“Aha” Moments

When our children are tiny, we wait with bated breath for every first…the first time they roll over, their first step, first words, first meal…the list is endless.

I’m still seeing firsts. When my oldest son, TLC, was three, he asked me to teach him to write his name, and I started teaching him the rules of reading and writing. He could never seem to translate that knowledge into action though. When he turned eight years old, however, a door seemed to swung open in his mind and he went from not reading one day, to reading at grade-level the next day. It was an amazing moment!

When he was two years old, we were frequently amazed at his mathematical propensities! He could do basic math, including simple multiplication. In the last few years, he has struggled with the concept of multiplication and division. On the advice of our facilitator, we have simply accommodated this challenge by providing him a times table chart to use. I’ll confess to many moments of frustration, especially when it takes him a significant amount of time to calculate equations on the two’s times table! Just recently, however, while we were working on calculating areas and volumes, he had to calculate 3×2… I got frustrated with him and went into a bit of a lecture mode — nothing I hadn’t said to him previously, but he suddenly grasped the concept, and I once again saw the door of his mind swing open. In the days following, he has retained and continued to gain confidence in his mathematical ability and multiplication prowess.

What did I say to him? I told him that math is always the same. That the equation for a triangle will ALWAYS be bh/2. His response? “That’s logical, I should be good at this.” I laughed and told him he was good at this. That’s been the most frustrating thing. I know he’s good at math. I know he has a natural affinity for it. It was not until he was aware of his natural ability in math that he was able to begin excelling at it. The key for TLC was discovering math is always the same, that it is logical, constant, and reliable. Once he realized that key point, the world of math opened up for him.

 
I love the “AHA” moments. I love still being able to experience those with my children. It makes all the frustration, the challenges and the struggles worthwhile.

Sometimes we get caught up in trying to make our children keep up with their peers, and forget that they learn at their own pace. We change the way we teach because we fear they aren’t grasping the concept, when our children simply need only one more piece of the puzzle to believe in themselves. Once we empower them to believe in themselves, they can quickly and easily grasp the most challenging concept. I have to be aware, to watch and carefully identify the messages I, and others, give my children. I need to purposefully build up their esteem.

When they believe they can learn, learning becomes easy.

Easy Quiet Book for Little Ones

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If you’ve ever had a very active toddler like I do, I’m sure you’ve wondered many times what you can do to keep them busy. When my firstborn son was little, my mother lovingly sewed him a quiet book for church. It was beautiful and he loved it! Sadly I was not gifted with the sewing gene, and my mother has since passed on. So, I pondered as to how I could make something for our newest little girl! While I may not be able to sew well or at all, I can laminate like there is no tomorrow!!

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When my older children were younger, I made tons of laminated file folder games for them. There are so many free file folder games online that you can just print out and laminate! Did I mention I LOVE laminating!! So I thought, “Why not make a laminated quiet book!” How easy is that! I dug through my extensive collection of file folder games and also searched for new free ones online. Then I printed, laminated, and cut out the game pieces.

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Next was to find a three-ring binder that was just the right size. I went with a 1″ binder and made a pretty cover for it. Then I affixed magnets onto the laminated game boards, where the pieces would go, and slid them into sheet protectors. I did this so that she wouldn’t be tempted to pull the magnets off. I cut apart business card magnets for the game boards and the pieces. After that I separated out the game pieces into individual ziplock bags and stored them in a three-ring pencil case.

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I love the flexibility of this quiet book because I can make up multiple activities, store them in my file cabinet, and change them out. The possibilities are endless! You can make one that is spiritually centered for church, and one that is early learning based, or combine them together. My three-year-old loves hers. I have even thought about making some activities that are seasonally themed also!

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Below is the link to my Pinterest board with tons of free File Folder Game Printables!!

File Folder Games – Pinterest

The laminator I have used for years is the Duck Electric Laminator. I originally purchased it at Walmart for $25, but they no longer carry this brand. There are many that are comparable in price and quality though. I love my laminator, and it was one of my best homeschool purchases!

 

Math and the Flexible Homeschool

“Math” and “flexible” may seem at odds with each other. How flexible can math be, after all? More flexible than I once thought!

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Last spring, towards the end of our school year, I asked some homeschool mom friends about math. Do they finish every lesson, every year? What if we were behind? Did we have to do math all summer before moving on?

Yes, there was one who stayed on schedule, and her kids finished every lesson every year. We were not in that category. My son had struggled with math for awhile. Now that we were using Saxon math, he was doing well, but I didn’t want him to fall behind if I missed teaching something. One friend, a teacher by training, reassured me that most teachers/students don’t finish the whole textbook by the end of the year. She suggested giving a placement test and going from there.

Since we were using Saxon math, I gave my son the Saxon Placement Test. The results indicated he was more than ready for the next level. In fact he could possible skip a level. We stopped our math before the school year ended. My son was delighted. A burden was lifted from me.

The next dilemma was a great one. Should we skip a level or continue on to the next level in sequence. I didn’t want to push him or have boredom set in. What to do?

We decided to proceed with the next level in sequence, but modify the lessons. We skipped the practice sets, and he was allowed to just take the tests, as long as his scores stayed above 90 percent. We reviewed any missed problems carefully to make sure they were review and not new concepts. It was clear when he got to new material, and then we settled into following the regular lessons with all problem sets, practice sets, and timed drills.

With this quick start, by mid-December he was nearing the back of the book. I was not in any rush to spend more money on another set of books, so I figured we’d just soldier on to the end. But, then we were gifted with a box of used homeschool books. Included were some older second edition Saxon math textbooks. Doing some quick research I discovered these older texts might even suit our learning style better than the newer ones. And, since I didn’t have to buy new curriculum, I pulled out the placement test again. Sure enough; he was ready for the next level, even more solidly than before.

Finally feeling like we were catching up with his “grade level,” we started the next level from the beginning with all lessons, practice sets, and drills.

Will we finish in time to move on to the next level for next school year? I don’t know and, frankly, I’m not worried about it anymore. We will finish whenever the skills are learned and the time is right — whether in June, November, or March!

What a blessing to have the flexibility to guide our children individually with what they need, when they need it — even while teaching math!

“Joyful” Backpedaling

Rats can also be of assistance when doing online schoolwork.

Rats can also be of assistance when doing online schoolwork. LOL.

There may come a time when you have to admit that your current method isn’t working. Or, maybe just part of it isn’t working. That’s what happened to us recently.

I started my son “late” by public school standards, but due to a bit of catch-up, he’s been coasting along for awhile at about one year behind where he would have been. One year. Good deal. I can easily wrap my mind around that, especially as we are such fans of the whole starting-late concept.

Except there’s this one thing. Math. As soon as we hit multiplication last year, the pace slowed considerably. He just didn’t “get” it. We weren’t using a packaged curriculum; we’d just been relying on my ability to explain things. That wasn’t going to cut it in math, but it somehow took me struggling along with him for an entire year to come to terms with it.

With the new year, I decided to give up. Sad confessions to homeschooling friends brought forward a possible solution. One friend had just finished a computer-based math program only one year behind my son’s level, and she was willing to lend it to us to try.

Wait a minute. One year behind? So that would be two years behind his “official-if-he-was-in-school” level?

Let me share what can be the greatest detriment to your child’s education: pride. That would be parental pride. I could thump myself in the head now for what I did next.

I borrowed her program, BUT, I printed off a readiness test for the grade level I wanted him to be in, and grudgingly printed one for the earlier year as well. He took both, and I was faced with the results. He could start the program for his current level, but be at a disadvantage for gaining true understanding, OR, I could put him back a year at a level where he already understood more than half.

A bit of prayer and several stern moments of self-truth finally won out over my artificial pride, and I moved him back a year in math. I say “artificial,” because there was no worthwhile basis in it. My son himself is not remotely disturbed at starting one year back in math. Ohhhh, it’s so hard to back down from pride, though, isn’t it? Even as he started in, I suggested that on the lessons where he was already comfortable, that he just do a few random problems in order to jump ahead.

He humored me and did the first couple of lessons like that. Then he discovered that if he did an entire lesson, the program would grade him, and he would know what percentage he got correct. I’m embarrassed to say it, but my child actually had to ask me if he could start doing the whole lesson each time. “Yes. Yes, of course you can.”

Parents, do you ever find yourself fretting about your child’s progress? Are you bothered that they aren’t with their peers in writing? Or, they don’t understand fractions well, when the kid in playgroup can explain it all using his or her LEGOs? Or, maybe they haven’t started reading by age eight, even though all your nieces and nephews are — as your relatives are quick to point out? You may need to step back and evaluate with honesty whether your concern is for your child or yourself — and that is said with the humility of one who has had to do the same. If you suspect actual learning disabilities, seek help! Now! But, if you know there’s a readiness issue, or you’re pretty sure you simply aren’t the best source for explaining a particular subject…don’t lock your child into the same dark room as your pride. Ask your friends for suggestions, research other methods, jump back a year, or maybe just pull back a bit until they’re ready.

So, what has happened with my son’s math situation? He loves using this program! He’ll have finished one-quarter of the year in the first month, because I’m letting him concentrate on math as much as he wants for now. His confidence is way up, and he no longer feels overwhelmed by math. The other day he told me, “It’s not like I love math, but I just don’t feel so stressed anymore.”

Reminder to self: Joyful homeschooling — that’s what we’re supposed to be all about.

“Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others,” Phil. 2:3 (VOICE).

Math Hopscotch

Have you ever noticed how turning learning into a game does not just make it more fun, it makes it more effective? Math games are a very powerful example of that, and I have been known to make up my share of them in my couple decades as a homeschool mom.

Math Hopscotch: Mixing a bit of physical activity into the children’s brain work is often a great way out of a slump! | SDAHomeschools.org

Math Hopscotch: Mixing a bit of physical activity into the
children’s brain work is often a great way out of a slump!

Today I would like to share one of our favorites with you: Math Hopscotch.

Math Hopscotch is an excellent, fun way to learn multiplication – or to practice what you already know. Mixing a bit of physical activity into the children’s brain work is often a great way out of a slump, too.

Here’s how it works:

  • Decide which multiplication table your child is ready to work on.
  • For our example today, we are going to say she is ready to learn 4’s.

  • Choose a location.
  • We played indoors this time, but outdoors works great, as well. If you have decent weather and a sidewalk, it can be fun to draw your basic hopscotch board with chalk on the sidewalk. More about that in Numbers 3 and 4.

  • Make your number cards.
  • Your cards should be about the size of half of a 3×5-inch index card (i.e. 2-1/2 by 3 inches). Scratch paper is fine, and the exact size is not real critical. Just cut out 20 cards for an indoor game or 10 for an outdoor game on a chalk hopscotch board.Using a dark-colored marker, pen, or crayon, write neat, bold numbers on your cards.

    For an indoor game, the first 10 cards are for the numbers “1” to “10,” one number to a card. (I realize the times tables often go to 12 or 13, but that always seemed a bit much to me, both for the child to start with and for the game. You want to be sure your game keeps an element of fun. As for the “easy” numbers, like “1” and “2,” they give a good boost of courage and a little “brain break” here and there in the practice. I don’t recommend taking them out, especially when the child is just learning their multiplication facts.)

    For either location, the next 10 cards are for the multiples of your chosen number. For our example, we would write: 4, 8, 12, 16… up to 40.

    Again, keep one number to a card and write in a bold color. It is nice if you can write your multiples in a different color from the basic multipliers you made.

  • Lay out (or draw) your Math Hopscotch board.
  • Math Hopscotch: a simple, fun game for learning times tables! | SDAHomeschools.org

    Lay out your Math Hopscotch board in basic hopscotch-type form.

    In a basic hopscotch-type form (see photo for example), lay out (or draw) your basic numbers, 1-10, in order. Lay down the multiples beside their multiplier. This is a good job for a little who is learning number recognition: “Set this card next to the black ‘3’.”

     

  • Toss and hop.
  • Grab a marker. A small rock might be nice outside. A hairband works particularly well indoors. We have tried cat toys (amongst other things), but they tend to bounce on the carpet! (We have been known to go fix a misplaced marker, by the way.)As you might guess, this experiment can be part of the fun for the children.

    Have your child toss her marker onto the first number “1.” Then she will hop over that square (chalk or imaginary) where her marker is and onto the next one. Wherever she hops, she counts by the multiples. So the first time through, it’s “8, 12, 16…” on up to “40.”

    Hop on one foot where there is one pair of numbers (the multiplier and multiple); hop on two where there is a set of pairs next to each other. Instruct your children to hop next to the papers – not on them – to avoid slipping!)

    Math Hopscotch: One foot, two! | SDAHomeschools.org

    One foot…

    At the end of the line, child takes a hop to turn around, and counts by their multiple backwards down the line: “40, 36, 32….” Incidentally, I am not a stickler for reciting the numbers in exact order. If she lands on “7,28” and “8,32” as a pair, she might say “28, 32” or “32, 28.”

    In the end, the result is the same. Her facts are memorized.

    Math Hopscotch: One foot, two! | SDAHomeschools.org

    …two feet!

    When your child lands on the space just before her marker, she pauses (often on one foot!) to pick up her marker and continue down the line, to finally hop out at the end.

    If more than one child is playing, let the other do the same.

    Next time through, have them toss their markers to the next number in line, and so forth until they have gone through all 10. (If you need to shorten the game, let one child toss to “1,” the next toss to “2,” and so forth.)

     

  • Encourage Memory.
  • After a few turns of simple drill, start taking out random multiples. (Leave the basic multipliers.) This is also a fun job for the littles learning number recognition: “Pick up the card by the black ‘9’;” or, “Pick up the card with the red ‘3-6’. That’s 36!”Try to alternate taking away easier and more difficult problems. (Pay attention to where your child hesitates.) Also mix up where in the line you are leaving the “empty” spaces.Pay careful attention as you take away the cards. A little hesitation is okay; downright frustration or a total pause is not a good sign. If a particular number gives too much difficulty, just put it back. Your child will have it memorized soon enough.

    It is okay to end the game with some multiples still out there, if need be.

  • Repeat.
  • Next day, repeat the same times table if your child needs it. This time, take the multiples out a bit sooner if your child can handle it. The eventual goal is not to need the multiples laid out at all.The next day (or few days – whenever your child is ready), move on to the next table!

Additional Tips:

  • This game couples well with some sort of timed multiplication table test. We like the ones at multiplication.com.
  • Once your child has some or all of the multiplication tables memorized, review sometimes by setting out the numbers 1-10 at random instead of in order. Call a multiplier the child has learned for each trip up the line. You may use a pair of dice to decide, if you like.
  • Include littles in the game by letting them count their way up the line: “1,2,3…” and/or just give their best shot at hopping in the pattern (one foot, two feet…). I don’t believe in pressuring the young children to memorize the numbers, but you might be amazed how much they pick up just by intentional casual association!
  • If you are physically able, join in, too – the children love it!

►► Do you have a math game that has helped your children master the basic math facts? If you decide to give Math Hopscotch a try, I would love to hear how that goes for you, too.