Tutorials

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

Lately I’ve noticed several homeschool moms sharing this amazing new thing – planning lessons using notebooks rather than charts or computer programs.  I seriously didn’t know you all didn’t know about this.  Way back when I was in school, my mom did the same thing.  She got me steno pads to keep my assignments in.  My Assignment Books.  I guess I figured everyone’s mom did this.

Each day, I was to write down in the assignment book what I was given for homework and projects.  Make a list.  Tick it off as I finished.  So simple that it’s genius!  The idea for homeschoolers is that mom writes in the book what she wants each child to accomplish for the day.  The child can check off or line through what he or she has completed as they finish each task.

Writing plans out by hand for several children can give you a hand cramp.  BUT, if you’re assigning so much that your hand is cramping, you’re either expecting too much, or you have a really large family and need to enlist Papa to help write up the lists. 🙂  I feel like teenagers should be collaborating on their assignments and helping to fill in their own books, but that’s my style.

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

A plain old notebook may revolutionize your homeschool.  It’s simple, it’s elegant.  OK.  It’s not elegant.  Those notebooks are UGLY.  And if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I adore Pretty.  So I thought I would show all of the new Assignment Book enthusiasts how to make pretty ones.  It’s really easy.  The first one might take you 10 or 15 minutes, but after that, you’ll get them done in under five minutes. You remember how fast you could cover a book with a shopping bag, right?  Like that.

Here’s what you need:

  • Spiral bound notebooks (I like the steno pads for their size, columns, and for nostalgia. You use whatever you like)
  • Decorative cardstock (or recycle cereal or cracker boxes)
  • Scissors or Xacto knife (cutting mat for the latter)
  • Needle-nose pliers (jewelry ones are ideal, but regular ones will do)
  • Binder clips and trombone paper clips
  • Micro-punch or awl

And here’s how you do it:  (It seriously took me longer to type it out than it will take you to make a pile of them).

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

Place two binder clips on either edge of your notebook.  This holds all of the papers in place and keeps the holes aligned.  You don’t need to bind the top cover in with the inner sheets.

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

Next, using your pliers, carefully unhook each end of the coil and straighten the right-hand hook out so that it will slide through the holes without catching.  Then simply unscrew the wire.  The first turn will be a little tricky as you will need to keep the other ‘hook’ free of the book.

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

Now, using the original cover as a template, cut out a piece of cardstock.

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

Paper clip your original and new covers together so they don’t slip. Transfer marking for the holes from the original cover onto the cardstock, using a soft pencil.

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

Carefully punch holes through the card stock.  I couldn’t find my micropunch.  It must still be packed away.  So I used my bookbinding awl.  It worked a treat.

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

Place the new cover on the stack of papers and back cover.  Use binder clips to hold everything in place.  adjust everything so the the holes line up nicely.  You may want to use your awl to neaten up or enlarge the holes now.

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

Screw the wire back in.  Watch the way the wire wants to go.  Most of mine needed to start in the back at the far right of the book.  One or two needed to either start in the front, or begin on the left-hand side.  Be careful to gently guide the leading end into each hole.  It should go fairly quickly and easily.

Be sure to bend a new ‘hook’ in the leading edge and to hook each end of the wire around the adjacent loop.  This prevents snagging.

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

If you’re feeling particularly fancy, you can hand-letter little name tags to glue on each child’s Assignment Book.  Carrie was happy to get some more calligraphy practice.

{Made for Learning} | Assignment Books

Her tags made the books so special.

Now, if you want to make your own notebooks from scratch (because you’re a compulsive crafty mama like me), I’ve got this pretty template for you.  Here’s what to do:

  1. Print 20 copies on nice paper (per Assignment Book)
  2. Cut them in half
  3. Make a front and back cover.  The back one can be made from a piece of bristol board or the back of a used drawing pad (save those!).
  4. Mark the holes (about 1/4″ from the top edge, evenly spaced), do the cover first and then use that as the template for the rest of the pages.
  5. Punch holes using a micro punch or awl.  You can probably punch four pages at a time without too much trouble.  But hold them securely with clips so they don’t slide around.
  6. Stack your covers and pages together with the holes lined up neatly.  Secure with binder clips.
  7. Wrap a piece of 20 gauge wire (or 18 or 16) around a fat magic marker or size 15 knitting needle the same number of times as holes you have, plus one
  8. Screw the wire into the holes.
  9. Bend the wire ends in or make a hook to catch the next loop in.

Voila!  Totally custom Assignment Books.

BONUS: now you have a compact, easy to access basis for transcripts.  And you didn’t have to use a fussy chart (unless you like fussy charts, which I sometimes do).

If you found this tutorial helpful, or interesting, or even amusing, please consider contributing to our adoption fund at Reece’s Rainbow.  And we sure would be tickled if you shared this Tutorial with your friends through social media.  Please feel free to pin away! And if you need to purchase supplies, you can do so right through our Amazon affiliate link.  Those commissions go toward our adoption, too!

{Made for Learning} | Three Part Cards

{Made for Learning} | Three Part Cards

Three part cards are an important element of Montessori materials.  They are extremely versatile in that you can use them as aids in a wide variety of subject areas.  Use them for maths, reading, science, geography… anything.  And they are very simple to make and to customize to your family’s needs.  You can copy and paste images to trace or print onto your cards, or, if you are particularly handy with a paintbrush or coloured pencils, you can create your own artwork.

{Made for Learning} | Three Part Cards

For simplicity’s sake, I made colour nomenclature cards for my littlest ones to work with.  They are super-quick to make and you probably have the materials right there at home.

{Made for Learning} | Three Part Cards

  • 12 index cards (or cut your own from white or cream cardstock)
  • watercolour paints
  • brushes
  • water
  • permanent marker
  • scissors
  • laminating sheets and laminator (optional)

I chose to do primary and secondary colours, but you can do as many as you’d like.  Add in brown, black and white, make tertiary colour cards…  I just mixed my own from what I had here.

{Made for Learning} | Three Part Cards

You want to paint squares of each colour on pairs of cards – two red ones, two blue ones, etc.  When they are dry, print the names of the colours on the cards.  In hindsight, I should have printed ours in D’Nealian handwriting since that’s what I’m teaching them.  Easily done over later.

{Made for Learning} | Three Part Cards

{Made for Learning} | Three Part Cards

Now take one set of cards and cut them in half.  You now have three part cards – one complete card set to be used as the control cards, one set of colours, one set of printed colour names.  I feel that it is a really good idea to laminate the cards if you can.  it is spendy, however.  Laminating makes the cards last much longer, and you can wipe them clean in case a baby brother gets ahold of them while snacking. 🙂
{Made for Learning} | Three Part Cards
Alternately, you could paint decoupage medium (like Mod Podge) over the front and back of each card.  You’ll probably want to do several coats, and probably before cutting the cards.

Now, to use the materials, show your little one all of the cards – controls and their matching picture and name cards.  Show them how they match up, that the letters in the words match the ones on the control cards.  Now, let your little one try.  Take up all of the ‘cut’ cards and mix them around.  Leave the control cards out at first.  Let her match them up.  Let her make mistakes and then ask if everything matches exactly.  Point out errors so that she can understand what to look for next time.

Eventually, she will be able to recognize by sight which words go with which colours, without using the control cards.  And she will start to be able to pick the words out of books she’s reading with you.

{Made for Learning} | Three Part Cards

You can do the same with letters and sounds, numbers and their qualities, shapes, natural science, history – whatever you can think of.  This is also a fun way of introducing English as a second language to an older child (which we will soon be doing), or of introducing a foreign language to your children.

I would love to see the cards you come up with.  Send me a link when you make some!

pinktower1

{Made for Learning} A Pink Tower

The pink tower is a ubiquitous Montessori learning material.  It is a sensorial tool used to teach preschoolers about visual spatial relationship.  It also prepares them for mathematics and hones fine motor skills.

You will need::

  • Wooden blocks in 1/2″, 3/4″, 1″, 1 1/2″, 2″, 2 1/2″, 3″, 3 1/2″, 4″ and 5″
  • Pink paint or dye
  • sponge or bristle paint brushes
  • beeswax polish (we make our own)
  • optional: 6″ wood square 1/2″ thick, square rod 18″ long, four 1/2″ blocks (to make the stand)

pinktower1

  • Mix up your paint or dye.  I’m using milk paint in white and barn red (salem red would also work) at a ratio of 75% white, 25% red.
  • Check your blocks over and give them a sanding to make them smooth.
  • Use a tack rag or soft, damp cloth to remove dust.
  • Paint your blocks on 3 sides and set aside to dry.
  • Repeat with remaining three sides. This ensures that you don’t get fingerprints!
  • Paint additional coats if you feel they need it.
  • When the blocks are all dry, polish with your beeswax polish.  I like to do 2-3 coats.
  • Stack and enjoy working!

 

Pink towers – ready made – can cost up to $40 each.  This homemade tower cost me under $20 to create and was such fun to make!

You can buy your wood blocks at CraftParts.

Free Pattern:: Simple Hat

It’s getting to be that time of year again. So much knitting to do before the weather turns colder. I was going through some old posts and found this one for instructions for a funny little fuzzy hat that I had made for Sophie when she was a little baby. She’s now a big girl of nine!

It’s a super easy project that even beginners can work up quickly.  The top is closed purse-string style, but you can taper it down by decreasing every few stitches over several rounds first, or work it down to 3-4 stitches and end in a long i-cord and tie that in a knot for an umbilical hat.  The whole thing is worked in the round in stockinette and the edge rolls up. If you knit the hat a little longer – 2 inches or more – you’ll have a neato slouchy style hat if the knitted fabric isn’t too stiff.  Try using a lighter weight base yarn and the same sized needles for a lacier and drapier hat.  No rules.  Just fun.  Did I mention that this is a great project for a new knitter – especially for a child who is working in the round for the first time.  He or she will have a new hat to show off in no time flat.

I’m not sure if you can get the same yarns that I used back then, or even if you’d want to since styles have changed so much since I originally posted.  You can use any bulky weight yarn you like. or have on hand.  You can pair it with something bouclé or fuzzy, or colourful, or glittery…  I would really love to see what you come up with.  Maybe you would consider posting a photograph of what you whip up and link it back here?

Fuzzy Hat baby

 

 

You need:

2 balls  any chunky/bulky weight yarn ( I used Lion Brand “Kool Wool” in  ‘grass’)

2 balls  any fancy ‘blender’ yarn – or leave it out ((I usedLion Brand “Fun Fur” in ‘mango’)

Set dpns size 10.5

 

For baby:: CO 42 stitches, work in stocking stitch for 6″. Cut long tail and draw through all stitches to close. Secure by taking stitches across closure, bring tail inside and run tail through several stitches inside, trim. Viola!

 

For older child:: CO 54 stitches and work 7″

 

For adult:: CO 60 stitches and work for 8″

 

Happy knitting!

{Making a Home} : Beautiful Floors

We chose to use natural, non-toxic finishes in our house, including old fashioned milk paint and natural oiled and waxed floors from finishes we made ourselves. That means a bit more work, but no worries about chemicals out-gassing into our home and making everyone sick.

We were so blessed to have intact wood floors that needed only a sanding before refinishing, though we did have to pull some linoleum from the hallways.

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

After the floors were sanded and the dust removed, we applied a linseed oil finish that we made ourselves. No scary boiling, no nasty chemical solvents. You still have to be awfully careful because the orange oil is strong and doesn’t feel nice on bare skin in that concentration and quantity.

Renaissance Mama’s Floor oil {to cover up to 1400 sq ft}:
2 gal. Flax oil
2 gal.Orange oil
5 gallon bucket (or size appropriate to your project), with a gamma seal to close it up tightly.

All you need are equal parts of both oils mixed together in your bucket with a clean dowel. The orange oil helps to loosen the flax oil, which is very viscous. Thinner flax oil will spread, penetrate, and dry better.  Coverage depends upon the dryness of your wood.  If you don’t need as much as this, it’s easy to make smaller quantities.  Super simple.

Spill onto your floor and spread with a squeegee. Work quickly in sections and be careful to spread evenly – don’t leave any puddles. Blot the floor with a car or bar mop cloth. You may also wish to apply kraft or contractor paper after waiting 30 minutes. In 24 hours, check to see if your wood has fired or not (it shouldn’t in most cases). If it has (the grain pops up and makes the surface rough), do a light sanding and wipe-down before repeating the oiling process.

Then after another 24 hours, you are ready to wax! You don’t need to wax if you don’t want to, but it makes the finish much more durable, which is important with our big, busy family.

Renaissance Mama’s Floor Wax {Updated}:

1 lb beeswax
1 lb carnauba wax (makes a nice, hard finish. This is what is in Turtle wax)
3 quarts olive oil (increased from 1/2 gallon to make the wax easier to use and apply)
2 oz. essential oils of your choice (I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our Essence of Chrism oil for this and it compliments the orange oil scent)

In a double boiler, candle pot over simmering water, or homemade Bain Marie, combine the waxes and olive oil together.  Stir, stir, stir until the waxes are melted.  Remove from heat and wipe the bowl.  Wait a couple of minutes and add the essential oil. Pour into large, clean disposable baking tins and let cool. You can use this wax on positively EVERYTHING. Wooden toys, floors, furniture. If you add oil soluble pigments, you can rub it on painted walls for a really beautiful, luminous finish.

This recipe makes enough for about 225 sq. ft. depending upon how dry your wood is.  {I made 6 times this recipe to start with for the first and second floors of the house}

Scoop out a handful (for floors) and spread it around. Work quickly in sections. Have a partner come behind with a buffer and buff the floors to a gorgeous sheen as you go. WEAR SOCKS, bare feet, or cover your shoes with scuffs. DO NOT wear your street shoes on the floor until the buffing is done. Apply a second coat if you’d like.

Wait 12 or more hours before putting your rugs back down to give the wax enough time out in the air to harden up.

 

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

{Making a Home} | Beautiful Floors

Easy peasy! Well, OK… Simple. But hard work. Soooo worth it though.

You can buy your bulk supplies for a big oiling/waxing project at Jedward’s. They were crazy fast, but we’re not that far away.

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