Category Archives: Thoughtful Thursday

Because child rearing takes so much thought, especially when home educating.

More on Penmanship

This week I thought I’d share an article on another perspective on penmanship. There are some links in the article that do not work any longer. I tried to do some quick work arounds but was unsuccessful. I’ll try to share some in future weeks. For the calligraphy and graffiti links, just go to pinterest and search calligraphy alphabet or graffiti alphabet and there will be MANY options.

I hope this article will bless you.

Until next time, God bless,

 Michele ºÜº

The Power of Penmanship

By Jeffrey Pflaum

Penmanship can be seen as a follow-the-bouncing-ball mindless activity where children learn the basic strokes of the alphabet. You demonstrate how to make the smalls and caps of the letter “a,” for example. Show kids the method to write the letters and give practice drills so they will get it right. Penmanship, in this manner, becomes a copying and busywork lesson. But as an inner-city elementary school teacher, I created something a little different.

I began each day with a 20-minute handwriting lesson. New letters were presented from Monday through Thursday, and on Friday, I gave a penmanship “test.” For the exam, children wrote, repetitiously, the letters of the week, including words, sentences, and short paragraphs with those letters. Sounds pretty boring, yes?

I introduced a fresh perspective for kids to view cursive writing by saying: “Penmanship is art.” Why? When you write the letters, you’re really drawing them, making sure you’re getting the strokes and the final picture “correct” or as good as you can get it. I was really prompting them to concentrate carefully when doing penmanship. My approach and the handwriting process got their attention, tapping early morning energy to complete the task. It woke them up, and calmed them down, without too much thinking. Penmanship immediately after lunch also helped to focus hyper children with similar results as morning lessons.

In a typical lesson, I modeled the “letters of the day” on the board, showing each individual movement slowly, and, just for the fun of it, exaggerated the size so the class could see it clearly and have a good laugh at my drawing ability. I said, “If you think this is funny, why don’t you come up and draw the letter?” Hands went up quickly. Volunteers tried their best to write the letter while classmates watched intently. We critiqued the drawings in a lighthearted way.

To the class: “Your handwriting doesn’t have to be perfect like letters in penmanship books. But you want it to be easy-to-read and have control over the letters’ strokes. This is not a race to the finish. Practice the letters to create a muscle memory for each so you can improve and write faster and more clearly in future assignments.”

Link penmanship to creative writing: “When you write a story, the mind and imagination are activated: thoughts, feelings, images, ideas, and experiences travel from the brain to your hand where narratives are created. You don’t want these events from your head interrupted because you can’t ‘write’ your experiences.”

To add pizazz, I created and wrote in print, absurd sentences and paragraphs on the board for kids to write in cursive. Example: As the girl sat on the seashore she watched the waves come streaming in and then, in an instant, carry her far into outer space. The class laughed at the silly mind-pictures they visualized while writing the sentence. But I still wanted them to stay focused, despite the distraction, and complete the sentence freely and calmly. This novelty can be expanded through absurd paragraphs and will help motivate distracted and ADD/ADHD kids to focus eyes-and-hands on writing.

An advanced, mindful, “penmanship plus” activity to try is dictation because it teaches important real life and academic skills simultaneously, such as listening, spelling, vocabulary, handwriting, concentration, hand-eye coordination, and self-control. Take passages from novels or create absurd dictation stories for both educational and entertainment value.

An enrichment “cool tool” lesson connected to the penmanship-as-art approach is calligraphy. Show different sample letters written in calligraphy style to inspire kids to develop beautiful handwriting.

Need more fun? Try drawing letters, words, and sayings in graffiti style to motivate kids to write “creatively.”

Now, from the classroom to the homeschool room, here’s how parent-teachers can implement these penmanship methods:

  • Introduce/Demonstrate quote, “Penmanship is art,” and discuss briefly.
  • Model strokes for each “letter of the day.” Explain: “Drawing the letters.”
  • Child/Parent(s) practice writing letters together.
  • Child/Parent(s) review/evaluate their handwriting collaboratively in easy-going way.
  • Create real/absurd sentences/paragraphs using “letter(s) of the day” for cursive writing.
  • Emphasize importance of focusing and relaxing while writing letters.
  • Discuss how practicing letters’ strokes develop “muscle memories.”
  • Penmanship test for letters of week with same letters in words/sentences.
  • Dictation practice using real/surreal sentences/paragraphs.
  • Calligraphy practice by writing letters/words/sentences/inspirational quotations in this style.
  • Graffiti practice by writing words/sentences/motivational quotations in this style.

Penmanship goes beyond a “copying” activity. Its processes can impact children’s self-motivation, self-discipline, concentration, creativity, and physical fitness as well as English language arts skills. Educators of all kinds should think twice about eliminating penmanship practice from instruction because it means losing life-oriented and fundamental learning skills that make Johnny run.

Jeffrey Pflaum worked as an inner-city elementary school teacher where he created original curricula in reading, writing, creativity, poetry, emotional intelligence, character, and values. Pflaum’s book, Motivating Teen and Preteen Readers: How Teachers and Parents Can Lead the Way, resulted from years of empirical classroom research. His students’ poems have been published in magazines, newspapers, and books. More information on his “Contemplation Music Writing Project” can be found at:, and The BAM Radio Network’s blog, EDWords:

Copyright 2016 The Old Schoolhouse® used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the TOS Magazine free at, or read it on the go by downloading the free apps at to read it on your mobile devices.

Mental Math

This week I’m sharing an article about mental math. I thought it was interesting and could be helpful to you and your children. I really liked the games suggestions and personally enjoy Number Quest for working with numbers/math too. :)

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

8 Ways to Foster Mental Math in the Elementary Grades

By Bob Hazen

Mental math is one of the most helpful skills one can acquire. Mental math frees you from feeling enslaved to a calculator. Mental math can make you feel powerful. Mental math saves time—it’s more efficient than paper-and-pencil arithmetic. Mental math is often “good enough” for an answer. And last but not least, mental math is cool: it is cool how the mental math works, it’s cool how helpful the mental math is, it’s cool how much time it saves, and it’s cool being cool. 

Yet for many students, mental math is one of the least acquired skills. How can mental math be fostered and developed? Several dynamics come to mind.

1. Basic Facts

Get the basic facts of +, –, x, and ÷ simply flat-out memorized. No matter where you stand on the use of electronic calculators, and no matter how early a student starts using a calculator, it’s still valuable, even crucial, to have basic facts memorized.

2. Memorization

There are three key dynamics to memorization: repetition, repetition, and repetition. Simply repeating, repeating, and repeating a math fact is all that’s necessary for memorization. Such repetition can occur in many ways: saying/chanting basic facts (6×7=42, 6×7=42, 6×7=42), seeing basic facts, hearing them, writing them, picturing/imagining them, singing them, and staring at them. In our house, we posted basic facts tables on the bathroom wall, so when our kids were sitting on the throne (ahem!) the basic facts were in their field of vision. All of these ways can be part of the repetition-repetition-repetition necessary for memorization to occur. Keep in mind: memorization doesn’t make mastery harder; memorization makes mastery possible.

3. Estimation

Teach estimation, that 69 x 32 is approximately 70 x 30, which is 7×10 x 3×10, which is 7×3 x 10×10, which is 21 x 100 — so 68 x 33 is approximately 2100. Likewise, 69 + 32 is approximately 70 + 30, which is 100, so 69 + 32 is about 100. And 71 – 32 is about 70 – 30, which is 40, so 71 – 32 is about 40.

4. Modeling

Parents, it also is tremendously helpful for you to model out loud your own mental math with your kids. This is what’s called talking your walk, explaining what you’re doing while you’re doing it.

5. Flexible Thinking

I believe the single most helpful dynamic for mental math (after basic fact mastery) is the ability to think of a given quantity in more than one way. Thinking in several and numerous ways. For example, consider the number 58. This quantity of 58 can be thought of as…

58 = 50 + 8 = 5 x 10 + 8 = 40 + 18 = 30 + 28

= 60 – 2 = 6 x 10 – 2 = 70 – 12 = 80 – 22

= 100 – 42 = 100 – 40 – 2 = 100 – 30 – 12 = 100 – 20 – 22

= 2 x 29 = 2 x (25 + 4) = 2 x (30 – 1) = 2 x (35 – 6)

= 5.8 x 10 = 0.58 x 100 = 58% x 100 = 0.058 x 1000

This ability to think in numerous ways about a single quantity represents the fluency and flexibility that students should cultivate. This fluency and flexibility is the opposite of rigidity. Students who are weak in math far too often have a rigid, narrow view of quantity. For example, they think of the quantity 58 as just that, simply and only 58, or possibly as a number that’s just “kinda big.” So, encourage and model flexibility in how to think about different quantities: 1/2 = 2/4 = 3/6 = 4/8; or 3/4 = 0.75 = 75%.

6. The Distributive Property of Multiplication

Okay, I’m getting technical, but another frequent basis for mental math is based on what mathematicians call the distributive property: that with 6 x 58, the 58 can be thought of as (50 + 8), so now the original problem is 6 x (50 + 8.) The distributive property of multiplications says that the 6 distributes itself, or multiplies itself, times both the 50 and the 8, as shown here: 6 x 58 = 6 x (50 + 8) = (6 x 50) + (6 x 8) = 300 + 48 = 348. The distributive property is the basis for a whole lot of accurate, non-estimated mental math.

7. Use Math with Games

Here are some great games that help develop some of the shortcuts of mental math. By the way, parents, these games are the kinds of games that you can and should play with your kids. And any game involving dice or cards usually involves a lot of counting, which leads to the need for shortcuts, which is mental math. Make math games an intentional part of your math homeschooling and remember: game time is a time for practicing math, not for teaching math. A child should know how to add before playing a game that requires addition. Game time is for practicing math.

Yahtzee: Scoring here often involves both multiplication and addition, with lots of opportunities for the older players (both parents and older siblings) to count out loud how they calculated their score.

Monopoly: Counting spaces on the board, adding up different dollar denominations to pay rent ($85 rent could be 1 twenty + 6 tens + 5 ones, or give a one-hundred-dollar bill and get back $15 in change, etc.).

Cribbage: This classic card game has a scoreboard, the cribbage board, marked in groups of five holes, which makes counting easier and teaches mental math shortcuts.

Parcheesi (the game of Sorry is a modern version): This ancient game, played by monarchs and commoners for thousands of years, also teaches addition, subtraction, and flexible thinking about quantities.

Backgammon: Ditto the above re: Parcheesi.

Math Dice: This modern game (sold by ThinkFun) is great for all operations of arithmetic.

8. Use Math at Home

Show your kids how math is used at home. First, anything involving a tape measure, like carpentry and sewing, is great for learning fractions. Second, we taught our boys how to bake at an early age. Measuring cups show fractions and fraction equivalents and counting carefully and exactly is important. It’s easy to show that 3/4 cup of water is the same as 3 x 1/4 cup of water. I refer to baking as “math you can eat!” Third, when you take your kids grocery shopping, use mental math to keep track of prices.

Enjoy all of this and avoid tedium. Don’t ever make math a punishment. Not everything can be “fun,” but things can certainly be done with enjoyment—especially on the part of us parents!

Besides teaching full-time middle school and high school mathematics for 27 years, Bob Hazen also taught math in a pilot project to two regular first-grade classrooms using algebra, calculus, music, and manipulatives. He is the founder of SAI: the Summer Algebra Institute for Kids, where more than 3,200 students as young as third grade have learned substantive, hands-on algebra. He has also served on adjunct faculty at several colleges, is a regular speaker at education conferences, and

for quite a few years was a homeschool dad. You may contact Bob at (651) 645-4432, email him at, or by visiting his website,

Copyright 2018 The Old Schoolhouse® used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the TOS Magazine free at, or read it on the go by downloading the free apps at to read it on your mobile devices.

Read the Story of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine
and how it came to be.

Nintendo Switch: Mario Odyssey

Mario Odyssey ~ Lifeofjoy.meOkay, I just have to say it . . . if your children like video games, Mario Odyssey is wonderful. It is only on the Nintendo Switch so that is a drawback. Sean recently purchased one and got the Mario game.

This game, as well as other games, I would think, has some benefits to your children. ;) It helps with coordination and motor skills. It has puzzles to solve but not in the way most people probably think of puzzles. These puzzles are the kind where you have to figure out how to achieve the stated goal.

There are maps, which is a good skill to learn. And there is even an bit of aerobic workout. :D Okay, that one is probably stretching it a bit, but my heart definitely was pumping and I even broke into a slight sweat at one time. :D

I wouldn’t call this an educational game but it is fun and has some good qualities (listed above). I cannot think of any reason that I could not recommend this game.

If you played Mario 64, you will notice some nods to that game. It made me smile. And it had some “flat” Paper Mario type segments with game play like the first Super Mario I played when I was younger. Lots of fun!

OH! And after you beat the big boss and see the credits, there is still some adorable game play left!!! They definitely did this game right! Okay, I’ll stop gushing now. ;)

Hope you didn’t mind my little review of this wonderful game today.

Until next time, God bless

Michele ºÜº

Nice Freebie Printables Resource

Easter Freebies ~ Lifeofjoy.meThis week I want to share an Easter copywork freebie. If you go here to WriteBonnieRose and sign up for her newsletter. It is totally worth it though because she sends freebies a lot. The one I got recently with the links to these freebies, also had about six other freebies.

The Easter freebies are copywork in both cursive and print. As well as pictures to color, if desired.

One of the other freebies is a Bible memorization activity pack that has some different worksheets to help with scripture memorization, like word searches, color by number and such. There are several activities for each scripture verse. The verses are in the ESV though but you could probably adjust it without too much trouble.

There’s even a freebie for language arts of writing prompts about “If I were President.” Lots of different subjects.

I hope you enjoy these freebies.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº


I find having routines help me be more productive. It also helped me a lot when the children were still schooling, as it enabled them to know what was expected of them and accomplish it.

I attempted scheduling, you know, with times and everything but that did not work for us at all! Times made it a total bust for us. BUT having the list of things that needed to be done, and even an order in which to accomplish them, was very helpful.

I recently have added to my short morning routine and now I’m getting a lot more things done each day. I’m not following it 100% but I’m getting way more accomplished than without something in writing.

Routines ~ Lifeofjoy.meAbove is my routines from my bullet journal. I don’t mark anything off; it’s just for reference. (It is odd that the brightest colors on the page, scanned the lightest.)

You have some kind of routines now, whether they are good or bad only you can say. For years I had bad routines, ones in which I flew by the seat of my pants and got little accomplished. It feels good to be more productive with my days. I’ve heard it said, many times, that the best way to get a good start in the morning is to plan for it the night before. So I’ve added to my evening routine.

On this Home Organization website, there is some help, ideas, and printables to guide you, if you are interested.

I hope you’ll give writing down your routines a try.

Until next time, God bless,

 Michele ºÜº

St. Patrick Freebie and More

St Patrick Unit ~ Lifeofjoy.meI’ve got a few time sensitive freebies for you today.

The first one is a free unit study on Saint Patrick just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Since I’m already an email subscriber, I just clicked the link and was taken to the download page. So click here, sign up for their emails (very few), and get your free unit study.

The second one is a freebie or two when you sign up for the emails (also very few) over at Enrichment Studies. There is an Easter enrichment unit free to subscribers. Down at the bottom of the page under Recommended Resources is a listing of some art works (with samples) with a suggested schedule of use in a free pdf.

The last is a freebie reminder. Don’t forget to check out Homeschool Freebie of the Day (and go back to older pages as well, as some older items are still available). One freebie I found interesting was the “Make your own cartoon printables”. I followed the link but it didn’t go to what I thought it would. So, here is a link to the printables page on that website. It is a pretty cool site and even has some free ebooks, on top of the hundreds of single printables available.

I hope you find these useful.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Disciplining Part 2

Discipline Part 2 ~ Lifeofjoy.meThe biggest resource I had when my children were little, other than the Bible, was a small book from Michael and Debi Pearl, To Train Up A Child. One of the biggest things I learned was to expect first time obedience from children. This meant no counting . . . 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . because that only teaches the child that you don’t mean it until you get to three. :o Shocking, I know.

Now I have to admit that it has been ages since I read that book, as in sometime in the 90’s, but I believe that it had a lot of valuable tips. I probably don’t agree with it 100% but then the only thing I do agree with 100% is the Bible. ;) If you are in need of some help in this area, I recommend getting this little book. I found that it is now available on Amazon.

A book Tiffany read in the last couple of years and told me about, is Bringing Up Bebe, which shares the experiences of an American family living in France and how child rearing is different in the two places. There were so many good points in this book that I bought it. It talks about having specific times children eat, ensuring they eat healthily, greet adults properly, and how they are taught to be sage or wise. (There are a few cuss words in it though. We are removing those words from our copy. ;) )

We didn’t do “time outs” much when my children were little. There were probably some occasions when I did but I don’t recall that being a big part of disciplining them. However, when a time out is used, it is important to be diligent and not let the time go beyond what is appropriate. I did some research and basically learned that if time out is used, it should only last as many minutes as the years of age. For example, a six year old would have a six minute time out and a two year old would have a two minute time out. I also learned that a timer should be set in the child’s view, so that they can see when it will be over.

These are important points because you do not want to provoke your child to anger. I am certain that longer time outs than what is appropriate for the child is anger provoking and thus probably not very helpful in the long run.

Another thing I found was that the time out should be in the same area where the family is at the time  not sent to another part of the house. Of course, I’m sure there are exceptions to this.

I’ll close today with this link to an article I thought had some good Biblical tips on parenting. I hope it blesses you.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

Disciplining Children

Discipling Children ~ Lifeofjoy.meDisciplining children is such a difficult subject but it is so vital to a happy family. There were two big areas I struggled: consistency and attitude.

Be Consistent

It is draining to raise children, especially when they are in the ages that they are pushing limits. It is imperative that you remain consistent. If you say something, be prepared to enforce it because if you slip once, your child(ren) will remember that they got away with it once and hope that this will be another time they will be able to do that thing. It is in your best interest and in your child’s best interest to let your word be your bond and always say what you mean.

If you tell your child not to do something, they need to know that you are going to back up what you say. In other words, that you mean what you say. If you say that they are not getting dessert if they don’t pick up their toys but then when it is time for dessert, you cave and give them some even though they did not pick up their toys, you have just taught them that YOU do NOT mean what you say.

When you tell a young child not to touch something and they touch it anyway, quickly remove the object from their person (be it their hands or their foot or elbow or whatever body part they touched the object with), calmly but firmly tell them “no no” and lightly smack their hand. This does not have to hurt them. The point is to let them know that this is not allowed. Now it may be necessary as the child gets older to smack them a bit harder but this brings me to my next point, never out of anger.

Don’t Discipline Out of Anger

When you are angry, it is so easy to discipline out of anger because so many times you get frustrated having told the child numerous times about the thing already or they’ve broken something they weren’t even supposed to touch or they are making a scene in public. But the best thing to do is to take a deep breath and get control of yourself before disciplining your child for his/her inappropriate behavior.

End With Love

Once the  discipline time is over, be it a timeout or a swat, hug the child and reassure him/her of your love for the child. This one is vital. This lets the child know that you still love him/her even though he/she did something that was unacceptable.

This has gone long enough for today. I’ll get into some specifics and resources next week.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº

D’Nealian Handwriting

d'nealian links ~ Lifeofjoy.meI’ve been wanting to better my manuscript handwriting for a while. I have a Creative Lettering workbookish thing I got from Aldi several weeks ago. I haven’t used it yet but I did look through it the other day and found that it isn’t quite what I’m wanting right now but I will use it this year, I think.

I decided that I’m really interested in D’Nealian handwriting style because it is an italic style handwriting and it generally looks really nice. I did a little research about it and found that it is more natural for some kids to learn. But as with most things, each child is different, so what may work best for one may not work so good for others.

If you have a child that struggles with handwriting, maybe you should change up the style you are using with that child.

Here are some links I found:

  • k12reader has some worksheets to print for learning to form the letters. There are individual pages you can download and print or all of the upper case in one and all of the lower case in one.
  • If you are unsure of how to form the letters, you can find videos on youtube that run through them. I increased the speed to 2x so that I wouldn’t have to agonizingly sit through it going so slowly. ;) Here’s one that is sped up 3X already. :)
  • Here are some worksheets at writing wizard for both ball and stick and D’nealian handwriting.
  • If you want to make your own worksheets, you can use this webpage over on handwritingpractice.
  • Here is one more youtube video that has directions, by an instructor in how to form the letters. She teaches them in groups of like construction. I’ve linked to the first lesson but if you click here, you will go to the page where the other 6 are located.

Over on, in response to a person’s question some suggestions were made for strengthening a child’s fine motor skills by giving them opportunities to use those muscles in a fun way by cutting, finger painting, playing with play dough and such. Here’s the link, the information you want is the second paragraph right after the A:, although it isn’t spaced quite right (if the paragraph you read doesn’t seem right, read the one before it. ;) )

I hope these are helpful to you. They were to me. :)

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº