Homeschool Organization: File Folder Games

I love to organize. This was probably my best quality as an employee in my working years. But since having kids, it seems that there is never time to organize! (And I was always good with time-management too!) Lately there has been an ever-growing pile of random games that I printed from I love this site! It’s easily searchable by grade, subject, cost, etc, and there are a lot of free items (I have yet to purchase anything). I’ve found fun math and reading games, and the site offers items in many other areas too (like science and history). (OMG, I just discovered that they have foreign language stuff. Looks like I might be printing off some Spanish resources this weekend!) The girls love to play these games. M is still a bit overwhelmed with reading sentences, so I specifically printed games for beginning reading, working on sight words and simple CVC’s (consonant-vowel-consonant). I would randomly print off a game and give it to a child to play with (if they were interested; they always are).

Anyway, I kept printing games, but never took the time to create a system of organization or storage. So last weekend, I finally got around to organizing them into file folders. I even organized our alligator math game and speech target word cards (I get most of my speech cards from TestyYetTrying, a very awesome blog written by an SLP with an apraxic child…who also is venturing into homeschooling) into folders too.

I had envisioned creating a place for each child to keep a folder or two (such as vertical file folder slots or something) and then “assigning” a few folders to each child and switching them out every week. But I haven’t started this yet, and not sure if I will (at the very least, I’m waiting until we hopefully have more “storage” options in the new home). The girls ask to play these frequently anyway. It has been really handy to have around to occupy one child while I’m doing 1-on-1 schooling with the other child. A lot of the games are also fun games to do when we’re doing speech practice, so bonus! So for right now, the folders live in a box, alongside a few “busy bag” games and our homemade geoboards.

The LipperLoppy Life: File Folder Games

The LipperLoppy Life: File Folder Games

Check out the inside-view of one of the folders below. I glued game boards and instructions to the folders (which also means I could print those out on regular paper instead of cardstock) and taped paper pockets to hold any game pieces or cards.

The LipperLoppy Life

The LipperLoppy Life

What are some of your favorite homeschool organization tips?


Building Play

M has really been inspired with our set of Magna-Tiles. For the first month or so, she would usually just build little houses or tunnels with them. Yesterday, while I was busy caring for the sick toddler (and before she got sick herself), she started experimenting some more, first making an igloo and a big cylinder, and then making a 6-point star and a butterfly. These tiles are so fun to play with!

The Magna-Tiles website has suggestions for extension activities, so I think we will be trying those out soon.

And I’ve just discovered another magnet-block building set, made with wood, not plastic! These Tegu blocks might end up on next years’ Solstice list.

DIY: Montessori Bead Bars

First, I just want to say that I am not a Montessori expert; I’ve barely read much on it. But being an eclectic homeschooler, I borrow a lot from wherever. After making my version of the Montessori Hundred Board, I realized that M still needed more manipulative work in truly understanding the numbers on the hundred board. A friend had previously mentioned Montessori Bead Bars, and they sounded perfect. Originally I was planning on using chenille stems and beads to make the bead bars, but since our toddler is very involved in what her big sisters are doing, I did not want to risk the bead bars being mouthed by the toddler, broken, etc, and I especially did not want it to be an activity that can only be done when the toddler is napping.

But it was important to me to keep the “bead bars” tactile; I wanted each individual “bead” to be felt. So Sharpie marker on craft sticks was not going to be enough. I have heard of gluing beans to craft sticks, but again, I knew that would be easily mouthed and destroyed by the toddler (and I really disliked the idea of gluing 100 beans or sequins, it seemed too tedious). If you are interested in making your own bead bars, I suggest checking out this blog, which has gathered a lot of ideas, and which, unfortunately, I did not find until after I made mine.

So, what did I settle on for our “bead bars”? I chose to use adhesive cardstock paper and craft sticks. Simple, quick, and effective, and it even survived the toddler’s mouth!

Now again, I have no idea of the Montessori-correct way of using bead bars. But here’s how we’ve been exploring them:

For C, the preschooler, I made paper templates for counting the teen numbers.

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars”

For M, the kindergartner, I made number cards and explained how to match the amounts to the number cards (with her Hundred Board nearby for reference as well). I modeled the activity after the “Matching Amounts and Numerals” from this PDF document I found online.

For example, first I placed a 40 card and a 2 card near each other, and said, “40 and 2 make 42”.

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

Then, I placed the number 2 card on the 40 card (making 42), and repeated the above statement.

The LipperLoppyLife: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

The LipperLoppyLife: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

Seriously, I could almost see the light-bulb clicking! She spent the next 20 minutes playing with these manipulatives. Eventually she started placing the tens on her hundred board to help her count out the higher numbers. How ingenious!

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

The LipperLoppy Life: DIY Montessori Bead Bars

And then she wanted to make numbers higher than 100, which caught me off-guard, as I had only prepared up to 100. I guess I will be making more tens this week! This activity also taught her how to skip count in tens very quickly. (She’s since picked up skip counting in twos as well, since we’ve checked out a library book about that.)

Today in Pictures

7:30 am: Morning TV

8:30 am: Breakfast of Spinach fruit smoothie, eggs and toast.


9:30 am: Gymnastics (I was too busy chasing the toddler to remember to take a photo.)
10:30 am: Fabric store hell. At least M could read the name of the store, and we did survive the long search for fabric and long wait to cut said fabric.


12:30 pm: Bleeding Baby. 😦 It’s amazing how much blood comes from a bit lip! And how scary it is for a parent to see.


1:00 pm: More math play.




*On the drive to speech, we were listening to an Aladdin song. I explained that Aladdin and Jasmine fall in love (the girls haven’t seen this movie yet). M mentions, again, how she married Jasmine and Aladdin. C tells M, “Mama says that Aladdin and Jasmine got inside love!”

2:00 pm: Speech class for M.


3:30 pm: Neighborhood walk to find bird nests.



*M says, “Mama, there are two different kinds of pine cones!” And C says, “There are so many different trees in our neighborhood!”

4:30 pm: I’m crying on the couch and M is crying in her bedroom. Immediately when we got to our driveway after our pleasant walk, M got angry and wouldn’t come inside. We have family safety rules about front yard play, and now was not an option. And frankly, I was hurt that she would treat me this way after our nice nest-finding walk that she has been begging me to do this week. Her outburst only happened because she was tired. But boy, parenting can be so tough! I’m glad that I at least kept my cool, but I feel so drained at the moment, and I still have two more days before Dada is back home.


(I actually am feeling much better now, and I’m sure a delish comfort-food dinner will help in my restoration as well. And maybe a shower too!)

DIY: Montessori Hundred Board

DIY Montessori Hundred Board
The LipperLoppy LIfe

A friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook of her sons playing with a Montessori Hundred Board that she found at a dollar store. I had never even heard of one, but immediately knew it would be the perfect activity to help M learn her higher numbers and see number relationships. I googled and found some nice wooden hundred boards, but I was hesitant to fork over the $20-$25. I downloaded a free hundred board app, but the free version only went to 25. I am rarely willing to purchase an app (I think our homeschooling budget would go through the roof if I started buying apps) and I really thought there was value in working out the board with your hands. So I googled for ideas about how to make one.

Obviously, there is a quick simple version of printing a hundred board on cardstock and laminating it, but I wanted something more durable. I first got the idea from this blog to add magnetic strips to the numbers. How genius! Magnets would help keep all those tiles in place as one works the board!

I wanted something thicker than cardstock or posterboard, so I browsed through my local Hobby Lobby this morning hoping to find some thin wood tiles. I was so pleased when I came across wood cubes, slightly bigger than 1/2″. They were perfect! I had already had cubes in the back of my mind, because reviews of some of the hundred boards on Amazon mentioned how cubes were easier for little hands to manipulate than flat tiles.

Originally I was going to print the numbers on some adhesive cardstock I already own, but I decided I would first quickly just Sharpie the numbers on the wood. I figured I could always “upgrade” the wood blocks for a nicer look later. I wanted to finish this project!

All in all, I spent about $6 to create our very own hundred board (we already own a magnetic board, but you could use a cookie sheet too). M was so excited to get working on it. And I was so pleased that I made it! M definitely needs work figuring out the numbers; she sometimes will mix a number around, mistaking a 28 for 82, for example. As M started working the board, I realized that I should add a line underneath the numbers; it sometimes made it harder for her to recognize what the numbers were without a line. She quickly realized how to count by tens on the board! First time counting by tens!

I was going to add the link for the hundred board chart I printed out, but there is an error on the chart! It’s pretty easy to find a free chart online or make one yourself. Once M is more confident with the numbers, I will give her chart printouts with missing numbers, until she has progressed to a blank 10×10 chart. We will probably eventually play games of counting by twos, threes, etc. If you have any suggestions of games to play with the hundred board, please let me know in the comments!

DIY Montessori Hundred Board
The LipperLoppy Life

Today in Pictures

7 am: made their bed before going to watch television…what??

8 am: french toast breakfast

9 am: M decides to write math equations while I style her hair; C draws a picture of M in a tall birthday hat while I do her hair

10 am

11 am: I got to sneak in a catnap with the toddler while the big girls played together
12 pm: lunch, reading Pippi Longstocking
1 pm: quiet book time

2 pm: speech class
3 pm: purchase Thanksgiving turkey from local farm

4 pm: magnet dolls, drawing

5 pm: follow the sister, M and C going on a treasure hunt

6 pm: chicken kale enchilada dinner
7 pm: pajama movie time

Jambo! A Study of Tanzania

Last spring we studied countries through our monthly Culture Club group. We had a lot of fun learning with friends about different countries that the hostess’ visited, had a family connection, etc. The hostess would provide delicious food, usually a craft or coloring page, and a short presentation. We took a break over the summer, and since I thought we would be moving this fall, we haven’t started it again.

I had been thinking about how to study world cultures again, when it occurred to me that the girls can study the countries that their grandmother visits frequently for her job. We started a binder for the project, labeled with a world map showing the countries that Grandma has been to. This is also a great way for them to connect with their grandmother.

First up, Tanzania!

We read an excellent collection of books from our local library:

We colored Tanzania on a map of Africa. We colored the Tanzanian flag, and learned what different parts of the flag represents. We learned how to count to ten in Swahili, and made a Swahili Counting book, counting animals that can be found in Tanzania. We sang a counting song in Swahili. We learned how to say hello (Jambo!), daddy (baba), children (watoto), elephant (tembo), and other Swahili words. I didn’t get out my Swahili dictionary or workbook from my college class because they are packed already and I’ve been too lazy to dig it out.

The girls really enjoyed learning about Tanzania and are looking forward to seeing photos from my mom’s visit. We might still attempt to cook some Tanzanian food, but I haven’t made the time for that yet.

An Artsy, Mathematical Day

This morning I decided we would stay home (second time this week) so I could try to catch up on more housework, specifically laundry, for a fresh start to the weekend. Well, I didn’t get much laundry done! It’s tough maintaining a home/kids balance; I am really loving homeschooling, but it feels a little chaotic to me, as I am never doing enough on the house and never doing enough with the kids. Though I suppose that is just motherhood in general!

I mentioned yesterday that M made some paper dolls in speech class. The girls were playing with them all day yesterday, and M did a really great job sharing them with her younger sister. C had asked me to print out some dolls for her, and this morning I finally had time to do that. I ended up finding the same template that the speech teacher had used. Of course, M suddenly needed a few more accessories/dolls, so M ended up with 5 dolls and C with 2 (luckily C didn’t mind in the least). I loathe cutting out paper dolls; it is just so tedious, and the toddler is always hard to distract during that length of time. But as I was cutting this morning, I kept thinking about how in a few years, M won’t want or need me to do this, or a lot of things, anymore. I really tried to soak in this moment of being so involved, needed, and wanted with the girls’ activities.

Since the girls had been making beds for the dolls in their bedroom, and running out of space, I thought they would love making shoebox dollhouses for them. So that’s what we did next! I installed the beds and they decorated the houses with stickers/artwork and picked out fabric for blankets. They were happy playing with these dolls all day again. (By the way, they have a very nice wooden dollhouse that does not get nearly enough play. Maybe I need to paint it pink.)

This week M has been asking me to do finger knitting again (we did it last spring, and I thought I blogged about it, but apparently not). I’ve actually packed my yarn already (don’t ask me why, it appears we are never near to moving, and we get packers anyway), and I remembered that she needed a lot of my assistance for finger knitting, so I kept putting her off for a weekend project (when Dada can distract the toddler for me). But this morning I remembered that I had purchased a peg loom, and that it would be a perfect, almost-self-reliant project for her. She was over the moon! She decided that she will be making a purse – a rainbow purse – and that she won’t watch any TV in the morning until she is finished. I’m actually not thrilled about that idea, unless she waits to work on it after the toddler and I are awake, as she still needs a little help from me after each row. I plan on making a cardboard loom for C to play with, but didn’t have time to do that yet.

M is doing really well in her speech class this semester. Today she announced that she wants to invite friends over for a playdate so they can see how well she is talking now. It’s great to see how much she has improved and how proud of herself she is!

We also played some math games today. My sister-in-law passed on a blog with some great ideas. I was planning on doing the apple tree math activity, because it has been awhile since M worked on equations and because I knew M would enjoy it. I was going to make my own tree and use red pom-poms for the apples. I decided that I also wanted a blank worksheet for addition equations so M could write them out, so I went on a google hunt and found another awesome website, with great teaching resources, though you do need to register (free) to access the free resources. They had an apple subtraction activity, and since I wanted to concentrate on subtraction this time around, and it had the equation worksheets I was looking for, I went with this version. M loved it, and I was impressed that she could do it all by herself, even the harder (10+) numbers.

I also printed out the Halloween Cookie Addition download, but I thought that matching the spider equations to the the ghosts numbers just didn’t make any sense. So I saved the ghosts for another day, and made spider webs for each numeral 1-12. I taped the webs to the wall, and M had to pick a spider, solve the equation, and tape the spider to the correct spiderweb. She loved this so much, that she jumped for joy every time she solved an equation! It was difficult for her; she is not quite there yet to do these simple equations in her head (she still mixes up sixes and nines, for example), but I brought out the apples again for a visual reference. She used the apples once, and then started using her fingers. And then she figured out to use the spiderwebs, since they were in numerical order, to count out the answer. (For example, for 7 + 4, she would start at the #7 spiderweb, count 4 more, to solve the answer of 11.) By this point, C really wanted to do a math activity too, so I helped her with the easier equations. I would hold out my fingers (for example, for 4 + 2, I would hold out 4 fingers on one hand and 2 fingers on the other) and she would count them to get the answer. She was so proud of herself too! When they had finished all of the spiders (and there were a lot), I asked M if she wanted to write out the equations on paper I had printed out. She didn’t want to, so I left the worksheets out for her to do whenever. We’re leaving the spiderwebs on the hallway wall for a Halloween decoration, and maybe we’ll play the game again too.

By this point, the toddler was getting pretty annoyed. I get to play with her so much each day, but it’s still hard on a toddler when she can’t fully participate in what her big sisters are doing. Anyway, I was glad when Dada came home, with dinner. Hello, Weekend!

A Morning at the Zoo

This morning we went to the zoo to see the new giraffe calf. She is adorable! Just 12 days old, with the cutest wrinkly skin. (The girls and I kept wondering what the mama had looked when pregnant, so we had to google pregnant giraffe photos when we returned home.) M also observed how the giraffe’s legs became mostly white at the bottom. We spent about ten minutes watching the calf and her mama. The mama was busy eating hay, branches, and leaves and the calf spent her time licking the cage. The girls asked where the father giraffe was; I actually knew the answer, from a recent news article (the Dad was sent to another zoo while our zoo is upgrading an African Savannah, and he will return once that is completed). C decided that the other two female giraffes were the grandma and grandpa. A few times the calf tried to nurse, but the mama always pushed her away. I don’t know if it was because the mama was busy eating, but I felt bad for the calf. She could have been a little stressed with us staring at her — it was definitely a situation where I wouldn’t think twice to nurse my baby in. Maybe the mama is still shy about nursing-in-public. 😉 I’m joking; with a zoology degree I do take anthropomorphism seriously. (By the way, the local newspaper got some great photos of the calf, even nursing ones, so check them out here!)

We got to see more firsts at the zoo today too! We saw a lot of animals eating: the elephants and rhinos were eating hay; a gorilla was eating veggies; the tiger brothers were chewing on beef bones. The tigers get bones to chew on about twice a week, both to clean their teeth and for enrichment. Their food at the zoo consists of horse meat and beef. We were bummed that the polar bear wasn’t out in her pool, until we discovered she was napping in her den. It was a lovely morning.

After lunch and during the toddler’s nap, I worked on housework while the girls played. I do recall needing to buy another cup of lemonade from M; today the price was 1 cent. The girls also had a lot of fun jumping on their bed together, until the play got too rough and I had to end it. M was looking forward to finishing two paper dolls in speech class today, so much so that she prepared beds for them before we left for class. After speech I continued to clean (seriously the house needed it, and there’s still more to do) while the girls played (and helped me a little). M made a book of pictures; she’s going to add text to the book another day, with my help. A friend stopped by briefly to pass on some nursing clothes — isn’t that just the best? I got to enjoy wonderful conversation in the sunshine while the children frolicked in the front yard. And the toddler sucked on a couple berries from a bush while I was distracted by the wonderful conversation. Yup, I have know idea what bush this is (even if it’s in my yard, I didn’t plant it) or if the berries are safe. Honestly, I didn’t even know that the bush had berries, which is why I let the toddler wander over there to begin with! That’s how little I know my front yard, geesh!

We never did get to the activity I had planned for today, but no matter, there’ll be another day for that!

Lemonade Stands and Music Theory Games

Wednesday’s are already busy with gymnastics and speech classes, so I try to leave the rest of the day open to free play.

After watching a Curious George episode about George having a lemonade stand, M created her own lemonade stand. (FYI, I love the Curious George show; George exemplifies natural learning and unschooling.) At first a cup of lemonade was going for 1 cent, but by the end of the day she had raised the price to 5 cents. M is still learning monetary values, so this was good practice (at least with pennies and nickels). I had to purchase the pretend cups of lemonade with real money, because she is saving up to buy a fairy doll sticker book. M is so excited to have a real lemonade stand this summer. I told her that she will have to know how to count money by then. She pointed out that she could just use the key I had made for her that hangs in the playroom.

In the late afternoon, I decided to try out some music theory games with the girls. M has been working on a traditional piano music theory book in the piano lessons I give her, but I have been wanting to do more play with the concepts. I purchased the book, No H in Snake: Music Theory for Children. It is full of games teaching music theory. Unfortunately, many of the games need materials that the author sells on their website at an expensive price. The book is definitely meant for a music teacher, not a small-budget homeschooler like me. I knew this going in, and thought that at the least, it would give me ideas for incorporating theory into play, and if I wanted to, I could make the materials myself. I am happy with what I’ve read so far, and the girls enjoyed the games that we did together today.

We first played around with music alphabet cards (cards for the music notes A-G). We practiced the order of the alphabet, including that after G, comes A again. We played a game where someone would mess up the order of the cards, and the other person would have to fix it.

Then I introduced a staff and treble clef. The girls got to feel the treble clef that I had made, tracing their finger along the lines, and reciting that it curls onto the G, G, G line. Then we played a note toss game, where we tossed a note and called out whether it landed on a space or line on the staff. Since both my staff and treble clef were much smaller than what is normally used for this book, the game wasn’t that exciting. But my brain was working, and I quickly made a staff out of painter’s tape on the floor, and the girls got to jump to the spaces and lines. Super fun, and I was proud of my grand thinking (though I do remember my sister-in-law telling me that her daughter’s music class uses jump ropes as a giant staff, so I guess I’m not that smart after all). But seriously, I have been sooo tired all day long, so maybe I should just marvel at myself! 🙂

I labeled the giant floor staff with the abc cards, and after playing around with it for 15 minutes, M was able to put all the labels on correctly herself. I also had them “write” music; they stepped on the notes, while I played them on the piano. M really enjoyed this! The toddler was hell-bent on taking the abc cards off the staff, but luckily I had a few extra for her to play with.

Now, we had just watched The Sound of Music for the first time last week, and I don’t know if it is confusing to talk about Do-Re-Mi and then A-B-C. I do have a homeschooling friend that is an actually trained musician (by the Boston Conservatory, no less!) and I think she does a music program with her kids based on Do-Re-Mi. I think I’m going to have to pick her brain some more about this.

The girls finished their busy day by bike riding with Dad at the park, and M finally rode without training wheels…for 5 seconds.

  • "Living is learning and when kids are living fully and energetically and happily they are learning a lot, even if we don't always know what it is. " - John Holt
  • LipperLoppy? what???

    “LipperLoppy” is a word that my daughters invented. It is usually used as a silly adjective or noun. It's a frequent family joke and a good representation of our family's crazy joyful life.
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