So, one morning not so long ago, I woke up bright and early to the sweetest sound.
The Littlest, 22 months old, was sing-songing to herself in her soft and high baby voice with her adorable lisp "wash, wash, wash!"
I rolled out of bed and poked my head around the wall that separates my bedroom and bathroom and found her there, standing over the porcelain throne, dipping little wads of toilet paper into the edge of the clean-looking water and dabbing in on her chubby cheeks to the rhythm of her happy tune.
And then scrubbed her hands and arms and face while trying to soothe her traumatic crying and apologize for almost startling her face-first into the potty.
Then one morning, when I was actually being a good mother and letting The Middle, almost 4,
Don't judge me if we still ate the bread. What? It cooks for a solid hour and I wasn't about to throw out all those organic ingredients.
You eat at restaurants, don't you? Anyway. That's another blog.
I tell you these stories at the beginning of this blog because I don't want any other homeschooling mom under the impression that I've "got it all together", whatever that means. I can hardly think of anything more discouraging than being under the impression that another mom's life is perfect, her faith is perfect, her children are perfect, her home cooking is perfect, her homeschooling is perfect.
Most days around these here parts, we all survive by being very flexible with our schedules, expectations, and each other. I don't know why I got all Texan on you, it's obviously an unusual day for me.
On the other hand, I find it very encouraging when a homeschooling mom shares something that makes learning fun, especially if the same activity can be applied to multiple grade levels.
So, I hope this post encourages you, and doesn't give you a false impression about my stellar teaching/mom/fun-making abilities.
I call it "The Mama Store".
Each week, Monday through Thursday the girls(8, 3) do their normal school routine. The have chores, age appropriate, all week long. Fridays are reserved for The Mama Store.
By doing chores and school all week with a good attitude--I repeat--all actions count for nothing if a sweet spirit did not accompany the work, the kids can earn money for The Mama Store.
The Mama Store is full of all kinds of sparkly and creative things for my girly-girl-tom-boys. 99% of which they already own. A few items, saved only for first-time viewing at that weeks Mama Store, are new, and can be bought with their hard-earned allowance.
But first, we practice math. For about 2 happy hours.
They come in, squealing, eyes scanning for a new pack of crayons, bubbles, chalk, a small toy, or, if they're super lucky, some candy.
They select a shopping basket and come to me to dole out the cash. I give them a basket full of coins, and a couple of dollar bills.
We review the basics and address that especially pesky question of "is that a quarter... or a nickel?" with my award-winning original children's song about coins. You can have your mind blow with that masterpiece by reading here.
Then, I give them one math problem at a time, over and over, until all their cash and coins are returned to the register.
Ex: After we've done several basic and very easy buying/adding rounds...
For the Middle(3 yrs old, almost 4): Okay, every item in this store costs FIVE CENTS, I want you to bring me the right amount of items that you would need to pay one DIME for, okay? Remember how much a dime is worth? Ten cents! Hold up your hands! How many fingers do you have one each hand? Right! Five! And how many hands do you have? Right, two! So, there are how many FIVES in TEN? (I wiggle my hands far apart to help her see them separately). Right! There are TWO fives in ten. So you need how many items worth five cents to add up to ten? (I wiggle my fingers separately again). Right, two! Okay, bring me TWO items.
When she brings them to me we go over this concept several ways to make sure she understands.
For the Biggest(8 yrs old): Everything in the store costs a nickel. I want you to bring me the right amount of items for you to pay from them all with your dollar, and receive ten cents back from me.
Sometimes the Biggest is the cashier, and I shop.
And then, when all the money is back to me, I pass out their allowance, and they shop for keeps.
Then, we play!
It's really a lot of fun. The girls are getting better at adding and subtracting in their heads, and understanding how math is practical, and necessary. They also see tangible results from their efforts, and are learning about spending, saving, and giving.
But even these fun learning days don't happen without some toddler-wrangling and a lot of grace. The Littlest, a.k.a Sticky-Fingers, likes to empty and re-fill the register the entire time. But hey, that's developing fine motor skills, right?
If you're a homeschooler, teacher, or Pinterest aficionado who'd like to share some insight, I'd love to hear suggestions on how to teach kiddos in a fun way!