Oh Math.... sigh...

I love math! I enjoy numbers - I was a Financial Advisor for years and much of what I did each day was about math! But somehow, math in our homeschool has eluded me, challenged me, frustrated me and given me a few tears now and then. 

The problem with me is I am constantly torn between three factors in math. The computational drill of math, the conceptual math and then the practical math. How much of each can I balance, how much of each should I include, how much of each is valuable and worthwhile given our techno age? 

We have used Math U See and I have found it to be an excellent program in the younger years especially for helping children to get place value firmly embedded in their math beginnings. Later when Math U See focusses on one topic in detail for an entire year it didn’t really fit for us.

We have used Discovery Education’s Discovering Math program and found it to really help math students to understand the application of each math concept. This was valuable for the concepts of math and in many ways practical math, but the lack of computation was a problem. I added in Daily Math Reviews like these to help with this. Because the videos cover 3 years, it was a one year commitment for us at each level as I couldn’t see our daughter watching the same videos over and over. 
We have used Singapore Math, which I truly believe is an excellent program, it just went too fast for our daughter as it got to the transition to middle school. 

I have looked into Living Math. I love the concept of learning math in a living way, but I never could really get this into a format that felt like a complete math program to me. We read lots of the living math recommended books though when our daughter was younger including the Cindy Neuschwander books, What’s Your Angle Pythagoras by Julie Ellis, The Math Start Books by Stuart Murphy and many of the “food” math books that are available. 

We have tried our best in practical math with cooking, budgeting, counting, subtracting, dividing, multiplying at home. We have had pattern blocks, money sets, dice, stopwatches, base 10 blocks, flashcards and lots of other math materials. We have played lots of games over the years including ones like Monopoly, The Game of Life, Settlers of Catan, lots of card games, Uno, and so many more. We have had many computer games and apps including Math Blaster, Math for the Real World and business games like DQ Tycoon.

So I ask myself, as you may be asking, why is math such a challenge....sigh...I think that it is searching for a feeling that our math is incremental enough, conceptual enough and practical enough and that there is a good measure of drill for those basic skills. All this and at the right pace, the right blend of manipulatives and the right amount of visuals. It’s a new year coming, and maybe this year I will find our ideal math program!! Right now we are using a combination of Math resources. It would be nice to have all that we need in one program, but I am getting more comfortable using many different resources. I will save our current math for another post,

2011...A Year of Technology.... What Applications for What Purpose

It is a New Year in a few days and I was thinking about how many technology initiatives I have begun this year. I owe much of my inspiration to my good friend Pippa! You can visit her here.
One of the confusing things for me this year was to figure out how I would use each of these initiatives in my life and work. I am hoping by sharing that you might get inspired as I have been. 
Well to start with, blogging for me has been such a joy. Sharing just a little bit of our homeschooling journey has been very rewarding. I made a commitment from the start that my blog would be based on our experience, rather than the experience of others. I have found people coming from so many different countries around the world to be so encouraging to me! Showing what we have done has been fun and I hope practical for those out there. 

Second is Scoop It! Scoop It! has been wonderful for me to use to pass on websites to others in a visual medium. I have begun tagging these websites and I am hoping to do more tagging in the future by grade level so that it will be much easier for you to find resources that you need. 
My Scoop It! I have then fed to Twitter (@rnsing) as I see Twitter as a quick and easy way to see if you would like to venture forward and look for more info on a website. I use Twitter myself to keep up with those who may have ideas that I might want to look at. I also have enjoyed the Twitter hashtags and the ideas that are there. 

Symbaloo is a wonderful asset for me as I am doing my Resource Consulting. I have all of the links that I use regularly on my Symbaloo. This saves time and hopefully will help others to save time too!!
Homeschool Launch has been a great place to share resources that I have made myself for our homeschool. It is so easy to share them there and I so appreciate this site!
My husband and I share our Facebook page to communicate with our friends and family. Once in awhile I link to a post from my blog. I haven’t been much of a Facebook participant, but I love reading what others are doing!!
Google Docs, Dropbox, Skype and Ning are all things that I use regularly both personally and through my work. I am so glad to have these ways of storing, communicating and sharing!!
It is amazing for me to believe that at this time last year, I was on Facebook and that was all! What an awesome explosion of technology I have experienced this year! Thank you Pippa!!

Role Play

Role play has been such a fun outlet in our home for our daughter and her friends. I posted a little bit about Kidsboro here. Kidsboro beyond the market days was a way for our “Little One” and her friends to play in many roles during there play time here. “Little One” would love to play on her own this way as well with dolls and stuffed animals. 

We got the majority of our role playing materials and ideas from Sparklebox. How fun to set up a doctor’s office, a grocer, an optometrist, a library and a veterinarian’s office. I remember “Little One” getting so excited about there being a bank machine - so we got an old box and turned it into a bank machine. Sparklebox is from the UK so everything is in pounds but it didn’t matter to the children - they just adjusted to it. 
We didn’t have a great space for all these shops. An old workshop in the back of our home, but that didn’t seem to stop the kids. They had lots of fun out there playing. 
This was a time that our trusty laminator got used alot so that the materials were a little more durable. 

There were so many great skills that went along with this type of play. Writing, reading, vocabulary, organizing, collaborating and so much more. 

Reader's Theatre

Over the years I have purchased several Reader’s Theatre books just to have around the house for those dress up moments that extend to more!
We have had many impromptu plays around our home that have been just that!
I love the Reader’s Theatre books that are a focus of some kind. We have had plays on Civil Rights, learning about a historical figure and many other great little plays. The play in these pictures was about oppression in the cotton mills. 

We do have a large dress up box, that has been fed over the years by garage sale and thrift store finds. We have had specific purpose costumes (uniforms and ethnic costumes) to old dresses and skirts that can be used for so many purposes. We also have had a variety of hats and scarves. 

Reader’s Theatre plays are wonderful as they are fairly short, the can be done with as little as 2-3 children (with some possible costume changes) and can be done with gusto on the spur of the moment!

I hope you will consider this great way to extend your children’s knowledge, drama skills, oration skills, collaboration skills and creativity (some of the sets we have seen on the spur of the moment have been great)!

Gingerbread Fun!!

Yesterday “Little One” had some friends over for an afternoon of gingerbread making and crafts. The girls made a special present, decorated a chinese takeout box to put it in and then made a plate or two of cookies and decorated them. What a great afternoon it was!

It was pretty impromptu on our part as we just decided a few days ago to pull it together. Sometimes impromptu events can be wonderful. We kept it so simple and easy! What a joy to see the girls take responsibility for their own cookies and crafts. Each girl brought some icing and decorations so when we added it all up, there was lots to share!! “Little One” had a Christmas cracker at each place, and each girl was a great sport about wearing the hats!!

I was struck by the focus of these girls. How they set to work on what they were doing and kept up their creative focus for hours at a time. It was beautiful to see! They knew what they wanted to do and needed no prompting from me at all. They just dove in to each project! They shared, worked together and had a great time!


Historical Fiction we have enjoyed!

Having four children and no cable meant a lot of reading in our home. My 2 oldest children who started home schooling in grades 7 and 9 said they learned more history from historical fiction than they ever did in school!

I am going to post some of our favourites (most of the ones in this post have a Canadian connection) and feedback on them. It will take several more posts, because we have a lot of favourite historical fiction!!

First, one that I have read aloud a few times and our girls enjoyed was Indian Captive, The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski. This book is a vivid picture of the fear and hatred that comes when you have been ripped from your home and family to the respect that came from living years with your captors - an Iroquois Seneca tribe. It was so well written and was very heartfelt, but not in a sappy way. There was an incredible amount of information on the Seneca, their way of life and the structure of their society. I can highly recommend it!

Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare was another book that our girls read and enjoyed. I also read this one aloud last year to "Little One". It was a great book about the human spirit and how we can choose to be oppressed or rise above our circumstances with hope for the future. These were amazing times in our history where there were next to no human rights. A person could be captured, taken from their home and sold into slavery. It was based in the time of the French and Indian Wars in the 1700's.

Bully Boys by Eric Walters was one that we read and enjoyed (including me!). It gives you an interesting look into the War of 1812, Lieutenant James FitzGibbon - his ingenuity and courage and his men The Green Tigers (or Bully Boys). In many ways FitzGibbon was almost larger than life! This is a great book for boys!

Another book we have read was The Wintering by William Durbin. The first book of this series (The Broken Blade) we didn't get until after we had read The Wintering. The young man in the story has to work very hard as a voyageur and he really has to adjust his thinking more than once about the men that he works along side. They need to survive the winter and Pierre is challenged physically, mentally and emotionally in the story. Another good novel for boys!

Charlie Wilcox by Sharon McKay is a great book by a gifted author who has a engaging way of exposing our children to the very young men who went to war in World War 1. Charlie from Newfoundland is ill prepared for what he encounters in the war and is forever changed. The book is somehow personal and we seem to get to know Charlie as he changes. Through him we can understand what is was like to be a soldier in World War 1.
I hope you will enjoy these books as much as our family has. Blessings!

Compassion ChariTea

Last night “Little One” and I participated in a wonderful evening of fellowship, goodies and TEA!!
It was “Little One’s” Bible Study Mother-Daughter Christmas Tea. It was so great that Lorraine and Sheila joined us and allowed us to sample many delicious teas. 
Lorraine and Sheila have started a ChariTea for Compassion Canada. They have a blog with their prices (which by the way are incredibly reasonable) and information on Compassion Canada

They showed us a video, explained the role that they play in supporting children and projects that Compassion has initiated all over the world. They write letters to children who’s sponsors don’t want to write to them, they sponsor their own children and sponsor many projects with the profits from their ChariTea. 
I was so excited that this fund raiser was for Compassion after I had just blogged about Donna Ward’s study Africa Land of Hope
It was so great for our daughter and all these young ladies to see that someone can be passionate for Christ being shared and raise funds in such a creative way!!
We all went away with tea - myself and “Little One” with quite a stash!