Materials for our angle lesson.

Materials for our angle lesson.

It’s time to learn about angles.

What you are going to need:
1. Some construction paper.
2. Protractor.
3. Something to “hunt” with (we used a video camera – but you can also draw or take pictures).

It’s a simple lesson. We worked on four types of angles: acute, obtuse, right, and straight.

First, the lesson:

An acute angle is an angle that is less than 90 degrees. An obtuse angle is more than 90 degrees. A right angle is exactly 90 degrees. A straight angle is 180 degrees – or a straight line.

Then the practice:

We drew straight angles using the flat edge of the protractor. I didn’t care which direction they were drawn. But when he was done, I asked him if they were all straight angles and why. Nicholas correctly said that they were straight angles because they were lines – and exactly 180 degrees.

Then more practice:

We drew the 90 degree angle next. Then the obtuse. Then the acute. Sometimes there were mistakes at the end. Then we had to erase the mistakes and make them correct.

Then the measuring:

Once we were done drawing, I had Nicholas measure each angle. Just to verify that he was correct (or at least that’s the reason I gave him). What I really wanted to see was his number recognition and learning to use a protractor.

Now the hunt:

Once we had learned about the angle and reinforced the lesson with our drawing and measuring activity, we went on an angle hunt. Nicholas took out his video camera and went around the house and yard and found angles. He made his own song while he was hunting. Then he would find angles and say, “I found an angle and it is an __________ angle.”

We went on this hunt for about 10 minutes. Then he wanted to watch his video. Then make another one. Then watch it (do you see the pattern?).

It was a fun lesson and we had a blast.


Place value.

Sometimes learning the same thing with cutting and pasting is better than writing it. It's the activity of moving the numbers around to place them in the correct column that helps my son remember what goes where.

Sometimes learning the same thing with cutting and pasting is better than writing it. It’s the activity of moving the numbers around to place them in the correct column that helps my son remember what goes where.

Place value is important. When you are learning to do multiple digit addition and subtraction, place value becomes essential. In multiplication and division, place value is even more important. We have finally reached the stage in math where not knowing place value can really mess you up.

Nicholas has been using the Khan Academy 4th grade math program. We work on one skill until it is “practiced” and then move onto the next skill. It generally takes us two days to get to the “practiced” level in a skill. We’ve been through carrying and borrowing, and now they have us on 3 and 4 digit math programs with carrying and borrowing. Learning place value is all part of that.

Our place value lesson started out because we had an exceptionally bad math morning. Nicholas would do the math problem correctly on paper, and then enter it backwards online – and then be shocked he was getting it wrong. I tried to teach him place value right there (he’s good with his ones and tens – anything higher had become a problem). That didn’t work. So I called a halt to the whole process.

I went onto and found a few place value worksheets. We did those. Then it was lunch time. During their lunch I made our cutting and pasting place value activity. I wrote out 6 numbers with 4 digits on a piece of paper. Then I wrote out the numbers in random order on another sheet of paper. Finally I made a grid on a third sheet of paper with the labels, “ones, tens, hundreds, thousands.”

After our reading time (which always happens right after lunch) I got out the activity. Nicholas had to cut out the numbers from the page, then assemble them in the right order on the grid. He had to use the first page, with all 6 numbers that I wrote on it, as a guide to make the correct numbers.

He’s pretty methodical. So before he did anything he cut out all the numbers. Into various squares and rectangles. Because he’s good at procrastinating (he gets that from me) he sorted them into piles. Not number piles, but whether the square/rectangle was cut well enough. Then he proceeded to trim those in the unacceptable pile until they were acceptable. The numbers were then ordered from smallest (0) to largest (9). Then from largest to smallest. Finally he got to work when I said no more trampoline until we were done with our place value lesson.

It’s clear he learned the lesson because he did it on his own. Correctly. The first time. While i was helping Abby with her piano lesson. All of this was a surprise, so I figured he actually learned it.

It became clearer the next few days while we were doing math that he had learned place value. I’m so excited that was a one day lesson. Now we are going to have to tackle the decimal points and numbers larger than thousands. But he has the basics for now.

My favorite math worksheet sites.

Math can be a lot of repetition. There’s not a lot of need for a math book in our house – both my husband and I are fairly decent at math (at least until we get to differential calculus) and can explain how to do it. I also find new and interesting ways (we add jellybeans, figure out area of the floor to clean) to show the same basic skills.

What we do need are math worksheets to practice with. Math worksheet books can be expensive, and often don’t cover exactly what I want. So after some looking around on the Internet, I found my 4 favorite websites with math worksheets. Here they are: This website lets you design your own worksheets. It’s great for the basic math practice. This website has some predesigned worksheets and a fabulous math addition table. Another create your own website. There are more alternatives here that on the Softschools websites. This website has basic addition sheets in various themes. I like their Fall addition sheets for right now.

There you go – this is how we make our own addition worksheets and don’t pay for a math book.

First fractions.

Fractions can be a hard concept to grasp. The idea of half or third is abstract. So to help the young ones learn, make fractions a practical experience.

We took a banana, strawberry, one-cup measuring cup, and pretzels out in the backyard.

We split the strawberry in half. I had Nicholas take the knife and cut the strawberry in half. Then we added two halves to get a whole. I then gave him the pretzels and asked him to break them in half. He managed just fine 🙂

We did the same thing with thirds but used the banana because it was bigger. Then we split the pretzels into thirds.

When we finished we ate the fruit and pretzels as a snack.

Then we learned what fractions look like while written. I gave Nicholas the hose and had him fill up the measuring cup I the 1/2 mark. He asked what it looked like and I said it was 1/2. Then he filled it up. I asked how much more he needed to make a full cup and he answered correctly. We repeated this with thirds. When he got stuck, we pulled out the pretzels and demonstrate again before trying the measuring cup again.

We had a blast outside and learned our fractions and how to use a measuring cup.

Toddler Tuesdays: Pairs, letters, and shoes.

Abby learned about pairs – we used her dress up shoes to count to two and focus on pairs.

Toddlers are independent. If you have one, you already know this. If you are going to have one, beware! They like to do things by themselves. This includes things they don’t know how to do yet – like getting dressed.

We are spending some time learning about pairs. Shoes come in pairs. Socks come in pairs. Feet come in pairs.

Today we played with our dress up shoes to learn about pairs. They were a gift from grandma, and there are 4 pairs – all with different colors and decorations. I laid them out in pairs and pointed out each set. After counting “one -two” with each set, I said “This is a pair of shoes.” Then I mixed them all up. I asked Abby to sort them into pairs.

She cocked her head at me and said, “One-two.” Then she grabbed a pair and tried to put them on. When she got frustrated she brought me the shoes and plopped down in my lap. I helped her and she got up and walked around. I let her play for about 5 minutes before removing them from her feet and asking her again to bring me a pair of her shoes. She went and got the same pair. We repeated this whole experience about 5 times.

For letter practice I am back to Starfall. I print out a letter (today was B, yesterday was A) and we color it. I help her hold the crayon to write the letter a few times. Then I just let her color the pages.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

We do regular lessons too.


Even though most I our lessons are themed, we do regular lessons too. We do them in blocks of 20 minutes or less. They are repeated, sometimes multiple times a day.

Here’s one way we do math:

I pull out the counting blocks. They were little foam blocks I got at Target when they were in the $1 bin (20 for $1). I also pull out the Lightening McQueen math flash cards. Everything is better and done without any fussing when Lightening McQueen is used.

Then we do each flash card with the counting blocks. We pull out the appropriate number and either add or subtract to them.

It is active learning and another way to do math rather than just memorize the figures.


Kumon workbooks.

A proud certificate holder! He's finished two more of his workbooks.

We recently finished up 2 of our workbooks, both from Kumon. The first was, My Book of Simple Addition. The second was, My Book Of Rhyming Words (Kumon Workbooks).

Let me explain why I like the Kumon workbooks. First – they are repetitive but not boringly so. Repetition is important. Just like learning a physical skill takes practice and repetition, learning language and math skills takes practice and repetition. These books help the process along and I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel and create worksheets for him.

Second, the “lessons” are all contained. They are a front and back of a page. There is nothing that is too long. Everything takes 5 minutes or less when done properly (without having to stop for a million distractions). That means it takes us about 20 minutes to finish both sides of a worksheet – which is about the amount of time I like to sit and do something at the table. The length is perfect for us.

Third, the books are all integrated with each other. The Kumon people have even been nice enough, on the back of the books, to place a tree to show the way the books interact with each other.

Lastly, the books are skill based. Sure, there are sometimes grades attached to the various books. But mostly they have age ranges (I take them as suggested) and are truly based on skills. An addition book doesn’t require him to read. The reading book doesn’t require him to do math. There is nothing that crosses the various boundaries. These are perfect books for him to learn math and basic skills in that might not get covered in our various other lessons.

We are moving forwards with the next set of Kumon books and I’m excited. He likes it when we get to the end and he gets the certificate. It’s amazing how he settles down and is willing to complete the last 3 lessons all at once so he can have the certificate.

Our Easter basket cooking project.


We like to cool in my house. If we are cooking sweets, then we like it even more.

I decided to do some Easter basket cookies. We made sugar cookies and put them into cupcake tins and molded them so they were “basket shaped” – approximately. Then once they were cooked we filled them with frosting and topped them with 4 jelly beans each.

It was fun to cook with my son. I think it is important that he learns to cook and cook healthy. So sugar cookies (apple sauce instead of butter) are a great treat to make. Having him cook also makes him realize that work goes into the food he eats and helps develop all his motor skills ( cracking eggs, mixing, pouring, measuring, molding, and frosting are all great tasks for little fingers).

Cooking also teaches math. I only cook – with him – with the 1/4, 1/2, and 1/3 cup measuring cups. It is making him learn math. Also when he has to figure out how many jelly beans we need for 15 baskets if there are 4 beans apiece- well that is all math.

Lastly, I require him to clean up. Chores and cleaning are part of being in a family and living, so the earlier he learns the better. He did most of the clean up from the activity ( it went into the dishwasher).

Cooking with kids has a great many purposes and helps teach many things. It also provides some time for parents to bond with kids and talk with them.


All about me and the letters R/S.


Today is preschool day! Well, it is my day to teach our preschool co-op. The theme for this week is “all about me.” I have the letters R and S for Tuesday and T for Thursday.

I found this great site with handwriting and letter practice sheets. It lets you pick, out of a few options, what the letters are for. I decided that R is for rocket and S is for snake. Since all 5 kids are boys, those are good choices. It is better than some of the practice sheets where R is for rainbow. The boys just laugh at things like that and then it is hard to get them to focus on practicing their letters. They really like to laugh at rainbows because one of the boys has an older sister who likes rainbows. Therefore, rainbows are for girls. It really does pay to know who you are teaching.

I also like to make sure we include some math. So I use this set of counting sheets on the days when I am teaching. We are doing the harder ones in the sets now. I pick 3 of the sheets and scatter them throughout the morning.

That is it for our traditional book work things. Onto the fun stuff.

Since the week is “all about me” we are making “all about me” books. The book is simply 2 pages of paper, folded in half, and stapled. On the front I wrote “All about me.” Then the kids are going to write their names (they can all do this). On each page their is a prompt. They will get to make a drawing for each prompt. The 6 prompts are:

1. My favorite color is…

2. My favorite toy is…

3. My favorite food is…

4. My house looks like…

5. My family looks like…

6. My favorite thing to do it…

They will have to draw something for each prompt. We shall see how this goes.

I also have some other activities in storage in case we have extra time: I cut out squares of paper that I am going to have them glue onto paper in the shape of snake. I have stickers of farm animals they can put onto paper once they draw a farm. And most of all, I have sugar cookies they can decorate and eat.

This takes 2 hours? Yep. And here’s why: I do an activity between each sit down activity. Our day will really go like this:

Circle time

Freeze dance

Letter tracing – letter R

Active songs

Letter tracing – Letter S

Hide and go Seek

Snack time

All about me books

(extra activities)

Free play for the last 15-20 minutes.

That’s the plan for our day tomorrow. I certainly hope it works out.


Making pizza.

Mini pizzas can be quite the lesson for a preschooler: math, cooking, and biology all mixed into one lesson. In addition, it is a fun lesson and he hardly realized how much he learned. Mini pizzas, as I approached them, because a project lesson – a holistic lesson that didn’t focus on a specific subject but instead brought all the subjects together in one lesson. It also let him practice various motor skills that he is going to need to develop to be a better writer.

All our ingredients for mini pizzas: cheese, sauce, pepperoni, and bagels/hamburger buns.

All good lessons start with good preparation. In this case, it was me splitting the bagels in half (or buns, since we ran out of bagels) with a knife. I don’t like to let him use a knife, so I do the knife work beforehand. I also put the spices into the tomato sauce so it would be ready to do. I got out the cheese and pepperoni, and a spoon to put the sauce onto the “crusts.”

Nicholas did all the work.

The math part of the lesson: Dividing the pepperoni equally (or unequally) and counting them as he put them onto the crusts. He also had to count out enough slices of cheese to make for the pizzas.

The cooking part: Making the pizzas counts as cooking. He can – accurately – tell you that his mini pizzas are made with a crust, then sauce, then pepperoni, then cheese. As a person who has married a man who doesn’t really cook, and who knows many young men who cannot cook, I realize that teaching him how to cook is important. In fact, it is vital. What happens when he is older and I don’t want to cook every day for him? He is learning now how food is made, and that is important.

The finished product: Math, cooking, and biology lessons all in one. Thank goodness he's still too young to recognize all that he's really learning from making mini pizzas.

The next question might be, “How in the world do mini pizzas count as biology?” Well it is simple.

Biology lesson: We eat plants and meat (pepperoni and tomatoes) so we are omnivores. We are not herbevores (not in this house) and we are not carnivores (although we do love some meat). So we talked about the difference between plants and meats. Then we talked about the food chain and we played the food chain game. I got to pretend I was a plant, and he got to come pretend to eat me (he picked being a cow), then I got to pretend to eat him as a hamburger since I was a person. I thought that would end the game, but my very creative son decided he was going to be a T-Rex and eat me – since a T-Rex will eat a person. I declared an end to the food chain and he told me I was wrong, “Mommy, a T-Rex dies and is eaten by God so it can go to heaven.” I decided not to correct him and took the sentiment as correct.

In addition, we named off the food groups we had. We have a picture on our refrigerator of the four main food groups: meat, bread, dairy, and fruits/veggies. I really wanted to add chocolate, but my husband reminded me the picture was for our son, not me. So at every meal he has to have all four food groups and name what he is eating out of each one. So he named them correctly: Tomato (fruits/veggies), crust (bread), cheese (diary), and pepperoni (meat).

That is how our task of mini pizzas ended up taking 1.5 hours to make and cook and eat! It was a fun lunch and we both really enjoyed it. He learned so much and still doesn’t realize how much he is learning.

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