Teaching reading and spelling with vowel sounds

Maybe you’ve seen it. You begin reading with your child and the tears begin to flow. Your frustrated child can’t put the sounds together; can’t pronounce the words. It’s understandable. Out of the 26 letters in the alphabet, 5 of them are vowels. Those 5 vowels create 19 different sounds depending on the letter combination used in a given word.

Here are a few things to consider when teaching the short vowel sound:

  1. Introduce each vowel sound. Here is a video with short vowel sounds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQwQ7FWL4MM
  • short /a/ as in bat
  • short /e/ as in bet
  • short /i/ as in bit
  • short /o/ as in bot
  • short /u/ as in but
  1. For each short vowel sound teach a gesture or hand movement to go with it.
  • Short A – put your hand under your chin. Remind your student that when you say /ă/ your chin drops. Say, “Short a says, /ă/.”
  • Short E – Hold three fingers out horizontally. Say, “Short e says, /ĕ/.”
  • Short I – Touch your finger to your nose like you are dotting an i. Say, “Short i says, /ĭ/”.
  • Short O – Form your mouth in the shape of an o. Say, “Short o says, /ŏ/”.
  • Short U – /ŏ/”.Put your hands together and use your thumbs to form a u. Say, “Short u says /ŭ/”.

Remind students to do these gestures each day when they say the short vowel sounds.

You can also use these gestures when segmenting words for accurate spelling. For example, after you dictate the word rat, the student can say each sound in isolation. /r/ / ă / /t/.

 spell trek3. The game, Spell Trek, uses visuals for the vowels and reinforces vowel recognition, phonics, and spelling. During this game, players draw vowel tiles and use them to complete words. Scoring is based on the length of the word spelled, with a bonus point for more complex words.

Here is a video tutorial that parent can watch and receive additional tips on how to play Spell Trek as well as how the game can reinforce spelling and phonics.

I became a SimplyFun Playologist because I truly believe in providing children with multiple ways to learn and succeed in school. Academic game play is fun and effective. Please browse my SimplyFun web page for games and toys designed to help your child play, grow, and learn.

Please visit my SimplyFun web page today https://www.simplyfun.com/pws/gamestogrow/tabs/playologist-home.aspx

Homeschool cooking: a taste of Ethiopia

Today, my students and I are traveling to the African kingdom of Ethiopia.  This great nation lays south of Egypt and Sudan and is bordered to the east by the Red Sea.

Cleaning collard greens

Ethiopians eat a lot of spicy meats, lentils, greens, cabbage, eggplant, and yams. The national food is a spicy stew called Wat. Another popular food is Injera, a type of flatbread. Today, we are having Ethiopian collard greens, mashed yams, and sliced fresh mango. 


Ethiopian collard greens

  • 1 pound collard greens (cleaned and torn into bite sized pieces)
  • 1 onion  (sliced)
  • 1 clove fresh garlic  (chopped)
  • 3 – 4 slices fresh bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp each paprika, cayenne pepper, ground ginger

Throw all in a pot. Add some water. Cover the pot. Simmer for about an hour until tender.


Bake the yams until they are soft (about an hour). Cool and peel. Mash with a potato masher. Dust with cinnamon and top with a dab of butter.


Slice the mango and enjoy.

Traditionally, Ethiopians eat with their hands. Here’s Miss Kylee throwing down on some yams.


A super fun way to introduce Spanish to elementary-aged kiddos

Feliz, feliz en tu dia means “Be happy on your day.” Today is my granddaughter’s 5th birthday.  I turned her special day into an afternoon of fun with new Spanish words, songs, and phrases. We celebrated God’s gift of life to Khloe, had lots of fun, and explored a new language along the way.

Teaching Spanish to young children is nearly as easy as soaking up water with a sponge. Their minds are like little learning machines that can easily process a second language, especially when creative games and activities are a part of the fun.


There are many simple ways to introduce Spanish to to children.  I used a birthday theme to make today’s hands-on Spanish lesson a memorable one. First, I asked my students, “What do you think of when you hear the words, ‘birthday party'”? They yelled out, “Cake! Balloons! Presents!” We celebrated with a few of the exact things that they yelled out.

balloons - los globos

gave the kiddos several balloons in a variety of colors. I turned to my trusty white board and wrote the name of each color in English and in Spanish. The girls did the same on their balloons of corresponding colors including the following:

  • green – verde
  • yellow-amarillo
  • red-rojo
  • pink – rosa
  • purple-morado
  • white-blanco
  • blue-azul

butterflies - las mariposas Next, I gave them a simple craft that would would reinforce learning the new color words. They each got four (cuatro) butterflies (Las mariposas) and wrote the name of of the corresponding color word on on each one.

Feliz cumpleanos

We then moved on to birthday cards for Khloe. While they decorated their cards, cards I taught them the Happy birthday song in Spanish. It is sang in the same tune as the traditional English version. It goes like this:

Feliz cumpleanos a ti,                                     Feliz cumpleanos a ti,                                   Feliz cumpleanos a ____________ (name), Feliz cumpleanos a ti.


Our next project was to have them write name strips to put by their stuff. I wrote, “Me llamo______” on the board and asked them to write the same and then fill in the blank with their own names. “Me llamo,” means “My name is.”

Me llamo/ My name is...


Las formas

  • circle / el circulo
  • triangle/  el triangulo
  • square / cuadrado
  • rectangle / rectangulo

Since this was a part of of our half-day homeschool program, I had to come up with a way to include some math in our day. I gave the girls a simple coloring page and and had them write the name of each shape in Spanish. Las formas

Sailing Angels

Transporting John from the car to his wheelchair.

Teaching children how to respect people with disabilities is as important to us as teaching them the Pythagorean Theorem. Earlier this school year, our home schoolers met John Fair III, an after-schooler who comes to us twice a week for reading tutorials.  John has Williams Syndrome, (WS) “…a genetic condition that is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities.  These often occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music,” learn more.   John has also been paralyzed since he was 12, when a procedure to correct his Scoliosis (which is an unnatural curvature of the spine) went terribly wrong.  

Heading to the dock. About to sail away
Heading to the dock. About to sail away


Thanks to the generosity of an angel named Captain Dave McCabe and his organization, called Sailing Angels, we were able to take John on a sailing trip from Kemah and Seabrook, TX.  Sailingangels.org is a non-profit organization, located in the greater Houston area, that provides a unique sailing opportunity for children with special needs. During the two and a half sail, those who are able, help raise the sails, learn a bit about knot tying, and steer the boat.

Captain Dave & John

To prepare for this field trip, the students began with a lesson about people with special needs. Specific to John, we visited his website John Fair III.org and read his story. Then the children and I memorized a post from his web site titled Wheelchair Etiquette. 

Here’s what it says:

  • Be prepared to offer assistance to people with limited use of their hands, wrists or arms.
  • Ask for permission to touch a person’s wheelchair, it’s part of their personal space.
  • Keep the ramps and wheelchair-accessible doors and parking spaces unlocked and unblocked.
  • Wheelchair users are not equipment, do not use their wheelchairs for personal use.
  • Always speak directly to the person with a disability.
  • Do not exclude wheelchair users from activities.
Chase and John headed to the boat.
Chase and John headed to the  boat.

We also learned a few nautical terms:

1. Aft – The back of a ship. If something is located aft, it is at the back of the sailboat. The aft is also known as the stern.

2. Bow – The front of the ship is called the bow. Knowing the location of the bow is important for defining two of the other most common sailing terms: port (left of the bow) and starboard (right of the bow).

3. Port – Port is always the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, port is used to define the left-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front.

4. Starboard – Starboard is always the right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because “right” and “left” can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, starboard is used to define the right-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front.

5. Leeward – Also known as lee, leeward is the direction opposite to the way the wind is currently blowing (windward).

6. Windward – The direction in which the wind is currently blowing. Windward is the opposite of leeward (the opposite direction of the wind). Sailboats tend to move with the wind, making the windward direction an important sailing term to know.

7. Boom – The boom is the horizontal pole which extends from the bottom of the mast. Adjusting the boom towards the direction of the wind is how the sailboat is able to harness wind power in order to move forward or backwards.

8. Rudder – Located beneath the boat, the rudder is a flat piece of wood, fiberglass, or metal that is used to steer the ship. Larger sailboats control the rudder via a wheel, while smaller sailboats will have a steering mechanism directly aft.

9. Tacking – The opposite of jibing, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the bow of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe.

10. Jibing – The opposite of tacking, this basic sailing maneuver refers to turning the stern of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. Jibing is a less common technique than tacking, since it involves turning a boat directly into the wind.

During our sail, Captain Dave taught James and the older boys how to set the sails and how to steer the boat.

20150520_125746 20150520_130446    20150520_125458As for me, I just relaxed and had fun.


After the sail, Capt. Dave presented the students with wristbands, medals, and a Certificate of Sailing.

20150520_141330     20150520_141352   20150520_131343  20150520_123513

It was a day that none of us will soon forget.  For more information about TAMS and ED Homeschool, visit us at www.tamsanded.com. We teach tolerance and diversity with hands-on and real-world activities. Our home school is for students who thrive in smaller classroom settings. We teach. We challenge. They learn.   For our students, the world is their classroom.

Title IV and the Home schooled Student

Money in the sky

Title IV and home schooled students

Federal student aid is doled out by the U.S. Department of education. It’s money that helps a student pay for higher education expenses such as tuition, books, rent, transportation, dependent care, trade school, or graduate school expenses. Under this program, which is a part of the Higher Education Act, home schoolers are eligible to apply for these government benefits in accordance with federal guidelines.

money bag

The main categories of distribution include:


  • Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL)
  • Direct Loan
  • Federal Perkins Loan


  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)
  • National SMART Grant
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

Federal Work-Study (FWS)

Students should check with the school’s financial aid office to see which programs that school supports.

The most basic eligibility requirements are that students must fulfill the following:

  • demonstrate financial need to learn more, visit Student.aid.gov/how-calculated
  • be a U.S. citizen of an eligible non-citizen
  • have a valid Social Security number
  • register (if you haven’t already) with Selective Service, if you’re a male between the ages of 18 and 25.
  • Show you’re qualified to obtain a college or career-school education by having a high school diploma or an equivalent such as: a GED certificate or completing a high school education in a home-school setting approved under state law; and maintain satisfactory academic progress in college or career school.
  • Find out more details about eligibility at \https://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/2015-16-do-you-need-money.pdf

money tree

Although home schooled students are not considered to have a high
school diploma or equivalent, they are eligible to receive FSA funds if their secondary school education was in a home school that state law (such as Texas) treats as a home or private school. Some states issue a secondary school completion credential to home schoolers. If this is the case in the state where the student was home schooled, she must obtain this credential in order to be eligible for FSA funds. She can include in her homeschooling self-certification (see above) that she received this state credential.

According to the government-published document entitled General Standards of Student Eligibility for Title IV Funds“An eligible institution is defined in part as one that admits as regular students only those who have a high school diploma or equivalent, are beyond the compulsory age of attendance for the school’s state, or are dually enrolled at the college a secondary school.”

Specific to home schoolers

“For students that finish homeschooling at a younger age, the Department considers them to be beyond the age of compulsory attendance if your school’s state would not require them to further attend secondary school or continue to be home schooled.

Keep in touch

TAMS and ED stands for Technology, Arts, Math, Science, and Education.

For more information about TAMS and ED Homeschool, visit us at www.tamsanded.com. We teach tolerance and diversity with hands-on and real-world activities. Our home school is for students who thrive in smaller classroom settings. We teach. We challenge. They learn.   For our students, the world is their classroom.

Baylor University: Home school admissions policy

baylor bears

Part 2 of my College Connections Series takes us to bear country in the city of Waco, Texas. Home schoolers who aspire to become a Baylor Bear will be pleased to know that Baylor offers admissions advice helpful to the Texas home schooler. In other words, the folks at Baylor are  quick to let you know that you matter and they want to see you roar…or, um…growl, on their campus.

Baylor is a prestigious Christian university with Baptist roots. It is rated 7th in Texas and touts a 57.8% acceptance rate (2013). According to the university’s web site: “If you went to a private high school or are home-schooled, the admissions process is very much the same as it is for public high-school students with a few differences you should be aware of:

  • Baylor abides by the Code of Federal Regulations. According to Title IV guidelines, any degree-seeking student who graduates from either a private school or a home school that is not recognized by the state in which it is located must be 17 years of age before the first day of class.
  • If a student does not meet this age requirement, we require a GED Certificate prior to registration.
  • Every applicant must submit a transcript for admission consideration, which should include a list of all completed courses, grades received for each course, and other information pertinent to your educational background.
  • If you decide to enroll at Baylor, you will need to send a final high school transcript that includes your graduation date.
  • See a sample transcript

Baylor is a competitive learning and research environment. So, naturally, we must take into account the academic history and college entrance exam scores of each prospective student. The median SAT score range for accepted freshmen is 1140-1310 (math/critical reading), and the median ACT score range is 24 to 30. Seventy-five percent of the entering freshman class were in the top quartile of their graduating high school class.

Some colleges and schools have additional requirements for entrance into specific majors. Examples include the Engineering major within the School of Engineering and Computer Science or the Business Fellows major within the School of Business. To learn more about these additional requirements visit the Major-Specific Admission Requirements webpage.

That said, test scores and GPAs are only part of each student’s story. That’s why we also carefully review any recommendations, short answers, awards and activities that you share with us.

Overall, we are looking for students who:

  • want to be part of an academically rigorous community that values faith and your strengths and personal calling
  • are excited and motivated about intellectual activity
  •  have challenged themselves academically and embraced opportunities outside the classroom
  • recognize that life, learning and service go hand-in-hand beyond the four years of college.

We are also looking for those who can gain the most from a Baylor experience and those students with a demonstrated interest in becoming a Baylor Bear.

Please follow and like us on Facebook. For more information about our home school services or to sponsor a student, visit our website at http://www.tamsanded.com.


In the Teen Center with Imam Shah.
In the Teen Center with Imam Shah.

As part of our World Religions project, I took the upper level students  to visit a local mosque. The entire day was incredible. Imam Shah, gave us a tour of the mosque and showed us a film about Islam and Muslim beliefs. He opened the floor for us to ask any questions we wanted. According to Imam Shah, Muslims believe in Jesus Christ and even in the virgin birth, but they believe that Jesus was simply another prophet and not God the Son, as Christians believe. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad emerged after Christ, and that he was the last prophet.

We learned that Muslims are peace-loving people.

Kneeling in the main sanctuary.
Kneeling in the main sanctuary.

We learned many other things about Muslims:

  • Their central religious text is the Quran
  • Green is a significant color. It represents nature.
  • Women cover their heads as a sign of modesty.
  • Men and women have  separate entrances into the mosque and they sit together during services.
  • Everyone must remove their shoes before entering the mosque.

    Miss Felicia standing outside the mosque
    Miss Felicia standing outside the mosque
  • Muslims pray five times a day.

    Embracing diversity: Muslim traditions
    Embracing diversity: Muslim traditions

At TAMS and ED, we embrace diversity. We strive to get to know our neighbors and respect our differences. During our World Religions project, we studied Islam, Buddism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity. We learned that, although we differ in our beliefs, peace and love is the thread that binds us. 

For more information about TAMS and ED Homeschool, visit us at www.tamsanded.com. We teach tolerance and diversity with hands-on and real-world activities. Our home school is for students who thrive in smaller classroom settings. We teach. We challenge. They learn.   For our students, the world is their classroom.