Destination D.C. Part 1: Saving and Adding Money

To prepare for our Spring trip to Washington D.C., students, parents, and teachers all agreed that the students must have an active role in saving their own money. 

Jug paintSo, each week, they are foregoing the candy bars, doing extra chores, and bringing in their coins. They must bring in their savings every week, learn how to add their money, and keep a running tab. The money they save will become their spending money in D.C.

dollar jugA few weeks ago, they decorated their money jugs with pictures of D.C. hot spots. Today they are painting their money jugs and counting money.

Eden Painting

​The money jugs have become a fun activity for these girls who bring in coins every day.

felicia's jug

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African-American Poets: Milestones in History (grades 3rd – 8th)

What is African-American poetry?  Poetry in general is  like regular writing with a few tweaks. Instead of sentences, poems consist of lines. Instead of paragraphs, poems consist of stanzas. Poetry uses a lot of “sensory” language, which consists of words that help us see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the experience.  

African American poetry is a type of writing that’s seeped in history, culture and rich family traditions. It details things like oxtails, greens, and candied yams served up on Sundays after church and  old folk’s stories about growing up black in America. African-American poetry helps us feel the hot sun during a long day of picking cotton, the belting of whips beating down on a slave’s back, and it reminds us of the days when blacks could not drink from the same water fountain as whites. 

I could go on and on describing the beauty of African American poetry, but I think Lucy, Jupiter, Phillis, and George, can explain better than I can. You see:

  • Lucy Terry’s Bars Fight (1746), is the first poem that we know of that was written by an African American.
  • Jupiter Hammond, a religious poet who led many slaves to Jesus Christ, is the first African American who published a poem.
  • Phillis Wheatley the first African American woman who published an entire book of poetry.
  • George Moses Horton, the slave from North Carolina who became the first African American to use verse to argue against slavery.

Take a look:

Image result for Lucy terry image
Lucy Terry Prince (c. 1730–1821) is the author of the earliest known work of literature by an African American. She was stolen from Africa and sold into slavery as an infant, and became a free woman in Massachusetts, 1756.

The first known poem written by an African-American was Bars Fight, by Lucy Terry. Bars Fight is a ballad. A ballad is a type of poem that tells a story. Bars Fight is about an attack on two white families by Native Americans. The title of the poem comes from the area where the attack took place, The Bars , which is an area in Deerfield. 

Her poem is also written in formal couplets. In poetry, a couplet is a pair of lines in a verse. Usually they rhyme and have the same , meter (rhythm). Each couplet makes up a unit or complete thought. 

Bars Fight (1746)

by Lucy Terry 

August ’twas the twenty-fifth,

Seventeen hundred forty-six;

The Indians did in ambush lay,

Some very valiant men to slay,

The names of whom I’ll not leave out.

Samuel Allen like a hero fout,

And though he was so brave and bold,

His face no more shalt we behold

Eteazer Hawks was killed outright,

Before he had time to fight, –

Before he did the Indians see,

Was shot and killed immediately.

Oliver Amsden he was slain,

Which caused his friends much grief and pain.

Simeon Amsden they found dead,

Not many rods distant from his head.

Adonijah Gillett we do hear

Did lose his life which was so dear.

John Sadler fled across the water,

And thus escaped the dreadful slaughter.

Eunice Allen see the Indians coming,

And hopes to save herself by running,

And had not her petticoats stopped her,

The awful creatures had not catched her,

Nor tommy hawked her on the head,

And left her on the ground for dead.

Young Samuel Allen, Oh lack-a-day!

Was taken and carried to Canada.

Image result for jupiter hammon images
Jupiter Hammon was the first African American poet to be published in the United States. He was born a slave Lloyd Harbor, New York, on October 17, 1711. The Lloyd family encouraged Hammon to attend school, where he learned to read and write. In his early years, Hammon was heavily influenced by a major religious movement called, “The Great Awakening.” His poems reflected his love for Jesus Christ and encouraged slaves to accept Christ as well. 

As you read this poem, consider the author’s message. What message do you think Hammond is trying to convey? 

A Poem for Children with Thoughts on Death (1792)

by Jupiter Hammond

O Ye young and thoughtless youth,

Come seek the living God,

The scriptures are a sacred truth,

Ye must believe the word.

Tis God alone can make you wise,

His wisdom’s from above,

He fills the soul with sweet supplies

By his redeeming love.

Remember youth the time is short,

Improve the present day

And pray that God may guide your thoughts,

And teach your lips to pray.

To pray unto the most high God,

And beg restraining grace,

Then by the power of his word

You’ll see the Saviour’s face.

Little children they may die,

Turn to their native dust,

Their souls shall leap beyond the skies,

And live among the just.

Like little worms they turn and crawl,

And gasp for every breath.

The blessed Jesus sends his call,

And takes them to his rest.

Thus the youth are born to die,

The time is hastening on,

The Blessed Jesus rends the sky,

And makes his power known.

Then ye shall hear the angels sing

The trumpet give a sound,

Glory, glory to our King,

The Saviour’s coming down.

Start ye saints from dusty beds,

And hear a Saviour call,

Twas a Jesus Chirst that died and bled,

And thus preserv’d thy soul.

This the portion of the just,

Who lov’d to serve the Lord,

Their bodies starting from the dust,

Shall rest upon their God.

They shall join that holy word,

That angels constant sing,

Glory, glory to the Lord,

Hallelujahs to our King.

Thus the Saviour will appear,

With guards of heavenly host,

Those blessed Saints, shall then declare,

Tis Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Then shall ye hear the trumpet sound,

The graves give up their dead,

Those blessed saints shall quick awake,

And leave their dusty beds.

Then shall you hear the trumpet sound,

And rend the native sky,

Those bodies starting from the ground,

In the twinkling of an eye.

There to sing the praise of God,

And join the angelic train,

And by the power of his word,

Unite together again.

Where angels stand for to admit

Their souls at the first word,

Cast sceptres down at Jesus feet

Crying holy holy Lord.

Now glory be unto our God

All praise be justly given,

Ye humble souls that love the Lord

Come seek the joys of Heaven.


Image result for phillis wheatley images
Phillis Wheatley was born in Gambia, West Africa. No one knows for sure when she was born. However, when she was kidnapped and shipped to America, experts guessed she was around seven years old, because of her missing front teeth.  She was sold into slavery and purchased by the prominent Wheatley family of Boston. Although it was illegal to educate slaves, the Wheatleys taught Phillis how to read and write. She is the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry. 


  • mercy – compassion shown towards someone
  • pagan – ungodly
  • benighted – in a state of moral ignorance
  • redemption – the act of being saved from sin
  • diabolic – connected to evil, the devil
  • angelic – like angels

How does Wheatley feel about  Africa?

On Being Brought from Africa to America

by Phillis Wheatley

‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:

Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

“Their colour is a diabolic die.”

Remember, ChristiansNegros, black as Cain,

May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.


Image result for george moses horton images
George Moses Horton (1797? – 1884) was born a slave in North Carolina. He was the first African American to use poetry to promote antislavery messages. He earned money writing love poems for men who wanted to woo the ladies.

Horton’s poem is written in formal couplets. In poetry, a couplet is a pair of lines in a verse. Usually they rhyme and have the same , meter (rhythm). Each couplet makes up a unit or complete thought.

mood and tone help the reader find meaning in a poem. We can identify both by looking at the setting, characters, details, and word choices. 

mood – is the atmosphere of the story.

tone – the author’s attitude towards the topic. 

What is the tone of the poem, “Weep”? 

Support your answer with words from the poem and their meanings.



By George Moses Horton

Weep for the country in its present state,

And of the gloom which still the future waits;

The proud confederate eagle heard the sound,

And with her flight fell prostrate to the ground!

Weep for the loss the country has sustained,

By which her now dependent is in jail;

The grief of him who now the war survived,

The conscript husbands and the weeping wives!

Weep for the seas of blood the battle cost,

And souls that ever hope forever lost!

The ravage of the field with no recruit,

Trees by the vengeance blasted to the root!

Weep for the downfall o’er your heads and chief,

Who sunk without a medium of relief;

Who fell beneath the hatchet of their pride,

Then like the serpent bit themselves and died!

Weep for the downfall of your president,

Who far too late his folly must repent;

Who like the dragon did all heaven assail,

And dragged his friends to limbo with his tail!

Weep o’er peculiar swelling coffers void,

Our treasures left, and all their banks destroyed;

Their foundless notes replete with shame to all,

Expecting every day their final fall,

In quest of profit never to be won,

Then sadly fallen and forever down!

Additional Resources

Dream in Color, a collaborative effort for elementary-aged children. 

Please visit our website


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:
  • 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

DIY: Africa wall map that’s dry-erase friendly

I needed a  large map of the continent of Africa that was durable enough for students to roll up, take home, and complete homework assignments; and big enough for them to write on, label each country, color and label the surrounding water bodies, highlight the major biomes, and draw the animals that dominate the various regions. I couldn’t find on that fit all of my needs, so I made my own.  Here’s how:


First, I put two 11″ x 17″ poster boards side by side and taped taped them taped them together vertically, along the back seam. I centered a large puzzle of Africa on top of the two pieces (see photo above). I traced each piece in pencil and then traced over the pencil with a Sharpie.


I taped the two pieces together and used my computer to print the title, “The Continent of Africa.” My hubby laminated it it for me. It works great! Students can write and erase with no problem.


Homeschool cooking: Rainbow salad… nutritional benefits, lesson plans, and recipes to encourage healthier kids

Examples of Fruit and Vegetable Fact SheetsFirst, the freebies:

  • The University of Nebraska has a great FREE resource of fruit and vegetable fact sheets that parents and teachers can download and share with their children.
  • SuperKids Nutrition Inc. in partnership with the American Institute for Cancer Research, has a great lesson that focuses on the benefits of eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
    Students will discuss the health benefits of different colored fruits and vegetables to better understand how they help them to grow strong and healthy. Students will have the opportunity to prepare a Carrot Slaw with Pineapple, Apples and Almonds and learn how a salad made of fruits and vegetables can help them fight off disease.
  • Care connection has some great resources including puzzles, and games such as Vegetable bingo. Seriously, if you teach Health and Nutrition to children, download this resource. It’s called, Colors of Food.


As for today’s lunch at the TAMS and ED home front, we taught our students that just like that wonderful pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, a Rainbow salad leads to a gold mine of healthy eating options for them. Rainbow salads generate fun and excitement. They provide us with a great way to introduce kids to new fruits and vegetables. And, because every color of fruit and vegetable contains a different set of phytonutrients, Rainbow salads should be a regular on your lunch and dinner lineup. It’s important to eat from every color of the rainbow to get a broad spectrum of nutrition.


Whenever my students build their Rainbow salads, I have one rule: Try something in every color. Today’s salad bar consisted of purple cabbage, blueberries, green lettuce, celery, and cucumbers, yellow squash, orange carrots and cantaloupe, red radishes and tomatoes. I also allowed them to top off with a dollop of tuna salad. Here is the nutritional breakdown of those fruits and veggies:


  • PURPLE CABBAGE: Purple cabbage is high in fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. A 1-cup serving of chopped purple cabbage provides 2 grams of fiber, or 8 percent of the 25-gram daily value as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. The potassium content in 1 cup of chopped purple cabbage is 216 milligrams. Potassium keeps your body’s fluid level from fluctuating to unhealthy volumes, and the Institute of Medicine recommends consuming 4.700 milligrams a day to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Potassium also prevents heart muscle stress by supporting the contraction that fuels your heartbeat.


  • BLUEBERRIES: Blueberries help promote urinary tract health, protect against aging-related eye problems, helps keep memory sharp, and being rich in fiber, is also beneficial for constipation and digestion.


  • CELERY is a rich source of folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin-C, which are essential for optimum metabolism.  It’s also an excellent source of vitamin K, which helps increase bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones.
  • LETTUCE: Vitamins in lettuce are varied and plentiful. It’s an excellent source of several Vitamin A and beta carotene.  Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, and is also essential for vision. Beta carotene aids the process. Lettuce is also a rich source of vitamin K, which is essential to the development of bone mass.
  • CUCUMBERS: Cucumbers are high in potassium. They contain unique anti-oxidant compounds that help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals.  Because of their high water content, cucumbers also have mild diuretic property, which helps in checking weight gain and high blood pressure.  Last, they have a high amount of vitamin K, which has been found to have a potential role in promoting bone mass and strength.


  • Yellow squash is an excellent source of vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin A , fiber, folate, copper, riboflavin and phosphorus. It is also abundant in potassium, which is a key electrolyte in the balance of fluids and also provides muscle energy.  It’s also high in manganese, a mineral which helps the body process fats, carbohydrates, and glucose.


  • Carrots are root plants that are rich in carotenes that convert into vitamin A in the liver cells. Beta-carotene is the major carotene present in these roots. Beta carotene is one of the powerful natural anti-oxidant that helps protect human body from harmful oxygen-free radical injury. In addition, it also carries out all the functions of vitamin-A such as maintaining good eye health, reproduction (sperm production), maintenance of epithelial integrity, growth and development.


  • This sweet melon is fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, packed with vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin A. Nuff said. 


  • Radishes are cruciferous root vegetables that are rich in anti-oxidents. A word of advice. Once you bring your radishes home, cut off the green tops as they rob the radish of essential vitamins and minersals.


  • Tomatoes are in the fruit family, but they are served and prepared as a vegetable. They are one of the most popular vegetables eaten by Americans. They can be eaten raw or cooked (baked, stewed, grilled or stir-fried). They are wonderful to eat alone. Many Americans add tomatoes to salads and sandwiches. soups, salsas and sauces. Tomato sauce is used in many pasta dishes such as spaghetti and on pizza. Ketchup is made from tomatoes. They are fat free, cholesterol free, and a good source of vitamins A and C.


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

Teaching chessboard math to children as young as 6

Look at a chessboard.  What math lessons do you see? I see lessons in basic math, algebra, and geometry. I see all of the primary operations including: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  I see numerous ways to teach math to children as young as 6 years old. Take a look.


addition In the photo above, you can see 8 horizontal rows (called ranks) numbered 1- 8. There are 8 rows with 8 squares each.  Add row 1 to row 2, you get 8 + 8 =16. Add rows 1 & 2 to rows 3 & 4, you 16 + 16 = 32, and so on, up to 64 squares.


subtraction Once we  position all of  the chess pieces on the first row, we see 7 empty rows left. 8 – 1 = 7. Add another row and we get 8 – 2 = 6. Set up the whole board and get 8 – 4 = 4 empty rows.


multiplication: My 3rd-grade homeschooler loves practicing her 8s on the chessboard. Again, the board has 8 rows of 8 squares.  Each rank is numbered 1- 8. Thus she can “read” the board and count the squares on each row: 8 × 1= 8, 8 × 2= 16, and so on.

division 16 ÷ 2 = 8 or 24 ÷ 8 = 3 the opposite of multiplication.

fractions simplify 16/2 = 8. That’s equal to 2 rows  divided in half.  Or 8/8 = 1 whole board. Or 4/8 = 1/2.

It touches my heart as I watch my younger students connect all of these mathematical ideas: 4 is half of 8; 8 × 4 = 32, and since 32 is half of 64, my 2nd and 3rd graders can process the idea that when you double the numbers, 8 × 8 = 64. I am especially reminded of a specific student of mine, a 3rd grader who struggles with her 2 times tables. She gets frustrated and cries. Well, as she and I play chess together she beams with pride.

We started with the 8s and she totally gets it. After two days, she has the 8s memorized through 8 × 12. Clearly, this game of chess is not only fun, but also there are many math concepts that are being reinforced at the same time. 

geometry:  A chessboard is a perfect square.  A square is a polygon with four equal sides. To help my 3rd grader understand this concept, I allowed her to use a measuring tape to measure the four sides.  Then, I showed her a rectangular Cheerios box (which would later become her Chess storage kit) and asked her to measure the four sides. She could then tell me the difference between a square, with four equal sides, and a rectangle with two long sides and two short sides.

exponents: A chessboard has 8 rows with 8 squares in each row. Thus, the exponent 8 squared, or 8 × 8 = 64, which is the number of squares on a chessboard.


  • straight line: pawns move in a straight line.
  • diagonal: pawns must move in a diagonal direction to capture.

patterns: My students have to make their own chessboards, which are made up of 8 rows of 8 squares arranged in alternating light/dark square patterns. This hands-on board making activity reinforces a basic 2nd grade math concept.

As your child begins to learn how to play chess, take every opportunity to discuss the various math concepts you encounter. There are patterns and symmetry. There are moves that create right angles, acute angles, and obtuse angles. There are moves that run parallel and perpendicular.

A great exercise is to have your students draw their possible chess moves and then trace over the lines to reveal the angles that each move creates. Research shows that chess is the perfect game to help increase your student’s overall academic performance. It helps students develop stronger analytical skills. It helps them with logic and reasoning. My students love it and so do I.