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My old ugly fridge is scratched, dented and has numerous stains all over it.

It is the best. Ugly, true – but it was very influential in the education of my children.

With a box of fridge magnets, (both letters and numbers) and some dry-erase markers, my children started to create words on the fridge.

These were not actual words, but the hilarity of Mom attempting to sound out the crazy combination of letters that they mashed together had my kids in stitches. We were making memories.

The best part of this is that it could continue while I was cleaning the kitchen, or cooking one of the many meals the children likely wouldn’t eat anyways.

But at least they were learning.

Once in a while, when I had a moment to sit with them we focused on real words.

Cat, Hat, That, Fat, Mat, Sat… The rhyming words allowed them to get a quick grasp on reading.

See, Flee, Pee (the potty humour always helped bring a smile to their face – oh, the regrets I hold now).

My son is sitting at a pretty standard reading level for his age – his reading motivation is not super high, however, I am still floored when he starts to read the warning signs on the side of the hot-water tank or my mail on the table.

So much for having adult text conversations with him looking over my shoulder.

My daughter, that ambitious turkey, is 2 years younger and insists on learning to read the words my on my son’s spelling tests. So when the spelling tests come out, so do the flash cards.

Say what you will about worksheets and flash card learning – it worked for me, and my kids love it – but it all started with this dirty, ugly fridge.