calculator-calculation-insurance-finance-53621.jpegTeaching 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.

Ugh.

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 Maththe 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 Maththis 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!

Trisha

*I am not currently an affiliate for any of these products and do not receive a commission for any purchases made. We have enjoyed and appreciated these products and commend them to you based on our experience.

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IMG_9868I 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,

Trisha

I remember when it dawned on me that teaching my kids to be resourceful was a necessity. We were in the school room and all four kids wanted something from me at the same time: “Mom, I need help!” “Mom, can I get a snack?” “Mom, how do you spell ‘airplane’?” “Can I go to the bathroom?!?!”

Now, if you don’t know me well, I am a visual learner and an abundance of noise quickly has me overstimulated. The inundation of questions and demand for my attention from every kid made me feel like I was about to lose my ever-lovin’ mind.

I had to come up with a solution to my quandary- and fast.

Like most things with kids, my solution wasn’t a quick fix. But rather a teachable moment that would come again and again. I needed to teach my kids to be resourceful- to find other ways to solve their problems rather than coming straight to mom for the answer.

Don’t get me wrong. I want my kids to go to their dad or me for help. But there is something to be said for being a problem-solver and looking for other ways to solve a problem FIRST, before coming to mom and dad. Also, just like any school room teacher, there has to be a method for approaching a teacher when she is helping other students, to maintain order in the schoolroom. So here is the process we came up with:

  1. If you don’t understand something in the lesson you are working on, re-read or re-listen to the lesson and see if that helps to bring clarity.

  2. If you still don’t understand, is there another textbook you can look at?

  3. Is there an older sibling you can ask?

  4. Try again.

  5. Use a dictionary, look at another book, consult an encyclopedia, or google it (with permission).

  6. Ask mom or dad when all other resources have been exhausted.

What about your family? How do you handle classroom chaos? Do you have other tips for teaching your kids to be resourceful?? PLEASE, share your thoughts with the Doing Life Deliberately community so that we can all learn and be blessed!

Keep Doing Life Deliberately, friends!

Trisha

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!

A little field trip fun with my youngest and her two young cousins :-)

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!!

Trisha

Our culture is so ridiculously busy. We have gone from an attitude of “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” to lives that are too busy to be concerned with anyone else but me. The tendency toward a packed schedule has been my life story. Even as a child, I was a extremely active: afterschool jobs, sports, music lessons, speech, drama, band, 4H, and church activities. There was rarely a day that I did not have an event to go to. And though I was busy and managed to stay out of trouble, looking back I can see that there was not a ton of quality family time. I was pretty consumed by me: what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go. I think that my crazy pace (though it was filled with many, many “good” things), enabled me to become very self-centered.

I am not advocating dropping all extracurriculars, afterschool jobs, and the like. We don’t want to be creating a generation of lazy bums. But I wonder if there is a happy medium to be had: a schedule that allows for kids explore their interests, but not at the cost of quality and quantity family time. Is there a sweet spot that allows our children to be active, but also creates space in their lives to appreciate rest and give of their time to others?

I think one of the serious dangers of not creating margin in our families is that we are not only being selfish with our own time, but we are also leading (by example) our children to be selfish with their time. Time is precious. Time is fleeting. And when we fill our schedules so full of activities that we have no flexibility to meet the needs of others, we have severely limited how God can use us to be a blessing in the lives of others. We have no space/availability to be about our Father’s business.

I think there are a few questions we can ask ourselves to evaluate whether or not we have entered the camp of “too busy, no margin”;

  • Do we have a day where we rest together as a family, with no commitments (a day of Sabbath)?

  • Do we regularly (not every day, but frequently) sit down at the dinner table and eat together as a family?

  • Are we spending more than an hour a day in the car driving to school or extracurricular activities?

  • Do we have evenings available in a week where we can show hospitality to others, either by opening our home or meeting people elsewhere for fellowship?

  • Do we have enough time in our day to bring a meal to someone in need, pray as a family for someone who is hurting, help someone move, or another random act of kindness?

I am absolutely convinced that when our kids are adults, they will not remember the gifts they received, or the trophies, medals and ribbons they earned. Those things will all collect dust somewhere and fade from memory. But the things they will treasure, that will stay with them forever, are the experiences they had with their family and friends. I want to make space for my children (who like me are sinful and selfish by nature) to learn to open their eyes to observe the needs of those around them, to use their minds and hearts to consider how they can meet those needs, and to use their time and abilities to meet those needs. But if I let my kids’ schedules get too full with no margin, there will literally be no space for our kids to learn that selflessness and practice sacrificial love. I can’t make my kids selfless, but I can create an environment in our daily lives that creates space for those opportunities to learn and practice selflessness, kindness, and rest.

If you want to see more about how I schedule our homeschool days, click on the link: How I Schedule Our Homeschool

What challenges does your family face in creating space for margin and rest in your home? Do you have any insights or tools that you can share with other Doing Life Deliberately readers so that they can have success in this area? PLEASE, share your thoughts below!! We’d love to hear from you!!

Until next time, keep Doing Life Deliberately!

~Trisha

That’s a big title, I know. And I bet you didn’t know that God requires that His people homeschool their kids. But it’s there. Just look at Deuteronomy 6:4-9~

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Ok, so He’s not talking necessarily about academically educating your children at home. BUT, He is talking about educating your children at home. Our faith in Jesus Christ is not to be a one day a week experience. God commands parents to not only walk with Him themselves, but to teach their children to walk with Him, as well. It is NOT the Church’s primary responsibility to disciple your children- it is primarily the parents’ responsibility to train up their children to know and love the Lord. There is so much rich instruction given in these verses. God does not require that our kids go through a formal curriculum or that they go through a confirmation class- though those things are good and worthy of our time. But God desires for Christian parents to saturate their homes with talk of His goodness, His love, His instructions, His promises. Above all, He wants parents to teach their kids not to be good people, but to be people who can’t help but do good things because they are so consumed by their love of God which permeates every aspect of their being: their heart, soul and might.

It is our conviction, that one of the best ways to convey this love is by home educating our children. This is our strongest motivator for homeschooling. The public school system is certainly NOT going to teach our kids to love the Lord. Their peers at school (on the whole) are not going to teach them to love the Lord. But if we educate them at home, for better or for worse, we (their parent’s) get to be their biggest influencers. And you better believe, we feel the weight of that responsibility.

The curriculum used public schools (and most private schools, for that matter) will not teach them to love the Lord. When homeschooling, we get to choose what curriculum we use. We opt to use Christ-centered curriculum that points our children to the truths of God’s Word- whether we examine the character and choices of men throughout history, examine science through the lens of scripture, marvel at God’s orderly character through math, or read literature examining the worldview and choices of characters.

Finally and most importantly, we can open up God’s Word every day together, pray, discuss what the Word means and how it applies to our lives (and your kids don’t have to be academically educated at home to do that!). It is our greatest delight to intercede for others with our children, to hear them ask questions about God’s Word and to see them choose to seek Him on their own. But these beautiful jewels of love for the Lord and character growth are not accidents. They are also not works that we can fabricate or magically produce as parents. They are gifts of grace from God- a beautiful blessing as we pour the love of God into our kids and watch Him grow them from the inside out.

Our kids are not perfect. They are as flawed and sinful as their mom and dad. Homeschooling is not perfect. Every homeschooling family struggles in different ways. But it is a gift from God to spend quantity and quality time with our kids, influencing them to love and follow hard after the Lord who loves them so much, “He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

If you would like to hear more about WHY we chose to homeschool, click on this link to see my latest video: The Top 10 Reasons Why We Chose to Homeschool

How do YOU deliberately influence your kids to follow Christ? We’d love to hear what that looks like in your family, so PLEASE, share in the comments below!!

Until next time, keep doing life deliberately,

Trisha

Who doesn’t want a grateful kid?  Every parent longs for their child to show appreciation for the kindness extended to them- whether by friend, family or stranger.

But a thankful heart is not something that happens by accident.  It takes teaching, nurturing and consistent practice. When Thanksgiving rolls around, we’re prone to reflect on the good gifts that God has given us.  Below are some considerations of how you can practice showing gratitude with your children and train them to have thankful hearts:

  • consistently teach toddlers and preschoolers to say thank you whenever a kindness is done to them.
  • when praying together (at meals, bedtimes, etc.), make it a priority to thank God for His kindnesses shown to you that day
  • create a poster, visible to everyone, where each member of the family can write down why they are grateful.  Make it colorful- even your smallest children will enjoy listing off and drawing things that they are thankful for.
  • make it a regular practice to write thank you notes to people who show you a kindness- whether a gift or service.  One mom even suggested not allowing kids to play with new toys until the thank you note is written!! (Way to go, Mom!)
  • be quick to draw attention to answered prayers and God’s provision.  Keep a list in a journal for yourself and/or a visible list or poster for the family to celebrate together.
  • praise God in the moment when you- mom or dad- are thankful for God’s activity in your life.  Impromptu praises show your kids that God is at work all the time and not just within the walls of a church or at certain times.
  • memorize bible verses that talk about giving thanks, such as Psalm 9:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, or 1 Chronicles 16:34
  • most importantly, regularly express your gratitude to God in front of your kids for God’s work of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ!

As Mom and Dad exemplify gratitude to their kids and give them opportunities to join in the blessings of a thankful heart, children will rise to the occasion and learn to be grateful, too.  November is a great time to purposefully up our thankfulness game and deliberately practice thanksgiving.

What are some ways your family practices gratitude?  Please, share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions in the comments below!