18 December 2009

K's Math Concepts

By Daddy K:

The ingenuity of youth is endlessly amazing. Our eldest daughter, K, came up with a few Math concepts on her own that simply blew me away. I was so amazed that I had to make my first addition to the Blog.

The first concept was chronologically second, but is the easier concept to understand. It was a Saturday and I woke to hear her getting out of bed. I decided to join her downstairs assuming we would be watching some variety of show she likes. Instead, she sat down with the dry erase board and starting drawing squares. She then wrote numbers above and below them and circled one of them. She then turned to me with a serious eye and said, “I know how to find the number in the middle”.

She sat down to explain it to me. She drew 5 boxes. Above each box she wrote the numbers one through five in ascending order. Below the boxes she wrote the numbers one through five in descending order. Where the two numbers are the same is the middle. In the case below the middle number is 3 since both above and below the number is the same.

I had to ask the question, "What if I had six boxes?" This stumped her as she understands what one half of something is, but she didn’t seem to grasp the difference between half and the middle. I sat down to explain it to her using her own created concept. You write the numbers the same as before. Instead of looking for one box with the same numbers above and below you find the two boxes that have the same two numbers, whether it is above or below, and draw a line between those two boxes. She instantly knew that I had cut it in half. I then asked “But what is the middle?”. She thought about it for a few minutes, then shrugged her shoulders. I explained that in this instance we could use either .5 or ½ to represent the line and that it was friends with the lower number. She then told me that 3 ½ was the middle.

The other concept was her self-created Math function. A little history is needed to understand it. K will at times make up words for everyday items and state, “That’s what it’s called on Jalar.” Jalar is an imaginary world she created. She came to me one day and asked if I would like to learn Math from Jalar. I entertained her and accepted the invitation.

She sat down and wrote “+ +” on the dry erase board. I was informed that what I was looking at was the symbol for “siren”. Siren is a Jalarian math expression. To teach me how to do Sirens she wrote it out on the board.


To solve for this expression you subtract the second number from the first. In our example this would be one. At this point she thought for a minute and then told me that we add that number to it again and add a zero when we’re done.

In the above example you would get the following:

1) Subtract the second from the first

8-7 =1

2) Add it to itself

1+1 = 2

3) Multiply by 10

2 * 10 = 20

Thus the answer to 8 siren 7 is 20.

Siren in OUR math language would be written as 20(X – Y).

Now initially I thought this was just an amusing one shot deal. I loved that my daughter taught me an original math concept. I was more amazed when two weeks later I asked her to solve for 6++4 and she came up with the correct answer. In five years she may not remember how to solve the Siren of two numbers but I will never forget it.

* 6++4 = 40 for those of you playing along at home.

16 December 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Peter Pan

Last night K finished reading an adapted version of Peter Pan. We started it a few weeks ago, and read roughly half of it taking turns reading aloud. I would read a chapter, she should read part of a chapter, and then she would finish the chapter silently before bed. After about chapter 5 or so, she just started reading it by herself. Last night she read the last four chapters and then came downstairs to let me know that she had finished it. She is now going through our Treasury of Illustrated Classics collection to pick out her next book. I think she is going to end up with Black Beauty as her next quest.

04 December 2009

Weekly Report - Week #10-11

With the recent holidays I have been very busy, so I'm now going to get caught up with a double weekly report. (We did not have school the week of Thanksgiving.)

First of all, I don't think I mentioned the report cards in my last post. For our first term K received E's (excellent) in all of her graded subjects. H received E's for phonics & reading and spelling, but a S (satisfactory) for science, which is graded subjectively. Sometimes she doesn't want to participate when I'm trying to tell them things, but she is getting better.

K has been doing a lot better at her math lately. We have backed up to a point that gives her a nice challenge without being too hard for her to do on her own for the most part. Yesterday, I even taught her a place value lesson from H's math, and she seemed to enjoy working with the Math-U-See blocks. In her Math Mammoth, she did some problems of subtracting in columns.

I just picked up a new reading workbook from Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago, and we have been working out of that along with our other reading workbook. It's called Reading for the Gifted Student. There have actually been a few things that have presented a challenge to her, mostly answering questions that require her to come up with answers that are not clearly stated in the reading selections.

H's reading is still getting better and better. We have now completed the first 46 lessons of McRuffy. She has doubled up on the lessons several times, since the lessons are somewhat short. We will complete a lesson and then she will look ahead at the next page and decide that she wants to do that, too. She is also starting to really get into Starfall, and will play on that site a few times per week.

We have also completed the first eight lessons of H's Math-U-See. We have moved onto lesson 9, which is Place Value: Units and Tens. (That's the lesson I taught K yesterday.) I have not taught the lesson to H yet, as we have been working on making a lapbook to go along with it. We were having so much fun working on it, K decided to help, too. She drew a car to go along with it for me to cut out. Here are some pictures of the project still in progress. I have to pick up a few items this weekend to be able to finish it next week.

I think that about covers it for what we have done in the last couple school weeks. I will be sure to post some more pictures of the lapbook once it's completed.

19 November 2009

Math Update

H is still loving the Math U See program. Today she finished up Lesson 8, and tomorrow we will slow down and start learning some beginning place value. We will learn about what is called Decimal Street, and will begin the process by making a lapbook of Decimal Street. I hope to take pictures throughout the process. Be on the lookout for those within the next week.

13 November 2009

Weekly Report - Week #9

We had a really good week this week. I'm very pleased with the progress we have made.

First of all, we finally were able to get the Math U See blocks and student text for H. The day it arrived in the mail, she did 12 pages! She is in the Primer book and it is broken down into 30 lessons, each lesson to be done at your own pace, with three practice pages and three review pages. Since she has already completed Saxon K, we have only been reviewing topics she already knows, but it is an entirely different approach, so we're starting at the beginning. We were able to get through the first four lessons this week.

H's reading is also still going extremely well! She got 100% on her spelling test again today, as well as 100% on her phonics test. I say a word, and she has to choose which word I said between two words. She is now reading sentences such as A bass is in the hat.

K also got 100% on her spelling test today, which were all words with the /ou/ sound.

We finished up the McRuffy readers with K this week, so now she is doing two pages out of a 2nd-grade comprehension workbook each day. When this is done, I will probably get the 3rd-grade level of the same book, since she really seems to enjoy this. I am also looking into some Evan-Moor products to use with her at some point. Right now, however, I'm going to concentrate more on math, science, and history during school hours, and let her continue reading her nonfiction books on her own.

Math has been a little bit of a struggle for K the last few weeks. We had to back up a little and practice some more adding, since the 2nd-grade Math Mammoth was moving along too fast. We might need to back up a little more and concentrate on place value for another week or so. She has also expressed an interest in having Daddy be her math teacher instead of me, so we are going to give that a trial run.

05 November 2009

Real Life Farm Field Trip

These were taken at a field trip we attended in early October. They got to feed and hold lots of baby animals and K milked a cow. H decided she just liked to look at the cow.

22 October 2009

First Spelling Test

My youngest just had her first spelling test ever, and she got them all right! The words were the, is, cat, hat, and sat. She also read another book today, and did it all by herself without any help from me, other than looking up at me after every sentence for confirmation. I'm so proud of her!

03 October 2009

Weekly Report - Week #4

We had another great week of school.

K got 100% on her spelling test, which included words such as scalp, throw, help, and calf.
She also worked on telling time some more, with more emphasis on the concept of after and till. We only have another week or so of this chapter, but we're taking it slow to make sure she has it down, since it's such a difficult concept. We have only been doing a few problems a day, but it has been working for her beautifully.
While copying the sentence In the beginning God made heaven and earth. she asked me this question: How did God make heaven if he lives in heaven? Where does she get this stuff?

H read her first reader in the McRuffy phonics program. It contained the words bass, bat, cat, Pat, sat, and the. Her confidence has built up even more this week. She read the book to Daddy later that night, and even called Grandma and Grandpa and read it to them.
In math, she continued to work on one-to-one correspondence, completing patterns, and greater than and less than.

For science, we studied a small plot of land in our backyard behind the garage. It was mostly clover and other weeds, but there were a few rocks, a small piece of cellophane, and an earwig. We were categorizing the items by living and nonliving. K really enjoyed this project, but H was more interested in picking the nearby chickweed flowers, so I filled in most of her lab sheet. She even wanted me to do her drawings for her.

In history, we started studying Sargon and Akkadia. Again, H was not so interested. She did seem to enjoy the map work, though.

For fun, H made a Halloween-countdown chain. K started hers, but she was tired from all of her school work, so it only has 3 links on it so far. They each also colored Halloween pictures for our art wall. Later in the month, I'll take some pictures of it, once we get more hung up.

Overall, it was a great week and we had lots of fun. I hope many more weeks like this one follow.

01 October 2009

Homeschool Skedtrack

I just wanted to make a quick post that really is meant for all of the other homeschooling mothers that read my blog. Homeschool Skedtrack has been working extremely well for us this year. It is an online scheduler and tracker that is very user friendly. You can keep track of your classes and assignments, field trips, grades, days off, and much more.

You can print a report card or transcript at any time. I have our year broken down into four quarters, and I plan on issuing report cards for each quarter. You can set your grading weights for each class individually. You can even decide how you want your grading scale set up and which grading scale you want to use (A, B, C... or E,S, NI, U, F or A+, A, A-, B+ B...).

Each day when you log on, it takes you to the daily schedule for one of you students. As each lesson is complete, or once they are all completed, you check them off. At that point you can enter the grades for any graded work. If you forget to check something off one day, you can easily go back and fix it. It works really well for workboxes, too. When I'm setting up the workboxes, I just open up the schedule for the following day and there's my list of what needs to be done. The hardest part is deciding which order to go in, so that I can help each student without making the other one wait.

If you are sick one day (or for a week, like I was), it marks your students absent and moves the planned activity to the next day that class is scheduled for.

I could probably go on and on, but you should probably check it out for yourself. It really is a wonderful program, and I have been looking for a scheduling program that works for me for almost three years. And the best part of all, it's completely free!

25 September 2009

Weekly Report - Week #2-3

First of all, I must apologize for getting a bit behind on the blog. We had 1-1/2 weeks of illness and another week to get back on track with life. But, we have now completed our third full week.

The girls have both been doing wonderful. The workboxes are really making all the difference. We do them in order, but the girls like to look in all of them ahead of time so they know when the fun stuff is coming up. Usually I try to include a snack in one of them and at least one fun activity, like a drawer full of craft items or a puzzle.

Math: K has been working on telling time. The last couple weeks we have been working on 5-minute increments. Before yesterday she didn't quite get that at the 12 it went to the next hour. Yesterday it finally clicked. H has been working on patterns, greater than and less than, sorting, and one-to-one correspondence.

Language arts: K got 92% on her spelling test. The only word she missed was these, which she spelled theese. Other words included third, mother, clothes, throat, and thick.
Her reading has been outstanding, as usual. We're still using the readers from 1st-grade McRuffy, but instead of taking all week on them, I have her read the book and then I ask her all of the comprehension questions. The next day we move on to the next book. She'll be done with them in a few weeks, and then we will be moving on to Anne of Green Gables.
Writing is hit and miss. One day we did a narration from Peter Pan. I read the passage and asked her to give me a sentence about something that she remembered. She gave me the sentence and I wrote it down. When I was putting the paper away she said, "I'm not really learning anything from this." At that point, I had to explain to her why the copywork and narration are important and how they were going to help her be a great writer in the future.
H has been doing fantastic on her McRuffy Phonics and Reading. She can read sentences like Pat has a bat. She is finally starting to show more confidence in her reading. Her sister likes to spell out words like hat and can and have her guess what they are. Outside of school, she is also starting to break words down into sounds. She is also very fond of changing beginning sounds of words we say to her. If we say "Do you want some Cheerios?" she will answer "Do you want some Meerios?" and then giggle at herself. I'm sure this has some sort of educational use.

Bible: Yesterday, K said this was her favorite class. (It does change often, though. A few days before, it had been writing.) For the most part, she does this on her own. We are using a worktext, so she will usually read the passages and do the worksheets on her own. Most of the information is pretty basic at this point, so she doesn't have a problem understanding what's being taught. She has been learning about God, how He teaches and how He listens.

Science and history have been on the back burner, but next week we plan to get back into them.

Hopefully, illness will now stay far away from our house so we can stay in our routine. I have been so proud of both of my girls. Not only are they doing great at school, but they also really look forward to it! That's all I can ask for, right?

02 September 2009

Homeschooling Qualifications

Someone was put down by a friend of a friend on Facebook when she asked publicly for advice for her first day of homeschooling. This person happens to be a teacher and stated that he/she "spend[s] every waking moment trying to think of ways to get the exceptional ones to reach a little higher and look a little deeper, it's not a part-time pursuit. Teaching is a calling." Why is it that people who are opposed to homeschooling seem to think that those of us who do it are incompetent? These are our own children. They don't think that we spend more than every waking moment trying to think of ways to encourage our children to become great thinkers and respectable people? They don't think that it is our "calling" as well?

We may not have the many hours of sitting in a college classroom learning all of the different methods to teach a subject or how to manage 20+ children in a large-group setting or how to make an effective bulletin board, but that does not mean that we are not qualified to teach our own children. We know our own children better than anyone. We know how they learn best. We know what they need to know. And if we hit a wall along the way, we know how to research ways around it. If they need us to slow down on a concept, we can do that without letting them fall through the cracks. If they are gifted or advanced, we can expand or accelerate as needed so that they do not get bored.

I am not opposed to those parents who decide that public school is the best option for their children. But that is not the choice that we have made for our own children. Every child, every family, and every situation is different. It is time that people need to look at things on an individual basis and stop making blanket accusations.

* The above mentioned quote is a quote of a quote, so may not be entirely accurate. I do not know who it came from either.

01 September 2009

What a terrific day!

H had such a productive day today! She was sick all day yesterday, and was still pretty stuffed up this morning, so I thought for sure she would take a sick day. But she insisted that she attend school. Apparently all of the rest she got yesterday did wonders for her focus and her stamina. First of all, she was able to read the word bass on the chalkboard, and then told me how to change it to pass, without hardly any thought. (I used to have to walk her through this, and it has been a while, so I was very impressed by this.) Then, as you can see in the above picture, she cut and glued the s's into the appropriate places and then proceeded to draw the lines connecting the words to the pictures.

This is a page for her letter book that we're starting. I found her the baseball to get her started, but she found the book, butterfly, and bear all by herself. She also wrote book and bear on the page.

This is her math worksheet. I was hesitant to use this free MEP math program while waiting to order Math-U-See, but so far it's not so bad. It's different, but she seems to like it. I guess when you're fairly new to something it is going to be different anyway, right? So, this required very minimal help on my part, except for reading the directions and explaining how to do #4, which is a bit tricky. I also helped her figure out how to color the sailboats so that no two were alike, but once she saw what I was doing, she pretty much did the last few on her own.

So, like I said, it was a very productive day in H's world today. She even read me a short book tonight before bed. I think she is finally gaining some reading confidence, and she seems to really like the McRuffy. We had to shelve it for a year, but so far we have not had any problems with it since starting it again. I'm confident that this will be her year to really shine and learn a lot.

28 August 2009

Weekly Report - Week #1

We had a fairly productive week. Today was lighter than the rest of the week, but that was because, as a family, we had a lot of things to accomplish. K was still able to get her math, writing, and spelling assignments done before we left to run errands. So, here's what we were able to accomplish this week:

Math - Worked on dividing sets and shapes into halves and quarters; Practiced reading minutes on a clock
Writing - First two copywork assignments and first two narration assignments
Spelling - Worked on words with the consonant blends of sm, tw, sw, and ft
Bible - Started a unit about the many ways that God loves his children

Math - Worked on one-to-one correspondence, tallest/shortest, longest/shortest, and continuing patterns
Language Arts - Worked on short-vowel a words; Practiced sight words

Both Girls
Science - Learned about cells and characteristics of living things
History - Reviewed chapters 0-4

25 August 2009

The First Day of School

I'll save most of the details for the weekly update on Friday. For now I'll post a few pictures and say that, for the most part, school ran very smoothly today. We still have science and music to do this afternoon, but those should not be a problem at all.

Here are both girls before we journeyed into the school room.

Last night I put some pencils, erasers, and a school money sheet into their new school boxes. I even gave them each a 5-sticker start towards their first school dollar!

23 August 2009

Before Pictures...

Here is what our walls looked like a couple weeks ago. You can see the remnants of last year's school work and the absence of a few posters on the walls. After pictures are to follow. I am still trying to figure out what wall will be used for what subject, and I still have to get that darn world map hung back up.

I don't know if I have any pictures of what we were using last year for books and cubbies, but we we had a metal cube storage set up and there were two cubes for my books, one for coloring books, one for each of the girls cubbies, and one for miscellaneous items. On the top we kept our paper. We had to get rid of that to make room for the workboxes, so we've doing quite a bit of shuffling around of our books and paper. Fortunately, I was able to relocate the books into a different room on a bookshelf. I decided the cubbies were no longer necessary, since I'll be putting the girls needed supplies into their workboxes each night. Their desks will only contain their supply boxes, Daddy folders, and music and art supplies.

19 August 2009

The Workboxes

Well, the workboxes are just about complete. I just have a few more squares of Velcro to put on the drawers of K's workboxes and on the help cards.

For those of you who are not already familiar with the workbox organizational method, here is the link where it originally started. And it has taken off like wild fire! I kept seeing posts about workboxes and how everyone had customized them to make them their own. I was finally intrigued enough to do a bit of research. That research led me to what I think is going to be the best system for our school.

Here's how it's going to work for us: Each girl will have 12 workboxes (or drawers, in our case). Each drawer will contain something that needs to be completed for the day's schoolwork. (Contents of the drawers for Day 1 next Tuesday will follow this post.) As each drawer is completed, the numbered ladybug card will be removed and placed on the colored strips. The yellow ones are K's and the pink ones are H's. The cards with the ladybug on the flower, which are on a couple of the drawers in the picture, are Mom cards, and they indicate that my help will be needed for that particular task. The will let me know they are starting that drawer and I will teach them the lesson for that drawer. Each child will also have 3 help cards, which are to be used if they need help with one of the tasks that does not have a Mom card. (The purpose of this is to teach them that they should try really hard to complete something on their own before seeking out help. I'm hoping this helps my sanity a bit!) Once they have completed all 12 workboxes, they are done for the morning session. We will be doing science and history in the afternoons as a group, alternating days between the subjects. Music and art will also fall into the afternoons, but we will not be starting them quite yet.

Now that you know what the heck workboxes are, here's a list of what each girl will have in theirs on Day 1 next week:

#1 Math worksheet
#2 Writing assignment (with Mom card)
#3 Reading (with Mom card)
#4 Puzzle
#5 Bible lesson (with Mom card)
#6 Craft items

#1 Language Arts (with Mom card)
#2 Pattern blocks
#3 Kumon worksheet
#4 Bible story (with Mom card)
#5 Handwriting
#6 Craft items

We are going to ease into this year, so we will only be using 6 workboxes to begin with. (Notice spelling and grammar are missing from K's workboxes and math from H's?) Other items that I plan on adding to the workboxes are snacks, games, Hot Dots, fun activities, and anything else I can think of adding.

18 August 2009

What's Left?

Well, I'm starting to feel the crunch. Today marks the 1-week mark. I still have lesson plans for K's bible course to plan out (which I swear I did back in June, but I don't know what notebook I used to write them all down in), workboxes to finish getting ready, posters to hang, desks to clean out. We still need to purchase H's math, but in the meantime, I'm going to gather some things we have around here for her to work on and some workbooks from Dollar Tree.

Since I got rid of our metal cube rack, the girls lost their cubbies, so I still have two piles of books and folders that don't have a home. I keep coming back to their desks, but I just see that as a disaster. They like to put their coloring pages and craft things that they make in their desks, and I can already see us trying to find a certain workbook or folder and not being able to find it. So I need a cubby alternative. That, for now, is the only missing link for our school room. (Well, that and the map that won't stay up, but my next step is to try those 3M Command strips. The poster putty and the StikkiClips have seriously let me down!)

These are the things that I will be concentrating on this week. I'm sure I'm leaving something out, as I have not made my cup of coffee yet. At any rate, I'll be posting again very soon!

11 August 2009

Sneak Peek of the Workboxes

We're out of town all this week, and our workboxes are not done, but here's a little sneak peek of our cards and strips. The yellow strips belong to K and the pink strips are H's. They don't quite get the whole workbox system, but K, at least, seems really excited to get started.

09 August 2009


Welcome to the new site of our blog! I have decided to switch things up for several reasons, one of them being that the other site was not sending updates to the people who wanted to receive email updates. Therefore, I have decided to try out something new. Hopefully, all will work out well and this will be the permanent home for our documented journey. I hope you enjoy!