Archive for the ‘ Must Read ’ Category

Skip Counting by 6s Song and Clapping Game (Video)

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

This is a fun way to learn to skip count by 6s! I’ve shared a number of the skip counting mazes, but this clapping game did a lot more for helping ED to remember the 6s.

Earlier this fall, I mentioned that ED has been learning to skip count by 4s, 6s and 7s.  We made our song into a clapping game too and the girls really had fun with it. It made most sense to share this as a video… so here are the girls singing the 6s:

6, 12, 18, 24

30, 36 wait there’s more

Then comes 42, 48, 54 hooray

With 60 we’re done skipping today!


You may be interested in our skip counting mazes:

If you liked the video, I know the girls would be really excited to hear from you over at our Homeschool Den Facebook page!

Add a Comment

-er Sound Spelling Printable

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

UPDATE: Our printables are now located at You’ll find this one at _er Sound Spelling Printable

This fall my older two have been using Spelling City and going through lists of words (that I create). We stepped away from our beloved spelling program, All About Spelling, for a few months.  I noticed that DD needs a bit of review on some of the /er/ sound words so I typed up this spelling sort for her.  We cut out all the words on the page below. (Click on either of the two pictures below to download and print out the /er/ sound spelling sort pages.) She mixed them up and then sorted them into the proper categories:

After sorting them into categories for several days, I gave her the blank sheet and had her write in examples in each column. The next day she came back and added more words. Then she did the spelling sort again and on the final day she added in all the words she missed and filed the paper in her notebook.

If you are working on these words, you might also be interested in this practice page I made a couple of years ago:

Spelling: Free Review Sheet (er, ur or ir); Long O Word Sort

If you found these helpful, I’d love to hear from you over at our Homeschool Den Facebook page!

Add a Comment

Earth Science: Plate Movement Hands-On Activities

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

We just love hands-on activities! We’ve been studying Earth Science this fall.  Back several weeks ago, we explained how we started this unit… with an overview of our solar system, then a closer look at Earth’s geologic timeline talking about the age of the Earth (4.6 billion years) and the appearance of various critters in the geologic timeline (trilobites, sharks, dinosaurs, ants and more). We also l learned about latitude, longitude and how to use a compass.

As I was going back through my pictures, I realized that I never shared our pictures from when we learning about finding compass points. When the weather was nice in October, we went outside and the kids practiced making their own compass rose:

Here are some step-by-step pictures of the kids making the compass rose. You can see some of our previous activities here in htis post: Latitude, Longitude and Using a Compass. (Obviously these weren’t taken this week with temperatures plummeting into the 20s and 30s!!)

After that, we started looking at plate tectonics. According to a theory developed in the early 20th century, the super-continent Pangaea formed about 300 million years ago.  The continent began breaking apart about 100 million years ago.  We traced and cut out the continents and moved them around to see how they best fit together. Then we looked closely at the picture of Pangaea (on a notebook page I made for the kids… which I’ll share once it’s polished and ready!). Each of the kids had their own set of continents (which is why there are yellow and white continents in the picture below):

When we studied plate tectonics several years ago, we did this activity with paper to show how the continents could move without our touching them.  This was perfect for the kids at that age (DD was about 5 and LD was 7), since it let them “see” the continents move without our touching them. I cut the continents out of foam. The kids folded construction paper. First we set the continents close together with a piece of playdough to weight the continents down. As the kids pulled each side of the construction paper, they could see the continents move apart. We got this idea from Robert Gardners” Earth-Shaking Science Projects About Planet Earth.

We did this activity again with several of the continents and of course the kids took turns “moving” the continents apart over and over!

This time around, we into much more depth about the mechanics of plate tectonics. We went over the evidence for there having been a super-continent (geologic evidence, fossil evidence and climate studies).  We also talked in some depth about convection currents that occur deep within the Earth as the heated rock rises cools, sinks and is heated again.  We did a couple of activities to help the kids really understand how this movement of heated rock helped geologists develop the theory of plate tectonics.

Materials to have on hand: 

  • 2 sponges cut into the shape of South America and Africa
  • 3 push pins
  • 1 aluminum pan
  • 2 or 3 small tea candles
  • 2 thick books

We poured water into the pan and let it sit until the water stopped moving around. Then we carefully put the sponges in place. We read that one of the sponges should have push pins placed in the side. I’m not sure whether this was to weight it down or keep the sponges from touching.  Then we set the experiment up as follows (with books holding the pan up).

Once the water stopped moving, we lit the tea candles beneath the pan. We made sure the candles were in between the two continents. It was pretty neat watching the continents drift apart!

We spent several days talking about convection currents and looking at various diagrams.  After we watched the continents drift apart, we carefully dropped dye into the water to see convection currents in action. The dye dropped to the bottom of the pan and then moved upward and outward with the heated water. I should have videoed this since the series of pictures isn’t terribly exciting to look at, but at any rate, with the dye, the kids could see how the water moved with the heat source (candles) underneath and it gave them a better understanding of convection currents and how they work.

We read about plate tectonics in several different resources. Two that we found especially helpful were The Changing Earth (A middle school science text by McDougal Littel) and Plate Tectonics by Linda George. Both worked well for my kids (ages 6, 9, 11).

I keep adding and adding to our Earth Science Notebook Pages Packet as we go through this unit.  It still is in rough draft form and not really ready to share on the blog. But as I keep saying, if you’re working on this unit right now and see something you could really use, send me an email or a note on our Homeschool Den Facebook page.  Otherwise, I hope to get that polished and shared at some point!

These are what the pages we’re working on for our science notebook look like (coming sometime soon to!):

This 50 page Earth Science packet also includes: (at our new location at

Learn how to make a earthquake shake table, more than a dozen hands-on activities.

Topics include: Solar System, Layers of the Earth, Earth’s Axis and the Seasons, Latitude and Longitude, Plate Tectonics, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, 4 Types of Mountains


You might also be interested in these related posts: 


Add a Comment

What About the Social Aspects of Homeschooling?

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Update: We have moved to

For so many of us who grew up attending public schools and being educated among same-age peers, there are real questions about the socialization of homeschooled kids. We remember sitting in classrooms packed with other children and truly wonder how homeschoolers will fill in that “void” of being with other children so many hours of the day.  As a homeschooling family, though, I was quick to realize that socialization is not an issue. Let me explain why…

Are homeschoolers isolated?

You would be surprised how many homeschoolers there are. The number is estimated as somewhere between 1.9 and 2.5 million according to Dr. Brian D. Ray, head of the nonprofit National Home Education Research Institute. To put that in perspective, that is the same number of kids as attend charter schools in the U.S.  Because of this, there are lots of homeschool opportunities:

We may be “home” schoolers but some of the best learning opportunities take place outside of the home!

Be sure to check out Homeschool Days at your local museum, historic sites, aquariums, zoos and elsewhere. For example, there are homeschool days at Mt. Vernon, Valley Forge, Gettysburg,. Biltmore. Williamsburg has two weeks of homeschool activities in September. There are outdoor homeschool programs at nature centers and environmental centers.  And though not necessarily educational, places like Disney World, Legoland, Silver Dollar City and Sea World have special homeschool days.

To be honest, we have to try to keep our schedule clear enough that we can get our academic work done!

How do homeschoolers learn to listen to a teacher or authority figure if they aren’t in (public) school?

Another underlying concern that comes from the “socialization” question is, if kids are not listening to a teacher all day, will they still have the same skills (listening to adults/authority, following directions and things like that).  If you think about a large classroom of kids, teachers definitely have their hands full keeping everyone on task.  In a homeschool setting, it is glaringly apparent when the kids are off-task, distracting a sibling or being disrespectful. In the homeschooling families I know, the parents are very involved and emphasize the social skills of good listening, being polite, using their manners, respecting and listening to others (adults or kids). We are able to address behaviors that are inappropriate simply because we are around them and monitoring them more. Does that mean my kids are perfect angels?  Absolutely not! But Hubby and I have helped them learn to be polite and respectful. Homeschooled kids are around adults during the course of a normal day and usually have coaches, teachers, adult friends and other adult mentors they interact with regularly.

I like this quote I found from Fine Homeschooling:

Dr. Raymond Moore, author of over 60 books and articles on human development has done extensive research on homeschooling and socialization. “The idea that children need to be around other youngsters in order to be socialized is perhaps the most dangerous and extravagant myth in education and child rearing today.” Children often do not respond well to large groups. They become nervous and over excited by noise and too many people. Learning becomes difficult. Behavioral problems develop.

After analyzing more than 8,000 early childhood studies, Dr. Moore concluded that, contrary to popular belief, children are best socialized by parents — not other children.

How do homeschoolers learn the skills of working together so that the skills necessary for collaborative work?  

This is definitely something to think about. There is no doubt that teamwork is important in the workplace and elsewhere. So how do you find opportunities for homeschooled kids to build these skills (especially if you have an only child?)  Basically, you have to seek out opportunities for your children.  Certainly there are team sports, scouts and other groups, but there are other collaborative opportunities for homeschoolers such as homeschool robotics clubs, homeschool science odyssey comptetition teams and even odyssey of the mind teams for homeschoolers.  If there isn’t a team around, you could always form one! As always, it takes time and energy as the parent/educator/fascilitator to make sure kids build the skills you feel are important.

Do homeschooled kids learn to deal with bullies and other “realities” of school?

I actually get this question from time to time… In fact, sometimes the tone is more like “how will your children cope if they haven’t experienced this?” It’s important for every parent to address the issue of bullying… and to emphasize being respectful and kind to other kids.  In a study measuring communication, daily living skills, socialization and maturity homeschooled kids outscored public school students.  Studies show that homeschooled kids are often more self-confident and self-assured than their public school peers. This inner strength is what I believe will help the kids deal with difficult situations and any of the different kinds of people they will meet in life.

Some final thoughts on homeschooling and socialization:

At the end of the day, Hubby and I are trying to raise polite, respectful, articulate, friendly people who treat others (regardless of their age) with respect. Some of the true skills of socialization are

  • character
  • honesty
  • morality
  • generosity of spirit
  • citizenship
  • listening skills
  • manners
  • respect for others
  • fairness
  • sympathy/empathy
  • kindness
Whether at school, at home or out in the world, these are skills that all parents are trying to foster in their kids.

This seems  to be the perfect time to share a graphic with you. I was contacted by Peter a couple of years ago and he said I was welcome to share the graphic he and his team developed with all of you.  It celebrates many of the positives of homeschooling.  Anyway, I have WAY too many friends whose (brilliant, wonderful, motivated, amazing) kids attend public school to agree that mine will “dominate” or “take them down” but I do like how this graphic presents many of the statistics about the successes of homeschooling:

Homeschool vs. Public School

If you are interested in seeing some of the educational statistics about homeschoolers for yourself you might want to visit this National Center for Educational Statistics: Digest of Educational Statistics about homeschooled students which is where I suspect he and his team got a lot of the statistics they use in the graphic above. Another source of homeschool statistical information is the National Home Education Research Institute and you can read some Research Facts on Homeschooling by Brian Ray, PhD.

See you next time or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page.

Add a Comment

Alphabet Activities for 2-4 year olds (Free Alphabet Mats)

Friday, August 29th, 2014

I thought it might be useful to pull a lot of our letter-activities together into one post, although we didn’t ever focus exclusively on letters. We generally had a theme or unit (astronomy, birds, volcanoes, bears, pirates, princesses and whatever else the kids were interested in at the time…)  and we added in these types of activities to supplement whatever else was going on.  So, just keep in mind that I pulled these activities out of context.

When my kids were little, we added in a lot of games to learn to recognize the letters, learn the letter sounds and learn the shapes and how to form the various letters.  Here’s a glimpse at the kinds of activities we did to keep it fresh and fun!

File Folder Games:

We played lots of matching file folder games. The spider web matching came from a paid website I belonged to called Kidssoup, but the hearts capital-lower case matching came from File Folder Fun.Child Care Land also has lots of free file folder games and other early learning activities.

Sandpaper Letters:

I purchased a set of sandpaper letters and the kids used them a lot when they were 2-3 years old. It’s a Montessori activity that we did regularly. We got ours from or you can get them from Montessori stores such as Kidadvance:

Here ED then matched some foam letter stickers to an index card.  We usually only focused on a few letters at at time:

Jump on Letters: We did this activity with everything from contact paper in the kitchen to letters written in chalk on the driveway. This active game was a huge hit with all my kids. “Find the “R.”  ”Go jump on the “K.”   You get the idea!

Cereal Box Matching:

ED had to put letters in the correct slot in the cereal box. You can find the alphabet printed out in various themes and I used to do this a lot using websites such as Communication 4 All (look in theliteracy area)

Scavenger Hunts:

I always tried to make learning fun and interactive. Here the girls went on a scavenger hunt to find their letters and then they had to mail them as they told me what letter/letter sound they made:

Drawing Letters in Sand:

For those of you who don’t know much about the Montessori method, I actually sat down with ED and “presented” the activity below to her.  I show her each and every step…

  • take out the blanket and spread it on the ground
  • take the tray with two hands and lift it down and place it on the blanket
  • lift up the lid
  • sketch the letter in the sand
  • mail the letter
  • take the sand tray with two hands and shake it back and forth
  • repeat until done
  • put the tray away
  • fold up the blanket
  • put the blanket away

I think arming ED with EACH step has really made a big difference to how successful she is at doing the various activities and then repeating them on her own.

We did this in combination with a scavenger hunt and a “mail box” with a slot to mail the letter. We just had a tray of sand and ED had to write the letter before mailing off her letter!  I never wound up making more “letters” for her to mail, but if you’re interested in   A, B, C, E, L, M, N, O, R or S you can download them free here.

Hands on Activities:

We often fit the letter activities into whatever unit/holiday we were working on/celebrating such as the bird unit or the Shamrock fishing activities below:

An activity after reading Green Eggs and Ham!

Using foam letters and contact paper to create a matching game:

Q-tip painting: As the kids were learning their letters, I tried to change things up for them.  Sometimes I brought out Q-tips which they could dip into paint to practice “writing” their letters. Here are some alphabet mats I made that you can download as you need them:

Alphabet Mats: A to Z

(font licence purchased from Kimberly Geswein Fonts)

Clothes Pin Matching:

Using Clothes Pins to match the letters. These letter matching cards are from Honey at Sunflower Schoolhouse (the link I had doesn’t seem to be working anymore), though it would be easy enough to make with a marker and an index card.

This is something similar from Making Learning Fun – Upper – Lower Case Letter Matching

Here is another cute letter matching activity from Making Learning Fun:


My kids loved doing the do-a-dot activities (with bingo markers). The ones pictured below are by Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler. Erica developed an entire curriculum around the letters of the alphabet. Here’s an example of her Letter A activities or Letter F Activities. Awesome, right?!  We just used a few of these activities and fit them into our units  (More about that in another post!!). You can also find do-a-dot letters at Making Learning Fun.

Letter Factory: All three of my kids loved the Letter Factory movies. The tune is catchy and it helped the kids learned the sounds of the letter.

I hope you found a few ideas you can use with your kids!  If you found anything useful or have other ideas to share, I’d love to hear from you at our Homeschool Den Facebook page.

Add a Comment