My Homemade Chili, a Family Favorite Quick Meal

Quick Meal

This is what we considered a “quick meal” while the children were growing up.  I regularly made it with 3-4# ground beef and served it with my  cornbread and shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese on top.  Now, with just Farmer Graybeard and myself, I’m learning to make it with just 1# burger….  For the family portion, just proportionately increase all ingredients.

Family Chili

1# lean ground beef
1 small or medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cans condensed tomato soup
1 can light red kidney beans
chili powder, to taste

In your smaller stock pot , brown the ground beef and chopped onion.
Add the chili powder & mix in well.
Add the soup & kidney beans and heat thoroughly.

Serve with cornbread tortilla chips , grilled cheese, or hush puppies.

*This recipe can be easily multiplied for larger batches.
Use one can of soup per pound of ground beef, plus one.
So, for 3# meat, add 4 cans soup.  That was my typical batch while the children were growing, and I would use a large sweet onion.
This travels well in a slow cooker for potluck dinners.

Corn Bread in a Cast Iron Skillet

Corn Bread Recipes

In my opinion, this is the only way to make Corn Bread!  I will share with you the recipe that my mother used when I was growing up, and I will share my slight changes.

Mom’s Recipe

2C degermed yellow cornmeal
2T white, all-purpose flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
2C soured milk
1 med egg, beaten
1/4 C shortening

Preheat your oven to 450*, putting your 8-10″ skillet & shortening in when you turn on the oven.

In your  batter bowl mix together the dry ingredients.
Make your soured milk by putting 2T vinegar in your measuring cup and filling to the 2C line with sweet milk.
Add the egg to the milk, then add to the dry ingredients, and mix well.

Once your oven & skillet are hot, carefully remove the skillet and carefully swirl the now melted shortening around the pan to coat, then pour it into the cornbread batter.  Stir in.

Pour the batter back into the hot skillet and return to the oven.  Bake for about 40 minutes.  It is done when browned and releases from the sides of the skillet.  It should turn out of the skillet easily when inverted over a plate.

Cut into wedges, butter, and serve hot with brown beans, chopped onions, and fried potatoes, or with your favorite chili recipe.

My Corn Bread Recipe

Basically it is the same recipe, but with whole grain ingredients.

2C organic, stoneground cornmeal
2T whole wheat flour
2tsp baking powder, non-aluminum
1tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
2C yogurt, plain or vanilla
1 large farm egg, beaten
1/4 C oil

Put a dry iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 450*

In your batter bowl  whisk  together the dry ingredients.
Put the yogurt and egg into a mixing bowl  to mix thoroughly, then add to the dry ingredients, and stir together.

Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven when it reaches 450*, and pour  oil  in the hot skillet.  Carefully swirl it around the skillet to coat it, then pour into the batter.  Stir it in, then pour the batter into the hot skillet, and carefully return the skillet to the hot oven.

Bake it for 20 minutes.  Important to note the difference in baking time!
It is done when browned and releases from the sides of the skillet.  It should turn out of the skillet easily when inverted over a plate.

*A different substitution can be made by using buttermilk instead of soured milk or yogurt.  In that case, bake for 30 minutes.  I have absolutely no idea why the baking times are different, and they may vary differently for you.

Cast Iron Cooking

As you have been reading and learning about living on a homestead or farm, you have seen articles about cooking with cast iron.  You may already have skills and knowledge, and hopefully this article will teach you something new.  Most likely, however, is that you have never even tried or perhaps tried and feel like you failed when you cooked in cast iron.  There is a specific set of skills you need and I will teach you as I taught my own children.  I didn’t have much to give them when they grew up and left home, but they got an iron skillet and knew how to use it.

A Brief History of Cast Iron Cookware

For my family, cooking in cast iron goes back for generations.  We didn’t skip a generation, since Grandma Honey and Farmer Graybeard have always appreciated the old ways.  Our mothers & grandmothers fried our taters nearly every day in a Cast Iron Skillet.

Hint Number One

Preheat your skillet before adding food.  Put your empty skillet over a medium flame and heat it until it turns. This is a term my sister uses that does describe it, and you will begin to recognize it as you get more familiar with your skillet.  You will know it when you shake a few drops of water on the hot skillet and they dance across the surface.

At this point, add your oil, bacon grease, or whatever fat you are going to use and swirl it carefully around the bottom of the skillet, then add your food.  For me, that is quite commonly small pieces of potatoes for fried potatoes, or my corn bread batter.  I will add my corn bread recipe for your enjoyment.

Once the potatoes are in, I often add diced onions and/or green peppers to the top, a bit more bacon grease, and then put the lid on.  The steam helps make them more tender.  Every few minutes, turn the potatoes over to cook on all sides.

Hint Number Two

Add meat to a cold pan.  This seems to contradict my first hint, and I guess it does.  This is why cooking with iron seems tricky.

When I am pan frying bacon, sausage, hamburgers, franks, or other meats, I typically start with a cold pan.  Adding meats to hot pan can cause them to stick to the pan from the shock of the temperature change.

Note that the meats I mentioned do not require additional fat to cook in your iron skillet.  Cook them on low heat, and use a lid for most of them.  The steam created will help the sausage, burgers, and franks cook thoroughly.  Sometimes, you may want to add a bit of water to breakfast or smoked sausages.

Bacon is a bit different.  Once you have a family, one skillet of bacon isn’t enough, sometimes even two won’t get it, so you have to add bacon to a hot skillet as you take out the already cooked bacon.  That’s the only way there is to do it.  I like to take the cooked bacon out of the hot oil and put in a cold iron skillet or griddle to drain.  I then use that pan to cook the eggs once the bacon is done.  Just move the drained bacon to the serving platter to cook the eggs.

Cook your eggs gently in a warm skillet, not a hot one.  If your eggs get browned, you are overcooking them and that explains why they may not be a favorite food!  Cook them through, but not browned.  Watch for a post that shows how to cook them properly.

Hint Number Three

Yes, wash your iron skillets in hot, soapy water!  Don’t let them soak in the water, but most certainly wash them.  Personally, I don’t want today’s fried taters tasting like yesterday’s smoked sausage or hamburgers.

If you are letting your skillet get really hot before adding food, and using your oil, you are going to find that they become non-stick with use.  This means that clean-up is easy to do.

If you find that you need to scrub the pans, start first with Nylon Pan Scrapers and then use a Scrubber Sponge  or Scouring pad.   You do not need something harsh like stainless steel or copper scrubbers.  There is no reason to scratch your ironware.  That just makes the prone to making food stick.

After washing in the hot, soapy water, rinse with really hot water.  Let them air dry upside down, and you really won’t need to baby them with retreating or heating on the stove/in the oven, or any of those other steps that make ironware seem to be more trouble than they are worth!

With that said, you definitely want to hand wash your cast iron.  Never, ever put your iron pans in an automatic dishwasher.

Hint Number Four

As you are accumulating your iron cookware, you will find yourself needing several pieces.  Two or three 10″ skillets, 1-2 round griddles , and maybe a larger, two-burner griddle.

I don’t have any cast iron Dutch ovens for use in the house, although I have considered the enamel-coated version.   Some day,  will write about cast iron to use in your firepit, including how to use a Dutch oven there.

In the house, I typically use stainless steel stockpots and saucepans.  I will write an article about them another time.

Harsh Weather Dressing on the Homestead

Winter Insulated Dressing

Well, my previous article is all fine & dandy for late spring through early fall, but what about in the winter?   I want to introduce you to Carhartt for Women and for men.  There are several different styles, such as this barn coat .  When you need it, these insulated overalls are handy.  Yes, I know I said that overalls are a stereotype, but I was talking about denim overalls !  LOL  Actually, there is nothing wrong with denim overalls, if that is what you want.  Just don’t think you MUST wear them.

If you prefer an all-in-one garment, try insulated coveralls .  We actually own and use both options, insulated coveralls or jacket and overalls.

Keep your Face and Neck WARM

Neck scarves are nice for extra warmth, but remember that I want you to be safe around equipment, so I suggest a neck gaiter or a balaclava.  For men, a full beard is also nice, but you bearded men can add these to your winter wardrobe, too!


Other things to consider are your gloves.  Buy your brown jersey gloves by the dozen.  You should be able to find them for $1/pr or less.  These gloves with dots are also an economical option, since they can be worn on either hand!  When the weather is more severe, wear something like these ski gloves.

Long Johns

Dressing in layers is always important. Long Johns! Grandpa wore them when he farmed, you’ll love them, too.  Tops  and Bottoms   Get the best quality you can afford.  Farmer Graybeard likes to put on his Tee shirt, then his Long Johns, then a sweatshirt or hoodie, then the insulated coveralls.   He has no plans of getting cold! LOL  He was thankful when Grandma Honey found tall sizes for him.  So much more comfortable for him!

What about your FEET?

Your feet need love, too.  These are my personal favorite wool socks  that I actually wear around the house.  I put on my normal socks , then the wool socks over top and pad around the house with my feet & calves warm.  Farmer Graybeard wears the same ones in his boots.

To save on laundry, we wear lighter layers next to the skin (tees, socks) and cover them with heavier layers.  The lighter layers are changed daily, while the outer layers may be worn numerous times before washing.

Don’t try to skimp on your boots.  You NEED good support working on your feet all day!  Red Wing boots are a favorite here, but there are many good name brands.  A rubber boot or muck boot is also a necessity.  If you are working with larger animals, you may wish to consider getting steel toe type boots to protect your feet.

Since you don’t really want to TOUCH those boots with your hands after you’ve been to the barn, you can make a handy boot puller.

Don’t forget the Farm Kids

With a little searching, you can find all these products for children, too.  They need to be as warm as mom and dad.   Kids’ Insulated Coveralls or Two-Piece Insulated Gear for Kids

 I stumbled onto a way to keep little tootsies warm and dry out in the snow.  Put a pair of wool socks on them after their normal socks, but before their snow pants.  This provides an extra layer of warmth for their feet and legs, then use just plain rubber boots.  They will wear the rubber boots year round, but with that extra layer of wool socks, they are best protected in the winter.  I think I discovered this with our 6th child … yep, years of frustration solved!

I probably don’t need to mention this to you, but it is sure handy to have a plastic tote box just for kids winter outerwear.  Each fall, bring out the box to see what-fits-who this year, then pack it away again in the spring with laundered and thoroughly dry & repaired coats.  During the summertime, as you go to yard sales, watch for good gear at cheap prices.  That is how we got most of ours.  Yard sales and thrift stores and hand-me-downs from friends.

Of course, the same will be true for rubber boots.  Watch for sales and keep all sizes on hand.  You will get unexpected or infrequent visitors who will inevitably arrive without boots, but want to help you feed the chickens!

Add your comments:

Let me know what challenges you face while dressing for the farm and homestead.


What Clothes to Wear on the Homestead

Overalls?  Maybe, but Probably NOT!

Surely you don’t have the idea that you need a new pair of overalls to be able to farm your homestead! I hope my blog here will help bust some crazy misconceptions and stereotypes that you may have seen.  But, what clothes DO you wear on the homestead?

This post was inspired by this article:  Recovering the Lost Art of Dressing Up

And by a 4-week Design Your Wardrobe   with Seamwork magazine  by Colette.

What clothes should you wear on a Homestead or Farm? One of your first considerations has to do with serviceability and safety.  You don’t want your clothes and hair loose when you are working around equipment. Please be safe!

For Mr. Graybeard’s first 30 years or so, he wore jeans & tee shirts, as you probably wear.  Once he tried some Dickey’s slacks & shirts, he hasn’t looked back. These uniforms are typically worn by mechanics, truck drivers, and the guy behind the counter at the parts store, but you can wear them, too!


Here is one popular style of slacks made by Dickies.  They make several different styles, so you can find what works for your own comfort.  I suggest the flat front.


Shirts come in short sleeves or long sleeves and the ever handy pockets.  We prefer the ones with two pockets on the front.  One carries a 3×5″ spiral notebook for the daily To-Do List and a pen or pencil.

One of the cool things about Dickies work clothes is that they also come in Tall sizes! Mr. Graybeard is 6’1″ and this is great for him!  My farmer is now retired, so Dickies are now his “town clothes”!  They are comfortable, as well as neat.

Laundry Service

Now, let me include you in a little secret. Check the laundry services in your area, you know, the ones that launder the work clothes for your favorite auto mechanic. Some of them will deliver to you with a subscription service for two people. I planned to do that when my son became a teen, but life circumstances happened to derail our farming plans when he was old enough. Sad. However, it is worth taking the time to call around to the local ones and find out what they will do.

The pricing structure was going to be about the same for us as purchasing the clothes & laundering them myself. If you are going to launder them yourself, you may want to get a separate machine for work clothes or even use the laundromat. If the pocket rips off or something, then you have further work to do for repair. All of that is included in your work clothes laundry subscription. For me, though, having this subscription was going to save me some time each week at no additional cost.  Pretty sweet!

Tee shirt

Under that long sleeve work shirt, you can wear a Tee Shirt. We recommend the pocket tees, too.

And Clothes for Women

Dickies also makes work clothes to fit women well, too.  While I prefer to wear this Denim A-Line Skirt and plain tees, I know that skirts aren’t for everyone, especially on the homestead!

What do you like to wear?



Sewing Clothes that Fit

Clothes that Fit Me Perfectly

I am 5’8″, with long arms, long legs, and a long back.  Off the rack clothing is not made to fit that body type, especially with a larger bust.  Even as a child, before that bust issue, I loved having clothes that fit me perfectly.  My mother was a talented seamstress, and I walked in her footsteps.  I made my own clothes in college, and later made clothes for my own children.

I strive to wear modest garments, and wanted that for my own children.  For boys, buying tee-shirts and jeans was a pretty straightforward process, but for my girls … Ooo-la-la!  I didn’t want my 6yo daughters wearing dresses cut such that they shouldn’t be worn by adult women in public!  So, being able to sew dresses for my own girls was fabulous.

The Peaceful, Calming Hobby

As a hobby, sewing  provided me with a creative outlet that also calms me.  Even when I have to “unsew” a seam, I have peace in the process.

A New Series

I want to start a series about sewing garments and home decor.   I invite you to join me in a creative community of other people who also love to sew.

Colette Patterns, Snippets, and Seamwork

At Colette , the patterns are designed to actually teach you how to sew, and to help you get the best fit from each garment.  They are my favorite pattern company  for women’s garments.  I rarely have to alter the patterns, but when I do need to do this, the directions are right there, and Sarai Mitnick & her staff are very helpful, too!

In addition to the Shop itself, there is a Blog with archived tutorials, some free patterns & downloads, and an email list called Snippets for weekly hints & tips!

Then, there is Seamwork, a monthly magazine membership, bringing you a library of wardrobe-building patterns, updated with at least 2 new designs every month, for only $7!  Here is a link to get your first month for just $3!

You’ll also get articles, inspiration, and exclusive pattern hacks delivered right to your inbox monthly.  Please join us!

Overgrazing? Grassland Management? Pasture Rotation? What is it? Does it Matter?

Yes, it matters. Your livestock depend on you to keep them safe, healthy, and well-fed. If you don’t manage your grass and hay properly, then they will not live at optimal health. One of our goals is to avoid the use of medications on our livestock. Just like for our human lives, preventive measures work best.  Your pasture fields matter.


Once grass begins to appear in the fields, it is easy to think that we can stop feeding hay. This time of year, the calves begin to be born, and our cows need more nutrition, not less. Here in WV, keep feeding hay as you did all winter until mid-April, at least. During calving season, we always liked to keep our herd in a relatively small field to keep track of our ladies. They like to wander off to a private place to give birth, and it could take us awhile to find them and take care of them properly. So, we kept them in a smaller field near the barn & house so we could keep a close eye on all of them. This is one more reason it is necessary to feed hay, so that they could all get good nutrition to keep the mamas healthy. Keep the ladies well fed and the babies will do better, too.

In mid-April, the cattle are turned out into one of two fields. These two fields have a good water source. You know that you need three things for the health of your herd … plenty of grass, plenty of water, and salt blocks or high-mag blocks. They always need to be able to access these three things. This is the key to proper herd health. There are other things, of course, but without these three, other interventions become necessary or the herd suffers. When the herd suffers, so should your heart and so will your profit margin.

Feeding hay until the grass is well established, and still giving them access to the grass in the field where they are, enables the cattle to get used to green grass gradually, reducing the incidence of grass tetany. When it is so easy to avoid, why not use this procedure?

So, now you might ask why we don’t just turn out early? If you let your cattle out in the pasture when the grass is new, there is a strong possibility they will eat the grass down too low and it won’t recover. They will struggle to get enough grass all summer long. We are looking for abundance of grass and super good healthy cattle, remember? Keep them in the lot until the grass grows well. Get through the spring thunderstorms first.

In the fall, after the final cutting of hay, it is fine to turn your cattle in to let them pasture in the hayfields, but they are still going to need full access to plenty of water. Water is a big factor in Pasture Rotation, or Grazing Management. No matter into how many plots the pasture is divided, free access to water is necessary for your livestock. Strong fences are also an important factor, but I won’t be talking about them in this article.

One thing I will add, though. Before you turn your livestock out into their pastures, you need to walk your entire fence line. Repair and rebuild where necessary. Drag all fallen trees to the lot to cut them up for firewood. If your woodshed is full before Spring Gobbler Season, you can enjoy the hunt! It is good to be prepared early. It gives your firewood time to season and it isn’t a task that nags at you all summer. What’s not to love about another reason to be in the woods in the spring?

Solar Clothes Dryer, aka Backyard Clothesline

What’s old is new again. Our mothers, our grandmothers, and our aunts all hung clothes out in the sun to dry. Matter of fact, so have we.  I really like to hang my clothes, towels, and sheets outside. They smell better, and frankly, I prefer the way they feel against my skin.  Would you like to do this, but don’t know where to start? Let me help!

Location. Location. Location.
Choose a site that gets plenty of sunshine each day, and has room for a breeze to blow. My clothesline is in my open backyard.  Previously, my backyard was about 5′ wide, and that worked fine for the clothesline, too. Now, it runs east-west, but the old one was north-south. It still worked. Even more important though, is that your clothesline is placed conveniently where you will USE IT! Mine is just off the back porch, and the laundry room is near that door.

I’ve never used an Umbrella clothesline, so I can’t comment on the efficacy.  If your site is limited, give it a try. I think they would be great for camping locations and I see they even make portable options.

Retractable clotheslines are great if you have a porch or indoor location for your clothesline, or if you need to hang your clothesline from building-to-building and you don’t want lines strung out all the time.

In movies, many people have seen the Pulley-style clotheslines that were used inside cities, way up in the air, over an alley. These are still available, but look for a clothesline spreader, if you go this route.

I have the most experience with T-Post style clotheslines, usually available in galvanized steel. Set them yourself in a hole in the ground and reinforced with concrete. You will need two posts and will hang several lines from them in parallel rows.

Many of the women of the previous generations would hang these pretty far apart and prop up the center of the long lines with support poles. I am not a fan of the props because they work at a slant rather than perfectly vertical. If the wind catches my sheets, for instance, the line swings, the poles slants too far, and my sheets end up dragging the ground anyway. Ugh!

So, what do I have?  Discarded telephone poles, set in concrete, with a crossbar that is 2×6″ board almost 6′ long. My clothesline poles are set about 22′ feet apart, stand about 6′ high, and the poles are notched to hold the crossbars. I have four lines, which in the summer hold 4 loads of clothes at a time. In the spring & fall, they hold 2-3 loads. I’ll explain the difference in a bit.

This size and distance has worked perfectly for me for decades. I try to have all the clothes on the line by 9:30 am and take them down about 3:00pm. That gives me time to fold & put away before the children and I have a snack about 3:30, and begin supper prep about 4:00. Remember, I like routines. This is a routine for most days.

I can wash & hang clothes easily in the midst of other morning chores … breakfast, sweep & vacuum, etc., and before we start homeschooling for the day. Then, they dry while we do whatever else we are doing. If we go out, I plan to be home by 3-4pm, and start that late afternoon routine. I like to bring in the clothes in the middle of the day so that the insects haven’t landed for their nightly repose.

How to hang the clothes? I like my lines to be neat & orderly, so I will hang like things together: all the bath towels, then the kitchen or hand towels, then the washcloths, or adult tees, then kid tees, then pajama pants.

I started using the spring-type wooden clothes pins because the slip-on got to be too expensive. Plastic clothespins are available, but I still like to use wooden pins, because the sun degrades the plastic and makes them brittle.

I start by hanging my first item with two pins. Then, I hang the second item on by unpinning the second pin, put the second item on and use that pin to hold both, then add another pin to the second item. So, two items and three pins. I keep that up all the way down the line. If a line holds a dozen tee shirts, I’ve used 13 pins, not 24, and I’ve saved room on the line.

My typical rule is to hang from the waist: shirts are hung upside down while pants are hung right side up. My kids prefer to hang their jeans upside down because the waistband can be uncomfortable after being crimped from the clothespin.

Towels. You are thinking about how stiff and scratchy your bath towels are when they are on the line. Here is a hint … shake them. Before you hang them, shake them. I don’t mean a little wiggle, I mean! It fluffs out the fibers and they dry less stiff. No, they won’t get dryer soft, but you will probably find that you like how much better your towels dry your body after they’ve dried on the line.

Oh, goodness!  I just realized that I didn’t mention the line itself.  Tried and true clothesline is made of plastic-coated wire, because it doesn’t stretch.  Plastic or even cotton line is also available. You may want to use a turn-buckle at one end of each line, but it isn’t necessary if your line is made of plastic-coated wire.  Plastic-coated clothesline wire is available at your local hardware store in 25′ or 50′ lengths, or even a box with hundreds of feet in one coil.

Even in the winter, I hang out the blankets on fair days to air out, and if the sun is going to shine all day, I still do my sheets.  I really dislike the smell of sheets from the dryer, so I watch for these nice days.  If you want to air your blankets, you don’t have to wash them first.  Just hang them to get some air & sunshine.

How do I hang more in the summer?  I hang them a little closer together.  In the spring and fall, the sun just doesn’t operate at full power, so I hang things about their full width, but in the summer, I can reduce that distance, making a bigger drape and getting more on the line.  This is especially important for large families using extra-capacity washing machines.  Maybe I’ll talk about washing machines in another post.

For now, have a great day!

Gardening by the Moon Signs

I’d like to dispel the myth that using the Moon Signs for your Gardening is somehow practicing astrology, which is a false religion. Instead, we are told that the moon & stars (constellations) were given for Times and for seasons.

Even though the current names are Ancient Greek in origin, I hasten to assure you that the results for gardening are the same as if we named the signs Jim and Mary.

There are two parts to the reckoning. One is the PHASE of the moon, commonly known as New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon, Third Quarter. During the New Moon, we want to plant the fruits and vegetables with seeds on inside and “bolting” vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, barley, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, corn, cress, endive, kohlrabi, lettuce, leeks, oats, onion, parsley, and spinach.

The First Quarter is for planting fruits and vegetables with seeds on the outside and some cucurbits, such as beans, eggplant, muskmelon, peas, peppers, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, and watermelon.

The Full Moon is for the root crops, such as beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, and turnips. I also like to plant my ornamentals on root days. I figure that a few years of root growth will give my shrubs the strength they need to grow well.

Finally, the Third Quarter is for destroying weeds.

The Phase of the Moon is only one important part. The astrological PLACE also matters. One year, we ran out of daylight when planting our tomatoes. It worked that the first bed was planted on the right phase and place of the moon. The second bed was planted only during the right phase of the moon. There was a marked difference in the yields of these two beds of tomatoes. The second was acceptable, and actually quite normal. The first bed had more than double the yield. We’ve been believers ever since!

So, I use The Old Farmer’s Almanac to find the Moon’s Astrological Place each year. Most calendars already have the phases marked on them. Sometime in January each year, I plot out the entire year’s dates for planting & sowing.

My method is quite simple. I get the chart in the almanac and mark the CAN, SCO, PSC, and TAU dates in one color. This year, that was blue. Then, I go through and mark all the dates in GEM, LEO, VIR…the orange ones. The first four are good days for planting for growth, the last three are the best for killing weeds. So, when I combine the Third Quarter dates with those last three, then I have the very best days for tilling or plowing.

In my Garden Calendar then, I mark the phases and their appropriate planting days. Less than an hour, and I have my entire year planned out! It would be wise to mark the last spring frost and the first fall frost, too, if that applies.

Academics – ‘Rithmetic – Four Basic Operations

Let us begin with some terminology.  Mathematics is not arithmetic.  Arithmetic is a tool used with Mathematics, but Math doesn’t actually begin until Algebra.  Before that, it is arithmetic, which is our Four Basic Operations … adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing … with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percents.  Arithmetic also includes measurements … length, weight, time, money, etc.

Adding and Subtracting.  These are flip sides of the same coin.  One will undo the other, so it is great to learn them together.  2+2=4 and 4-2+2 can be learned at the same time.  I found with the youngest ones to use the terms “and” and “take away” or “less” instead of “plus” and “minus” made far more sense to them.  Also, saying “are” instead of “equals” or “is” is also grammatically correct.  Two and two are four; four take away two are two.  At first, it seems awkward, but it will begin to feel natural to you quite soon.

This is also a great place for the dreaded “rote memorization.”  Spending a few minutes each day reciting some arithmetic facts will actually help the children learn them faster and better.  For this, I took my cue from “Ray’s Arithmetics” published by Mott Media.  The top of a page will have all the “twos” written out.  I would say a line, the child would repeat it.  For instance, two and three are five; three and two are five; two and four are six; four and two are six. We did this over and over.  It did not allow for making any mistakes, so the correct facts were learned.  They “heard it” and they “said it.”  Double the effectiveness.  Incidentally, that only takes a few minutes each day, but it works.

Concentrating for just ten minutes, and everything said is correctly, will result in better retention than dreading the half hour or hour of traditional arithmetic time, where there is too much busy work and mistakes are common.  Once you get the hang of doing it this way, you will be amazed.