Category Archives: Classroom Management

Classroom Reveal 2015-2016

Before I take you on a tour of our schoolroom, which I prefer to refer to as “the library” I will introduce you to the cast of characters here at CandL HomeLearning.

  • Curly, our oldest son, will soon be 17 years old. He’s a Junior this year, but he’s also enrolled in a class at the nearby Community College for Dual Enrollment.
  • Larry, our second oldest son, is 15 years old. He’s a Freshman this year, and he’s excited to rise to the challenge of taking accelerated courses.
  • Mo, our third oldest son, just turned 13 years old this summer, and he’s looking forward to tackling 7th grade head-on and so far he’s risen to the challenge.
  • Li’l Bro, our youngest son, turned 10 years old this summer, and he’s ready to be a 4th grader. He’s still trying to figure out where he fits in best, whether tagging along with his almost-twin sister or wanting to be with the big boys too.
  • Li’l Miss, our oldest daughter, is 9 years old but just 4 months younger than Li’l Bro, and she’s excited to continue learning in 4th grade this year.
  • Li’l Bit, our youngest daughter and the baby of the family, is 5 years old, and she couldn’t be more excited about being a Kindergartner this year and being “in real school” with her brothers and sister.


These wonderful T-shirts were designed by Mo and Li’l Miss, and we’re really happy with the way they turned out after ordering them custom on-line. Some of the biggest kids decided they’d rather not wear them on the “same day” as their siblings, but they were gracious enough to pose for a photo for me.

As my students enter our library, which is where 75% of our bookwork, as I like to call it, is done, they can see our rules at the top of the door. They are as follows: Continue reading


Why Can’t I Multiply Myself: Meeting Needs of Learners of Multiple Ages and Abilities

Over the last five years, I’ve had students as young as 4 and students as old as 16. In fact, this year, I again have a 4-year-old in my class and for the first time ever I have a 16-year-old in my class. In all honesty, I don’t call the place where I teach a classroom. Instead, I refer to it as our library.


When I think of what I hope to happen over the course of our days of learning, I think of scenes from a well-functioning library: students of many ages and abilities coming to a central location to learn at their own pace and from resources created for their unique levels and interests.

I will share four ways I have implemented a successful learning environment for students from preschool to high school.


1. Since I can’t multiply myself, I make myself available at specific times for specific students.


Many teachers do this everyday. You are most likely meeting with small groups or individual students over the course of a typical school day.


Each morning, I begin with my most needy student, who happens to be the youngest in my class at age 4. When I spend one-on-one time with her first, the rest of the day is always smoother and more productive. This time always includes reading a few books together, some of my choosing and some of hers, and on Mondays we also begin a new letter focus for our week.



After our focused time together, I encourage her to peruse independent activities from her workboxes. I won’t lie. She has been my most difficult student to embrace independent learning, but with time and patience she is learning this time can be rewarding and fun.

At the same time I am working with my little Pre-Kindergartner, my oldest, who is in 10th grade, is busy working on the laptop, which is shared between my four students. Also during this time, my two 3rd graders are working independently on reading to themselves, listening to an audio recording of a book they are reading along in, and/or grabbing one of their own workboxes from their ELA or Math shelves.


After my time with the PreKer, I move into group time with my 3rd graders, which could be a math lesson, a spelling lesson, a writing workshop, science or history lesson, or a combination of a few of the above. Since we homeschool, we definitely don’t do a group lesson on each subject every day, but we do spend time on each subject every week for a targeted time of learning new content. On this particular day below during a Math Group lesson on multiplication, we were working on a wonderful Multiplication Array activity shared by Elementary AMC.


I have found posting a daily schedule for all to see not only helps my students to not say constantly, “Will you help me with this?” It also helps ME to stay on task and be present and available when I have said I would be.


2. About those workboxes, they are necessary, needs-based, functional, and fulfilling.



My 10th grader has obviously moved beyond the workbox, so I’ll leave him out of this topic. I have used and continue to use workboxes with my elementary students as well as my preschool student. I don’t have a huge budget, which I’m sure is the case for 99.99999% of teachers everywhere. I needed a way to have a work surface and workbox storage for my then 2nd graders. I turned to Pinterest of course. I used Cubeicals from Tar-Get and a table top purchased from a secondhand store to make a large work surface with space for 18 Cubes underneath. The green bin on each side is mine, and I use it to store things for the following week.

For my preschooler, I repurposed an old shoe cabinet (cleaned up of course) and some cloth bins that used to be in my closet!



My 3rd graders have two sets of workboxes: one for ELA and the other for Math. They also have color-coded boxes, so they know where to go for their things and where to return those things. Often, they have similar or the same items but not always. In this way, I can differentiate as needed when I place new items in their workboxes before the start of each week.


 I use two resources available for FREE on TpT to help them move through their boxes each day: Math Rotation labels and Daily ELA labels. I printed both 3 to a page to fit my space and I use painted clothespins, which correspond to each student by color, for managing the available choices each day.

3. Use common resources with specific additions that meet individual learning goals.


You may be scratching your head here. Let me give three examples. I have these photo blocks that I purchased along with a membership to access cards to fit them. The cards range from preschool level to upper elementary, so on any given week I can pull out these blocks to include in our workboxes. Then I just add cards accordingly for my preschooler and my 3rd graders.

In the photo below, my Pre-Kindergartner is working on one-to-one correspondence.


 My 3rd graders were working on adding three or more two-digit numbers. If you need an active math center, this might be a good option! The blocks are active but they are QUIET. Each of these activities were included in their work boxes and were clipped with Math Games on our Math Rotations board.


 I created this game for my preschooler to work on number recognition and counting, however when trying to work with multiple students of different ages and abilities I have found simple games such as this can absolutely be used with a bit of differentiation among players.


While my Pre-Kindergartener was just naming her numbers and finding that same number on the board to which to move, my 3rd grades were working on multiplication facts! They would draw two cards while she drew just one. She named her number and found that space. They found the product of their two cards and chose one of the numbers to move to on the board. It made learning fun and achievable with these multi-age learners.



Finally, I made Math Manipulative boxes for our students this summer. While each box contains the same “ingredients” if you will, my students can use them at their own ability levels and as tools during their independent learning times.



If you’d like more specific information about these boxes, you can read about them HERE.


4. Using assistance is key to our success in this unique learning environment.

I will share just two of a few ways I use assistance in our learning adventures: technology and a tutorial. For those in a more traditional classroom, you may be wondering what is a tutorial and what does it have to do with classroom needs. A tutorial is a one-day-a-week (or sometimes two days) program where I drop off our students for a full day of rotating classes with same-age peers and tutors who guide the students in that particular subject. At tutorial, our students are exposed to various teaching styles, to a more traditional classroom environment, and lastly they are accountable to someone other than me.

While classroom teachers aren’t using a tutorial, you may very well be in a setting where you rotate and teach certain subjects. I like having someone to assist me in this teaching adventure, and I hope you have a team approach in your classrooms as well!


As far as technology, we use the computer and my iPad along with several websites, particularly the following:

• Tumblebooks (this is free to us as we have a library code; perhaps your school or local library has one as well)

I love that my students can follow along as each book is read. I also love that this site works beautifully on a tablet device! Each book has the appropriate reading level already assigned and they are divided into story books, language learning, chapter books, fiction, and non-fiction.

• IXL Math (and Language Arts)

We use this exclusively for math review and practice. I love that it features individual student accounts and that at any time I can view and/or print a report for each student’s progress. While it is divided by grades, students are allowed to use any grade level or multiple grade levels, which makes differentiation a breeze. Also, the CCSS are included and state standards as well for those who need this information for reporting purposes.

This site isn’t free, but there are no ads and they do offer discounts through various ways such as school licenses and through sites specific to homeschooling like Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.

Reflex Math

Again, a paid site but to me it is worth the cost for the absence of ads and the reports it generates in addition to its intuitiveness. Each student works on fact families at their own pace in addition, subtraction, multiplication and/or division.

Both IXL and Reflext Math have a built-in rewards system, which can be extra motivation for reluctant learners or those with a competitive spirit!

In addition to these sites, we use the computer for keyboarding practice and writing through typing. Even my youngest learner can find her way around the iPad. One other tip I’ll add: each of my students has their own set of headphones that are comfy and make it possible for them to use these devices anywhere in our library without disturbing students around them. I also set up a blog where my students can access free choice websites during independent tech time. You can find it here.

One last piece of advice: don’t underestimate the resources available for FREE from your local library! If you have a listening center in your classroom, you may be missing out if you aren’t checking out the wide range of audiobooks available at your local library. These work well on tablets and/or your desktop computers, and your students will be polishing up those reading skills if you also pair them with the actual book for them to follow along!


While you are working one-one-one with a student or small group of students, other students can be working independently on a device or computer with many options for ELA or math or a combination of both!

I hope you have found some helpful information in this article that perhaps you can use in your own classroom among your students. With just a bit of creativity and stretching, we can teach children of different abilities in one room, and in the process our students learn that all of us have something to offer and we can all learn from one another!


A Walk Around Our Library {A.K.A. The Schoolroom}

We are so blessed to have a room dedicated to school. I know the thoughts are mixed on this, but for us with six children I’m so thankful we have a place to land. We don’t always stay in the room for every subject or every assignment, of course, but we do use this room A LOT every day, including Saturdays and Sundays.

I call it the library and our one-room schoolhouse!

Without further ado, here’s a look around the room from a wide-angle viewpoint.


This photo was taken panoramic from the end of the room next to our supply shelves looking toward the front with our large window and 15-foot-long bench seat! That spot gets used A LOT too as the sun comes over our home and doesn’t flood the window until late afternoon as the sun is going down. I love curling on this bench with a good book and a few little ones crowded around me (and sometimes some furry friends too). Continue reading


Getting Organized! School is in Session on Monday!

I have had a LOT of piles going on in our library … piles of books, piles of notebooks, piles of trash bags, piles of NEWLY purchased school supplies including Ticonderoga pencils! It always feels good to clean out stuff you know you’ll never use again, and it feels good to try some new things and some old faithfuls (like those pencils)! I snagged a pile of spiral notebooks because Office Depot had them for 1 cent! They let me get up to 10 of each color, but I think I ended up with 5 of each.


I started working on our new “I Can Write A … ” board on Tuesday.

I didn’t get to work on it again until today, and I LOVE the way it turned out. Here is a very poor-quality picture of the BEFORE including yet another pile that is now gone as of today!


The resource includes so many writing choices that I didn’t have space to put them all up on the board at one time, but I think that is a good thing! I am still finishing up the notebook with all of the full-size writing helps and templates, but I have it all printed out! I should add Joey doesn’t suggest putting all of the templates in a notebook, but I’m going to *try* it since I have just two students using this! I reserve the right to adjust as needed. 😉 Continue reading


Is Spending Time in the Outdoors a Lost Art?

Recently, I read about how some states don’t allow the loss of recess for behavior management while others still allow it. I can’t even imagine the huge responsibility today’s teachers have to manage classrooms and the behavior struggles of some of their students, but I do tend to agree that recess and time OUTSIDE is GOOD for students and shouldn’t be taken away. This infographic below doesn’t speak well for America in regards to physical activity for schoolchildren.


When I informed my 14YO son, who will be entering 8th grade, that there is no recess at school, he was speechless. In China, where he attended school until age 10, they were given a 2-hour break each day plus they went outside twice a day no matter the temperature or weather. Exercise is very important to the Chinese people, so it isn’t something they’re willing to give up even at school.

We don’t call it recess here, rather we call it “GET OUTSIDE! NOW!”

OK, I exaggerate. I don’t always say that, but I do send them outside and I engage with them outside too. Like today, when I took 4 of our 6 children down to the creek. Li’l Miss and Li’l Bit made a wading pool and searched for found objects like Indian money (or fossils) and feathers and smoothed glass that was once a shard but has been smoothed on the edges by the constant running water of the creek.

My oldest son and youngest son took their fishing poles and both caught some fish. They showed their sisters how to safely grab a fish without getting spiked by his fins, and they observed the differences between the fish they caught.


Not only that, we were all out in the sun gathering some vitamin K. When we’re outside, we do wear the appropriate sunblock, but our bodies do naturally need things the sunshine provides in moderation.

We also pick fresh veggies and fruit, take care of them, and tend to animals and our property while outside as well. I don’t have any photos I can find of us playing football or riding bikes, because I’m often in the middle of the mix. My point is that I do think time in the outdoors has so many benefits.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. I know for many if not most classroom teachers, you aren’t given a choice but are rather told what time outdoors is and how long it is: please share if you feel more is needed or less or how the allotted time outdoors you and your class are given affects the school day.


Monday Made It {July 14}

Spending a few days in VEGAS with the Prez and more than 800 teachers at the TpT conference left my garden in desperate need of attention … but that didn’t stop me from making some FRESH SALSA on Monday afternoon with produce plucked right out of the garden.


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What do you think? My version has the same ingredients as this yummy version we pay dearly for at Sammy’s Club. After blanching the tomatoes, chopping them along with  jalapeño peppers, onions, and cilantro, I understand the cost! We will make more as we have tomatoes and cilantro. YUM-MY! Can you tell which one is mine???

Speaking of tomatoes, my next Made It involves more fresh food goodness!

Button+2Nothing really to show here except I am picking several cherry tomatoes a day now. I pick them and Li’l Bit eats them. 😀 She LOVES fresh tomatoes as much as her Momma! End of story.

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And yesterday, the kids and I headed out to pick more blackberries for jam. Sadly, we didn’t find enough for a batch. Not to worry, we had them for dinner with a yummy topping full of cake mix and butter. 😀 While we were out hunting for blackberries, we harvested a 5-gallon bucket of corn! And promptly ate several ears of it for dinner. Yes, I made it in the microwave folks. Just keeping it real.

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Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I actually kept our microwave in the GARAGE for 10 years and rarely used it. Ahem. Then we moved and it moved back into the kitchen. And it is so tempting, setting there mocking me, as if to say, Use me. Use me. I am so fast. And I radiate your food. You know you like it! Alas, we ate it and we are all still here. But it wasn’t as good as it would have been if I had cooked it in a rolling boil over time. Next time, I will!

Button+3And finally, I got out of the kitchen and made something for our library. Actually, I ordered some things from Tar-get ON SALE last week, printed some things and put it all together! I knew that I had to make some changes to our lovely table I made from cubeicals and a repurposed tabletop. It is a wonderful space, but it just wasn’t working as I envisioned.

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I think I have it figured out now. Instead of each of my 3rd grade students having one side, I now have it divided with math bins in one side and ELA bins in the other. Each of my 3rd grade students has 4 bins and we’ll use those along with the rotation ribbons I made a few months ago from {here} and {here}. I printed them out 3 to a page to get the size I wanted, and they are still very readable and work perfectly with my 2 clips for 2 students! The middle cube in green is for ME to use for things I will put in their bins throughout the week and/or upcoming weeks or just for a lesson that day. I think I like it!

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I am most excited about the Interactive Word Wall I made using Letter circles I purchased {here} and that blank space above will be housing {this} which I still need to finish printing. I CANNOT WAIT. Then, you may see the vertical magnetic space is next to our math bins and now houses our Calendar a bit lower for my PreKer  to help with and I plan to keep the items on here above the calendar rotating weekly. Again, I think I like it!

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photo 4

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Here is a close-up of that Interactive Word Wall. I hope it will help us in our quest for spelling words correctly. They can take these off the wall and to the table or desk across the room. They can add to it and once a circle is full of correctly spelled words, I will laminate it for durability.

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I’m linking up with 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It!



What to Do on A{nother} Rainy Day?

A). I could cry. Literally a river. As I watch our garden inundated yet again with torrential downpours. Just for reference: here’s is our otherwise lovely creek. Except right now it is swollen and way outside its banks. Bummer!

IMG_0191B). Or I could curl up with a good book like these two, which I have never finished but really want to finish.

IMG_2398C). Or I could attempt to clean up this pile that mocks me every single time I enter our library.

IMG_1935D). Or I could get some long overdue things printed like my new Alphabet Page Protector Printable Set and my fantastic new TpT and Blogging Planning Binder and actually display these Number Posters that I created awhile ago and sell in my TpT store.

IMG_0216IMG_0221IMG_2390E). Or I could try to finally finish up a new product I’ve been working on which involves a candy theme and fact fluency. Here’s a little sneak peak!

photo 2F). Or I could do all of the above! I have done some of these things today and yesterday as the rains have continued to fall and fall and fall.

Let’s see. How did I do? Continue reading


Five Free and Frugal Ideas for Your Classroom

Here’s five free and frugal ideas you can use for educational pursuits today!


1. REPURPOSE plastic pieces leftover from broken or partially misplaced games.

Use them for new game markers for:

  • homemade or TpT games (like the ones in my store)
  • sorting
  • matching
  • counting
  • one-to-one correspondence


2. ACCESS to read and/or listen to thousands of FREE books with audio and highlighted text.


  • You can sort by type of book, age, reading level, etc.
  • If you have an account with your local library, be sure to ask if they have a tumblebooks account. We are able to access it completely FREE with our library’s code!
  • This site is formatted to work on tablet devices as well as your laptop!


3. TRY simple scientific experiments with your students!

They can be done with items you DEFINITELY have on hand and will DEFINITELY inspire your students to seek out even more LEARNING opportunities!




  • A review of the Commutative Property with four glasses of water, two with a smaller but equal amount and two with a larger but equal amount.
  • Does it matter if you add the glass with the lesser amount of water to the glass with the larger amount OR if you add the glass with the larger amount to the glass with the lesser amount?
  • No it doesn’t! Whether you add 4 + 6 for instance or 6 + 4, you still get 10!
  • Try it especially if your students are struggling to understand why the two amounts are in fact equal no matter which way you add them up!




  • All you need for this experiment is MAGNETS of various sizes and objects to test whether they are magnetic or not!
  • If you have them, brass brads are the MOST FUN, especially with a large and very attractive magnet!
  • Challenge your students to see how many they can pick up with just one magnet!

4. GO OUTSIDE and explore in nature.


Whether you can find a nearby creek or just a nearby tree or field to explore, get outside and see what you can discover with your students! The world is our classroom!


5. SAVE PAPER and packaging you find in products you buy.

It has so many uses, not to mention it doesn’t end up in the trash or recycling bin quite yet!

  • Paper piecing: you might notice the chicken pictures in the picture below. They were created with scrap papers including another piece of brown paper that was salvaged from packaging!
  • The history projects on the top of the shelves in the picture below were also saved from the round file! They were intended to be the back of some cubeical shelves, but my Dad made me real wood back instead. These very sturdy (but still paper) boards were the perfect size for 2nd grade history projects!

Here is a close-up shot of one of the projects in progress!


  • Instant mural! (this paper below that our children turned into a mural of space “and other things” was wadded up as padding in a package of books I ordered.

These ideas are free and frugal, yet they are sure to enrich the education of those you teach! If you have some more ideas, PLEASE do SHARE in the comments!


Another Post About My Desk

How is that for a hook?

Yes I have rearranged my desk again. Actually, I never really arranged it. Until now. It has looked like this … well usually messier … than this. For nine months.

Not bad for nearly one year since we purchased our new home, and nine months since we moved in. Mind you, things weren’t finished when we moved in (and still aren’t), but the library was a top priority and was *mostly* finished.


But my desk. That is another story. The word piles comes to my mind. A fairly accurate description actually. Workspace would definitely not be an accurate description of my desk these last nine months.

IMG_8880 Continue reading


What Is Homeschooling?

I get asked a lot or rather people will just say (rather than ask): “I don’t see how you do it. Teach all of them at different levels and ages. I couldn’t do it.”


{Deep breath.}

I don’t teach them all.


GASP. (Did any of you just gasp?) Continue reading