Easy Quiet Book for Little Ones

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If you’ve ever had a very active toddler like I do, I’m sure you’ve wondered many times what you can do to keep them busy. When my firstborn son was little, my mother lovingly sewed him a quiet book for church. It was beautiful and he loved it! Sadly I was not gifted with the sewing gene, and my mother has since passed on. So, I pondered as to how I could make something for our newest little girl! While I may not be able to sew well or at all, I can laminate like there is no tomorrow!!

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When my older children were younger, I made tons of laminated file folder games for them. There are so many free file folder games online that you can just print out and laminate! Did I mention I LOVE laminating!! So I thought, “Why not make a laminated quiet book!” How easy is that! I dug through my extensive collection of file folder games and also searched for new free ones online. Then I printed, laminated, and cut out the game pieces.

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Next was to find a three-ring binder that was just the right size. I went with a 1″ binder and made a pretty cover for it. Then I affixed magnets onto the laminated game boards, where the pieces would go, and slid them into sheet protectors. I did this so that she wouldn’t be tempted to pull the magnets off. I cut apart business card magnets for the game boards and the pieces. After that I separated out the game pieces into individual ziplock bags and stored them in a three-ring pencil case.

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I love the flexibility of this quiet book because I can make up multiple activities, store them in my file cabinet, and change them out. The possibilities are endless! You can make one that is spiritually centered for church, and one that is early learning based, or combine them together. My three-year-old loves hers. I have even thought about making some activities that are seasonally themed also!

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Below is the link to my Pinterest board with tons of free File Folder Game Printables!!

File Folder Games – Pinterest

The laminator I have used for years is the Duck Electric Laminator. I originally purchased it at Walmart for $25, but they no longer carry this brand. There are many that are comparable in price and quality though. I love my laminator, and it was one of my best homeschool purchases!

 

Math and the Flexible Homeschool

“Math” and “flexible” may seem at odds with each other. How flexible can math be, after all? More flexible than I once thought!

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Last spring, towards the end of our school year, I asked some homeschool mom friends about math. Do they finish every lesson, every year? What if we were behind? Did we have to do math all summer before moving on?

Yes, there was one who stayed on schedule, and her kids finished every lesson every year. We were not in that category. My son had struggled with math for awhile. Now that we were using Saxon math, he was doing well, but I didn’t want him to fall behind if I missed teaching something. One friend, a teacher by training, reassured me that most teachers/students don’t finish the whole textbook by the end of the year. She suggested giving a placement test and going from there.

Since we were using Saxon math, I gave my son the Saxon Placement Test. The results indicated he was more than ready for the next level. In fact he could possible skip a level. We stopped our math before the school year ended. My son was delighted. A burden was lifted from me.

The next dilemma was a great one. Should we skip a level or continue on to the next level in sequence. I didn’t want to push him or have boredom set in. What to do?

We decided to proceed with the next level in sequence, but modify the lessons. We skipped the practice sets, and he was allowed to just take the tests, as long as his scores stayed above 90 percent. We reviewed any missed problems carefully to make sure they were review and not new concepts. It was clear when he got to new material, and then we settled into following the regular lessons with all problem sets, practice sets, and timed drills.

With this quick start, by mid-December he was nearing the back of the book. I was not in any rush to spend more money on another set of books, so I figured we’d just soldier on to the end. But, then we were gifted with a box of used homeschool books. Included were some older second edition Saxon math textbooks. Doing some quick research I discovered these older texts might even suit our learning style better than the newer ones. And, since I didn’t have to buy new curriculum, I pulled out the placement test again. Sure enough; he was ready for the next level, even more solidly than before.

Finally feeling like we were catching up with his “grade level,” we started the next level from the beginning with all lessons, practice sets, and drills.

Will we finish in time to move on to the next level for next school year? I don’t know and, frankly, I’m not worried about it anymore. We will finish whenever the skills are learned and the time is right — whether in June, November, or March!

What a blessing to have the flexibility to guide our children individually with what they need, when they need it — even while teaching math!

“Joyful” Backpedaling

Rats can also be of assistance when doing online schoolwork.

Rats can also be of assistance when doing online schoolwork. LOL.

There may come a time when you have to admit that your current method isn’t working. Or, maybe just part of it isn’t working. That’s what happened to us recently.

I started my son “late” by public school standards, but due to a bit of catch-up, he’s been coasting along for awhile at about one year behind where he would have been. One year. Good deal. I can easily wrap my mind around that, especially as we are such fans of the whole starting-late concept.

Except there’s this one thing. Math. As soon as we hit multiplication last year, the pace slowed considerably. He just didn’t “get” it. We weren’t using a packaged curriculum; we’d just been relying on my ability to explain things. That wasn’t going to cut it in math, but it somehow took me struggling along with him for an entire year to come to terms with it.

With the new year, I decided to give up. Sad confessions to homeschooling friends brought forward a possible solution. One friend had just finished a computer-based math program only one year behind my son’s level, and she was willing to lend it to us to try.

Wait a minute. One year behind? So that would be two years behind his “official-if-he-was-in-school” level?

Let me share what can be the greatest detriment to your child’s education: pride. That would be parental pride. I could thump myself in the head now for what I did next.

I borrowed her program, BUT, I printed off a readiness test for the grade level I wanted him to be in, and grudgingly printed one for the earlier year as well. He took both, and I was faced with the results. He could start the program for his current level, but be at a disadvantage for gaining true understanding, OR, I could put him back a year at a level where he already understood more than half.

A bit of prayer and several stern moments of self-truth finally won out over my artificial pride, and I moved him back a year in math. I say “artificial,” because there was no worthwhile basis in it. My son himself is not remotely disturbed at starting one year back in math. Ohhhh, it’s so hard to back down from pride, though, isn’t it? Even as he started in, I suggested that on the lessons where he was already comfortable, that he just do a few random problems in order to jump ahead.

He humored me and did the first couple of lessons like that. Then he discovered that if he did an entire lesson, the program would grade him, and he would know what percentage he got correct. I’m embarrassed to say it, but my child actually had to ask me if he could start doing the whole lesson each time. “Yes. Yes, of course you can.”

Parents, do you ever find yourself fretting about your child’s progress? Are you bothered that they aren’t with their peers in writing? Or, they don’t understand fractions well, when the kid in playgroup can explain it all using his or her LEGOs? Or, maybe they haven’t started reading by age eight, even though all your nieces and nephews are — as your relatives are quick to point out? You may need to step back and evaluate with honesty whether your concern is for your child or yourself — and that is said with the humility of one who has had to do the same. If you suspect actual learning disabilities, seek help! Now! But, if you know there’s a readiness issue, or you’re pretty sure you simply aren’t the best source for explaining a particular subject…don’t lock your child into the same dark room as your pride. Ask your friends for suggestions, research other methods, jump back a year, or maybe just pull back a bit until they’re ready.

So, what has happened with my son’s math situation? He loves using this program! He’ll have finished one-quarter of the year in the first month, because I’m letting him concentrate on math as much as he wants for now. His confidence is way up, and he no longer feels overwhelmed by math. The other day he told me, “It’s not like I love math, but I just don’t feel so stressed anymore.”

Reminder to self: Joyful homeschooling — that’s what we’re supposed to be all about.

“Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others,” Phil. 2:3 (VOICE).

Math Hopscotch

Have you ever noticed how turning learning into a game does not just make it more fun, it makes it more effective? Math games are a very powerful example of that, and I have been known to make up my share of them in my couple decades as a homeschool mom.

Math Hopscotch: Mixing a bit of physical activity into the children’s brain work is often a great way out of a slump! | SDAHomeschools.org

Math Hopscotch: Mixing a bit of physical activity into the
children’s brain work is often a great way out of a slump!

Today I would like to share one of our favorites with you: Math Hopscotch.

Math Hopscotch is an excellent, fun way to learn multiplication – or to practice what you already know. Mixing a bit of physical activity into the children’s brain work is often a great way out of a slump, too.

Here’s how it works:

  • Decide which multiplication table your child is ready to work on.
  • For our example today, we are going to say she is ready to learn 4’s.

  • Choose a location.
  • We played indoors this time, but outdoors works great, as well. If you have decent weather and a sidewalk, it can be fun to draw your basic hopscotch board with chalk on the sidewalk. More about that in Numbers 3 and 4.

  • Make your number cards.
  • Your cards should be about the size of half of a 3×5-inch index card (i.e. 2-1/2 by 3 inches). Scratch paper is fine, and the exact size is not real critical. Just cut out 20 cards for an indoor game or 10 for an outdoor game on a chalk hopscotch board.Using a dark-colored marker, pen, or crayon, write neat, bold numbers on your cards.

    For an indoor game, the first 10 cards are for the numbers “1” to “10,” one number to a card. (I realize the times tables often go to 12 or 13, but that always seemed a bit much to me, both for the child to start with and for the game. You want to be sure your game keeps an element of fun. As for the “easy” numbers, like “1” and “2,” they give a good boost of courage and a little “brain break” here and there in the practice. I don’t recommend taking them out, especially when the child is just learning their multiplication facts.)

    For either location, the next 10 cards are for the multiples of your chosen number. For our example, we would write: 4, 8, 12, 16… up to 40.

    Again, keep one number to a card and write in a bold color. It is nice if you can write your multiples in a different color from the basic multipliers you made.

  • Lay out (or draw) your Math Hopscotch board.
  • Math Hopscotch: a simple, fun game for learning times tables! | SDAHomeschools.org

    Lay out your Math Hopscotch board in basic hopscotch-type form.

    In a basic hopscotch-type form (see photo for example), lay out (or draw) your basic numbers, 1-10, in order. Lay down the multiples beside their multiplier. This is a good job for a little who is learning number recognition: “Set this card next to the black ‘3’.”

     

  • Toss and hop.
  • Grab a marker. A small rock might be nice outside. A hairband works particularly well indoors. We have tried cat toys (amongst other things), but they tend to bounce on the carpet! (We have been known to go fix a misplaced marker, by the way.)As you might guess, this experiment can be part of the fun for the children.

    Have your child toss her marker onto the first number “1.” Then she will hop over that square (chalk or imaginary) where her marker is and onto the next one. Wherever she hops, she counts by the multiples. So the first time through, it’s “8, 12, 16…” on up to “40.”

    Hop on one foot where there is one pair of numbers (the multiplier and multiple); hop on two where there is a set of pairs next to each other. Instruct your children to hop next to the papers – not on them – to avoid slipping!)

    Math Hopscotch: One foot, two! | SDAHomeschools.org

    One foot…

    At the end of the line, child takes a hop to turn around, and counts by their multiple backwards down the line: “40, 36, 32….” Incidentally, I am not a stickler for reciting the numbers in exact order. If she lands on “7,28” and “8,32” as a pair, she might say “28, 32” or “32, 28.”

    In the end, the result is the same. Her facts are memorized.

    Math Hopscotch: One foot, two! | SDAHomeschools.org

    …two feet!

    When your child lands on the space just before her marker, she pauses (often on one foot!) to pick up her marker and continue down the line, to finally hop out at the end.

    If more than one child is playing, let the other do the same.

    Next time through, have them toss their markers to the next number in line, and so forth until they have gone through all 10. (If you need to shorten the game, let one child toss to “1,” the next toss to “2,” and so forth.)

     

  • Encourage Memory.
  • After a few turns of simple drill, start taking out random multiples. (Leave the basic multipliers.) This is also a fun job for the littles learning number recognition: “Pick up the card by the black ‘9’;” or, “Pick up the card with the red ‘3-6’. That’s 36!”Try to alternate taking away easier and more difficult problems. (Pay attention to where your child hesitates.) Also mix up where in the line you are leaving the “empty” spaces.Pay careful attention as you take away the cards. A little hesitation is okay; downright frustration or a total pause is not a good sign. If a particular number gives too much difficulty, just put it back. Your child will have it memorized soon enough.

    It is okay to end the game with some multiples still out there, if need be.

  • Repeat.
  • Next day, repeat the same times table if your child needs it. This time, take the multiples out a bit sooner if your child can handle it. The eventual goal is not to need the multiples laid out at all.The next day (or few days – whenever your child is ready), move on to the next table!

Additional Tips:

  • This game couples well with some sort of timed multiplication table test. We like the ones at multiplication.com.
  • Once your child has some or all of the multiplication tables memorized, review sometimes by setting out the numbers 1-10 at random instead of in order. Call a multiplier the child has learned for each trip up the line. You may use a pair of dice to decide, if you like.
  • Include littles in the game by letting them count their way up the line: “1,2,3…” and/or just give their best shot at hopping in the pattern (one foot, two feet…). I don’t believe in pressuring the young children to memorize the numbers, but you might be amazed how much they pick up just by intentional casual association!
  • If you are physically able, join in, too – the children love it!

►► Do you have a math game that has helped your children master the basic math facts? If you decide to give Math Hopscotch a try, I would love to hear how that goes for you, too.

Hands-on Math: It’s for Everyone!

  Hands-on math.  Just the term itself instantly makes one think of kindergarten students playing with blocks as they add one block with another block.  And this is good–kindergarten level students SHOULD be using blocks (and rocks, matchbox cars, plastic toys, etc.) to help them learn how to add.  But far too often parents and teachers fall into the trap of putting away the “messy” math manipulatives way too quickly, exchanging them instead for neatly bound math workbooks with hundreds of spaces for our students to fill in.  Upon finishing all the problems, we feel like they have “done the grade.”

If we are not thinking of kindergarten students, then the second group of students that we feel “need” hands-on math is the struggling student.  This is true–struggling students can benefit greatly from hands-on math!  But so can the average student and also the advanced student!  I would like to propose four reasons why hands-on math is ideal for every single student, no matter if they are struggling, advanced, or in between.

1)  Hands-on math builds a strong math foundation.  The “hands-on” part ties directly into real life.  How many cookies will fill this container?  How many pieces of silverware do we need for setting the table?  Hands-on math activities helps open a child’s eyes to the world around them and the math that exists everywhere.  Story problems are not only something in a book–they are literally all around you!

2)  Hands-on math helps focus children’s attention.  We may immediately think of the little wiggly boy who can’t focus on anything and would much prefer running outside as to sitting and working math problems–but this is equally true for the quiet, advanced student who may be tuning math (and you!) out as they turn their brain thoughts onto something they would rather be thinking about!  If a student is using their hands to manipulate and work their math assignment, it is impossible for them to be thinking about other things.

3)  Hands-on math helps improve children’s understanding.  As adults, we have a pretty good concept of what math numbers and problems represent.  We see 3X3=9 and know that it means three groups with three in each group, but it is surprising how many children do not.   Even children who know the “right” answer do not always understand what the problem actually MEANS in real life objects.

4)  Hands-on math builds interest in math.  Let’s face it.  No child (or adult!) wakes up in the morning excited because they “get” to fill in a page of math problems in a workbook.  But they just might wake up excited because they are going to cut into their pumpkin and count how many seeds are inside.  It is not only the struggling student who is often times not interested in math.  The advanced student may work every problem on the page in the math workbook correctly, but still find math to be a “boring” subject.  This is exactly because they are not seeing the real life math that is all around them.  They are not handling it, wrestling with it, and working it out.  They are not being challenged to think about it.  Working on hands-on math projects can change this!

I am not suggesting that we throw away our math texts and only use hands-on math projects.  Yes, I think this “could” be done–but since math is a skill that builds upon itself it would take a tremendous amount of work to gather hands-on math projects in every math area and organize them all to use in exactly the right order.  Let me make it plain that we use our math textbook in our home school–and most of the time we use every page too!  No, what I am suggesting is that hands-on math time be added into home school in addition to using a math textbook, not instead of.  (Though if you desire to put that much effort and time into organizing an entirely hands-on math curriculum go right ahead!)  Think of it as your “Math-Lab” time.  In Chemistry class, students have the Chemistry lecture, and then they have lab where they actually go into the laboratory  and mix chemicals together.  Your hands-on math time is when your children will have a chance to actually apply the math they have learned to real-life situations.  And if you can find a hands-on math project that correlates perfectly with the topic your math text is covering, all the better–but this isn’t a requirement.

So let’s say you are now convinced–where in the world are you going to FIND hands-on math projects?  You are a busy parent-teacher with a million things to do, and do not have time to go chasing down or inventing hands-on math projects.  I understand.  REALLY, I do.  I am in the exact same boat, and have found what works the best for me is to have a little accordion file folder where I “collect” hands-on math ideas–either ones that I think of on my own, or ideas I see on-line.  Some projects are going to require having some materials in the house already, but many will work spur of the moment.  Start collecting as many hands-on math ideas as you possibly can–stuff them in your file folder, and even separate them into math problems that can be done with what you already have in the house, and math problems that require some supply purchased.

To keep track of our daughter’s hands-on math work, I let her choose one of those bound composition books that are everywhere at back to school time.  The one we use is actually graph ruled inside.  It doesn’t have to be, but we have found that we like the graph lines and it does help make this notebook look just a bit “different” from other school books.  It helps keep some of her math drawings neater too!  Each day when we are doing our Hands-on Math time, she records the date at the top of the page as well as a title of the day’s topic.  A couple weeks ago her title was “Leaf Math.”  For that day, we collected two leaves from our yard.  First she did a crayon rubbing of each leaf.  Then we turned the actual leaf upside down directly on top of the leaf rubbing to check for symmetry.   The crayon rubbings were taped into the composition book, and the leaves labeled with the titles of “Most symmetrical” and “Least symmetrical.”  Next she guessed the perimeter of each leaf and recorded her guess next to each leaf rubbing.  After that, she used a piece of yarn to actually measure around each leaf rubbing edge, cutting the yarn to an exact fit of the leaf and then measuring the yarn to find the actual perimeter measurement.  Our daughter was shocked to find her oak leaf perimeter actually measured in at 34 inches!  She then taped the yarn that was measured to fit around each leaf into the book.  This is one example of a hands-on math day that I did not have to purchase anything special or extra to do–I just needed the idea, which I had collected earlier and put in my hands-on math folder.

Sources for hands-on math ideas are everywhere–but that can also be a bit overwhelming.  To help assist you in starting your idea collection, I have listed some of my favorite hands-on math sites below:

www.mathwire.com
www.mathcats.com
www.bedtimemath.org
www.love2learn2day.blogspot.com
Pinterest
e-book “Loving Living Math” by Cindy West
physical book “Family Math,” and “Family Math II” by Grace Coates and Virginia Thompson

I hope this has helped to get some ideas started of what can be done with hands-on math!  I am always on the look-out for more ideas to use in my own home school teaching, so feel free to tell me about your ideas in the comments to this post!  I would love to hear them!

~Susan