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How to Make Math Fun

Make math FUN – Doesn’t that sound hopeful? If your kid is anything like mine, math is usually closer to pulling teeth, certainly the hardest part of homeschool.

Math is problem solving and puzzles. It should be fun. Who doesn’t like puzzles?

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But somewhere in my life math stopped being fun. My teachers made me copy my addition, subtraction, and multiplication tables over and over. Not much fun, but I learned them really well.

Why? Repetition is part of what makes new ideas and concepts permanent. Sure – but does it have to be so terribly boring all the time? I think we can find ways to bring back the fun.

Somewhere in my life, math stopped being fun. I want to make math fun for my daughter. Click To Tweet

Especially for my kindergarten kiddo, I want learning to be exploring new ideas and understanding mysteries, not just copying and worksheets.

But I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on a math curriculum.

During Christmas shopping, I discovered a new family game that makes math fun!

The game is a version of Shut the Box. Each player rolls the dice and has to add or subtract to eliminate a number from your side of the board (older players may also multiply and divide).

Make math FUN! Doesn't that sound hopeful? You want to make math fun for your children. Math is problem solving and puzzles. It should be fun. Why isn't it?

Adding and subtracting fluidly within ten is one of the main kindergarten objectives for math. Each turn, I had her both add and subtract before deciding which number to use. We even discussed multiplication when she needed 3 and rolled 1 & 3.

She didn’t know it was school. We were just playing. The game made math fun!

Plus, playing as adults over Christmas, we had a great time. For under $15 on Amazon Prime, you just can’t beat a family game that doubles as homeschool curriculum.

Another way we make math fun is through using math in hands-on or real world examples, like baking together or cutting up her PB&J sandwich into quarters.

We often use M&Ms as manipulatives to demonstrate numbers equal amounts. Plus, she gets to eat them as a reward when we are finished.

One of my daughter’s favorite books is The Doorbell Rang about chocolate chip cookies, and nothing compares to Grandma’s. Her own grandmother makes chocolate chip cookies that are a favorite. In this story, the sister and brother get to divide a dozen cookies, until the doorbell rang.

And two more friends arrive. Using a dozen M&Ms, we divide them up by the two characters. Then we add the two new characters and figure out how many cookies each person will get. As more and more characters arrive, we have to divide more and more.

While division isn’t a kindergarten math objective, introducing the concept in this fun cross-curricular lesson that ties reading and math together was just right to show we had the same number of M&Ms just divided differently.

She practiced counting, adding and manipulating numbers. We both laughed, and I enjoyed watching her pretend dividing up the “cookies.” We will be repeating this lesson, and the story is one of her treasured favorites.

These are the ways we learned to make math fun, and she is truly learning the concepts despite all the fun we’re having.

Another concept that I’ve learned is crucial is subitizing. Subitizing is the ability to mentally group objects into chunks without counting. Most adults do this subconsciously. Using dice or dominoes can be a way to help children practice this mental skill that helps with early math mastery.

We played dominoes almost daily during her kindergarten year. I had her count the pips on each side of each domino. Then, as counting grew easier, we began adding the pips on each side to learn how many in total on one domino.

With just a little creativity, I was able to make math fun and help her build the skills she needed to grow in confidence and ability.

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Celebrating the Days of Summer

On a budget? But want to make the most of your summer? Summers days fly by too quickly. An easy way to make each one special. Heaven Not Harvard

Looking for ways to make summer fun without breaking the bank? Us too, all the time! Even an outing to the movies can cost upwards of $100 with a family of five for all the bells and whistles, never mind the cost of an amusement park or out-of-town vacation.

Our income dropped in half when we moved here and decided I would stay home. We had to find different ways to make the summer days fun for our family without spending a small fortune.

Food seems to be the center of many family celebrations, so when I came across this idea, I knew I’d found a winner. We are celebrating the days of summer! Summers days fly by too quickly. An easy way to make each one special. Heaven Not Harvard

Everyday is a food holiday (see the Nibble’s list here). Yep, everyday. In fact some days are more than one. July 20 is hot dog day, lollipop day, fortune cookie day and ice cream soda day.

While we simply can’t do them all, we certainly are giving it our best shot. So far, we’ve celebrated holidays for strawberry shortcake, fudge, black cows (coke floats), cherry tarts, picnic day, vanilla milkshakes, peaches & cream, onion rings, pecan sandies, strawberry parfait, chocolate pudding, ice cream sodas (which gets celebrated several days a summer in various forms), creative ice cream flavor day (we made banana peanut butter chocolate ice cream from scratch), ginger snaps, chocolate wafers, BBQ ribs, apple turnovers, fried chicken day, strawberry sundaes, chocolate with almonds, pick blueberry day, blueberry muffin day, french fries, and beans&franks day, and tapioca pudding day last night for dessert.

We start the day the boys arrive for the summer and try to celebrate as many as we can. If there is a day that we can’t celebrate like alcoholic beverages or lobster which was not in our budget, we either finish off the leftovers of previous days or pick a day’s celebration that we will miss after they leave.

I usually grocery shop with the week’s holidays in mind, but don’t tell the kids the coming holidays so that they can be surprised each day as we prepare the treat for dessert or dinner.

Looking for ways to make every summer day fun? Try celebrating the "Days" of summer.Blueberry picking day came with an outing to a local orchard. It was hot and sweaty work, but that blueberry pie was so much sweeter when we picked those berries ourselves.

I have found different sites have slightly different lists. Foodimentary’s list is a little different than the Nibble’s, which might vary from another site.

Who cares if these are really real or really official? The fun is in making each treat. We can prep and cook as a family. This sneaky momma teaches cooking, measuring, and kitchen skills while they’re busy having fun.

I try to use a different list every summer for some variety. We have other traditions and summer activities, but celebrating all the days of summer is one way we make summer feel like one long holiday.

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Let Him be Her Dad

Let him be her dad. It is a lesson I have to relearn often because dads are imperfect. It’s really easy from the outside to see how I might have handled things differently, but he needs the freedom to be who God made him to be. God gave each of us the perfectly imperfect parents we were meant to have.

To let him be her dad, I had to learn humility and my Heavenly Father’s perspective.

On this Father’s Day, I spent a lot of time thinking about my dad, my step-father-in-law, my father-in-law and my daughter’s father. Each of these men did things differently, wonderfully, imperfectly. But each were great dads.

My husband’s role as a father started young. He was already a dad at the same age his boys are today. And his role as a father had many pause buttons due to his service time, except you can’t pause kids. He still feels cheated for all the moments he has missed in his children’s lives.

My husband spent much of our daughter’s first year in Iraq, from just days after we finalized her adoption until after she turned 15 months old.

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I was her everything for that year. We had brief periods of visiting family, but very few and far between. It was the all-mommy-show, all the time. It was hard in many ways, but it was also easy because I didn’t have to compromise, I could do everything my way.

I didn’t have to be a wife. I just had to be the mommy.

Then he came home: a bit lost in this new little-girl-land after two boys. He almost didn’t know how to be with her, this tiny, willful stranger. It was hard, his learning to fit in with us, us learning to let him back in.

This adjusting is part of the returning from war people don’t really understand, the reintegrating after the reuniting.

Adjusting as a family after he came home from war, meant learning to let him be her dad. Click To Tweet

I had to learn how to share her, how to share him, how to let him find his own way with her.

We had to find our family normal again.

One of the lessons that I had to learn was to let him be her dad. He is going to do things I never would. He is going to tickle her until she screams and throw her too high in the air, and give her ice cream for dinner. He is going to discipline her when I just want to wipe her tears.

Where I'm all poses and perfect smiles, he will make silly faces with her. I just need to let him be her dad.

Where I’m all poses and perfect smiles, he will make silly faces in pictures with her and kiss her cheeks until he leaves whisker burn because she loves his “grouchy whispers.” Someday, she will associate manhood with the way his cologne smells, like I do with my dad’s Old Spice.

He will define manhood for her in many ways by who he is.

He lets her style his hair with a penguin and wears her jewelry. When she hides under the covers, he pretends he doesn’t see her and hysteria ensues.

I need to let him be her dad - He teaches her to take life less seriously, catch a bass, identify a bird as it flies overhead. He will be a window into a different world than mine.

She held a kite soaring magically through the sky for the first time with him. They have daddy-daughter dates to fly kites and go fishing.  He holds her hand at the beach.

He teaches her to take life less seriously, catch a bass, identify a bird as it flies overhead. He will be a window into a different world than mine.

My world is full of books and words, emotions and communication, dresses and bows, learning and education. It’s a good world, but it isn’t the only world. His world is full of animals, dirt, bugs, cooking, living outdoors, patriotism and honor.

And she needs them both, like she needs us both.

I need to love and respect him, let him be her dad, so they can continue to learn together this father/daughter mystery. I want her to look up to her first superhero, to see his gentleness and intelligence, his bravery and creativity, enjoy listening to his stories and learn to take directions.

It’s easy to see the ways she fits with me so perfectly. But while I see the stark differences between her father and I, I recognize how perfectly God planned her family so that she would have the best of us both.

Now, if I can just relax, close my eyes, and let him be her dad, frogs, mud, and all.







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Say Yes to More Mud Puddles: Reclaiming Joy in Childhood

Have we taken too much JOY out of childhood? Regulated away all the fun? Say Yes to More Mud Puddles and soak up the moments that make life worth living.

Have we taken too much JOY out of childhood? Are we so concerned about doing everything perfectly that we’ve forgotten how to just have fun? More importantly, have we regulated all the fun out of childhood?

She came inside from riding bikes and asked if she could jump in the puddle. Bonus points for her asking prior to becoming a muddy mess!

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Would I say Yes to more mud puddles?

I let my daughter jump in a puddle. Yes, neatnik, OCD, clean freak ME let my daughter jump in a puddle, a grassy, muddy puddle.

I don’t think I gave much thought to which puddle she meant, but I said, “Sure.” In a moment of clarity, I knew that saying NO was easier, but saying YES was better.

My husband was not in favor, but it was a warmish day for Alabama in January, and she’s a kid. Kids need to get dirty sometimes, to toss away rules, to play with abandon.

Letting her be a kid was more important than her getting wet & muddy.

I wasn’t going to let her swim across the English channel. It was just a puddle, for Pete’s sake.

I wrapped her feet in plastic bags up to her knees, tucked them inside her boots and sent her off with instructions not to jump in higher than her boots, knowing she probably would get muddier and wetter, but making a motherly attempt to mitigate the damage anyways.

Have we taken too much JOY out of childhood? Regulated away all the fun? Say Yes to More Mud Puddles and soak up the moments that make life worth living.

A few minutes later, I heard joyful shrieking so I went to peek. The “puddle” was actually at the bottom of the deepish ditch at the house next door and she was fairly wet and muddy up to her hips.

And she was laughing. The boy next door was rolling in it. He jumped up, soaked from head to toe, shaking the water off like a dog. My sweet girl was giggling hysterically. She jumped across the puddle, spraying muddy, grassy water in all directions.

I smiled and walked away from the window, fairly certain that she wouldn’t come home with typhus from playing in the rain water run off from our yard.

She was going to need a bath. Her clothes would need stain treatment the minute she got home. But for a few minutes, she was blissfully just playing in the mud.

And I let her, despite myself, thank goodness.

For the moment, she was blissfully playing in the mud puddles. And I let her, despite myself. Click To Tweet

Despite myself. Despite my desire for order and structure. And despite trying to do this motherhood thing perfectly, I recognized childhood is for getting muddy and being wild?

I should have grabbed my camera to capture the gigantic grin on her face as we stripped her down in the garage, but I was too busy being in the moment with her.

I did remember a similar smile from a too early spring day when I said yes to the sprinklers.

All joy despite being chilly and wet. Sometimes we just have to say yes to more mud puddles and sprinklers.Have we taken too much JOY out of childhood? Regulated away all the fun? Say Yes to More Mud Puddles and soak up the moments that make life worth living.

I can think back in my life and count the precious few times I played in the mud or danced in the rain, and isn’t that a shame.

I spent too much time worried about the mess instead of reveling in the joy that can come from a little controlled chaos.

Life is pretty hard and miserable often. Life is too short almost always. I have to spend a lot of time saying variations of NO!

No, don’t eat that. Don’t lick that. No, don’t shove a pencil eraser in your nose. Please don’t get messy before church. No, we can’t play in the rain today. I’m sorry, no, mommy can’t fix that. No, mommy can’t make life fair.

So sometimes, I want to say yes! Dance in the rain. Play in the sprinkler. Jump in the puddle. Eat ice cream for dinner. Watch too much TV. Make noise. Sure, you can have extra bubbles in the bath, an impromptu play-date picnic, an extra story or a game with mommy.

Suffering, trials, hard work, and tough times are ‘givens’ in this world.

Sadly, fun is not always as easy although we can learn to have JOY despite difficult circumstances.  So, we have to seize those moments when we can and teach our children to as well.

God gave us laughter and happiness. I believe he delights in our joy. And this mom is going to say yes to mud puddles more often.

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Purposefully Practical #1

I am trying to be honestly transparent in my posts, making sure every word is Godly and Biblical. But as I have been working on my parenting, I realized that a lesson about anger and temper is a wonderful tool to help our walk become more Godly; however, some practical tips may be more helpful at times. Like when your child is smearing her somehow naked body with soap in front of the sink when all you asked was for her to wash her hands. . . those are the moments I need real answers about how to parent without getting angry.

I wrote about Temper Tantrums just a couple of entries ago, about the power of letting go of our selfish nature and choosing not to be angry in our discipline. I can honestly say that nothing has changed my household more than refusing to get angry. Getting angry was about my kids, dogs, cat, husband being stumbling blocks to getting my way. Putting aside what I want and simply serving God has gentled me tremendously, but I am still working on practical solutions because in the moment of disobedience or stress, I need a plan so I know I can stay on track with controlling my temper and yet not allow her to rule the roost.

My daughter has had very little regulated schedule for the past two years. We have enjoyed that freedom (between my endless stream of doctor visits), but preparing her for more structured activities is important. Teaching her to follow rules, be on a schedule,  and be able to work independently on a task are some of the skills we worked on today.

Didn’t that sound fancy and formal? When I say skills we worked on, let me translate that for you, I mean I attempted to get my child to behave in any kind of appropriate way. Today the struggle was our daily routine. Getting her to eat breakfast has seriously been a struggle for years. I’ve been dreading her first days of organized school because she eats so doggone slowly.

Rather than wait for school bus days, I decided to start adjusting this behavior today. A year from now when it is her first day of out of the house school, we all will be better prepared.

Our day started off with a bowl of dry cereal (milk makes it too mushy to consume, apparently) and a handful of blueberries with her glass of milk. None of these foods are new or different or weird, but handing her breakfast food has traditionally been a battle. She hems and haws. She takes a bite or two and sits there. She stares into space, wants to watch TV while she eats, she talks incessantly, so we end up spoon feeding her just to get her to eat. If we take it away, she is starving ten minutes later.

After spooning two bites into her mouth, I decided that this was it. I wasn’t going to do this anymore. She is FOUR for-the-love-of-pete! I prayed to God and asked for some idea to change this behavior.

“Eating your breakfast is important. Food makes you grow healthy and strong. This is what I am serving today. You have 15 minutes to eat this cereal and drink your milk. When the timer beeps, if your food isn’t gone, you will have a consequence,” I said.

I was quiet and firm. Walking over to the microwave, I set the timer so she could watch it ticking down and went back to washing dishes and cleaning out coffee pots, etc. She didn’t say another word. She ate. At 9:18 to go, she shouted, “DONE!” I praised her and kissed her. “Good job! You worked really hard to get your breakfast finished quickly. I hope you eat like this all the time.” Beaming with pride, she hugged me.

Then I sent her to brush her teeth, which she did for two minutes, then came back for her next set of directions. Going to her room to make her bed took awhile. She was in there playing (imagine that!). After a few re-directions, I told her I was going to set the timer for five minutes. She started crying hysterically, jumping up and down. God grabbed me and told me to listen to her emotions, not ignore them.

I brushed away her tears and asked her what was the matter. She was afraid she couldn’t do it in that time, so I doubled the time, assuring her I believed she could easily make her bed. I kissed her and sent her running laughing to make her bed. She came and tagged me at two minutes. Then I sent her back to pick up her toys, she was back in another two minutes. She even told me not to reset the timer, she could get it done. In a total of four minutes, she had picked up all her toys and made her bed. It was like magic. Amazing.

IMG_4280-3.JPGI gave her clear expectations that were developmentally appropriate for tasks that were not new. I made racing the timer fun, giving her pride in her accomplishment. She felt empowered instead of over powered. Mommy WIN!!

Discipline is crucial, not to create automatons, but to create children who are respectful of authority, kind to others, empathetic, loving, obedient, and ultimately self-sufficient and confident. Learning how to use calm, consistent discipline in my home has been a game changer for me, but sometimes the day-to-day issues that arise take some ingenuity to solve without resorting to the negative behaviors of my past, especially when her temper is still wildly in play. I have to remember she is 4, that her coping skills need guiding so that someday she can deal with her emotions just as easily as she made her bed today, a skill that four months ago was new. Maybe in a few more months, my ability to be quiet and calm will be second nature to me as well.

At least today, God ruled my heart which allowed me to deal with her attitudes and issues appropriately. Using the timer even helped her eat more quickly at dinner when she wants to talk so much that she ends up not eating, which made daddy happy, too.

Update – day two – she ate, made her bed, picked up without actually having to set the timer, just had to ask her if she needed one. I recognize all children aren’t motivated the same way, but most children will respond to something fun. Seek out how your child has fun and use that to motivate him/her.

Setting a timer, making a task feel like a game, can be a tremendous motivator for us too. Have a task you’ve been dreading? Set a timer or stopwatch to see how quickly you can get it done. I will do this with dishes or laundry sometimes to help me get through it quickly.

Like Mary Poppins once sang, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” We like to use music and a timer to make unpleasant tasks fun. Any ideas that have worked at your house?