Well, after much thought and research, I have finally found some homemade balance instructions that work (not that the others wouldn't have worked, but they didn't work for me). I tried a few approaches before I got to this particular one. My first idea was to rig the Spill the Beans game...which didn't quite turn out the way that I had hoped. The second idea that I came across involved a ruler and a pencil...and the Spill the Beans game...I really wanted that to work! Finally, I found this: Make your own mass balance scale. My scale is of a more crude appearance, but I'm hoping that my husband can tweak it at some point since he's a lot stronger than me :D I was just too impatient to wait until he got home at the end of a long work day...and I didn't want to bug him with something so trivial at that point. Anyway, hope this serves some of you...I had all of these materials at home so this balance cost me $0...compared to a minimum of $10 + shipping elsewhere (from what I've seen).
Most of all, my kiddos are delighted to play with it. (I'm glad they don't know what they're missing yet!) Maybe I'll find a nice balance at a yard sale this summer. For now, this will work.
Now to find instructions for some of the other math manipulatives that my kiddos "need" for their curriculum...what have you used???