All About Reading Level 4

Simple Math Tip to Keep Numbers Straight

Do your kids have trouble keeping their numbers straight and make simple calculation errors because they shift numbers into the wrong columns?

Simple Math Tip to Keep Numbers Straight

A few of our kids have had trouble keeping their math figures ‘neat’. And by neat I mean there were calculation errors because numbers were getting shifted over and then added or subtracted incorrectly.

Frustrations mounted because the errors, but the kids couldn’t seem to keep things lined up properly, so we grabbed something fairly simple to help out – a sheet of graph paper.

Graph Paper-1

Each box gives them enough room to put a number in  and helps them get everything lined in columns  properly. For our oldest (who just started Algebra 1), it will also be handy for graphing.

Graph Paper-1-2

I can honestly say using graph paper for math has been one of the easiest things we’ve done to help out, and all it required was a pack of paper. That is a win-win for me (and the kids)!

Another Quick Tip for You

Sticker dots for reading

If your kids are feeling overwhelmed with reading, find out how two simple sticker dots helped us out!

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Updated Calendar Notebook Binder Printables

A few of you asked for more weather options on the Calendar Notebook Binder – and they are uploaded and ready! Everything else is the same, but there is also a non-seasonal version for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere!

Calendar Notebook Printables free


The Calendar Notebook has been a fun addition to our learning each morning and a chance to work on math skills, a little bit of science, and also handwriting. We use these daily along with our Morning Calendar Board.

Below you can download three different versions of the Calendar Notebook Binder printables: one for early handwriting and manuscript, one for cursive, and another for the Southern Hemisphere folks (no seasonal clip art so the seasons aren’t confusing!).


Both the manuscript and cursive version now include the following seven weather choices: sunny, partly sunny, cloudy, rainy, stormy, windy, and snowy.

How to Use the Calendar Notebook

Here’s a peek at how we’re using ours with the kids, and because some of you may not want to read, here is a video tour our our calendar notebook. You can also read this post for more detailed explanations on the pages.


{feed readers may need to visit the blog to view the video clip}

We’ve laminated the first few pages and use a vis’-a-vis marker {it wipes off easily with a damp cloth each day} to work in the notebook. You can otherwise slide the pages into page protectors and use dry erase markers.

The calendar notebook printables also include the following:


    • 12 undated monthly calendars {you can use them year after year}
    • monthly weather tracking graphs
    • Today is, number word identification, telling time and temperature
    • Breaking down numbers by 1’s, 10’s, and 100’s
    • Practicing tally marks
    • Yearly weather tracking
    • Handwriting practice
    • Pattern practice {part of the monthly calendar pages}
    • Identification of seasons
    • 100 Days of School chart

Supplies for the Calendar Notebook Binder

These are the supplies that we use for our calendar notebooks…


Download the Free Calendar Notebook!!

Ready to download the files? Choose one or both of the files below! They are FREE to download {and feel free to pin, tweet or share this post with others!}.

Download the Calendar Notebook Printables – manuscript version

Download the Calendar Notebook Printables – cursive version

Download the Southern Hemisphere Calendar Notebook Printables


Other Calendar Notebooks

These ladies also have some great printables to use during calendar time and each offer something a little different – so there may be something you can use as well or something you like even better than mine!

Get a peek at our Morning Calendar Board and grab even more free printables here.

Calendar Board Printables from Homeschool Creations

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How to Clean a Dry Erase Board

One of the items in our homeschool room that gets a lot of use is our dry erase board. From our spelling lessons to language and reading – or really anything we need it for, the markers ultimately leave a yucky stain that I try to get off. I scrub and scrub, but it just isn’t enough to completely clean it. Very frustrating…

How to Clean a Dry Erase Board naturally

This week, for one of my 20 minute projects, I decided to tackle and clean the dry erase board to make it look as good as new before the school year started. On a whim I grabbed one of my favorite essential oils and decided to see if it would work better than my typical Expo dry erase board cleaner.

dirty dry erase board

Here is the before picture – not really loving that dull purple-ish stain at all. Perhaps you can relate?

And here are my experiment results. To be fair, I decided that I should try two different methods and see which would work better.

Dry Erase Board Cleaner Challenge

I pulled out two different cleaners and some paper towels – my Expo dry erase board cleaner and my Young Living Lemon Essential Oil. The board was divided in half to give both cleaners a fair shot (and my kids accuse me of being unfair!).

dry erase board cleaner lemon oil

The pictures are dark (I’m sorry!!), but I used the lemon essential oil first on the right side of the board.

cleaning after dry erase board cleaner

Then I used the Expo Dry Erase Board cleaner on the left hand side. The left side is better, and the above picture is after having cleaned with it. It quite obviously didn’t do the job all the way. The dull purple stain is still there and you can see the dividing line!

How to Clean a Dry Erase Board Naturally-1

Finally clean – after I got my camera working.

So…I pulled the lemon essential oil back out, put a few more drops at a time onto my paper towel and rubbed the rest of the board clean. I can’t even begin to tell you how GREAT it looks (almost like new – even though the picture doesn’t show it well) and now our homeschool room smells so wonderful and fresh too!

Just a quick tip that I wanted to share with you all, especially since it worked for us!



p.s. This post is linking up with the Back to School with Young Living Essential Oils. Lemon oil is also great for getting off sticky residue (like duct tape leftover) and it has been a huge help for me and warding off heartburn.

Our family has been using Young Living essential oils for over a year now and they are something that we 100% love and use on a daily basis. If you have any questions about essential oils, I’d love to talk more with you. Feel free to email me and ask!

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A Quick Productivity Tip – and a Little Challenge

Lately, being ‘productive’ has felt a bit out of my reach. Maybe it’s me hanging desperately onto the last days of summer. It could be my reaction to all the crazy happenings over the last few months and just feeling the need to slow down.

Productivity TIp

Whatever the reason, I’ve pulled something back into play the last two weeks to help give me a boost and put a dent in the seemingly mountain-sized pile of things that need to get done before we start back up to school.

A simple timer.

I pull up the timer on my iPod, set it for 20 minutes and go. For me that can mean limiting myself to 20 minutes of something (maybe a quick reading break of one of my books to read in 2014) or giving myself a set time to accomplish a specific task like the kitchen counters. It definitely isn’t to play Candy Crush (cough).

And truly, you all – 20 minutes can put a HUGE dent in a task that needs to be finished. It seems like a small amount of time, but it can break up something huge and make it more manageable. Maybe it’s tackling a larger project 20 minutes at a time. Or maybe that 20 minutes will be all it takes to get it DONE and off your list (and mind). The short time frame is also great for me to stay focused (I tend to be a bit ADD) – so I am able to focus on one task for a short time, and then switch to a different task when that time is up.


My 20 Minute Task for Today

Today I set two 20 minute tasks up for myself and quite honestly, they both took a big load off my shoulders when they were done! Want to see? Just to be nice (and honest), I’ll keep the pictures BIG so you can see it in all it’s messy glory.

Here are the before pictures…


My desk

messy table


The school table – from both sides so you can be overwhelmed too.


IMG_2060The room as a whole



The big, fat pile of things that need to leave the schoolroom


The 20 Minute Aftermath

Keep in mind this was 20 minutes!! One of my biggest triggers in getting overwhelmed is surface clutter – and I am rather adept at creating it! Seeing the after is so relieving to me and mentally helps me relax and WANT to do more.


The kids desks are straightened…


My desk is *almost* there…




The table is CLEARED!!! *happy dance*


Just need to re-hang our history timeline!


And the pile of books is gone (thanks to the kids!)

This isn’t me temporarily hiding stuff around the corner (wink) – items were actually straightened, put where they needed to be, and organized for even more work later (i.e. desk piles of curriculum that need to be finished this week). I will note that I DID use child labor to move the books from the schoolroom to the basement shelf. Each kid grabbed one arm load of stuff and it was done in no time.

Organization may not be your strongest trait – and that’s ok!! I’d encourage your to try setting a timer this week for 10 – 20 minutes at a time if there are some tasks you are trying to knock out of the way and see what you can get accomplished.


One of the books that I would recommend to help with task-organization (and it’s an easy read!!) is Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine (author of The book offers practical tips and strategies to help take stress off while focusing on what NEEDS to be done. Many of the tips are ones that I’ve used over the years and are ones that I would suggest too (Crystal just does a great job putting it all down on paper!).

My Goals for the Next Bit

One of my friends and I have been texting each other each day with a picture of what we want to get done (before and after shots) to keep each other motivated and accountable. It’s been a huge help, even if it’s just one little thing like unpacking a box, organizing a drawer, straightening a room – anything that is hanging over my head.

I have a list of things that I would love to accomplish and ways that I can break the task down into smaller ‘bites’. When I set the timer, I tackle one of those tasks and go until the timer goes off.

Want to join me? I’m going to try to post my 20 minute challenges on Facebook and share with you all each day. I’ll share before and after pictures, and I’d love to have you join in with me!

What can you get done in 20 minutes today?

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What are Your Homeschool Year Goals?

Goals and Purpose in Homeschooling


The last few years one of the most helpful things BEFORE starting our homeschool year has been to have a written plan for our year. It isn’t anything elaborate, just a few short paragraphs to serve as a visual reminder of the goals for our family during our homeschool time.

Last year I shared a post on Setting Homeschool Goals and Knowing Your Purpose that went into a lot more detail (in case you are interested in reading it – wink).

This week I’ll be praying, planning, and working on our 2014-15 goals and vision and wanted to share a few things that I’ll be considering in the process.

  • Why are we homeschooling? (Sometimes you just need to remind yourself of the core reasons you are doing this – because there are TOUGH days that you may want to give up. Ask me how I know.)
  • What do we want our children to accomplish? Think of academics, behavior, books to read, etc… Measurable goals are important here (not ones you really can’t determine easily).
  • What are my goals as a mom and teacher? Are there any areas to focus on specifically? Patience (cough.cough)?

One of my biggest struggles in general as a mom and as my children’s teacher is patience (it is so easy to get frustrated with the endless repetitive questions and what feels like constant arguing between siblings). There are days that I just want to throw in the proverbial homeschool towel and call it done. Just keeping it honest.

And in today’s age of ‘we must be connected 24/7 to some sort of technical device’, it can be very hard to disconnect and remember to CONNECT in real life. Maybe I get busy taking pictures or get distracted with a phone call. My mom seems to call every single day at the same time – and she knows we are doing school. This year, my phone is going to have a ‘quiet time’ during our school hours. Apps that can be distracting – well, they will take a hiatus from my phone as well.

Another area that I really want to continue in this year are the paperwork and tea times with the girls (hot cocoa for the boys!). Those were such GREAT connection time with the kids last year, and they also allowed us to make sure we were on the same page with assignments. Truthfully, when we were consistent with them, our relationships were so much smoother and frustration levels were way down.

What areas do you struggle? Maybe you would like to be more accountable in: starting school by _____ time or finishing by ______ time. Create a list for yourself too and have a friend or your spouse hold you accountable in those areas.

Evaluate Your Goals and Plans Regularly.

Just remember, there are going to be things that will require tweaking during the year. A good rule of thumb is to sit down every 6 to 8 weeks and review your progress for the year and evaluate how you are doing. Are your kids reaching the goals you set? Are you following along with the goals you set for yourself? .

There will be tough days during your year (ask me how I know). While it may take some time and planning on the front end, having your goals and plans written down ahead of time will only help you and strengthen your resolve on those tough days. Homeschooling is an amazing blessing and responsibility – and you CAN do it! Take some time today to remind yourself why you first started – or why you want to begin!

Homeschool Goals and Purpose Printables

Don’t forget to download a FREE copy of the Homeschool Goals and Vision printable. But before you go, I have a question for you!!


We all have different reasons for homeschooling our children, but what is goal that you want to set for yourself the rest of this school year? What one thing would you like to see your children accomplish? Leave a comment today and chime in {and then let’s encourage each other in those goals}!

Homeschool Basics

This post is a part of the Homeschool Basics series. Be sure to read the other posts if you are just joining in. For the record, I am not an expert. I’m a homeschool mom who is sharing what she’s learned so far along the way with her own family.

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