I love Hundred’s Boards – Math Monday

If you stick around here long enough, you’ll notice that I love hundred’s boards.  The various patterns and ways to learn from it are very cool in my opinion.

Here is one I recently bought on eBay.  The thing I like so much about this one is it comes with numbered tiles that can be placed in the little squares.  I like it to sequence, skip count, demonstrate patterning, adding and subtracting.  The kids think it’s cool to play with.

If you are interested in a good interactive 100s board manipulative, you can get one for your house here –

Once you have your very cool hundred’s board, you might want to check out this list of some great ways to utilize it.


Nature Study

I have increasingly felt a need to include some sort of nature study to my home school this year.  There is a wide list of reasons behind this but two of the top reasons are to get my children off the electronic dependence they have and to encourage them to see the world around them and marvel at it.

I had no idea how to go about including nature in our studies.  I’d heard a lot of Charlotte Mason enthusiasts encourage the use of nature journals, but never having done one, I wasn’t sure how to get started.  What do you include in a nature journal?  Is there a right way to keep one?  How do you ‘do’ a nature journal?  Do you categorize your journal?  For sounds simple, I felt uncertain about how to do it right.  Eventually, I decided to just start one and work it out as I went.  After all, my children are young.  We have many years to make these discoveries as we go.

So I started one.  Simple, right?  I left the first page blank and on the second page I wrote down what I saw, where I saw it and drew a (less than stellar) picture of what I saw.  I took a picture of it too – since that is my primary form of documenting things in my life.  I didn’t make a big deal about what I was doing.  I just did it.  I didn’t even make a production of having them see that I was doing it.   Then an amazing thing happened.  My two eldest children asked for nature journals!  Not only that, they asked what I’d put in mine and started creating their own versions of what they saw in the world around them!  The wild bunny in our backyard.  The bird’s nest with baby birds under our deck.  The insanely large dandelion seed head we saw at the golf course.

Then another cool thing happened.  I decided to sum up my purpose of the journal on the front page by doodling, “Be still and know that I am God.”  My children saw that and decided to add it to their books too!  Wow, there really is something to this whole setting-the-example-yourself-first concept.

So, we’ve been enjoying watching nature more.  Although with our recent heat wave here, I’ll be honest and admit we haven’t gone on any nature walks or picnics of late.  Instead, I pulled out this fun little habitat that I found and we’ve been collecting things we find in our yard.  Earlier in the week, it was a tiny frog who showed up on our back deck in the early morning hours.  Last night it was a giant grasshopper who was on the sliding glass door attracted to kitchen lights in the dark of night.  If I you knew me and knew how untypical this behavior is for me, you’d probably giggle at the thought of me on the deck being swarmed by bugs catching a huge grasshopper.  I must have been quite a sight.  But the enthusiasm from my children this morning when they saw a new creature in the habitat was worth it.

If your children are old enough, or if you have an interest in the subject yourself, I recommend watching two movies.  The first I watched and enjoyed was Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed with Ben Stiller.  I found it fascinating and wonderful that there are people who are beginning to challenge Darwinism.  Maybe there is hope for the children of America to have several options presented and let them make up their own mind.  The second movie I saw recently and enjoyed was God of Wonders.  It is a decidedly Christian world view – as the title suggests.  I intend to share it with my children even at their young ages to see if they get anything out of it.  If it helps them to begin to see the amazing way all things in our world work together and were designed to compliment each other, I’m game to share it with them now.  I expect it will be over my 6 year old son’s head but I’m going to sit with a bowl of popcorn and try it anyway.  Both of these movies are available instantly through your Netflix subscription.



Master Timeline – Classical Conversations at Home

Today I wanted to share with you something that I made for myself that made my life a lot easier.  Both as a tutor and as a mom.

This is my Master Timeline folder.  Since my feeble old brain has not mastered the timeline from start to finish, I need to know that I have it in the right order when I am either in class or reviewing with my own children.

In class, each week I hang the current timeline cards for that week and we go over the hand motions several times as a class.  However, just a few short weeks into the first semester, I realized I needed to accurately know the order when I was reviewing the previous six weeks worth with my class.  That is where this came in.

I could carry 7 weeks worth of timeline cards with me each week.  To be sure, I could do that.  However, I’m a nervous Nelly and do not wish to possibly lose one of my cards.  Additionally, 7 weeks worth of cards can be quite hefty when carried and I had several frustrating experiences last year where I was frantically searching my bags and my home school room last year for one MIA card.  The less I have to keep up with each week, the better off I am.

The method I’m suggesting to you here requires more effort up front.  No doubt.  But it’s effort that needs to be done only one time.  And right now – in July as you are excitedly preparing for this school year – is a perfect time to do it.

You will need two things to create this yourself – you need to own the cards (all of them) and you need a membership in CC connected.

On CC connected you can find three documents in the file share that you need.  One is called Timeline_Motions.pdf and the other is Timeline Pronunciation Guide.pdf.  The last is a list of our Presidents last names if you don’t already know them in order. (I don’t.)

Additionally, you need to spend some time scanning in your timeline cards two at a time.  No one can share this with you according to copyright laws and you may not store it on your computer.  So once you have completed this project, you will also need to delete it from your computer.

Within the Timeline_Motions.pdf, the last page shows you all of the alphabet in American Sign Language.  I put that on the opening page since I occasionally find myself getting mixed up on a few of the letters.


On the next page, I begin by putting the the list from CC connected on the left with the motions for the 8 time line cards for that week.  On the right, I printed out a document that printed four of my scans (totaling the 8 cards for the week) on one sheet.  You can do this by going into your printer settings and selecting how many documents you want your computer to print at a time.  Select four and it will give you this.

I do this so I can recall with one easy glance the hand  motions I’m teaching and the visual cues from the pictures on the cards.  The photograph above has a glare.  I know.  I did that on purpose because the material itself is copyrighted.  But I wanted to give you a visual about how it’s laid out in my folder.

After the 20 weeks of time line cards and motions, I have a list of our US Presidents and the pronunciation guide.  Sometimes, I’m stumped on how to say some of these time line titles.  I think the pronunciation guide is helpful.  If you don’t need it, you can easily skip it.

I find this to be significantly easier to tote to class along with only the current cards.  If you don’t elect to duplicate one of these for yourself, I hope it at least inspires you to come up with a way to make your life easier.

Blessings to you!


Math Monday – First Try

I have a child who is math phobic.  A child who knows a lot of stuff but freezes when it’s written in a worksheet form.  Last year, I created a Math Center.  Just a table where I keep our math manipulatives at the ready for an impromptu math session.  The goal was to change what was on the table every week so the children were exposed to lots of math concepts in a friendly fun way.  I was not as successful as I’d like to have been.  It was a success, but I wasn’t faithful enough about changing it around.

I’m currently in collection mode for any math related anything for my math center.  I’ve built up quite a lovely collection after the last two used curriculum sales I recently attended, a virtual tour of ebay and my state HEAV convention!  Once I have it all organized, I’ll show you some new pictures.

My current hope is to share our math ideas here each week.  Who knows where math inspiration will strike – but when it does, I’ll share it with you!

This week, I’m reading The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas by Linda Dobson.  In the book, she shares an idea from one reader about blank times tables.  This reader suggests hanging blank charts on the fridge and letting the children fill them in as they feel moved to do so.  The reader said she did it over and over for much of one school year and her children seemed to enjoy the game.  I think it might work for my kids too.  Instead of the fridge, I plan to put it out on my math center table and let them fill it in there as they feel led.  I bet they don’t realize how much of it they already know.  I think the no pressure aspect of this activity will help my cause.

I just found my blank multiplication chart here –

They also have a blank addition chart that I plan to use for my first grader along with some other great math ideas I plan to explore later.

If you are looking for a blank multiplication chart that goes to 12 (which is my personal preference) try this one –

I hope you are enjoying your summer!


Sir Ken Robinson
My favorite quotes…

“We have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education.  And it’s impoverishing our spirits and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies.”

“Like a farmer, all you can do is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”

“{Education} is about customizing to your circumstances and personalizing education to the people you are actually teaching.  Doing that, I think, is the answer to the future.”


The Token System

If you are my personal friend or knew me at my old blog, you can skip this post. However, I’m going to re-write it for my new friends who might find it useful. Today, I’m going to talk about the token system we use at my house.

Every childhood/parenting expert I’ve ever heard has spoken about “currency” when motivating a child. “Find their currency,” they will say. Is it video games? Clothes? Treats at the store? Whatever it is that is most dear to your child is your bargaining chip in parenting. That is the basic theme in their advice. At my house, I had to come up with a system that incorporated all of that but was easy for me to deal with and administer. For me, it’s my token system.

Basically, I “pay” my children in tokens. It is their allowance. When they do their chores. When I’m trying to motivate them. When I catch them being good. Whatever. Anytime I want to give them a little something, I make it uniform by giving them a token (or more) for it.

The tokens had to be something that was cheap and unique to each kid. I landed on popsicle sticks. I painted them in three different colors. Why? So that no kid would ever be tempted to claim a popsicle stick from a sibling’s collection. The problem with actually giving them money is that a) when it’s sitting on the coffee table and child 1 and 2 both claim it’s theirs, I don’t know who to believe and b) if it’s an amount that is significant and they lose it, I’d be really mad. I know I shouldn’t be because it’s “their” money but I know myself well enough to know that I would be mad. If you decide to implement this system at your house, I’d recommend looking around for whatever is cheap and on hand. Poker chips would work too. The actual tokens aren’t that important.

The tokens can be valued at any amount that makes sense to you in your family. At my house, a token is worth about .25 – .33 cents because that’s about how much a silly band costs and those are about the lowest price item I have as a reward.

This system is also a lovely thing to have in place because when you’re at the store and your child has a case of the I-want-itis, you can buy that item they say they want so much. Then you put the token value on it and put it in your “store.” If they lose interest in it and don’t earn it, you can either return it or give it away at the next birthday party they are invited to.

At my house, our “store” opens up about once a week. Usually on Saturdays. Sometimes less if no one has done anything to collect tokens lately. On that day, I open up the store (a big trunk) and the kids count their tokens and go shopping for the items in the store. Everything from silly bands, to individual packs of fruit chews (my kids go crazy for those things), to Bakugan or Zhu Zhu pets. The token amount on each item corresponds to the amount of money I paid for it. $1 = 3 tokens. My favorite thing to put in the store is consumable or intangible items. Fruit chews (which they don’t get in my house unless they buy it in the store) or tickets for an hour on the Wii. Creative things that don’t actually cost me money. For those, I just make up a token value. Enough to make it special but not so much that it’s unattainable to a young kid.

Here is my favorite part of the system. When I ask a child to pick up the family room one time and they don’t do it, I have to do it. Every time I have to do something that they should have taken care of, they have to pay me. If it’s toys in the family room, I pick them up and put them in the store. They have to buy them back. Eureka! It was so beautiful when that occurred to me. Why is it so wonderful? Well, for one, I don’t have to nag them about it. And the other reason is because once something has gone unclaimed in the store for long enough, I can get rid of it because I know it’s not really that important to them after all. Another way they have to pay me for doing their chore is to physically hand me back a token. Since it’s our currency, they have to pay me when they forget to clear their plate at the dinner table and I have to do it for them. As I am clearing the plate, I call the child away from what they are doing to go get a token out of their bucket and pay me with it. That also serves two purposes. The child is interrupted from what they are doing to go get me the token and it’s a little painful if they are saving up for that Bakugan item.

It has been a wonderful addition to my house. It’s suited to all three of my age levels. It allows them to learn about money management in a suitable manner. I recommend you consider it! Tweak it and make it work for your family.


Steve Jobs

I’ve read this in written form before but this is the first time I’ve seen it. I want my children to watch it every year and I want to watch it often. It’s so good.

Classical Conversations at Home – Math

Over the weekend, I came up with what I think will be a great tool for helping younger kids retain their Classical Conversations math facts. As a tutor, I also plan to use it in my class for review.


First I used my Cricut die cut machine to cut out some ice cream cone shapes. (If you do not own a Cricut, either use something you have or buy something cheap at the dollar store, the craft store or the teacher supply store.) I used some inexpensive bulk pink and brown cardstock to cut out the ice cream and the base cone. I decided to put it all on foam core (purchased at the dollar store) but I thought it looked drab on white so first I painted it with cheap tempura paint. I printed up a document with the first half of the math facts that we review from weeks 11-24 and used them to label above each ice cream cone. Then I covered the entire poster with contact paper. Next I printed up another document with the matching portion of the math facts from the Classical Conversations Foundations guide. Those I tacked onto the pink ice cream scoops and laminated. Finally, I used hook/loop coins to attach the pink ice cream scoops to the base cones.  On the lower right corner, I plan to attach some envelopes for storing the pink scoops while presenting the board as a matching assignment for the kids.

I might not go to this level of effort for every home school memory project but I think this one is worth it.  Given my role as CC tutor to a group of first graders and the fact that I have 6 more years of Foundations ahead of me for our family and considering this math information will be used in each cycle during those 6 years, I think this level of effort is worth it.  Additionally, my kids seem to learn well with visual, hands-on manipulatives.  Besides all that… it was simple, fun and cheap to make!

I hope you find it a blessing or an inspiration for your own home school.

Make your Classical Music fun

If you are interested in introducing classical music to your children in a fun way, I recommend this cd.  Beethoven’s Wig takes the classic symphonies and adds fun and catchy lyrics for your kids to sing along and (shhh) perhaps learn a wee bit about the composer in a few of them!  We love this cd at my house.  Give it a listen and see what you think!  (PS – the mp3 download is cheaper at Amazon than it is on iTunes.)