Our 10 Best Homeschool Posts of 2013

It is so hard to believe that it is already the middle of January! Time really flies! To summarize our year of homeschooling in 2013, I thought I would share our best posts! We’ve posted on everything from a weather lesson to High School homeschooling and everything in between! Since, it’s easy to move on and forget exactly what we covered over time I thought it would be nice to have a little reminder! If you have an all time favorite post – I would love for you to vote for it in the comments below!

1) Pain Free Math for Homeschool Highschoolers

2) Homeschooling the Big Family – Just a Few Tips

3) Getting Your Students Writing

4) Using Games to Motivate

5) Top 6 Ways to Organize Your Homeschool

6) Learning History with Summer Exploration

7) Express Yourself

8) Writing for Early Learners

9) Making Independent Learners

10) Homeschool Sports and Special Needs

Which Middle School Math is right for Us?

middle school mathYour child just finished up sixth grade and now you are faced with decisions of how to prepare them for what they need to take in high school and beyond. It can be a daunting task, and let me tell you… it’s just the beginning.  Before you know it, you’ll be making high school decisions, and then college decisions. It goes too fast… but I digress…

How do you decide what to teach your Middle School students? From simple machines to art curriculum… it’s hard to know what they should be taking! Well, as I always say… refer to their strengths. Determine which areas they do awesome in and which areas they just “cover.” Those “strong” areas are where you should be putting your attention. For some reason, many people think our children should be masters of everything. I don’t… challenge their strengths for those are the areas that they will more than likely develop and follow in their pursuit of a career.

With that in mind, determine if your student is strong in math or not. From there you can decide if you want to go basic math all the way through high school. If you child is gifted in language abilities, there isn’t anything wrong with just covering what they need in the math area. On the flip side, you should be challenging the stew out of them in their “strong” areas!

1) Slower math learners should stick with the basic seventh grade math, eighth grade math and then basic high school algebra.

2) Typical math students could do either seventh or eighth grade math in their seventh grade year, pre algebra in their eighth grade year, and then Algbebra I in high school.

3) Faster math learners should definitely be challenged, and we as parents should help them in this! They can easily take eighth or pre algebra in seventh grade, and algebra I in eighth grade, thus allowing them to take more advanced maths throughout high school.

If you have experienced this with your own children, please comment and share with us!

Just Don’t Push It!

homeschool math, homeschooling, math, math learningOk, I confess… I love math. I love teaching math, doing math, and even learning new math! I get excited when I see how things always work together in a methodical manner. Math presents me with puzzles that are just waiting to be solved. I love it so much, I want to show others how great it is… and I want them to love it too!

Transfer that to our homeschool… I have been teaching my kids math concepts since they were still sitting in my lap. We play math puzzles, we do tangrams, we make pictures by solving math problems. It’s so much fun… at least that’s what I thought. Can you imagine how horrified I was when my oldest two children informed me that they did not like math! They are saying terrible things like, “I hate math” and “Math really stinks.” Words that almost bring me to tears.

Well, how do we handle this obvious disapointment in our homeschooling endeavors? I know what the correct answer is, but it still doesn’t lesson the sadness of not passing on my love of math to my children. I know that if I push math too hard – and trust me I have tried not to by majorly restraining the natural passion I have for the subject – I can cause math anxiety in my children. I really have tried to make homeschool math fun over the years for my kids without pressuring them into doing math constantly. (Ok… don’t believe me… but I really did try!) So, now I am trying to rethink what I should do for my 4 younger children.  I think I am definitely adopting the manta, “Don’t Push It.”

I have always tried to foster and encourage the strengths that I see arising in my children. Over the years we’ve taken photography classes and music lessons, but when their weaknesses rise to my attention I don’t want to focus on them. I try to address them, and educate them through the weakness. I also try to help them overcome and difficulties, but I don’t want to focus on the weakness. So, at this stage of the game… the “I hate Math” highschoolers are still taking their state required high school math courses, but we just aren’t pushing for math lovers! (Though I’m still holding out hope for the last 4… )

Homeschool Math Doesn’t Have to be a Headache!

Homeschool math drill and practiceAh… the infamous math class… a bit disturbing even for the veteran homeschool parent! But don’t despair there are some awesome homeschool helps out there that really make learning/teaching math a cinch.

First of all… keep a good attitude about math. Your child imitates everything you do… even your attitudes. So, if we have a bad attitude about math that can easily be transferred to our children. When in reality math hatred isn’t genetic… your child could be a physicist even if you hate math! 🙂

When you set out to plan your math instruction, you first need to be aware of how your child learns. Designing your math study around this can make all the difference in the world. If your child does well with abstract thinking, you may be able to use an independent study math program. However, if your child needs a little more interest led learning using a hands on program such as Math-U-See may help. Finally, if your student just gets bored and easily distracted with learning math a curriculum that is highly motivating, engaging and fun might be the answer… and Time4Learning has you covered with homeschool math.

When I teach math, and I teach it in many ways and using several different curriculums… I usually want to include some drill and practice. Just writing down math facts or answering questions with a pen and pencil isn’t fun. Yet, doing some computer math drill and practice can make a big difference. For some reason, when a child is playing a game… they really don’t feel like they are learning or working. This is my favorite way to teach… be sneaky! Sneak in that learning while they are having fun and it is all relatively painless… even enjoyable!

Catching Up with Homeschool

At the end of every year, I always go back and review the school year that just passed. With this retrospection comes the painful realization that I missed something.  No matter how hard I try, there is always a few skills or sub skills that I neglected. This can be easily remedied…

The summer is a great time to catch up with problem areas or get ahead in learning. I like to use easy and fun ways to learn during the summer to get the kids interested and keep them interested. When there is so much fun outside and inside…they tend to ask “Why…?” If you can gather a set of resources that makes the learning painless… and actually enjoyable –  the complaints will more than cease. For example, with homeschool math I have a few things that need to be reviewed.  We like to use things like IXL, online math programs,  and even fun brain. These make for great summer learning that’s fun and exciting. Your wild things will be sure to catch up and even prepare for next year’s math.

Do you have any summer learning resources that you’d like to share?

Top 10 Tips for Making Math Meaningful

Math is one of the more challenging subjects for most children. Because of this math is often viewed as the “subject I hate.” Yet, in math achievement U.S. students are far behind most of their international peers. In fact, the US is not producing near enough engineers to fulfill the global demand. So, other countries are stepping up to the challenge. In our day, math undoubtedly is a vital part of education. Many of the requirements from when we were in school no longer hold true. A heavier mathematics load is now considered basic in most US states, with Algebra I being completed in 8th grade. With the increased demands for better prepared students, our children need a stronger math foundation. As homeschooling gows in various forms from unschooling to roadschooling, staying on top of the educational demands of our day is a relevant issue. We need to prepare our primary/elementary age students by:

1) Using manipulatives, manipulatives, and more manipulatives… the more hands on and concrete examples you can use for math, the better your child will understand it.
2)Equipping them with a complete memorization of all basic math facts will give a foundation that will help them transition easily to higher math. This doesn’t mean all fact cards…start with concepts and then work on drill as they age.
3)Make cool experiments, conduct surveys, and make charts and graphs.
4)Use estimation to help kids think through the problem first.
5)Use mathematical tools such as scales, weights, protractors, compass, calculators, spreadsheets, and graphs.
6)Encourage them to find ways to earn money saround the house and then how to budget that money.
7)Allow music to help instill mathematical sense. Learning how to play an instrument is the best way to do this.
8)Get involved in math competitions. This will help children with problem solving strategies.
9)Use family games to incorporate mathematical reasoning.
10)Point out how you use math in everyday living, and encouarge them to help you. Things like sorting clothes, dividing desserts, clipping coupons, planning grocery lists within budget, doubling recipes, and even making a purchase.

Internet Homeschooling

I love homeschooling, but I love homeschooling using the computer even more. The awesome amount of knowledge that is waiting at my fingertips each time that I turn on the computer really boggles my mind. In fact, this week I ran across a new term for homeschooling using google… homeschoogling… cool huh??
In each area of my child’s education, I can augment it through computer use. Whether they are advanced in a subject or need a remedial reading program… in any case I can access resources on the internet to give them the needed drill and practice. What’s even better, is that most of the time this extra help doesn’t cost me an extra penny… can’t ask for better than that!
Here are some great places to get a little extra help without spending that extra penny…
IXL is awesome for math help…

Reading Rockets helps struggling readers

Primary Games

Learning Games for Kids
Vocabulary Review

Mathematics Tips for Elementary Students

Many people use developed or prepackaged materials for math study. This is often beneficial when the parent really has no inclination towards math. Yet, is using just a math curriculum enough? Math is the subject that teaches us to reason logically. It is what gives way to abstract thought. So, a basic curriculum might not have all the application your child needs. Here are a few tips to bring it all together.

Use manipulatives to give your children concrete representations of mathematical concepts. They can be purchased or made (wooden stick, beans, counting charts, etc.).
Children should be able to quickly rattle off basic math facts. These facts are the foundation of higher mathematical thinking.
Make mathematical charts and games. Conduct surveys and compile the data.
Use the various tools that mathmaticians use such as calculators, weights, measures graphs, and spreadsheets.
Give them real life practice handling money. Don’t just give your child money, give them opportunities to earn money.
Practice estimating answers to math problems when you’re out at the store, restaurants, yard sales, etc.
Study an instrument. Music is essentially mathematical.
Play strategy games such as cards, dominoes, hink pink games, checkers, and chess. Logical reasoning and math skills will greatly benefit.

The Gender Gap in Education

I have mixed feelings about this issue myself, but after looking at a prominent educational online news page today I almost laughed outloud. One article at the top of the page discussed how to promote gender equity in math and science, another article near the bottom of the page elaborated on how to become aware of learning preferences and differences between boys and girls in these subjects. Are there differences or not? And if there are natural differences then why are we trying to negate them?  So, what are they saying here?

Are there differences or not? An easy way to answer this question would be to ask a mother that has both a boy and girl.  I guess I could qualify for that one… in my opinion there are distinct difference between how a boy and a girl think and learn. Yet, those differences do not devaluate either’s ability to learn or achieve in certain educational fields. A boy just simply “goes at it” differently than a girl. It is not the wrong way, just a different way. Girls read better than boys, and boys do better in math in science… are both just ridiculous statements.  I am female, a very girly female – and have always had strong abilities in math and science. The myth that boys do better than girls in math and science is just that… a myth.

Every child should be given every opportunity to explore their natural strengths. What do you think?