Make-it-Yourself Beginning Readers

Can there be anything more exciting than having those phonics lessons finally “click” with your little one and hearing him read his first words? I doubt it! Listening to my children learn to read is a thrill for me. I enjoy teaching them to read and I delight in hearing them read aloud.

Right away it seems that children want to “read a book” which, of course, is not quite yet possible. Just because they can blend a few phonics sounds doesn’t mean they are ready to read Huck Finn. Children just learning to read want to feel the accomplishment of reading a book, turning the pages and finishing with “The End”. I’ve used beginning phonics readers, such as Bob Books, Now I’m Reading or Decodable Little Books to fill that need. Here’s how to make your own!

In my homeschool, I wanted to customize reading for my children and so I started making my own little beginner readers. It is easy, it saves you money, and it can become a childhood memory especially if your little child illustrates his own books. Our homemade books have been used over and over again and loved by each child that I teach to read. Their older brothers and sisters remember those books with excitement and that makes it all the more motivational for little ones to be able to learn to read them. I use my children’s names in the book to personalize the story. Since every child can read his own name and most of the names of his family members, you have more words to work with than just those that can be easily decoded.

To make your own little readers, you will need cardstock weight paper to make a little book. I have used paper trimmings from the printer, old file folders cut-up, 4 x 6″ index cards, etc. Use whatever you can find: this is supposed to be a save-you-money project, so be creative. I  fold the paper in half, and then staple or machine sew 3 pages down the center fold to create a finished book of 6 pages. If I am using index cards, I staple 6 index cards along the left side so they open to a wide horizontal format. The first and last page can be fancier paper or a colored page decorated with stickers as it will be the cover.

Plan out 7 simple sentences, one for each page. The last inside page will say “The End”.  To fill my book, I choose words that will reinforce a phonic sound that my child is learning. For example, when I taught the phonic unit “ee”, I made a little book called “Weeds and Beets”. It was spring gardening time, so the subject was a natural. Since my daughter Emily (4 years old then) already knew the short vowels and consonants along with the words “a” and “the”, I focused on having her learn to decode that “ee” sound. Here is the little story page by page:

Outside front cover-Weeds and Beets
Inside front cover- blank
page 1- Weeds, weeds!
page 2- Emily has a beet seed.
page 3- A beet seed in the weeds.
page 4- Big weeds and a red beet
page 5- Emily gets a big weed.
page 6- A bee sees a beet.
page 7- Emily gets the beet!
page 8- The End
Inside back cover-blank
outside back cover-blank

With young ones, I draw simple illustrations and let them color them. Children that are a little older will be able to draw their own pictures to go with the story. Books that turn out to be a wonderful treasure can be unstapled, laminated, and re-stapled to make a sturdy book that will last many years. I have one of these that has lasted 22 years so far! The colors are still bright and the pages clean.

As your child masters phonics skills, it can still be fun to put together little books whenever a memorable event occurs in your family. When Nathan was 18-years-old, he was driving our little car home when a pickup truck hit him, totaling the car. After going to the emergency room to retrieve our son who was very fortunately not hurt, we visited the towing yard to see the damage to our car. Looking at that squashed-flat car made us amazed that Nathan had not been killed. This experience made a profound impression on my little ones, and Emily (then 7 years) wrote and illustrated a little book entitled Nathan’s Crash. She knew her phonics sounds well enough to be able to write it with very little help.


To create little books for a new beginning reader, use the consonants that he has learned along with one short vowel. For example, you could use the short vowel “a”, along with the consonants “c”, “s”, “b”, “m”, “n” to make these words: cat, sat, bat, at, Matt, cab, man, can, etc. From these you can make up a short story with just a few words per page. Don’t forget to include your child’s name as a character in the story too!

It will amaze you how well your child will learn, and will love reading these books too! Have fun!

May I recommend:

Pronunciation Poem









I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, laugh, and through.
Well done! And now you wish perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead—it’s said like bed not bead—
And for goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(they rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

A moth is not the moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dead and fear or bead and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose—
Just look them up—and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart—
Come, Come! I’ve hardly made a start!

A dreadful language? Man alive!
But I had mastered it when I was five!

Author Unknown

Summer Journals

There is so much more to write about in the summer!

Writing in a journal is wonderful in the summer because there is often so much more to write about! Swimming, vacations, gardening, the county fair, church picnics, camping . . . all these topics give my children plenty of writing ideas for their daily journal entries. In the summer, when other schoolwork isn’t demanding, a chance to write is a nice interlude. I like to use the quiet time after lunch, when the littlest children take their naps, as a daily journal writing time for the other children (and myself). If your children have a full and busy summer schedule, this natural break in the day is restful and refreshing.

For kindergarten students, just a sentence or two on wide (5/8”) lined paper is sufficient. If your child has difficulty forming the letters correctly, you can write his sentence in yellow marker so that he can trace over the letters in a easy-to-hold fat pencil. If he can form his letters correctly most of the time, then just print his dictated sentence on scratch paper for him to copy onto his journal page.

As children develop, they will be gradually advance to creating their own sentences without your help in letter formation or spelling. I provide a spelling dictionary so my children can look up words on their own and thus be independent in writing their own journal entries by 6 or 7 years old. A spelling dic­tionary is simply a small booklet arranged alphabetically with a short list of words most commonly used by beginning writers. There is also room for your student to add other words he uses frequently. This tool can really help a young writer become quite self-reliant. You will always need to go back and help your child correct errors to make journal writing a good learning experience, but as they grow, those errors get less and less frequent. My older children use pencil or erasable pen to write their entries. Erasable pen makes them feel grown up but still allows for mistakes to be corrected.

The lines on the paper are important. Start a 4–5-year-old on early handwriting paper that has 5/8” high spaces and  a dotted half-line. By the time your child is 6 years old, he will be able to write on 5/8” without the dotted half-line. A 7-year-old can write on 1/2” lines. Around 8 years, your child will begin to write cursive rather than print his journal entry. By 10 years old, he can use standard 3/8” wide rule notebook paper. If you want to preserve your children’s writing for years to come, do not choose newsprint writing paper that will yellow and disintegrate before they reach adulthood.

I like to use paper that is blank on the top half of the page for my children under 10 years old, as they enjoy illustrating their writing every day. Older children can write on lined paper and insert blank pages for drawing whenever they want to. We keep our pages in 3-ring binders. I like my children to remove the page that they are writing on because they have better penmanship when they are not struggling to position their hand around the rings in the binder.

To preserve your summer journal, make the covers on cardstock, illustrating and often add their photo on the front cover. Then I take their journal to the print shop and have them bound with a comb or plastic spiral binding, which only costs a few dollars. I put a plastic sheet over the front cover before it is bound if there is a photo there. This makes a very nice book that the children love to show their grandparents when they come.

Even if you do no other schoolwork this summer, do keep those daily journal entries coming. It gives children a regular chance to express themselves, it sharpens and maintains their penmanship skills, it provides a record of their summer adventures, and it exercises their English, grammar and spelling!  A wonderful daily habit!

Indispensable Math Facts



Math facts! Those stalwart, foundational facts that carry us through our lives, making us able compute things in our head at the grocery store and figure out the cost of a tank of gas. We need them! Our kids need them! Let’s give it our best to teach them to our kids, making their experiences with math much easier.

I heard a Calculus teacher at the university explain that most of the errors he saw on his student’s test papers were not problems in forgetting a math formula. They were simple math fact mistakes that made their answers wrong! Math facts must be learned, and learned to mastery in order for math to be “fun” or “easy” for children.

When should a mom start teaching math facts? I think just as soon as children are able to grasp the concept using hands-on objects. If you set up 2 blocks and add another 2 blocks and your child can conceive of the concept of addition, it’s time!

How? I am not a flashcard fan. I don’t like drill. But I do love math games that make computation part of the play, like Sum Swamp or Muggins. I like the games that roll dice, and have the player add up the sum (or subtract or times or divide it) and use that number to advance so many spaces.  You can make your own games with just a pair of dice.

Setting the table is great for mental math practice. My kids, as they were growing, used to recite, “We have 9 in our family and Daniel is gone and that makes 8 and Mark is at work and that makes 7 and Emily’s friend is staying for dinner and that makes 8.”

As children progress in learning their math facts, you can play a fun game we made up called “Gotcha”. Each player has a stack of number cards face down in front of them. (You can use Uno cards, or write your own numbers on index cards.) Players both flip a card at the same time, and the first player to say the answer wins both cards. Once the cards are depleted, measure the stacks side by side, and the player with the highest stack wins the game. You can use this to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts. When I play with my daughter Louisa, I clap my hand down on the table 3 times softly before allowing myself to answer. This evens up our ability level and gives Louisa a chance to answer before I whip her!

Multiplication Songs

Multiplication facts are great to music!  It’s really hard to forget them once you’ve driven around town running errands with them playing on your car CD player.

When I teach times tables, I always start with the “9′s”. They are the easiest! Here are two tricks to get you started:

Hand Me the 9′s

Hold your hands out in front of you. Now look at the math problem: let’s say it is “9 x 4″. Bend your 4th finger and take a look. Starting on your left hand, how many fingers do you see before the bent finger? “3″. How many fingers remain after the bent finger? “6″. The answer to the problem “9 x 4″ is “36″. For the problem “9 x 6″, you would bend down your 6th finger, and see the answer: 5 fingers before the bent down finger, and 4 fingers after = 54. Try it with a few numbers and you’ll get actually see the answer in your fingers.

Magic Digits

Another trick for learning the “9 times facts” is the realization that all “9 times” problems have an answer in which the digits add up to 9. Look at the “9 times” answers below:

9 x 2 = 18

9 x 3 = 27

9 x 4 = 36

9 x 5 = 45

. . . and so forth. Do you see that in every answer, adding the two digits will equal “9″. In “9 x 3 = 27″, adding the digits of the answer (“2 + 7″) will equal “9″.

To get the first digit of the answer, just look at the number being multiplied by “9″. In the case of “9 x 3″, look at the “3″. Now count back by one. “3″ counts back to “2″. That is the first digit of the answer. Write down “2″. Now, to get the second digit of the answer, you just have to find the number that adds up to “9″. In this case, “2″ plus “7″ makes “9″, so you have figured out both digits of the answer!

Hoping to make math fun!

May I recommend:

Art: What to Teach?

Fine arts are often the first to be cut from public school curriculum when the budget gets tight. We want our children to be cultured! Art is a big part of cultural refinement, but do we start? Basically, 1) doing art and 2) enjoying and learning from art that was done exceptionally well over the history of our world.

Art Expression

Doing art is just that: experimenting with different mediums (crayon, chalk, paint, clay, etc.) to create something beautiful that conveys a message, meaning or mood. This is the “fun” art that children love and do so spontaneously, without any fear of censure. Almost all children love doing art!

As children grow up, our job as a mother is to protect that wonderful, free-flowing creativity that knows no embarrassment. This is done by our attitude, and also by protecting our children from criticism of others. Rejoice in what your children create! Be positive. Work along-side your children on your own art, so that you are their mentor in being spontaneous, not self-conscious or self-critical. Seek your children’s feedback in improving your own artwork, and give your children small doses of kind, careful feedback and instruction (after lots of enjoyment, praise and positive comments).

Don’t save “Art” for a special class. We use daily journal writing to help my children learn to write and express themselves in our homeschool, and this provides a time to sketch or draw daily to express themselves too. They write on paper that has a blank half page on the front so they can illustrate what they write. This habit promotes that ease and lack of embarrassment that enables artistic expression. It also frees them from the encumbrance of words! Do you know how much easier it is to draw the cave entrance than to describe it in words?! Both skills make a literate person.

There are many “how to draw” books available. Teach your children the basic skills while they are young, just like you teach them phonics. Once children are given the tools (either to read or to draw), the practice over the years just perfects those skills.

Art Appreciation

Who is Mona Lisa? Part of being culturally literate is to know the works of the great masters of the art world.

To plan your “Great Artists” class, start with a list. Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Vincent Van Gogh and Raphael are great artists that you will find ample information about. I like to introduce Mary Cassatt because she mostly drew children, and Winslow Homer for his exciting outdoor scenes. For older students, you may want to teach by art movements or period. There is so much (too much!) information on the internet!  You’ll find color reproductions, plus many books on the market and in the children’s section of the libraries to help you too. Take one artist at a time: learn about his life and look at his great works. This can be a once-a-week 45 minute lesson per artist or you can delve deeper. Read commentaries on his most famous work. Try to replicate the artist’s style in a project in homeschool. This method is exciting and memorable to a child. I’m glad to learn it now, as an adult!

If you want an easy course already set up for you, try Discovering Great Artists which couples learning about the artist with instructions for an art project (in the artist’s style) to do yourself. Look at some color reproductions from the internet or books, and this course is wonderful and easy for mom to pull off without too much effort. It is geared for elementary-aged children, but can be used as a framework for 8th-12th grade by creating more detailed art projects and going into more depth in the study of the artist.

Another course I have used with  my children and truly appreciate for teaching children to recognize great artists is the Child Sized Masterpieces program.  Children learn art in a very

hands-on, “do touch” these paintings way with postcard-sized masterpieces.


For “doing” art, nothing beats Scribble Art. It has every imaginable art or craft project, and is great for all ages!  This book alone will keep your children enjoying all the art projects you need.


If you are looking for an excellent “how-to-draw” book, may I recommend my favorites:



Spelling Clues


My daughter Louisa (15)

English is a beautiful language! It is the language of the Kings James Version of the Bible. It is the language of Shakespeare. Then, why—oh, why can’t we spell?

Over the years of teaching my 7 children to write, I wonder if perhaps I have seen nearly every misspelling known to man. Tomorrow, friends, though, a lot . . . these common words can be quite challenging. I don’t claim to any system of success, but I do know that giving kids a memory clue can help a great deal! Here are just a few of the clues I have discovered that help my kids spell better:


If you break this word down into the original two words—to morrow—it is a lot easier for kids to remember. I tell them, “We are looking to (towards) the morrow (next day).” Once you realize the meaning, you aren’t tempted to double the m which is the most common misspelling.

I say, “A friend is a friend to the end”. Circle the word end within the word friend. Once a child sees the word end, that word is generally mastered.


though-dough + rough-tough-enough
Though the dough
Is rough
and tough enough,
We’ll still have bread.

These crazy words are all spelled the same, but not pronounced the same. If you can teach your child the ough spelling, then this little chant will keep things straight.


I teach this goofy letter combination by drawing a big eye around it:

Now these words are easier to spell and remember:
sigh, nigh, light, night, sight, fight, might, tight, right, fright, blight . . .


a lot, all right
These are both two words! Now, you have it! Don’t combine them into alot or alright. Those are misspelled!


We go to get her to be together.
to get her = together
Pronounce this word to your children and they’ll spell it right: to-get-her


There’s a rat in separate. Can you see it?

Whenever you begin to write the word separate, say the little sentence and write a rat and you won’t misspell it!


here, there
Here and there are places. If you are not here, you are there. The word here is included in the word there. Once you can see the word here, it is easy to spell there!


Spelling Those Tricky Words

Spelling is just as important as doing your hair!

How’s that?

Well, it makes quite a first impression, whether on a job application or in a love letter.

Spelling is not something that we stop learning the day we graduate from high school, or college even. I am a good speller, and I like spelling, so just for fun I took a spelling test this morning. I discovered that I could not spell quite a few of the most commonly misspelled difficult words in the English language . . . which surprised me a bit. I thought I’d have it down by now!

Where to start? Students can make great spelling progress by learning these 12 tricky spelling combinations. These are among the most frequently used (and misused and misspelled) words in the English language. Just having these mastered will make quite a different in their daily writing!

1. Its / It’s

2. No / Know

3. Principal / Principle

4. Quite / Quiet

5. There / Their / They’re

6. To / Too/ Two

7. Through / Threw

8. Weather / Whether

9. Where / Wear

10. Which / Witch

11. Write / Right

12. Your / You’re

I have taught my kids to figure out these words with little memory clues. I’ll share some here with you:

Its / It’s

It’s is a contraction of the words it is. So, when confronted with which one to use, try to replace the word it’s (or its) with the words it is. If that sentence works, then make sure to use the it’s with the apostrophe. For example, “It’s five o’clock” can be also stated, “It is five o’clock”. But this sentence does not work: “The cat licked it is paws.”

Principal / Principle

The principal is a man who could be your pal. See the word pal in principal?

There / Their / They’re

There is a location, a place. You are either here or there. Can you see the word here in the word there? They’re is a contraction of the words they are. You can replace the word they’re with they are as a test to see if it works.

To / Too

Too many cookies is the phrase I use to help my children see the word too means additional, also or excess. You can draw chocolate chips in the letter o in the word too to help them remember!

Where / Wear

Where is another location or place word. When you ask the question, “where?”, you are either here or there. Look for the word here in the word.

Which / Witch

The witch that rides a broomstick has her broom in the middle of the word (the letter t).

Your / You’re

The word you’re is a contraction of the words you are. Teach your children to replace the word your/you’re in a sentence with you are and they can discern if it is a contraction or not.

Now, for contractions!

By the way, if you haven’t taught your children about contractions yet, that is a fun lesson! Using two index cards, write the separate words of the contraction, one per card like this:

can                 not

Have your child read the separate cards to you. Hold one card in each of your hands. Then show them how to make a crash of the two word cards (big appeal with boys) so they bend back and only show these letters:

can                 t

On a third card, draw a “comma-up-in-the-air” (apostrophe). Tell them the crash knocked out some letters and so you stick this mark right where the letters are missing to show they once were there.


Works with every contraction except won’t (will not).

Have fun with spelling today!



Hates Math


I homeschool my three girls. My oldest is 9 and works 2 grades ahead, and works independently. My middle child, 7, is advanced and just as intelligent. She absolutely hates sitting and doing worksheets, especially in Math. I am getting extremely frustrated and this in turn frustrates her. Neither of us is happy. She loves to sing, listen to music and work on the computer. Help!


How blessed you are to have three little girls! It must feel like Little Women at your house.

God sends these children to us with such diversity of personality. It is really up to us as mothers to study out our children’s temperaments and dispositions and figure out how to reach them individually. Each child has a natural curiosity, love of learning, inborn talents and interests. It is our joyful task to arrange their environment so they can retain that enthusiasm while learning the skills they will need to contribute as an adult. We don’t want to drum the love to learning out of them with an approach to learning that they find dull. Learning is fun! If your daughter (and you) find it tiresome, then it is time to re-evaluate your methods. Some children (not many) enjoy workbooks, and they are self-directed learners that make homeschooling very easy! Other children need time, plus the resources and supplies, to pursue what they find interesting (that is educational and wholesome), plus some directed learning by mom that makes the unpleasant subject as fun as possible.

My daughter Louisa (at age 12) did not like doing math in a textbook format either. In fact, as long as I try to make her learn math through her textbook, she “hates math”. So, I studied out what she enjoys and tried to apply her interests. She enjoys art a lot, and interaction with me, rather than quiet sitting studying. So, here is how we do her math facts practice: I sit at the table and she stands (her enthusiasm makes sitting impossible!)  We play a math game called “Got It” . We turn over two cards with single digit numbers on them, and we race to multiply the numbers on the cards and say the answer. To make the game more fair, I tap my hand down on the table twice before I shout the answer, to give her some thinking time. (She may shout it out just as soon as she is able!) She loves the suspense and delights when she can beat me to the answer! This takes us about 10 minutes every morning. Louisa would be glad if I would play it with her for an hour (!) and she is quickly getting quite proficient on her times tables. We used to do multiplication facts worksheets, which were dreary to her. We are reaching the same goal, getting the same results–the multiplication facts learned. The method, though, makes the difference between a happy encounter between us, or a dull exercise.

To teach the math lesson, I use either a chalkboard and colored chalk, or a stack of scratch paper and some colorful markers. I scan the concept in the Saxon book and draw out as much as I can in picture form. If I can use real objects to teach the lesson, I do it. I have her draw out as much as possible to help her visualize the problem. I teach the concept, talking it through with pictures and then we do just one problem on each piece of scratch paper, drawing the numbers colorfully and big. When the lesson is on something concrete, such as weight measurements, I get out a food scale and some different items to weigh and we just do a hands-on lesson. (Did you know that 1 grape weighs 10 grams?)  I learn something too! I pose all sorts of questions (how much do you think a dollar bill would weigh: an ounce or a gram) and she does the hands-on work to find the answers. Once I feel sure she has mastered the concept, I review a few concepts from the previous lessons, and feel confident that we have done enough math. And she does retain those concepts so much better than if she had done the whole Saxon lesson!

You will be surprised to find that your other daughters pick up on the concepts too, even if they are not the “right age” for the lesson!

If your daughter enjoys singing, music and computer; teaching math could be really fun! I can think right off of several math resources that would be delightful: math facts set to music as  Multiplication Songs CD, computer games such as Quarter Mile Math that drill math facts, and other computer games that teach math lessons. Math Wrap-ups are a creative way to practice math facts. There is also a great series of math books for the creative child, called Life of Fred.  Try a few ideas, and see which she takes to the best. I do think it is necessary to ensure children learn math skills, but please do all you possibly can to make it fun.

Think of Mary Poppins! A spoonful of sugar does make the medicine go down!

Memory Tricks for Learning the States and Capitals

Homeschool mom Catherine Lamb offers these fun and silly memory clues to help other mothers teach their children the states and capitals. Thanks for sharing!

The Pacific States
Washington, Olympia (Washington sits with the Greek Gods in Olympus.)
Oregon, Salem (Ore e goin’ sailin’? Are you going sailing?)
California, Sacramento (Can I afford a sack of Mentos?) (*Mentos is a candy)
Alaska, Juneau (Do you know Alaska? say with an Hispanic accent)
Hawaii, Honolulu (easy to remember, no clue)

The Mountain States
Idaho, Boise (I have a hoe named Boise.)
Montana, Helena (Helena went to the mountains)
Wyoming, Cheyenne (Indians are in the Western state of Wyoming)
Nevada, Carson City (My car and son went to a city in Nevada)
Utah, Salt Lake City (easy, no hint)
Colorado, Denver (Color a do in the den.) (*do = a hair do)
Arizona, Phoenix (The giant phoenix bird flew out of the heat of Arizona’s deserts)
New Mexico, Santa Fe (Santa doesn’t go to New Mexico.)

North Central States
North Dakota, Bismarck (We go to North Dakota to eat Bismarcks) (*a donut with pudding in it)
South Dakota, Pierre (We go to South Dakota to smell fresh pea air.) (*one of the lame ones, any better suggestions?)
Minnesota, St. Paul (St Paul gave me a mini-soda)
Nebraska, Lincoln (Lincoln went to his knee‚ ask ya)
Iowa, Des Moines (I owe a day mowing)
Kansas, Topeka (To peek at a can of sauce.)
Missouri, Jefferson City (Jeffer’s son in the City misses Ori.)

South Central States
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City (easy)
Texas, Austin (Ah! is tin in Texas?)
Arkansas, Little Rock (I saw an ark and a saw on a little rock)
Louisiana, Baton Rouge (Louise and Ana took their batons and rouge to the Mardi Gras.)

Midwest States
Wisconsin, Madison (Madison, wish no sin!)
Michigan, Lansing (Miss yi gun? Lance him.) (* little violent I know —unfortunately my boy’s favorite clue!)
Illinois, Springfield (Simpsons live here) (*the cartoon Simpson’s)
Indiana, Indianapolis (Capital name almost same as State.)
Ohio, Columbus (OH! Hi O‚ Columbus) (*greeting Columbus)

Northeastern States
Maine, Augusta (A gust a wind blew through the horse’s mane)
New Hampshire, Concord (Cut on the cords of the new ham, sire.)
Vermont, Montpelier (Vermin on a mount of peels – also mont ends Vermont,
starts Montpelier) (*we picture a rat sitting on a pile of fruit/veggie peelings)
Massachusetts, Boston (My boss weighs a ton. That’s a lot of Mass—or—weighs a ton from from mashed potatoes)
Connecticut, Hartford (connect a cut in the heart)
Rhode Island, Providence (It was Providence that we found a road on the island.) (*Providence means divine care or guidance.)
New Jersey, Trenton (Trent has on a new jersey)
Delaware, Dover (Dangerous Dave dove her into the Delaware.)
Pennsylvania, Harrisburg (Mr. Harris Burg has pencil size veins.)
New York, Albany (New York has all the bunnies.)

Southeastern States
Kentucky, Frankfort (Frank’s in the Fort, but Kents not so lucky.)
West Virginia, Charleston (Rich men are in Virginia, but Charles has his own town in West Virginia) (*see clue for Virginia)
Maryland, Annapolis (Anna’s polo game is in the merry land.)
Virginia, Richmond (Virginia was the first colony so it has all the rich men.)
Tennessee, Nashville (Ten seas are in Nashville.)
North Carolina, Raleigh (Oh Raally [snobby accent], you are from North Carolina?)
South Carolina, Columbia (A Column a bees flies South to Carolina) (Also, Carolina and Columbia both have C,O,L,I,A)
Mississippi, Jackson (Jack’s son misses his missis.)
Alabama, Montgomery (I’ll bam Mont’s gum merry!) (*whatever that means! but the sillier, the better we like them, ha ha)
Georgia, Atlanta (My sailor Georgia is at land.)
Florida, Tallahassee (I sit on the floor in da tall house by the sea)

Punctuation Games

I’ve always found language arts workbooks dreadful. I know some children like doing them, but I love English and those workbooks seem to reduce a rich, lovely language to a dull, fill-in-the-blank exercise. I like to make things into a game.  So, when it comes to learning punctuation skills, I am all about learning them through an interactive game. Here’s how we learn the punctuation symbols and how to use them in my homeschool:

Punctuation Game

Get a stack of 3 x 5″ blank index cards and write a punctuation symbol on each card, including period, comma, question mark, exclamation point, hyphen, colon and so forth. If a child is old enough to write well, he should make his own set. You’ll need a stack too. They should look something like this:

Now, seat your children apart, facing you and not each other. For starters, just use the cards with the period, question mark and exclamation mark. Set others aside.

Explain the differences in how a sentence sounds when it ends with each of these punctuation marks. For example, read this sentence:
Mary bakes bread.
Show the card with the period symbol on it and explain that this sentence ends with a period. You can hear ending punctuation. A sentence ending in a period sounds even and somewhat monotone.

Now read this sentence, with inflection:
Is Mary baking bread?
Show the card with the question mark and ask your students to listen for the lilt at the end of the sentence. You can hear the question mark.

Now read this with excitement:
Mary is burning the bread!
Hold up the exclamation point card. Ask the students how they can tell the sentence needs an exclamation point.

Now it is time to play the game:

Mom reads a sentence, and the kids simultaneously hold up the correct card, high in the air, facing Mom. It works best if they cannot see each other’s cards. Mom takes a look at their cards and then holds up her correct card. Everyone whose card matches Mom’s correct card gets a token (bean, button, paper clip, whatever). After everyone has played to their fill, count up tokens and see who is the winner. The winner now gets to make up the sentences.

Here’s some sentences to get you started. You’ll think of more fun sentences to use as you go along. You read the sentence, Mom, and then hold up the appropriate punctuation card.

1. Ouch! I stubbed my toe!

2. Today is Tuesday.

3. I love to go to the beach!

4. Are you sleeping?

5. The paper is on the table.

6. Are you finished yet?

7. It’s my birthday!

8. When is dinner?

9. I don’t know.

10. I hope we have ice cream!

After several rounds of this game, add additional punctuation mark cards, and explain their use to your children. A quick round at the beginning of school time will make your children practically geniuses when it comes to punctuating a sentence. You can increase the difficulty quickly by requiring them to hold up 2 cards per sentence.

Try this:
Add the hyphen mark, which is used in words that are linked together, specifically numbers, such as thirty-four. Also use a hyphen to join words that act together to describe the noun, such as one-way street, well-known person, chocolate-covered raisins, when the describing words come right before a noun.

I am twenty-one today!
Hold up first the hyphen card and then the exclamation point card.

Are you eating a raspberry-filled doughnut?
Use a hyphen and a question mark.

How about this one (say it with drama!)
The thief stole my gold-plated statue!
Use a hyphen and exclamation point.

To your punctuation success!