Posted in math, Spirited Blessings

Playing and Learning With Straws


One of my favorite activities this week was one I chose to do with Raspberry Bug.


First, we started with brightly colored straws and a pair of safety scissors. We had fun as I guided her hand (she’s only two and a half and can’t do it on her own yet) and cut the straws into smaller pieces. It was funny; she giggled as the pieces hit the small bowl. At first, they were all closed up on the ends from being pinched by scissors. As they opened up, they “popped” and some flew rather far. An unexpected surprise, even for me!

Next, I pulled a shoestring out and showed her how to lace the “beads” we made on to make jewelry.


She had a great deal of focus and concentration on this one. I think it’s the first time she’s succeeded at being able to fit beads on all by herself. She put quite a few on before I could tell she was getting a bit restless with this activity.

Time to move to the next thing!

I added matching dot stickers to a paper plate (I used a sharpie for the black dot) and added a very small measuring spoon to the bowl.


I then let her go at the sorting. From the get-go, she was just thrilled to be spooning the straws, and I had to focus her attention on the colors frequently. I just kept asking things like,” What color is the dot?”, and “Does that bead match?” She did this activity the longest. That probably had to do with the fact that I used dot stickers. She is absolutely in love with them!


As I said before, Red is only two years old, and we were mainly focusing on color recognition and on on fine motor development, but this activity could be turned into a large selection of games and a wide variety of expertise. Here are some more ideas:

  • Cut the straws into different sizes and use for size sequencing and sorting
  • You could use them to count or even as adding, subtracting, or greater than and less than visuals.
  • Use them as an “on a dime” version of counting blocks by cutting them into three different sizes. This will allow them to be used for the ones, tens, and fives place.
  • Use the different colors or sizes for practicing patterns.
  • Get creative, and see what kind of pictures you can make.

Have you used straws for learning? If you have another idea, I’d love to read about it!

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Posted in math, sight words, Spirited Blessings

Sight Word Practice And Our New Workbooks


This week was another easy-going summer week for my son and daughter. The learning in our home never ends and we like it that way! However, Blueberry Ball has been sick most of the week, so I kept it all to whatever he wanted to do. Whenever he got bored, I gave him options to choose from of things from our summer school stash. I like that at this age, it works!

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I tried to involve Raspberry Bug in the fun this time around by adding words that she was familiar with as well. She didn’t understand the concept of the cars and words together just yet, but after initially trying to tear up the paper, she had fun pointing at and recalling the different words.

This was frustrating for Blue, however. He specifically told me, “Mommy, you made the parking lot too big!” I think it was too overwhelming for his math-minded little brain to see so many letters and words all at once.

It’s a little difficult for me as a teacher to have two separate word lists for them. I didn’t do this on purpose. Red fell in love with an app that her grandmother purchased for her on the IPad called Endless Reader. Honestly, I didn’t know she was ready to start on sight words (she was just under two when she began recognizing them).

Most of her sight words are from the dolch list, but some are extras they added to get words in all the A-Z categories. I think once we get every package on Endless Reader, she will have all of the common kindergarten sight words plus some, but until then, there will just have to be a gap.

Blue ended up sounding out a couple of words, then just playing with his cars.

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It didn’t last long, as his fever came back that day and he got tired. I’m just glad he was excited to try this activity again. I turned the folder back and we only focused on the lower-case side.

  • Wednesday we did the first page of his new “Step Ahead Golden Workbook” called “I Can Read“.

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First of all, the title intrigued him a great deal. Daddy bribed him with a new Game Boy and Pokemon game as soon as he learned how to read well enough. He did the first page with ease! He was able to either sound out or recognize the common sight words used, and we did the picture-word connections together.

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He began almost immediately getting frustrated and confused at me pointing out individual words, so instead I circled each word in turn as we came to it. This idea had great success. Now if only I could do that with books….

We have the “Numbers 10 to 100” workbook that he already has been working on and enjoying. Some of these worksheets I have him write directly in, and some I have placed in his Dry Erase Notebook for continuous use.

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I love these workbooks. Especially for summer time. It keeps things that I don’t have to print on hand at all times. Plus they were only three dollars or so each at the store. “Home School On A Dime”, right? They come with stickers too.

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Some have a specific theme or page in mind, and others are simply reward stickers. Blue loves the sticker incentives. Kind of like the Activity Boxes we did each Tuesday last year. I love that each sticker generally has a designated space. It works his hand-eye coordination and his fine motor skills.

These are workbooks that he needs assistance with still. They require some reading skills that he has not yet acquired, but he is up for the challenge, and most days, so am I. The idea is to prepare him this summer (as much as possible) for the first grade curriculum I purchased for the upcoming school year.

I’m not concerned about his math skills so much. The math section largely covers review of some things he has already learned, and introduces new topics slowly.

The reading section has a list of words he should know by the end of the year, but requires an adult to do the majority of the reading anyway (even for end-of-the-year testing). I just want to get a head start on sounding words out and on the sight words themselves. I think he’s going to do great!

  • Red did lots with her markers, dry erase board, and chalkboard. I’m so glad she finally stopped eating markers and chalk! She spent at least an hour each day doing some kind of art. I also wrote down individual sight words for her to recognize. She likes that activity, but only for a few minutes at a time before she wants to try and write them herself =).
  • Thursday we read a few books together, but they both slept for most of the day.

Mommy just caught up on some extra housekeeping and organizing she’s been putting off.

And today, like most summer Fridays, is our lazy/fun day. We are at Grandma’s condo enjoying the amenities. I did bring the new workbooks, however, just in case!

I can’t wait to see what our next week looks like. Each day, we get closer and closer to our new school year. YAY!

What does your summer review look like?

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Posted in Homeschool On A Dime Original Freebies, math, sight words, Spirited Blessings

Sight Word Connect Four & And Even More


Today Blueberry Ball had fun with more of the same: we did addition practice and we did sight word spelling and recognition.

I had three activities set up at the coffee table this morning to peak his interest. The first one that caught his eye was (of course the car one) the “sight word parking lot”. Juggling With Kids gave me this great idea.

I simply took a large sheet of paper and drew lines on it to create “parking spaces”. Then, I added a sight word to each of the six spaces. This was an awesome activity for him. We will be doing this again when he learns a few more words. Great review!

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(Sorry, I didn’t take the pic til after he was done playing and it was all crinkly.)

There were no rules to this game except that each time he rolled over a parking space with the car, he had to read it. He spent a good thirty minutes tracking his car back and forth over different spaces. Each time the car backed up, I heard “Beep, beep, beep” =)

After he started losing interest in that one, we did an addition worksheet. Last night I took the Red Light Green Light Blank Addition Template and added hexagons for him to count. I asked if he could recognize the shape first, and we went from there. It was good review for shapes by simply restating, “ok, two hexagons plus three hexagons equals how many hexagons?”.

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I helped him with the first couple, and he did the rest. Freehand numbers are still a bit challenging for Blue, so this is an activity I have to stay close by Blue with to ensure the scribbles don’t happen as the result of getting frustrated or overwhelmed. I also let him watch me place the numbers 1-10 down the side. This way, he can trace the ones he needs to prior to trying it freehand. He did excellent, though. He will be doing these worksheets on his own in no time!

On the left is the same worksheet pictured above and on the right is one we did earlier on (adding pentagons). See below for printing instructions and disclaimer. Feel free to use these for your own littles:

Adding hexagons Red Light Green LightAdding Pentagons to the sum of five

Simply click on the image. Either “Save as” for later, or print directly from the image. Be sure and fit the image to your paper size, and choose the landscape setting.

Please share this download with others via this post, not the document itself. This download is intended for personal or classroom use only. This download was not intended for any individual or entity to profit monetarily from. Enjoy!

Next, we pulled our magnet activity from the coffee table.

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We have an adorable monkey lunch box that Grandma got the kids a while ago. I keep all the letter magnets in this bag, along with their leap frog spelling magnet game. It fits well, and Raspberry Bug is all over anything monkey or duck right now.

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I set her to the fridge and she practiced her letter recognition while making a jumbled mess all over the fridge. It kept Red entertained for longer than Blue’s activity. Then I added batteries to the Leap Frog and her fun started all over again!

Last night, I wrote his six sight words on a sheet of notebook paper for Blue and placed it on a cookie sheet. I then added letter magnets. I mixed all different kinds of letters for two different reasons: one- I simply didn’t have enough to do all one kind of magnet. Two- I like that it challenges him to work with different letter fonts and with lower case and upper case practice. That was also good letter recognition review.

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He liked this activity. Especially after I told him he could put the letters on top of the written words instead of on the side. Whatever floats his boat on that one!

I could tell he wasn’t ready to stop the magnet play yet, so I decided we would flip the page over and do some more addition with the magnets.

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This was the first time we’ve done addition without the use of manipulatives. He picked up on finger-counting pretty quickly though. =)

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Then I did another little experiment. I gave him the sum, but he had to find the other missing number.   I instructed him to hold up one number’s worth of fingers on one hand and to start counting up with the opposite hand. I could see he was working a little harder, but he really got the idea.

To me, this is no different than writing it out on paper. He’s learning the same concepts, but this one had toys added into the mix. It turned it into a game. He pretty much did double the amount of work he would have if it were only written.

After all the magnet play, we grabbed the third game off the coffee table. Sight word “Connect Four”. Okay, we didn’t actually play “Connect Four”. I modified the game to fit Blue’s learning needs (and to fit our lack of checkers…) I placed a golden letter sticker on each checker. I don’t really like how the stickers get all bumpy when stuck on top of the star, but they do seem to stay on pretty well anyway.

Blue drew a Sight Word Flash Card and tried spelling a word by finding the matching letters. I’m not sure why, but he wasn’t too into it. It was a matter of two words before he was passing it to Red and wanting to do something else.

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That’s okay, that just means Red got to do more letter practice. Not to mention the fine motor skills she worked on while attempting to place the checkers in the holes.

The last activity I had planned was number line addition. I got another free printable from Math Worksheets 4 Kids.

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They call it “Drawing Hops”. I don’t know that this is the best way to teach addition, but I do know that it is always good to present more than one method or visual aid.

It wasn’t very easy for Blue, and I guided his hand on all but writing the numbers. Plus, he did the last one all by himself. He liked the idea of making his marker “hop”. It was a fine introduction, and we will do it occasionally, but I don’t think it was his-or my- favorite.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I would love to hear what you’re doing to encourage or introduce your child when it comes to reading, writing, and arithmetic. The more creativity, the better!

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Posted in Homeschool On A Dime Original Freebies, math, Spirited Blessings

Red Light Green Light Addition: Blank Template


I’ve written in the past of how well the “red light green light” method has helped my son learn the preliminary steps to tracing letters. He already understood how traffic lights work and he has been an excellent backseat driver since he could talk. I guess he takes after Daddy on that one =).

So when we began printing practice with the ABC Jesus Loves Me Curriculum, he ran with it. They did a great job using a green dot to show where to start and a red dot to know when to stop. He knew the yellow means go slow, so it was great that the author made these with yellow lines as well. These worksheets helped Blueberry Ball to enjoy writing practice when he hadn’t before. When he was using these worksheets, he usually pretended to make a road for cars to go on, or that his marker was the car. It was just what he needed and it was even the inspiration for some of the printing practice found in my Green Eggs And Ham Pack.

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I found an awesome way to incorporate the left to right, top to bottom rule with addition, too.The first box green, second box yellow, and third box, red (go, slow, stop). It allows him to visually focus in on a problem at a time instead of getting lost or bouncing around the page.

Even though I have all the Adobe programs and can work with them pretty well, I still prefer the good old-fashioned paint program for easy things like this. And it allows me to be able to share editable materials with all of my viewers. Having said that, this is the first of probably many more math worksheets I will be publishing for your own home or classroom use.

This one has no pictures on it (hence, blank template), so feel free to use it as is with manipulatives. You can also freehand your own drawings or shapes under the boxes, or open the document with Photoshop or Paint and get creative! Let me know if this as helped you out. I would love to see how and maybe even feature your work on Home School On A Dime as well!

As with all other printable freebies on this site, I ask that you not use this for monetary gain in any way. If you wish to share this material, please link to this page and do not share the file itself. Thank you for understanding.

Blank Addition Template

To download, right click on the picture and “save image as”. When you print it out, remember that it should be on a landscape setting and it will most likely work best when you fit the image to page. Please tell me if you have any issues with this, and I will fix them as soon as possible. Enjoy!

 

 

Posted in math, Spirited Blessings

Transitions And Advancements: Homeschooling From The Suitcase


I apologize for not posting as frequently or consistently as I’ve done in the past. Our family is planning a move soon enough  and I refuse to move in a frantic rush this time (as so many of our unplanned ventures have turned out), so I’ve packed most of the extras for school away. Pretty much all that’s out are the supplies he uses daily, the printer and enough paper til the end of the month. I’ve stripped all the learning down to the basics for Blueberry Ball and I think it is actually working to his advantage.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my checklists and the loosely structured schedules that have allowed Blue to stay consistent and to get ahead, but the demand that it puts on me each week for prep-work along with the added stresses of every day housework and packing have taken their toll. Furthermore, Blue started speeding through his work so much that I knew he was no longer being challenged enough. He’s basically at a kindergarten or even a first grade level with everything except for reading and writing.

My answer? I’ve stripped everything down to handwriting and addition except for the occasional fun things mixed in when we have time.

Of course, we still share a Bible time each day which (right now) consists of Blue picking the stories he wants me to read to him with the use of his Compassionate Characters. It’s surprising to me how much he has enjoyed this part of our day now that he gets to pick it. He will pick one of his favorites and when that is done ask for more based on a picture that catches his eye. Since we’ve started this practice, he has a love for the the Bible that I’m sorry to say, he has never had before. It has been a God-send for us as a family and I’ve definitely noticed the impact it has had on his character. I feel like I should keep this as part of our daily practices even after we re-institute a structured lesson plan later.

As I said earlier, the only constants I’m maintaining in terms of academics is handwriting and addition. Reading and writing are the main hindrances that have been keeping Blue from moving forward right now. I know he isn’t behind as a four year old who can’t read or write. That’s very common for preschoolers. As I’ve said, he is advancing quickly in all the other areas. Our checklist has felt obsolete the past couple of months, but I can’t move much further into the things that would challenge him without him being able to at least write first.

So I’ve printed off many different things in advance for him to choose from including Our Dry Erase Book (finally completed and placed in a real notebook) my favorite custom ones from handwritingworksheets.com which allow me to choose words and letters of my own design. This lets us easily cover things like his name, rhyming words, beginning sounds, and even his phone number and address. It makes it so I can easily cover more than just printing practice. Another one of our favorites is Starfall. It happens to be one of the few things that I paid for in Blue’s school, but I feel like it was totally worth it! Among other things, they have customizable drawing practice where he can mimic pictures from an array of choices. I’m so glad that he’s taken to his new format of study so smoothly. He’s now (very roughly) writing most of his letters and numbers free-handed which allows him to be able to master his addition worksheets as well!

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As for addition, most educators would most likely try to convince me that Blue doesn’t need to be learning it yet or even that he shouldn’t be yet. However, he’s taken an interest in it since our Fire Hydrant Addition Ramps that I had done as a test run earlier this year. Since then, he’s been trying to add in every situation possible in the world around him. He separates and adds his breakfast cereal, coins, and toys. For me, these are clear signs that I have to get him started on addition. He just simply has one of those minds that work extremely well with numbers. The beauty of homeschooling my children is that I can work these things to his advantage and ensure that learning is always a fun thing. I will never tell him he shouldn’t be doing something because the other children his age aren’t or because it isn’t “normal”. I want his individual strengths to shine through at whatever age, and I will always encourage him to utilize the gifts Our Lord has given him.

He’s taken to addition well the last couple of weeks. He enjoys counting using various manipulatives  and writing the answers down on worksheets or even just on paper free-handed. I try to ensure that he is either using manipulatives, or that he has pictures on the chosen worksheets. While I do believe that he understands the correlation between the symbols on the paper and the physical objects, I also feel like it is important to reinforce these concepts fully because it is a fundamental foundation for him to build all math skills from.

Well, I think that sums it up (no pun intended haha )  =). I’m not sure what our school work is going to look like after the move. The hubby and I are looking at different options and praying for direction right now. While I like the ABCJLM curriculum, I feel he has entirely outgrown it and needs more. Blue has always been hungry for a new learning challenge. Just when I feel we’ve got something we can stick with for a while, he proves me wrong and makes me raise the bar again. While exhausting at times, I count it as one of our many beautiful blessings. I can’t wait to see what’s around the bend, but no matter the case, you can be sure it’s “On A Dime”.

Posted in math, Spirited Blessings

Homeschool On a Dime: Fire Themed Weekend Sneak-ins


My goal for a home school week is to start off structured- ish and relax more and more throughout the week. You can find more on how our week is planned in my weekly prep checklist series. Start with the first one: Weekly Household Routine. From there you can click the links on the bottom to view specific days.

Our weekends are completely free of any plans. We do whatever we want to do on Saturdays and Sundays, but when we finished this week off, I was a bit disappointed. We didn’t have enough focus or attention this week for half the stuff I had prepped. It’s hard for mommy to realize sometimes that she just over planned! Not to mention Blueberry Ball has been fighting his Monday and Tuesday routines more lately (I’ll have an attempted answer to this issue in the morning.)

There was one thing that I hadn’t had a chance to try with him all week. Remember the Homemade Addition Ramps I showed you at the beginning of the week? Then you also remember that I placed this fire hydrant up on top of the free-style art center under Blue’s bulletin board. I thought that if I placed it in the room’s display, it would peak his interest and get him motivated to try it.

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Nope. He took no interest in it for six out of the seven days.

So, my answer was to have it waiting and ready to go on the floor for him when he woke up this morning. That did the trick!

I placed glass aquarium rocks in plastic wine glasses. They looks a little like water drops, right? Then I added measuring spoons for Blue to count individual rocks. I like how much Blue concentrated on using the scoop and counting at the same time. He was precise and accurate!

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I didn’t even have to introduce the topic of addition to him. He already grasped the concept by playing his starfall games online. He knew it was “a plus sign for adding” and he already knew what he was supposed to do with the cups! I showed him how to pour the cups into the ramps to fall into his equal sign basket.

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Now that Raspberry bug is older (no longer putting things in her mouth), she was able to get involved as well!

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She didn’t participate in the fire hydrant addition game, but she did do sensery, fine motor, and gross motor play! And even coordination. Those glasses get a bit top heavy.

It was a huge success! They both kept coming back to this activity throughout the day. They got hours of entertainment while learning. I liked that it didn’t require my immediate instruction. Everything that they were coming up with for play was educational in a new way! I will be implementing more manipulative play like this in the future. I’m glad we did it!

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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