Tag Archives: math

Seeing the Problem More Clearly

For much of her later elementary years, my fifth-grade daughter has not enjoyed “school.” While she has always loved hands-on projects and field trips, completing workbook exercises or reading assignments has been a tedious chore both for her and myself.

“Mom,” she would say as I was helping her younger brother, “I don’t get it. I neeeeed heeellllppp!”

“Wait a minute,” I’d reply. “Do what you can, and I’ll help you in just a minute.”

“But I can’t do it!” she’d continue to insist until I gave in. And just as I was in the middle of explaining the math concept, she’d interrupt with “I don’t understand!”

“I didn’t finish yet,” I would answer, trying to keep my cool. And we’d start again. And again. And again. She would fuss, and I’d become frustrated. And so have gone many of our school days for the past two and a half years.

Reading hasn’t been much better. I still have her read aloud to me, and while she knows most of the words and only has to sound out a few, she doesn’t read as much as I would like. And she certainly doesn’t read for pleasure.

But I think we’ve finally found the answer. As it turns out, a recent thorough eye exam revealed that she’s farsighted, and while she could make her eyes focus on her school books, she had to really strain to do so. The result: tired eyes, frequent headaches, and a dislike of reading.

It’s often hard for parents to know when a child needs that extra help, especially if your child isn’t in a regular classroom setting. I remember trying to look at the black board when I was in 9th grade, and squinting very hard to see it. That was my big clue that I needed glasses. But I’m nearsighted, and from what I’ve read, farsightedness is less obvious. Farsighted children tend to make their eyes focus anyway, straining their eyes and sometimes even crossing them to get the job done.

Well, now we know. The struggles I used to credit to my child’s  personality were actually due to poor vision. But now we’re both looking forward to a good second semester. 🙂


timeliner pics 003If you are looking for ideas for new lesson plans, take a moment to visit Viatouch.com. This education resource site has a great deal to offer both traditional classroom teachers and homeschooling parents alike.

Once you’re on the homepage, find the “Learning and Leisure” section. You’ll follow the link to a page with a number of categories listed on the left — these pages provide further links to other websites regarding these particular topics. If you’re searching the Internet for information about any of these subjects, this is a good place to start.

My favorite part of the site, however, is found when you click on “Teacher Resources.”  We use an eclectic mix of curricula (books from several different publishers), so I’m always on the lookout for new ideas. Under “Teacher-Created Resources,” you’ll find lesson plans for students from elementary through high school in a variety of subjects. The “Teacher Articles” section includes nonfiction articles for elementary students in science and history, as well as more lesson plans and teaching techniques for other subjects such as writing and math.

The site also includes a link called “Story Station” which features original fiction stories for children and young adults. These are also free to access.

And there’s still a lot of room for this site to grow. Every time I check back, new content has been added. And if you have resources you’d like to share, this site may be for you as well. Put your ideas in writing and submit your lesson plans, tips, charts, and articles for publication on the site. Viatouch offers payment for each teacher resource that they publish. Just follow the link for “Teacher Resources submission guidelines.”

The information Viatouch offers is free, so check it out. You might find something you’ll be able to use in your next lesson.

Order in the Classroom!

gaveljanjpgThis school year, like many of our previous school years, has gotten off to a bit of a rough start. But I’m working on changing some things that hopefully will get things flowing a little more smoothly.

Recently, I read an article online that said homeschoolers sometimes have a difficulty with delayed gratification. They are often used to having a question answered right away, and they have the freedom to make comments during a lesson. Although I know this isn’t true of all homeschooled children, I can say it’s true of mine. They interrupt me if I’m reading a science or history lesson aloud, often saying something that has nothing to do with the subject. If I’m helping one with math or reading, the others are quite comfortable breaking in with a question about their own work.

I know it’s not the children’s fault — this is how I’ve been schooling the last few years. I used to feel like I was multi-tasking, answering a question for one while teaching a concept to another while handing out an assignment to a third. But I wasn’t really multi-tasking — we were just losing time, as nothing was being accomplished efficiently. So this year, I’m bringing more order in — for their sakes, and for mine!

For the first hour, I’m working with my Kindergartener while the other three work on their math. If they have a question about a problem, they just have to skip it and go on to the next one. Their math work will continue into the second hour, at which time I’m free for questions.

After math we’ll go into our group lesson of history or science. Then it’s back to individual work in Language Arts, giving me time again to help with grammar, spelling, and writing if necessary. Reading and music practice are subjects they can do on their own.

The next few days will be hard — reminding the children again and again that they will have to wait. But once they get used to the new plan, they’ll have an easier time with school — and I will too!

To Join or Not to Join?

a-coopTo join or not to join a co-op next fall…that is the question. It’s a question I ask myself every spring as co-ops begin accepting applications for the next school year.

We’ve been part of two different co-ops, one for just one semester, the other for a year. When we joined the first one, my children were eight, five, three, and six months. We had several friends who attended the co-op and loved the enrichment classes that were offered. The year we joined, though, the format changed a bit, and my eight-year-old was in a math class with other third graders. It didn’t go very well. Homeschooled elementary students, even those in the same grade, tend to work at math at different paces. Depending on the curriculum used at home, students might also be learning different concepts.

They changed that class to Spanish for the next semester, but a couple other things weighed in on my decision to stop. The class was experiencing a lot of discipline issues that went unresolved. Also, the financial cost was more than we could comfortably afford, and it was hard helping out on my required days with a baby in tow. So, we finished off the year at home.

Two years later, a friend approached me about joining a Classical Conversations co-op. We participated for a year, and since I taught the finances worked out all right. We didn’t re-join, however, because I still wanted to follow the curriculum we were already doing at home, and the lessons from the co-op just became extra work we had to do. Classical Conversations is a great program if that’s the basis of your curriculum, but it just wasn’t the right one for us.

So here we are, with my oldest going into eighth grade next year, so I’m thinking about co-ops again. Co-op classes can be great resources for teaching those upper level classes like Chemistry, Biology, and Algebra II. We looked at a co-op on Monday that offers those types of courses to middle and high school students for a very reasonable price. Right now they’re full, however, and we’re on a waiting list. I’m not sure how long the list is, but the director encouraged me to consider starting a new co-op with friends who are also interested.

So now the question becomes… to start or not to start a co-op?

Photo by ShelahD

One of Those Days

bandaidEver have one of those days? Recently, we’ve had one, this one involving a lot of injuries. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working through some back problems, so I started the day with quite an ache to deal with. My oldest, John, had a sore knee from playing basketball the day before, so he woke up achy too. Nevertheless, I was determined we would get our schoolwork done.

I called for my daughters to get out of bed, and moments later eight-year-old Lillie came into the kitchen crying. She had fallen off the ladder of her bunk bed and bruised her arm. We tucked her arm in a sling for the day, which made her feel a little better. It wasn’t even breakfast time yet, but I already knew it would be hard to get our schoolwork done. Still, we kept going. Not very well, but we tried.

We almost made it to lunch time and the end of math when five-year-old Luke began to cry. I turned (slowly – my back was still hurting) to see what happened.

“I poked myself in the eye…” he said through his tears. I held him for a minute, and then he continued. “We all got hurt. My eye, your back, John’s knee, Lillie’s arm…”

“We’re re having a rough day, aren’t we?” I agreed. “But Cassie’s still fine. And in a minute, we’ll head out to sewing class for the girls, and we’ll all feel better.”

Luke recovered fairly quickly, and though we didn’t quite finish with school, it was nearing time to go. I pulled out some fruit and bagels for a quick lunch in the car, as well as other items we needed to take along. John grabbed one of the bagels and spread it with cream cheese, and we all headed out the door. With my aching back I was moving slowly, and by the time I reached the van everyone else was already inside.

As I was about to shut the sliding door on the side, John suddenly moved up from the back seat and pulled a piece of the bagel from his mouth. He looked at it for just a second, then threw it out into a bush.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He got out of the car and started searching for the piece of bagel. “I just lost my tooth!” he said. “It got stuck in that bagel.”

“Was it loose?” I asked.

“Yes, it was a baby tooth,” he answered. “Look, my mouth is bleeding.”

Though I probably should have shown more compassion, all I could do was laugh. What a conclusion to a day of mishaps!

Photo by AMagill

Sylvan Dell Publishing

One of my late night hobbies is writing and illustrating for children. I enjoy writing articles, poems, and stories, and I’d like to illustrate my own picture books some day. Writers will tell you that to have a book published, you have to study the market and know who publishes the type of story you’ve written. As I’ve researched the different publishing houses, I’ve discovered Sylvan Dell, a small publishing company established by homeschoolers with education in mind.

Sylvan Dell publishes picture books about science and math — subjects such as the planets, sea turtles, rivers, and odd and even numbers are presented in a fun and enjoyable way. What makes these books different from other picture books, however, is that they are purposely created to be used in the home or school classroom. To reinforce the educational component, the company also adds three to five pages of extra activities and information in the back of every story. Now, though, they’ve added even more – their website also offers free online reading and math quizzes, teaching activities, and crafts.

And that’s not all.  For the past two years, the company also sponsored a writing contest for homeschooled high schoolers. Students followed the guidelines to create their own picture books, and winners received cash prizes and possible publication. I haven’t found information about a contest this year, but I hope they continue – what a great opportunity for students interested in writing.

I’ve found a number of Sylvan Dell books in our local library, and my children have really enjoyed them. It’s easy to take one of their books and create a unit study around it, especially for younger elementary students. So if you’re looking for a science lesson for your little one, check them out! Their titles can be found on their website at www.sylvandellpublishing.com.

By the way, I’ve only sent one picture book manuscript to them to consider for publication, and it was rejected. Ah, well!  They still publish great books!