Our Homeschool Room 2014-2015

This is our very first year for home school!  My oldest is nine and entering fourth grade.  My youngest is four and attends preschool three mornings a week.  That means I have a couple of hours every other day, where it’s  just me and the big man.  Little man will be with us most of the time :)

Here’s the room from different angles:

Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015

The school room (which was formerly our playroom)



The living room is part of the schoolroom

The living room is part of the schoolroom


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015

I have to figure out how to hide all of those wires behind the desk!


Empowering Parents to Teach- School room 2014-2015


Our kitchen will likely be another place that we work!

Our kitchen will likely be another place that we work!




Organization was number one

The majority of our room set-up is focused on my oldest son’s needs.  I wanted things to have a place so that he knows where everything goes allowing him to get the things he needs and put things away by himself.  Having supplies easily accessible makes him more independent and frees me to focus on bigger things than finding supplies! This took a lot of thought as to what items were essential so that I can have those things ready to go. I had to imagine what a day might look like and what needs may arise.



Lack of clutter was my second goal

 It was very important to me that the room was not too “busy” and overrun with stuff.  I really believe that a cluttered room breeds a cluttered mind!  Don’t get me wrong, the room will get messy, used, and probably look like it is in shambles as we work, but as a starting point, I wanted the room to be a blank slate ready to be decorated with learning!


To achieve this I did a couple of things:

1. I have tons of stuff from my teaching days so I sorted through everything and determined what I may use this year and what I thought would not be used. The books, materials, and resources that I wanted available for this year were then organized by how often I thought we would use them.  Only things that we need on a daily basis needed to be in sight, the rest got put away in a closed cabinet.  That way it did not take up visual space but was put away in a place that made it easy to find!


2.  I purposefully did not but a bunch of stuff on the walls.  Currently, I have two posters at different heights, a US map, and one art project that my four year did. The posters I have hanging are a 100 chart for my preschooler and the scientific method chart for my oldest to use as a reference. The 100 chart will stay for a while (it’s been hanging in our house since little man was 2). The scientific method poster will only be there as needed. I know things will be added as we begin school, but I plan not to overload the wall space.


3.  The teacher desk that I found is small and very open.  I got this desk because it is not big and bulky taking up too much visual space. Although, all of the wires hanging down is driving me nuts.  I have to remedy that, suggestions are welcome :)


Comfort was important  

The most important thing about home school is you get to be at home where you live as a family!  The room should have all the comforts of home, not a sterile hospital like environment.  I love that our school room in located in the family room because my oldest LOVES sitting in the rocking chair and reading his books. Now he can do that whenever he wants!  We can sit on the couch to read or sit at our coffee table to learn math if we wanted to!  Our new room has the best of both worlds.  My son has a place to sit and focus at a desk or find a soft place to sit and spread out depending on what it is needed.  There is also a lot of floor space for puzzles, posters, or playing.


Putting all three of these things together resulted in this


Books, papers, science, and guided reading tools

The everyday materials:

Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


Paper trays organized by paper type (lined paper, construction paper/colored paper, editing checklists, scrap paper & tracing paper)



Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015



Guided reading materials in the white basket (highlighter tape, thinkmarks, post-its, index cards,etc.)



Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015



Current science topic materials


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


Some of our rocks and gems have been here forever.  They will be moved as we explore different topics, changing this display regularly.  We are in the process of collecting seeds for our plant study coming up.  It will be used to study different characteristics of seeds and how they are dispersed. So for now, this is a work in progress :)


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


See this closed door in our school room?  It is the area under the stairs that we use for toy storage. Now, I’ve added some teaching supplies too.  This is where I store some of the things that don’t need to be used everyday.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015



Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015

Opens up to storage!



Here’s what’s inside:

Toys that can also be used for learning or keeping a preschooler occupied!


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


In the bins pictured below are puzzles, cars, play weapons (I have boys), card games, flashcards, foam letters, and small building toys. There are plastic animals on one shelf and activity books and coloring books on the bottom.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015

The next wall has my organizer that holds our large USA puzzle, musical instruments, and math manipulatives.

 Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


On the wall by the black organizer is some of our up dress clothes!


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


I love having our toys in the school room, because playing is learning! I also love that I can close the door and all of this is out of sight when we need to focus on an academic task.


In addition to our school room, I used our kitchen for storage of materials.

Notebooks, workbooks, books, binders, other school supplies

In our kitchen, which is attached to the school room:


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015

In the small organizer–

Top drawer:  more post-its, index cards, bookmarks, small paper items

Middle drawer:  scissors (regular and craft), rulers, protractors, calculator, straight edge, small graph paper, rubber bands

Bottom drawer: scotch taper, colored pencils, glue


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


The items on top and on the side are from other countries.  My husband brought back the nesting dolls from Russia, the bearded dragon from Japan, and the Berlin magnet from Germany.  My sister gave me the statue from Greece.  I like to have them visible for my boys to explore and ask questions.  I also keep coins from many countries on top.  The boys actually really love playing with the nesting dolls.


Pencils, pens, highlighters, correction tape, erasers, small supplies

There is a drawer right under the counter where we can keep all of these items.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


Teacher Materials, Craft Supplies, and Science

I used the bottom cabinets and one shelf in the upper cabinet located in the kitchen to hide some of the materials, but still have them within our reach. 


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


Upper cabinet:

On the left, I put extra office/school supplies and small sensory items.

Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


One the right, I have some of our science supplies that we will use somewhat regularly.


Science supplies

Science supplies


The bottom cabinets:

Here, I have teaching books and materials, markers, crayons, craft supplies, preschool reading supplies, extra paper, paint and paint supplies.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015

Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


Even when organized, it looks cluttered.  This is why it hides behind a cabinet :)


Why did I put this in the kitchen and not in the school room?  

It was important for me to use my house as efficiently as possible.  I did not want to bring in too many organizing tools such as bookshelves and large shelves if it could be avoided.  I’m the kind of person that tries to use what I have before buying more stuff.  Luckily, we have a lot of counter space in our kitchen so I used what I had available. And, I like where it is, because I know we won’t do all of our work in the school room.  The nice thing about home school is you can do it anywhere! If we work in the kitchen, the school room, or anywhere else, we still have the stuff nicely organized and easy to find to take with us.


To top it all off, we have the comforts of home

Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


That hole in the wall has become our snuggle cubby with blankets, pillows, and books!


Empowering Parents to Teach- Schoolroom 2014-2015


My oldest absolutely LOVES reading in that rocking chair.  On the coffee table are three ever present items– his current reading book, a big bowl of Legos, and our Magic the Gathering cards!


That’s our school room!  I hope you found our school room tour helpful :)










Empowering Parents to Teach- Odd and Even

Teaching Odd and Even With Manipulatives

Looking for a hands-on way to teach your child the concept of odd and even?  You’re in the right place!


First, choose your manipulative.  Think about what your child would prefer, older children tend to like the linking cubes and younger ones enjoy the math bears.  You can use either one for this activity.  Anything small around your house would work if you have enough of them- pennies, buttons, crayons, peanuts, etc.  In this lesson, I will use math bears :)


A number is even if it is divisible by two.  If it is not divisible by two, then it is odd.  The hands-on way to demonstrate this to kids is simple!


1. Beforehand, make a pile of cards with odd and even numbers on them, one number per card.


2. Put the pile face down on a tray or table with your manipulatives.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Odd and Even


3. You, the parent, turn over the first card and say the number aloud.  Take out the corresponding numbers of bears or cubes.  For example, if you got the number five, take out five bears.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Odd and Even

Take out five bears


4. Show your child that you are going to match your bears with a buddy.  It helps to place the bears in two lines next to each other (see picture).  You are grouping them by twos.  I like using the math bears for this, because you can see how they look like they are holding a buddy’s hand! 


Empowering Parents to Teach- Odd and Even

Orange bear does not have a buddy.



Notice that when you have five bears, one bear is left without a buddy.  You can even say, “That’s odd, one bear doesn’t have a buddy”, playing on the dual meaning of “odd”!   You can even call him the “odd man out”.  Whenever a bear is left without a buddy, we call that an odd number.


Teaching Tip: Some times if you have a catch phrase, it helps the child remember.  Anytime a bear is without a buddy you can say, “That’s odd!” The funnier you say it, the better :)


5. Explain to your child that if all the bears have a buddy, the number is even.  They may notice that the two lines both have the same number of bears in even numbers. Think about if you had to share the bears evenly between you and a friend; to be even, you each need the same number of bears.  If one bear is left without a buddy (as in the case with the number 5), it’s an odd number. For older kids that understand divisibility, explain that you can divide an even number by two, but not an odd one.


6. Let your child continue pairing up the bears to see what numbers are odd and what numbers are even.  Remember your catch phrase! With enough practice they should begin to notice a pattern.  Soon, they can do this in their head without the help of manipulatives.  But, because they had the hands-on practice, they have created a concrete framework to understand the concept!!



One of our favorite picture books to help reinforce this concept is One Odd Day by Doris Fisher!


To see more ways to use the math bears, check out: Math Manipulatives Must Haves


This post is linked to   Montessori Monday

Empowering Parents to Teach- Waves

Oceanography Exploration– Waves

I’m so thrilled to have our science mom, Staci, write another guest post for us!  Staci is a mom and Cancer Biologist. With her expertise in science and experience as a mom, she shares with us how she incorporates science activities into her children’s everyday experiences. 

Today, she shares how her son’s interest in oceanography led to some fun and educational science activities to do at home!  This week it’s all about waves :)


Oceanography Exploration– Week One


From our science mom:


I whole-heartedly believe in child-led learning and think my kids appreciate and understand better when we are discussing topics that they are interested in.  My son has been on an oceanography kick lately, so we decided to do a couple at home science experiments to learn more.  When I started thinking about what types of things we could explore, I realized we could have several weekends worth of material for our Science Saturday adventures.  For the first weekend, I decided we would deal with ocean water properties; specifically, wave dynamics.


We started our wave exploration by making our own wave bottle.


You can easily make a wave bottle at home, too.  We made ours in a smaller, individual sized water bottle so it would be easier for small hands to manipulate.  To make your own, fill any sized bottle 1/3 with water and add a few drops of food coloring.  My daughter really wanted to make a purple one, but we stuck with the usual blue.  Fill the rest of bottle most of the way with cooking oil.  I superglued the bottle cap back on, because you can’t be too careful!  Both of my children really enjoyed tipping the bottle and watching the waves.  My daughter also really liked shaking it up and watching the layers separate, but that’s a lesson for a different day!

After my son played awhile with the bottle we began discussing simple wave dynamics.

Using this figure, we defined these terms of simple wave dynamics:

 Crest:  The highest point of the wave.

Trough:  The lowest point of the wave.

Wave Height: The distance between the crest and trough of the wave.

Wavelength: The distance between successive crests or troughs.

Amplitude: One half the wave height; or the distance of either the crest or trough to the water line.


Seeing this diagram and discussing the definitions reminded my son of an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy we watched recently that also discussed waves.  He asked if ocean waves are the same as sound waves.  I love when science concepts are applied across topics!  We only briefly discussed the frequency, vibration and volume of sound waves, but I promised we would delve further into sound waves in future experiments.


We all had a lot of fun playing with the wave bottle and learned a lot about wave dynamics.  I hope your family enjoys this activity as much as we did.

Empowering Parents to Teach- Our Favorite Games and Toys for Gifted Kids

Our Favorite Games and Toys for Gifted Kids

Looking for a fantastic toy or game for your Gifted little one?  I’ve compiled a list of favorites that my kids love!

My children are currently nine and four.  I have included toys and games that they either repeatedly play with or highly engage them.  To me, that is the sign of a great toy for a mind that craves mental stimulation!


FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of a sale at no extra cost you.


Science Toys and Games

Snap Circuits Jr.-


Kids have fun building their own circuits!  My advice, don’t look at the pamphlet showing you all the circuits you can make.  Let the kids figure it out first.  There is so much learning in failed attempts.  It gives the child a chance to evaluate why the circuit isn’t working and determine how to fix it.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Snap Circuits Jr.

Attempting to build a circuit


Before I started lunch, I sat with my just-turned four year old and we tried to create a circuit at his request.  It took a couple of attempts, but we eventually did it together. As I was fixing lunch, he explored the toy on his own.  Some of the things I heard him say were, “…do this to complete the circuit” and “If I connect this one…”.  He was fully engaged in this toy and using it in an open ended fashion.  That’s why I love it!


Mad Science  Kit-

Empowering Parents to Teach- Magnet Kit


We got this kit free at an event at my oldest son’s school.  It’s from a franchise company called Mad Science.  In this kit, you receive three small magnets that you arrange so that they repel each other.  Since they are repelling, they appear to be floating on the small rod.  It is an awesome hands on way to learn about magnets and how they behave.  The child can test different ways of arranging the magnets to see what would happen.  If you don’t have a kit like this, it’s ok.  You may be able to make something similar at home with strong magnets from a store!



Human Body Game (from Lakeshore Learning)-

Empowering Parents to Teach- Human Body Game


Even though this is a game, my kids have always used it like a puzzle.  They enjoy taking the body parts out and putting them back in.  In the process, the are learning some basics on where body parts are in the body, the names and general appearance of the parts.  I like the hands on nature of the toy as an introduction to human anatomy. My kids like the puzzle aspect of it!

Math Toys and Games



This game is a lot like Scrabble, but instead of building words the child builds equations.  Kids get to create with all sorts of numbers, even fractions! This is the perfect game for a math loving child.  There are various levels of difficulty available.  They can build the equations mentally or use a paper and pencil to work it out before playing. It’s a very unique game. They might even make up their own way of playing!



 Pattern Play


This toy is essentially hands on geometry.  The child gets to create a pattern or picture using geometric shapes.  They can follow a given pattern or make their own design.  I like how open ended it can be and the combination of math and art.  Many kids don’t realize how much math is in art.  This would be a perfect way for a math focused child to delve into art.




This is another game that my kids use as a toy.  Maybe once they’ve actually played this as a game.  My four year is the one who really loves this.  I refer to this as hands on Tetris.  My preschooler usually tries to fit the different shaped pieces so that they all fit into the board.  It is a wonderful spatial toy!  Just by attempting this challenge he created, he has to manipulate the pieces in a way that makes them fit together in just the right way.  Without realizing it, he is practicing sliding, turning, flipping, and area.



Logic & Reasoning Toys and Games


This is the newest version. We actually have this one and the original. I personally prefer the original.

My son loves this capture the flag style game!  You have to devise a strategy to get past your opponents troops, avoid or diffuse their bombs, and capture their hidden flag!




The goal is to get the most gems in your trough.  You have to plan your moves based on where your gems and your opponents gems are.  There is strategy involved in planning your move and anticipating your opponents move too!



This was one of my favorite games growing up.  My oldest is just now getting into it.  There is a lot of deductive reasoning involved as the player attempts to figure out a hidden color pattern.  The other player gives clues and the person solving the pattern needs to put those clues together.  It’s not as easy as it sounds sometimes.  It’s a pretty good challenge!


I hope this list helps you find a game that is just right for your little ones.  We have so many games in our house; our shelves are bursting with books and games.   I narrowed our selections down to three per category to make the list manageable.  But, I have throw in our honorable mention– Qwirkle!

Empowering Parents to Teach- Qwirkle

Playing a fun game of Qwirkle


We got Q-Bitz as a Christmas gift and it is absolutely amazing. I have to mention this one!

Happy gaming :)

This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum May 2014 Blog Hop: Special Tips, Toys, Tricks, and Tools For Parenting & Educating Gifted/2E kids. To read more amazing blog posts, click here!

Empowernig Parents to Teach- Color Mixing Activity and Book

Color Mixing


Mixing colors is one of my preschooler’s favorite things to do.  It’s messy, he gets to play with water, and it’s fun to see what colors he can make!  However, it’s not just for preschoolers.  Older kids love color mixing too, probably for the same reasons!  They can explore the concept a little deeper by experimenting with shades of color.


We have done color mixing before and listened to the story Mouse Paint by Ellen Stohl Walsh at our library story time.  My son loves this book.  In the story you see the white mice hop into different color paints and they begin mixing colors, thus creating new ones. It is a great visual for color mixing.  Better yet, our librarian turned this into a felt story.  My son still thinks our librarian is magic because because she put a white felt mouse into a small box and he came out red!  If you have the time, making this into a felt story would be fantastic.  This book illustrates how the three primary colors create three secondary colors.



Kids tend to learn the three basics first:

  • Red and yellow make orange
  • Blue and yellow make green
  • Red and blue make purple



Extending the basics of color mixing, Color Dance by Ann Jonas takes the concept a little deeper.  You start with the three dancers holding long scarves- red, yellow, and blue.  At first they dance together making orange, green, and purple.  After that, you see how they can make various shades of each color- such as marigold, vermilion, aquamarine.  A boy comes by holding a white scarf and we see the colors become paler.  He brings a gray scarf and the color become dark.  And lastly, he dances by with a black scarf and the colors are barely visible.  This is what inspired our latest color adventure.


First, I made a big circle with six pieces to make a color wheel.  I colored every other spot with a primary color- red, blue, and yellow.  We opened up to the first page of the book, Color Dance and matched the color of the dancers with the colors on our wheel. We looked at the page where the red dancer and the yellow dancer made the color orange.  My little one saw the orange and noted that red and yellow were the two colors that made orange.  He started looking for an orange crayon to add it to our color wheel.



Empowering Parents to Teach- Orange on the color wheel



I showed him how we color the orange between the two color that made it- red and yellow.  He attempted to do this himself, then asked me to color it in.



Empowering Parents to Teach- Adding Orange to the Color Wheel

We continued using the book to figure out what colors go in our remaining spots.  We saw the yellow and blue dancers made green and the blue and red dancers made purple.  We added them to our color wheel.

Empowering Parents to Teach Color Wheel

Following along in the book, we learned that white makes colors appear pale.  So he grabbed a white crayon and rubbed it over the blue to see what would happen.   Next, he tried coloring over the blue with the black crayon since we learned from the story that black seems to block the color.  The difference was not that noticeable using crayons!

Empowering Parents to Teach- Color testing

I hung the color wheel up on the wall and we began some hands on fun of color mixing.  We started out very orderly.  I added food coloring to three glass measuring bowls of water- red, blue, and yellow.  First, he tested the primary colors just as it was in the book.  He poured some yellow and blue together, yellow and red together, and some blue and red together.  As he did each one we predicted what color would be made by referring to the color wheel we had just completed.  He successfully made all three secondary colors.

Empowering Parents to Teach-  Making secondary colors

After making purple, he mixed the blue and yellow to make green.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Making Green

Checking out the green!



After that, he had a color mixing and pouring free for all!  He kept mixing all kinds of colors together, eventually ending with all the colors mixed together. It resulted in a very dark forest green.


Empowering Parents to Teach- Mixing orange and red

Mixing red and orange



Empowering Parents to Teach- Pouring the color mixture

All the colors mixed together



For older kids, they can experiment with the shade of the colors.  What happens if you pour more red than yellow?  What of if you have more yellow than red?  The different amounts of each color affect the shade it creates.  They can compare this with the shades shown in the book Color Dance.


Color mixing is so much fun.  Your little one can explore science and art together!  Happy mixing :)





                             Mouse Paint Color Dance