Archive for the ‘ Preschool (Age 4) ’ Category

Math Curriculums & Going Beyond the Book

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

In this series, I thought I’d try to offer new homeschoolers a starting point for finding homeschool curriculums that works for your family. Today I’ll be talking about math.

It’s sometimes tricky to find the curriculum that works well for you and your kids. It’s helpful to ask around (online and in your community) to see what will work for your child.  If you can go to a homeschool curriculum fair, you can thumb through and look at the options.  Sometimes I just have to make a decision and then switch if the need arises, but that can wind up being costly if you switch too often.

What Homeschool Math Curriculums Are Available?

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are the curriculums I’ve heard about from conversations (both online and off) about what works.

  • Singapore Math
  • Math Mammoth
  • Horizons Math
  • Right Start Math – This curriculum uses many elements of Montessori Math.  I highly recommend their Math Card Games book.
  • Math U See
  • Miquon Math
  • Saxon Math
  • Abeka Math
  • Spectrum Math Workbooks
  • Mathematical Reasoning (Critical Thinking Co.)
  • Life of Fred Maths
  • Art of Problem Solving: Beast Academy
  • Teaching Textbooks
  • Shiller Math
  • Numicon
  • Maths Enhancement Programme (MEP) from the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics (Free and includes lesson plans and answers are online)
  • Arithmetic Village

What has our family used? 

Right Start Math: Each of the kids started with Right Start Math. I loved all of the hands on manipulatives and tools… everything from tally sticks, to place value cards, an abacus and more. Many of the activities in the post showing some of ED’s preschool math activities shows the kinds of activities suggested by Right Start. They have wonderful book of Math Card Games that I still pull out regularly for my older two as they move into fractions and more.

We also did a lot of Montessori math activities based on things I read about online. We don’t have a curriculum for that, but I pulled in a lot of activities working with Montessori beads, using Montessori style math pages that I got at a Montessori store years ago (which another official “Montessori” teacher said are not truly Montessori… but they worked really well for my kids)… Plus lots of place value activities, paper beads and more.  Click on this post to see some of those Montessori style math activities or this post Montessori Math Activities and more.

 As my kids became older, I felt they need more of the “traditional” math practice.  We used Spectrum math books. My older two have gone through books Grade 2-Grade 6.  We use it by skipping all around the book… one row from one page and one row from another.

Saxon Math — At one point we tried Saxon math when we got them from a friend really inexpensively.  For a while DD when DD was 6 used Saxon Grade 2, but it moved too slowly for her and she got a bit bored with the format after two or three months. That said, now that ED is 6 we’ll probably use some of those worksheets at the start of this semester for a while before moving back to Spectrum.

Singapore Math — My two closest homeschooling friends have had their children use this program. They found it wonderful.  We tried it out for a little while, but we didn’t stick with it. My son didn’t like it… and while I think DD would have been fine with it, I fell back to using our own materials and Spectrum. It’s definitely a great program!

Mammoth Math — We downloaded some of the units. I’ve read that many families love this program.  I was impressed with how topics such as division were covered. We used bits and pieces in our homeschool and again this seems like it would offer a wonderful foundation.

Math Reasoning by Critical Thinking Co — This year we’re adding in Levels B, F and G for my three kids as a supplement to the other math work they’re doing. It’s colorful and approaches math in a refreshing way. Each of the kids have only down the first 5 or 6 pages, but I like it so far.

Math Resources that our family owns and uses regularly:

Online Math Options:

  • Khan Academy: Thousands of free learning videos in math and other subjects
  • Smart Tutor
  • Dream Box
  • Aleks
  • IXL

Prealgebra: This is by no means, comprehensive, but these are some of the options I’ve come across.

  •  The Art of Problem Solving: Prealgebra
  • Pearson: Prealgebra
  • Pre-Algebra (Kelley Wingate Publications) – This is a workbook style book. It review fractions, decimals, ratios, percents. I’ve had my son review two or three problems from several different pages to keep his basic 5th, 6th grade math skill fresh as we tackle new topics.
  • Life of Fred

Algebra and Beyond: I’m sorry to say, I don’t have much insight to offer at this point. My kids aren’t there yet, so I haven’t done much research. I know one person recommended the Prentice Hall Algebra I textbook and the free materials at AGMath: Algebra. That’s in the back of my mind for later!

Going Beyond the Math Book:

Math can be so fun!  What can you do to make math come alive?  Go into detail about measuring cups when you bake and cook.  Incorporate math in the grocery store. For example, estimate the total or figure out the sale price if an item is 10% off. Play games outdoors that test math facts.  Play board games and card games.

Here are some of the math activities we’ve enjoyed in our homeschool:

4 Active Math Games

Active Math Games

Math Monster Tag: For practicing math facts

Making Math Fun and Active:

Fast Track Math Board Game 

Ultimate Math Board Game: A printable version of the board game above.

Make a Math Lapbook: PreK, K — Free Printable at this post.

Take it To the Dump: Have the kids make ten and find matching cards such as 5+5, 4+6. Or as they get older “make 12″ or “make 15.”

Interactive Place Value Activities (Links to free printables at this post.)

Place Value Activities

Make an Interactive Clock

Math Chains: Just a different way to practice skip counting or coins

Measurement Man Learning about gallons, quarts, pints and cups

A List of Free Online Multiplication Games

 Multiplication Math Cups

Play Fraction Dominoes

The kids really like when I make math worksheets especially for them. This post has already become long enough, though, that I’m going to share that list with you tomorrow! So stay tuned for more math fun tomorrow!

If you are a homeschooling family and want to leave some feedback or a review and feedback about one of these math curriculums (or any other that you use!!), you can leave a comment on the Homeschool Den Facebook page. I know I get my best information and ideas from others!!

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PreK Craft: Spaghetti Yarn Art

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

This is a cute, quick craft you can do with your 2-5 year old. This was a really good project even for ED, who was age 2 at the time.  She could pretty much do it on her own as long as I reminded her of the steps along the way.

For this activity we needed cooked spaghetti (we used fettuccine), bits of yarn or string, and glue. We had one bowl of plain glue, and a bowl of glue + red food coloring another with glue/yellow and another with glue/green.

This activity worked best when I had them use a fork. My kids didn’t dip it in well enough to get a lot of glue. They really needed to stir it around a bit (and they were reluctant to put their hands in the glue to push the string or spaghetti down in). They then dumped the glue covered spaghetti or yarn onto a plastic plate, criss-crossing the pieces.

Let it all dry overnight (or longer depending on your climate). It will dry hard and firm and you’ll be able to pop it off the plate. Put a piece of yarn through one of the loops and you can hang it up.

So that’s it: 

Put the spaghetti (or yarn) in the glue
Stir, stir, stir
Dump it on your (plastic) plate
Let it dry for 2-4 days.
Enjoy lots of other toddler and preschool posts by clicking on the Categories button and scrolling down to the Toddler and Preschool Activities. Or download our Huge List of Things to Do with Your Preschooler for lots more ideas!!
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Animals and Their Groups Sorting Cards (ages 5-8)

Friday, May 16th, 2014

A couple of months ago, I did an animal unit with my youngest.  We went over the characteristics of living and non-living things. Then we talked about vertebrates and invertebrates and finally we went over the five vertebrate groups in quite some detail. I shared the free Montessori cards I made for that part of our unit: the Montessori Vertebrate-Invertebrate cards and the sheets I made on Animals and their Characteristics.

I had intended to then go over Animals and their Groups, but with all my ear surgery (4 since October and one more coming up in a few weeks), we never got to that part of our unit.  I thought I would share the cards I made with you even though we haven’t used them in our homeschool yet. I don’t want to forget about them!

Free Sort Cards: Animals and Their Groups Sort 

I also made a matching sheet to go along with this.  You can also download these if you’re interested:

Animals and Their Groups — Matching

I’d love to hear from you if you over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page if found these helpful!

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Preschool at Home: Alphabet Activities for 2-4 year olds

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Here are some alphabet activity ideas you can do with your little one: At first we played these activities just for letter identification, but as the kids learned their letters we would play these games and identify the sound/s they make. Above all, be enthusiastic and have FUN with the kids!!

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!

Sandpaper Letters: When my kids were letter, we ordered some sandpaper letters from The kids traced the letters which helped as they transitioned into writing letters (because it shows the order in which to make the strokes). It helped LD with some of the letters he hadn’t been forming properly.

Erase the Letter: You can write a letter on a white-board and have the kids practice “writing” by using the eraser size of the white board marker.

Paint in a Bag – Hair gel and dye: This activity only ever worked for a couple of letters with my kids before they lost interest, but it’s worth a mention. Anything to add creativity and piques the kids’ interest is worth a go, right?! We just put hair gel into a ziploc bag with some dye. Don’t add too much gel or the letter won’t show up. Then the kids practiced writing their letters.  I’ve heard of people using ketchup or liquid paint instead.


Writing in Sand: 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.

Alphabet discover bottle search and find bottle: Fill a bottle with rice, beads, glitter and the letter/s you are focusing on. Have your tot twist and turn the bottle to find the letter as quickly as possible.

Letter Scavenger Hunts: I can’t tell you how many scavenger hunts my kids went on when they were little. At first, I just hid letters and had them race back to tell me what they had found Enthusiasm was EVERYTHING in this activity! My kids were much more hyped when I was yelling out “Go, go, go! What’d ya find? Is it an “L” like in your name?!!!”

Improving Small Motor Skills

Do-a-dot Letter Painting: When the kids were little, we go a lot of mileage out of our do-a-dot markers.  I would print out an alphabet mat when it fit in with whatever theme-time table or unit we were covering. (Check out our theme time tables here.)

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)

Play Dough Letters: Once the kids were old enough to roll out play dough snakes, they could make letters (either with a mat or not).  We also made letters from time to time out of pretzel dough or bread dough. Here are our edible letter Bb’s! The beans are there because these were from our Fairy Tale Unit: Jack and the Beanstalk activities.

Glue-and-Glitter: I’d have the kids “write” their name (or letters) with glue and let them go to town with the glitter.

Fishing for Letters: Some good old fashioned fishing fun! Either matching upper and lower case letters or simply catching a letter and identifying it.  These are with shamrocks for St. Patrick’s day but you could cut out any shape appropriate for your unit, the holiday or season.

Hide-and-Seek Name Game: Place hair gel in a sealed ziploc bag along with the letters of your child’s name,  glitter, and color beads… have them try to find all the letters of their name and squish the bag around to place the letters in the proper order.

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.

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Pattern Block Templates (Ages 18mo-4 years)

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

When my kids were little I bought a set of Pattern Blocks. It’s been one of the most enduring resources we have. We still bring them out occasionally and also use them for math now and then.

The kids have used templates like these:

And they’ve also used the pattern blocks for free play:

There are lots of places where you can find free pattern block templates:

One of the best places to get free pattern block mats is over at Prekinders.  There you have the option to print out black-and-white cards or full-color versions.

Kelly’s Kindergarten has two sets of pattern block pictures you can download as well.

Erica over at Confessions of a Homeschooler made a whole series of pattern block cards: Numbers 1-20; Alphabet Cards

If your kids are older, pattern blocks can be used for more advanced math problems. Mathwire  has a half-dozen problem solving activities that use pattern blocks for grades 3-4.

And there is a really neat set of Pattern Block Building Scenes mosques and temples here, though I don’t know the original website it came from.

You might be interested in this related post:

Long List of Activities for Tots and Preschoolers (Ages 2-6)

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