Place Value Activities for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Grade

We use a lot of games and activities to get out of the workbook pages and learn basic math concepts. Here are some great place value activities for 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade and beyond.

Use your whole body to play the Stomp It! Place Value Game. This was so easy to set up. In fact, having the kids help me set this up was a big part of the learning experience.

stomp it! place value math game

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Wild Ponies on Assateague Island

The beautiful wild ponies of Assateague Island. Something I’d always wanted to see and it was a thrill to go there with my family and experience this beautiful place with these amazing creatures.

Miles and miles of of gloriously empty beach. Just water and sand and sky. Over the dunes there is vegetation, then a single strip of road, followed by more trees and plants that flow into a salt marsh. And in and around it all, wild ponies, deer, birds and all the other creatures that rightfully occupy this well-preserved space.  It it believed that the ponies arrived in this peaceful place 400 years ago, most probably, from a sinking Spanish ship.
 We went to see and learn about the wild ponies. We drove around a bit but didn’t spot any so we went down to the ocean. The kids splashed in the cold ocean water, collected seashells and just generally zoomed around. There couldn’t be a more perfect wide open space for kid-zooming.
 We had almost given up on seeing the ponies. Then, as we turned to leave the bathhouse,  two ponies were running straight towards us! They swerved away from us, frolicked with each other and continued trotting on down the road.
  Our spirits buoyed, we set out in the car again to look for more. And look at what we found…
  A mare and her foal!

We loved his curly coat and wished that we could pet him.
 We watched as he delighted us by rolling around in the grass and then looking as if he were going to doze off. But his momma continued to move on, grazing as she went, so he got up and followed her.
  We so enjoyed seeing the ponies and the beautiful beach of Assateague, that we went back again the next day. We flew our kites on the beach, then went to look for the ponies again and guess what?  We found our favorite little guy and his momma again!

Each year, in July, the wild ponies are rounded up and taken to the end of Assateague to swim across the channel to Chincoteague, the next barrier island. Some of the foals and yearlings are sold at auction. We learned that this is done to raise funds for the Chincoteague fire department, as well as to control the equine population of the island. The rest of the ponies swim back to Assateague.

If you ever get an opporunity to visit this lovely little corner of the planet, I highly recommend it. To learn more about the wild ponies of Assateague Island:

See the photos from the beautiful hike we took while on Assateague Island. So much to do and explore in this beautiful place!

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Creekside Learning, Now 33 1/3rd Percent More Homeschooly

I am pleased to announce that The Queen Bee will be joining us full time at Creekside Learning.  Actually, in addition to being pleased, I am also worried about how I am going to find more time in this already stretched-too-thin schedule of ours, but I am sure we’ll figure it out.

After months of debating, I finally dis-enrolled her from preschool. This nearly killed me because I adore her school and I have been taking one or the other of my older two kids to a wonderful teacher and home-based school for the past 3 years. It’s been very hard to say good-bye, for me.

Also, I have thoroughly enjoyed the break that preschool afforded me, from Firefly and The Queen Bee fighting. I am a much different Mommy when I am not constantly doing things like gritting my teeth and issuing idle threats (“If you don’t stop fighting over that toy/book/t.v./imaginary object that does not even exist, I am going to send you to quiet time until you are 25!”).

But, here is where The Queen Bee wants to be, at home with us. There are things she will miss about going out to preschool for sure, but each day she was saying she didn’t want to go, she wanted to stay with us.  And, I know that at preschool, they will be readying the class for public school kindergarden next year.  Since we are seriously considering homeschooling her next year, she won’t need to be prepared to meet our school district’s  standards of learning or to get used to the idea of riding a bus, and following the public school classroom routine.

I expect a fair amount of confusion and likely protesting from her, come kindergarten, about not climbing on the yellow school bus each day and waving goodbye to us.  Having watched her older brother do the same during his kindergarden year in public school, she has been greatly looking forward to this.  But we will deal with that when the time comes.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was having the usual debate with myself about whether or not to leave her in preschool or take her out.  The Husband has stood firmly supportive of either decision, so it was just me, in my own head, left to wrestle with the pros and the cons.  Finally, I figured, the December break would be a good time to do it. It would be the least abrupt for both her and her classmates and teacher, as well as for us at home.

And so, I picked up the phone and made the call. And then I walked around in shock for a couple of days, wondering what on earth I was going to do with her. But I’m okay now.  It feels sort of good to be a total homeschooling family. It always felt a little odd to explain to other homeschoolers that “my daughter goes out to preschool”.  We won’t have to work around the preschool schedule any more, or bundle everyone up just to drop her off, 5 minutes away.  And most importantly, she can be at home, where she wants to be, learning at her own pace, playing to her heart’s content, and yes, even fighting with her big brother.

Japan Festival, Creekside Style

Flags of Japan using paper punches and ribbon.

The idea of having a festival came about because my kids attended one, of the fall variety, and started playing “festival” at home. So, sneaky momma that I am, I decided to incorporate that into what we were learning about Japan over the past two weeks.

Indeed, they got very excited about making invitations and decorations and putting together little presentations for The Husband and The Grandparents.

We served green tea, dragon fruit, Pocky chocolate dipped cracker sticks and Japanese mochi, which are little sweet cakes of rice with filling on the inside. Very yummy.

We displayed their play dough sushi rolls.  Even with clear signs that said “This is play dough.” and “Do Not Eat”,  we think my father-in-law might have taken a bite out of one of the sushi pieces. We found it on a plate after the party. He can read little signs so I’m pretty sure it was due to his uncontrollable Frank Barone-style reflex of seeing food on a plate and, well, eating it. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the kids because the boys thought it was funny and The Queen Bee was horrified that someone ate her craft.

The evidence. Who ate the play dough sushi?

Mochi, dragon fruit, green tea and Pocky.

Anyway, back to the actual festival.  The kids each did a presentation.  Firefly talked about Grandfather’s Journey, geography of Japan, Hachiko and World War II.  Again, I was reminded that homeschooling affords us a fabulous way of evaluating what our kids are learning without the need for tests.  He had memorized, nearly word for word, the entire Grandfather’s Journey book after having it read to him only four times and seemingly staring off into space most of those times.

Firefly prepares the mochi platter. Who doesn't love these little umbrellas? Had to get them when we saw them at the Asian market.

He became fascinated with World War II and retained every minute detail we had talked about.  I was wowed.  Daddy and the grandparents were wowed.  The Grandparents then told him about their experiences with World War II (bomb raid drills at school, Grandpa’s assignment to a Navy ship during his military service).

The Queen Bee talked about A Pair of Red Clogs and showed off her flag of Japan.  I am convinced that the eagerness of both kids to stand up in front of the family and present what they learned was not due to an inner calling to public speaking,  nor a desire to do as their mother asked but because they got to use this fabulous, fun microphone. For as low as $4 and no batteries, that’s right, I said no batteries, you, too, can own one of these.  I only allow them to use it for school stuff and then it goes to a secret undisclosed location in my home office because, for the love of peace and quiet, my kids are loud enough on their own without needing their voices amplified.

We also put together a photo slide show of all the fun things we’ve done over the past two weeks and played it on our t.v. (thanks to our in-house tech support, a.k.a. The Husband).

That’s it.  Simple. Fun. A good time was had by all.

"kimonos" (Mommy's bathrobes, actually) and "Japanese Clogs" (aka, flip flops)

Surviving Doubts

“Mom, I’ve changed my mind.  I want to go back to Hilltop Elementary.”,  Firefly announced, one day as we were driving.  He gazed longingly as we passed  a friend’s house, a friend he made last year in public school kindergarden.  “Yeah, I’m gonna do that.” He nodded his head, affirmingly, and it was settled, for him.

“We can talk about that,” I said, but what I was thinking was, “Oh, crap.”  I had thought we were all set.

Although initially skeptical, he had been sooooo excited about homeschooling.  When our math and handwriting curriculums arrived, he played with them for hours.  He’s been inspecting the workbox system I set up and he had so much fun exploring the vendor booths at the recent homeschool conference we went to.  When I heard him announce he wanted to return to public school, I felt a wave of panic inside.

The next day I asked him, “What were you missing yesterday about Hilltop Elementary?”  Turns out, he thought if he went there for first grade, he’d have the exact same kids in his class that he in kindergarten.  When I explained that a class would be made up of 6 different groups of kindergarden kids, that he might not be in class with his friends or only one or two of them, he was surprised.  We talked about how we could still have playdates with his friends, how he might wind up on a basketball team with them this coming winter.  He seemed satisfied and I felt relieved.  While it’s not essential that he be totally thrilled with homeschooling 100 percent of the time, it sure does feel helpful to have him on board.

Through this little bump in the road, I had to remind myself the reasons that we decided to homeschool.

Main reason, pictured at left.