Customized Binders

It’s back to school season again and this year my youngest Spawn needed a 3 ring binder. Not wanting to spend $6 on a zip up style binder we decided to get a cheaper, plain binder and decorate it ourselves. Here’s what we did.


  • Binder (any size), cost between $0.97 and $2 depending on where you shop.
  • Printed Duct Tape Sheets, cost $1.88 at Wal-Mart (we used 2)
  • Scissors and Markers


Remove any stickers or tags from the items. Be sure to rub off the adhesive residue well. Layout the design that you want for your binder. Cut as necessary to match the pattern or design. Peel and stick. When sticking you want to resist the urge to wrap the spine of the binder. Instead decorate the front and back and then cut a strip for the spine if you want to decorate it. If you don’t the tape will bunch when the binder is open causing it to loose its stickiness and eventually fall off. Here’s our finished design.

For our binder, we further embellished by putting my son’s name on the binder. He’s leaving the space at the bottom to write what it’s for once he finds out from the teacher. This was his design. You could use stencils, other stickers or Washi tape to design your binder. You could glue scrapbook paper although I haven’t tried that yet.


Simple Learning Games for Kids

Even before I homeschooled I was always trying to figure out fun ways to help my children learn. These games don’t require a degree in education or a need lot of money to do. Most don’t even require any preparation. Most of these games were originally designed for younger children, but a few simple modifications and the games can continue to be used with older children.

Alphabet/Word Game

This game has no physical items and can be easily adjusted to your circumstances or child’s ability. The basic concept is to pick a letter and have your child tell you when they find the letter or an object that begins with that letter. As the child gets older you can run through the alphabet one letter at a time instead of focusing on a single letter. With older children you can have them pick words were the letter comes at the end or have them spell the words that they pick.

War Card Game - Battle

Image by PlanningQueen

Math War

The card game war is a childhood classic. It requires two players and a traditional deck of cards.

Basic Rules:

  1. Each player should have a half of the deck. Keep the cards face down.
  2. The players turn over the top card of their deck at the same time.
  3. The person with the higher card wins both cards and places them on the bottom of their deck
  4. If both cards are the same then you “declare war” by placing 3 cards upside down on the played card, then play a fourth card right side up.
  5. The person with the higher value card wins all the cards in play.
  6. The player with all of the cards is the winner.

Math Rules:

The only difference here is that the cards in step 2 are added or multiplied together. The player who correctly solves the math problem first wins the cards. Steps 4 and 5 are eliminated in the Math Rules due to the math problems being solved. In this version face cards are worth 10 points. So a King and 4 would be 14 or 40 depending on if you are doing addition or multiplication.

Pass the Pigs

This game can be found in toy stores for about $5. I always keep this game in my purse, even now, as it’s a great way to pass time in restaurants while working on math skills. The game consists of 2 plastic pigs and a score pad. The pigs have a dot drawn on one side of them. The pigs are rolled like dice and points are given based on how they land. If they land with one dot up and one dot down then you have a “Pig Out” and you lose your turn.

We have modified the rules to eliminate the score pad. Instead we continue rolling, and adding, until someone pigs out. The pigs are then passed to the next person to see if they can beat the previous score. I prefer this method as it gives the child practice with adding bigger numbers and the game can be easily ended when food arrives at the table or the doctor is ready to see us.

Making Life a Game

I’ve never been one to do things for the sake of doing them. I can’t walk 4 laps in a circle at the local high school, but I can walk a mile in June at noon in Baton Rouge because I want to go to the store. it has nothing to do with lack of ability, just a lack of purpose. I’m just not built to do things without a purpose. To that end I’ve found several things that helped me to find a purpose, however silly, to convince myself to do things.


This app is one of two that I use to get me out of the house. I have tendency to hibernate in the house. At one point it was so bad that I refused to go to the grocery store, instead favoring arguing with my husband until he went. Then we found FourSquare (OK it was actually Gowalla that started it but they no longer offer the incentive so that app was deleted long ago). FourSquare uses location based check ins to reward users with virtual badges and real discounts. My badges range from FourSquare designed tongue in cheek titles to badges sponsored by TV shows or Networks. Some of them I’m curious about how I got them, others I just laugh over. Who would have ever considered me a “Mall Rat”. With the popularity of the app many companies are now offering incentives for checking in. I get free chips and salsa at Chilli’s almost every visit. With enough check ins you will be named mayor which may result in a discount or free item. The app is designed for social networking so you can have it post your check ins on your Facebook or Twitter. It provides a free advertising outlet for the companies that take part. You can turn these options off if you don’t feel like telling the world where you are – like when you go to the bank.


This is another location based app. Which means it’s another reason to leave the house. The concept is that you use the app to collect kicks, which are then converted to various real world rewards. Kicks are green balls worth varying point amounts depending on the company and type of kick.Like other location based apps you have to check in first. This is done by simply selecting from the list of available stores. After that it’s time to collect kicks. Walk in kicks are given for just walking into a store with the app activated. I will admit to finding this very aggravating as it can be hard to get the app to trigger the kick. In theory the app will know if you are walking into the store and it will trigger the kick to appear on the phone. I have yet to get this part of the app to work. The more interesting way to collect kicks is through scan rewards. Once you’ve checked in you are given a list of items to find. Once found you use the phones camera to scan the bar code of the item to get the kicks. These are smaller denominations but most stores have 4 or 5 items that you can find. I like this because it creates a scavenger hunt that I can use to discover things. ShopKick periodically has other specials or bonuses. I received 25% off at Best Buy on day using a bonus Shopkick code.


Mindbloom is a recent find. This is what currently motivates me to do all those stupid things that I don’t like doing. The concept is that you have tree with large leaves. Each leaf is an area of your life. (Career, Relationships, Spirituality, Finances, etc). In order to keep your tree healthy you must give it sunlight and water.

Sunlight is provided by Inspiration. You can select images, quotes, and music which you can then play from the site. If you want something more personal you can upload your own stuff. Selecting, uploading and viewing all give you points in sunlight. When you reach 100 points the sun will provide light keeping your tree healthy.

Rain is provided by Actions. The site provides actions that you can select or you can create your own. Actions can be any type of task. Suggested actions are smile more, reconcile your bank accounts and say I love you. They are sorted by category and can be sorted down even further if desired. A calendar is provided to set up deadlines. Each morning the sends out an email that reminds you to check your tree. As you do the tasks, you can check them off and receive 5 points. When the cloud is full, at 100 points, it will rain.

Progressing through the levels gives you more options for the inspirations and more suggestions for actions. There are a few kinks in the site that I’m starting to find frustrating. When you upload and image or post a quote other users can use that in their inspiration as well. The problem with this is that you can prevent the sharing and when the item is shared credit is given to the last person who added it. So I upload and image of my kids, Anna adds the image to her inspiration, when you go looking for images the image of my kids is there with the credit of “uploaded by Anna”. I ended up deleting all my personal images and just use the stock images provided by the site. My other annoyance with the site is that actions are not removed once they are set. I like to browse the suggested actions when I gain a level to see if there is something new that I can add. The site does not track when something has already been added to your actions and there does not seem to be a way to eliminate the ones that don’t apply. So single people will always have the suggestion to Say I love you to a partner, listed under relationships.

Issues aside, I do like that it makes a game out of self improvement. Being who I am I need things like this to maintain my motivation to complete these tasks and to be able to make myself into the person I want to be.