Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Candy Heart Subtraction Craftivity


I know this is a bit late, but I’m playing catch up around here. You may choose to do this activity now or save it until next year, but I know you and your students will love it.

Both my children and I love doing crafts, but I’m not a fluff person. I usually tie my crafts into some academic learning that we’re focusing on in school. This is a fun craft to practice subtraction and story problem skills.

Craft Time:

Construction paper
        * 1 (9” X 12”) Sheet of red construction paper
        * ½ sheet of pink construction paper cut length wise
        * Cut 2.5” hearts out of red (1/student). Cut 2” hearts out of pink (1/student).
        * Cut 1” hearts out of pink, purple, blue, orange, green, and yellow
        *Print and cut out prior to lesson

1. Provide your students with a sheet of red construction paper and have them write their name on the back.

2. Provide each student with a half sheet of pink construction paper and have them fold it in half length wise.

3. Have students glue the outside of one side of the folded pink paper and place it toward the upper center of the red paper with the fold at the top. The pink paper should open by lifting it up.

4. On the outside of the pink fold, have students glue the Sweethearts label found on the Subtraction paper download. I created this for you. As you can see from the example above I just wrote the word Sweethearts on construction paper. Then, glue the red 2” heart below that and a pink 1” heart inside the red heart.

5. At the lower center of the paper, have students glue the subtraction story paper found on the provided download.

6. Provide students with a variety of 1” hearts in the colors listed in the materials section.

Now, that the set is ready, the learning begins…

Begin by telling the students subtraction stories. For example, you might say…

There were 5 candy hearts in the box. 
(Students should move 5 hearts to the inside of the box.)
You ate 2 candy hearts.
(Students should move 2 hearts out of the box.)
How many candy hearts are left?
(Students count the hearts left in their box and provide the answer.)

Progress into helping your students tell the story with you. An example, might go like this…

How many candy hearts did you start with in your box?
(Accept a number from your students and have them move that many hearts into their box.
How many candy hearts did you eat?
(Accept a number from your students and have them demonstrate removing that number from the box.)
How many candy hearts are left?
(Students count the hearts left in their box and provide the answer.)

Last, allow students to make up their own stories and demonstrate them to you. Allow the students to glue their hearts to match their story.


Then, have them fill in the blanks of the subtraction story and write the subtraction problem to match.

We had a great time with this activity. It was definitely a fun way to practice subtraction. Even my 3-year-old was excited about telling the stories.

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Friday, November 25, 2016

Painting with Shaving Cream

Shaving cream is one of those things teachers either love or hate. I tried it once in my kindergarten classroom in a whole group lesson and learned my lesson not to do that ever again! However, I didn’t give up on it… I tried it again in small groups and it was much more manageable, but it’s not like it came out once a week… or once a month even.

Now that I’m homeschooling the shaving cream has come out of the cabinet a few times this year. We’ve practice writing letters, our names, sight words, and numbers. I’ve figured out a few tricks through the years that have made things a little easier, which I’ll share with you later.

This week is Thanksgiving week, so we’re taking a break from the routine and just having fun so I gave the kids a choice…

Shaving Cream or Watercolor Paint

It was a tough choice. They love both, but obviously, they chose Shaving Cream! Since they love painting also and they didn’t choose that I thought maybe they could combine both worlds by painting with shaving cream. They liked the idea, so I pulled out the paint brushes and this is how we got started!

Painting with Shaving Cream:

Shaving Cream
Paint brushes (any size will work, but small watercolor paint brushes work great)
Squeegee or cut plastic square (I’ll share more about this later.)
Optional Decorations: beads, cut pipe cleaner, cut straws, bells… the list goes on!

Tip #1.  Choose a good spot. Shaving cream can get messy pretty fast, but it can be cleaned up pretty easy if you do it right. I like to be near a sink or water source. You don’t want 10 five-year-olds walking down the hall with shaving cream covering their hands, because that’s not the only place the shaving cream will be in the next 5 minutes.

Tip # 2. Choose a smooth surface. You want clean up to be fast and easy to make transitioning into the next activity fast. We have a plastic picnic table that has a gritty surface. While it might be a fun sensory experience at some point, in general the rough surface would make clean up difficult unless you could just spray it off with a hose.

Tip #3. Wear a smock to cover clothing. Even a large old t-shirt would help.

Tip #4. Keep some wipes or paper towels nearby to do a quick wipe up of any shaving cream that drips on clothing, the floor, or anywhere else it is not supposed to be.

Tip #5. Go through your behavior expectations before you spray the shaving cream on the table. It’s important to mention rules like, “Do not clap while you have shaving cream in your hands.” I even explain the WHY. “It might go in your eyes or your friends and it hurts. Even still they might try it, so be prepared with wipes or a sink for eye washing. Also, it’s important to let them know where the shaving cream is allowed to be and where it is not. For multiple students painting in a general area, let them know where each student’s personal painting area is. If they have a difficult time understanding this concept, use painter’s tape to mark a square in front of them.

Tip #6. Squeegees work well to easily clean up shaving cream from a table, but there have their cons. One drawback is their size and shape. Even the smallest size is pretty big so whether you keeping just one or one for each student, storing them could be a setback. Instead, I recommend using a cut plastic square. How? you may ask… It’s simple.

Take a plastic folder and cut it into about 3 inch squares. These are great because storage for even 30 would take up minimal space. They are cheap. One folder would make enough for several students. Also, these work great as erasers. Their small size makes them easy to have on hand for each student. Just show the kids how to use the edge to scrape the table clean and the bend the plastic square while smearing the cream back on the table in a pile. In addition, you can also have them use the squares to spread the shaving cream evenly in front of them.


1. Spray a pile of shaving cream in a central location. I typically choose the middle of the table if students are sharing. As I learned during my first experience, less is more with shaving cream. You can always add more.

2. Provide the students with a paint brush that they can dip in the shaving cream and then paint a chosen object or scene in front of them. They can also paint words or numbers if you want to add academics back into this activity.

3. When finished, have them use their “eraser” a.k.a. cut plastic square, to wipe their area clean and begin again.

Even I joined in the fun...

Christmas Activity:

We had fun shaping the shaving cream into a triangular Christmas tree shape. Then, decorated the tree with cut pipe cleaner as garland and a yellow star topper as well as beads for ornaments. It would be fun to see what designs kids could create. There are many shapes that would be fun to decorate in this fashion from wreaths to snowmen.

Last Thought… If you have some food die to change the color of the shaving cream, I think it would even make this activity more interesting. We might try that next time!

Do you love this idea? Try it! I’d love to hear all about your learning experience and share your pictures too!

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Learning to Sew A Button: Creating a Buttoning & Unbuttoning Activity

Club Time

In an effort to spend more time individually with our children, my husband and I have set aside a time each week for Boys’ Club & Girls’ Club. This gives us a specific opportunity to teach our children to become Godly men and Godly women. We plan specific learning experiences where we can teach our children life skills and role model Godly character in specific situations.

Today in Boys’ Club, Caleb learned gun safety skills at the gun range with Daddy. They shot at our left-over pumpkins to see the damage a bullet can cause.

During our Girls’ club time, I introduced the skill of sewing a button to Lily. Then, we practiced the fine motor skill of buttoning and unbuttoning.  We had a lot of fun together. Would you like to hear about what we did? If so… Keep Reading!

Sewing a Button Activity:

Scrap Fabric Square or Embroidery Interfacing Square

*Disclaimer:  I didn’t have a plastic needle that would fit through the holes of the buttons I had bought for this activity, so we used a real needle. My little girl is 3 years old. I took into account her fine motor abilities, listening skills, and focusing skills when deciding if she was ready to be trusted with a real needle under focused and cautious supervision.

1. The first thing we did was introduce vocabulary of the needle. I stressed that this was a real needle with a real sharp tip that would hurt if it poked into skin… hers or mine.

2. I introduced the word thread and showed her how to thread the needle through the eye.

3. I introduced the word knot. I demonstrated making a knot and explained why it was needed.

4. I demonstrated how to sew the button on the interfacing square a few times and then held the button while Lily stuck the needle through the hole of the button and pulled it through the opposite side. (You may choose to use a scrap piece of fabric for this part of the activity.)

5. When the thread became short, I tied it off in a knot, and cut the string.

6. After the first button was completed, I got her started on the following buttons, but I allowed her to hold the buttons on her own.

7. She sewed the last 2 buttons on a separate interface square on her own with just a little help from me to make sure she continued to go in the right direction. When she finished, I cut 2 holes to match the buttons in the opposite side that were just big enough for the large buttons to fit through.

8. After cleaning up our mess, I showed Lily what we made. A new “toy”! One where she could practice buttoning and unbuttoning on her own. She was so excited that she had made something herself and enjoyed using it over and over again. When Daddy got home she eagerly told him and showed him what she had made and what she could do with the buttons.

For the first button, I allowed Lily to select a button of her choosing. She chose a pink one that just happened to be a large button and it worked well because there was space for my fingers to help her hold the button as she pressed the needle in and pulled it out.

The second button she chose was a purple button that just happened to be a small button. This button made our activity difficult as there wasn’t a safe place to hold the button and caused an accidental poke. No worries! She didn’t even draw blood… tis the life of one that sews.  

After this, I encouraged her to choose a large button instead. We made it through with no further pokes! Yay!

Have you started teaching your child to sew? What are some of your favorite lessons? We had such a great time with this activity that I am definitely planning more sewing during our Girls’ Club time!

Do you like this idea? Try it! I’d love to hear all about your learning experience!

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Friday, November 11, 2016

Digging into Reading

Digging into Reading

Our kids LOVE their sandbox. We built it for them a few months ago and it is their favorite place to be. A few weeks ago, we played paleontologist. We hid some plastic dinosaurs and sea shells under the sand and then used a paint brush to carefully dig them up. We all had a blast with this game!

This week for reading Caleb was learning some new sight words and Lily was practicing some new short a-blends. We’ve played matching games and sorted words/blends, and used stickers to build the words/blend, but this week I took a little different approach.

I quickly selected 10 sight words I wanted Caleb to practice and I pulled out 10 a-blend cards for Lily. I quickly stuffed them into the sand about an inch down or less as they were playing without saying a word. This caught their attention and right away they were excited to play… and READ!

Playing Word Paleontologists:

Hand your children a paint brush and their off! We get into our paleontologist role by pretending that each flashcard found is rare and fragile. They must carefully use the paint brush to wipe away the sand until it is all swiped clear. (It helped that we did this when playing paleontologist with the dinosaurs and seashells as well!) We are all excited about a dig find and eagerly work to figure out what message is on the card.

As I mentioned, we practiced reading sight words and short a-blends, but this activity is great for practicing all kinds of skills such as letter names/sounds, blends, sight words, and vocabulary words. You could bury a card that had a picture or a word on it and have your child tell you a rhyming word. You could bury index cards with complete sentences on them to have them practice fluency skills. I also think it would be fun to bury a sentence in the sandbox each word on a different card and have your child try to figure out the secret message once all the words are uncovered!

We became Word Paleontologists, but your children might become Number Paleontologists! This would be a fun way to practice recognizing numbers, counting how many dots, addition, or subtraction problems and so much more! They could uncover a number and you could ask them to tell you a number that was more, less, or equal to that number. The list goes on and on!

Don’t have a sandbox? This activity could easily be done by anyone just by placing flashcards face down in a large plastic bin and covering them with some play sand.

On a side note, our sandbox is outside and although it is covered the sand just a few inches below the surface is damp from rain water that comes up from the ground. Caleb’s sight word cards were laminated and were unharmed in the process of this activity. Lily’s blends were written on index card stock and were not laminated. After finding them, although they were not damaged, you could tell they were near some moisture.

Do you like this idea? Try it! I’d love to hear all about your learning experience!

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Roadschooling in Savannah, Georgia

Roadschooling in Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is one of my favorite places to visit, mostly because my sister and her family live there, but it’s also a beautiful city with lots of history.

Before our visit, I found this See 3 Pass where you can choose to visit 3 of the 5 museums on the list for a discounted price, which ends up being equivalent to a buy 2 get one free. Take note where it says, “Valid for 3 days from the date of purchase.” That’s important to know as some museums are closed on some days and the train may only ride on certain days at different times of the year.

If you’ve been hanging around here, you know I have 2 small children. I chose the 3 museums that I thought would work best for us, but you might think the others would be more interesting to your family.

Our Savannah Museum Experiences:

Day1. Old Fort Jackson 

To be honest, due to the ages of my children, this was my third choice from the list of museums, but after our visits, this turned out to be my favorite. The fort itself is pretty small, there are several canons, and a variety of rooms with some educational artifacts. What made it so special was the employee dressed in time period garb who brought this fort to life and made every part of it fun and educational for adults and children alike! 

After doing our own walking tour of the facilities, the employee (I wish I knew his name to give him credit) invited all the visitors to come together to learn more about weapons fired during the Civil War. He asked for volunteers, which ended up being Caleb and Lily. He taught them how to stand in line and march to commands like the soldiers did. They were each given a wooden shotgun and taught how the soldiers would carry it. Then, in front of the audience, he demonstrated how soldiers of this time period would load their gun while guiding my kids to load their guns in a similar way. Then, he demonstrated firing the gun while my children “pretended” to fire their own guns in like fashion a safe distance away. Even after the presentation, my children were allowed to pretend with these guns. They’re favorite thing to do was to stick them through the windows to “shoot” at the enemy just like soldiers of the past. When their interest started to wan, he invited Caleb and Lily to learn about Morse code first hand using a telegraph. He showed them how one machine was used to send messages while the other received them and what to do to the machines to switch their uses. Then, he allowed them to send and receive messages to each other. He also gave them a one on one demonstration on how soldiers sent messages to others in Savannah using flags and let them practice waving flags to make the letters in their name. The last demonstration was the firing of the canon, but again this employee did not just stand and talk to the crowd who patiently awaited a loud, KA-BOOM! Instead, he asked for volunteers. My two children, another older girl, and myself were enlisted. He gave us each a job that a real solider had and instructed us on how to do each task the way the real soldier would have to fire this canon, up to the point of firing it, but not. When he finished, we all moved a safe distance away and watched him complete all the steps himself to demonstrate firing the canon.


The entire visit was interesting, fun, and educational. I credit this particular employee who had a great demeanor with both adults and children with making our experience so wonderful. I highly recommend this museum.

On a side note… BEWARE of the Crabs! There are about a gazillion crabs especially around the moat, but that’s not the only place they are. These critters climb walls, which with their pointy little feet is quite amazing. I know in my head these guys are much more scared of me then I should be of them, but when you go to the bathroom and reach for the toilet paper hanging on the wall, you don’t expect to see a crab hanging on the wall just above it! I swear I swallowed my heart!

Day 2. Savannah Children’s Museum 


We love children’s museums. We’ve been to many all over the country and some are better than others. This is the first children’s museum that was completely outside. In Savannah, even at the end of September, it was hot. There were some shaded areas and there’s a train car that is air conditioned where kids could read books, play with trains, and draw. Even though it was outside, it had many of the same activities that most other children’s museums have like large building blocks, a water table, musical instruments, and dress up. There was a playground, but half of it was roped off for some reason. They also had a misting station and a giant maze. It looked like they were remodeling a building next door to provide additional experiences about the U.S.S Colonial and Marsh Lands. Would we go back? Yes. It was a fun experience for the kids.

Day 3. Georgia State Railroad Museum 

This was actually located in the exact same location as the Children’s Museum. At this museum, you can take a walking guided tour or go on your own around the train yard. In addition, you can take a short train ride tour around the yard and learn about how this train yard had been used and changed over the years. On different days, they will pull out different trains to pull the passenger cars (diesel and steam).

We got to ride the steam train, which was neat, but make sure they wipe down the passenger seats before you sit down. Initially, we thought Caleb and Lily had been rolling around in the train yard somewhere as their legs were covered in a black chalky powder. Later, we found out it came from the seats in the passenger car. Everyone had black soot on their shorts rears when we went and it obviously wasn’t the first time as the conductor was telling us secret ingredients of how to wash our clothes to get the stains out!
I thought this museum pass was a great deal and I’d definitely do it again. We had a lot of fun learning in historical and modern ways. I look forward to visiting Savannah again as I miss my family and I’m excited about the many more learning opportunities this city offers.

Have you been to Savannah lately? What have you and your family done that you enjoyed and found educational? I’d love to add some more ideas to our list of learning stops! Thanks for sharing in advance!

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Right Hat for Success with Classroom Volunteers

It’s the beginning of the school year. Many of my teacher friends have returned to school. Many of my parent friends have sent their children off to school. As a former teacher, I wanted to share this thought with you…

Teachers wear multiple hats and even capes. We are communicators, facilitators, disciplinarians, evaluators, counselors, super heroes, and even mother-figures, but there’s another hat that needs a spot in the collection.

We all want our students to reach their highest potential and we see how differentiated instruction is beneficial to reaching this goal, but it’s difficult to say the least when teachers are stretched thin. At some point, it’s best if we take off the cape and say, “I just can’t do this on my own.”

There is a whole group of people out there that can help. Most teachers ask for parent volunteers at the beginning of the year and we get a few responses. We use the parent resources we can, but there’s an untapped pool of parents and grandparents out there that aren’t getting involved. Parents often don’t realize how useful they can be in the classroom, can’t speak English, or work full-time. So, we need to put on our Recruiter Hat and show them how they can get involved.

How to be a successful recruiter:

1.    Begin asking early and ask consistently. That doesn’t mean badger parents, but ask parents at Open House to mark the types of volunteering they can offer on a form. Then, call on different volunteers to help at different times throughout the year. 

    Check out this Bulletin Board craft that will help you get your year started off in the right direction by letting your students' parents know that you encourage their help and support at home and at school!

2.    Ask for help in a variety of ways. Yes, it would be great to have help in the classroom, but parents can be beneficial at home or occasionally traveling to stores to buy materials we need like paper plates for a story sequencing project.

3.   Be specific in your requests for the types of help you need. A parent might not feel comfortable teaching a small group, but they might be able to supervise students working on computers, read a book to the class, or listen to students as they read sight word flashcards.

4.   Ask them directly. Get to know your parents when they come in for Open House or Curriculum Night. Think of ways they can help that would work for them specifically. Then, make a phone call to personally invite them to help out the class.

5.    Offer a volunteer mini-course. There are parents that would love to teach small reading groups or work with students as they write stories, but they don’t have the confidence to volunteer or the knowledge to do it right. Teach them the basics they would need to successfully support students in these areas.

If you’re a classroom teacher, I encourage you to take the time to recruit parent volunteers. In the long run, it will save you time, not to mention all the benefits of having more help in and out of the classroom.

If you’re a parent, I encourage you to find a way that you can support that classroom teacher. The more help she has from parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, the better she can teacher all the students in her class, including yours.

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

Teacher’s I have these excellent products that I developed and used in my classroom for 9 years that helped me get my parents involved in practicing reading skills with their children! I hope you take a moment to check it out!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Chalk Rocks: An All-Natural Art Craft

Kid’s Art: Rock Chalk Designs

Are you planning to do a rock study this year? We’ll if you are save this activity for when you finish. It’s a lot of fun and it will give your students a relaxed environment to talk about the observations they make about rocks together.

The Preparation Stage…

Go on a Rock Hunt

Grab a bucket and head out to the woods or a rocky creek bed or anywhere you might find some pretty big rocks. You don’t want your child picking up anything that is going to injure their back lifting it or their foot dropping it, but something about the size of a man’s fist is good. Grab a few if there are plenty available. We had a good time looking for just the right size rocks. We compared the sizes of all the rocks we saw. We talked about their weight as we picked them up… or tried to. We talked about how some were stuck in the ground and why/how that happens sometimes.

Cleaning Rocks

We had a lot of fun with this part of the activity as in we made a really big mud mess! I gave my kids a tub of water and some paintbrushes to wash the rocks off. They had a good time flinging mud sprinkles as they scrubbed away at their rocks. It was fun for me to listen to their conversations about the rocks during this time. One would say, “Look! I found a shiny spot.” While the other child would point out that he found one with black speckles. Once we got all the mud and dirt off of the rocks and onto our clothes, we set the rocks out to dry. If you’re not into letting your kids get dirty, wearing old clothes or a smock would be a good idea.

The Designing Stage…

Rock Chalk Designs

Once the rocks were dry, with chalk in one hand and a rock in the other, my kids started decorating. Lily Anne loves pink, so here rocks were pick by design. Caleb tried to draw trucks and tractors on his rocks, but in the end decided to color them in.

Using chalk paint would also be a fun way to decorate rocks.

The best part about this activity is that we can enjoy the beauty of our art word, but that the rocks can be returned to nature undisturbed. I especially enjoy find artistic ways my kids can express themselves without using a medium that takes up space in our limited space RV. Taking a picture helps us keep the fun memories and the beautiful designs in our hearts.

I hope your children enjoy getting creative with rocks too! I’d love to hear how they went! Feel free to let me know in the comments below or find me on Facebook or Twitter! I always love to hear from my readers!

God Bless You on Your Learning Journey ~

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