Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Math On the Sidewalk

I'm saying sidewalk but technically it's the driveway.  Whatever.  You get the point.  LOL  Just for a nice change of pace, we headed outside with our chalk.  I wanted to do a bit of review of addition and subtraction as far as each one knew.  Pooh is more advanced than Tigger in this area (which he should be) so he got the more complex problems to do.  I used my color to make the problem and they got to pick the color that they liked.  You can't erase mistakes so be prepared for that.  I think we could try wetting the cement to see what effect that would have on the brightness of the chalk.  Make sure your cement isn't too hot during the midday sun.  We caught it on a good day--not too hot or too bright.

Tigger happy at work.

 He worked on adding with nines.  He converted it to 10+ as we learned in Math U See.

Then we worked on doing the same process with the eights.

 Here is Pooh working hard on his complex addition and subtraction problems.

 You can see he's working thru carrying.  He actually hadn't done this in a while and did extremely well.  I couldn't believe I didn't hear fits and screaming about the problems.  Was it the change in environment/place/time?  One never knows.  Just go with the flow.  It's easier.  ;D

I noticed some issues with the reading of the larger numbers, such as hundred thousand, million.  So I drew houses that gradually increased in size.  They started at units and moved up to about 10 millions I think.  A sidewalk/driveway is the perfect place to draw that out.

You don't have to get obsessive over neatness.  My houses weren't perfect squares but they got the point across.
We will definitely be back out there when it cools a bit and try it again.  This would be a good idea for different math activities.  Measuring out areas, shape drawing for the little ones, fractions, etc.

If you have more ideas that would work with this activity, please post a comment and share!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Math in the Kitchen

Yesterday I brought us to the kitchen table for math.  I've done this several times before but I made it a bit different this time.  I took out 3 sets of items.

First Set:  Four different containers were brought to the table.  My big Costco bottle of balsamic vinegar, a can of mushrooms, my demarara sugar and sea salt.  We worked on reading the label to know what it is and then reading the measurements of what is in the container.  So we talked about lbs, liters, milliliters and ounces.  This was not an in depth explanation but an introduction to the terms.

Second Set:  We again went over the half cup, third cup and fourth cup measuring containers.  I had two different sets and we also read the milliliters on that.  We found out that the two half cup containers were actually a little bit different because one was more milliliters than the other.  Also I asked Pooh to think about how many half cups were in my liter of balsamic vinegar.  We did this based on milliliters too.  He was pretty close in his guess which gives me hope.  He's extremely math phobic.  He probably has dyscalculia which is why I teach a 6th grader and a 4th grader together.

Third Set:  I got out the monster muffins I bought at Lowes Food and cut them into fractions.  The first muffin was cut into fourths and discussed as I put it on Tigger's plate.  The second muffin was cut into eighths and put onto Pooh's plate.

Issues I noticed were:  Tigger keeps calling the half cup---one and a half cups.  Tigger had issues with saying 2/4th instead of one half in the muffin set.  We need to review liquid measurements and get an idea of how they ounces.

Last week I got out some chalk and we did sidewalk math.  I have photos that I will post when I am able.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

FAQ-Where do I get the materials?

Where you buy your materials will depend upon what you’re looking for and the type of homeschool method you have chosen.  I recommend checking Rainbow Resource once you know what you want to buy.  Many times they’ll have the item cheaper than anywhere else.  Some of the different suppliers of homeschool curriculum are as follows:

Handwriting Without Tears
Discount Homeschool Supplies
Rock Solid Inc.

Another idea is to look for places that sell used curriculum.  Websites such as;; and are a few you can look into. 

Homeschool conferences are a good place to see and review different curricula before purchasing.  You may also wish to ask fellow homeschooling families to allow you to view the materials they use so that you can see before you buy.  A good place to read reviews of materials is . 

Monday, June 20, 2011

FAQ-What if I work full-time?

Many parents who work full-time consider homeschooling their child/children.  It is not an impossible task.  There are many things to consider when making this type of decision.  What is your work schedule?  Will you be working in the home or outside the home?  How old is the student(s)?  Can he/she work independently?  How much time each day are they spending alone?  Are they prepared to deal with home emergencies on their own?  (fire, burglary, etc)  Is my child a social butterfly/introverted and how will this affect the development of their personality? 

These questions bear serious consideration, especially for those parents who will be working outside the home and are considering leaving their child to work on their own.  It is the rare child who copes well in that type of situation. 

Another option that is available in our state is that of having your child join another homeschool already in operation.  You may know someone who is currently only homeschooling their children and is willing to take on yours as well.  That is a situation that may work for some.  For details on the laws in regards this, please see your state law website. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

FAQ-What if my child has a Learning Disabiblity/ADD/Autism?

Teaching a child with a disability can be a daunting task.  However, know that you are not alone.  Many parents have found the public school system inadequate for their child’s needs.  More and more, parents are turning to homeschooling as an answer to helping their child learn and cope with day to day life.  There are many advantages to homeschooling a special needs child.  For instance, there are less distractions, the child is able to work at their own pace without the demand to meet somebody else’s time schedule and the stress is greatly reduced when the child is at home, allowing the mind to concentrate on learning.   Homeschooling provides the one-on-one attention that many students with disabilities need. 

Depending on your child’s disability, there are many resources to look into online.  Yahoo Groups offers a wide variety of groups to join so as to gather more info on your child’s particular issue and ways to meet the demand of teaching for your child.  As with everything, you must be guided by wisdom and discernment in regards joining the different groups.  However, most that I’ve seen concentrate on the issue at hand.  Here are a few websites geared toward helping teach the learning disabled student.

Personal Note:  I've had lots of ups and downs and doubted myself along the way with what we've done and how we've proceeded.  I think that's pretty normal.  Not only is each child unique but each family is unique too.  Even if two children were exactly the same, if they are in two different families, what works or helps will be different.  I think if homeschooling is something you have decided to do, you should know that you will have days where you think you just can't do it.  That you need to send your child back to school.  That may be true in some cases.  However, in talking to parents whose children are in public school, I stay happy overall with our decisions.  There are no miracles either way, just hard work and slow but steady progress.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

FAQ-What about socialization?

Ahhhh, the dreaded question.  All homeschoolers face this question at some point either from themselves, their spouse, well-meaning relatives or ‘concerned friends’.   To answer this question one must first understand what socialization is.   Webster’s College Dictionary defines socialization as “a continuing process whereby an individual learns and assimilates the values and behavior patterns appropriate to his or her culture and social position”.  As parents we are all very concerned about how our children acquire their “values and behavior patterns”.  It is generally thought in our society that a child is not socialized unless he/she has attended public school.  However, that idea isn’t in line with the definition of socialization.  Let’s think about how we as adults socialize.  Do you always hang out with friends that are the same age as you?  When have you learned the most, when you are with same-age peers or when you’ve socialized with people from a variety of backgrounds and ages?  The same can be said of our children.  They can benefit from a homeschool social scene.  Most homeschool groups are comprised of young people from a variety of ages and backgrounds.  Older students learn to get along with and care for the younger ones.  Compare that with the attitude displayed in public school where the Freshman are made fun of simply because of their age and grade level.  Additionally, homeschool students receive socialization by being in public places such as libraries, parks and stores.  The majority of our lives are spent in these real life social situations, not the artificially created social scenes of public school. 

There are many things you can do to ensure that your student has interaction other than family members.  The best method is to seek out other homeschoolers.  Look for homeschool groups in your area.  Talk to parents at parks.  Many public park recreation departments have classes that your students can participate in.  There are 4-H clubs, music classes, dance classes, horseback riding etc.  Even more can be done when participating in a volunteer work.  Teens, especially, can volunteer at a local museum.  Visit all sorts of places on field trips and you will be exposed to a plethora of situations where your students can “assimilates the values and behavior patterns appropriate to his or her culture and social position”. 

So if someone asks you as a homeschooler, “What about socialization?” you can answer with confidence “Got that taken care of, thank you!”

Friday, June 17, 2011

FAQ-How do I schedule my day? How many hours should we school?

Once again I like to refer people to the internet for the many examples of daily/weekly schedules.  No family will have the exact same schedule.  The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that you can adapt it to your needs.  Generally, the younger students do better schooling in the morning.  With older students, there has been some research suggesting that they may do better getting started later in the day.  It doesn’t hurt to try different approaches until you find what works best for your family.  Some families do school work in the evenings or even weekends! to set up a Charlotte Mason daily schedule) (click on individual names for more of their scheduling story) (free printable pages for you to fill in your schedule)  (scheduling tips and this website has lots of forms as well)  (an all encompassing planner that many homeschoolers use)

The length of time spent schooling during the day will vary.  Younger students may school for 1-2 hours per day while older students may spend 5 hours per day on their studies.  Another variable is the method of homeschooling you have chosen, in addition to the curriculum.  One piece of advice that I have found helpful (from Charlotte Mason) is to have short periods of instruction.  This serves the dual purpose of keeping the student engaged and focused as well as teaching the student the habit of attention.  If your student knows that they just have to focus on their spelling for say 5 minutes, then they are more inclined to concentrate and put a good amount of effort into those 5 minutes.  If you find your student dragging a math lesson out to half the morning, set a timer.  Currently, my 5 year old son can only focus on math for 10 minutes.  Once he goes over 10 minutes he starts dropping pencils, falling off his seat and mentally heading off into la la land.  In time, I will increase his math allotment to 15 minutes, then 20 minutes, etc.  Sometimes your scheduling must be a building process.   It’s no fun to nag or be nagged at to stay on track.  Short lessons help solve that problem.

As you can see, there is great variety in how people homeschool.  Please remember to use what works for your family.  Time, trial and yes, sometimes error, will get you to your 'sweet spot'.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

FAQ-What will it cost?

The cost of homeschooling is a completely individual thing.  A boxed curriculum will usually cost you more money per year.  Piecing together your own curriculum can cause a wide variety of costs.  There are a number of websites and books that you can find on how to homeschool for less.  Additionally, there are tons of websites for printing free worksheets.  The library is also an invaluable resource.  Basically, you can spend as much or as little as you wish.

Here are two websites where you can look at homeschooling on a budget.  Please note that this is general info.  I don't claim to agree with everything written.

My personal notes:  I do think you can homeschool for very little if needed.  Since I use the Charlotte Mason method and the curriculum available at Ambleside Online, I have found much of the material is available for free online.  Many older literature books are online and in audio form.  I have found to be very useful in our home.  

That being said, I have found that at most I have spent $1000 one year and as little as $100 a different year.  This is what I meant earlier when I said that putting together your own curriculum can vary greatly in cost.  I will tell you that my most expensive year has been at a homeschool convention.  Hah!  Those conventions can be traps if you don't go knowing exactly what you want.  That one year I didn't.  In subsequent years, I've gone to the convention with a specific list in hand and I did much better.  

The longer you are at your homeschooling experience the better you will get at assessing your real needs and can go from there.  As is common among over achieving mothers, we can be a bit overconfident at how much can be accomplished in one year.  You'll get the hang of it with a little practice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

FAQ-So we've deschooled, decided to skip deschooling or my child has never been in school, now what?

Research and decide upon the homeschooling method that suits you and your children.  This is important because there is a lot of information and homeschool material out there.  Knowing the method that you choose to teach with will help you to weed out curriculum and other materials.  You will more or less know by looking at a product if it fits in with your method of teaching.  Here are some popular homeschooling methods:

  • Traditional:  This is basically public school at home.  You have a full, set curriculum, which requires grading, and careful record keeping.  Usually comes in a ‘boxed’ curriculum format—meaning everything for Grade 2 is bought as one package. 
  • Classical Education:  Based on a three-part system called the Trivium.  Stages are Fact Absorption (Grammar stage), then Thinking through Arguments (Logic stage), then finally learning to Express themselves (Rhetoric stage). 
  • Charlotte Mason Education:  This method encourages ‘real-life’ learning.  Geography, history and literature are taught from ‘living books’ that make the learning come alive.  Study of nature, art, music and handicrafts are considered necessary, as is outdoor playtime. 
  •  Unit Studies:  This is when all subjects to be taught are centered on a theme.  For instance, the student would learn math, geography, etc through his study of insects or whatever is the current theme. 
  •  Eclectic Education:  The parent takes bits and pieces of many different methods to formulate their own teaching method. 
  • Un-schooling:  Also referred to as Natural Learning.  This is a child-led way of educating.  There is a great variation in the ‘true’ definition of un-schooling and many explanations of how others go about it. 
  •  Montessori Method:  An education method based on theories of child development.  Mainly used in pre-k and elementary settings.  This method places importance on the child being provided with many manipulatives and physical experiences to foster self-directed learning.

I know this is a lot, but don’t let it overwhelm you.  Just start by learning the basics of each method and narrow it down to a couple that feel comfortable for you.  Then you can study those two in more depth.  It’s also highly likely that what you start out with will not be the only method you use in your homeschool career.  Many start out with Traditional homeschooling and gradually change over to one of the other methods that suit them better.  Don’t be afraid to make changes!