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Got a distractible child? How to teach, raise and love this unique child. Interview with Home Educating Family TV

Taken from the spelling section of my book "The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles" as a way to turn a difficult spelling word into a word picture. If your child can't remember CLOSE from CLOTHES, only one spelling will hold hangers and clothes. Easy peasy.

Shoe Tying Practice

Really EASY manipulative for today. Start with a picture that has lots of stuff on it--we often used the back cover of old Highlights magazines that our local library gave away. Stick it in a plastic sleeve. Make little labels with something sticky on the back. Then, your child has to read the word, find the thing in the picture, and then move the label to the correct place. It's good for early reading skill and once again. . .travels well in the car.

I'm such a big believer in homemade manipulatives. They're cheap. They're easy. Once I realized my kids couldn't learn unless they moved, manipulatives became a mainstay of our schooling. I thought I'd share one of the very first things I ever made for my kids.

This was another early counting game. We called it "Snakes in their Beds". I've always loved games that use envelopes because a) they're cheap and b) they travel well. You can grab them and have your child do their work in the car. ---which. . .let's face it, is where we spent 90% of our time anyway!

This was another early counting game. The flower had various numbers of petals that had to be counted before the right pot could be selected. As always, I used a wet erase marker so that I could change them every now and then in case the student started memorizing the places.

Feeding the Seals became a mainstay in our schooling. I had a bucket of "fish" (3 x 5 cards) and my kids had to decide which fish could be fed to which seal. I learned to put clear tape on the front of my seals so that I could change their purpose from one day to the next (wet erase markers). One day a seal may eat words beginning with B, tomorrow adjectives, the next day. . .math problems resulting in 100.

Let's pull out a science manipulative today. This was a VERY simple rendering of a skeleton. The backs of the pieces had the medical name and the more common name of the bone. I would just have them piece the skeleton together every so often and then check their work.

HANDWRITING GAME. My son would fall apart whenever I took out "the handwriting workbook" Enter: Bear Belly Bingo-a way to practice handwriting without knowing it. There's a 4x4 grid on the bear. Your child randomly draws a box number (B-2, R-4, etc.), finds his square using these coordinates (a MATH skill by the way), draws a "Patterns" card, (which uses same motions as letters) then fills in the square with that pattern. First one to get four in a row wins.

This is Vicky Velpanoid from Venus. Notice that her fuel pods are empty. To color one in as "full" a student must get 5 flashcards right. (we did sight words. Do what you want.) 5 cards is a pod, which means the student can color in one triangular fuel pod. Once pods are full, student wads up the paper and tosses it into our suspended indoor basketball hoop. More ways to learn without a pencil.

The highly neglected but oh-so-useful good ol' bean bag. This is so easy to make and use. Any time your child is learning information that is linear (has a beginning and an end) you thow the bag back and forth. For A,B,C's, you say "A" and throw the bag. They say "B" and throw it back. So simple. But it keeps them moving forward on the task. Try-- Skip counting, Books of the Bible, counting in Latin, Names of presidents, Months of the year, and much more.

We played MATH WAR so many, many times over the years. It works just like regular War, but instead of each player turning over a single card, they each turn over 2. Then they add their two cards to determine whose SUM wins that round. If they need practice with multiplication instead, then you take the PRODUCT of the 2 cards to determine who wins. Great way to practice math facts without a pencil.

"Going Fishing" simply means using a stick with a string, to which a magnet has been attached. The "fish" are 3x5 cards on the floor with a paper clip on them. We've also fished up math problems, the names of states which must then be colored in on a blank map; colors; latin root words matched to their meanings or derivatives. You name it. This idea basically takes ANY lesson and makes it more fun if the answers lie on the bellies of the fish swimming around on the floor.

Stickers for Math. For simple math workbook problems, put the answers on a page of stickers. Then when your child does a problem, instead of writing the answer, they peel-and-stick the answer. They still have to do the computational work in their heads, but once again, we have a pencil-free way to show what they know.

Pencil-free Spelling Tests. Just get out the tiles (scrabble or bananagrams), call out the word, and watch their fingers fly.

THIS one is a way to develop some fine motor skills, getting ready for writing. Try to get there without touching the lines.

Salt Dough was actually a favorite manipulative in our house--although not in the traditional sense. But since the goal for motion is "mindless and repetitive", salt dough qualifies nicely. Using cardboard and masking tape, I threw together a loosely constructed Ancient Egyptian house. I read "The Golden Goblet" to my Sizzler, he took a pinch of salt dough and affixed to the model. Repeat. Repeat. It kept his hands busy, and his ears listening. And this was the final product.

Baby Birds in their Nests

We used this game to review practically anything. If it was math, I'd ask a question. If he got it right, he'd spin the spinner and proceed. This was easy to use with two or three kids (each as their own team). You would simply adjust your questions to fit what area of study needed reviewing. I loved this game for its versatility.

Pre-Reading ABC Sticks