Add-a-Square Blocks


To all my friends, collectors and lovers of esoteric educational equipment…

Have you ever seen these add-a-square blocks?  I received two boxes of them recently that were being discarded from a local elementary school.  I can see quite easily how to use them in similar ways to Math-U-See blocks or Cuisenaire rods, but they are different enough to be interesting to me.

I would love to know the history of these blocks (there’s no company or address listed on the boxes) and whether anyone every published any books or pamphlets of educational activities designed to be done with these blocks.  The general answerer of odd questions, Google, has so far turned up empty (“add-a-square” is too general a name and comes up too often, even when searched together with other terms).

They’re delightful little hardwood squares with non-toxic paint (so says the side of the box) and we find them fascinating.  So please, if you’ve seen them, or have other leads I could use to track them down, let me know!

Muffin Tin Monday for the 4th of July


The kids and I enjoyed a simple summer muffin tin lunch – blueberries, strawberries, blue corn chips, and a white chicken chili topped with white cheddar cheese.

KarateKid almost needs two tins now; the food in just one tin usually isn’t enough to satisfy him for lunch.  I hate to abandon muffin tins – they have been so much fun over the years – but I’m not sure that filling 12 cups for my growing boy would be practical or nearly as cute!  One tin holds plenty for a snack but sometimes I do still like to use them at lunchtime.  What should I do?

Muffin Tin Monday at


For our family, summer means different things.  A slew of birthdays and parties, the final performances of a play, a big change in routine, the tastes and sounds of a delightful new season, and the celebration and excitement of starting a new grade.


We learn year-round and so our official grades change when the academic year changes, for the purposes of filing our paperwork.  It seems that every year, when July 1st rolls around, the kids (and I!) get so excited by the official new beginning that we dive into more purposeful learning for a few weeks.  We’re certainly out-of-sync with the folks around us when we do this, but it’s so nice to be able to follow our own learning tides.  It also gives us the feeling that by September, when our favorite parks and museums are empty again, and the weather is a little more tolerable, we’ll be ready for the tide to shift back to more time spent out and about.  How do you enjoy summer?

Carnival of Homeschooling is Up at Home Spun Juggling

Carnival of Homeschooling

The Carnival of Homeschooling: The Balloon Dog Lessons is now up!  Head over to find a lovely variety of homeschooling posts, including one of mine.

Sesamoid Stress; or, The Lengths I Go To For Fashionable Footwear

For two weeks now, I’ve been wearing this on my right foot:


Gorgeous, isn’t it?

The story behind it is anything but simple.  Three weeks ago today, I woke up with some pain and stiffness in the ball of my foot and my big toe joint.  I figured this might have to do with how I slept or the changing weather – I know I’ve got some serious arthritis in my future, and I figured this might be an early taste.  But as the day wore on, the pain got worse instead of better.  By that night, I could hardly sleep.  My foot was so sensitive that even my husband pulling the sheets across my body would wake me up, and it would take me at least an hour to get even close to dozing off again.

First thing the next morning, I went in to a walk-in clinic.  Here’s where it got very frustrating: at the end of the exam, the doctor literally shrugged his shoulders at me and told me he had no idea what was wrong.  He had done a standard x-ray and told me nothing was broken, and he had sent up some blood work to check for infection or possibly gout (which can be exacerbated by my blood thinner, so that was a tiny possibility) but he didn’t see any evidence for either of those.  He did give me a prescription for painkillers, then sent me home to follow up in a few days if it wasn’t better.

That day and the rest of that week were pretty rotten.  The pain didn’t get any better; I couldn’t go up and down stairs, so I had to catch what sleep I could on the couch.  I could take painkillers every 4 hours, but only got a little relief for the middle two hours of each dose.  The week is pretty much a blur of pain and exhaustion.  I am so lucky that my kids are independent and loving: there were plenty of movie marathons and lots of computer games, but they kept each other company, stayed safe, clean, and fed, with only minimal input from me while their dad was at work.

Finally, that Friday morning, I got in to see a podiatrist, who told me after about 60 seconds that he was guessing it was a stress fracture of a sesamoid bone, and would do a specialized x-ray to help confirm.   The x-ray showed that one of the sesamoids under my big toe is atrophic (never grew to full size) and that’s probably why it was prone to a stress fracture.  The podiatrist finally gave me my life-saver: the oh-so-fashionable ortho wedge boot.

It has a huge foam heel, but the foam under the toes is quite thin  The end result is that I can walk it it, putting only minimal pressure on the ball of my foot.  Relief!

I did have to spend the next week mostly with my foot up, but I was getting much better sleep at night thanks to a different painkiller and some ice, and so my days were clearer too.  I could spend my days chatting with friends online, reading books to the kids and playing card games with them.  By the end of that week I was completely off crutches and used a cane for support, along with my trusty ortho wedge, of course.

This past week I’ve been driving again and going to more of the kids’ activities with them.  I still have pain but can feel that it has improved week by week.  Life is nearly back to normal… but I think matching shoes are still a couple weeks in the future!  Til then, I have an adorable, clompy gait and the highest in unmatching footwear fashion.

Project Day

My kids participate in Navigators USA, a secular and inclusive scouting group.  This year, most of the kids had some independent project to work on from October until April, with project plans that ranged from GoGoGirl’s least detailed “Eggs” to the bigger kids who had long checklists of steps they needed to complete to create their projects.  Two kids made board games, one wrote a short story, another made a mask and wrote a poem, and yet another made a diorama of all the kids in the group fashioned as decorated eggs!

We had a great time participating and seeing the work our friends had done.

GoGoGirl’s project was to learn about eggs this year, and we included things like: looking at books about birds and eggs, learning to spell and write words about eggs, drawing pictures of eggs, decorating eggs, learning to cook scrambled eggs, dying eggs, making cascarones, and making pysanky.


For her presentation, she stood at the front of the room & talked with the group leaders about what she did and what she learned, and she showed a few pages of photos.  She loved the chance to speak to the group!


KarateKid decided he wanted to research the wildlife of our home state.  He read lots of books about wildlife in general, and these animals and the habitats we have in particular.  Then he made construction paper cutouts of the animals (by tracing a computer printout) and wrote facts about the animals on the cutouts.  He made a diorama, too, and when asked how he made it, he said, “Really, just a lot of hot glue!”


In the final week of his project, he even decided to write an origin story to explain how the timber rattlesnake got its rattle.  I loved that little touch, because KarateKid has always been deeply drawn to mythologies of various kinds and adding this story in really made the project his.


The kids learned a lot this year – not just about their topics of interest but about time management, setting reasonable goals, and long-term planning, not to mention the careful use of glue guns!

One Cement Sidewalk, One Can of Condensed Milk Later

I’m taking the theory that a blow to the front of the head will undo a blow to the back of the head, and I’m running with it, so please don’t disillusion me here!

At our friends’ house yesterday, KarateKid tripped while playing outside and hit the back of his head on the corner of the cement sidewalk.  Hard enough to hurt and make him come inside, but not hard enough to bruise, break the skin, make a lump, or even make him dizzy or give him a headache.

Still, I was keeping an eye on him.  Mothers worry.

Just before bedtime last night, when I was finally starting to relax about the head injury, KarateKid was helping MechDaddy put away groceries when a can of condensed milk fell off the top of the fridge (who put it there?) and grazed KarateKid on the forehead.  Hard enough to stun him, make him cry and shake for a few minutes, and give him a small goose egg, but not hard enough that a lightning-fast application of ice coupled with Phineas and Ferb on Netflix on the iPad (the ultimate in rare treats around here) couldn’t distract him.

He slept well last night, hasn’t complained about headache or any other scary symptoms today.  We decided that whatever brains were jostled out of place by the sidewalk were put back into place by the condensed milk.

One cement sidewalk, one can of condensed milk later, he seems basically none the worse for wear.  Mothers don’t get off so easily – I’m shaken up, and didn’t sleep last night.

Any good leads on padded suits or helmets for the less-than-graceful nine-year-old boy?  How about full-body bubble wrap?

Even better, I’ll take advice on how to settle the nerves of the mother of the less-than-graceful nine-year-old boy!


Does your family have a name for the kind of play where you mix all kinds of toys together into one big world?  Where Smurfs meet Trolls and Star Wars characters visit Strawberry Shortcake on their way to the Batcave?

In our family, we call this game “Figures,” as in “action figures,” I suppose.  My sister and I called it that when we were little, and it’s what my kids love to play these days.

It can be hard for my perfectionistic, loves-the-rules 9 1/2 year old KarateKid to tolerate his little sister’s whimsy sometimes, or her utter lack of understanding of Jedi Etiquette, or her mispronunciation of spells from Hogwarts.  What KarateKid really likes to do is immerse himself in a world that he already understands from his books, and it can be frustrating when GoGoGirl doesn’t understand that world.  So I remind them, often, to “play Figures,” code in our house for “anything goes.”


One afternoon recently, my living room had scenes like this: Timon had found true love in Miriam the Meerkat while Goofy-the-photographer was capturing a portrait of Doc; Anakin took over the castle while Thor trained his giant pangolin; and the Cantina Band entertained ponies and a gorilla while another pony asked Pluto for directions to the party.

I still find Figures an irresistible pastime and usually wind up with my own band of merry misfits!

Candy Hugger

GoGoGirl loves candy SO MUCH.

We don’t buy a lot of it, because she would eat all the candy, all the time.  But when we’re out with friends or at a class and someone gives her candy, I don’t forbid it, because she loves it, as I may have mentioned, SO MUCH.

At our homeschool gymnastics class, the week before Easter, the kids did an Easter egg hunt inside the gym.  GoGoGirl’s egg included a small packet of Skittles.  She’d already had one candy immediately after class, so I asked her to wait the half an hour until lunch, and eat them after her belly had some healthy food in it, in the wild hopes that some soup and fruit would offset the artificial colors and flavors.  (Shh!  Don’t burst my bubble.)

While she was waiting for lunch, which was hard, because she loves candy SO MUCH, she played with her Skittles.  Actually, three tiny Star Wars figures played with the bag of Skittles, and sang this song:

Candy, candy, mwah mwah mwah!
I am taking out the pieces… and putting them in my pretend mouth!
Candy, candy, mwah mwah mwah!


Other verses included the joys of giving your candy lots of hugs and kisses, and guarding your Skittles, and loving candy SO MUCH.

I love that she loves candy SO MUCH that she assumes that everyone wants to hug and kiss their candy, even aliens from Star Wars.  Those little aliens amuse me too, since they’re self-aware enough to realize that they have pretend mouths.


Pinspiration: CVC Easter Eggs

I love it when I come across a good idea that fits seasonally and academically.  Last week on Pinterest, I saw several versions of word families written or glued onto plastic Easter eggs, at just the same time that GoGoGirl is working on CVC words and word families.  Perfect!


This was a super easy project.  I used the slightly larger plastic eggs (on clearance, 6 for 50 cents) and colorful permanent markers.  I put one ending and eight starting consonants on each egg – GoGoGirl twists the top of the egg to make and read eight different words.  Here are the word families I made today:

-ap: cap, gap, lap, map, nap, sap, tap, zap
-et: get, jet, let, net, set, vet, wet, yet
-in: bin, din, fin, kin, pin, sin, tin, win
-ot: cot, dot, got, hot, lot, not, pot, rot
-ug: bug, dug, hug, jug, mug, pug, rug. tug

I slipped a little cracker or a jelly bean in each egg and hid them in the yard or in the house, and when GoGoGirl found each egg, she had to read all eight words before she could open it for a treat.  She loved the game!

I am going to add a coating of matte sealer to these tonight, because I’m thinking that the writing will rub off after many uses.  And I bought a couple extra packages, so next week I can add some other word families!

How are you using plastic eggs this week?

Thanks to Camp Slop, Living and Learning, Run with Rach, and Teacher Time Savers for the pinspiration!