Show Me the Money!

Someday we may not have coins in the US monetary system, but for now there are the four basic coins plus a few more. Did you know the US Mint still makes a 50-cent coin? Our 11-year-old son asked for one at the bank, and the teller found him one and saved it. Apparently, while they are in circulation, they aren’t easy to find.


We used this Dollar*Tree tray to play a simple game I called “Make a Dollar.” Li’l Miss and I played first. We just took turns giving the other person a coin value in 5-cent increments. Once the middle of the tray was $1.00 or more, the person who had just added to it got to keep those coins. Continue reading

Easy Ways to Share the Love on Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, I thought it would be fun to share a post about ways to share the love with others around you on Valentine’s Day.

One thing I’ll promise is that these are EASY things to do! With six children in the mix and mayhem and memories that are made here, I am usually not able to put together anything that requires more than three ingredients … whether it be food or art … or both!

Valentine’s Family Dinner


These first few photos are from our Valentine Dinner last year. For several years now, Valentine’s Day has been a celebration of our family rather than for just the Prez and me to celebrate LOVE. I will admit that sometimes it would be nice to go out on a date, but our reality is that this is just not a reality right now.

So, I decided several years ago we would start a new Valentine’s Day tradition of having a meal complete with foods I know our kids LOVE, and that have a color theme of red and pink!

Continue reading

Elementary Math: 2-Digit Subtraction Lesson and Math Facts Within 20 Mastery

I like math now. I used to think I didn’t like it very much.

Since I’ve been teaching little (and big) people about math, I have come to love it like it.

2-Digit Subtraction with Regrouping

Last week, the 2nd graders and I explored 2-digit subtraction with regrouping. I had held off on this with my 2nd graders, because they haven’t achieved mastery of their addition or subtraction math facts within 20. They do know how to find the answer if they don’t know it right away, but I wanted them to be able to say the answer within seconds on every fact. It just wasn’t happening, though with time and tools (fingers, thinking, abacus, number line, etc.) they could find the correct answer.

IMG_0498 Continue reading

Magnetic Letters: Oh the Possibilities!

Only other teachers can appreciate my LOVE of magnetic letters! 🙂 Seriously, they are so versatile! In this post, I thought I would list some ways we have used them this past semester (yes I might be slightly behind in posting photos from our school days) along with photos of those uses in progress.

Since I have multiple learners at different levels, you will find uses for multiple level learners in this post too! Grab your favorite cup of coffee, tea, soda, water … and be inspired. Oh, and please share in the comments any ways you use magnetic letters.

1). Vowel Pairs


We use our large magnetic board all the time, and one way I’ll use it is just to show my 2nd grade peeps how different vowel blends or pairs can sound the same. They find this frustrating at times and so do I quite frankly (from the teaching side), but there is nothing like being called to come up to the board and try your hand at it (hands-on!) to help their little minds to grasp this concept.

Different letter combinations can say multiple sounds AND different letter combinations can say the SAME sound.

IMG_7442 Continue reading

Let It Snow!

It has been cold outside, but no snow here … yet!

Weather predictions are ZERO degrees this weekend. Our pond is frozen already and I told the kids I’d be buying everyone a pair of ice skates if it got cold enough to skate on it. The Prez says I might have opportunity to make good on the promise.

We are enjoying some snowy-themed learning here.

We’re reading these books, which we found at our local library or we own in our library …

IMG_0178 Continue reading

Repurposed for Reading: {Sight Word Jen*ga}

I almost put it into the give-away pile as we rarely played it. Just wasn’t a favorite.

But wooden blocks? I just couldn’t let them go. Enter Pinterest. And voila!


Sight Word Jen*ga! They love it! I love it!

A great way to brush up on those sight words, some of which are memorized and a few that are still a bit of a struggle. When they find the block they want to try and pull, they must say the word first.

If they are struggling, the other player can try to help them out. We keep it fun and encouraging this way. If neither can figure it out, Mom helps out, but no matter what, they pull the block and hopefully the tower doesn’t fall!


This way though, it doesn’t feel so much like work! If you have an old Jen*ga that sets in your closet/cabinet/shelf, I recommend repurposing it and giving it a new lease on life!

Pinterest-Inspired Idea Done: SHOE TYING BOARD

Why oh why did I not do this sooner???

I just didn’t. That is why. Post over.

No, seriously, I meant to and then we were packing and well, life just got in the way.


Thing is though, my sweet 8-year-old son still couldn’t tie his shoes (or his swim trunks!). And it was really starting to bother him, which in turn really bothered his Momma. So, I had to do something.

One morning, I grabbed some cardboard salvaged from packaging and decided to try out an idea I had pinned months ago.


And within MINUTES, he was tying not only the laces on the board but his shoes as well!!!


Months of trying and then weeks of not trying and wondering if he would ever be able to do it … and within minutes of creating such a SIMPLE exercise for him … he could TIE HIS SHOES!!!


He was so proud by the way that he asked me to post “on your blog WITH the photos!” So here I am albeit a couple of weeks later posting about it.

IMG_6240 Continue reading

Pinterest Inspired Repurposing: Preschool Style

I can’t remember how I was inspired with how to turn things I might have thrown away or given away into worthwhile learning pursuits … before Pinterest. I don’t always copy the ideas I see exactly, but more often that not I see an idea and my brain takes over.

Here are a few ideas I had pinned and have now made a reality in our learning pursuits:

1. Counting Beads

I saw this idea on Pinterest awhile back and knew I could do this with what I had on hand *almost*. I had the beads, and I had some rings.


I just needed a few more large rings, and it would be a fun project to work on together. I found those rings at the Dollar Mart Plus (kind of like the Dollar*Tree but not quite) today. It will also hopefully be something Li’l Bit can use as she continues working on counting to 10.


She loves to count, and she loves beads. This one is a win-win if her initial interest today is any indication. This was SUPER EASY and I can see many uses, and I can say it will travel well too when I need to grab something for occupying her little mind on the go!

IMG_6226I do love Pinterest.

All you do for this is find 10 of the same size rings, and add beads on each one for numbers 1 through 10. I didn’t do a ring for “zero” but I may add that later. I then put them all together on a smaller ring. She was already counting the beads up to five today.

2. Tub of Ribbons

I found a bunch of old ribbons in our attic at our previous home while packing. I almost threw them in the get rid of pile. I just couldn’t though. They were the thick and brightly-colored wide ribbons that many of us wore as BELTS (yes, belts!) in college circa early 90s. Along with duck*head shorts. And they were still like-new. 😀

They were in a little holder my Dad made. I have different plans for that now in our nature area, but back to the ribbons and the aforementioned tub (which used to house baby wipes by the way).


I had seen an idea to sew ribbons together before putting them into a container to be pulled out of, but I decided to just do something simpler. Besides, I didn’t want to sew the ribbons together, because I knew our little dancer would prefer to twirl about with multiple ribbons about her.


Sometimes I just know how it will go, and watching her twirl and explore each new ribbon as she pulled it out of the container was priceless!

This one was simple. As I said, I had the ribbons already, but you could find these on a clearance table and/or grab some at a local craft store. Or you might find these hidden gems in your attic like I did!


First, I just put them all together in one hand by one end. Then I unfurled them all to make sure they weren’t tangling together.

Second, I placed them in the empty wet wipes container. I used the kind with the pop-top dispenser.

Third, I pulled out just a couple of inches of one end of one ribbon.

Fourth, I watched our three-year-old squeal with delight as she pulled out ribbon after ribbon.

I have about 20 ribbons in our tub, and it took her a good 15 minutes to pull them all out because she explored each one and “made matches” as she went. She also broke into spontaneous ballet twirls and spins as she pulled out the ribbons.

You may wonder what is the point? Well, I used to wonder too, but she was seeing cause and effect in action, using her fingers to pull those ribbons out (it wasn’t easy and did require some finger muscle action especially for those ribbons which end was not poking out of the container and she had to really hunt for). Also she was exploring through movement and spontaneously matched the ribbons with similar colors and/or patterns.

3. Pasta Strainer and Pipe Cleaners


Who knew? So fun, engaging, and yet so simple to do!


A dollar store pasta strainer and well-loved pipe cleaners already on hand provided 20 minutes of open-ended play that required great fine motor strength and diligent thought.


And at the end of it all, the pasta strainer made a fun hat too! Try it and let me know if your preschooler liked it as much as mine!


Summer School and Renovation Updates

This may be part of a series.


Ha, ha. The probability of that is not too high.

OK, who am I kidding? When I say the word series, that is usually part one of one. One reason for that right now might be the state of my desk and work space. It still needs quite a bit of tender loving care.


Who knows though? Maybe I will continue updating our summer school pursuits. I hope to anyway! It will at the very least keep me on task.


I have continued organizing our library, which will be used for school and other learning pursuits as well … especially reading. Just look at all those books (and space left) for little people and bigger people to easily access.



Our science and nature cabinet is organized, and everything science-related excepting a few books has been placed on (or in) the cabinet.


Our arts and crafts area is in need of more work. I do have it all set aside and much of it is ready for use, but I need my cool metal cabinets that are at the moment still in the workshop in need of cleaning and some tender-loving care.


Someone really is in summer school as he knows he has no choice but to finish his science curriculum that he has been studying since midway through his 7th grade year (yes, he just finished 8th grade). I will say science is his least favorite subject, the curriculum is very in-depth, and he still scored well on science on his standardized testing. He has just one chapter left and a couple of tests to take.


All in due time I keep telling myself. We did just move 30 miles into the country along with six children and all of our belongings. In addition, we’ve been renovating our 3,000-square-foot home (that was still original to circa 1976) as well as finishing a 2,700-square-foot space in the basement, which includes two bedrooms, a full bath, a kitchenette and a living space. Here’s a sneak peek for those who keep asking for continued renovation updates.

*The Toy Room* (out of sight and they are out of their minds to have these toys again after them being packed for more than two months!*

*A view from the inner door coming in from the garage area; you can see the big boys’ bedrooms at the far end of the room*

*LEGO zone*

I am really hoping also this summer (or what is left of it; seriously, what happened to June???) to spend some extra time with Li’l Miss and Li’l Bro on reading and language. And of course, what do they want to do? Math of course. Sigh.



So, we mixed it up and started with language, which I have no pictures of because I needed to be that involved. Math was their reward, and they loved it thus more photos!

Speaking of rewards, I love Pin*terest. Who doesn’t? But anyway, an idea inspired me to use an OLD metal hanging thing I have to create our own behavior chart.


And yes, I intend to have clips for EVERY student in my room! I don’t often have behavior (or attitude) issues from our oldest two but I do have expectations and have no problem clipping them down if needed (or up when warranted).


I like the way it turned out. It needs a little something on the top, and I need to find an orange clip and a yellow clip or something similar. I tried it out on Friday during a Summer School session, and it worked like a charm!

Beside our behavior chart, I have hung up our world maps, one large one, one smaller one that shows countries under persecution, and one that is in Chinese characters.


In language, we tried out a “new” used book I found at the curriculum sale: Preparing to Build by Rod & Staff Publishers. I was able to get two Level 2 students books as well as one teacher book for $15. It will definitely be worth that, and we’ll use it at least four days a week.

After a lesson in “What Is a Sentence?” with some exercises after, we tried out another pinterest-inspired idea: number cubes.


I can see so many uses for these dollar*tree finds (3 of the square plastic tubs for $1), but on this day I put three dice in each of them. I asked them to shake them up and then add up the three numbers. I allowed them use of their abaci, but they really didn’t need them. It was fun to see their abilities even after being away from formal math for a couple of months.

“Mommy, 5 + 5 is 10, so 5 + 5 + 4 must be … 14!”

“Mommy, I know that 3 + 3 + 3 = 9 because I can skip count my 3s! 3, 6, 9 and that is 3 groups of 3.” Sounds a lot like multiplication, doesn’t it?


I love it when they make these associations, and I love it that our math style of learning encourages them to pursue this instead of just come up with an answer. I could see using these math cubes for place value work as well as reading multiple-digit numbers along with other possibilities. I am making each of our 2nd graders math and language cubbies with manipulatives such as the number cubes in them ready to go each day. I hope to utilize many hands-on approaches.


I will be *hopefully* sharing more of our summer school learning. I am officially starting us back to school for 2013-2014 the first week of August. Between various camps, moving and renovations, I haven’t had any time to plan and prepare for this coming school year. I finally just gave myself the green light to relax and realize that our children are still learning every day with their incessant reading, daily nature walking/creek jumping/hiking/exploring, math in the everyday and helping to care for our animals as well as experimenting with a very late garden (for this area).


Oh and watching turkeys walk across our backyard as we relax with a book on the back porch!