Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics....

I've been reading/researching Knowing and Teaching Elementary Math by Liping Ma.  Ma conducted a study that compared mathematical understanding among U.S. and Chinese elementary school teachers as it relates to classroom teaching practices.  But don't misunderstand, the book is not a comparative study of American and Chinese teachers of mathematics.  

Ma interviewed elementary mathematics teachers from various elementary schools ranging from very high to very low quality.  She presented four standard topics in elementary mathematics:

1) subtraction with regrouping
2) multidigit multiplication
3) division by fractions
4) perimeter and area of a closed figure

The results were fascinating in that the Chinese teachers displayed more "conceptual understanding" of the math topics.  Where as the American teachers had a more "procedural understanding".  Ma suggests the Chinese teachers were more coherent in their knowledge and the American teachers were more fragmented.  The American teachers knew the set of rules for solving the problem, but in addition, the Chinese teachers also knew why the sequence of steps in the computation made sense.  On page 108, Ma writes, "During their interview, the Chinese teachers often cited an old saying to introduce further discussion of an algorithm: Know how, and also know why."

I know I'm a product of my American education.  I'm definitely more procedural when it comes to math.  I have memorized the steps to solve the equation, but please don't ask me why.  Lately, this has been getting in the way of our homeschool.  I desperately want our kids to have a conceptual understanding, hence all the math research I've been doing. 

Recently, I've become more and more intrigued by RightStart Mathematics.  I started Level B a while back with Ruben.  He actually likes it and really seems to get math.   I'm contemplating switching Riley next fall.  At this point, she's not real keen on the idea, but she has expressed a desire to really "get math".  

Either way, I recommend checking out Liping Ma's book.  It's been translated into several languages and an anniversary edition was released in 2010.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursdays of Thanks....

Girls learning to sew; A baby trying to catch water in the shower; Debts forgiven; Red Winged Blackbirds; Grandpa holding Levi; 10 months; Homeschool Convention.....

Monday, April 22, 2013

MACHE Convention 2013 Follow-Up

I made it home from convention....back to my blue eyed boy :)  Riley and Ruben went along.  The farmer stayed home with the babe and Angel.  Unfortunately, the LCD display broke on my camera sometime between home and arrival at the hotel so I wasn't able to take photos.  I am thankful I took these pictures of Levi playing in my suitcase as I was trying to back before leaving.

The convention was good.  There were three preconference tracks this year including First Class Homeschool, Homeschooling Through High School, and Homeschooling Struggling Learners.  I attended the Struggling Learners track given by Dianne Craft.  There were 4 seminars including one on dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and autism/aspergers, and sensory processing issues.  I learned a great deal and was able to network with other mom's teaching struggling learners at home.  I bought The Biology of Behavior audio DVD in hopes of learning more about nutritional changes we can make to help the kids overcome behavior and attention problems.  We are currently using Dianne Craft's Brain Integration Therapy manual with Ruben in hopes of developing a mid line to improve his reading ability.


I spent the good part of Friday in the used curriculum fair scouring tables for a bargain.  I scored a few living books including...

William Bradford by Bradford Smith
Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling
The Death of Lincoln: A Picture History of the Assassination by Leroy Hayman
Wilderness Wife: The Story of Rebecca Bryan Boone by Etta DeGering
The Land of the Free by Enid La Monte Meadowcroft
The Story of the Old Colony of New Plymouth by Samuel Eliot Morison
George Washington's Birthdays by Wilma Pitchford Hays
The Story of the Atom by Mae & Ira Freeman

I also found Our Mother Tongue by Nancy Wilson and Commas are our Friends by Joe Devine.  I was tickled to find these used and may incorporate them into Angel's English study next year.  I just LOVE used book sales!!

Saturday was spent in the exhibit hall researching for the upcoming school year.  I really appreciate the opportunity to handle the books and flip through them to get an idea of whether or not they will work for our family. I ruled out a few things and I believe I finally settled on our math for next year.  The girls will continue with Math-U-See and Ruben will continue with RightStart.....I think ;-)   I'll post more about that later.

Angel is hoping to study Anatomy in her senior year and I think I found an alternative to Apologia Human Body.  I'll post more about that later as well.

I ordered the elementary level of Exploration Education Physical Science for Ruben.  I believe he's going to love the hands on activities offered by this program.  The creator is a former high school math, science, tech ed teacher, who's family is homeschooling their four kids.

RileyAnn found Nest of Lydia and fell in love with the idea of learning to sew clothes for her American Girl doll.  I ordered Grandma's Attic, which is a beginning sewing course.  The course is laid out through the story of Lydia, a young girl who finds a diary in her grandma's attic.  There are 5 different patterns included with step by step illustrated directions on creating garments for your 18 inch doll.  The course is geared for students age 9 and up and encourages hand stitching first with an introduction to the machine later.  It really looks fun.  She's super excited!

I ordered the audio version of all the conference seminars/speakers and look forward to downloading it.  I like to be able to listen year round for renewed energy and ideas.

Even though I'm wading through a sea of laundry, I'm thankful to be home and back into our everyday routine.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's Convention Time!!

It's that time of year again, homeschool conventions and used book sales abound.  We're heading off to the MACHE Convention today and I'm very excited!  If you are preparing for a homeschool convention, please consider reading this post for some pointers. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mystery of History Volume 1....

Creation to the Resurrection, Volume 1, Second Editon: The Mystery of History Series  -     
        By: Linda Lacour Hobar

I was recently asked how I would use Mystery of History Volume 1 with a 4th grader.  I must first disclose, we did not use all of MOH Volume 1 because when I found it, I was already in the middle of something else.   Also, our younger kids were in kindergarten and 1st grade at that time and I was bent on reading The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos as the base of our history study.  In addition, I pulled things together from Lessons from History and Simply Charlotte Mason, but ended the year with misc. readings from MOH Volume 1.  Last year, we did complete MOH Volume 2 and this year we are nearly done with MOH Volume 3. 

After reviewing Volume 1, my suggestion for a 4th grade student is as follows.   First, I recommend looking through the book lists in the back.   As I'm skimming my copy, some recommendations I would make either as readers if your student is proficient in reading or read alouds if they're not are...

Lesson #
5 Life in the Great Ice Age
6 What Really Happened to Dinosaurs -or- The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible
11 Pyramid by Macaulay
11 Golden Goblet **
23 Tut's Mummy Lost and Found
24 Mara, Daughter of the Nile **
60 The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
85 Alexander the Great by Robert Green
88 Count Your Way Through India
91 You Tube video on Hannibal's Elephants **- you should view this first and/or read Hannibal by Robert Green
98 The Royal Diaries: Cleopatra VII, Daughter of the Nile or Cleopatra by Diane Stanley
103 The Bronze Bow **
104 Ben-Hur - our kids LOVED this movie!! **
107 The Robe - again, our kids LOVED this movie!! **

** You may want to pre read or read together the starred books, or wait and use for that 6th grade level as I have not yet personally read 11, 24, or 103. 

I would do all of the suggested Bible readings together.

Other resources that might be helpful are....

Then and Now Bible Atlas or some kind of ancient history Bible maps
The Book of Virtues by William Bennett
When reading about Egypt, I read aloud Boy of the Pyramids by Ruth Fosdick Jones and our kids still talk about it...it's an excellent living book for that time period - we definitely recommend it! 
We watched Prince of Egypt when learning about Moses, but I'm not sure if that would be too young of a movie for 4th grade.  Although, I think RileyAnn would still like it. 
If you care to study mythology, you might consider The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum or D'Aulaire's book on Greek Mythology or Bulfinch's Mythology (I have this picture book for sale). 

Some additional good living books for this time period are....

Archimedes and the Door of Science or Archimedes Takes a Bath
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth
City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction
by Macaulay
Galen and the Gateway to Medicine
Pompeii: Buried Alive

We haven't done any of the MOH activities, but if I were using at a 4th grade level or higher, I would consider some of them.  I like the Sonlight Book of Time for a timeline.  It's a spiral bound book that's easy to store.  In addition, we used History Pockets: Ancient Civilizations.  We were able to get it from the library.  If your kids like arts and crafts, it makes a great keepsake book when you are done.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thursdays of Thanks....

Pampered Chef Garlic Press; Celebrating Ruben's birth; Return of robins; 30+ robins pulling worms out of the earth during an April shower; Return of bluebirds; Late night run for canning lids with R & R; Homemade maple syrup.....

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What About Shakespeare?

To read or not read...that is the question?

We recently read about William Shakespeare in The Mystery of History Volume III.  Have you ever heard of ghost writers?   I had no idea there was speculation surrounding whether or not Shakespeare was the real author of  plays he's credited with.  I personally had not read Shakespeare or studied his works.  I often wonder about the necessity of it. 

After reading this article by LindaFay at Charlotte Mason Help, HUFI, I felt convicted to give it a try.  We read "As You Like It" from Lambs Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb.  I was quite surprised by it and found it very enjoyable.  The kids liked it as well. 

Have you incorporated Shakespeare into your studies?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Heart of Dakota - Drawn Into the Heart of Reading Review...

Riley Ann recently finished level 2/3 of Heart of Dakota's Drawn Into the Heart of Reading program.  This reading program is designed for students age 7-15 about 2nd through 8th grade.  We used it for 3rd grade. 


I loved the idea of exposing Riley to different genres of literature including biographies, historical fiction, mysteries, nonfiction, realistic fiction, adventure, fantasy, folk tale, and humor.   The program is designed to use with literature of your choice.  It was nice to be able to pick and adjust books to her level and interests.  For example, there were many books at Riley's "grade/reading level" that we/she read previously, so we went to the Heart of Dakota Book Shop and searched by genre and she was able to choose a different book that interested her.  They have boy and girl suggestions.  

The program incorporates Godly character traits into the study such as faith, fear of the Lord, responsibility, brotherly love, loyalty, virtue, obedience, joy, and integrity.   In philosophy, this sounds like a wonderful idea.  Though in reality, the character lessons were very repetitive and sometimes didn't necessarily apply to the book Riley was reading. (This is a pro and con.) 

The program teaches story elements such as character, setting, conflict, mood, prediction, compare/contrast, cause/effect, main idea/theme, and point of view.  There are pre-reading activities.  The program is designed to be used for teaching multiple students at different levels.   One instructor guide covers all the levels.  Each day, the lesson is broke down by level.  You could work through the program several times, doing different projects and reading different books each time, making Drawn Into the Heart of Reading very cost effective. 


We will not be continuing with Drawn Into the Heart of Reading.  Riley and I actually despised the contrived predictable lessons.  I am very eclectic and lean more Charlotte Mason.  The student workbooks are just that, workbooks, with fill in the blank worksheets that seemed repetitive for each genre.  The teacher manual is geared for classroom teaching suggesting the student work in groups or share their ideas with classmates.  This does not fit a homeschool setting and seemed unnatural to us. 

The writing may get to be a bit much for younger students if you use the student workbooks as intended.  However, you could always do the activities orally or just pick and choose some of the activities.  

This is our 6th year of homeschooling and the longer I do this, the more I see that I don't want to repeat school at home.  We love to read and I felt like the Drawn Into the Heart of Reading activities took the fun out of it.  RileyAnn is a great reader and loves to discuss what she's reading.  From now on, we will read and discuss or narrate.  I don't plan to use anymore prescribed reading curriculum.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Shut the Box Double Sided-9....

I recently found Shut the Box Double Sided-9 at a thrift store in our area for less than $3.00.  Ruben LOVES to play it!!  We've been using it to practice math addition facts.

Charlotte Mason used manipulatives to teach math. She wanted children to have an understanding of why to perform a math function and not just the how.  Since reading this, I've been trying to incorporate more games and manipulatives.  This seems to better suit Ruben's learning style.

We recommend Shut the Box!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thursdays of Thanks....

Spending time with earthly father; Sweeping down cobwebs and washing kitchen curtains; Jesus rising from the dead!; The laughter of April Fools; Election day; RileyAnn's nose in a book; Oldest stopping by to see grandma....

Monday, April 1, 2013

Math and the Common Core Standards...

I recently did a series of posts on the history of math and various math methods.  You can find them here...Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3.  I want to follow up in regard to math and the Common Core Standards (CCS).  Common Core Standards???...you may say, but why, I homeschool, what does it matter?  Well, many of the well known homeschool math curricula companies have created revisions that comply with the CCS, including Math Mammoth, Rightstart Mathematics, and Math-U-See.  I'm on a few different Yahoo Group Forums and there has been controversy over the CCS among homeschoolers so I decided to do some research and see for myself what the fuss is.

There are forty-five U.S. states that have adopted the Common Core Standards.  I found a 10 minute webinar here explaining math and the CCS. Though it is geared for classroom teachers, I did find it helpful.  Keep in mind the standards are not curriculum.  They are simply a set of goals to achieve within the curriculum.  It appears there are 3 main objectives behind the math CCS...

1) FOCUS - the focus should be on fewer concepts allowing the student to go deeper in procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding which will promote mastery

2) COHERENCE - the concepts should be presented in a systematic sequential progression designed to build on each other vs. jumping from content to content or from skill to skill - spiral curriculum is no longer recommended

3) RIGOR - the goal should be knowledge or understanding to promote abstract thinking, not necessarily regarding degree of difficulty or doing math from rote memorization, but being able to transfer knowledge from one concept to the next and applying math fluently in a usable means

As noted above, several homeschool curricula publishers have recently created revisions aligning their programs with the CCS.  These publishers suggest the revisions were in the works prior to CCS and that aligning with CCS is a bonus that will benefit homeschool families.  They cite the example that many families homeschool in states with mandatory testing requirements and this alignment will help those testing families.

Maria Miller, author of Math Mammoth, has revised the Math Mammoth Light Blue Series grades 1-4 and is working on grades 5 & 6, as well as The Golden Series. You can read more about that alignment here

Dr. Joan Cotter, author of RightStart Mathematics, has revised Level A and is currently working on subsequent levels.  You can see the availability schedule and learn more about those revisions here

Steve Demme, author of Math-U-See,  has revised Primer through Zeta to align with CCS.  I spent some time checking out the new samples on the MUS website since I have the hardbound editions of every level affected except Zeta. In comparison, the table of contents has not changed and neither did the workbook pages that were displayed other than extra added enrichment pages in the test book. When I look at the 3 main objectives of the CCS, it appears to me that CCS aligned with MUS, not that MUS aligned with CCS ;-)  You can see samples of the new books as well as MUS's spin on CCS here.

I mentioned the controversy among homeschoolers using current editions of RightStart and Math-U-See.  Some families will not be upgrading to new editions for financial reasons.  Some will not update because they view CCS as a loss of freedom.  They in no way shape or form want to take a chance of being affiliated with any government educational program.  Some homeschool families will have no choice as new editions are printed, the old will no longer be available, as is already the case with Math-U-See.  After researching the CCS, I don't see them as a detriment.  I think for many change is hard regardless of the motive. 

As many of you know from my previous posts, we are undecided about which math program we will be continuing with next fall.  We are fortunate not to live in a mandatory testing state so I don't feel compelled one way or another to align with the CCS.   On the other hand, I am disappointed to think that I have editions of RightStart and MUS that are no longer current.  It will be cost prohibitive for our family to update, which means I will need to tweak in order to make new consumable student books compatible with older teacher editions.  This does equate to more work on my part...sigh

What is your take on the CCS?  Will it make a difference in your math curriculum choices?