Johnny's Jelly Bean Tacos

With sales down at his taco restaurant, Johnny Van Socken invents a new delicacy that becomes an instant success: jelly bean tacos! Unfortunately for Johnny, his success poses a threat to some of the local business owners. When the other business owners convince the local government to pass rules to control the sale of jelly bean tacos, Johnny stands up to protect his rights as a businessman, as well as the rights of his customers.



Here's an excerpt from the text.

"The competition was frazzled. What should they do?
Mixing tacos and jelly beans just made them say "Ew!"
That people would eat this hardly makes sense.
This affront to good cooking is a terrible offense!"




Johnny's Jelly Bean Tacos is written in verse and perfect for kids ages 4-10. The story introduces kids to the concept of government protectionism without ever mentioning the phrase. Johnny's Jelly Bean Tacos is truly an entertaining book. Although kids will come away with an understanding of protectionism, this is not a lesson in disguise. It is a great story!

A New Way to Use Your Speed! Cards

The card game Speed! comes with eight decks of playing cards. Each deck is color coded and uniquely numbered to help kids memorize the multiplication tables. For example, the red Two-Speed deck contains the numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20. The blue Seven-Speed deck contains the numbers 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63 and 70. The game was designed as a two-person racing game where the winner is the first person to get rid of all of his/her cards. (see video)

However, since the game is comprised of decks of cards, many games that can be played with a standard deck of cards can also be played with Speed! cards. This adds a new twist to many card games. One simple game that works very will with Speed! cards is a game called "Garbage".  The video below shows the game playing played with a standard deck of cards.


The photo below shows the desired finished layout if the game was being played with the Three-Speed deck of cards.


What I like about the game Garbage is that it is a slower placed game that allows players more processing time. When playing this game and drawing a number 24 for example, players can say out loud "24 is 8 times 3", or "24 divided by 3 is 8". This helps kids to better link skip-counting to multiplication and division and provides a fun alternative game to play with the Speed! cards.

How to Slow Down the Game of Speed!

Speed! is a great game for learning to skip-count, which leads directly into learning multiplication and helps kids to develop an excellent mathematical foundation. But, what do you do if the child gets intimidated by the "speed" of the game?


While most kids love the game Speed! because if its intense pace, this can have the opposite effect on some children. (Click here to see a video of the game Speed! being played.) One thing that can be done is to institute turns into the standard Speed! game. This can be done in one of two ways. The simplest way is for each player to play one card and then let the other person have a turn to play one card passing only when the player does not have a playable card. The second way to institute turns into the game of Speed is to allow one player to play cards until he/she runs out of moves, and then let the other player play all cards until running out of moves. Taking turns will greatly slow the pace of the game allowing more processing time and calming the nerves of children who need it.

How to do well on the SAT

Did you know that doing well on the SAT is one way of saving lots of money on college?

Not only are good grades and high SAT/ACT scores required for acceptance into college, but they are used to determine the amount of money you will pay to be there. Usually called Merit Scholarships, many colleges and universities actually determine the tuition you will pay based on grades and SAT/ACT scores. The chart shown below from Michigan State University is only one of numerous examples found on university websites. In most cases the tuition reductions are automatically applied to your account without even having to apply. So the obvious question becomes "How can I do well on the SAT/ACT?"

Matrix depicting non-resident scholarship award levels. This information can also be found using our net price calculator.

While attending a homeschooling convention this spring I saw several booths selling SAT/ACT test preparation programs, but one stood out above all the others. College Prep Genius - After attending a lecture by the owner and looking over the program we purchased it. I have been working through the material at home with my kids and am very happy with this purchase. Let me tell you why.

What we purchased is a one-year, on-line subscription to a series of lectures designed to be covered over a 12 week period. In addition, there is an electronic textbook and supplementary material such as a workbook which is to be printed at home. What I really like about this program is that it explains how standardized tests are written and strategies for doing well. She explains how logic can be used to answer most questions even if the material has not been thoroughly covered. Answering all the questions in the limited amount of time is the biggest issue when it comes to taking standardized tests. Therefore, she discusses the optimal order for answering questions in order to save time and do better on the test.

I was really skeptical at first, but have been completely turned around. One of the biggest selling points for me was that by understanding the principles of standardized testing, people who have completed this course not only do better on the SAT/ACT, but a wide variety of standardized tests as well. Since my daughter wants to become an orthodontist, the dental exam test is in her near future. My husband is also working through the program as he has a standardized test for security in his computer programming job coming up.

With many sites on-line it is often difficult to determine who is making money from what and this bothers me. Therefore, I want to be perfectly clear and let you know that with this blog I don't make any money for recommending this product or most of the products I recommend. I do make an extremely small amount of money (about $10/month) if you click and place an order for something I recommend on amazon through this blog. The only exception is the card game Speed! that I developed and the book Johnny's Jelly Bean Tacos written by my husband. I hope you enjoy this recommendation and the others I have made as they have worked well for me and my family throughout our homeschooling adventure.

Speed! and Special Needs - Strengthens Working Memory and Processing Speed

How does your skip-counting card game Speed! work for children with special needs? This is a question I occasionally receive and up until now have not had a good answer. Special needs is not my area of expertise. What I do know is that children love to play this game because it is fun. They play to win and want to play more not realizing that by playing they are memorizing the answers to the multiplication tables.



During the course of demonstrating the game to a multitude of people at homeschooling conventions I have met two different special needs experts that absolutely love the game. Dr. Carol Brown at Equipping Minds holds a doctorate in education and has more than 35 years of experience working with students. She has a program that works to strengthen cognitive abilities of both children and adults. Faith Berens, MEd is a reading specialist and special needs consultant for HSLDA.

Both of these special needs experts explained how Speed! helps to strengthen working memory, and processing speed. (Here is a video of the game being played.) When kids first learn to play the Three Speed! deck for example, they may not know how to skip-count by three. That doesn't matter because the numbers are written on each card. In the image below, the bubble chain is colored into the number 18, because the card is an 18. Kids can look at the card and see that the next number in the sequence is 21 and the previous number in the sequence is 15. These are the two acceptable plays on an 18. Because the winner is the first player to get rid of all his/her cards, kids work to improve their memory. After all, it's much faster eliminate the step of checking the card to see what's next and play a card based on memory. The more often kids play the game, the less often they will need to refer to the number chain to determine what comes next or previous. It's the repetition of play that helps improve memory.




It's the desire to win that helps improve processing speed. Processing speed is the time it takes a person to react to a visual, auditory or movement input. In Speed! there are no turns. As soon as a player realizes one of his/her cards can be played, he/she may play it. Players may react to the visual number on the card. If someone is counting out loud, they may react to the auditory stimuli. They may also react to the movement of the other player placing a card on the center pile. Regardless, they quickly learn that to win, they should go fast.

With that being said at least one of the education experts pointed out that if the stress of the race is too much for a participant, the game can be altered to institute turns and slow the pace. Processing speed will still be improved and when the child is ready, the rules can be changed to eliminate turns.

Both Dr. Carol Brown and Faith Berens MEd compared Speed! to games like Set, Blink and Spot It which they commonly play during therapy sessions to improve visual processing, auditory processing and working memory skills.


I am so excited to relay this message to you and hope that whether you work with special needs children or not you will give Speed! a try. Playing this game is a fun mental workout for both children and adults. The Three-Speed! deck may seem easy, but the Seven-Speed! deck is a challenge for most adults. We can all benefit from some brain exercise.

Teaching Kids about Money

What do you teach your kids about money? When my kids were younger we often talked about money. We taught them that every time they earned or received money it should be separated into four containers labeled save, spend, donate and invest. We talked about the differences between loans and credit cards, how much we earn, monthly expenses, interest rates, etc... but I had never seen a comprehensive program for teaching kids about finances UNTIL.


all homeschool financial education kids curriculum

I found Money Munchkids at a recent homeschooling convention. The program is for kids in grades K-3rd. My kids are a bit old for it, but I was impressed with the product which is a series of workbooks that cover many aspects of money. If you're looking for a summer activity, or a program to teach kids about money check it out.

Here are links to a few other activities regarding money:

Counting Money with Jelly Beans for Sale
Entrepreneur Books for Kids
Economics Books for Little Kids
Place Value Activity using Money
Selling Ice Cream for Money
Teaching Kids About Money: Save, Spend and Invest

With many sites on-line it is often difficult to determine who is making money from what and this bothers me. Therefore, I want to be perfectly clear and let you know that with this blog I don't make any money for recommending this product or most of the products I recommend. I do make an extremely small amount of money (about $10/month) if you click and place an order for something I recommend on amazon through this blog. The only exception is the card game Speed! that I developed and the book Johnny's Jelly Bean Tacos written by my husband. I hope you enjoy this recommendation and the others I have made as they have worked well for me and my family throughout our homeschooling adventure.

Foldables - Great for Organizing Information

I recently attended a few different Homeschooling Conventions and feel regenerated. Have you ever created lapbooks with your children?


Bird Lapbook

When my kids were little we stumbled upon an organization that studied and banded birds. The kids visited often and we learned a lot about birds. During the process of our bird study, my daughter created a bird lapbook.

I have seen many lapbook kits available for purchase on the internet, but that is not how she created her lapbook. I purchased a blank file folder and printed out many pictures of birds from our visits to the bird banding station. Then my daughter and I cut out, rearranged and assembled many different little "books" to write in and glue in the notebook. Each "book" contained a different type of information such as:

How do birds fly?
What do birds eat?
Song birds vs Water birds

At the homeschooling convention I spoke with a vendor selling a reading comprehension product called Comprehension Kids. Her program was for young elementary children and teaches kids to ask questions before reading such as "what do you think will happen?".

She also recommended products created by Dinah Zike called Foldables. To me, Foldables look a lot like what we did when creating the bird lapbook. She says that Foldables work very well for visual and kinesthetic learners and they help kids and adults to graphically organize information. She has tons of different products ranging from simple time/money/fraction download printables to books that would work for many different history, science and literature studies.

I was excited about this product because it is new to me and I can see it having great application especially for families who have had success with lapbooking methods of homeschooling. Check it out.

With many sites on-line it is often difficult to determine who is making money from what and this bothers me. Therefore, I want to be perfectly clear and let you know that with this blog I don't make any money for recommending this product or most of the products I recommend. I do make an extremely small amount of money (about $10/month) if you click and place an order for something I recommend on amazon through this blog. The only exception is the card game Speed! that I developed and the book Johnny's Jelly Bean Tacos written by my husband. I hope you enjoy this recommendation and the others I have made as they have worked well for me and my family throughout our homeschooling adventure.
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