• There were so many days this past few weeks where I  thought “yikes! We have barely did any schoolwork.” Then I paused and look back at what the kids have done. The boys – particularly my five year old – got entranced by the poem The Highwayman and have been reciting sections of it over and over. We read and talked about Afghanistan. We built a model of a viking long-ship and read stories about Eric the Red. We’ve read and talked about the residential schools and the Inuit people. My eight year old has been doing writing every day. My five year old is starting to learn piano and I’ve got…

• Help! I’ve been sucked into a facebook game Coasterville. Yikes……. Actually, there are many reasons for me to find the game interesting. It fits with my obsessive breaking down of things into their constituent parts.  The value of a purchase on coasterville is a combination of different things: – energy points– coins– thrill points– resources– goods The basic energy points are given to players one every five minutes, even when the game is turned off. So the first time in the day you’ve logged in you’ll find yourself with a full 30 energy points. If you spend those quickly and then leave the computer for half an hour, when you…

• I love math games and I’m loving as my second child advances to the stage where he can join in more and more of the games. One of the games we played recently is played with a die and graph paper. Before we started I did a little warm-up exercise getting him to draw rectangles. Could he draw a rectangle that had only one square in it? Two? Three? How many different rectangles could he draw with only four squares? We talked about the rectangles that could be made from two rows of squares. He could make a rectangle like that with six or eight squares, but not with seven. For…

• Soma Puzzles are made of seven pieces made up of a total of 27 cubes. In some ways they are like three-dimensional tangram puzzles.  After looking at a few pictures online I found I could easily create a set using the little craft cubes that I had been using for homemade dice for homemade boardgames. My first attempt used a glue-gun but the bulkiness of the glue made the cubes not fit together properly, so my second attempt used wood glue. It takes longer to dry but creates a better product. The Soma Pieces can be assembled into a 3 x 3 cube, but more fun than that was discovering…

• One of the things I find fun is building marble mazes. There’s something kind of silly about them, but I enjoy them. We have a couple of sets of store-bought mazes. One is plastic, the other wood. They’re both fun and the kids and I use them, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to make our own as well. So here’s some marble maze ideas we’ve found. You know the cardboard spacers that keep glass jars from banging against each other in the box? My husband found us some really tall dividers like that, but we could easily make more by cutting slits in sheets of cardboard so that…

• Dominos make excellent math manipulatives, and we use them frequently in our homeschooling. There are lots of different games that can be played with them and in the process of playing the games a preschool child can start to recognize patterns like that nine is three groups of three or that two odd numbers added together make an even number. When I play dominos with my four year old we talk about the dots as though they could move. We have four and two. What if one of the dots on this side moved over to that side? What would we have then? Here are the rules to a few…

• In my last post on string games I talked about Opening A and dropping the thumb strings to create a two loop loom. Today I want to write about what happens when you take the palm string of Opening A. When you just take the index or middle fingers, put them under the palm string of the opposite hands and pull straight out you get three loops. Now here I run into a terminology problem. When I said you get three loops, I meant that you get three spaces bordered by string. My first picture represents those spaces with three different shades of blue. However “loops” could represent something different, so…

• Put a collection of small objects (stones, beans, Popsicle sticks, etc) in a pile. Let two people take turns removing one, two or three of the objects. Can you predict which person will take the last object? My seven year old knows who will. The game is called Nim and there are plenty of variations of it. In some variations the objects are divided into piles and you cannot remove objects from more than one pile while in other multi-pile variations you can remove from multiple piles as long as you remove the same number from each pile. In some variations there is a set maximum number of objects you…

• Seven-year old and I came up with another dice and graph paper game today based vaguely off of all those computer games where you steer a growing snake around obstacles. The goal was to draw little snakes and to keep them “alive” by not having them touch the edge of the board, itself or any other snake. The rule for drawing the snakes was to draw a line as many squares long as the number rolled on the dice. If the number was even the line turned left from where it last was, if the number was odd it turned right. Each of us had two snakes on the board at…

• I can teach anything with a homemade UNO game. Or at least, I can use it anytime there’s something I need the children to practice that can be divided into categories. The basic game goes like this: deal out seven cards each. Flip one card over from the leftover card pile. You can play any card from the same category. Star cards allow you to change category that is meant to be played. If you can’t play a card you have to pick up another. If you get down to your last card you have to say “uno” before the next person plays, or else you have to draw another…