Take the Miserable Out


It’s a cool autumn day. By my estimation it’s a day that ought to be spent tramping through the leaves, perhaps making huge piles and jumping in them, gathering acorns, or enjoying the last rays of heat to be felt outside for months.

However, for right now, we’re all stuck inside mastering times tables, learning to read, studying the skeletons of the English language, or trying to remember which hands of the clock mean what — depending on which child (and therefore grade) we’re referring to.

My mind spins as I struggle to explain to a young mind that c-a-t spells cat — not because I said so, but because those letters make those sounds. My other ear is listening to the older child explaining why she can’t possibly understand her English lesson — and refusing to pronounce predicate, pre-di-cate.

Mission sufficiently accomplished for the time being, we move on to some arithmetic. “Now, remember. When the long hand points to the number 12, it means that it’s something o’clock. The short hand points to the number that you read as the hour.”

“No, 7×4 is not 30. You’re close, try again.”

“No, you read the hour from the short hand, not the long hand.”

“YES! 7×4 is 28. Great job. Now try the next one.”

“Alright let’s try some adding. Grab some toys.” And, I proceed to explain that when you have two trucks and add one more, you now have three trucks— that’s the same as 2+1=3!

That’s my description.

Perhaps you’d like to hear the 6-year-old version:

“We do descriptions that are very fun and I write ‘sis’ now. ‘Cause you made me get out cars, toys. We used them for counting. They made a road ‘s,’ and a road ‘t.’”

“The short hand and the long hand are hours. Wait, o’clock. Wait. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no …. The short hand is the time, and the long hand is the hours.”

“At school I write about my room. I have shelves under my bed — toys on my shelf under my bed — and I have drawing books and pencils and pens. I’ve got a dresser with three shelves.”

“Mommy reads a book to me when I’m done with school, and Sis takes me out to ride my bike. It’s fun, I like it, and it’s sometimes miserable.”

(On second thought, he says …) “That’s horrible! Take the miserable out — it’s fun!”

by Samantha Edeliant
(homeschooled graduate and daughter of blog author Sheila Edeliant)

Using the library to teach science

The public library is an excellent homeschooling resource. Using the library to teach science can be a fun adventure! Here’s how:

Using the library to teach science | SDA Homeschools

The public library is an excellent resource for teaching science in your homeschool.

Keep a list.

Be on the lookout for topics your child would like to learn about. Pay attention to comments they make, topics they seem to be daydreaming about, things they seem to be giving special attention to, etc. Ask them to think about what kind of things they would like to learn more about, too. Have your child keep a list of their current favorite ideas in a handy place. Then when it is library day, choose one or two topics to explore.

Plan a regular library visit.

Mark a regular library visit on your calendar. One handy way to plan the date is to count on a couple days before your current books will be due. That gives you a little leeway if you have to push your visit off a day or two for some reason.

Find the right library section.

I think the easiest way for the children to find a book they would like is to look in the card catalog and search by topic/subject. Just pick any random book that appears to be on the subject you are looking for. Write down the call number for that book. You may even be able to do this part of the process from home if your library has an online card catalog.

Find the approximate number you wrote down in your library. (The Junior section can be a huge goldmine for younger children.) If all goes well, your library will have several books on the topic your child wants to learn about. If not, you can go to Plan B. Go back to the card catalog. Search by topic again, but this time try to find a specific book or books that look interesting. Put in a request to have the books held for your next library visit.

Then start another search using the second topic from your child’s list for this time.

Choose a book — or two, or three. 😉

Teach your child to browse the books, using a marker or the next book (pull it out slightly) to hold each book’s place on the shelf.

Look over the titles and covers. Flip through and read a little here and there. Look at some of the pictures.

Encourage your child to pick both a simpler book — probably what they are more likely to pick first — and one that is a little bit advanced for them.

Ask them to hand the books that interest them to you for final approval. One of the big things to watch for, as you likely know, is anti-biblical philosophy, such as evolution. Often it will be packed into an introduction or first chapter and can be skipped. Other times, the book will be steeped in it.

Once you have decided, explain your decision to your child. They will gradually learn to reason through using the same process for themselves.

If you like, you can use a similar process to check out videos from your library. If you can get hold of Moody Science videos, I highly recommend them. Though they are a bit on the older side, they do an excellent job of tying in faith with science.

Read the books!

At home, set aside regular reading time. The first day, you might want to just explore your books a bit. Read the chapter titles. Skim through the section headings. Explore the pictures.

Then decide: Is this a book I want to read the whole way through? Or would it be better to choose the most-relevant chapters or sections and focus there?

Then, read the books! Your child will likely be quite eager for this part, being that they have had a lot of say in the process of choosing the books.

Reinforce and review.

You have already done much to help this science study stick in your child’s memory. It is easier to remember things we care about. But, there is more you can do. Here are a few ideas:

Many science books will have ideas for experiments. Don’t feel like you have to do every one, but maybe your child can pick out one or two that sound particularly interesting or doable. On the other hand, maybe a topic in the book sparked an idea in your child’s mind for an experiment. You can help your child decide whether it is safe. A whole lot of learning happens this way!

Research and summary projects can be another great thing for the hands-on/artistic/crafty child. They might want to go outside and collect specimens, draw some of what they are learning about, put together a poster with magazine cut-outs, etc.

Take a small section from the child’s book for dictation. Pick an interesting fact or two. Read the passage to the child slowly as they write it out. This not only helps to reinforce the scientific fact, but builds on many other skills as well (penmanship, listening, sentence structure, etc.).

Verbal summary
We use this one a lot in our family. After the child has read a section or chapter in their book, ask them to tell you about it while it is still fresh in their minds. You may not have to do much prompting for this. Sometimes their excitement will lead them to naturally want to tell you all about it, anyway. Be sure to show interest! If your child is new to this activity or is having trouble, start small. Ask them to read a sentence and tell you about it. Then move to a few sentences, a paragraph, a page … work up to a full chapter. Eventually, they will be able to do a decent job with a whole book when needed.

Written reports
Written reports kind of go along with Projects, but sometimes it is good to focus on writing, specifically. This works well for the older children, especially, as they are learning to compile multiple sources on a topic and bring it together in a coherent document. A written report can be especially helpful if a child has found a science topic that they are really into. It doesn’t hurt to let them research deeply and check out multiple books multiple times in one subject area. Somebody’s got to be the expert! 😉

Of course, don’t feel tied to any one method. Vary it according to your child’s interests and abilities, strengths and weaknesses – and according to your family’s current stage in life.

Verbal summaries are easy to keep up on trips. Specimen hunts can be lots of fun in new places. Written reports can be great for almost-independent study once your child has the basics down. Most children just plain love experiments and will remember those things.

Sight-words Flashcards “Toll” Game

In teaching children to read, building a store of sight-words can give them some quick wins as they work on perfecting their phonics skills. It makes it possible to read some more interesting stories that include words that may be quite common in a child’s world, but not necessarily phonetically simple.

In teaching children to read, building a store of sight-words can give them some quick wins as they work on perfecting their phonics skills. The Sight-words Flashcards "Toll" Game is a great, fun way to work on this!

For even more fun… play with bicycles!

The problem is that sight-words must be drilled. They must be used. You could label various things around your house — or better yet, let your child help you do that. You could also point out a particular sight-word as you read, and let the child “read” that word. (One of these days, we will go into that in detail in another blog post.)

While these methods can be helpful, on their own, you may end up with a child who is a master of guessing. That works fine for the first few words, but as the variety of somewhat similar words continues to grow? Yeah, that can be a problem.

So, what is a homeschool teacher to do? Flash cards! Now don’t run away too quickly here; we’re not going to follow the same old sit-and-flip-a-bunch-of-cards routine. We’re going to make it fun, like learning should be!

Ready? Here we go!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Any time you can manage to mix in fun physical activity with mental exercise, you’re bound to have a win with the children.

One of mine and the young children’s favorite school games to play has been our Sight-Words Flashcards “Toll” Game.

The Cards

To play, you will need a stack of sight-word flash cards. Be sure to use words that your children are ready to learn. Start with a small stack, even just two or three cards if your child is just beginning.

As your child gains confidence, you can add words, and even some phrases.

Sight-words Flashcards "Toll" Game | SDAHomeschools.org

First, prepare your stack of sight-word flashcards.

The first time you show a new card, tell your child the answer and let them repeat it. (Later, if your child is struggling too hard with a card, you can do this, as well. Don’t let them throw out a bunch of wrong answers. Simply re-state the correct answer, let them repeat it, and move on.)

The Play Space

Once you have your cards chosen and in a stack, you will need a place to play. Indoors is acceptable. Outdoors is awesome.

The most important thing about your play space is that it have a clear path for traveling. That might be around the edges of your living room, or in the path that circles that central wall in your house. It also might be around that small grove of trees in your yard, or right around the outside perimeter of your home.


You’ll have to decide how the children are going to travel in your designated path. They could just walk — but it’s so much more fun to change it up from time to time.

You could call out a change once in awhile: “Walk!” “Run!” “Skip!” “Hop!”

You could let the children decide how they want to go.

Or, if you want to make it really fun? Let them go on bicycles!

As for you … you get to walk … but in the opposite direction of the children.

The Game

From there, it is very simple. You walk around one way, holding your stack of sight-word flashcards. The children travel around in the opposite direction.

Sight-words Flashcards "Toll" Game | SDAHomeschools.org

Be sure there’s always a card ready to read.

Every so often, you are going to pass each other. Let the children know that when you do, the child has to pay a “toll” to get by. I imagine they can guess what their toll will be: reading the next sight-word flashcard, of course. 😉

If you have more than one child in the game, most of the time you might keep the same word up until all of the children have read it. Sometimes, though, switch the cards before the next child so that they cannot just repeat the other child’s answer without paying attention.

Once the “toll” is paid and the child passes by, immediately switch to the next card.

Always keep a card held up so the children can see it as they are about to pass by. Their goal is to never have to stop.

As mentioned earlier, if a child struggles too much with a particular card, give them the answer. Also, put the card near the top of the stack so they get it again soon.

You can play for a set amount of time (say, 10 or 15 minutes), or through a set stack of cards. However you decide, be sure to stop while it is still fun, and the children will look forward to playing again next time!

►► Do you have a fun way to practice reading sight-words? Tell us about it in the comments!

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.