Toddler Tuesday: Matching letters.

I found a great new website – Hands on Moms. It’s fabulous and has tons of hands on activities to choose form and browse. Some are things we’ve done, and others give me great ideas.

So I chose this one: matching letters. I wanted to see how much Abby can really do – it’s hard to tell with her sometimes because she just decides she doesn’t want to do something, and getting her to do it is miserable. But if it’s hands on, and she gets to do it by herself, that’s even better.

Here’s the link to the post about the game, so you can do it if you want to.

I spent Monday night putting this activity together. I printed out letters and colored them. Then I made sure that we had the right alphabet magnets to make this work – since we’ve lost lots of letters over the years. I put them all in a bin, with the tongs, and put it up and away.

While I set Nicholas to work on his math, I brought the bin out to Abby. I told her she had to choose a paper letter, then grab the letter that matches with the tongs. She asked, “All by myself?” When I said yes, she got a big smile and went right to work.

She would pick a letter out and place it carefully next to her on the table. Then she would grab the tongs and pull out the letter magnet and place that on top. Then she would carefully get down out of her chair, grab both the letter and magnet, and place them on the floor. She got very particular about where they were placed.

When she was done she wanted to repeat the process – so we did. It was great fun for all of us.

We also made two books for her – she had to trace the letters and write her name. Here are the links to the free worksheets to make the books (orange and red).


Music lessons.

Music is fun. Learning to read music takes repetition and practice. That's one thing we work on three times a week. I alternate it with literature.

Music is fun. Learning to read music takes repetition and practice. That’s one thing we work on three times a week. I alternate it with literature.

We practice piano every day in our house. Currently, we are using the Faber and Faber Primer series. It’s a good series – when I teach beginners this is the series we start with. The only problem is that there’s not enough repetition in the note reading.

For a child, reading the music is going to be the hardest part – besides getting their fingers to work. Once they can read music fluently, the fingers seem to become easier – maybe it’s just because they don’t have to work so hard at reading music, so they focus on playing the music.

So I needed some more lessons for my kids to read music – to practice reading the notes and knowing what they are.

Here’s what we are doing this week:

Basic note reading:

C-D treble clef (Unit 1)

C-D-E treble clef (Unit 2)

Whole notes, half notes ( drawing them on the staff paper).



This week’s literature lessons.

First of all – welcome back! It’s been a great holiday break and now we are getting back into the swing of school again. I’m sure that this week is going to be tough – readjusting to a schedule is always tough with my kids. But it’s time to get back to it.

We’ve been rather lax in the literature area in our studies. Heavy on the science and math. Lax on the literature. Mainly that’s because it is what Nicholas likes. But I’ve decided that we are going to include literature twice a week.

This week we focus on two things: the difference between a poem and a story, and imagery.

Difference between a poem and a story

We are using the poem, “The Queen of Heart” – you know, the one who baked tarts and lost them to the knave. This poem is to show the difference between a poem and a story.

What’s the difference? A poem is less concerned with grammar and story telling and more concerned with rhyme and meter. A story can be told – and often is – but it is told through a different, often shorter, method. A story has more details, character development, follows grammar rules, and is concerned with the telling of the story. A good story should have a defined beginning, middle, and end. A good story should also have a main character and minor characters. These things are not necessarily present in a poem.


Children often, instinctively, know what imagery is. It’s words that are used to describe a visual image. We are using Robert Frost’s “The Pasture” as the teaching poem in this exercise.

First, we define imagery. Second, we practice using descriptive language to create imagery. This causes fun sentences – The blue cow ran over the wet green grass to the babbling brook (my favorite from Nicholas – and some very silly ones (The fat frog sat on my head and made it wet because he’s sticky).

Then we read the poem and highlight the descriptive words that provide the imagery. Lastly, we use those images to draw what Frost is describing in his story.


If you want the poems, complete with the instructions, they are available for free at my TPT store. I’ve included the links below.

Links to downloadable mini-lessons:

The Queen of Hearts

The Pasture

Toddler Tuesday: Christmas theme.

We’ve already practiced the letter C, but since it is the week before Christmas, we are going to do it again.

Here’s the link to the “c” curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I love their activities and use their stuff a lot.

They have a bunch of activities. We do about two a day for the week, starting with the dot art and pre-writing practice. Then we move onto the counting a colorings pages too.

What else are we doing for the preschooler this week? We are painting and doing art. It’s her favorite activity of all. Luckily, Michael’s is into their 70% Christmas sale and we can get lots of foam Christmas shapes to trace, color, sticker, paint, collage, at more with. I love them.

So it’s not super intensive, but it is fun.

Christmas tree and snowman review.

This week we are just reviewing things we have already done. It’s a great week for that. We also spend  lot of time cooking and making Christmas decorations and gifts. It’s fun for all the week before Christmas. Not to mention afternoons with friends.

To help Abby review her letters we do a Christmas tree and snowman review. Nicholas does his math and parts of speech review with them.

Reviewing letters and numbers.

To review letters, I print out the outline of a Christmas tree/snowman onto cardstock. Then I take colored paper and cut out circles. I draw circles on the tree/snowman page. Inside the drawn circles I place capital letters. On the cut out circles I place lower case letters. She has to match them.

I also have her draw a letter on a circle and match it to the letters on the tree/snowman.

We do the same thing with numbers.

When she places the numbers/letters onto the tree, she has to say their name/sound.

It is a simple review activity that she loves.

Reviewing math facts.

This works the same way as the letter game. I print out the outline and draw circles on it. Inside the circles I put numbers. On the circles I cut out, I put math problems – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Nicholas’ job is to put the right math problems on each number. He likes to race, so I time him. There are always more math problems than there are circles. When he finishes one, we can re-do it as much as he wants. I have baggies for each math operation, and a tree for each operation. It keeps it organized.

Reviewing parts of speech.

We have also been working on the difference between a noun, proper noun, and verb. So I did the snowman for his parts of speech review. Each circle on the snowman has: noun, proper noun, or verb written inside it. The bag is filled with circles with different words on them that are different parts of speech. I even through in some bonus ones – like pronouns – to make sure he doesn’t just try by guessing. He actually has to recognize what is what, and then do it. It’s a pretty awesome game.

Benefits of review.

Review has its place. You need to know the parts of speech in order to write well, and you need to know them cold. To do higher math, which is what we are working towards, you need to know your math facts down cold. You can’t spend time figuring out if 4×3 is 12 or 15 when you are working algebra problems – you just have to know it. Review helps solidify this knowledge.

Reviewing with games is even better because the kids don’t recognize they are confirming facts – they just know they are having fun.

Trimming the tree: a science lesson.


So you don’t think you can make everything into something to learn? I beg to differ. Making even the most mundane activities into lessons is about asking questions, looking for solutions, and vocabulary.

Trimming the tree is actually a science lesson about load bearing. How much can one branch hold?

My kids are young so they try to put all the ornaments on the small branches in the outside. So I asked them, “Does that branch look strong enough to carry that load?” Nicholas was the first to figure out what the question meant: can the branch hold the ornament?

Sure enough, they began to do experiment with what types of branches held which ornament. So instead of sitting with a book and learning about load bearing, that things weight more when they dangle and aren’t supported, and that thicker branches support more weight; we used the tree as our laboratory.

I never asked them to describe the lesson. I just asked guiding questions while they were decorating the tree. So instead of saying, “No that doesn’t go there,” I asked if the branch was strong enough, was there enough room, and if the branch bent.

It was a fun lesson without having to be a lesson.

Toddler Tuesday: 1-9.


This month the focus is on Christmas. We read one of the many stories of Jesus’ birth every morning. And we make one Christmas decoration a day.

Today’s decoration was based in Abby counting from 1-9. Nicholas got to do the hole punching of the stars and gluing of the ribbon. Then Abby had to start at 1 and count her way to 9- placing the right amount of stars on each ribbon.

It turned into a pretty cool decoration. We did the counting in German and English, so we got some German practice in too. But basically it was math disguised as an art project for Abby.

If you don’t have a star hole punch you can do this with any stickers or shapes. She really liked it and wanted to do more.


volcano 3

The string had to get wound through the cardboard to form the base of the volcano. The tube is where the magma would go (baking soda and vinegar).

I pick and choose what we study. Sometimes we jump around – a lot. Sometimes we follow a time line. Our volcano study came about because I happen to like volcanoes, we had a volcano kit,  and I needed to fill a few hours.

First we made the volcano. The neat thing about the Smithsonian kits is that they have good directions. If you have ever done science kits before, you know that directions can be hit or miss. I haven’t had a problem with the Smithsonian ones. So we did everything except paint the volcano in one day. We built it, we studied them, we did our words – and then the next day we painted and erupted it.

Our practice words were: lava, rock, magma, crust, volcano, explosion, and explode.

We write our practice words three times and define them all. That way we get some writing and practice time in.

Then we did some interesting things.

First we spent time on the Internet reading about volcanoes. My favorite was this page – it’s all about volcanoes and it is neat looking.

volcano 4

He had a lot of fun cutting the plaster strips and then making them stick onto the string to form his volcano. He even learned the difference between different types of volcanoes – so he would know what type his was.

Next we played a game called “Volcano Explorer.” Go to the “games” page and choose “Volcano Explorer.” It’s a fun game, and kept my son occupied for a while.

Then we Googled, “volcano explosions,” – mainly because we had just practiced that word so having Nicholas type it was a good reminder of the word – to find some videos to watch. We found tons of videos.

And here’s why I like homeschooling – the expression on Nicholas’ face. He had such a blast watching the volcanoes erupt. Because we had just studied them (spent time reading about them, named the parts of the volcano while making it) – he was able to speak about what was happening with amazing insight. He was jumping around and watching them. It was so exciting to see him be so excited about learning something. I love to watch that amazement and happiness. It makes all the hassle of homeschooling worthwhile.

Abby was able to help paint the volcano. She did so under the direction of her older brother – who had to practice giving directions in a nice voice. We multi-task in our lessons to incorporate more than one life skill.

Lastly, we drew volcanoes. It’s fun to draw with him because of the things he draws. He wanted blue paper so they could be underwater volcanoes.

A few days later I found, on Amazon Instant Video, a series about life on the side of volcanoes. We’ve been working our way through that one at night – and he’s actually enjoying it.  It is made for adults, but the science vocabulary is such that Nicholas really enjoys it. Plus, there is a lot of animation about volcanoes, pictures of eruptions, and good photography. I’ll take good photography over cartoons anytime.

As you can see, we did a lot of crossing skills and lessons with one themed lesson. I know that some homeschool programs teach you to do this. But the truth is that you can do it yourself. Simply find activities that are funa nd enjoyable that relate to your lesson.

Instead of choosing spelling words from a spelling program, pick ones that work with your lesson. Same for vocabulary. With enough reading and cross-disciplinary studies, the kids will learn all that they need to know.




History of Christmas trees.

The outline of the Christmas tree isn't perfect. But it gives the kids a lot of room to put in their gems.

The outline of the Christmas tree isn’t perfect. But it gives the kids a lot of room to put in their gems.

I like December. The focus of our lessons changes to more Christmas oriented lessons. Since I wanted to do the first step of our gem trees today, I thought I’d read the kids the history of the Christmas tree while we did them. This way I combine art and history all at once.

I’m all about using time wisely, so this was a great lesson for us.

Last night I took out the picture boards and drew the trees on them. I also made sure I had enough gems (I do – I got the big bag from Michael’s), glitter glue (so that if they don’t cover the whole tree with gems, at least it will glitter), and put the gems into bags so each kid had their own. The separate bag idea is awesome because it prevents fighting over who has the gems, who has more gems, and who took what color. This way they each have their own.

Then this morning I put the trees out for them.


One finished glitter gem tree.

First they used the glitter glue to fill the trees. I got smarter this time – my kids will use all the glitter glue I put out, so I only put out some. Then they put the gems on the glitter glue – all while I’m reading the story of the Christmas tree.  When they were done, the trees were all glittery and sparkling. This will make tomorrow – painting the background – nice and easy.


Another finished glitter gem tree. He’s going to have a lot of painting to do tomorrow.

So they heard the story of one of our traditions, and we got art done to help decorate the house.

Christmas trees are an important part of our family. My husband’s side is German, and Christmas trees are credited with being started in Germany. The tree is also the main decoration in our house, and it is where we hang our memories for the year. It is also a tradition to put certain ornaments on the tree – like garlands and a bird in a nest – for different reasons. Since the tree plays such an important part in our family, I like to have the kids thinking about the tree and what it means and why we use trees.

Here are some links to the history of the Christmas tree so that you can read the history to your family:


%d bloggers like this: