Archive for the ‘game’ Category

Welcome to the Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”


With the temperatures rising this past week to a rather tropical level (dewpoints were in the upper 70s and low 80s and temperatures in the 90s making some days feel like it was 110-116 degrees), it’s a perfect week to look at ideas for cooling down. 

Make a Pinaqua

This idea is from the Family Fun June/July 2011 issue. This is a candy-free version of a pinata that is filled with water. To make it, fill a medium plastic trash bag with 1-2 gallons of water and knot the top.

Tie a rope or piece of twine beneat the knot. Toss the tree end of the rope over a tree branch and either tie it securly or have an adult stand by to raise and lower the pinaqua.


After being blindfolded and spun around three times, each player takes three whacks at the pinaqua with a broom. The winner is the one who manages to break the bag and unleash the wave.

Go Swimming

The girls enjoyed going swimming with a family friend on Wednesday. She took them to their favorite beach where they swam and played in the water for about an hour and a half. Afterwards, they enjoyed a little snack on the beach before coming back home.

Square Lake Beach.

Stay Indoors

On the hottest days when it literally felt like an oven outside, we chose to stay cool by staying indoors. The girls read and/or listened to books on CD, embroidered, played board games, practiced the piano and harp, did puzzles, and sewed doll clothes.

We also homeschool around the year (with a slightly more relaxed scheduled during the summer months), so they also worked on math, history, science/nature study, and government this week.


Now it’s your turn! What are some ways that your family stays cool during the summer?


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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “M.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter M…is for Math.

I remember sitting in a college calculus class and one of the students asked, “When are we ever going to use this in real life?”

The professor gave an answer that I wished some of my junior high and high school math teachers would have said when I was learning algebra and trigonometry, “Chances are, you’re never going to use this in your daily life. This level of math isn’t so much about using it in ‘real life.’  It is more about being persistent and disciplined, and finding the answer to a problem.” 

Math comes down to simple problem solving; and training one’s brain to be able to think through a variety of situations and get to the right answer or come to a conclusion. Math, to me, means essentially fostering a sense of determination and commitment to finish something you’ve started.

Because math goes beyond just learning numbers, functions, and concepts, I try to give Sophia and Olivia opportunities to learn math through a variety of methods: traditional/book learning, singing, learning tools, games, and real-life application.


The girls learn core math concepts and facts by using their math books.  I use Rod & Staff books since both girls say they like them.  At the last homeschool conference I attended, I looked at a variety of math books. Some had a lot of color and impressive graphic design; some used the computer; and others used DVDs to teach math.  After looking at the variety of resources, I decided to stick with Rod & Staff.

Rod & Staff isn’t fancy – the text and images are all in black and white.  However, the majority of examples they use all tie into agriculture, farm animals, and cooking/baking – all things that are quite applicable to the girls’ life right now.

Sophia's Math Book
Sophia’s fourth grade math book. 

There seems to be a lot of repetition with some of the fundamental concepts and facts (e.g., addition and subtraction facts, skip counting by 2s/5s/10s, multiplication and division facts). However, knowing these facts by memory is critical to forthcoming math skills, so I think that’s valuable.

That being said, once the girls have “mastered” a skill, I don’t make them continue doing pages of the same thing. They can move onto the next skill. That’s one of the benefits of homeschooling – adapting the lessons to the each child’s skills and knowledge.

Olivia Doing Math with Shells
Olivia likes to use manipulatives to help her visualize
some of the math problems she’s doing.
For this lesson, she chose to use shells.


The girls both enjoying singing and seem to retain information much better when they learn it by listening to and singing songs. 

Some of the CDs that the girls use for math.

Some of the CDs for math that they use include:

Shiller Math Songs – this was a CD that Olivia used a couple of years ago when using the Shiller math curriculum.  There are a variety of songs that had her moving about while listening to instructions on the CD.

Addition Songs by Kathy Troxel – this CD comes with a songbook/workbook, and has helped Olivia learn counting from 1 to 20 as well as all the addition facts from 1+1 to 9+9. There are sing-along songs as well as echo-style songs for self-testing.

Multiplication Songs by Kathy Troxel – this CD also comes with a songbook/workbook, and has helped Sophia learn all the multiplication tables 2 through 12.  There are sing-along songs as well as echo-style songs for self-testing.

  One Hundred Sheep by Roger Nichols – There are nine songs on this CD that teach counting by 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, etc. This skill is known as “skip counting” and is used in every math process from multiplication to algebra.  The songs use stories from the Gospels as a basis for the lyrics.  Both the girls use this CD.

Sophia singing along with the
One Hundred Sheep CD.



Olivia playing with some of the math dice.

One of the ways to learn and/or review the basic facts is by using dice. 

Basic math equation that Olivia put together
using three different types of dice.

I have a variety of dice that the girls can use.  Some have the basic six dots representing numbers on them (white ones).  Others are special ones:

– Blue dice with the numbers 1-6 on them.
– Green dice with the numbers 7-12 on them.
– White dice with different symbols (e.g., plus, minus, times, divided by).
– Yellow dice with Roman numbers.
– Big red and orange dice with little white dice inside it. Both the dice have the traditional 1-6 dots on each side.

A variety of dice to use with math games.

Electronic Flash Cards

Learning Resources has a Minute Math Electronic Flash Cards in which the girls are presented with different facts (e.g., 2+9, 8×7) and need to type in the answer. The “game” is based on speed and accuracy. There is a voice that tells the player if she typed in the correct answer.

Sophia testing herself on multiplication facts.

Sophia likes this “game,” but Olivia finds it frustrating.  So, when Sophia needs/wants to do something different for math, she’ll use the Electronic Flash Cards.  

Learning Wrap-Ups

Both the girls learn best when there is a hands-on component to the lesson.  One of the things that I found at the last homeschool conference was a set of Learning Wrap-Ups. Each Wrap-Up focuses on a different process (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). 

Olivia testing herself on addition facts.

To use them, the girls start with the first number on the left side and add/multiply it by the number in the middle of the key.  Then they find the answer on the right hand side and bring the yarn to the other side and wrap it around the backside before bringing it to the second number on the left side. They repeat the process until all the numbers and answers have been wrapped.

Olivia with the finished Wrap-Up.
The string was where it should be on the back,
so she got all the answers correct.

The Wrap-Up is self-checking on the back. The key has a raised pattern to show where the yarn should be. If the yarn matches the pattern, then all of the answers were done correctly.


The girls have many games that they enjoy playing that have a math component to them:  Horse-opoly, Life, and Farm-opoly.

Farmopoly - Homeschool Math Lesson
The girls playing Farm-opoly.

In addition to purchased games, we’ve also made our own math games.  For Thanksgiving, we made a turkey racing game (see below) that involved counting and probability.  The girls had fun making and playing the game, and having it be a part of Thanksgiving activities in the future.

Turkey Racing Game
Homemade math game.


Bringing math into everyday activities provides the girls with a learning experience in a real-life setting, and helps enhance comprehension of what they are learning.

Counting by 5s and 10s
Sophia learning to skip count
by 5s and 10s using buttons.

An early math skill is sorting, although it is one that people use in their daily lives. One of the ways that sorting was incorporated into homeschooling is through stamp collecting.  The girls each have their own books for stamps, and have enjoyed sorting them into categories (e.g., horses, flowers, pandas, wild animals).

Olivia Working on Her Stamp Collection
Olivia sorting through stamps when she was very young. 
She still has and adds to her stamp collection.

Another way that the girls have used math is when they have sorted items to donate.  Each year we do Operation Christmas Child.  The girls enjoy choosing items to put in the boxes, and then dividing and sorting them at home. 

Olivia and Sophia Sorting Operation Christmas Child Items
The girls sorting items for Operation Christmas Child boxes.

Of course, each October the girls look forward to sorting candy they get when they go out for Halloween.  They will compare what each one got, and often will trade candy.

Olivia Sorting Halloween Candy
Olivia with candy she sorted.

Math also is used when studying science. 

Sophia Measuring the Jaw
Sophia measuring the length of a bone.

One of the easiest ways to tie the two subjects together has been when we have been able to measure something tangible (e.g., feathers, depth of a woodpecker hole in a tree, the circumference of a tree, the length of a bone).

Sophia Measuring Snow Depth
Sophia measuring the snow depth.

The girls enjoy cooking and baking.  Reading a recipe and then measuring the ingredients is something that I have involved them in well before they were doing their math books.

Making a Strawberry Smoothie
Sophia measuring and adding an ingredient
to make a fruit smoothie.

I’ve had a food scale for many years, and it seems like in the past few years that it has been used more frequently by the girls – whether they are making food in the kitchen or weighing an item for a science lesson.

Girls Putting Mushrooms on Scale
The girls were weighing some mushrooms they found
on the nature trail.
Sophia Measuring and Weighing  Rhubarb
The girls are cutting and measuring rhubarb
to make dessert.

Money is something that the girls have enjoyed learning about in math.  Rather than just using pictures in math books, the girls receive a bit of money for doing some chores.  They also receive money periodically as gifts from grandparents and relatives. 

Originally, I had the girls set up save-spend-give jars and a percentage of each amount they earned or was gifted was divided into the three jars in a 50-40-10 percent ratio (respectively).  Now, I have them do a 50-50 split – save half/spend half.  Of the spending money, some they use as donation money. 

The girls have their own wallets with money and gift cards, and have learned to interact with cashiers; and vendors at craft shows and farmer’s markets. They have to learn to use only the money they have available (no loans or borrowing money). This has taught them the value of budgeting and patience (especially if they need to save for a larger item). I’m hoping that they carry this into their adult life and save half of what they earn.

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Project Simplify’s Hot Spot #3 was focused on children’s toys and clothes.  Since I’m preparing for the homeschooling conference and trying to assess what the girls have and what would be nice to supplement in terms of educational games and puzzles, I focused on the cabinet in the family room.

What did it look like before?  This:

Disorganized, messy shelf with games, puzzles,
musical instruments, and play-doh.

I removed everything from the shelves and asked the girls if they played with or used the game or puzzle I was holding.  This process resulted in a half-garbage bag filled with games and puzzles that are going to be donated to the local thrift shop. 

For a few of the games that are “too young” for the girls, I kept them aside and put them in one of my office closets just in case younger visitors or relatives come over and they want to play a game with them.  I tend to hold onto the Ravensburger games and puzzles since they meet or exceed all national and international safety testing standards. The games and puzzles are both educational and fun, and are made from high quality materials.

After the shelves were clear, I used Watkins Natural Lemon Furniture Polish with natural olive oil.

I put everything the girls played with back on the shelves, trying to place the puzzles and games that Olivia would use on the lower shelves as well as items that are used  most often.  Here’s what the shelves look now:

Board games, puzzles, and card games are on the lower shelves.
More games, musical instruments, active & “old-fashioned” games, and
needle-felted letters in a basket on the upper shelves.

The needle-felted letters are ones I made in 2008.  They were ones the girls used when they were younger to put the letters of the alphabet in order.  Now, they can use them to spell different words.  Each letter is made from hand-dyed sheep wool.  The base is a cream-color wool from sheep that I raised many years ago.  The size of each letter is 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ – a good size for small hands.

Mosaic of Needlefelted Alphabet ATCs and ACEOs - Tactile Art and Learning for Children
The needle-felted alphabet set I made.

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As I think back on the past week, I am grateful for…
:: Seeing all the birds visit the feeders – especially the six cedar waxwings that came to the cherry tree yesterday.
:: For the cats and dogs who seem to warm the room up on cold winter nights.
:: Making a nice New Year’s Day dinner with Sophia, and trying new recipes from a Russian cookbook.
:: Programs that are available to help my parents navigate the journey of Alzheimer’s Disease.
:: Being able to develop new skills with caregiving, and see that they are helping my parents.
:: Time to play games and read books to my daughters.
:: Two reminders this week – one from a friend and one from a movie – to be okay with who I am and what I have to offer.
On Sophia’s tenth birthday this past week, she wanted to see the movie “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”  It’s the third movie that Disney has produced in the Narnia series (though it’s the fifth book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis).  It’s an excellent movie with  touching and inspirational themes such as: resisting temptation, sustaining faith/belief, perseverance, responsibility, facing fears, the honor in bravery, and the desire for a greater country.

One scene was particularly meaningful (and timely) for me.  It was a reminder that each person is valuable and needs to be comfortable with her appearance, skills, and personality.  This is a particularly special message for girls, no matter their age.

In the movie (and book), “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” Lucy has long compared herself, unfavorably, to her beautiful older sister, Susan. So Lucy’s greatest challenge here is the temptation to turn herself into Susan—via the magician’s book.

She recites a spell and is thrilled when she sees herself as Susan. Then, despite the protestations of Aslan, she rips the page out of the book and takes it back onboard the Dawn Treader to recite again. When she does she’s whisked back to England, this time transformed into Susan—and finds that, in so doing, she’s almost wished herself away.

In the movie, Aslan says, “Lucy, what have you done child? You wished yourself away. You doubt your value, don’t run from who you are.”

Sage advice for our times, when many girls try to conform to a standard template of beauty or pretend to be someone they are not. 

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Today was the perfect day to have Game Day! With a huge winter storm outside that dumped over 1 1/2 feet of snow and the wind howling, the girls and I played three games, had a fire in wood stove, and enjoyed some popcorn.

For Game Day, we each picked one game to play. Uno Stacker was my choice since we never played it and it was a game we could play together. Basically, you build a tower of blocks based on what number/color the dice shows when you roll it.

Sometimes you roll it and it tells you to remove a block. That’s when it starts getting interesting because your goal is to keep the tower of blocks standing. You don’t want to be the person who pulls out the block that makes the tower tumble.

Olivia picked Connect 4. We played three rounds of the game which she enjoyed. I remember playing this game growing up, so it’s fun to be able to play it again as an adult with my daughter.

 Olivia ready to play Connect 4.

 Sophia picked Life. She now can be the “banker” for this game which gives her opportunities to practice math in a fun way. She’s learning about place values in the hundred-thousand and ten-thousand range, so playing Life is a great way to get experience adding and subtracting at that level.

Sophia and I played Life on Game Day.

Throughout the day, we checked on the horses, shoveled the snow, and filled the bird feeders. The girls made forts in the big drifts of snow.

Sophia and Olivia in one of the snow drifts.  This one completely covered Sophia’s thighs.  Olivia got stuck and couldn’t move forward.

Montague waited patiently for me until I was ready to go.  Then he joined Gretel and the girls near the barn.

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Racing Turkeys
Originally uploaded by Pictures by Ann

Today, Sophia, Olivia, and I spent time preparing for Thanksgiving. One of the projects we worked on today was a game that I saw in “Family Fun” magazine a couple years ago.

The turkeys that are to the right are the six that will be “racing” down a game board that the girls and I are making. There are six columns (one per turkey) and 11 rows. The object of the game is to bet on the turkey that wins.

Someone takes 5 dice and shakes them. The numbers on the dice are called. The turkeys in the columns that correspond to the numbers move forward. The dice are shaken again and until a turkey crosses the finish line.

Not sure what the winner will get…candy corn, perhaps?

The turkeys are made from a cardboard tube (they’re 1 1/2 inches tall). The faces, beaks, and snood are hand-drawn and cut from construction paper. The tail feathers are cut from scrapbooking paper.

Once we finish the game board, I’ll post a picture of it. It’s rather large…considering the size of each of the turkeys.

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