Tag Archives: teaching with toys


I can finally cross this project off my list of good intentions!

The original idea came from my daughter Jana’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Benson, but she used white frosting tubs. Each week they highlighted a letter of the alphabet and the kids brought items for the jar.

I loved the idea of having see-through jars, but if you have toddlers and glass isn’t an enticing idea for a manipulative, you might choose the plastic alternative.

I started with 26 baby food jars. Thanks, cutest granddaughter, Brookie!
I bought a can of gray spray paint ($3) and alphabet stickers ($5).
I can’t believe how expensive stickers are!
You could choose a cheaper option, but I loved that they were puffy, plasticy and bright.
I spray-painted the lids outside on a sheet of plastic.
One coat covered the colored caps well.

It dried in four hours.

Beka and I applied the lower case stickers to the lids

and uppercase stickers to the jars.

For her first grade phonics, Beka is excited to fill the jars
with little items that begin with the letter on the jar.
We began scouring the house today for tiny plastic animals,
monopoly movers, and scrabble letters.

Other ways to use the jars:

1.  Match the upper-case letters on the jars to the lower-case letters on the lids.
2.  Cut out alphabets words from magazines to put into each jar.
3.  Cut out pictures from magazines to put into each jar. You could choose a theme like animals or food.
4.  Use the jar lids to spell simple words.
5. Give the student an ending like “in”, “at” or “it” and have them choose the beginning consonants to form words.
6. Give them the beginning and ending consonant of a three letter word and have them fill in the correct vowel.
7.  Give them a beginning sound like “ba“, “pi”, “bi” and have them choose a final consonant to form a word.
8. Choose a letter and have your child choose the letter that comes after.
9. Choose a letter and have your child choose the letter that comes before.
10. Choose two letters and have your child choose the letter that comes in between.
How you would use the alphabet jars?

I’d love to have your input on this project!



part 2

Breaking the Monotony of Homeschooling

I have to admit, after 15 years of home schooling, there can be some monotony. The books all look the same. The phonics charts become tedious. The miles of handwriting worksheets are overwhelming.



We all know


“If Momma Ain’t Happy


Ain’t Nobody Happy.”




I have been forced to find ways to make Momma and Company Happy. Last spring I began playing more phonic games and doing less of the repetitious charts. I threw away several handwriting worksheets and allow Beka to write letters, love notes to me (aren’t they sweet at that age?) or copy something instead.




When that no longer was working, I created a new variation to break the monotony. I explained to Beka how her Grandma Mary used to teach in a one room school room in North Dakota. I sent her to search her dress-ups for appropriate clothing, we gathered students, also dressed them appropriately, and she school began.
I quickly explained the worksheet to Beka and she “taught” it to her students, asking questions and filling in the right answers. It was adorable!

My Mom really isn’t this old, but we also garnished ideas from our cherished “Anne of Green Gables.” Notice the old school bell? The adorable elf rubber stamps were a gift from my mother-in-law when I first began teaching.

These model students are attentively listening to Miss Rebekah explain the phonics rules. After they finished phonics, they listened to their teacher read out loud.

As we begin a new year, I am praying for the inspiration to KEEP the monotony away instead of fighting it back, to keep our enthusiasm high and to keep learning exciting.