Ramblings · Writing Appearances

How to Make Math Memorization Fun

If you are looking for a resource filled with advice on how to teach reading, writing, and math for preschool through high school, make sure to download From ABCs to SATs: The 3 Rs and Everything in Between. It is FREE!

One of my writings entitled Math Memorization Fun was published in this supplement. This particular article discusses 14 different “math-tastic” activities to make memorizing math facts fun using supplies you probably already have at home.

Get Your Copy of The Old Schoolhouse's From ABCs to SATs supplement

Click here for tips on how to make math worksheets fun.

You may recognize the racing cars tip from a post I had published on Hands On As We Grow entitled Simple Number Line Car Race to Teach Math.

Race Car Math

A separate section in the article includes a couple of ways to use cards to teach simple math skills. Recently, I was visiting family and learned a math card game called 99 (from an 8 year old), which wasn’t included within this article.

To play the game, each player is dealt seven cards (which he or she can look at but not show others). The remaining cards are placed in a stack face down in the middle of the players.

The whole point of the game is to add (and subtract) the numbers on the cards from each player’s hand as they are laid face up in the middle. Whichever player lays the card to get exactly 99 wins the game. Each of the numbered cards are worth the number they have on them, the Aces are each worth 1, and the Jacks, Queens, and Kings are each worth 10.

The player to the left of the dealer lays one of their cards face up next to the stack of cards in the middle. As players lay the cards, they add the points together. For example, if player one lays a 6, the total is 6. Then player two lays a Queen, the total is now 16 (6 +10). Player three lays a King, the total is now 26 (16 + 10). The only time the numbers are not added is when a 10 is laid. If a 10 is laid, then players must subtract 10 points from the total score.

Each time a player lays a card, they must draw a new card so they always have 7 cards in their hand. Play continues until one player reaches exactly 99 with a card he or she lays.

I think the kids have so much fun playing it that they don’t even realize they are practicing adding and subtracting!

Do you have any fun tips on how to practice math?


Ramblings · Writing Appearances

Way to Keep Gift Cards Organized

My family rarely eats out, but when we do, we often end up at Culver’s. As a result, I have learned some money saving tips for eating out at Culver’s. I wrote about those tips in a guest post for Money Saving Mom, which has been published.

If you are interested in learning how you can save money on your visits to Culver’s, you can check out the guest post entitled 6 Ways to Save Money at Culver’s.

If you are not familiar with Culver’s, you may not know what Free Scoop coupons or Scoopie Tokens are (which I mentioned in the tips). So, here is a picture.

They are on the side of the bag of every kid’s meal at Culver’s. The Free Scoop coupon can be used for a free scoop of custard immediately, or it can be saved for a future visit. It’s nice to be able to go for a small treat every now and then and not have to pay anything out of pocket, so I like to save these.

I also hold on to the Scoopie Tokens because ten Scoopie Tokens equals one free kid’s meal.

In the post for Money Saving Mom, it also says my family uses money set aside for the restaurant gift cards. What it didn’t say is that the money set aside is really cashback bonuses from our credit card.

My husband and I use our credit card for every purchase that can be put on the credit card. With that being said, we stay within budget and pay it off as soon as we get the bill. Neither of us are big spenders, so we aren’t really tempted to spend all kinds of money on useless items. We have never had a late fee, interest payment fee, or any other fee associated with credit cards. We also do not spend money simply for the cashback bonuses – that would be really stupid!

This past year while we were on vacation was actually the first time we spent money at a restaurant in years without using cashback bonuses. Before that, we didn’t go out to eat unless we had cashback bonus money or gift cards to use to pay for our meals.

For a while, I kept gift cards and restaurant coupons in an envelope that stayed in the center console of our car. After a while, it made more sense to keep the envelope in my purse so that it was always with me.

Unfortunately, envelopes tend to fall apart rather easily.

So, I recently decided to upgrade. I purchased the Karlling Slim Minimalist Soft Leather Mini Case Holder Organizer Wallet for 20 Credit Cards.

It’s available in dark blue, pink, orange, green, and black. I chose black. Although I haven’t had it for very long, I do like it.

It’s small and fits in my purse easily, hopefully will last longer than an envelope, and holds all of my gift cards (and Culver’s coupons).

I wrote the total amount remaining on each of the gift cards on the front of them with permanent marker. I hope to continue to update the totals as needed using a permanent marker, so I can easily see how much I have available on them.

The card holder also snaps shut, so the gift cards and coupons can remain in it without getting lost. I chose to put the gift cards in alphabetical order, which makes it easier to find exactly what I am looking for!

Although, it may be a pain having to move them around when I use them or get new gift cards – I guess I’ll see how well having them in alphabetical order works.

Do you have any tips on how to keep your gift cards organized?




Ramblings · Writing Appearances

Fine Motor Paperclip Activity

I had no idea my guest post about 25 tower building supplies without blocks would lead to me becoming a monthly contributor for Hands On As We Grow. But it did over a year ago!

I had wanted to promote my book Jobs of a Preschooler and thought it would be fun to write a guest post for a crafty preschool website about an activity that could correspond with Jobs of a Preschooler.

Jobs of a Preschooler- I'm a builder...

“I’m a builder…” from Jobs of a Preschooler.

Enter the idea for the building supplies without blocks. I happened to discover Hands On As We Grow as I did a web search and submitted a query for a guest post. I was delighted when my query was accepted and my post was published.

I was surprised (and excited) when I was offered the opportunity to become a monthly contributor. I could have reached out to any number of other website owners, but I didn’t. Hands On As We Grow could have been closed to submissions, but it wasn’t. The timing was perfect. I thank God for this wonderful opportunity I have been provided.

With that being said, another post of mine about a simple fine motor activity with paperclips has been published on Hands On As We Grow. You can read all about it here.

paperclips around paper fine motor activity

For more posts about Hands On As We Grow writings, check out:




Themed Books · Writing Appearances

8 Children’s Books About Community Helpers

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. I greatly appreciate any purchases you make using one of the links. Thank you!)

One of my 2019 writing goals included creating a course, which I was actually able to complete earlier this year. The Foods and Food Production Course I created was published on Schoolhouse Teachers at the end of March.

Foods and Food Production

And now, there is another course I created available on Schoolhouse Teachers. This one is entitled Who Are Community Helpers?

Who Are Community Helpers? is divided into ten lessons each focused on a different community helper. Those include:

  • Chef
  • Construction worker
  • Dentist
  • Doctor
  • Farmer
  • Firefighter
  • Mail carrier
  • Nurse
  • Police officer
  • Teacher

Each individual community helper lesson is divided into sections:

  • Introduction Questions
  • Bible
  • Books to Read
  • Social Studies/History/Geography
  • Math
  • Science/Health
  • Writing
  • Art/Snack/Activities
  • Closing Questions

Who Are Community Helpers? and Foods and Food Production are available to members of Schoolhouse Teachers, which offers over 400 courses for preschoolers through high schoolers, as well as additional resources for adults.  My daughters and I have enjoyed mutliple courses, videos, and resources from Schoolhouse Teachers, and we are looking forward to taking advantage of more of the courses in the upcoming school year (and this summer).

If you would like more information about Schoolhouse Teachers, click here.

If you are not a member of Schoolhouse Teachers (and have no interest in becoming one), then maybe the following 8 books about community helpers will be helpful if you decide to talk about community helpers with the little ones in your life.

Books About Community Helpers

Helpers in my Community by Bobbie Kalman

This book talks about what a community is, who community helpers are, what communities need, and who helps to fill those needs. It discusses builders, electricians, plumbers, teachers, librarians, crossing guards, school-bus drivers, nurses, principals, caretakers, medical helpers, dentists, paramedics, fire fighters, police officers, and volunteers.

Jobs of a Preschooler by Brigitte Brulz

Yes, this is the book I wrote and published, but I figured it fits in with community helpers. Jobs of a Preschooler has only one sentence per page and rhyming text. Free coloring pages to go along with the book are available here.

The summary of Jobs of a Preschooler states: “There are many jobs a parent may do throughout his or her day. A parent may be a chef (someone has to make the meals to eat), a teacher (learning doesn’t happen only at school), and a driver (for all those places where walking would take way too long). But parents aren’t the only ones with these jobs – preschoolers may do them, too! Join a busy preschooler as she experiences many jobs throughout her day. Is it work, or is it play?”

Show Me Community Helpers by Clint Edwards

This book includes police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and hygienists, veterinarians, teachers, librarians, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, construction workers, and electric utility workers. Each community helper section offers vocabulary words that go along with that community helper. For example, the police officer section talks about what police officers do and defines a fingerprint, crime, jail, holster, police car, siren, flashlight, two-way radio, badge, and handcuffs.

Whose Coat is This? by Laura Purdie Salas

Throughout the book, the reader is asked whose coat is being shown closeup with a one line description. The answer is then found on the next page along with more of a description of how the coat is just right for the job it is used for. The “coats” shown in this book include an artist’s smock, judge’s robe, soldier’s jacket, mail carrier’s coat, ski patroller’s jacket, doctor’s lab coat, firefighter’s coat, and your coat. The end includes a quick quiz to see what you have learned about three of the coats.

Whose Gloves are These? by Laura Purdie Salas

Throughout the book, the reader is asked whose gloves are being shown closeup with a one line description. The answer is then found on the next page along with more of a description of how the gloves are just right for the job they are used for. The gloves shown include a zookeeper’s glove, baseball player’s glove, dentist’s glove, mountain guide’s glove, gardener’s glove, welder’s gloves, housekeeper’s glove, and your winter mittens. The end includes a quick quiz to see what you have learned about three of the gloves.

Whose Hat Is This? by Sharon Katz Cooper

Throughout the book, the reader is asked whose hat is being shown closeup with a one line description. The answer is then found on the next page along with more of a description of how the hat is just right for the job it is used for. The hats shown include a firefighter’s helmet, beekeeper’s hat, chef’s hat, police officer’s cap, football player’s helmet, astronaut’s helmet, construction worker’s hard hat, and your hat. The end includes a quick quiz to see what you have learned about three of the hats.

Whose Shoes Are These? by Laura Purdie Salas

Throughout the book, the reader is asked whose shoes are being shown closeup with a one line description. The answer is then found on the next page along with more of a description of how the shoes are just right for the job they are used for. The shoes shown include underwater photographer’s flippers, park ranger’s field boots, athlete’s basketball shoes, construction worker’s steel-toed boots, ballerina’s pointe shoes, fisherman’s knee-high rubber boots, astronaut’s space boots, and your sneakers. The end includes a quick quiz to see what you have learned about three of the shoes.

Who Will I Be? by Abby Huntsman

The teacher in Isabel’s class asks what the students want to be when they are older, but Isabel doesn’t know. Her dad has her think about what makes her happy. She enjoys helping others but doesn’t think there is a job for a helper, so her dad shows her some of the helpers in her community: a teacher, crossing guard, veterinarian, someone in the military, policeman, librarian, activist, gardener, garbage man, pastor, journalist, fireman, and mayor (her mother). She still doesn’t know specifically which job she wants to have when she grows up, but she decides she does want to be a helper.

Do you have a recommendation for any other book about community helpers?

For more themed books, check out:

Ramblings · Writing Appearances

2019 Goals Update and Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Current Project

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. Thank you!)

I can’t believe we are already in May! How are you doing on your goals so far for this year?

2019 Goals Update

2019 Writing Goals Update

I have been making some progress on my writing goals for this year. I am still writing for Hands On As We Grow, writing at least two posts each month for my website’s blog, attending writer’s meetings, and serving as a Network Chair for SCBWI Iowa.

I have also researched, written a proposal, and submitted a children’s nonfiction project. I did write a rough draft to one children’s book manuscript that will probably not go anywhere beyond my kitchen table and started revising a different children’s book manuscript.

I also submitted an additional children’s book manuscript I had written last year to some literary agents and publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. For those of you who don’t know, unsolicited manuscripts are simply manuscripts that have not been requested by the publisher or represented by a literary agent. I haven’t been able to get either of the children’s books I submitted this year accepted by a publisher or literary agent (hopefully yet).

Although I have received quite a few rejection letters this year, I still have been able to have some of my works accepted. My proposals for course ideas were approved, and I have created two courses for Schoolhouse Teachers (only the one called Foods and Food Production has been published so far).

Foods and Food Production

I also wrote an article for The Old Schoolhouse, which should be published some time this year in a resource they are putting together for homeschool parents.

In addition to that, I received an email saying that a short true humorous writing I submitted to Reader’s Digest in September of 2017 should be published in an upcoming issue. I had forgotten about that writing and was surprised to hear something about it 20 months later, but I am excited to have it published!

So, the goals I have not completed yet include attending an SCBWI conference (which I hope to do in September), being accepted by a literary agent, working on a nonfiction project for adults (not sure if I am still wanting to pursue this idea), possibly joining Twitter, and doing at least one school visit or story time.

I recently came up with a new idea that was not written as one of my goals for this year, which I have just started working on. I thought it would be fun to share a behind-the-scenes peek of this project with you.

Behind-The-Scenes Peek

Both of my daughters enjoy writing, and they have recently been reading quite a few books about writing and writing prompts.

Two of the books they have really enjoyed include:

The Creativity Project edited by Colby Sharp


Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink by Gail Carson Levine.

As they have been doing their own writing research and writing projects, I thought it would be fun to create a journal filled with 52 adventurous writing prompts for kids. I chose the number 52 so there is one writing prompt for each week of the year.

After deciding I wanted to create adventurous writing prompts, I did some research on Amazon looking at styles of other writing prompt journals for kids. The “look inside” feature has been so helpful!

Some questions I asked myself as I was looking at the other writing prompt journals for kids included:

  1. How many other writing prompt journals are there?
  2. How many reviews are there for each?
  3. What do the reviews say (both positive and negative)?
  4. How is the interior laid out?
  5. What is the size of the book?
  6. Who published the book?
  7. How can mine be different/better?
  8. What did the book description say?
  9. What is the cost?
  10. What are the recommended ages?

It appeared there were many positive reviews for the writing prompt journals that were available, so there seems to be a desire (possibly even a need) for them. I decided what I am wanting to create will be different in style and technique, so it wouldn’t appear I was merely copying someone else’s journal. I also noticed many of them were self-published, and they still had quite a few reviews.

I decided I would move forward with the idea of an adventurous writing prompt journal for kids. I had used Createspace (owned by Amazon) when I self-published Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles and Jobs of a Preschooler, which I thought worked out quite well. Createspace; however, no longer publishes books, and my previously published books have been moved over to KDP Print (also owned by Amazon).

When books are traditionally published, authors don’t have to worry about all of the formatting, illustrations, and layout designs. Since this will be self-published, I will need to make sure I understand how to properly format it. So, I have been doing some research on how to use KDP Print and properly format books.

Here are two pages I printed from KDP Print’s instructions about formatting books.

I looked at other books and notebooks I have at home (along with the journals found on Amazon) and decided I would like the journal to be 9.25″x7.5″. Using a template found on KDP, I determined the paper size and the margins I need.

I want to include pictures within my journal, so I searched Pixabay for photos available for commercial use. I found quite a few that I am interested in and signed up for an account with Pixabay (which isn’t required).

Signing up for the account actually took longer than I was expecting because I had to create a username and password and click on pictures shown on one of those Captcha pages to make sure I wasn’t a robot (which I always seem to have issues with) only to be told the username had already been taken. I finally (after about twenty minutes) was able to use the sixth user name I chose.

I noticed many of the journals on Amazon were plain on top, and I want something that stands out a little more. I experimented with a few different designs using a compass (found on Pixabay) on the top, so that I can number the writing prompts.

I tried a plain compass with a number in the middle, a compass on a map with a number in the middle, and the plain compass with a number in the middle with a border around the entire page. Trying to get the number in the middle of the compass proved to be a little challenging for me, but I got it!

I personally like the border around the entire page, but I decided to ask my daughters what they thought individually.

They both agreed the border around the entire page with the simple compass looked the best, so that is what I am going to attempt to do. Hopefully, I can figure out how to format the border properly taking into account the margins, trim size, and gutter. I’m not very computer savvy, so it will be interesting.

Even though I will be numbering the writing prompts at the top of the page, I would really like to have a page number at the bottom of each of the pages. So, I experimented with that for a little bit, too.

I like the numbers that look like “-1-” better than just “1”, so I hope to do that on the pages that have the lines. Unfortunately, I am having difficulty figuring out how to put the page numbers on the bottoms of the pages when they have a border. I guess I will have to do some research to see if it is even possible with the program I have.

I then printed off a few variations of lines on pages to determine how far apart I wanted them. I noticed some of the negative reviews on journals were due to the fact that the lines were too close together making it a challenge to write.

I felt like Goldilocks: The first lines were too close together, the next lines were too far apart, but the third lines seemed just right until…my daughter looked at them and said the lines were too dark.

Hmmm. Something I hadn’t considered.

So, I played around with different fonts to make the lines less bold while still keeping them the same distance apart as the third set of lines (since we had all agreed that was the right distance).

My one daughter liked the less bold lines, but my other daughter disapproved. I guess that’s something else I will have to play around with a little more.

I had noticed some of the negative reviews on other writing journals stated there were not enough lines to write a full response to the writing prompt, so I want to make sure I have plenty of space for the writing prompts. I also really want to include pictures that correspond with the writing prompts since many positive reviews reflected on how much the pictures were appreciated.

The pictures are going to have to be printed grayscale within the journal because having color pictures throughout raises the cost of them considerably. I personally like the look of the grayscale pictures, and the other journals I saw that included pictures did use grayscale pictures, too.

I printed a page with a picture taking up only half a page with lines on top and another page with the same picture taking up the entire page. I definitely like the whole page picture better because it stands out so much more and because that allows me even more space for lines.

Next, I tried to determine whether the full page picture would be better right before the writing prompt or right after the page of lines for the writing prompt.

Both of my daughters and I ended up agreeing it would probably be better to have the full page picture immediately before the writing prompt.

Then, I had to choose which font looked best for the actual writing prompt portion. I was trying to find something that would fit with the adventurous theme yet still be easily legible.

It took some time, but my daughters and I finally all agreed on one font. For now at least. We’ll see if the final journal still has the same font.

I played around with single spacing and double spacing with the writing prompts and decided the single spacing looked much better.

I took quite a few notes on the pages I had printed so I can refer back to them later. This also reaffirmed that the line spacing we chose seems to be the best fit.

While previewing the other writing prompt journals, I noticed some of them start immediately with the writing prompts while others have a page for the owner to write his or her name.

I really liked the ones that had the additional name page, so I played around with a picture and created a name page.

This Journal Belongs to...

I put together a list of other possible additional pages such as title page, copyright page, a note to the writer (introduction), Table of Contents, and credits for pictures page. I’m not sure if I will include all of these pages, but it is something for me to consider.

Now that I have some of the nitty-gritty details figured out (which may end up being changed as I progress on this project), I should probably actually write the writing prompts using the list of 55 adventurous topics to include within the journal I created. I included a few extras in case some can’t be used for some reason.

Once I have all of the writing prompts completed, I will attempt to format all of the pages properly, decide on a title,  create a cover, choose a selling price, and upload the manuscript and cover to KDP Print. Hopefully, I will actually complete this journal within the next few months- my newest goal!

Do you have any suggestions for this adventurous writing prompt journal for kids?