Category Archives: DIY educational materials

Home Schooling 101: Hands-On Learning Tools Made from Recycled Stuff

home made educational tools for learning multiplicationWhile I suppose all young learners appreciate some creative, hands-on tools to liven up their task, little boys seem most interested in movable instruments. I can’t lay claim to conjuring these ideas from scratch, but I thought I’d share some things that are working in my home school.

Old computer or DVD discs and their cases make handy reading or math wheels. I simply flipped the discs to their blank sides, drew lines to divide them into quarters and filled each quarter with consonants or numbers. When you snap the disc back into its case (so that it is on the left-side), the child can easily spin the wheel to 
home school DYI math wheel for learning times tableschange the beginning sound or number to be multiplied.
I cut index cards to fit the opposite side of the case (where the album cover would normally be). On these I wrote the simple word endings (at, it, et, ot, in, on, op, ack, ick, etc.) and the second factor. For the multiplication tables, I wrote the whole family of products and taped this to the index card so that it can be folded back (to hide the answers).
how to teach kids times tables
For reading, I simply let my 5 year old sound out all of the words without bothering to correct real from false words. As for the occasional, SH + IT, I just ignore it since my son has no idea this is a “bad” word.

easy inexpensive ways to teach phonics to young childrenphonics toy made from recycled materials
The matching nail board is a work in progress. It consists of a piece of wood (an old shelf board), nails, string and card stock. The idea is to match the two sides or to work back and forth. So far I created the Ten Commandments so my 2nd grader can practice the proper order. He also has to memorize The Act of Contrition so I created a back and forth pattern to help him practice. My daughter hates Latin, but she’s about to start a class in it, so I’ll make vocabulary match-ups for her. There are lots of possibilities for this one from language practice to matching number names and their digits.

making a match up board to teach kids

With years in as a home schooler, I’ve learned not to get too crazy buying every new gadget or book on the market. Limited space and budget helps me rein in my “I’ve gotta try that” temptations. These ideas were made completely out of recycled materials I already had around the house and they were easy to construct. They’ve gotten my boys interested in some self-directed learning masquerading as tactile fun.

Busting Boredom Forever: Homeschooling 101

We’re borrrrred,” said the children of Brelinskyville until their mama (me) had had it up to here (hand raised high in the air). “Go outside, play chess, clean your rooms, build a Lego tower, etc., etc., etc,” I repeated ad nauseum. And then the day came (THE DAY of all days) when I set about to banish boredom from our corner of the world FOREVER.
banish the I'm bored complaint The idea can’t really be claimed as an original because I’d garnered the knowledge from some other wise mama, who long ago had had it up to there. But on this day I made it my own. I took pen to paper and wrote out fabulous activities and creative chores. Then, I snipped the boredom busters into single strips which were folded and piled high in a jar.
The key, I decided while brainstorming, was to include more chores than fun stuff so as to make it a bit less enticing to utter the hateful words. However, not wanting to throw a monkey wrench into our routine distribution of household jobs, I included only out of the ordinary tasks.
“You gotta be kiddin’ me” face

Once complete I set that jar in a prominent spot and declared that the word bored was no longer listed in the Brelinsky dictionary. Henceforth all residents heard proclaiming the banished term would be immediately required to remedy their own ills by picking a boredom buster from the jar.

Grumble, grumble, groan,” they retorted, but I stuck to my guns. By week’s end the word rarely crossed their lips. Now, several months later, I am thrilled to report that my children seem to have all but forgotten that dirty little word. 

not my kid



Recently, a crafty child attempted to tell me, “There’s nothing to do,” but I quickly revised the law to include all manner of synonyms and sent him to the jar. I’ve also decided to create a second jar for outside activities since apparently our giant, homemade jungle gym/swingset (with 3 slides, a climbing wall, 4 swings, a rope and a fireman’s pole), 30 roaming fowl, 2 dogs, 20 assorted sports balls, 10 ride on bikes/cars, basketball hoop and badminton net don’t inspire the imagination.
So, if you’re kiddos are bombarding you with their boring babble, then give it a try and banish the boredom blues for good. It’s cheap, it’s easy and my experience has proven it can be done.

Ideas for your jar:
dust under furniture
run ____ laps in the yard
draw a picture
clean the windows
count to 100
wipe the walls
read a book
clean the van
memorize a poem
organize a book shelf
write a thank you letter
clean under beds
pull weeds or pick up leaves
wash or brush the dog
clean out lower kitchen cabinets
do ___ push-ups or sit-ups
do ___ jumping jacks
sing a nursery rhyme
pick up __ sticks
find a white rock