Yes, Math Can Be Fun!

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

Math. It’s  one of those subjects that can be just as challenging to teach as it is to comprehend. Which is why we love using math manipulatives! Students learn better when they’re actively engaged, and manipulatives in your home or classroom make it easy for kids to get excited. Below are our favorite ways to use math manipulatives in our home, and they are all kid approved! 🙂

 

#1. Fraction Bars

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Use these pieces to reinforce understanding of equivalent fractions. It’s great to have an item that kids can use to visually help them learn fractions!

 

#2. Fraction Circles

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The common “pie” fraction circles have always been a hit in our house!

 

#3. Linking Cubes

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The creative possibilities are endless with these cubes. Designed to be virtually unbreakable, these blocks will easily meet the rigors of the classroom.

 

#4. Albert’s Insomnia  

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The more you play the more like Albert you will become! WARNING: DON’T GET ADDICTED OR YOU WILL LOSE SLEEP! This easy to learn math card game is fun and challenging. Beginning with the number ‘1’ as the first answer, you’ll be using addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division to combine the randomly displayed four cards into the next number in the sequence, so using the operations, the only answer for the next player is “2”. Sometimes you’ll fl y through the sequence with ease. Other times you’ll literally sit and stew over the cards hoping to expose a combination that produces the needed number. We love this game! It encourages creative and critical thinking. It’s an absolute favorite around here!! 🙂

 

#5. Bear Counters 

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Our kids love these! Perfect for beginning math.

 

#6. Wiz Dice

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Teach place value. “Give each student a handful of dice and have them roll. Then have them randomly arrange the numbers they rolled on their desk. Have them write down which number is in the hundreds place, tens place, ones place and so on. It’s a simple activity, but it’s lots of fun.” —Karen Crawford, second grade, Houston, Texas

 

#7. Learning Placemats 

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Whether you’re at the dinner table, or on the go, these dry erase charts are a must! The backs of them are blank, so you can fill in the answers for plenty of multiplication practice!

 

#8. Geoboards 

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Can be used for creating geometric shapes, showing fractions of a shape, etc.

 

#9. Tangrams 

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Help children explore shape, size, symmetry and more!

 

#10. Color Counters

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Great counting discs for all kinds of math problems!! 

 

 

What about you? Do you have a favorite math manipulative or game you like to use? If so, leave us a comment below! 🙂

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Charlotte Mason’s Approach to Beginning Reading

Teaching a child to read can be an overwhelming task, because so much of education depends on reading. However, the better a child can read, the easier his schooling will be. Children will pick up reading quite naturally if raised in a language-rich environment where books are treasured and read aloud. Many people who grow up in such an environment cannot recall exactly how they learned to read, but they learned quickly!

So relax and take a look at Charlotte Mason’s gentle and natural approach to teaching your child to read.

  1. Make a game of putting together the words in word families.
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“Exercises treated as a game, which yet to teach the powers of letters, will be better to begin with than actual sentences. Take up two of his letters and make the syllable ‘at’: tell him it is the word we use when we say ‘at home,’ ‘at school,’ etc. ” (Vol. 1 p. 202)

 

2. Use actual words and let the child say and make each one with its initial consonant added.

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“First, let the child say what the word becomes with each initial consonant; then let him add the right consonant to ‘at,’ in order to make hat, pat, cat, etc. Let the syllables all be actual words which he knows. Set the words in a row, and let him read them off.” (Vol. 1, p. 202)

 

#3. Continue the process with other short-vowel three-letter words.

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“Do this with the short vowel sounds in each combination with each of the consonants, and the child will learn to read off dozens of words of three letters, and will master the short-vowel sounds with initial and final consonants without effort. Before long he will do the lesson for himself. ‘How many words can you make with “en” and another letter, with “od” and another letter?’ etc.” (Vol. 1 p. 202).

 

#4. Do not hurry your child.

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(Vol. 1, p. 202)

 

#5. After he has mastered short-vowel three-letter words, teach the silent-e that makes a long vowel in the word in the same way.

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“When this sort of exercies becomes so easy that it is no longer interesting, let the long sounds of the vowels be learned in the same way: use the same syllables as before with a final e; thus ‘at’ becomes ‘ate’, and we get late, pate, rate, etc.  (Vol. 1, pp. 202, 203).

 

#6. Continue the process with consonant combinations, like “ng” and “th.”

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“Then the same sort of thing with final ‘ng’-‘ing,’ ‘ang,’ ‘ong,’ ‘ung’;  as in ring, fang, long, sung, etc.  There will be endless combinations which will suggest themselves” (Vol. 1, p 203).

 

#7. These word games are not reading, but they will lay the foundation for future reading lessons.

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“This is not reading, but it is preparing the ground for reading; words will be no longer unfamiliar, perplexing objects, when the child meets with them in a line of print” (Vol. 1, p. 203).

 

#8. Encourage your child to pronounce correctly any word that he learns.

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“Require him to pronounce the words he makes with such finish and distinctness that he can himself hear and count the sounds in a given word” (Vol. 1, p. 203).

 

#9. Encourage him to shut his eyes and spell the word he has made, thus preparing him for future spelling lessons.

 

 

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“Accustom him from the start to shut his eyes and spell the word he has made. This is important. Reading is not spelling, nor is it necessary to spell in order to read well; but the good speller is the child whose eye is quick enough to take in the letters which compose it, in the act of reading off a word; and this is a habit to be acquired from the first: accustom him to see the letters in the word, and he will do so without effort.”

 

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Old Trees, New Life- Camping Activity

When a tree falls, its life is over. But the tree can still give life to others. The dead tree becomes its own ecosystem, where plants, insects, and microorganisms thrive-from the mosses, ferns, and fungi that make the rotting tree their home to a whole host of bugs and bacteria that eat the tree and break it down into soil for new plants! Next time you see a dead log, take a close look and record your observations in your Field Journal. You just might be amazed by what you see.

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What You Do

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#1. Find a rotting log: Look for a tree that has fallen and that has wood breaking apart in pieces. It may be slightly damp.

 

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#2. Describe what the log looks like. What is growing on it? Can you see any mushrooms, ferns, mosses, or lichens? Are there baby trees or any other plants sprouting out of the wood?

 

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#3. Do you see any insects? What are they doing? Look for tiny piles of sawdust at the base of the log. This is evidence that insects have drilled into the wood, starting the decomposition process. The holes left behind create highways for fungi and bacteria to come in and break down the wood even further.

 

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#4.  Tap the log with your fingers. Is it hollow? Wet? Bone-dry? What does it smell like?

 

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#5. Put on your gloves and gently and carefully lift the log a few inches to see if you can take a peek underneath. What do you see? Are there insects underneath? What are they doing? What do they look like? When you’re done, put the log back.

 

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#6.  Use your magnifying glass to peek at the log itself. Do you see insects breaking it down? What do they look like under the magnifying glass? What about the plants growing on the tree? What do the mushrooms look like up close?

 

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#7. Draw and describe what you’ve seen in your field journal. Try to identify plants, animals, and insects by looking at your field guide or Nature Anatomy book! 

 

There is so much to learn! Head outdoors and explore! 🙂

 

 

An Indiana Summer

One of our favorite things about the summer season is all the fun activities available. From concert series in the park to museums, the options are endless. Here are some of the activities that have been our family’s favorites! 🙂

 

#1. Conner Prairie

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Immerse yourself in a 19th-century village and interact with the people, animals, objects and routines of life in Central Indiana in 1836! After you explore the town check out the Treetop Outpost, Craft Corner, and the Balloon Voyage!  We love that this huge park offers activities for both littles and adults.

 

#2. Town Park Concerts

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Check your town’s website for a list/schedule of concerts. Our local park offers free lawn concerts on the weekends!

 

#3. Farmers Markets

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We LOVE going to farmer’s markets. It’s such a fun way to connect with people, and the food is always amazing. It’s hard to beat fresh Indiana tomatoes!

 

#4. Libraries and Book Stores

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Check your local library or a nearby bookstore. They often have summer reading activities and fun games for kids! It’s a great way to keep littles motivated to read all summer long!

 

#5. Nature Walks

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Print off some simple study guides (guides about insects, trees, etc), and head outdoors to discover a whole new world! Check with your local park to see when their nature days are. They have them often, and are always fun!

 

 

These are just a few of our favorite summer favorites! We’ll be sharing more on our next post! 🙂

What are your favorite summer activities!?

 

 

 

Keeping a Field Journal

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

– Albert Einstein

 

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You’ve got your tent pitched and your fire pit set up-you’re finally at home in the wilderness. But one of the best parts of being in nature is exploring it,  and discovering the plants and animals that call your campsite home, sweet home. Keeping a field journal is a fun way to record what you see or hear while in the great outdoors. In it you can make drawings, describe in detail the plants and animals you come across, and collect leaves and flowers to press and tape right into your book. When you get home, you can gather more information at the library, local wildlife center, botanic garden, or online.

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What you need:

  • Sketchbook
  • Pencil
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Watercolor set with brushes (optional)
  • Camera (optional)
  • Envelopes for holding any leaf, flower, feather, or other natural treasures that you may find along the trail.

You may find a pair of binoculars to come in handy. They will help you scope out wildlife from a safe distance!

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What You Do:

Get Organized

Before you begin, think about how you want to organize your journal. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Organize by environment. If you camp in areas that have different climates and types of plant and animal life-say the woods one weekend, the desert another- you might want to make sections in your journal for every kind of place you go!
  • Organize by topic. Have an animal section, a plant section, bug section, and rock section. Add new entries to each part according to what you see.
  • Organize by camping trip. Keep a running journal of your trips. Gather your information, make sketches, and record your thoughts by journey.
  • Keep two journals. Make one a free-forum for notes, sketches, and collages of leaves, bark, and feathers. Then keep a second, more polished book where you can categorize the random info from the other book.

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Gather the Essentials

Before each entry, write down the date, time, name of your location, and other information that will provide the what, where, and when.

  • Date. Time of year can play a big part in what you see in the wild. In the autumn, many animals migrate and others are busy gathering food for the winter. Leaves begin to turn colors and fall. This season is great for watching foragers-animals that gather their food and hide it for safe-keeping-such as squirrels and chipmunks. In the spring, many animals search for mates, graze for food, and have babies. Trees begin to bud and flowers bloom. Spring is a great time to look and listen for songbirds. Winter is sort of quiet for some animals, but you’ll see lots of activity in the summertime.
  • Time of day.  Most critters are more active at dawn and dusk (though some, like owls and snakes, are more lively at night). So if you want to spot these animals or insects, plan to get up early or stay up late. Some plants are more active at different times of day as well, like the morning glory,a flowering vine that usually blooms in the morning and closes during the day.
  • Notes on the environment.  Are you exploring a pine forest? Wading in a brook? Sitting on a rock at the oceans edge? Describe where you are and what it looks, sounds, and smells like.
  • What’s the weather?  Is it sunny, snowy, or somewhere in between?

 

Gather Information:

A field journal can document more than just animals-it can include bugs and plant life, too. Here’s a general list of questions to ask yourself.

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Animals

  • Describe the animal. What did it look like? What was its behavior? Did it make a sound? Where did you see it? Was it alone?
  • Did it leave behind any tracks? How many toes were on each foot? Are there claws? What is the shape and size of the toe pads and the heel? What kind of pattern do the tracks make as a group? Sketch the track(s) in your journal, then try to identify them.
  • Identify the animal. Is it a mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian? When you get home, you may want to research the animal further. Leave space to write your findings. Some questions to consider: Does the male look any different from the female? What kind of home does it live in? What are its feeding habits? How does its body develop or change over its lifetime?

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Insects

  • Carefully collect an insect (for observation only) and describe it. What color is it? Does it have wings? How many legs does it have? How many antennae? Any weird behavior?
  • Identify the insect. Leave room in your journal for answers to these questions (you may need to do some research). Where does the bug live? Does the male look different from the female? Is the insect part of a colony? What is its life cycle?

 

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Plants

  • Choose a plant. Draw it, and if there are any leaves, flowers, branches, or bark  on the ground nearby, paste them in. We love pressing the plants into our journals to make them last longer.
  • Describe the plant. What kind of leaves does it have? How tall is the plant or tree? What is its overall shape? Are there any flowers? If so, what do they look and feel like? What color and texture are the bark or stems? Where does the plant live? Is the soil wet, or dry, dirt or sand? Can you tell how the seeds move around?
  • Identify the plant. Using information you gathered, do some research at home to figure out what kind of plant it is. If you like, leave room in your journal to answer the following questions: What is the life cycle? Does the plant serve as food or shelter for any animal? Does the plant lose its leaves in the fall?

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Keeping a field journal is a little like writing in a diary, except instead of writing about yourself, you write about what you observe all around you. It’s great fun, and provides a wonderful keepsake to remember your trips by! If you aren’t able to get outdoors much this summer, be sure to check out Nature Anatomy! It’s one of our favorite completed nature journals!

 

Great Games for the Car!

You’re in the backseat, on the way to the campsite, but the ride goes on and on and on. Mile after mile, the minutes drag. You twitch. You fidget. You ask, “How much longer?”, and still only five minutes pass. Well, fidget no more!! 🙂 These games will make even the longest car trips zip along. They are designed with everyone in mind. You can involve the whole car (though you might want to leave the driver alone), or  just enlist your backseat pal. With some minor tweaks, you can even play the games on your own. Keep score if you want, and eliminate players or assign penalties. Set time limits, or check the odometer to use distance-a number of miles-to signal the end of a game.

 

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The ABC Game:

Look for something that begins with he letter A. You can look at the scenery, or use signs, billboards, and even license plates. Once you get something with the letter A (such as automobile, antenna or apple tree) move on to B, and so forth-until you make your way through the alphabet. You can all play at the same time or take turns.

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Going on a Safari:

In this game, a player starts with the letter A and says: “I’m going on a safari and I’m taking an…” The player says something that starts with the letter A (let’s say apple). The next player repeats the line with the first player’s objects and then adds one beginning with B. “I’m going on a safari and I’m taking an apple and a bench.” The third player then continues with the letter C, and so on! Anyone who makes a mistake or can’t come up with the name of a new object is out. The surviving player wins! (This is one of our favorites)! 🙂

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Destination:

This game is a bit harder. Players start with the letter A and then make up sentences that have a destination, a mode of transportation, and an activity that all begin with that letter. For example: “I’m going to Alabama on an alligator to anchor a boat.” The next player has B-“I’m going to Bavaria on a bus to buy a hat”-and it goes on from there! Tons of fun! 🙂

 

Those are just a few of the fun car games you can play! We’ll add more on our next post!! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Unwinding After Travel Bits and Tips!

After traveling to roughly 20 locations every Spring and Summer, we have been learning how to make the home-to-road-and-back-again transitions a little less stressful, and more relaxing/productive. It’s amazing what a difference a few simple changes can make! Here are our favorite bits and tips:

 

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Coming home to a clean house.

One of our biggest goals before leaving on a trip is to make sure there are clean sheets on the bed, fresh towels in the bathroom, and that all the clutter has been cleaned off/put away. That way, no matter what time of day or night we arrive back home, we don’t open the door to feeling overwhelmed, but come back to a calm and peaceful environment. It really does make a huge difference! 🙂

 

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A premade home-cooked meal.

Before we go away, we try to always (even though it doesn’t always happen) to put some type of casserole in the freezer. It makes that first evening back a breeze, because all we have to do for dinner is pop it in the oven!

 

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An extra day off.

Having the time to unpack, do laundry, re-pack, grocery shop, and do the next trip’s food prep is really important. Since the shows are on the weekends, we normally don’t get home till Sunday night, which leaves little time to prep before work on Monday. All that being said, we try to choose at least one day, whether it be Monday or the day before we leave, to take off and get everything done. Otherwise, every evening is spent being stressed out trying to get everything done. An extra day makes a huge difference!

 

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A to-do list.

Before we leave, we try and write down things that need done when we get back. That way we don’t feel so overwhelmed with projects.

 

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Presort Laundry

We put all the dirty clothes into a bag before heading home so unpacking (and starting the wash) is more manageable.

 

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Unwind 

Even if we only have a 48 hour turn around time, it’s so important to us that we have time to simply relax, unplug and be together. Even if it’s only for 20 minutes, we love it! 🙂

 

Well, convention season is officially over for this year! It’s been a great 5 months, and have absolutely flown by! We’ve met a lot of incredible people, seen many beautiful places, shared our favorite products, and have learned a lot. We’re looking forward to this season again next year!

If you have any favorite travel hacks, we would love to hear them! 🙂