Whether you homeschool on the road for a week or make a lifestyle of educational travel, roadschool doesn’t have to break the bank! Watch our latest video for some great money saving ideas for your next homeschool field trip!
Teaching spelling might be a bit challenging, because I have to adapt to my kids’ different learning styles. (Click here to watch my latest video “How to Teach Spelling in Homeschool.) But math…I am NO math genius. Though arithmetic never posed many problems for me, algebra kicked my butt on a regular basis as a teenager. I never flunked, but it certainly did not come easy to me. Looking back, I wonder if my brain was just not quite fully developed enough in that area to grasp concepts that came much easier to other kids. Who knows? Now that I have taken algebra at the highschool level, college level, and have to help my 13 year old daughter, I feel like I am FINALLY starting to “get it.” And now that I get it, she is starting to surpass what I ever learned.
Well, to all the mathematically challenged homeschool parents out there, there is good news. There has never been as many resources available to parents to teach their children as there are now. I have been so thankful to have a mom with a teaching degree to pass on tips and tricks to me, as well. And I am thankful for the many different curriculums and helps available. I’d love to share some of them with you!
- Saxon Math– the curriculum we used with all of our kids during the grade school years and beyond. Saxon is not colorful or fluffy. It’s been around a long time- I remember using it for pre-algebra in the 8th grade. But what Saxon lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in substance. It is extremely thorough- teaching kids mastery in math facts, slowly building skills as they gradually add concepts from one day to the next. Our oldest daughter used Saxon all the way through Saxon 8/7 in the 7th grade.
- Teaching Textbooks (a computer math program that instantly checks and records grades) is available for all ages. We switched to Teaching Textbooks when our oldest was an 8th grader and she tested into Algebra 1 (with a history of Saxon Math). We now have two children using Teaching Textbooks and it has been a huge blessing to our family!! Both of our girls detested math more and more as they got older and the material became more challenging. But when we made the switch to Teaching Textbooks, their attitudes improved tremendously! This curriculum is visually stimulating, has little characters that encourage your student(s) whether they answer correctly or need to try again, immediately corrects their work, and keeps a record for you. Parents can easily go into the record book to adjust grades or erase problems so students can try again. This curriculum has preserved my homeschool mom sanity just a bit longer!!
- Saxon CD ROMs– Saxon does put out teaching CD ROMS for their 4th grade and above curriculums that you can purchase in addition to textbooks. These CDs contain a lecture, practice problems, and work through each problem found in the text, if desired.
- DIVE CD ROMs– These CD ROMs also accompany the middle to upper levels of Saxon Math. They include a proposed syllabus to help you stay on track throughout the school year and finish the curriculum. The lecturer encourages students to write down problems as he explains examples and challenges students to keep a positive attitude. I really liked these CD ROMs. The examples are NOT the same ones found in the books.
- Xtra Math– this is an app that you can purchase (currently $4.99 on the IPhone) that makes practicing your math facts fun and easy. It can be used for multiple students and sends mom or dad a weekly report so they can see the progress their kids are making. It takes 5-10 minutes 5 days a week.
- Manipulatives– This is something that my mom tipped me off to very early in our homeschool experience- and I’m so glad she did. Several grade school curriculums will require that you purchase a set of manipulatives, which may or may not include a plastic clock with moving hands, plastic shapes, a balance, linking cubes, counting bears (or another animal for teaching arithmetic in a fun way), flash cards, etc. There are lots of household items you can use, though, to teach early elementary math concepts and make it fun: beans, buttons, grapes, tongue depressors, pencils, etc. These types of items help make learning fun.
- Tutoring– Sometimes math can just be daunting- especially in the highschool years. If you find yourself in that place, consider calling a local highschool or college and talking to a teacher/professor. Ask if they can recommend students that would make good tutors. You can also seek out the many afterschool tutoring centers that are now available.
- Khan Academy videos– I have never made use of this resource myself, but many people have recommended Googling these videos as another option for help with upper lever math problems.
So there you have it! Those are our best tips and tricks for surviving math. What recommendations do you have based on your family’s experience with teaching math? We’d love to hear from you! PLEASE, leave your tips below!!Sp
Keep Doing Life Deliberately!
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I KNOW that when my kids are having fun, they are more likely to remember what they are learning and to come back for more. (My recent video, How We Teach Through Field Trips, shows how we used a trip to a nearby raspberry farm to teach our kids where food comes from and include them in the process of making jam.) And yet, keeping learning light and enjoyable is admittedly something that I struggle with. There are lots of things that I can do well, but I am not, by nature, a clever or comedic personality. So creating a fun atmosphere or planning amusing activities is work for me. But, well, this blog is called Doing Life Deliberately for a reason. So I am convicted that this is an area I need to intentionally “step it up.”
I’ll share with you some ways that we have, over the years, truly enjoyed learning. I’ve asked the kids to share some of their favorites, too.
- Science Labs- for several years we have joined friends bi-weekly for science activities. One of our dear friends took it upon herself to organize a schedule for the year (we were all using the same curriculum) and she would invite a handful of families. Every other week we would assemble in her home to wrap up each chapter. The kids would review the material together and complete a project or experiment together. The kids have made jello replicas of human cells to learning the periodic table through a game of battleship to adding mentos to a 2 liter bottle of coke. Every session was ended with a time of fellowship for kids and parents- we ALL enjoyed it!
- Field Trips- who doesn’t love getting out of the house and letting someone else teach their kids for a day?? Some of the most fun field trips we have taken have been to a local nuclear power plant (they had a fantastic visitors program- it was fascinating!!) and a local park program that took half a day to explain to us how maple syrup is harvest (followed by a pancake lunch!). Not to mention zoo, local park programs, art museums, etc. Keep your eyes open- you’ll be surprised to find what’s available around you!
- Guest speakers- Ask someone you know to speak to your kids (and invite others to join you) about their area of expertise. Better yet, have your kids tour where they work and make it hands on (if possible).
- Museums- We have had great fun at many of our local museums! When we were studying human anatomy, we visited Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry wher they had a hilarious presentation on digestion that had us all rolling on the floor. Their human body section was phenomenal and hands on- tons of fun. We have also enjoyed Milwaukee Public Museum where they have a butterfly garden where they fly loose and you can observe them in a natural setting.
- Videos- We don’t utilize a lot of videos, but once in a while, they can be great fun. One example I can think of is the video my friends made of their family processing the honey from their personal hives. It was an extended family affair where everyone came for a day to collect the hives and extract the honey. It was so much more fascinating to see it than to read about it in a book.
- Mentorships- Do your kids have an interest in a particular skill set? Perhaps pairing them with a mentor would be a great way for them to learn in a hands on fashion. Whether wood working, computer programming, dog grooming or nursing, find a trusted individual to meet with your child who can share their passion in a personal and tangible way.
Well, now I am motivated to take a look at the calendar and plan out some fun experiences. I hope this encourages you, as well!
Do you have more ideas you’d like to share with the DLD community?? Please, share your thoughts below!! We’d love to hear from you!!
Keep Doing Life Deliberately,
So you are the mom of an infant, toddler, and/or preschooler.
(Let me stop right now to give you a cyber hug!!!)
I did not realize until my kids were grown beyond these stages and I was hanging out with my sister’s kids (which are 8 months, 2 years and 4 years) just how very physically and emotionally exhausting this stage of parenting is! I think when you are in the thick of it, and have no previous experience to compare it to, you just take it day to day and do your best to get through the day. But now that our kids are older and quite self-sufficient, I am reminded of what a sleep-deprived, survival-mode time of life that stage really is.
That being said, homeschooling with such small children is a CHALLENGE. But it is also a HUGE privilege. There are few things more satisfying, in my experience, than teaching kids to read and write. What a feeling to hold your child on your lap and hear them sound out letters and put together their first words. What a delight to study butterflies with your 5 year old, observing all of their body parts with a magnifying glass and watching the caterpillars you purchased through the mail form a chrysalis, and emerge days later as a beautiful butterfly. The joy that comes with reading scripture with your child and hearing them ask questions about God’s Word and ponder who Jesus is that He would leave heaven, take on the form of a man, live a perfect life, die and rise again so that we could walk in relationship with the Heavenly Father forever- priceless!! So yes, homeschooling with little ones is hard, but OH SO WORTH IT!
In my opinion, success in homeschooling small children means having fun and making learning exciting. If you can succeed at that, then your kids will look forward to school and learning.
Having right expectations- both of yourself and of them- is really important. School should be something that you all look forward to- not dread. For example, if mom is a slave driver with her five year old, and succumbs to a frustrated tone with her kids when they don’t understand a concept right away, the child is not going to want to do school (I say this from a place of personal experience, unfortunately, and still struggle at times).
One of the great blessings of starting homeschool at 4, 5 or 6 years old, is that you can ‘grow into” homeschool. Some different ways that can look are:
- Starting with just a small amount of time- 30 minutes to an hour (maybe even less time if your child is not accustomed to sitting still for that long). Add 5 minutes every other day until you’ve reached an ideal time frame to work with your child.
- Focusing your energies on the main subjects: reading, writing, and arithmetic. You have plenty of time to add in extra subjects as you create a comfortable routine.
- Using hands on crafts, manipulative and activities to teach that are exciting and fun. Personally, I am not the creative type to make up games and activities on the fly. But that’s the beauty of websites like Pinterest where you can search a topic (phonics games, for example) and get tons of creative ideas from teachers and moms alike.
- Adapting your school day around the needs of other kids- whether baby’s naps and feeding times or your teenager’s basketball schedule
- Having your older kids help occupy little ones (by playing with them, reading a story, taking care of their needs, etc.) while you sit one on one with your youngest students.
- Having older siblings “teach” younger siblings while you briefly tend to your little people. Teaching younger siblings often helps older sibling to solidify concepts in their own minds.
So how about you, Moms and Dads? What wrong expectations have you caught yourself in? How did you adapt? What tips do you have for other parents who are homeschooling with infants, toddlers and preschoolers? PLEASE, leave your encouraging comments below and be a blessing to other Doing Life Deliberately readers!
Keep Doing Life Deliberately, friends!!
Recently, we made our way to a local county park for a field trip to learn how maple syrup is made. Ever since reading Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I have been fascinated by the process. It was even more fascinating to walk through the process in person! Our guide shared the Native American legend of how maple syrup was discovered and demonstrated how the Native American extracted the sap from the trees with spirals made from sumac branches.
We walked through the woods and talked about different ways to identify maple trees: gray bark, the shape of the leaves and the helicopter seeds (both of which would not be helpful in the winter months because they are absent from the branches), opposing branch patterns, mustaches, and belly bottons from previous tappings. The kids had a great time searching for animal tracks in the mud and learning how to determine when it was the right time to start tapping the trees.
Our guide taught us that we should be able to hug a tree without touching our elbows- if we can do that, the tree is big enough to tap. She then allowed the kids to take turns drilling a hole for the spial. After placing the spial, a bucket or blue bag is hung to collect the sap.
Once the sap is collected, it is taken to the evaporator. It takes approximately 30 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. It takes several hours of heating the sap for it to condense down to syrup. When the sap is taken out of the tree, it looks just like water and is barely sweet. But as the water evaporates out of the sap, a caramel color appears and darkens, revealing the sweet syrup. We enjoyed tasting before, during and after the evaporation process!
After the sap is evaporated down to syrup, the syrup is cooled and bottled. We were able to taste test some of this wonderful syrup over a pancake lunch. Delightful!!
What are your favorite field trips to do with your kids?