Sunday, August 13, 2017

Summer Math Games for Reluctant Math Boy

My rising 5th grader is a smart kid. He's creative, inventive, and has a mind like a steel trap. He can remember so many cool facts and figures. Every week he brings home STACKS and STACKS of books from the library (mostly non fiction) and reads them all before we go back. He's constantly wowing me with his factoids and interesting trivia. I don't know how he holds it all in that handsome head of his. He loves computers and has learned to do some coding. Like his father, he has a mechanical brain and can figure out how things work and how to fix them fairly quickly.

So, it's all the more frustrating to me that he still struggles with his math facts. He can remember how many people live in China and what their top exports are, but he can't remember 9x4? Really? Even after I've taught him aaaaaallllll of the "nine tricks"? WHY? His shaky grasp of the math facts was really getting in the way as we headed into long division, fractions and the like. He was starting to hate math. It became a struggle. "NO!" I screamed in my head. "I refuse to have another reluctant math student. THIS will not DO!"

I remembered reading an article about this topic, reminding educators that the main reason kids resist math in upper elementary school is that they don't have a firm grasp on basic facts, and the problems that seem so easy and quick for us adults, are actually so tedious and laborious for kids who just can't figure out what 7 x 6 is. Yeah. That made a lot of sense to me. So I set out to fix that this summer: 

Summer Math Plan for Cranky Factoid Boy:
 *Play games!
*Review/Drill Play more Games!
*Review and Drill some more
*Learn multiplication fact songs.

 And I have to say, it's working. We haven't even touched his text book this summer. I did a lot of research and just put together a binder full of math games that we play every other day. In between those days I give him a math drill sheet that I grabbed for free from Learn Math Fast.  And every day or so, we practiced a new song from Times to Remember.  We all really like the songs and find ourselves singing them randomly around the house.  4.x8 is one of our favorites: "Tooty-Hoo!"

I think his favorite game was Kaboom!  I used to play this game with my kids when they were younger to help them with their  sight words.  But we called it "unicorn" because that's what my girls were into at the time.  You can play Kaboom to learn pretty much anything and even my 6yo liked it and learned a lot of her facts along the way.

Was it worth it to take our whole summer term (9 weeks!) away from the texts book and focus on just memorizing facts?   yeah, I think so.  I'm sure hoping that it will eliminate the daily math struggle when we pick up his text book and keep moving forward with it.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Sunday Saunter

There's a great place just up the road from our house called Yates Mill.  It's an old corn mill, and we've been there on a field trip to take tours before.  This particular Sunday (it's been several weeks now) we decided to head out in the afternoon to burn off some energy with the kids by exploring a few of the trails around the lake.

What beautiful scenery!  I always love getting out of the house for a fun, low-key hike with the kids.  Of course, these outings don't always turn out as planned. Sometimes the tensions get high, accidents happen, injuries occur, fights break out, weather turns bad, and so on.  You know how it goes, right?  But at least we try.

This outing was generally a success, despite a few little arguments.  We discovered a trail that connects to the NC State Ag. farms and played on a big wooden swing hanging from an oak tree on the edge of their property.  Very cool.  And these days its seems that our oldest can always be found with a volleyball attached to her.   She and her dad volleyed all they way around the lake, which did happen to annoy a few of the other hikers (in our family!)

But I seem to love this place.  If it weren't for the bit of road noise that you can hear on part of the trail, it would be almost perfect.  So serene, so green, and best of all...close to home.

Notice the Duke Splash T-shirt my volley ball girl is wearing.  She got that at an event held at Duke University the day before our hike. It was for middle and high schoolers. She was able to choose 4 classes and have a pizza lunch for free!  Some of her home school buddies went too and she loved it!  They turned her loose on campus with a map and a list of her classes.  So much freedom and independence!!   She was totally seeing herself going to school there in the future, which, of course, was probably the whole point of the event.  





Monday, April 3, 2017

Strawberries

Wow, strawberry season comes early in NC.  Not a problem! All the more time to pick, eat, jam, and enjoy.





NC Zoo!

Today we took our family to the NC zoo.  The only other zoo I have to compare it with is the Woodland Park zoo in Seattle, which we have visited many times.  I like that zoo in Seattle a lot.  Lots of good memories there.  But if I had to pick the best one, I'd say it's NC Zoo hands down!

What a beautiful zoo! And what a fabulous location! The tram was super convenient (except the part where they make you remove your sleeping child from the stroller, empty the stroller of ALL its contents, and fold it flat before you board).  And the exhibits were very engaging.

We didn't get to see everything of course.  You never can do a whole zoo in one day.  We look forward to going back again!  Next time we hope to take all the kids.  Our oldest stayed home with a chest cold today.  Sad.  :(

   



  



   


  

   


Saturday, April 1, 2017

5 Ways Homeschooling is like Entrepreneurship

PraxisInfographic2


Please include attribution to https://discoverpraxis.com with this graphic.





Thursday, March 30, 2017

Homeschool Spelling Bee

Back on Feb 16, I hosted a spelling be at our house.  My 6yo is an avid speller! She loves to spell!!  She spells about every 15th word out loud and is always saying, "Hey mom,  I can spell ___________."  Wanna hear?"

So it was mostly for her, but my 9 yo and 11 yo had fun with it too.  We opened it up to 6-12 year olds and I only allowed 15 registrations.  I had a great response! I could have easily filled a lot more spots but, being my first bee (EVER!) I wanted to just keep it low key.

I think it went really well and we had a lot of fun.  If I were going to open it up to more kids I would move it to a larger space, however.

The basics of how it worked:

I used words from  homespellingwords.com  since they have lists by grades. I had asked each child to give me their self-reported SPELLING grade (not school grade) so that they could each be individually competitive at their own level.

As kids dropped out and our numbers became fewer, I challenged the reaming kids by bumping up their grade levels and giving them harder words.  For the last 3 remaining contestants, I started using the challenge words. I had to do that or it would have gone on forever. We had some good spellers!  As it was, the actual bee lasted about an hour and that was plenty.  I had scheduled 2 hours for the whole experience so we coudl wait for stragglers, have an orientation, then do prizes and food at the end.

I allowed the kids to have one PASS and one NEXT card.  These cards allowed the kids to either pass their turn and still remain in the game, or ask for the next word on the list if they didn't like the one they got.  I think it gave more kids more confidence to try the bee.

For the kids who were eliminated, I had cleared out my living room and set up a variety of games, puzzles and activities for them to enjoy while they waited.  They were also free to play outside with some adult supervision from other moms.

I asked for $2/registration to cover the cost of the prizes, which were awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places.  My kids didn't place, but I thought we all had a great time and enjoyed the friendly competition.

Our house has 2 sets of stairs, so as the kids advanced to the next round, I had them exit our school room on one side, go down the front stairs, and come up the back stairs where they waited (quietly) in line for their next round.  This kept their bodies moving a little bit while eliminating background noise for the speller.  Looking back, it would have been more efficient to have the kids line up in order of spelling grade level so that I wouldn't have to do so much flipping and clicking back and forth from list to list.

I got good feedback from parents and kids, so maybe we'll do it again sometime.  Actually, I'm thinking next year we will do a Geography bee! I'm already helping my kids study for it :)


On Deck.  The kids on the couch are waiting for their turn to spell.  The others waited on the stairs and advanced to the couch one by one.  Keep them moving, I say.





Using the lap top and white board.  I spelled out the missed words for kids who were not advancing.





orientation.  I explained the rules and handed out the passes.




Battle ship!  Downstairs the kids played games after they had been eliminated





We also had painting set up for kids who were waiting





and other stuff to do....


NC State Farm Days

Who's up for baby pigs, cow patties, and free ice cream?

We are, duh.

Just ten minutes up the road from where we leave is a HUGE farm owned by NC State Ag department.  I guess they open it up to the public once a year and it's a big to-do.  Of course, the kids loved the animals and the free ice cream.  Ivy got her first close look at chicks, piggies, cows, a horse, goats, and sheep.

My favorite part?  Well, it was free. That's always a favorite.  But my next favorite part was learnign about what it takes to be a farmer these days.  My kids were sufficiently annoyed and bored by the many questions I had for the volunteers manning the display tables and booths about crop rotation and pricing, weather instruments, and uses for soy.  Really...there's so much to farming that we never really think about.

When I see those bumper stickers that say, "Did you eat today? Thank a farmer."  I'm going to take it down right serious.


Fiber Fest NC



The other day I took our three middle kids to the NC state fair grounds for fiber fest! I wasn't sure what to expect.  But we're always looking for fun, free ways to go exploring in our new home, so why not, right?

I think the highlight was learning to use the loom.  I was surprised to see how much the kids enjoyed it! They got a lot of satisfaction seeing the pattern grow and change with the different peddles combinations they used.  The instructors were great! They helped us see how math was part of the process, as well as the thought, concentration, and attention to detail that were needed.

Wouldn't you love to have a loom set up in the corner of the house where your kids could sit down and have SCREENLESS fun for hours while also being productive and quiet??  Oh yeah....I would.  I was super close to buying a loom myself after seeing how much my gamer boy loved weaving!









Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Native American Study: Making Clay Bricks

We have been using a lot of Moving Beyond the Page recently.  And for the most part I really like it.  It's great for my active, 9-yo son when the lessons get him outside, or moving his body, or using his hands to do something besides push a pencil.

Today was like that.  We got to enhance our study of the southwest Native Americans by making our own clay bricks.  Fortunately, clay is abundant here in our new NC home!  I felt so lucky that we could walk out into the forest that is our back yard, dig up some clay, mix it with water from the stream that runs through said forest, and have so much fun doing this project without leaving the house!



We found all the clay we needed under this old fallen tree.



My 11yo never misses a chance to get her hands dirty and joined us in the fun.



Is there a more perfect way to spend the afternoon than shaping clay bricks in the forest by a clear stream?  Um, nope!



We used a butter box cut in half as a mold for our bricks.  It worked ok.  I think it would be better to use something a little sturdier.




Here are the first two bricks set out to dry.  We were pretty excited by our product!  I wonder if we could make enough bricks to build that outdoor pizza oven we've been dreaming about....

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dodge Ball With Cops and Co-ops?

When we moved to NC last summer, my 9 yo needed some way to engage with our new community.  We were all a bit adrift, looking for ways to network with local homeschoolers.

At that time, my son was really in to dodge ball. I think he had played it at boy scouts one night just before we moved and he LOVED it.  He kept asking me if we could play.  I bought some dodge balls like these and we would play as a family on the neighborhood tennis court,  but that wasn't cutting it for him! He wanted the real deal!

After looking around and not finding an existing dodge ball game/team for kids, I offered to organize one.  We could make some friends in the process, right?  The problem was finding a place where we could play for free.  That's always the catch.  We like things to be f.r.e.e. as often as possible.  :)
 With the help of a local HS mom, I was able to locate an open gym time at a community center. They would accommodate our activity for free...ahhh..the magic word!

 I looked up "how to play dodge ball" on you tube and learned some basic rules. (It had been eons since I had really played!) and invited the HS community to just come play!  Well, it was a huge hit.  6 months later, word has spread and we are getting a turn out of about 30-40 kids.  This has forced me to be a bit more organized and enlist the help of more parents to keep the games running smoothly, but it's been great.

Today we had a really cool treat during doge ball.  During one of the games I noticed to officers standing in the doorway watching.  At first, I was like, "Oh no, is there something sketchy going on that we should know about? Why are they scouting out the community center?"  But they seemed to be totally at ease.  So I asked them if they had time to join in on the fun, and sure enough, they did!  It was a fun treat for the co-op kids to play dodge ball with the cops today!  Pretty awesome.

Sorry that my pictures are NOT pretty awesome.  I was busy reffing the game, holding a toddler on my hip, and catching some action shots on my broken cell phone all at the same time.  Don't you love it?