Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"C" Words in My Celery Prints

Thought up a fun learning activity while making dinner last night. Cutting celery and onion for baked chicken, I noticed my celery stalk was slicing in the shape of "C". Perfect!

I finished cutting the celery slices until I had a four inch perfect-for-a-five-year-old-sized-hand piece. Then I poured a small amount of paint in a shallow Styrofoam veggie tray (a plastic lid could also be used). Instructing my five year old in print technique, I showed her how to make a "C" print by dipping the end of the celery into the thin layer of paint and pushing gently onto a white piece of paper. Perfect! Prints! Yahoo! She was very impressed, and so was I.

While the paint dried, we (all of us in the kitchen) worked together to list "C words". When the paint was completely dry, my daughter copied the words onto her paper. Perfect! Prints! Great lesson on the letter C. Love impromptu fun learning. Perfect! Prints! Learning! Yahoo!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Academics, Character, Life Skills, A Blend of Many

There's been growing concern about the academic component to home education. I understand it. Home education parents feel the weight of the future of their children riding on their shoulders. Will my child have the skill set to find employment? Will my child be accepted at XYZ college? How will my child parent his future children, my grandchildren? All valid questions.

Mothering little ones (and older ones) I decided to conduct a study. A personal observation study. What is the real focus of our days? What gets the most attention? Where do my mothering energies find themselves during the day? What actions do I find myself correcting, reminding, reviewing, and restewing (if that is a word)? My findings made me even more curious. Yes, we taught academic lessons and reviewed skills, but the skeleton of our day contained much more. Much more.

Here's a brief clip of the scenarios we encountered in a three hour period:

We sit to do math (academic). Child one brings a pencil with an inadequate eraser (problem solving, life skill). Child two sits right down and opens immediately to the lesson for the day (character-work ethic). I begin to explain the math lesson (academic) while child two listens (character-attentiveness, life skill). Child one looks for another pencil (problem solving, life skill). Child two solves the math problem without complaining (academic, character). Child one sits, ready to learn and is soon engrossed with a word problem (academic). I remind each child to line up columns in three-digit multiplication problems (academic, character-work ethic). Each child finishes his or her math problem and moves to the next problem (academics, character-work ethic). Child three runs through the living room leading to the tile floor kitchen, chasing the dog. I remind the child about the safety issues of running on tile with sock-clad feet (life skill). Child one breaks the pencil tip and complains about having to get up to find the sharpener (character-work ethic). Child two continues to work on math despite the interruptions (academic, character-work ethic). While finding a pencil sharpener, child one requests a snack and asks for carrots (character, life skill,academic-nutrition). Child two also asks for a snack, requesting chocolate chips instead of carrots (character, academic-nutrition). During snack break child four works on a vocabulary lesson (academic) and becomes curious about mortgages. She asks me about the importance of saving money and how much is needed for a down payment on a house (academic, life skill). Children one and two, having finished snack, argue over a toy, each claiming they had it first (character-selfishness, life skill-conflict resolution). I pause my conversation with child four to help children one and two work out their dispute (problem solving, life skill-conflict resolution). Sock-clad child three runs through the tiled-floor kitchen AGAIN and I remind her of the danger involved (character). Math complete, I encourage children one, two and three listen to a book on tape (academic) while I continue financial conversation with child four and fix lunch (life skill, academic).

Academic? Character? Life skills? One doesn't happen without the other. In fact, had I solely concentrated on one aspect and not the others, one child would not have completed any written work and we may have had an impromptu field trip to the emergency room or vet clinic. My personal observation study proved valuable and revealing, powerfully reminding. As a home education mom, my job is far more important and a bit more difficult than simply presenting a myriad of facts in palatable chunks. My mothering impacts the totality of my children and will resonate with them for a lifetime.

P.S. For those who know me you may wonder "Hasn't she learned this yet? I mean, she has two young adults, high school home education (and one almost college) graduates?" Apparently, I still need reminding. Smile.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chocolate + Fruit Chews = Math

All Candy 50% Off!

These signs scream math. Practical every day uses for math. And, yummy uses to boot!

Halloween two days behind us, stores in our area are posting opportunities to use practical math. 50% off $6.99, 75% off retail, and buy-one-get-two.

Reading math. Writing math. Doing math. Doesn't matter. It's all learning. Everyone gets involved. Here are some of the fun activities we've tried when chocolate and fruit chews present themselves as deals too good to pass up:
  • We purchase two to four types of chocolates and survey anyone who stops by our house :) If we're really feeling generous, we ask the person which type of candy is his or her favorite and then let them eat it. We ask for the empty wrapper and then use the "trash" for our graph.

  • We purchase M&M or Skittles fun packs and hand them out to whomever might want to experience math with us. (Now you know why the neighborhood kids like our house) We count, sort, pattern, add colors (or three for practice with multiple addends), subtract colors (we do that last so we can eat while we subtract), figure percentages and ratios, and even talk probability (what is the probability of choosing a red M&M from the bag?) All in all, it is a fun time for every age.
  • My older children love to use math to determine whether or not they are getting a "sweet" bargain. We figure out cost (If a bag of candy costs $3.99 and the sale is 50% off, what will be pay?) and cost per unit (If the bag of fruit chews costs $2.19 and there are 50 chews per bag, what is the cost of each individual chew?). Mom makes up additional hypothetical scenarios (If you have a $10.00 bill in your pocket and the candy is $3.29 per bag, how many bags could you buy and how much change would you receive from your purchase?) This has leads to conversation about sales tax, taxable and non-taxable items, and cost per pound. Yes, we've weighed candy with a kitchen scale. Very energizing.

These yummy math ideas (and more) are compiled in my Flip Three Pancakes With One Spatula book, a resource I put together after years of hands-on math activities. Yes, my children love to eat their math. Stop by my website and click on the Flip Three Pancakes page. You will find lots of resources. ENJOY!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Syllabication is a fancy word I learned a long time ago but still have trouble pronouncing. That being said, the night before I was going to teach the concept to my children I had to practice saying the word so that I could, of course, teach my kids to say the word. After saying the word we sat down to business.

Before children are able to learn to break a word into syllables, they must learn to feel the syllables of the word. In our home we internalize syllables by clapping syllables, which is one of our favorite activities (our children walk around the rest of the day clapping syllables). For example, I say the word "chocolate". Then I repeat the word while clapping at each syllable break. Finally, I have the child say and clap with me. I repeat this process until the child (or children if I am teaching or reviewing with more than one) understands clapping syllables. To make the lesson more interesting, therefore producing greater potential for retention, I usually choose a group of words that would interest the child (presidents, gardening, animal names, food choices, etc.). In the case of this blog entry our words were ice cream flavors.
If you are a follower of my blog, you know I like to create games to make learning fun. For our syllable study, I designed a set of twelve ice cream cones each labeled with a flavor of ice cream. I also designed ice cream scoops. For the first version of the game, I had a player chose a cone and together we said the flavor. Then we clapped the syllables while saying the flavor. The child then placed the corresponding number of ice cream scoops on the cone. If the flavor was "vanilla" the child placed three scoops on the cone.

For the second version of the game, we placed the cones face down in the center of our play area. Player one took a cone from the cones in the center. That player said the word and selected the number of scoops to match the syllables verbalized.

Scoop-A-Syllable was a delicious way to learn syllabication. Perhaps the only thing better was a trip to our favorite ice cream venue. The sales person was tickled when one child clapped while she ordered. That's another story for another day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie CH, CH, CH

I am often asked how I teach certain skills. My answers vary according to the topic or skill being taught. Most often teaching a skill involves a game. Some I buy. Some I create.

Lately my children have enjoyed a game I created called Chocolate Chip Cookie CH, CH, CH. Several rounds later, my girls had a pretty good handle on decoding words with CH in the initial position (words starting with CH). Here is a sampling of how the girls (ages 5 and 7) used my Chocolate Chip Cookie (could be pancakes if you'd rather) game.

For the first game we dealt out the CH cookies and put all the "ending" cookies face down in the middle. I drew a card and said the ending. If it was a two-letter ending (-at, -in, -um) I handed it to the younger player. If it was a three-letter or four-letter ending (-arm, -ant, -ess, -eese, -eat, -eap, -est) I handed it to the older player. The player said the ending and then added the CH sound, reading the word.

For the second game we dealt out the CH cookies and again put all the "ending" cookies face down in the middle. Players took turns drawing an "ending" cookie, joining it with a CH, and saying the word.

For our third game we followed the directions above but included the additional requirement of making up a silly sentence with the word. This was especially fun, a great way to end our lesson.

Later, the younger player decided to match the CH cookies with the "ending" cookies and "spell" them on the white board.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dad's Twenty-Year-Old Shirt Becomes Our History Fair Project

Two days before our support group history fair and we needed a history fair project for a younger learner. Sister had a project and she NEEDED one, too!

A Google search landed me on a grand find: the instructions for a Nettie Doll. We read the information we found online, talked about the era in which Nettie Dolls were common, and gathered scraps of fabric we had in the sewing area. We also rounded up some old clothes no longer suitable for wearing, including Dad's twenty-year-old shirt. Nestled on the carpet among a growing pile of 1/2 inch fabric strips we selected our colors. Each girl counted 35 strips of fabric and arranged them on a horizontal pile.

Then they counted 25 shorter matching strips for the arms. We followed the directions and presto...a Nettie Doll.

After making 6 (our niece was visiting) our living room carpet was covered with fabric threads and trimmings, but the end products were priceless. One young learner took an afternoon nap with her Nettie and the others are planning a "Nettie sleepover" with theirs. What fun! We learned something new, completed a project together, and built deeper relationships.

History fair will be extra special this year.

So, just in case a history fair event is in your near future, find some fabric, start cutting, and make some small authentic friends.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Pumpkin Bread and More

Pumpkin, squash, fall, oh YES!

Everybody's itching for fall. Our family begged me to make pumpkin bread this week. Our mouths watered as it baked. That scrumptious smell of cinnamon. Who could resist cutting the bread as soon as it appeared from the oven? Yummy indeed!

Here is the recipe we use. It is our absolute favorite. I came upon it fifteen or so years ago when my husband brought home the PTA cookbook from his school. Sadly I don't know who submitted the pumpkin bread recipe so I cannot credit the source. If, as you read this blog, you recognize the recipe and know the source, please let me know. Shame not to know the source of our family's favorite!

Pumpkin Bread
3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup water
2 cups pumpkin
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

Mix all liquid ingredients followed by sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin, flour and baking soda. Pour into greased and floured stem/bundt pan or two loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

*For a sensory experience, we always smell the cinnamon and nutmeg before we add it to the batter. Just something little noses enjoy!

Last evening as I prepared a squash for baking (eventually pureed to make baby food) my children noticed the seeds were smaller versions of the pumpkin seeds they had come to recognize. Discussion grew and eyes widened as we cleaned out the inside of the squash. We compared pumpkin and squash insides, noting they HAD to be members of the same food family if they had the same seeds (smile- kids are so curious). We compared seeds, talked about how each grew, compared the leaves of each plant, and wondered if they would taste similar. The questioning and learning that took place. Warms my heart.

If you are on a fall pumpkin or squash adventure, here are some book links you might find helpful:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CH, CH, Chocolate Chip Pancakes

What do "CH" sounds and CHocolate CHip pancakes have in common? Yummy learning!

This morning I ventured to the local grocery for a bag of grapes. Fast forward fifteen minutes into my shopping journey and I found myself dreaming up an engaging learning activity, sure to spark the young ones' curiosities.

Arriving home, I was greeted by three youngers and one older all wondering what was tucked in the grocery bags. To their utter surprise, mom had purchased buy-one-get-one chocolate chip pancake mix. Not the healthiest breakfast choice, but a grocery bargain as well as a catalyst for a morning of learning fun.

We read the box, followed directions, and mixed the ingredients. As I "wrote" in the pan, three pair of eyes gazed eagerly.

"MOM, you wrote a 'C'!"

Yes, indeed! Encouraged by her excitement, I "wrote" another letter.

"MOM, you wrote a 'H'!"

Yes, indeed! We now had two letters bubbling away.

"What sound do they make together?" I inquired. We all made the "CH" sound.

After making a batch of pancakes, we sat to eat. As we enjoyed our yummy CHocolate CHip pancakes we thought of more CH words.

Later in the morning, as I helped the olders with math and language arts, a younger learner cut CH words from the weekly grocery ad, creating a CH meal on a paper plate.

A productive morning indeed!

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's A Revolution!

There is a little bit of the American Revolution going around. I have several friends working their way through it, others asking about it, and we are in the middle of it, so w
hy not post one blog and help everyone on their journey through the American Revolution?

Rather than learn about the Revolution as a whole this year, we're taking a look at the events from the angles of the men and women who lived it. As a way to tie it together, we are putting all the famous faces on a timeline so the kids can visually see where the people fall in line time-wise.

Our timeline. You can see we've just started. In fact, we have two more pictures to add today: Abigail Adams and Martha Washington. A side note- our study and reading about George and Martha Washington made the kids curious about Abraham Lincoln. One of our daughters had read Meet George Washington (Step Up Books series) independently and then borrowed Meet Abraham Lincoln (Step Up Books series) from friends, so when the topic came up, the girls started sharing all they knew about our sixteenth president. Later we read about Annie Oakley somewhere, and well, our history study moved forward to the Civil War. Not sure I was done with all I wanted to study about the Revolution, but intrinsic motivation increases retention, so I decided I would rather move on and have them remember what we are studying. Later this week we will add some Civil War era folks to the time line.

Back to the Revolution. Here are some of the books we enjoyed as we studied those who fought for the independence of our country.

George Washington
Adler, David A., A Picture Book of George Washington
9780823408009: A Picture Book of George Washington

d'Aulaire, Ingri, George Washington
Harness, Cheryl, George Washington
George Washington

Heilbroner, Joan, Meet George Washington (StepUp Books series reprinted in paperback with similar text as a Landmark book)
Stevenson, Augusta, George Washington: Young Leader (Childhood of Famous Americans)

Abraham Lincoln
Adler, David A., A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln
Brenner, Martha, Abe Lincoln's Hat (Step Into Reading series)

Winters, Kay, Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Bo

Betsy Ross
Wallner, Alexandra, Betsy Ross
Product Details
Weil, Ann, Betsy Ross: Designer of our Flag (Childhood of Famous Americans)

Paul Revere
Adler, David A., A Picture Book of Paul Revere
Fritz, Jean, And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?
Stevenson, Augusta, Paul Revere: Boston Patriot (Childhood of Famous Americans)

Benjamin Franklin
Hareness, Cheryl, The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin
Stevenson, Augusta, Benjamin Franklin: Young Printer (Childhood of Famous Americans)

Sam Adams
Adler, David A., The Picture Book of Sam Adams
Fritz, Jean, Why Don't You Get a Horse, Sam Adams?
Front Cover

The American Revolution
Dalgliesh, Alice, The 4th of July
McGovern, Ann, If You Lived In Colonial Times
Moore, Kay, If You Lived At the Time of the American Revolution

We have used various activities from History Pockets: Colonial America and History Pockets: American Revolution by Evan-Moor. Homeschool Share also has lapbook ideas for the American Revolution.

As we move onto the Civil War here is a lapbook one of my daughters created. Some of her graphics were cut from old history textbooks. Templates for some of the topics were used from Homeschool Share.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning and Life Collide: Making Yogurt

Dining at a friends home recently, the hostess inspired me as she began heating milk to make yogurt. As we visited, she told me she had been doing this for quite some time. Me, I had never tried. However, with a family of nine consuming a minimum of 3 quarts of yogurt a week, I was empowered to give the process a try. My friend shared her yogurt making wisdom--explaining the cooler method she found by trial and error to be easiest.

When I returned home, I began my first yogurt making attempt by placing "homemade cooler yogurt" into a search engine. I read. I compared. I gathered needed equipment, most of which I had. My first attempt was successful, very successful, and I realized this process was yet another example of how learning and life collide. I wanted to involve my children in the process.

The first attempt, a successful walk through for me, I decided I understood the process enough to involve my children for my second yogurt making event. I retrieved the candy thermometer (left over from our yummy lollipop making experiments) from safe storage and gave the children a quick review about the care, use, and purpose of a thermometer. They were, once again, intrigued. We attached the thermometer to the side of the pot, poured in the milk, and turned the burner on medium. Each took a turn stirring. We periodically checked the temperature of the milk, giving us repeated practice reading a thermometer. One of the children drew a thermometer with the current temperature of the milk. A great way to incorporate multiple learning modalities.

As the milk heated we prepared the canning jars and discussed the difference between pints and quarts. The oldest helpers reviewed how many pints and quarts were in a gallon. One of the children suggested we pour pints of water into our empty milk jug to see if our calculations were indeed accurate; an excellent visual for our younger learners to have a concrete experience in measurements. We followed the remaining instructions and placed our yogurt into a cooler to "culture". After eight hours of "culturing" in the cooler, we placed our fresh yogurt in the refrigerator. We were all very excited about what we had accomplished together. In fact, we were all so enthused we decided to calculate how much money we had saved by making our own yogurt. What a learning experience!

My third attempt produced yogurt which was just a tad thicker than milk. Still yummy, just runny. Trying to figure out what went wrong. However, with fresh fruit, it made great breakfast smoothies.

There are several recipes, some using milk, others using soy or powdered milk. Experiment and choose what works best for your family.

Helpful links for yogurt making:

Crockpot versions:
This crockpot version has become my favorite, though my ancient crockpot takes six hours on high to reach 180 degrees! Still beats having to worry about stirring in between family needs. I simply put the milk in the crockpot at 9 AM and never open the lid until 3 PM when I check the temperature and begin the cooling process. When the milk lowers to 110degrees, I add the starter, wrap in a towel and place in a cooler overnight. BEST yogurt ever! It was worth the tweaking to figure out what process worked best for our family.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Singing Catchy Tunes At Our House

I remember every lyric to the Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock tunes my brothers and I would watch. Those lyrics helped me learn complicated (at least for me) grammatical and mathematical concepts. Imagine my delight when a friend sent me a link to a You Tube video of one of my favorites! It wasn't a Schoolhouse Rock tune, but it was one I remember hearing somewhere. Nonetheless, I remembered the concept of silent e after listening time and time again. This morning, I immediately clicked the link to let my seven year old daughter listen. She had just reviewed the silent e concept the day before, so she was super excited about the upbeat ditty.

more silent e

two vowels go walking

-ly words (adverbs)

The Hound Song


th words

50 states and capitols

first ten elements of the periodic table

counting by fives

Happy learning!

Friday, July 1, 2011

On the Edge of Our Seats

"Read one more!" My daughters pleaded.

Chapters in in the life of Betsy Ross are unfolding in our home. Quakers. Samplers. John Ross. The woven tapestry of Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag is just one book in the well-known Childhood of Famous Americans series. Author Ann Weil transports readers to the streets of pre-Revolutionary Philadelphia where Betsy enters the High Street Fair. A Quaker, the path to the fair was less than smooth, riddled with decisions, questions, and reflection. And we are in the midst, wrestling with Betsy's thoughts and then...well, I just can't say. It would ruin the story.

What will become of John Ross? When will Betsy sew the flag? We must keep reading to find out.

If you find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering what happens next, check out these additional resources about Betsy Ross.

F is for Flag by Wendy Lewison
The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgaliesh
A is for America by Devin Scillian
Stars and Stripes: The Story of the American Flag by Sarah L Thomson


  • Philadelphia on a map. In which state is Philadelphia located? How much distance is between Philadelphia and the city in which you live?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Potato, Two Potato

The fresh smell of spring and the heat of summer bring gardens of plentiful learning activities. Seems like every time we turn around we are enjoying another experience involving fruits and veggies. Here's a sampling of our fun, with a few extras tucked in for good measure. (For readers who heard me speak at the FPEA-Florida Parent Educators Association-Convention, some of these will sound familiar).


  • Estimate the weight of a watermelon. Weigh on a bathroom scale. Figure out the price per paid per pound.
  • Purchase a five pound bag of potatoes. Compare the quantity with a five pound bag of onions. Why the difference in quantity per pound? Younger children can weigh potatoes and arrange from lightest to heaviest.
  • Buy a basket full of veggie. Sort according to what part of the plant is eaten: stem, leaf, seed, root, flower. Eat vegetables and dip for snack.
Language Arts
  • Read Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert. Make veggie soup for dinner. (Dad will love eating what the children learned.)
  • Read the Farm Alphabet Book by Jane Miller. Make your own fruits and veggies alphabet book.
  • Play Garden Match to learn beginning consonants.
  • Read Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert.
  • Read Stone Soup by Marcia Brown (a traditional tale).
  • Read Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens (a trickster tale).
  • Make a growing vegetable soup lapbook.
  • Read The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle.

Social Studies
  • Tour the produce section of the grocery store.
  • Visit a working farm, garden store, orchard, or greenhouse.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Build a grow box and grow herbs.
  • Spout seeds. Discuss vocabulary: seeds, seedlings, cuttings, sprout, germinate.
  • Read The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons
  • Read Green Beans, Potatoes, and Even Tomatoes by Brian Cleary
  • Read One Bean by Anne Rockwell.
  • Sprout an avocado seed.
  • Grow or purchase a pie pumpkin. Open. Clean. Bake. Puree pumpkin and make bread.
  • Read The Life Cycle of a Bean by Linda Tagliaferro.
  • Read Foods from Farms by Nancy Dickmann.
  • Read Plants on a Farm by Nancy Dickmann.
  • Read Farming by Gail Gibbons. Discuss farming around the world.
  • Read From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons.
  • Read Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert.
  • Read The Victory Garden Vegetable Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta.

  • Make prints using tempera paints and fruits and veggies (potato, cabbage, celery, corn, and oranges)
  • Read Linnea in Monet's Garden by Christina Bjork.
  • Make a seed collage.
  • Sing Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow. Act out the song with motions.
  • Read How Are You Peeling? by Joost Effers and Saxton Freymann. Discuss the illustrations. Children may also enjoy Fast Food by the same authors.
  • Play Hot Potato (hand-eye coordination)