see we have a God of order.

 We finished off the math lesson by easily tackling the math worksheet.
You can see where she swooped the numbers together,
to first make ten,
then add the third number.
(The other swoops were for doubles.)

I was so excited about this lesson,
especially since it is the end of the year,
and I am really, really, ready to quit.

 Beka later said,
"Math took a little longer than normal, Mom,
because you really got carried away."

To soften the blow, she added,
"But that's OK, Mom, because I like Math,
especially when you get to play with Duplos."


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Heart Flashcards

At the beginning of the year, I wanted to make triangle flashcards for Rebekah.
I just used index cards, my paper cutter and a Sharpie.

Simple, easy, kinda ugly.
But, they worked.

Introducing math facts in this form shows the relationship between the numbers.
You can make two addition facts and two subtraction facts.
I introduce addition using the algebraic term "Commutative Property."
Remember a+b=b+a from 9th grade Algebra class?
It doesn't matter what order you add the numbers in addition,
the answer is the same.
If they remember the term, you're eight years ahead. 
If they don't, no biggie.

They can say the facts out loud, or write them down.
You can hold the cards up, covering one corner and ask them to fill in the missing number.
You can have them sort through all the cards and find all the other cards in the 9's Family -
5+4, 7+2, 9+0, 1+8

Then, the inspiration bug bit me.
I love hearts.
They're like a triangle.
I think children learn better when color and touching are involved.
I like to cut and paste.
That was my major, didja' know?

The larger heart is aobut 1 3/4 inches across.
The smaller one is 1 inch across.

I poked a hole through the hearts, pushed in a heart brad.
Used my sharpie to fill in the numbers.
You don't see the answer.... you do.

You can write neater.
I have had to give up my perfectionist ways for reality.
If I am a perfectionist, they won't get done.
Then we can't use them.
Then Beka ain't gunna get smarter.

Beka at the IKEA easle writing four math facts for the flashcard.

I found an adorable heart tin at the thrift store for $.99.

Life is good.

I wish I could promise you that she LOVES to use them,
but I am always real and honest.
They are prettier,
they are funner, (it's a word today)
and I had a blast making them.

She doesn't love using them,
 because she doesn't love math.
But, I'm doing what I can to make the journey more pleasant.

Maybe, with a few more bites from the inspiration bug,
she may learn to love math.

It's a goal I am shooting for.

Until then, I'm happy trying to find ways to
cut and paste those facts into her brain.

Any ideas for improving? 
For other skills you can teach with the hearts?
I'd love to hear your ideas.

(For other inspirational ideas from homeschooling mommies,
pop over to the blog carnival at Preschool Corner.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Counting By Tens

I was a little frustrated that I couldn't find my 1-100 number chart when I needed it.

I know I had touched it several times earlier in the year when I didn't need it.

I looked in a few obvious places, then gave up.

We made do.

Using a piece of posterboard, I just markered in the first rows of numbers.

As I taught Rebekah how to count by tens, I filled in a few columns.

Then, I had her fill in the rest of the rows.

I was pleasantly surprised that she caught on quickly
and enjoyed being able to use the PERMANENT Magic Marker.

It bothered my type A personality that it wasn't perfectly ordered,
but it worked.  Sometimes my rubber bands are just too tight.

An unorgainzed disappointment turned into a blessing,
because writing out the numbers cemented the concept more quickly
than just reading along with the store-bought chart.

Of course, a few days later  I found the chart in my bedroom,
in a pile that should have been dealt with months ago, 
 so I will use it to reinforce the concept.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brain Hats

I love to cut and paste.  In college, I would sometimes even proclaim  "Cut and Paste" as my major, instead of Elementary Education.  It was the best part of college, other than reading children's literature.

True to the contrary nature between children and parents, my kids don't always enjoy cutting and pasting.  They want to do their worksheets and get school done.

When I found these brain hats made by Chris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers,  who got them from Erin,  who got them from Ellen, I knew this would be a manditory cut and paste project.  I can always use more brains.  It seems I haven't had a rational, complete thought for years.  It seems when you start having babies and start talking baby talk, the brain cells just....uh....uh....umm.....what was I saying?

I showed the rabbit trail I took so you could see the blessings just one blog can lead you to.

There were two options, labeled or self-labeling.
Yep, I chose labeled.
We had to finish quickly or the unfinished projects would be
 shoved under couch cushions,
slipped behind a dresser,
 get kicked under the stove or fridge,
(well, how DOES stuff get under there?)
or eaten by the dog, and we don't even have a dog.

If I only had a brain!
Oh, I guess I do now.
So does Jon.

So does Rebekah.
She's doing math wearing her hat,
so I can see what portion of her brain she is currently using.
See that little yellow area? 
Yea, it's churning out math facts -
if I taped it together correctly and if Beka is wearing it correctly.

The post brain project construction area.

Not too bad.

No paper cuts, no unfinished projects.

Another win for the Cut and Past Momma!

Princess E from the Silent Kingdom

There are times in homeschooling when a  little more instruction and activity than what the curriculum provides is necesary to cement a new concept. I have always made up little games, projects, worksheets, manipulatives and activities, but never kept track of my ideas.  Blogging has provided that storage house for me.

Please let me introduce Princess E from the Silent Kingdom.  She doesn't speak, but she has the ability to change a short vowel sound in a single syllable word into its long vowel sound. 

I bought the clothespins and stands at Michaels and my son, Jon, drilled small arm holes in them for me so they would be ready to create. Rebekah did the painting, the face creating and most of the gluing.  She used chenille stems (we used to call them pipe cleaners) for arms, yarn for hair, a remnant with princess fluff on the bottom for the royal robe.  Princess had a crown, but it fell off and the vacuum ate it.

We made our own flashcards to show how hat turns to hate, fat to fate, tap to tape, win to wine.  I purchase these great plastic index card boxes at the beginning of the year when they are very cheap and keep them in a supply box until I need them for an activity.  Rebekah decorated the box with princess stickers.

Princess E regalty presides over the desk when we are going through the flashcards so we remember her special ability.

The original idea came from these vintage cards I found years ago.  Of course, I couldn't find them at the time, so I made  my own set.

I added and "ed" and "ing" card for later suffix lessons.  You can see more clearly how the root word is written on the card and the  "e" is written on the folded end.

You may feel you don't have time to do anything above and beyond your core curriculum, but sometimes it may take a day or two of worksheets for a new concept to kick in, so a project can relieve the pressure your child may feel while trying to master the skill.  The project doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't even have to be something you keep for all the kids.   Creating releases the frustration your child may feel.   By the time we were done creating and were reviewing, it made sense to Rebekah. Now, a casual glance at  Princess E reigning from the bookshelf is all it takes to review this phonics skill in her mind.