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Homeschooling with River Rocks

Updated on November 21, 2013

River Rocks become Learning Tools

We love using natural materials and river rocks are one of our favorites. As homeschoolers we often walked down to the riverbank to collect rocks and over the years used them to learn math, language arts, and science. We used them in art projects as well as to create mini habitats.

Learning Math with River Rocks

River rocks are versatile and because they come from nature, each one is unique. Sometimes we use river rocks in art projects and then discover we are learning math at the same time. How many river rocks will fit along the edge of a collage we have made? How many more rocks do we need in order to fill that space?

Writing on River Rocks

When we discovered that you could write on the river rocks with gold or silver pens we began making number lines with our river rocks. We painted a number on each rock and then laid them one after another in numerical order. Because we happen to like frogs we decided to use the frogs to hop on the stones. At first we hopped from one number to the next and counted the numbers as we went. Then we decided to make the frogs hop longer distances. Soon we were skip counting by 2's, 3's, 4's and more.

River Rock Letters

Then we made a river rock alphabet. By putting a letter on each rock we could form the alphabet. We used silver for the consonants and gold for the vowels. Highlighting the vowels makes it easier for beginning readers to see the phonetical elements in words. Because my kids were already reading by the time we started this project we soon were writing words on our rocks to form sentences and eventually poetry.

Magnet Letters with Polished Stones

We added magnets to our river rocks and wrote words on them to create our own unique magnet poetry on the refrigerator. We converted a drawer near the refrigerator into a river rock word bank complete with silver and gold pens, polyurethane, brushes, hot glue and hot glue gun. Now whenever my kids come home from college they add words and write new messages or poetry with our River Rock Refrigerator Magnets.

Come discover dozens of more uses for river rocks to enhance your own homeschool experiences...

Learn How to Paint on Rocks

Painting Stones

Painting on rocks can be as simple as writing letters and number or as intricate as painting a butterfly. This video is a speed painting tutorial for painting a butterfly on a sea rock. Notice how he paints each color twice leaving it to dry between coats.

Polyurethane Protects the Stones

You can use these same techniques when you paint your river rocks. Be sure to use at least two coats and finish with a clear polyurethane.

Painting Stones

What could you do with black river rocks and gold or silver pens? We love the way the gold or silver contrasts with the black rocks. We started by creating imaginary rocks from outer space. We decorated them with swirls, dots and stars. We made a set of gold ones and then used white river rocks with black pens to make a chess or checker set. The kids came up with their own rules for a game to play with them on a checker board pretending to move through outer space from galaxy to galaxy.

Rock Math Games

We then started making numbered stones. At first we made the numbers one to ten. We rolled dice to see how quickly we could roll, add or subtract to make each of the numbers. Then one of the kids asked about 0 so we made a 0 while discussing how useful that 0 is.

Magnet Stone Poetry

From there we decided to start writing poetry with our river rocks. We got out a hot glue gun and glued magnets onto the back of the rocks so that they would stick to the refrigerator. They certainly do look lots nicer than the poetry magnets we found online. We keep more river rocks, magnets and the hot glue gun in a drawer next to the refrigerator for whenever we need a new word. Now, years later, we sometimes will start a new round of River Rock Poetry whenever the kids come back from college.

Manipulatives for Learning

For younger kids, add gold or silver numbers, letters or words to create beautiful, natural river rock math and language arts manipulatives for your homeschool learning explorations. I can hardly wait for grandchildren.

uni-ball Impact Gel Pens, Bold Point (1.0mm), Metallic Gold and Silver, 2 Count
uni-ball Impact Gel Pens, Bold Point (1.0mm), Metallic Gold and Silver, 2 Count

You can use gold or silver pens to write on your river rocks. Make a set with numbers for counting. Make another set of river rock letters for learning to spell. Make a third set of river rock magnets with words on them for creating refrigerator poetry.


Have you ever used river rocks for teaching math or language arts?

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Reviewing the River Rocks

Thank you so much for stopping by to learn about new ways of teaching using river rocks. If you have any more suggestions please drop me a note here. If you use any of the ideas suggested here I would love to have you tell me about it. Which ideas most inspired you and your children?


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    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      5 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      When I was a child I loved to gather shells and rocks on the beach and my daughter inherited that. River rocks are great too. I love your suggestions for painting them - I'm not an artist but I could handle putting numbers or letters on my rock collection!


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