Summer writing practice.

We’ve been doing schoolwork over this summer. Yes, I’m one of those moms. I don’t believe that the school year exists for any good reason. I think learning can, and should, be done year round. I certainly don’t think that it’s a good idea to take months off of practice.

If we were talking about professional sports people, they don’t take months off of practice. They might cross train, but they certainly don’t take breaks for months at a time. Not and be good at what they do.

I want my kids to be professional learners. Therefore we might cross train, but we don’t take time off.

Some skills that are easily deterioratable (yes, I made up my own word) are: Math, reading, and writing. Those are the skills we practice everyday. Without fail. Anything else we just learn as we go. Museums, hikes, shopping – these are all things we do to learn. But math, reading, and writing we do everyday.

Nicholas practice reading and writing the same way he did over the school year. I find science articles, or articles about the World Cup (he’s obsessed). He then reads then and writes a sentence summarizing the article.

Abby doesn’t like that method of learning. She hasn’t learned to write all her letters yet, and would prefer I just leave her alone with her paints and paper thank you. She would rather not participate in learning her letters and numbers. But that’s too bad. Sometimes I’m the mean mom and force her to spend 10 minutes, yes 10 minutes, doing something I need her to do.

I’ve bragged about Confessions of a Homeschooler before – and how much I love her stuff. She has some neat writing and number practice sheets too. I’ve downloaded these and put them into folders. Abby’s job is to pick one of each (one number and one letter) out each morning. When the folder is empty, I refill it. Sometimes I add extras before they are all gone.

Why do I let her pick? Well, she has to do it. So letting her have a choice in what she practices is important. She gets all her numbers and letters practiced – which is why I try not to refill them before they are empty. Otherwise we would practice the letter A and number 3 all year long. Instead she has to pick from what is available, and do the work.

I also let her do it with crayons or markers. I don’t care what she writes with, so long as she practices.

This way we all get some say in the work that gets done, while still getting the work done that needs to be done.

Number practice sheets

Writing practice sheets


Toddler Tuesday: The race track and numbers.

Learning math is fun for young kids when the learning is play.

Learning math can be fun. It is important – especially for the younger kids – that the learning they do be more fun than anything else. Otherwise, they will lose their love for learning because they will equate learning with work.

race tracks can be used to learn math.

We labeled the race track with two numbers. This version has 1 and 2. We also did 2 and 4, 7 and 8, 9 and 3.

We have been having a little trouble with learning numbers – well recognizing numbers. Abby can count to ten – accurately – with objects and her fingers. She can identify the number 1 and zero. She can write her numbers, if an example is placed before her (and she is using her purple pencil, otherwise all bets are off).

What she’s not good at is being shown a number and knowing what number it is. This is true for all numbers except 1 and zero.

So today we had a spare bit of time and I thought we would play with numbers for her – just a bit. As an added but of fun, she got to boss her brother around in this “lesson.”

First I made the race track. It’s a piece of shelving we aren’t currently using and some electrical tape. I ran a tape down the middle. Then  I put numbers with tape in the top two boxes (you can see the number one, but not the two, in the picture). We used the following sets of numbers:

  • 1 and 2
  • 2 and 4
  • 7 and 8
  • 9 and 3


I would’ve done more but it ran into dinner time. I was hungry even if the kids pretended they weren’t.

Abby told Nicholas which cars to put in which slot. She actually went into the toy bins and got a ton of cars out so she could have different colored cars each time (I made her tell me the colors of the cars too – just to make sure she was getting a good review). Then she had to tell Nicholas which car went into which lane.

I had to make sure Nicholas would only listen to her when she gave a number, not just pointed – and that was the hardest part of the lesson. He got the idea after a time or two, and she was forced to actually say the numbers.

I changed the number sets pretty often. I wanted to make sure she didn’t get to comfortable. We’d do about 5 races with one set of numbers, then switch. Then switch back, but put the numbers on the opposite sides of the track.

Abby was forced to recognize the numbers properly in order to get the cars going where she wanted them to go. She also got to be the “race starter” and call out “go!” Nicholas thought it was great fun to try and guess which one would win based on their velocity (mass times acceleration – and generally the heavier car won).

That was our number lesson for the day. It was a fun bit of inside play, since the weather wasn’t great, and it also covered a lesson without either of them realizing that they were doing school work.

After all, play is the best way to learn.

Toddler Tuesday: The counting bears.

What I had planned for our Tuesday lesson: The counting bears and some number matching with glue. Normally anything with glue is a winner, but we didn't even get to it today.

What I had planned for our Tuesday lesson: The counting bears and some number matching with glue. Normally anything with glue is a winner, but we didn’t even get to it today.

I have a horrible fascination with Amazon. It’s not horrible for Amazon, just horrible for my bank account. I love looking at things. I really do. I could spend hours just browsing through all Amazon’s stuff. If you type in “homeschool items” you come up with so many things. You just have to narrow it a bit. I was searching for “sensory bins” because I really don’t like having to make up my own. I really like it when things are done for me already – especially when I’m overbooked with other things.

I found these amazing 50 Counting Bears with 5 Cups.

What? Counting bears? Hum….they come with color cups so we can practice sorting…..and the idea of same and different…..and there are 50 of them so we can practice counting….in German too………okay, I guess I can get them.

That’s exactly how the conversation went in my head. Part of the problem with Amazon is that stuff is cheaper than it would be in a traditional store. I’ve seen these at other “learning stores” for over $15.00. That makes it easy to say no. $7 and change is simply one fewer books for me this month. That’s an easy one to do.

So what did we do with them? I put the bears in a pile, put the cups in a stack, and said to Abby, “Want to play?”

Here’s what she did – all on her own:

1. She counted the bears. She simply separated them into groups of 10 – because that’s all she wanted to count to. Then she said, “I have lots of groups of 10.” At which point Nicholas stepped in and informed her that 5 groups of 10 isn’t a lot because 5 times 10 is only 50. Nicholas defines a lot as “more than 100.” Thus, he has a lot of pennies, but

Abby and her bears and their cups. She was sorting, matching, counting, and naming colors. Simply because she had bears and cups.

Abby and her bears and their cups. She was sorting, matching, counting, and naming colors. Simply because she had bears and cups.

he doesn’t have a lot of dollars.

2. She put the colors all together – into different colored cups. The purple bears went into the blue cup, the yellow bears into the red cup, and so forth. Okay – so that’s not matching so much as it is sorting. But I’ll take the sorting.

3. She then dumped them all out, mixed them up, and made her dolls jump over them because the dolls were having a jumping party.

4. She sorted the colors into the matching colored cup – but did it in German because English is “too easy.” (Those are her words not mine).

Wait – did I mention she did all this without me having to do it for her, or lay out the “rule” or “parameters” or an exercise? I did? Isn’t it great when this happens?

Did I also mention that it took up most of the morning, because she decided to repeat the sorting process more than once? She used these bears for almost 3 hours – the same amount of time it took me to get Nicholas to finish his math and spelling (he didn’t want to do it – he wanted to not do it, but he had not done it last week  – so it was time to finish).

That was our very fun, totally Abby-driven, Tuesday.

Toddler Tuesdays: Number bin.

Tracing the numbers, then hiding them in the beans and letting her hunt for was a fun activity.

Tracing the numbers, then hiding them in the beans and letting her hunt for them……it was a fun activity.

We are back to working on numbers this week. I’ve decided to combine a bunch of her favorites: magnets, bins, number hunting. It’s all combined into one activity. Here’s how it went:

1. Empty tin casserole pan
2. Beans from the dollar store
3. Number magnets
4. Paper with the number magnets traced onto it

Set-up was really easy. I traced the numbers onto the paper (in fact, I made 3 different sheets with the numbers in different orders). Then I put the number magnets into the bin and dumped the beans over the magnets to hide them.

Abby was excited when she saw the bin come out again. She went to grab her tongs from the desk, but I let her do the first time with her hands. The second time she used a big horseshoe magnet we have to attract the magnets to her.

She had to find the numbers and put them in the correct spot on the paper. After she put it down, she had to say what number she had found.

We only worked with the numbers 0-9. Those were the number magnets I had, so those are the numbers we worked with.

There were problems she had. First, she got the 2 and 5 mixed up depending on which way she pulled it out from the beans. She also tried to make her 6 a nine all the time. Then she wondered why there were two 9’s and no 6’s. I had to explain to her that they might look the same, but one is upside down and one is right side up and that they are two different numbers. She said okay to that explanation, and proceeded to fix them the way she wanted. She also didn’t like that the three wouldn’t go “backwards.” She wanted it to turn the other way. It’s just one of those red-headed stubborn problems she has occasionally.

But here’s the result: She knows and can identify her numbers 0-9. It’s pretty awesome that she can do that. I’m excited. Now if only she had any interest in writing her numbers……but no. She’s content to know them and draw when she wants to draw.

Toddler Tuesdays: Counting.

Legos work great for learning numbers and counting. Especially because they come in so many different colors.

Legos work great for learning numbers and counting. Especially because they come in so many different colors.

Kids learn numbers a bunch of different ways. For a while, Abby has been counting correctly to 4, and then skipping around after that based on what number she likes saying. “Nine” comes in after four a lot – mostly because she likes pretending she’s saying no while counting (Nine is no in German).

I figured it’s about time to get her counting “correctly” – or at least being able to do it when she needs to. She likes to play and learn. So I thought this Lego activity would be great.

Here’s what we used:

1. Lego Duplos

2. Construction paper with squares/numbers written on it.

Set-up took me all of 3 minutes to write the numbers and boxes on the construction paper. The longest part of the set-up was finding a piece of non-blue, pink, or purple construction paper. The kids really like to use those colors, so I didn’t want to use them for “school.”

Anyways, I sat Abby down with the activity and gave her these directions, “Place the right amount of Legos in a tower on the right number.” We practiced the first time through, then she wanted to do it again, on her own. I made sure to break up the towers from the previous time, then she did it again.

As is a theme when I get an activity together that she likes, she did it A LOT. She really liked breaking up the towers too. She would count backwards from whatever number she had to zero, and then say, “Bye-bye tower, until later alligator.”

So that was our lesson for Abby today. It was a great lesson.

Toddler Tuesdays: Color matching.

I saw these great ideas for sensory bins over on Pintrest. I finally joined Pintrest (which is a HUGE time suck for me).

Our color sensory bin.

Our color sensory bin.

Now I find bunches of ideas there and can’t wait to do them all except…..well…..we don’t have time to do them all. I’ve decided I have to stay away from Pintrest unless I’m searching for something specific. At the end of the article, there will be links to several places to see what they use as sensory bins.

Abby is a little above the age for a strict sensory bin. So, instead, I made her one with a purpose.

Here’s what I used:

1. A tin casserole pan

2. Pompoms of various colors

3. Index cards and markers to write the color names

4. Tongs

Let’s talk about the tongs: Abby got to pick them out. Since I let them pick out their pencils, I decided to let her pick out her tongs because she’s going to have to use them. She picked out a super basic pair. She liked the shiny silver ones. So okay.

When we went to use them, she got frustrated easily. Tongs aren’t easy for kids to learn to use. It’s a new way to use their hands and focus on how to move their muscles. It’s weird, because she doesn’t get frustrated with scissors nearly as much. But the tongs frustrated her. So she used them for 5 minutes and then used her hand.

Here’s how it worked:

1. She had to get all the color cards out of the bin, say the name of the color as she pulled it out, and then we set them down on the floor next to her.

2. She used the tongs to pull out pompoms, and matched the pompom to the right card based on color.

3. Nicholas was a bit envious of her doing this, so he did it after her – but he did it in German and had to say not on the color, but whether it was a big, little, or medium pompom.

4. She wanted to do it again, but faster. So I started timing her. She wanted to beat her time each time she did it. Let’s just say, this took up a whole hour with her repeating the bin several times.

That’s how our hour went. It was a great hour for her because she got to do something fun, while learning, seeing how letters make words, and reviewing colors. She also got to use muscles she doesn’t normally use (with the tongs). It was a really good activity for her to do. It made me excited to make more bins. Plus, it was something just for her. it wasn’t something that Nicholas had done before, or that Nicholas was doing and she just got to do as well. Instead, it was focused just for her.

I put it away after two days of doing it. I figure two days is enough, and she can practice something else. Now to use all these wonderful links and make more sensory/learning bins.

Links to more articles on sensory bins

50 Sensory Bin Ideas

Play Create Explore Sensory Bins

7 Simple Sensory Bins

30 Sensory Bin Ideas


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).

Toddler Tuesday: Letter practice.

Want some great letter practice for your child? I love Starfall’s sheets.

We do a letter a day, so I’ll give you our steps to letter practice.

1. My preparation

To begin, I print the pages from Starfall for the whole week. Then I go and find pictures (thank you Clipart) of things that begin with that letter. I load all the pictures into one document and print them out on one sheet. If I can, I change the color settings to “outline” so that Abby can color them at the end. I put each day’s worth of letter activities into a folder and label them so I know which say is which.

2. First activity: Paint in the bag

First thing we do is trace the letter in the paint bag. I put some water and some paint and some flour into a Ziploc bag and tape it to the back door. She gets to trace the letter in the bag. It’s pretty cool. Sometimes she gets distracted by the way the light shines through the paint. I’m okay with that. She’s my crafty child, and as long as she does it five times, I’m okay.

3: Second activity: Cut out the pictures

Next she gets to cut out the pictures. Remember the pictures I put into a Word document earlier in the week? Those are the ones she cuts out. Nicholas is generally doing his online math at this point. So it is a good activity to do when the older one is engaged online and my younger one needs supervision.

4: Third activity: Trace the letters

Next we do the first page of the Starfall sheet – tracing the letters. She gets to pick her color (she likes to use crayons). I help her with the first 3 and she does the 4th (or more) on her own. Sometimes it is a weird shape. But she always tries.

5: Fourth activity: Glue the pictures

Next she gets to glue the pictures she cut out onto the second page. Sometimes Starfall has pictures, and sometimes they don’t. We name each picture (in German and English – which is why I have to do these beforehand so I can learn the German). She gets to glue. With a glue stick. I once let her use white glue and that was horrible. So now we stick to glue sticks. No glitter glue for this project.

6: Fifth activity: Color

Lastly, she colors. Why is this last? Because Abby really likes to color. If I let her do it first, then she wouldn’t do the rest. It took about 2 weeks to get her used to coloring last. But now she knows the routine. If she doesn’t do the first part, she doesn’t get to color.

That’s how we practice our letters.

Toddler Tuesday: My body.

1195424432502248826johnny_automatic_skeleton.svg.medI try and do more than simple practice of letters and numbers with Abby for her Toddler Tuesday. This week we are working on parts of the body.

First thing we did was go take a walk/run. Why? Because exercise is important to our bodies. I got to answer lots of questions about “why” on this walk/run, so it was fun. If you do it, just be prepared to answer lots of random questions about “why” exercise is important.

Then we came home and I laid out butcher paper. I traced each kid onto the butcher paper and then let them go crazy coloring themselves. We then took the black crayon and drew: eyes, nose, ears, mouth, hands (traced), fingers, feet (traced), toes, belly buttons.

I had pre-printed labels from our computer with the words on them (legs, arms, chest, spine, forehead, cheeks, neck, wrist, ankle, and chin). I gave the stickers to Abby and Nicholas, and they put them onto each part of the body. Then they were handed the same words in German and had to do it with the German words.

We finished by using string to glue on hair – Nicholas picked blue string and Abby picked the purple string.

Next, we went over food groups. We covered grains, meat, dairy, and fruits/vegetables. I handed them each two pages of pictures I had printed out from the computer. They cut out the pictures and pasted the pictures onto the correct food group pages. I made them each little books (two pieces of paper, folded in half) with the food groups on them. They had to properly put the pictures in the pages.

We sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” It’s a song about our bodies, and it was fun. We also had to read – three times – “Farley visits the doctor,” – a Sesame Street book from when I was a kid.

Lastly, we had snack. They got to pick one thing from each food group and have it for snack. We ended up with cheese, smoothies (milk, fruits, and veggies) and beef jerky.

That was our lesson on the body.

When do I do preschool?

One of the questions I get asked is if I only do one lesson a week for Abby – my preschooler. The answer is no – I have lessons everyday for her.

First, the lessons we do on a subject she joins in. Sometimes she’s sitting on my lap handing things to Nicholas. Other times she’s doing the experiment as well. She cooks, cleans and plays with us all day.

Second, she gets her own work. While I’m working with Nicholas I give her a puzzle to do, or she’s doing art (a favorite), or she’s doing sticker matching….or sometimes she just plays. She isn’t as old as Nicholas and isn’t as capable of doing math. I don’t ask her to do developmentally inappropriate things. She just sometimes tries to do them 🙂

Third, we spend some time everyday on something just for her. Sometimes it is threading shapes onto string and naming the shapes. Or we count, or measure, or go around the house naming the letters that things begin with. But everyday we have something for her. I’ve listed the worksheets below that we used this week so you can see the types of things she does everyday.


From Confessions of a Homeschooler – letter B – B puzzle, B dot-to-dot, B matching

Sticker book – Dogs

Colored in her Strawberry Shortcake book



Letter D scavenger hunt (I posted letter D’s all around the house on Post-it’s and she had to find them)

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