Posted in Home School How-Tos, sight words, Spirited Blessings

Phonics and Spelling Improv

We’ve been in transition mode. This means not that home schooling has stopped, but that it has changed and adapted to the current needs of our life. I’ve improvised in many areas of my children’s education. I plan on sharing more with you, but the following is just one example of such improvising.

We have a variety of flashcards ready to grab whenever we feel the itch. More on how I organize it all on our boat is soon to come.

Raspberry Bug picked the letter tiles up so I gave her the special blend flashcards from A Becka. I believe these go all the way up to a third grade reading level. Though we aren’t doing the full ABecka curriculum for first or third grade, the flashcards are still being used regularly.

We began by sorting the letters so we could find them easier than in a baggy.

I gave her a tray to work on ( my fancy broiler pan to be precise).

She drew a card and proceeded to sound out the word. Then she spelled the word in tile form.

Blueberry ball took interest soon after. He was able to make sentences with the words he drew.

This was a great way to review! It was even great for Raspberry Bug to learn some new blends.

What do you do when your children are in transition? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Posted in Home School How-Tos, Spirited Blessings

Homeschool How-To #9: Combining Two Lessons Into One

Combining Two Lessons Into One

How I Do It

There are a number of ways you can go about combining two lessons into one. I’ll show you how we do it for our A Beka home school plans, and you can feel free to adapt it to suit your child, your curricula, and your individual needs.

First,  you need to be honest with yourself as parent and teacher. Can your child keep up with the pace or will you be burning him out? Is there a need academically or socially to keep up with the lessons the way they are written on the calendar? Or does he simply need more to occupy his time or more of a challenge? Consider these things carefully before adding anything more to his workload.

I start with the A Beka Teacher Plan book. If you didn’t order this book, or if you are using a different curriculum, you could substitute with graph paper or simply make a list in a notebook. I do, however, love the way that this book is organized.


I don’t use it for it’s intended purpose. When you combine lessons using this book, you tend to run out of room. I use it to organize a list of things that I will need for the upcoming lesson. This way, I can grab it all at the same time and place it in his backpack for the next morning.


I can’t be searching around our tight home school space for every little flashcard or game as I need it. The backpack helps us both stay organized and focused on the tasks at hand.

Next, I take my graph paper (I like the composition notebooks best) and I write down my “To Do List”. You could do all of this on the computer, however, I personally find it easier to keep in mind during the day’s lesson if I have physically written it down before hand. To each his own.


I Arrange it by subjects in the same ordering that one lesson would be in. For instance, I will write down everything in two phonics lessons into one category, then continue on to phonics review, then numbers, etc. This keeps me from having to go back and forth in the teacher’s manual from one lesson to the other. Rather, I have all of the same information written down in the format of one fluent lesson.

Keep your child’s personal needs in mind as you go through the planning process. It may not be necessary to repeat two of the same activities in one day as written in the manual for two separate lessons, or you may choose to add some extra repetition in one area or another to ensure he is keeping up with the pace. For instance, my son is a whiz in the “Numbers” subject and doesn’t need to be drilled so much in number recognition or basic counting. We usually go through this subject rather quickly, more in the form of review. However, When it comes to “Letters And Sounds”, he needs every bit of drilling we can squeeze in. I don’t skimp in this area, as I know how much he needs the practices. If the same activity is used in two different lessons (this is often the case with flashcards, for instance), we simply do it once near the beginning of the phonics block and again near the end.

This is, after all, the beauty of home school. You should always tailor and adapt materials to fit your students needs.

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Posted in Home School How-Tos, Spirited Blessings

Home School How To #7: Homemade Lacing Cards

I have a hole-punch now (silly thing for a home schooling mom not to have), so I can get to work making Blueberry Ball some lacing cards. I love the idea behind these. They are a nice quiet activity, they increase fine motor skills, and pre-sewing skills. One of the many benefits of home schooling is that I have the time and ability to teach life skills along with the academic and Bible. I think it is a great idea to teach both of my children at least the sewing basics. This way, when they are all grown up in there own home, they won’t be wondering what to do with a missing button or a torn hem.

I can barely remember practicing the lacing cards that my parents made me. I don’t remember any fun designs I did, or any pictures that were on them, but I can remember sitting proudly beside my mother as she sewed or crocheted. I was so happy I was finally old enough to learn how to sew like Mommy. I hope to create sewing memories as fond as these for Blueberry Ball and Raspberry Bug as well. And at this age, that means lacing cards!

So far, I’ve done a few fun ones and have started on letters and numbers. If Blue likes them well enough, I will continue to add to the collection. There are many things you could choose to make lacing cards out of. Here’s what’s inside Blue’s lacing Box so far (I Reused a large to go container for easy storage):

  • I printed this truck lacing card from Activity Village:052
  • I printed the baby Moses lacing card from  Danielle’s Place. We already finished our baby Moses Bible study in school this year, but this printable was too cute to resist. Sorry, no photo of this one, but if you click, you won’t regret it!
  • I got this Angry Birds lacing card from Making Learning Fun. I couldn’t get the scaling right on the page, so there was only one full card that printed properly (there are supposed to be two per page). I don’t know if it was the page itself, or a setting I needed to change on my computer, but that was my experience.053
  • Letters and numbers. I got these recognition posters from ABC Jesus Loves me:055    I put start and stop dots on them using office dot stickers and I left the centers alone (rather than cutting them) to make them a little more sturdy.

I placed them all in a large container that had room for additions. He likes lacing with the cards and his sister likes to try to guess what the letter is. She isn’t even eighteen months yet, so she is more often then not, incorrect. However, it’s good to give her different variations of letters and numbers from early on. She should see them everywhere, so this is a cool little manipulative for her too.

How to make your own:

  1. Choose a picture and print it onto a heavy card stock. You can pick from several different sites online or by printing out a family photo, or a favorite picture.
  2. Cut it out. if your child is already familiar with lacing, then cut as detailed of shapes as you think he or she is capable of at the present time. The Angry Birds Lacing Card already had a circle drawn around it. I want to be able to use the letters and numbers one, however, for academic purposes also so I cut around the entire shapes of these. You may have to experiment with a couple of different difficulties before finding what works best for your little one.
  3. If your child is older or more responsible with paper items already, you may be able to skip to step four. If you worry about your child ripping or bending the card stock, or if you simply want them to last a long time, then glue it to the inside of a cereal box and cut along the shape again. That’s what my parents did and the cards lasted for years in our toy box! And, it has even endured my toddler’s play.
  4. Add numbers or letters to the holes. This will help with sequencing in sewing, and in the alphabet or number line. It also helps preschoolers with counting and/or recognition.
  5. Now you’re ready to punch your holes. Some printouts already have marks on them for the placement of  your holes, otherwise you can easily eyeball your choice hole spacings.
  6. Add a shoelace or a piece of thicker string with a piece of tape. You could also use plastic yarn needles and some yarn. For true beginners or younger children who have trouble grasping, you can also use a chenille stick.

Of course, you could always use a laminator and punch your holes in that, but we were talking ‘On a Dime’ here right? Also, I really like the look and feel of these, and they seem to last just as long (or long enough) when adding a sturdy backing.

Posted in Home School How-Tos, Homeschool On A Dime Original Freebies, Spirited Blessings

Free Editable Four-Week Preparation Checklist

I like to keep my planning well ahead of the game when it comes to homeschooling. I try to have at least four weeks worth of lesson plans printed and prepared for Blueberry Ball at a time. I got quite a bit behind on this the last few weeks and now am playing catch up. As a result, I have created a four week printout checklist for myself to make sure that I haven’t forgotten anything when it comes time for my Weekly Prep Checklist.

It is completely editable and of pretty generic format if you would like to use it for your own home classroom use. I designed it to go with the ABC Jesus Loves me Curriculum Year 3 and a free printable preschool pack of my choosing, but you could use it for combining any curriculum or subject choices. I also left plenty of blank spaces to the left of the document for extra notes or documentation

I hope it helps someone else as much as it has me:

Four Week Printout Checklist

Feel free to use this printout for your personal home or classroom use. This is not intended for the monetary gain of any individual or entity. If you would like to share this document, please link directly back to this post’s URL and not to the document itself. Enjoy!

Posted in Home School How-Tos, math, Spirited Blessings

Homeschool How To #6 Addition Ramps

I saw a post on pinterest that led me to a mom who used ramps made out of paper towel tubes and paper cups to create “Adding Fun“.  I’ve been wanting to introduce addition this way for a while, I’ve just been waiting for the right time. Since Blueberry Ball did such a good job with the pumpkin addition game from last Tuesday’s activity box, I thought it was good timing to introduce the topic in a new way.

This coming week is going to be a fire safety theme, so I decided I would make a fire hydrant:


Here’s how I did it:

First, I picked a sturdy cardboard box with a rectangular shape and cut the flaps off of the top and bottom.


I cut holes in the sides for the ramps. Then I added the ramps using paper towel tubes and paper cups. These will be the hoses coming out of the fire hydrant. If you want it to be a bit more realistic than mine, I suggest coming down at more of an angle with the tubes.

Then, I covered my front with red construction paper. Looking back I probably should have used glue or staples because the tape shows more than I would like.


I’ll be adding the top of the hydrant too, so I didn’t have to cover it entirely.

Then, I free-handed the sides.


I allowed room on the ends touching the box to fold the paper over and tape. This way, they automatically popped out.

Then, I drew, cut and taped the top on.


I had to reinforce the back so it didn’t flop back Another option would have been to add the top to the box as well so it could all be one piece. It all depends on how tall you need it to be compared with the size of your box.

Then I added paper to the ramps to make them look more like hoses. I know, I probably should have done that before attaching them. Oh, well.


I added post-it notes to the cups. This will allow for counting and sorting prior to the real game action.

Then, I added a plus sign to the hydrant and an equals sign to a basket on the inside.


I can’t wait to see how he likes it. It sets the mood for the week to come very adequately:


I think I may even add some pre-written post-it notes for him to form his own equations to match.

Posted in Home School How-Tos, Spirited Blessings

Weekly Prep Checklist #3: Tuesday’s Activity Box

The focus on Tuesday’s Activity Box is to recognize and recall previously covered material and to associate it with the old materials. I try to keep it to things that he enjoys doing or that we can turn into games.

I also try to add a new concept or two occasionally to satisfy my curiosity as to if he is ready or interested in it. I did not add these to the checklist because, it should be decided by the individual parent.

Whatever is not covered by the end of the day ends up in a Wednesday activity box filled with leftovers from Monday and Tuesday.

Here is the activity box weekly prep checklist:

  1. A fun rewards label and stickers or a pen. Blueberry has been using a reward system on activity box day. I set the target number on the label to give him a goal to reach. This goal is based on the number of activities in the box minus 3-5 activities. Each activity earns him a star to place on the label. At the end of the day, he can trade those stars for pennies for his piggy bank. If he reaches or exceeds his target, he will get a quarter. This is a totally frivolous and optional part of the plan. But, before you decide if you should be implementing a reward system with your little one, I would like you to understand where I am coming from:                                                                                                                                                                                                                               I think it’s a good idea to have reward systems on a regular basis in households with young children, whether it be for chores or for school or something else.                                                                                                                                                                                                          From the time Blueberry Ball started potty training at 13 months, he has had reward systems of some form or fashion in his life. Back then, it was only for going potty. A 13 month old is quite content using running water as a reward. And was more than happy to use it, as it taught him to wash his hands when he was done anyway.  The fact is that it just simply works.               Today, we still use rewards and incentives as a teaching and learning tool. I believe it gives children a sense of accomplishment and earnings. He also learns the value of those earnings when he spends them!  I only do this on Tuesday, however, because I don’t want him to be reliant upon privileges.  As adults, we face things all of the time that have to do with seemingly no rewards, too. My goal is to introduce both ideas into his world and I try not to do too much of one or the other.                                     I usually pick a piece of art from the free printable packs or from preset name labels I find for free online. This week’s theme is firefighters, so this is what I have cut out from the printable pack:                                                                                                                        photo(132)
  2. Bible activities. For the activity box, this means anything related to the Bible story of the week that doesn’t resemble the worksheets and art that are in Monday’s backpack. Puzzles, games, visual cues, or simply recalling the story in a fun and engaging way are all acceptable for the activity box.This coming week we are studying Moses and the ten commandments, so we will be doing the suggested 10 Commandments Train printable. We will read each one individually as we tape them on the wall in order.                                                                                                                                                      photo(134)                                                                                      The photo turned out a little dark, but pretty cute, right? I don’t always have something to add to the activity box where the Bible stories are concerned, but I try. For this reason, we also have a Bible video time after we read on Tuesdays.
  3. Next, I add any of the fun extras for handwriting that have been included in the free printable pack. You can place them in zip top bags for dry erase markers, or you can use them to add to your bulletin board or fridge. Blueberry Ball loves line drawing pages like these and sometimes enjoys writing “real words”:                                                                                                                                                                                                                         photo(135)
  4. Cutting Practice. I also print these from the free printable packs I found. You can also find them individually online.
  5. Counting and/or number recognition activities. There are usually plenty to pick from in a free preschool printable pack, or you can do all of them if your tot is ready!                                                                                                                                                                                                      photo(136)
  6.       Logic and reasoning.          I try to include a puzzle, patterning worksheet and/or size sorting worksheet in the mix.
  7. Clip cards and mini clothespins or paper clips      If there is a choice in the printable packs (and there often is) I usually choose whatever topic is lacking in the activity box by this point. These are great for recognition, fine motor skills, and more. You can see how I made this week’s clip card book here.
  8. The activity box constants. These are the things I want to keep fresh in Blue’s mind that have new additions each week. Remember, the idea of the activity box is to reinforce old concepts with the addition of our new ones.  The constants include:
  • All of the alphabet books covered so far.          These are great for teaching him the phonetic sounds of the letters and it makes him feel like he’s reading!
  • All of the tactile letters and numbers that we have covered so far.          Blue loves moving his fingers over these while he says the letter and number formation chants.
  • All of the  memory verse cards covered so far and a bean bag to play a recognition game.                   It’s the most exciting I have found so far. It worked really well the first couple of times, but I need to come up with a new game soon. (any ideas?)


11. Supplies. Any pens, markers, crayons, or scissors that are necessary for any of the activities end up in a box inside the activity box.



  1. rewards label and stickers
  2. Bible activity
  3. handwriting
  4. cutting
  5. counting and/or number recognition
  6. logic and reasoning
  7. clip cards with clips
  8. alphabet books
  9. Tactile letters and numbers
  10. Memory verse cards with activity in mind
  11. Supplies

Let me know what you think and be sure to check out

Other posts from the Weekly Prep Checklist series:

Weekly Household Routine

Weekly Prep Checklist: Introduction To The New Series

Weekly Prep Checklist #1: Setting The Mood For Learning

Weekly Prep Checklist #2: Monday’s Backpack

Wednesday, again is for anything we didn’t have time for or is struggling with. Thursday is the same and I add computer time for him. Friday is sensory, outdoor, and gross motor play. Considering that these require little to no explanation, I hope you enjoyed this short series. Please feel free to share these plans with others!