Saturday, June 30, 2007

More About Math

A friend sent me a link to this video several months ago, and it's been the topic of much discussion on the Well-Trained Mind Yahoo group for the past few days. Since I just posted about math, I thought I'd post this here in case you haven't seen it (or if you're interested.) The curriculum in question in this video is one that was recently a contender for adoption in my state. (I'm not sure if it's been adopted or not.) It's also being used by at least one private Christian school in my area, and was discussed at a recent homeschool meeting by someone who said she had heard it's good for "high SAT scores." After seeing it reviewed here, I'm not so sure... There are also some rebuttals to this video which you will find if you click here. Anyway, it's been food for thought for me on this rainy summer afternoon!

Friday, June 29, 2007


Taken from the Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons


My poor, neglected homeschool blog! Well, my absence of blogging about school is definitely NOT an indication that I haven't been *thinking* about school. No way! As a matter of fact, with July 1 looming ahead, I'm about ready to pop with ideas and planning, ready to coordinate curriculum and finish buying what I need. It seems each day I "ponder" a different topic. Since we've been enjoying lots of summer fun (outings, swimming, a trip to the lake, etc) I'm not exactly doing anything about any of those thoughts at the moment, but they are brewing.

Yesterday's topic for me was math. Algebra, to be exact. As I mentioned, I'm in "summer school" this summer, and one of my "classes" is Algebra 1. This time around, I love Algebra! I can bring refreshments to class and there's a "pause" button on the teacher. :::ahhh:::: I'm enjoying going through the Teaching Textbooks course my daughter will be doing this year. He's starting off with lots of review (from the pre algebra course), so I'm not watching most of the lectures just yet. All I can think as I'm going through it is, "I wish I had been taught math this way!"

For me, as a student, math was a very frustrating subject. Once I was in college it was better, but all the way up through public school I felt like the math train had left the station and I hadn't gotten on it. Sometimes I felt like I was in front of the math train, about to be hit! Other times I felt like I could get a glimpse through the windows of the train and see my classmates sitting contentedly "on board" while I struggled. I remember sitting in class, completely not "getting it", but not feeling the teacher was available to ask questions or get explanations before the bell rang. Then I would slog it all home and wrestle with it with the help of my math-major Dad who couldn't "get" why I didn't "get" it. Oh, my stomach is hurting all over again!

I wanted math to be a different type of experience for my children. They've been onto me for several years. One time I called my daughter to the kitchen, saying, "I've got a plate of cookies and some lemonade!" in my sing-songy voice and she said, "You're trying to get me to like math, aren't you?" Well, hyeah. Aside from offering refreshments and suddenly becoming the Romper Room lady during math instruction, I also chose a curriculum that was "hands on" and approached it from a different angle (so to speak)- Math U See. We began in the Pre-K years with the "Introduction" level (now called "Primer") and worked our way up through the Zeta level, faithfully building Decimal Street, memorizing our skip counting songs and layering fractions. I highly recommend it. I had many "aha" moments myself during our MUS years, as it's not how I was taught either as a student or as a math teacher, and it really helped me to "see" it differently. It's an aptly named program!

After sixth grade, my daughter indicated that she was ready for a change. Not that the program wasn't working, but she was just ready for something... different. As she came out of the grammar stage (grades 1-4) and entered the logic stage (grades 5-8) I saw a definite shift towards "textbookiness" in her (which I posted about here and here.) So, I went with it. I knew after a brief stint of Saxon in fourth grade (when she had the homeschooler's version of keeping up with her peers: it wasn't the latest tennis shoes she wanted but the same math everyone else was doing. We both hated it. She hasn't copied anyone else since!) that Saxon wasn't for us. I began clicking around and found the glowing reviews of Teaching Textbooks on the Sonlight and Timberdoodle websites, so I decided to take a closer look. At the time, there were no online samples so I just ordered it to check it out (knowing that I could send it back if I didn't like it.) I loved the way it was laid out, and it fit the bill for my daughter. So we did the Pre Algebra for grade 7, which turned out to be a great fit on the heels of finishing the levels leading up to Pre Algebra in Math U See. My son is on the same track.

There has been some concern on the Well-Trained Mind boards lately that TT is a bit "behind" other programs. Others who are comparing them say that some of what is in Algebra 2 in TT is in Algebra 1 in other programs. This doesn't concern me, really, for two reasons. First, if it's all in there by the end of Algebra 2 ("it" being what they need for PSAT and SAT prep), then I don't care which book it's in. Secondly, we are a year "ahead" in this curriculum so she'll have plenty of time to finish PA, A1, Geometry and A2 by the PSAT in 10th grade, which is my goal. My understanding is that the advanced math levels are forthcoming from TT (Precalculus, etc.)

ALL THIS being said (this is turning into a longer post than I thought!) I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful math teacher last weekend during my stay at my sister-in-law's lake house. Once I figured out that this very fun and "with it" woman taught eighth grade math, I did what any good homeschooler would do... I acted like I wasn't intimidated picked her brain. She pointed me to the Charles A. Dana Center website (out of UT Austin) from which their math curriculum comes. She directed me to some fun projects she has done with her classes, which I found from the main website by following: Higher Education: P-16 Connections, to Higher Education Projects, to Teacher Quality Modules, to Middle School Module. (There are also Algebra I - Pre Calc Modules as well). There are some fun projects at that site! Through noodling around in one of the lesson plans, I found my way to a fun PBS site, where there are some great videos of teachers presenting hands-on lessons with printable lessons plans to go with it. You can plug in the grade and topic. Here's a lesson I found yesterday by plugging in "grade 6-8" and "algebra." This looks like one we'll do!

So, this has gotten me in the mood to find more "math enrichment" sites for the middle school/high school level. In the early grades I found it pretty easy to make math "hands on" and "real life" but it's gone beyond recipes and going to the grocery store. It's probability, linear equations, variables and irrationals. (At our house, not just numbers can be irrational!) There are gobs of fun math sites out there, but if you know of some for middle/high school, share! If I find some more I'll post links.

Thanks for reading this far about my topic du jour: math. I hope your day adds up to something fun!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Summer School

Are you doing summer school? No, not your kids, you! I suppose I could call it "Teacher Inservice," or "Continuing Education." At some point, many homeschooling moms go "back to school" in one way or another, I suppose.

I've hit that point. I'm in" summer school!" I've got a pile of curriculum, and I can't simply pull it out in August and start school, going page by page through it with my eighth grader, seeing it for the first time myself. No, I've got to study. I knew this day would come, and here it is. Actually, I thought it would come later- like high school. The fact is, high school has come earlier! (Some of the courses she is doing for eighth grade, like many of her publically and privately schooled peers, will count as high school credits on her transcript.)

I realized this year (7th grade) that it was increasingly less helpful for her for me to blankly stare at the page or fumble around for answers when she had a question. I realized many times that it would be better for me to have somewhat of a more "working knowledge" of the material she was studying, so that when she hit a hitch I could answer her more quickly and efficiently. Up until now that "knowledge base" was easily accessible in my mind, either due to what I have studied or taught in the past or just what most "educated people" know. Now, it's pushing the limits of what is easily retrievable from my memory. I've got to stay ahead! For some, this less of a challenge than it is for me, I'm sure. I need to look ahead at her work for this year, not just for planning purposes, but for familiarizing myself with the material. (And it's okay! I know someone who taught was hired to teach a calculus course in a highly-sought-after school district near here last year, and guess what she studied all last summer? You guessed it!) So, it's certainly no more than what would be required of me as a public school teacher, at any rate, and it's at my own pace.

Here's what I'll be studying this summer:

  • Teaching Textbooks Algebra I (Yes, I need a refresher course in Algebra! And now it actually seems kind of fun. :)

  • Veritas Press Omnibus I, secondary reading list: Chosen By God (R.C. Sproul), Till We have Faces (C.S. Lewis), ( The Narnia Books are on the list, but I just read these last year with my son, so I won't reread them), Isaiah, Jeremiah, The Minor Prophets (We are not starting the primary reading list for Omnibus I until 9th grade, so I'll be reading through those books next schoolyear and summer)

Though I haven't worked out any sort of "schedule" I will be starting this week going through some of the material. Just this morning I watched the introduction to the logic course. I won't do it everyday, though I'll stick some of the reading in my bag for the poolside. I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ni How-dy!

I'm back! I've mainly been updating my other blog (and my husband even posted there in my absence!) as I usually post only homeschool-related "stuff" here, but I just wanted to let anyone who mainly checks here know that we are back from China. I did a quick turnaround and spent a few days in Maryland with my cute husband, and now we are back! I was so excited on the plane, knowing that I was coming back for SUMMER. NO SCHOOL! The kids are excited, too. (Surprise, surprise.)

Ever the homeschooler, I had my current issue of The Old Schoolhouse and Practical Homeschooling magazine with me, as well as the new Veritas Catalog. (25+ hours of travel time, you know!) I also made curriculum decisions and shopped for books while I was there. My daughter is really wanting to pursue Chinese for her foreign language credits for high school, and I prayed specifically before we went that the Lord would show me whether this was "doable" for us or not. I feel that the Lord has shown me that this is definitely something she can do, as she used what she's learned from just a few tutoring sessions as well as what she's learned so far in her Chinese in 10 Minutes a Day book. (I have found this to be an excellent resource, available for several languages.) I feel like God is really enabling her in this area. She spoke really well, enough to get us around town, order in restaurants, and bargain for "Coach" purses. (The quotation marks are because I'm not sure how "real" they are. But they look real...enough. ;)

Our friends had Chinese Made Easy, a series that their company recommended, but by midway through the first book the students are to write Chinese. Uh, I don't think so. Both of my friends kids are fluent in Chinese, but I think that comes from 8 years of living there and one-on-one tutoring more than from those books. Also, they speak it fluently but don't write it. Anyway, the answer key in the back of the CME book is all in Chinese, so I couldn't navigate it very well. For now I think we'll stick with our Pimsleur Mandarin cd's, add in Rosetta Stone Mandarin, and I'll stay on the lookout for some workbooks in Pin-Yin (English characters- since there are only 26 letters as opposed to over 800 characters!)

One of the other families there is moving back to the states, and sold me their set of Joy Hakim's History of US books for 150 yuan (less than 20 US dollars!) That was worth finding room in our suitcases for! I had it in my cart for over 100 dollars, so I was glad to find those.

So... we are back. We are looking forward to some down time this summer while I make preparations for school to begin again in August. I love planning, so once my mind gets back in this time zone I'll be digging in.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and for so many of your prayers and emails while I was gone. You are such a blessing to me!


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