Tuesday, December 7, 2010


This week we started spelling tests for points.  Points translate into earning a treat.

I gave a spelling rule for the day and then gave ten or so words with that rule.  For example, day 1 the spelling rule or theme was: the letter A, words with the short a sound and a few words with a long A sound and a silent E at the end of the word.  So we did words like: cat, car, cane, far, hand, tape.  The older daughter wrote the words on her writing tablet (handwriting practice with spelling practice!) and my younger daughter told me the letter that the word started with.  I wrote their names on a piece of paper to keep track of their points earned.

The next day, my daughter asked, "Can we do spelling for treats again?"  Sure, I replied, glad that she actually wanted to work on her writing and spelling.  She independently made a score sheet with her name and her sister's name and we got started with the next spelling rule: ee makes the long E sound. So we did words like deep, keep, seen, meet, feet, sheep, etc.

Then, last night, when the kids saw Daddy eating ice cream, they again asked to do spelling so they could have some.  So another spelling rule: EA makes a long E sound.  So we did words like east, team, ear, fear, eat, etc.  My younger daughter just worked on forming letters: E and A.

I'm glad to have found a way to practice spelling in a fun way and to practice by focusing in on one rule at a time.  The English language can be pretty confusing so I think breaking it up into manageable chunks helps build confidence - they really can spell when given some hints on which rules to apply - and given enough practice, they will be able to distinguish/memorize which words use which letter combinations (ie, dream uses ea and seem uses ee). 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Make a How to Video

After watching some videos on crafts and origami on ActivityTV.com, my daughter was inspired to make her own video.  She was showing me, step by step how to make an envelope with a few pieces of paper.  I told her to do it again for the camera - her first how to video.

I'm glad our TV watching inspired something creative .... : )

Monday, November 29, 2010

Aids to Writing

Even before my daughter could write very well, she loved to make cards for people.  She would draw pictures, add stamps and stickers, and she would stencil someone's name.  She asked me for help with spelling, but she could find the letters on the stencil and then write it on the paper.

Through her initiative with the stencil, we began to use the stencil as a regular part of writing practice, spelling practice, letter recognition, etc.  We began to distinguish capital and lowercase letters and to use the capital letter at the beginning of a name and lowercase for the rest of the name.  Now, due to overuse and being a little torn, I need to replace my stencil for my next daughter, who is learning to write.

We also use letter stamps to spell words as well as letter stickers.  We have played matching games when teaching letter recognition: I write something and then the girls "write" it on their own pages with stamps or stickers.  They have helped me make cards before, by using stickers to spell "Merry Christmas" or "Praying for You."

One of my friends does a Bible verse activity with her son, where they cut out letters from a magazine to spell out a Bible verse and then glue it onto a sheet of paper.  She is framing these to give away as Christmas gifts from her son to grandparents.  I thought this was a great idea! But my older daughter is not too much into cutting and gluing and she wanted me to do the whole thing for her.  Maybe next year...

Anyway, through the use of cutting and gluing, stamping, stickers, and stenciling, we can have practice with spelling, making words, etc without the fine motor skills of having to form the letters perfectly.  Just another way to keep it interesting and build confidence.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Activity TV

Now, I'm not a huge TV fan but occasionally it is a good learning tool.  We have stumbled upon ActivityTV.com, which whole purpose is activity not just mindless viewing.

We have done some of the more exercise oriented topics, such as cheerleading, ballet, and dance.  We have also viewed clips from cooking, juggling and science experiments.

Now, although the purpose, especially of the more athletic ones, is to get the kids up and moving, my kids are sometimes just glued to watching it.  But I like it because I watch it with the kids and then we can all try to do it - like a short cheer or some dance steps.  It gives me some ideas of things to try with the kids.

We recently watched the classic science experiment of making a volcano erupt with baking soda and vinegar.  My daughter is already asking when do we get to try that.  Soon, I hope.

I enjoyed the cooking one about tools of the trade, because it teaches the names and uses of different items in the kitchen.  I definitely think the kids will learn more about cooking by actually doing it rather than just watching it on tv, but it gives us some ideas and it is something I feel good about them watching when we do have some screen time.

So check out ActivityTV.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another Bible Song: John 3:16

A friend recently taught me this song:  John 3:16 to the tune of "Jesus Loves Me"

God so loved the world that He
gave His one and only Son
that whosoever believes in Him
shall not perish but have eternal life.

Chorus: John 3:16 (3 times)
For God so loved the world

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Theme Week

This week we learned about Thanksgiving, with Bible lessons, library books, movies, handwriting lessons, crafts, and geography lessons.

Our week began with our Bible lesson from our normal Bible coloring book.  The lesson we have progressed to is from Exodus, when the people of Israel were complaining but God was gracious to provide them with quail and manna.  The people of Israel didn't really have a great attitude, but God is a gracious and good God, providing for our needs, so we should respond with gratitude and thanksgiving.  We have been learning 1 Timothy 4:4 "Everything God created is good; receive it with thanksgiving."

I explained the origins of our Thanksgiving celebration.  We had a history/geography lesson.  I pulled out our world map (a map mailed to us by a missions organization).  I showed how the Pilgrims had crossed the ocean from Europe to the New World.  We haven't done a lot of world geography yet, so it was a good introduction to talk about continents and oceans and countries.

The next day we were able to get a few Thanksgiving books from the library.  One book (Friendship's First Thanksgiving) was the history of Thanksgiving, with details about the Mayflower voyage, about the Indians Samoset and Squanto, about planting, about the harvest and about the feast in 1621.  The other book (Celebrate Thanksgiving) had more about modern traditions of food, parades, football and family.

For handwriting practice, we made a list of thanksgiving foods that we want to have next week.  My daughter independently wanted to do a craft: she drew an Indian, then cut it out, put stickers all around it, added a magnet to the back and stuck in on the fridge.

On Friday of this week, we watched on Hulu.com the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  It was great - it had even more details than our library book and was a great review to all that we had been talking about this week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let's Make a Book

It started with stamps and ink, just decorating paper, but it ended as a book my four year old is very proud of.  And now book making has become a regular part of our learning activities.

My four year old daughter had a few pages full of stamps, many of them from my Christmas stamp collection.  We cut out some of the pictures into square pages and stapled them together.  On the back pages, I wrote words to describe the next page, mostly dictated by my daughter.  It was a pretty simple book.  It said something like, "two penguins" or "a black bird" on one page and "a gold bird" on another.  Some pages actually had a whole sentence.  But it was a fun activity and my daughter was proud she could "read" this book to everyone.

That was several months ago and we are trying new things with our book making.  I bought some stickers that she helped me pick out.  We make a book out of some small pages stapled together (like a forth page). She puts one or two stickers on each page and then she writes one or two words describing it.  This has become our spelling and handwriting practice.  She is able to sound out a lot of words for herself, but I help her as she needs help.  So far, it has been a lot of animal stickers - cow, horse, cat, fox, bug, sheep, pig, etc. (very doable words).  But we also have lots more stickers in our collection that we are working toward - sun, star, barn, tree, ball, and harder words like butterfly, shovel, etc.  She sometimes wants to write adjectives as well "black, pink, sparkily, small" or numbers if she puts on more stickers - 5 butterflies, 3 stars, etc.

I bought a storymaking kit ($10 at Wal-mart).  It had two hard bound books, that have lines for writing at the bottom of each page and blank space at the top for illustrations.  It also came with 100 stickers and some markers, for the illustration part.  We have started working on that a little.  At first I had envisioned my daughter actually doing all the writing and illustrating herself, but in our planning phase, she came up with quite the elaborate story.  I wrote what she dictated and she is working on illustrating it.  ...

Other ideas for using book making for teaching, is to make a book to review what you have recently learned.  I purchased some planet stickers and we will eventually make a book out of these stickers, labeling them.  This type of activity could be done with any number of topics.  You could use stickers, stamps, cut outs from magazines or drawings and the words can be simple or an elaborate description, whatever fits the topic and the interest and ability of your child.

I love the idea of making books, because it is so versatile.  It keeps the learning interesting and interactive and at the end the child has something to show off what they are learning.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reading Music

I asked my friend the music major for ideas on teaching children to read music.  He said to introduce notes without the staff, so students can visually see the notes going up and down, something like this: 

Then, show them the notes on the staff, still labeled with the letter, and then eventually, show the students the notes on a staff without the labels.  

Here is where that great website (toytheater.com) comes in to play.  Under music heading, the composer game allows the kids to create music, placing different notes (quarter notes, half notes, etc) on to the letter.  Then, you can play back your music.  The kids can see the music going up and down (or staying the same) as well as hear it at the same time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Games Website

Another great site to check out: toytheater.com.  All kinds of fun games, educational for a wide variety of interests and ages. 

Our particular favorites so far, under the math tab: bowling and frogwise.  My daughter has also enjoyed exploring some of the art and music.  We haven't spent much time in the other categories yet.  Some of the activities are above her level (that is kindergarden), but there are still plenty to choose from.

Thanks Sarah, for the great tip!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Some days my kids are harder to motivate than others. Some days things go smoothly and perfectly – the kids do some learning activities, they are very helpful with all the chores, etc. But many days are not so perfect and organized and my plans for the day are at odds for their plans. On those days everything becomes a battle and I struggle with motivating my kids to stay on task, whether that be picking up their toys, or doing our school activities.

So how should I motivate my children to work with me instead of fight against me? Well, there's the bribe and reward idea. The bribing (“if you do your reading with me, I'll let you go play with your friends” or “if you pick up your toys, I'll give you some candy”) seems to work for the short run, but then the kids think that every chore completed deserves a treat or privilege. Hmmm. This is not exactly what I had in mind.

Okay, let's try threatening and yelling or punishment. That'll do it. “If you don't clean up this room right now, you can't play outside the rest of the day!” (Wait, that's punishing me more than them!) Well, that might motivate them, but if it doesn't, we are still stuck with a messy room and children who aren't allowed to go outside to play. Hmmm. Still not quite the motivation I was looking for.

Reason and expectations has actually seemed to work best. When I establish a good routine and tell the children the plans for the day ahead of time, the kids are less likely to fight me on chores or schoolwork or whatever. Set the routine that we will do two school activities everyday, no whining about it. That's just what we do. Chores are a must. There is an expectation that things must be completed before moving on to other activities, that everyone in the family contributes (although not equally, since my older girls will complain, “but the baby's not helping!”).

I build in natural rewards/consequences, which may almost be in the bribe category, but it is conveyed in a much different tone. For example, when talking about our plans for the day over breakfast, “After breakfast, we will clear the table, do our Bible lesson and math lesson. Then, we will start the laundry and do a few things in the kitchen to get ready for supper tonight. If we get all that done in time, then we can have a picnic snack on the porch.” There is a reward, but its conditional on getting all the essentials done first. And the reward is not a treat bribe so much as a natural part of our day, to which they will not get to take part in if we run out of time. This is a natural consequence rather than them bargaining with me for a bribe. Same goes for the afternoon routine – we don't go play with the neighbor kids until we have had a rest time and the house is picked up (although, we fudge on this a little by letting the neighbor kids come over sometimes and help us pick up!). And if the kids do work extra hard, I don't mind rewarding the hard work with some sort of extra treat.

I also reason with my daughter about natural consequences.* If she is complaining about doing her chores or about having to do her reading lesson, I talk to her about being a big girl. If she wants me to treat her as a big girl, then she has to do big girl things like helping me in the kitchen or doing her reading lesson. If she wants to get to big girl things, like riding her bike or playing with her friends, or staying up later than her sisters, then she has to complete her tasks. With privileges come responsibility. I think even a four year old can understand that a little bit.

So, I kind of know what works with my kids, but the daily enforcing is a much more difficult. The weather is so nice, so we go outside before all our tasks are done, and then the kids whine about having to do them later. They have their stubborn days and I have my days of less patience. Some days none of us are motivated to get anything done, but then there are days when we enjoy learning together and enjoy serving around the house together. We have those opportunities to teach our children to work at everything they do with their whole hearts, as working to the Lord (Colossians 3:23).
* By the way, I'm a fan of Kevin Leman's book Making Children Mind without Losing Yours. He talks quite a bit about natural consequences.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Education on a Budget

I'm always looking for educational things to do with my kids that are free. I do love looking at teacher supply stores and looking at bookstores for curriculum, but I don't usually spend lots of money there. Why spend money when I can find so many free alternatives?

Here are some ways we do school without spending money:
  1. Utilize the library. We love to check out books. We read together, I research things, whether parenting or homeschooling or health or topics I want to teach my kids, or how to books (like sewing and gardening, etc). I have also found books and music that I can use for teaching my music class at our homeschool co-op. We also sometimes attend a pre-school hour at the library, where the kids hear a story, do several songs, talk about the calendar, and do a few worksheet activities.
  2. Share books and other items with friends. Our reading curriculum was given to me by my sister-in-law. I've also passed on things that we are finished with or that we weren't using. We've borrowed books or videos from friends.
  3. Using items we already have. My husband made our abacus out of materials we already had at home. We also do counting activities with things around the house (money, food – like goldfish, laundry, whatever). We use lots of plain paper and some lined tablets. We make our own flashcards for reading or math. They draw and write, but we don't have a lot of worksheets or curriculum to go by. The Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling lends itself very well to a low budget approach to schooling, because it encourages using literature as a springboard for everything else.  Handwriting, spelling, etc is taught from regular books rather than text books.
  4. Use the internet. We can look up all kinds of information together. For example, we looked up the kind of flowers growing in the neighborhood, or we looked up information about geysers and watched some on youtube because their dad was on a trip at Yosemite National Park. There are also many websites with lesson plans and print outs available, for example hubbardscupboard. I also allow my children to spend a limited amount of time playing computer games. We have a few that their grandparents bought them, but I have been way more impressed with starfall.com, which is free! My daughters have learned a lot of the alphabet and sounds from this website. It also has music, stories, and holiday pages.
  5. Join a co-op. We have enjoyed going to Friday school with other families. We get to pool our resources together and offer each other new ideas. For my three kids for the whole semester, I paid $29. Not bad! Aside from doing the official Friday school, I love to exchange ideas with other moms and we sometimes get together and do activities together with our kids.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Great Website for Parents of Kindergardeners and Younger

My friend emailed me this link this week, I have to say that I'm impressed. Hubbards Cupboard has a vast amount of lesson plans and information for teaching young children, as well as a link to her blog with information on her schooling of older children.

There is a large section on Bible verse memory. There are printouts with pictures, coloring sheets, verses to song, etc. There is also preschool lesson plans with Bible verses and character traits integrated throughout. Looks like some great ideas.

There is also other ideas of what your child should know or be learning at different levels. There is some printouts and activities for various subjects (math, science, social studies, literacy, family involvement, Bible, etc).

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I have always loved to play cards. In fact, for my seventh birthday, my parents bought me 32 decks of cards!!* So, I have been anxiously awaiting the time when my kids are old enough to enjoy a game of cards with me.
  1. Crazy 8s. The time has come where now two of my girls like to play Crazy 8s. I've been amazed at how this game has taught my three year old to recognize and distinguish numbers. The girls are learning to take turns, to recognize the different suites, and to match numbers.

    Here is how we play: You begin by dealing 8 cards to each player. Put one card face up in the center of your playing area – the discard pile. The remainder of the cards becomes the draw pile. Players take turns playing a card either of the same number or same suite as the card in the discard pile or you may play an 8 and then name the suite that the next player must play. If you do not have any cards of the same suite or number, you have to draw cards until you have something to play. The first person to run out of cards wins. For more official rules and variations, see http://www.pagat.com/eights/crazy8s.html
  1. Match (or Concentration). Take several matching pairs of cards. Mix them up and turn them over. Then take turns turning over cards, trying to find a matching pair. You can make this easy by using only a few pairs, or more difficult by using half a deck. This game practices turn taking, memory skills and matching skills. It's one of the first games I have played with my children. There are picture matching games, but I still find that a deck of cards is convenient and versatile.

    1. War or Battle. This game is great for teaching greater than and less than. The traditional game is played where players are dealt equal number of cards. Then player put out one card. The player with the card of higher value takes both cards. If the cards are equal then you have to “do battle.” The player who takes all the cards wins.

      I have to admit, we rarely finish a game of war, because it can go on for a long time, and the game is a little too hard (and therefore boring) to my three year old. So, I still play it sometimes with my older child. She is learning the value of numbers. There is an addition variation suggested by the book Games for Learning, (which I have previously recommended). In this version of war, players each put out two cards. The player with the higher total keeps all four cards. I think this is a great idea for older children who are learning and practicing addition.
  1. Go Fish. This again is great to practice taking turns, practice matching and learning basics that will later turn into skills needed for higher level card games. You can vary up the game, by requiring two of a kind as a match or four of a kind as a match.

  2. Make up your own card game. I let my four year old use her creativity to come up with a new game. Like we might sort the cards into piles – of matching numbers or suites, or whatever. It's fun to play games similar to what we already play but with a different twist.

* Actually, they were supposed to be party favors to give to my friends, but we forgot to give them out, so I got to keep them!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Magnet Board

One day my daughter asked can we put pictures on a board and make them stick and move them around and tell a story. I didn't quite understand what she meant but after some more discussion I realized she was talking about something like a flannelboard that they had at church.

I thought a flannelboard sounded like a good idea for teaching Bible stories so off to the teacher supply store we went. The prices on the flannelboard stuff was a little (actually a lot) more than I was wanting to spend that day, but we came across some large punch out pictures of people and scenes from the New Testament. We took those home and stuck magnet strips on the back.

We have a nice size magnet board to tell Bible stories using these cut outs, anything from the birth of Jesus, to miracles performed by Jesus, to the resurrection. There are pictures of people Jesus healed as well as pictures of his followers and of the religious leaders. I might tell a story and then later have the kids retell it with the pictures. Or when we are with a group of kids, like during our Bible study night with friends and their kids, we might let the kids each have a character in hand and they listen for their part in the story and place it on the magnet board.

On other days we use our imagination and make up stories about people in general and transform these pictures into anything we want. Then we can make more magnets to go into our stories – cut out pictures of animals or things from magazines, glue them on cardstock for extra strength and add a magnet on the back, or put magnets on the back of family pictures.

We have also made other games/activities on our magnet board. We have magnetic letters, as well as magnetic words (a lot of which is left over from my days of teaching ESL). We have cut up craft foam into various shapes, added magnets on the back, and then made a picture with those shapes. We have glued a picture to cardstock and then cut it up, adding magnets to the back of each small piece, thus making a magnet puzzle.

One game my daughter likes to play is to put a bunch of things on the magnet board. We look at it for a minute and then close our eyes. While we are not looking, she will take something off. Then we have to look at it again and figure out what item is missing. I know they play this game at church, to reinforce what characters were all in the story or to remember some other detail like that.

We have a lot of fun with our magnet board. I think felt or flannelboards are great too for story-telling, but the magnet board lends to flexibility because for less than a dollar's worth of magnetic strips, it is easy to turn anything into a magnet!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

SCIENCE: Night Time Talks

Right before bed, the kids are interested in talking about all kinds of things just so they can stay up later and not have to go to sleep. So, on nights where we don't have a lot going on (and especially on nights when Daddy is working late or off somewhere), I start the bed time routine earlier and we have our long talks. Its early enough that I don't feel so rushed in getting them to sleep but being in their room ready for bed helps wind them down. Then we have special talks.

Often our discussions are of a scientific nature. We talk about how plants grow, about gardening, about the weather. We talk about animals and creation and how God made everything. One of my daughters likes to talk about cars and driving.We talk about stories from when they were babies, which often leads to other discussions. For example, one of my daughters was born premature and had to be in the hospital for two weeks. So we talk about hospitals and about illness. We then talk about how our bodies work and learn body parts.

We use this time to talk about questions they have. How do you make paper? How was our house built? What is it made of? If its raining here, is it raining in the next town over? How does God make it rain? How are raisins made? Sometimes they stump me and I'll have to look it up, but it makes for interesting discussions.

Sometimes we review things we have learned about or talked about during the day. Its low key discussion, quality conversation, but the kids are usally very attentive, wanting my attention as the day ends. I look forward to our night time talks and try to make them special.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Games for Learning

Making learning fun is one of my mottos for creative education. This motto is exactly what drew me to the book Games for Learning. This book gives lots of ideas for games to play with pre-schoolers through third grade. These games help children develop academic skills. The first part of the book focuses not on exact academic skills, but skills that will translate into academic success: like visual memory, sound memory, and fine motor skills, as well as logical thinking and spatial thinking.

We like to play “Matching Numbers.” This game might accomplish some of the same things as doing a maze – thinking ahead and staying within the lines (which can translate into handwriting skills). We take turns drawing a line from #1 to #1, then #2 to #2, without crossing over another line.  This can be done with more numbers for more of a challenge and written in any random order.

We also like “Drawn to Order,” also good for handwriting practice.  We take turns tracing around a small design using different colors.  The design then gets bigger and bigger.  The fine motor skills are developed through drawing (with much less pressure) rather than writing letters.

There are also many word games, like rhyming games, spelling games, categorizing games.

We haven't gotten to play a lot of these games yet, but I really like the ideas and I look forward to trying out some more of these. In fact, while trying to write this post, I keep getting distracted reading some more ideas and trying them out on the kids. You can check out the book at my amazon store or look at the author's website PeggyKaye.com

Thursday, September 30, 2010


My first two lessons of teaching rhythm at homeschool co-op.

Rhythm lesson #1
Pulse means steady beat, like the pulse in your body, the steady pumping of your heart.
Do a few songs – first time clap on the steady beat. Second time, clap to the rhythm of the word
    * Zaccheus song

    * Praise Him all ye Little Children
Rhythm lesson #2 
Look at flashcards of quarter note, half note, eighth notes.
Learn what these notes are called, and we are going to read them:
      * Quarter note – Ta
      * Eighth note – Ti Ti
      * Half note – Ta – a

Read a few rhythms that are written out on posterboard. Practice chanting them. Also practice clapping them, pulsing hands on silent beats.

Example: In the song London Bridges, each word is a beat. So if the words have two syllables, then each syllable is an eighth note. The words with one syllable are each quarter notes.

There are generally four beats in a measure. I made flashcards with four beats. We can rearrange them to play in different order. Chanting with ta and ti ti help get the concept of rhythm but it is also good to teach them to count beats within a measure. So, I have included both ways of chanting the beats.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Every Day a Song

I often find myself breaking out into song. Something in ordinary life just reminds me of a phrase from a song and I just have to sing it. So I'm always singing to my children. I probably get that from my mom, who used to wake me up singing, “Good morning, Chris, how are you? I hope you're feeling fine ...” from the Veggie Tales movie Rack, Shack and Benny.

So, here are a few songs that we just sing as life happens: Splish Splash I was Taking a Bath, Rock around the Clock, Chantilly Lace (that starts out “Hello, Baby”), Sunshine Day, (from the Brady Bunch, I think I'll go for a walk outside now...), Yakety Yak, Don't Talk Back, Lollipop, Ghostbusters (the theme song, who are you going to call?) Hmmm. So far all these songs are old songs, probably the songs my parents were singing to me... Of course, I'm always singing songs from Sound of Music as well.

I'll admit I don't know as many newer songs, except some of our favorites from Veggie Tales, Leap Frog or High School Musical. The Leap Frog Back to School has some great songs for teaching the months of the years and counting to twenty. I find myself singing them all the time, which annoys my husband a little. But at least the kids can count to twenty now without skipping 16 every time.

Of course we are also singing praise songs too. My children and I especially will sing songs about God creating and His creation. Every time we see the stars out my three year old leads us in worship with “you placed the stars in the sky and you know by name, you are amazing God.” I love how life just makes us want to sing.

It's fun also to make up our own songs. To tell silly stories with song or sing our prayers or sing about whatever we are doing. Awhile ago we made up a silly song about one of the girls giving up her pacifier. Another time, we sing to the tune of “Skip to my Lou,” about every family we know. “I knew a boy named Gideon, I knew a girl named Magdalyn, I knew a dog named Moses, skip to the Lou, my darling” and on it goes until we have sung it about all their friends, brothers, sisters, parents, pets and everything.

Or to the tune of “Here we go round the mulberry bush” sing a song about our family members and what they are doing: Daddy drives his truck to work(repeat)...early in the morning, Hannah likes to ride her bike....every single day. And on and on it can go and the kids like to help me think up the next verses.

So, what songs do you sing to your kids, or make up with your kids, or teach your kids with?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Activities for the Hyper-Active Child

What do you do with a child who is always full of energy and always into everything? I have one such child. She is good-natured, but is BUSY. Sometimes its a challenge to find constructive things for her to do (she's only three, so its hard to find age-appropriate things for her). But I find that she THRIVES when given some constructive activities instead of just commands to “stop touching that” “stop climbing” “stop getting into everything!”

So here are some ideas of how to get their energy out & learn something or accomplish something in the process.
  1. Make cleaning up into a game. Race to pick up the toys. Or “go put this in your room and come back and give me a five.” Then next round.
  2. Touching and counting items in the house. When Daddy first gets home, my three year old gets so wound up so we have her run around the house touching and counting the objects in the house – like “go touch all the beds in the house and then come back.” Next lap, go count all the chairs in the house, touch them, and come back.” After about six laps like that, she is calm enough to interact with Mama and Daddy without climbing all over Daddy.
  3. What's this made of game? We are learning the differences between metal, wood, plastic, etc. I have the kids go “touch something made of wood” “go touch something metal.” For my three year old, hands on and moving is the key to her learning. The kids also like to take small magnets and touch them to objects in the house to find out what is magnetic (helps in determining if something is metal). Sometimes, I'll find a random magnet stuck to the metal of our folding chairs.
  4. Learn the ABCs through movement. My daughter for the longest time would not sit still to even look at the ABCs. So one day, we made the letter B out of blankets and bean bags. I had her run the shape of the letter B and we talked about bean bag and blanket and bounce all start with B. Amazingly, she began to recognize the letter B, but only when I had made effort to get her moving.
  5. Tip-toe through the Tulips. This is a song I learned as a kid, singing different actions for different verses. The kids tip toe or walk or run or crawl or jump or spin through the tulips. Or roll or skip or scoot or somersault through the tulips. The kids like the song and it gets their energy out.
  6. Simon Says or as we sometimes call it, the obey game, to practice obeying. Jump up and down, do a somersault, go touch the door. Or we can even play it in the car, to keep the kids from messing with each other – raise your hands, kick your feet, wiggle your fingers, or whatever else.
  7. Finding Constructive Activities to keep busy with – playing playdough, helping Mama in the kitchen, coloring, washing dishes (or at least allowing them to play in the water a little with a few small bowls or measuring cups), building a tent with a blanket and some chairs, playing hide and seek, playing outside in the sand or playing ball.
It seems to work much better to give the child SOMETHING to do rather than constant directions to NOT do something. It is also wise to have allowable places in the house to burn off energy, while still setting limits. Maybe jumping on the bed is off limits, but allowing them to put pillows and blankets on the floor to bounce on might be okay. Limits are a must with hyper-active kids but not everything should be off limits.

Busyness is certainly better than laziness, so we don't want to squelch that productive spirit in a child, we just want to channel it in the right direction. My daughter loves to help and as she is able to master more skills I hope to channel her energy into productivity – to be like her dad, who can't sit still but loves to work and build and fix and accomplish.

Friday, September 24, 2010

School in the Kitchen

(continued from Turning Chores into Education)
I also like to have the kids help in the kitchen, although not all at the same time. Sometimes they are just watching, but I try to find something on their level to do. Sometimes, it's stirring, or getting something from the fridge, or adding seasonings or washing vegetables. We talk about food groups as we cook – name vegetables, name meats, what is dairy, what is protein, what is carbs, what has sugar in it, etc. I also teach them about different seasonings. At one time we tried to grow oregano, basil and chives, so they are learning about herbs as not just something you get from the store, but they originate from herbs or other plants.

They learn proper care of food, such as not touching raw meat or eating raw meat. 'Why, Mom?' questions then lead to discussions on bacteria and how heating food kills the bacteria (germs). The same for washing hands. They help me put food away, by sealing it, by putting things in the fridge, etc. This can lead to explanations of how food spoils or what is mold (when things do go bad, yuck!). I think including kids in our everyday activities can lead to all kinds of discussions on how the world works if we decide to take the time to answer their questions and present them with opportunities to be curious. It does sometimes take a lot of effort to include kids in the chores and it certainly not necessary to include them in every chore every day, but those everyday type chores can definitely teach kids a lot when we do take the time and energy for it.

I also let the girls help me debone a chicken. After the chicken is cooked and cooled, they help me separate the meat from the bones, the skin and the ligaments. I told them the names of the bones (I looked it up online to make sure – like the sternum, clavicle (collar bone or wishbone), vertebra). I also showed them the ligaments (joints) and how the bones are connected together. The kids like to help with this deboning process and they learn a lot from it. Later, we might just be talking about our own anatomy and the kids will point to joints and tell me how are bones are connected by ligaments. They not only have learned the terminology, but through the hands on process of deboning a chicken, they have a visual understanding of what a ligament is, what bone structure is, etc. It's more than just a vague concept from a book.

Finally, one night my husband and daughter made me cookies (how sweet!) and my husband turned it into a reading lesson. He had her get out the cookbook and read the recipe. She is just learning how to read, but she could pick out some of the words (like 'cup', 'eggs') and with some help could put together a lot of words (like 'butter' 'oats'). He taught her that 'tsp' means teaspoon. He had her go find the ingredients that she read and then had her read the label to see that the words match (like baking powder – she knew what to get when told to get the baking powder, but this was the first time that she actually read the label). It turned out to be a great reading lesson. She had so much fun, she didn't even realize that Daddy had turned it into a school activity. And the cookies were great too! It will be great having daughters that know how to cook....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What to Do While We Wait

How do you keep the kids from going stir-crazy while waiting at the doctors' office, while waiting in the car, or while they are bored somewhere that is not too kid-friendly? Here are top five educational games we do, that require little if any props:

  1. The classic Eye Spy Game. Take turns 'spying' an object in the room and 'I spy something [name the color]' and have everyone else guess what it is. This game helped my middle daughter learn her colors and then it became her favorite game. You can also vary up the game if the kids are ready for something different. 'I spy something made of wood (or metal or plastic or fabric or whatever).' or 'I spy something that starts with the letter B.'
  2. The animal game. This one does require the kids to move around a little, so maybe you wouldn't do this one in the car, but we have definitely done this when stuck in the room waiting for the doctor. Have kids (or parent and kids) take turns acting out animals while everyone guesses what it is. Sounds are usually allowed and used, which makes it too easy, but then we try to venture away from just the 'cat' 'dog' 'pig' 'cow', to ones with more movement or posture 'ostrich' 'flamingo' 'penguin' 'snake'.
  3. Name that tune. We take turns humming or la, la-ing to a song and then guessing what song it is. Again, this activity doesn't require anything but voice and turn-taking.
  4. Twenty Questions (although we don't usually limit it to just 20 questions). Someone is thinking of an object. The others guess what it is, narrowing it down by asking yes or no questions. This teaches categorizing skills and logic skills. Ask the question: is it a person? Yes. 'is it a kid? no. By logic, then it must be an adult. Or if it's not a person, then what else could it be? If it's a thing, then where is it (in this room?) or what color is it or how big is it.
  5. Quiz Time – asking questions, making it into a game. See my Quiz Time blog post for more ideas on this activity.

The great thing about the above games is that they can be played almost anywhere, with no props and can be modified for any age group or level. We can take a few minutes that we would just be waiting and play a game that will not only keep them from getting antsy, but will keep them thinking and learning as well.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Turning Chores into Education

A lot has been written about unschooling, that is, teaching through living life instead of teaching with text books, workbooks and a desk. I believe there is value in both and I do much more teaching through life than “school time” where we read or write or whatever.

For example, we turn our chores into school lessons. My daughter's favorite number is 98. Anytime we see a lot of something, she says, “there must be like 98 of them!” So, looking at our large pile of laundry, she made another such comment. So I said, “Well, let's count them and find out.” We turned doing laundry into a counting activity and that day we had 115 pieces of laundry to sort and fold! I like to have the kids help me fold clothes, either help with sorting, or folding their own clothes, or putting away the kitchen rags or whatever. It gives us an opportunity to work together, for me to teach them life skills, and sometimes we get to talk about stuff. (Of course, there are many days when having kids help is more stressful, trying to keep them on task or keeping them from fighting with each other. So, its not always fun!)

Another chore that children can learn much from, is taking care of a garden or other plants. We don't currently have a garden, but many of our friends do. Children can learn a lot from the hands on activity of gardening. At one time, we had an indoor AeroGarden, where we grew lettuce. We had to add water and nutrients and then when the plants had grown enough, the kids could go pick their own lettuce leaves to go on their tacos. Even with out a garden, kids can learn a lot about earth science from other yard work activity, such as trimming the trees, pulling up weeds, raking leaves, etc. All these activities can lead to discussions about how plants grow, about rain and the weather, about seasons, etc. When I go out to tree some branches with my big cutters, I let the kids have some scissors to cut weeds. We can work together to accomplish something and talk about it while we work.

And I desire to teach them not only life skills and academics but to teach them to enjoy working together. In our world that is so big on multi-tasking, why not do chores and school at the same time? I enjoy accomplishing two things at once!! (Hey, and it keeps the kids out of trouble, making more mess and chores to be done, if they are actually with me, helping me.)

Of course, there are lots of things to do together in the kitchen that lead to good school lessons, but that will have to be for another post....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dump Trucks to Chrysanthemums

"Dump trucks are good at dump, dump, dumping,
carrying heavy loads, lifting and tipping,
out fall the rocks, CRASH,
rumbling and tumbling,
they can work all day."

These words are stuck in my head! Why? These are the words my three year old chants all the time, from her library book that we read weeks ago. She is especially proud of memorizing these words. It's really her first time to “read” a book to someone, all by herself. She can “read” most of the book, because of its poetic, repetitive nature. (Actually, the day she learned these words, she was very sleepy and asked me to read the page over and over. I read it over and over, more softly and more rhythmic each time until she fell asleep. The next day she was quoting it to me and everyone else.)

So, here I would like to recommend several of my kids favorite books, ones with rhyme and patterns that the kids like and are easy to remember, books that are rhythmic enough to sing.

First, Dig, Dig, Digging. Each page has the same pattern of verbs and descriptions and end with the same phrase. It also lends to discussion about machinery.

Pajama Time – very rhythmic and rhymes, a bed time favorite. Another book by the same author, 15 Animals, actually has a song on their website to sing the book.

Are You Quite Polite? is fun for older kids, singing to tunes of traditional kids songs with different, funny words. Some of the songs were a little gross for my taste, but we did especially like the songs about chewing gum, about quiet in the library and about writing thank yous. The humor in these are probably for older children, but my kids like the singsong value of these poems.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? And the book by the same author, Adam, Adam, What Do You See? Have repetition that lend to letting children “read” these books by themselves.

Going Home, has a similar poem structure to the Dig, Dig, Digging book, with a repeated phrase at the end. It has a higher vocabulary than does the dig book, but has great pictures and explains to children the concept of migration.

These few below are not of the same rhythmic, poetic type books, but they have been library book favorites.

Bippity-Bop Barber Shop is a nice story about son getting his first haircut at the barbershop with Dad.
How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin has been one of our favorite library books. It has a nice story, teaches a little about pumpkins, and has some math to it (counting by 2s and 5s and 10s).

Chrysanthemum has been a favorite and it is appropriate to my little girls. Chrysanthemum is her name and she faces teasing because her name is not normal, but she learns to appreciate the meaning of her name and that it is special. (My girls don't all have “normal” names but they are names with meaning.)

I have added all these books to the recommended products, under children's books, so you can view more information about these books. We have found a lot of these books at the library, but some we also own.

The following links are good discussions about repetitive books. These articles actually both mention some of our favorite books, too!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Teaching Bible

He Established a Testimony

We have begun using this Bible curriculum for the past several weeks. It is a coloring book with a picture for every story in the Old Testament. On the page next to the the picture, is the Scripture reference and key themes that a child should learn. There are few questions or comments to guide discussion of the Bible with your children.

This curriculum has been developed by Bethlehem Baptist Church, pastored by John Piper. Several years ago, I used this curriculum to teach Sunday school to 4 and 5 year olds. I was very impressed with the introduction of the teaching manual. It encouraged teachers to study the Scripture passage for themselves and strive to teach the Bible in context. It gave a list of themes and truths that run through the Old Testament and then each lesson has one or more of these truths that need to be presented. For example, truths include: man is in need of God, God is powerful, God is loving, God is just, God is creator, sin deserves punishment, etc.  The curriculum stresses the need to teach what the text is teaching in context.  For example, when Jesus feeds 5000 people with fish and loaves from a little boy, traditional Sunday school material may teach that the boy was generous and so young children can learn to share also.  If this is all that is taught, we miss talking about the power and authority of Jesus and His nature and our lessons just become moralistic. 

While I have been challenged by the high standards of teaching the Bible as written, in context, with an eye on the character of God, I admit that this was a hard curriculum to teach in a Sunday school setting where I was expected to fill an hour and a half and all they gave me to go on was the Bible truth/theme sheet, the picture to color and the Bible reference. But I have found it very useful in an at-home setting, where we can go at our own pace and just spend 15 minutes talking about the Bible while the kids color the picture. On my more creative days, we add something to our coloring sheet that gives us more opportunity to talk about the lesson and the Bible truths for that day. For example, we drew and cut out a snake and added to the picture of Adam and Eve with the fruit in the garden and we talked about the conversation that went on there, that they were questioning God and his command. Or, we did star stamps and stickers on the picture of Abraham looking up at the sky, hearing the promise of God that the number of his descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.

So far, our Bible study time has been going well. The kids look forward to it. We can look back at the pictures and discuss the lessons from previous days. I like the chronological building of the lessons and I hope that it gives them a foundation of how things fit together in the Old Testament. It gives us something structured to go through, as well as a visual reminder of the story. This also doesn't skip stories and hard lessons that many children's Bibles skip.

So, check out He Established a Testimony. The coloring books are not that expensive and you can even just buy a digital copy to print yourself. I do recommend the teacher manual for its insight on teaching the Bible in context, but it is more pricey, if you are not using it in a church setting. You may also want to check out some of the other curriculum from Bethlehem Baptist Church – other foundational teachings, those on the New Testament and the ABCs of God.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Spell to Write and Read

Spell to Write and Read: A Step by Step Guide to Foundational Language Arts

This book fasicinates me as a linguist. I have a background in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) and this book is everything I wished I would have learned in my college courses. It gives details of all of our spelling rules in the English language that we take for granted, that we may not have even learned well ourselves.

This book goes beyond the normal phonetics and actually teaches multiple sounds for each letter. Students learn that 'a' actually makes three sounds and 's' makes the 'z' sound in addition to the 's' sound. It also teaches when spelling rules are broken, that is, when foreign words are added to the English vocabulary, like tortilla or ski. The book encourages students to sound out words based on spelling rules and then to write them.  Reading comes naturally after knowing words through spelling and writing.

I have not started using this curriculum yet, but my sister-in-law Rebekah has used it with her children. She started her children with the 100 Easy Lessons to Teach your Child to Read, in order to build up decoding skills as well as general confidence in reading. Then, she has moved on to Spell to Write and Read to focus more on spelling and handwriting and to give her children a good foundation on all areas of reading skills.

Rebekah has developed a system of flashcards to incorporate the 200 most common words in the English language and grouped them by spelling rules. These flashcards are not directly related to the book, but this book inspired her development of the flashcard system.

This curriculum does encourage a lot of writing, and she has learned to not push too hard on writing too early and to also incorporate all the types of learning more in to her teaching of spelling (that is auditory – hear the word and the spelling, visual – seeing the word, hands on – actually writing the word).

So, I look to use this book after we complete our first reading curriculum. However, the curriculum can be started without already knowing decoding skills, but it is helpful for the child to have enough fine motor skills to be able to write without too much frustration.

I'm thankful to have a sister to give me ideas and pass on her curriculum to me and I can learn from what worked for her and what didn't work.  Thanks, Rebekah for the recommendation!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Charlotte Mason Help

I have recently come across a website called “Charlotte Mason Help.” This site is written by a homeschooling mom who has recently been attending my church. I couldn't help but be impressed with her articulate teenage daughters. In fact, the daughters were the ones who pointed me to the website and told me what a passion their mom has for helping younger mothers get started with homeschooling.

So that night I checked out the website: charlottemasonhelp.com and immediately found some inspiration for teaching my own children and for ways to approach to discipline. I was particularly interested in the section on copywork.

I have recently been fighting battles with handwriting practice, with my daughter hating to write. This article emphasized quality work over quantity. It also helped me realize I may be pushing my daughter a little too hard.

Over the course of the last week, we have had great improvements in our handwriting, both in quality of work and in attitude. We are focusing now on having just a few letters done right over more letters done haphazardly and I am learning to give more focused time on helping with the handwriting and giving more immediate feedback. (And the focus part can be difficult with little ones in the house!!)

Anyway, I plan to continue to read some more articles from this website to get inspired, encouraged and to get some ideas from a mom who has much more experience.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Guerilla Learning

Guerrilla Learning: How to Give your Kids a Real Education with or without School
I enjoyed and recommend this book for several reasons. First, this book is written to all kinds of parents. It is not just a homeschooling book, but it is a book about parents being involved in their children's education, whether that be at home or in school or in any number of learning situations.

Second, this book encourages us to think beyond traditional education methods and challenges the assumption that teaching=learning. Just because something is being taught in the classroom (or at home) does not mean that the children are learning anything or that the information will be later retained.* It encourages much of education to be directed by curiosity and student interest rather than on grades. This book explains the five keys to Guerilla Learning (opportunity, timing, interest, freedom, and support) and also gives practical examples of how to use these keys to stimilate true learning.

*This is not a new idea to me. It was first introduced to me in a book called Why Nobody Learns Much of Anything at Church and How to Fix It, which is a book about teaching and learning within the church. 

Llewellyn, Grace and Amy Silver. Guerrilla Learning: How to Give your Kids a Real Education with or without School. John Wiley & Sons, Inc: New York, 2001. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Thinking about Children

While reading Nurture Shock:New Thinking about Children, I found several chapters relevant to children and education. In parallel to another book I have been reading (The Hurried Child), these authors give evidence that more and earlier is not always better. This book contains many insightful thoughts (backed up by research) on child development and how these findings sometimes go against what is popular or mainstream thinking. Well, worth the read.

Several chapters that stood out to me:
1. “Can Self-Control Be Taught?” describes Tools of the Mind program for pre-K and kindergarden students. I have used some of the ideas in teaching my young children at home. I particularly like the suggestions for teaching handwriting. Students are asked to mark which letters are best on the other students papers. Students learn what quality work looks like, distinguishing well-formed letters with the sloppy letters. I encourage my daughter to put stickers next to her best letters during our handwriting practice.

Another idea for working with young kids is to have children write out their play plan and then to stay on task with it. Children learn to focus and they have a say in how they will spend their time.

2. “Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't?” In this chapter, the authors discuss the complex process of language acquisition. One of the most determining factors of how quickly children learn to talk is parental attentiveness. This makes sense with my own children. My first child learned to talk much earlier than my other children have, I think, in part, because she had my full attention. But even now, I can see how applying this chapter to my 15 month baby has helped her in learning to speak. It is a very simple technique – repeat words for whatever your child is looking at or touching – their language acquisition is based on their interst, not on parents' interests. When children do attempt to speak, acknowledge and encourage it. These two simple steps go a long way in encouraging a child to speak, much farther than exposing them to electronic learning toys.

This book also contains information on topics ranging from children lying to rebelliousness and risk taking among teens, to teaching children to get along well with each other. There are chapters on the caveats of the self-esteem movement and on the myth of the supertrait.


Bronson, PO and Ashley Merryman.  Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children.  Hatchette Book Group: New York, 2009.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The 2 Greatest Commandments

Here's a song with all the fun movements of Father Abraham, but with different words. The repetition helps kids to learn/memorize what Jesus calls the two greatest commands.

(to the tune of Father Abraham)
Love the Lord your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul and mind and strength.
And love your neighbor as yourself.
That's what Jesus said to Him.

Repeat the song, doing the same motions as Father Abraham.

Music with Jars of Water

So I joined my first homeschool co-op this semester. I got volunteered to teach music to the first and second graders. I loved choir in high school (and college) and I play the piano. I'm often caught making up songs to teach my children something. So, I guess I can do this, I thought, although a little concerned about teaching an actual music class to this age group.

Here are a few ideas that I am trying in my attempt to teach music:

Take three glass jars and add a little water in the first jar, about half full for the second jar, and almost full on the third jar. Then, tap each jar with a spoon. It should give you three different pitches. I played around with the amount of water until I got the sounds I wanted. Then you can play a song like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Hot Cross Buns” that just require three notes.

You can also play my Psalm 67 song, which is mostly comprised of three notes. See that blogpost: Worship/Prayer for nations.html for the notes and words to the song.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Worship/Prayer for the Nations

Here is a song from Psalm 67 - a worship song and a prayer that God would be glorified, that the nations would worship Him.

If you want to play this song, here are the notes:

C       C    C   C       C     C    E    E
May the peoples praise you, oh God
C      C   E   D    E    D       C
May all the peoples praise you
 C      C    C   C    C    E  E   C     C    C   E    D      C     E      E     E   D C
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us
  C     C    C    C     C      E    E    E        C    C  C  C     E  D     E   D  C
That you may be known on the earth, your salvation among the nation
  C    C    C  C    D   D      E    F    E    D   C   C     C    E   D   E    D   C
May the nations be glad and sing for joy for you rule the nations justly
  C     C   C   C    D   D    E     F    E    D   C    C    C    E   D    E    D  E    F
May the nations be glad and sing for joy for you rule the peoples of the earth.

Monday, August 23, 2010


We made our own abacus out of beads, skewers (like for kabobs), and my husband built a little frame to put it all together. The kids had fun sorting beads with me – into groups of five. Two different colors on each row make it possible to easily count by fives and makes other adding (or subtracting) equations easier. This has been a great hands on and visual resource for teaching math. Instead of having a bunch of loose things for counting, the abacus keeps all the beads together in one spot, so none are lost, and none end up in the baby's mouth. *

Some Ideas for Using the Abacus to Teach Basic Math
  • Counting, by ones, fives, tens – the different colored beads and the rows make this easy and good for hands on and visual learning
  • Adding and subtracting. When doing subtraction flashcards, the beads make a nice to visual to help solve the problem, especially for higher numbers. It is teaching the subtraction concept in a hands on and visual manner.
  • Multiplication, although we haven't gotten there yet.
  • Place value. For example, move over 34 beads – that is 3 rows of tens and 4 extra. We look at the amount visually and then talk about how to write that number. Or I write a number and we then move over that many beads.
  • The color separation on each row I think also teaches and reinforces simple addition and subtraction. That five red beads plus two green beads equal seven beads. With some practice, children will automatically recognize that combination 2+5=7 without actually having to count every bead. It aids in the process of memorizing these math facts.

There are, I'm sure, many more uses for these colorful beads, but we haven't progressed that far yet.

* NOTE: Our first attempt at making this abacus was not so successful. My husband had drilled holes to stick the skewers through, but there wasn't anything holding them in place. When the kids pushed the beads across too hard, the beads went flying. This was fixed with some hot glue!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

James 1:19-20 Anger Management

One week, we were desperately battling temper tantrums.  I knew I needed to find something constructive for my daughter to do when she was angry.  What is an acceptable way to vent anger? I wondered.  Certainly not the tantrums we had been having.

The Lord brought to mind that we should be meditating on His Word: that is how we can not be in sin when we are angry.  I made up this song with motions from James 1:19-20 for us to sing when we are angry.  We can express our anger, but then meditate on His word, for His transforming power over our lives.

Be quick to listen (touch ears)
Slow to speak (hand to your mouth)
Slow to be angry (angry fists in front of body)
For man's anger (angry fists again)
does not bring about (crisscross hands in front of you)
the righteous life (hands/arms out to the side)
that God desires. (hands raised toward God)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bible songs

I like to make up songs to teach my kids Bible verses.  At Thanksgiving, I taught the pre-schoolers about giving thanks by making up this song based on 1 Timothy 4:4.

Here is a song I made up from Proverbs 3:5-6 and Philippians 4:6-7 about trusting the Lord.

Friday, August 20, 2010


We have a United States puzzle, where my kids are learning all the states and their locations. After working the puzzle, we sing “Fifty Nifty United States.” I highly recommend this song for teaching the states. You can view an elementary school performance on youtube. See link below:   
Another good song is "The Fifty States that Rhyme," although I don't know that one as well.  


Quiz Time

Around my house we do a thing called “Quiz Time.” This is usually played at snack time and the kids earn the snack (like goldfish or grapes or popcorn or whatever it is) by answering questions. The kids, all different ages, like playing this game and I use it to teach new things as well as refresh on old things.

For example: to my kindergardener, flash card questions – reading sight words or simple math problems, to my 3 year old – letter flash cards, and then even the 14 month baby gets questions “where is your nose?” or “what does a duck say?” For the older kids I also do questions about our address or how to spell our last name.

We usually start out with questions that I'm sure they know, but I always add a few new questions or flashcards to make it a challenge, to teach something new. And then its followed by an easy question so that the snacks keep coming.

We are adding some geography questions or questions about food groups or Bible verses we are starting to learn.

I have found that doing flashcards at the dining room table while we are eating is best. We are already all sitting down and I keep flashcards handy. Plus the baby is occupied so we can all focus on the learning time. I'm sure the baby is picking up on things already. ….

Teaching Your Child to Read

A Review of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Ugh!! Trying to teach your child to read can be very frustrating. The English language is phonetic, right? Well, sometimes. But even words that at first seem phonetic, are only phonetic when you know this spelling rule or that rule. There are so many spelling rules and letters make multiple sounds. So where do you start? If your child already knows the letters and one sound for each letter, then teaching a child to sound out words should be easy right? They should be able to read a simple children's book right? Well, right, if the child knows all the spelling rules, but a child will get easily frustrated at having to learn a new pronunciation rule every few words.  
For example, in my last sentence:
  • right - gh is silent
  • the – th makes a diffent sound than t and h separately
  • child - ch makes a different sound than c and h separately
  • knows – k is silent, the ow is the long o sound, not 'o' as in on, not 'ow' as in how
  • all – the a does not make the 'a' sound as in apple
And there are many more such examples of spelling/pronunciation rules and exceptions in the remainder of the sentence. All of this can be overwhelming to a child who is first starting to read. This is why I recommend using a reading curriculum that breaks down rules for reading (or decoding) in manageable chunks, in a way that gets kids reading fast and with confidence.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is a great book for teaching your child decoding skills. A child who does not know any letters can begin this program. The book makes reading manageable by:
  • introducing one sound at a time, so that children learn a sound well before moving on
  • teaching the skill of putting sounds together
  • it starts by introducing only lowercase letters and adds capital letters later
  • it notes rhyming words and spellings
  • letters are written slightly differently when they have different sounds, so that decoding skills are learned and there is still exposure to the real spelling of words

    • for example, th are written closer together for one sound, long vowels have lines over them, and silent letters are written in a smaller font
  • sight words that are not phonetic are introduced one at a time (like “was” or “to”)
  • new sounds for letter combinations are introduced slowly so that they are mastered, such as “ow” as in “how”
  • there are checks throughout for reading comprehension,
  • reading concepts are taught throughout – spacing between words, reading left to right and top to bottom, periods at the end of the sentence, quotation marks for speech, titles for a story, capitalization rules, etc.
Some great things about this curriculum, that make it so easy to use:
  • Directions are written so that parents know exactly what to say for each lesson and the only preparation time needed for the parents is to read the introduction
  • Children gain confidence early on and can begin reading words within just a few lessons
  • Each lesson can be done in under thirty minutes, or even less time if lessons are broken in half
A few caveats about this curriculum
  • The markings and fonts are different than what you will find in storybooks, so it is suggested that you work all the way through the curriculum so that the transition from the special decoding markings to regular font is made smoothly. I have found it helpful to supplement this curriculum with flashcards that do not have the special markings – like “see” without the long vowel marks.
  • The names of the letters are not taught until very late in the curriculum, only the sounds. This is not necessarily a problem, but something to be aware of.
  • Some of the lessons progress rather quickly, so we sometimes repeat lessons until we are ready to move on.

For more information about this book, check out www.startreading.com