Nature Scavenger Hunt

This was definitely a success for our homeschool preschool. My 3 year old was very excited when I told him we were doing a nature scavenger hunt at the park. He even asked if he could bring his binoculars (a gift from his grandmother).

There are dozens of these on Pinterest. We used this one. I liked that it had big pictures and that the objects weren’t too obscure. If we do it again though I’ll add a paper bag for them to keep their finds in.

This is definitely an activity we will do again. I actually think he will get even more out of it the second time. I’d also like to try to do something each season and observe how nature changes. Right now I actually have the clipboard in my car so we can be finding things as we travel around to different places.


Cloud in a Jar

Our main focus in science so far has been the weather. I picked up these in the Target bins.

We do today and tomorrow’s weather each morning (he looks at the weather on my phone and then picks the correct insert). I was surprised by how much he loves this and he is starting to make connections between the predicted weather and what actually happens the next day. Although he also keeps asking me when it is going to snow! I think he just wants to use that insert 🙂

I saw posts about “cloud in a jar” all over Pinterest and kept wondering if it would really work. Our first stab at it using hairspray was a bust. Basically we were just trapping your usual amount of steam. But then we switched to using a match.

First, fill a jar with very hot water.
Light a match and hold it inside of the jar. The smoke creates particles that the water vapor can latch onto. You can drop the match inside or discard it.

Cover the jar with the lid. Put the lid on upside down so you can fill it with ice cubes.

Watch the cloud form. We put dark colored construction paper behind the jar so he could see the cloud better.
The most dramatic part is when you open the jar and all the vapor rushes out 🙂

Best part is nothing really gets “consumed” in this experiment. So you can do it again if you want. We did it four times!


Setting Up for Success: 3 Keys to A Great Start in Math this Year

Image result for start

Everyone starts a new school year with high hopes and fresh resolve to make it a year of growth and accomplishment. Over the years I’ve seen many math students excel and others struggle to just get by. I’m a firm believer that habits and attitudes play a much bigger role in our accomplishments in the classroom than innate ability. Here are some concrete ways you can increase your odds of a fruitful and joyous year in math.

  1. Get organized. Have your student set aside a specific shelf for math. It should house their textbook, notebook (not assorted pieces of loose leaf paper), graph paper, calculator, and everything else on those supplies lists. Some of you are thinking really, that’s her first tip? I know, it seems so obvious. Yet, very few high school students take the time to do this. Pick a notebook that can last you for the whole course or at least the semester. I’ve seen students skip over graphing problems because they didn’t want to go searching for graph paper. Print off a nice pile of this graph paper and have it hole punched and ready to go.


  1. Line up help. I’ve done several posts on math tutors here and here. But the important point is if you know math might be a problem devise a plan ahead of time. Don’t wait until your student has struggled through 20 lessons and they finally admit they’re completely lost. A better approach is to pick an objective measurement. For example, any quiz grade below 70% and there’s going to be a one-hour review session with dad or an older sibling. Agreeing to this ahead of time lowers the stress involved with admitting they need help.


  1. Be honest about weaknesses and shortcomings. If math didn’t go well last year it might be best to start with some review. I wrote a full-length post about this here. Review helps all of us. In 10th and 11th grade I set aside the first six weeks of school to review for the SATs. My main goal was to get a great score and earn a scholarship. But a secondary benefit was that I reviewed lots of basic concepts before jumping into something new. In the end, I made up those 6 weeks because I was able to learn the new material more quickly.

Try these out and let me know how it goes. And if you want to ask about specific concerns or questions find me on Facebook! I love helping homeschool families figure out high school math.

Math Day

It is summer! We’re going to the beach as often as we can and spending our days outside as much as possible.

But I’m also hosting a math day once a month. It give me a chance to try out some fun math activities. And it helps my homeschooling friends fight the dreaded summer slide. Want to host one of your own? Here are some tips:

  1. Pick a theme. One concept is a good idea. I’m targeting first graders so in June we did addition and July we did subtraction.

2. Keep it light! It’s summer…no boring worksheets allowed. I’m using my own materials but you can find a ton of stuff on Pinterest. We played games, completed math fact coloring sheets, and always used edible manipulatives. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Snacks are a must 🙂 Snap cubes are fun but Skittles are better. And if you want to avoid the sugar rush go with Goldfish crackers or pretzels.

In the end, I think the key to the success is friends. Getting to try out these activities with their friends was the main motivation. And if you’re like me that means a mix of ages (see the group photo above). I had the older kids work as helper and the younger kids thought it was a blast too. Granted they didn’t understand the subtraction…just the Skittles.

More on Math Day favorites soon…


Roll a Sum

This game is incredibly simple. But I was shocked, it was a huge success at my most recent Math Day. It might have been their favorite activity. It is a way to practice addition facts and is suited for k-2.

Start by making a game board that looks like this:

  1. Roll the dice. Count up all the dots. Cross out that number on your side.
  2. Player two rolls.
  3. If you roll a number that is already crossed out your turn is over.
  4. First player to cross out all their numbers wins!

It is exciting because it gets really challenging to roll those last couple of sums. As a challenge I asked some of the older kids in the group which sums were the easiest to roll…and why?

Also, I noticed that as we played the kids were starting to shift from counting up the dots to just doing the addition in their heads. Great!

Try it out and let me know how it goes.


Kool-Aid Playdough

I saw this recipe on Pinterest but I wondered what all the fuss was about. Basically it just looked like they were using Kool-Aid instead of food coloring. But then I tried it with my 3 year old…it is amazing. The color is really cool and you can buy lots of Kool-Aid mixes for cheap and make a whole rainbow. Also, it smells delicious.

Here’s the recipe taken from the Kraft foods webpage.

  • My son is in charge of dumping in all the ingredients and mixing.


A magical moment was when we added the water. All of a sudden the color really pops. Even I went “oh wow!”

It’ll be soupy and you’ll be wondering if you did something wrong.

Heat it on the stove until it bubbles and you can feel it thickening.

Turn off the heat and go read a book.

Return to find your wonderful playdough!

Let it cool and start creating. We used it to make some minion hair. It isn’t a full day of preschool if we haven’t incorporated minions.

Math Dice Jr.

I found this game at Target today. Very simple and super easy to bring along on vacation or to a restaurant. The dodecahedron (yes I just really wanted to use that word) tells you what sum or different you are trying to find. Use addition, subtraction, and the numbers on the other 5 dice to get that number.

I think the best feature of this game is that it gets your ready for Math Dice. This version is for 8 and up and adds a lot more complexity.

Number Collage and Scavenger Hunt

My son and I did this project today and we had a lot of fun. More importantly it provided a great opportunity to connect numerals to the amounts they represent. It’d be a great end of year activity for a Kindergarten student or a beginning of the year review for a first grader. It focuses on number recognition and spotting the numbers 1 to 10 in the world around us.

Materials: Poster, markers, straight edge, scissors, magazines or a Smartphone and printer (we don’t really have magazines so I used my Smartphone and printed the photos inexpensively at CVS), flyers from grocery stores or other stores

For the first part of the project you are going to be going on a scavenger hunt. You need to find the numerals 1 to 10 and examples of those numbers. We used a clipboard to keep track.

I’ve done number scavenger hunts before and it is definitely a lot more fun (and easier!) if you leave the house. We found all of our numbers just by taking a quick walk around the block. But it would also be really fun at the grocery store or library. Somewhere with lots of signs and prices will make it easier. You can also just pull out a pile of magazines and catalogs and look for numbers there.

Here are some of the numerals* we spotted on our street.

Brownie points if you notice the Disney Pixar character who made it into our collage—my son was thrilled. Now to find some real life occurrences of these numbers. The best examples are the ones that occur naturally: four chairs at a table, five siblings in a family, etc.. However, if your child gets really stuck finding seven of something I won’t judge you for putting seven M&M’s in a bowl and calling it a day.


We printed all of our photos at CVS and cut them out. My son was so excited to see his toys and our neighborhood in the photos. That is one advantage of using the Smartphone over the magazines, it gives kids more ownership over the collage.

Divide the poster into ten sections and have your child carefully label them with the right number. Paste all of your numerals and examples down. We hung out finished project in the school room so we can reference it in the future.

It’s a bit messy looking but the important thing is all the conversations we had about numbers as we put it together.

*We completely ignored place value in our hunt for numbers because we haven’t learned that yet. So for the sake of this activity a 9’s digit counted whether it was in the tens or ones column. Otherwise I think it would be really hard to find all of the numbers.

Number Recognition Matching Activity: Free Printable

This activity is ideal for kindergarten or first grade. It allows students to start matching the symbols for numbers with number words and ten frames. This activity is a great wrap up after you’ve spent some time practicing numbers with counters or snap cubes.

Identifying Numbers Matching Activity

Cut out the squares on the first two pages and mix them up. Then sort them appropriately and tape them down on the provided table.