Archive for March, 2014

Life of Homeschool Science #8

March 30, 2014 Leave a comment

Early in our homeschooling experience, we heard about a young man who graduated from a local community by his tenth grade. I never could confirm this for it was learned from a friend’s husband who taught at the community college. This put the seed in my mind of if this person could do so would my oldest. I pushed the Educator to direct our oldest’s education towards a community college. It became apparent in a year or so that my goal could not be achieved. My oldest was not going to graduate by tenth grade. He first had much to learn before being able to take on that type of load.

There is a point with homeschooling families where they believe they can not teach the subject. The Educator thought the sciences to be this area. The Educator was wrong but this direction was no longer needed. A college opportunity for Youth 1 arrived and we seized the opportunity.

Youth 1’s senior year required a math and a science. Youth 1 was ready for calculus and only physics was never attempted. The college placement exam allowed Youth 1 to proceed with these classes if so desired. This is what Youth 1 did. He took calculus, chemistry and physics. Taking these course alleviated the need to find curriculum for Youth 1 and the Educator. These courses also count at credits if my son goes to this school after high school.

He recommends you teaching your child physics at home before taking it at the college level. This would apply with chemistry. If you’re familiar with the subject it will help in college. I would say do precalculus before taking calculus. We made a mistake by skipping physics.

Check with your local community colleges and universities to see if your child can attend. You are not relieved of duty if they can attend and take these courses. I recommend you get every supplemental help you can get and monitor your child. Youth 1 has visited his professors quite often and developed friendships where they help each other. There are also other online help and books to assist. The biggest need in these types of classes are problems to do. The more you do the better you get.

Give this route a thought.

Words are a problem

March 26, 2014 2 comments

I was still thinking about the kangaroo math last night and this morning as my memories of learning math came back. Understanding 100s, 10s and one’s was never a huge hurdle for me to leap. In fact it was not a huge hurdle for most if any of my fellow students.

What was my biggest hurdle?

It was in algebra where I met my most difficult period, and this was the dreaded word problem. For the life of me, I struggled daily with deciphering the paragraph and pulling out the algebraic equation. This struggle would go on to haunt me, a math major. It has taken some time for me to finally get word problems. Indeed life is full of word problems. My oldest son deals with word problems on a daily basis as the university.

What was the reason for my struggle?

Before I encountered these word problems in algebra, I do not believe I saw word problems other than very simple adding and subtraction problems. These were few in number. Math is about repetition. After the concept is learned, you need to practice and practice. Each problem is different in its own way. This is no different than practicing a musical instrument or sports. Having a new concept thrown at you is difficult. In a public school, if you do not pick it up quickly you are left behind. I struggled to maintain an A. I learned a few tricks to pull out an A. I never learned the word problem concept in algebra.

Math needs to build upon itself. The student needs to understand each step to be proficient. This is why a child learn how to add single values first. They proceed onto double digits and then subtraction and so on. What is often left out are word problems. The word problem is the final application of a concept.

Categories: Math Tags: , , ,

How I learned early math

March 25, 2014 Leave a comment

This memory is going back quite a few years. As I pull the cobwebs off and review this corroded and musty memory, I begin to see how I was taught mathematics.

There are vague memories of my family teaching me math. Older siblings taking their turn and even my mother do some simple math. My official introduction was likely first grade. There was the traditional book that I really do not remember much of. There were two instrumental items of learning.

These two items were the abacus and colored blocks. These two items whether in form or on paper were there to teach me about numbers. It was simple to visualize and understand. No confusing number line needed. These two items were a mainstay for me for the formative math years. On paper I was given crayons to color in the hundreds, tens and ones. I didn’t have to jump and then struggle to remember what direction to go and add which number.

My memory fails me as to when these items were no longer used. I can state it was no longer used in fifth grade. As I look at the education of my two youths, we utilized the same items through Saxon. My oldest scored well in math and the youngest received a perfect score in standardized testing.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Kangaroo Math

March 25, 2014 4 comments

Recently I saw this image (hopefully it comes in). I do not know if this is true or not. The writer/creator has the same thoughts as me. This got me thinking about the number line method displayed. After a little research, I discovered this method is commonly used in some states. Trying to keep my emotions in check I will go over this means of learning.
The method of using a number line as a means of adding and subtracting apparently comes from the Netherlands. This is the one source I found. The method is used as a visual representation for the students thinking strategy.

An empty number line is introduced where students are asked how to get from one number to another in the “least number of jumps of tens and ones.” An example of this would be going from 0 to 69. You would make 7 jumps of ten to 70 and jump back one to 69.

This same application can be used for addition and subtraction. How do you go from 31 to 82 in a small number of jumps? In my example I would “jump” 50 to get 81 and make a short “jump” of 1 to get to 82. Isn’t this so easy and understandable?

Apply it to a word problem. I’ll enlist Jack’s help. A tree in Jack’s yard is 57 cm tall. It grows another 42 cm during the summer. How tall is the tree, Jack? Our friend Jack draws a blank number line and writes 57 on the left. Jack still figuring this new math out does a jump of 40 to get to 97. Not wanting to waste jumps, Jack does a jump of two to get the answer of 99. Good boy Jack. Do you understand now? No?

We will give Jack another problem to help understand. This time it will be a subtraction problem. Ready Jack? Do you like XBox games? Yeah? Alright Jack, here is the problem for you concerning XBox games. Jack wants the latest XBox game. He needs 83 dollars to buy the game. He only has 35 dollars saved. How many more dollars do you need to save Jack? Get that number line drawn! This time Jack writes 35 dollars on the number line. Put it on the left side Jack. Jack wants to do an initial jump of 50 which gives him 85. Now Jack will jump back 2 to get 83. This method of subtraction is using something called friendly jumps. Not sure what that means.

Jack still does understand subtraction. It could be all of the friendliness in the word problem. We will let Jack attempt another subtraction problem. Jack has a board that is 53 cm long. He wants to cut off 26 cm. How will be left. Jack dutifully draws that blank number line. Here is a hint jack. Write 53 on the right side of the number line. I know, I know. It isn’t what you did the last time. Jump away Jack! Jack is making a reverse jump or subtraction of 20 to get 33. Next jack jumps back again 7 to get 26. Good job Jack!
What about three digits? Can you do those Jack? It’s easy with the number line method. What? You still have difficulty knowing what direction to go? We have 443 students taking math. 220 are pulled out of school because of Common Core. How many student remain? We start with 220 on the line. Jump 80 to get 300. Jack does another jump of 100 to get to 400. Now Jack jumps 43. If Jack drew his jumps properly and labeled each jump, he should have the answer by adding the values of the jumps which is 223. Wow!! This is so simple and easy! Had I gone through this as a kid I would be a mathematician. Oh, wait. I am one.

Jack, are you ready for multiplication? No. Too bad. We are going to calculate 18 x 4. Apparently, numbers like 20 are considered friendly. Add 2 to 18 to get our friend, 20. Do 4 jumps of 20 to get 80. Now we have to jump back 4 spaces two times to 72. This is amazing!

Isn’t it nice to know this method of Common Core is so easy to learn.

Categories: Education Tags: , ,

Life of Homeschool Science #7

March 23, 2014 Leave a comment

I’m going to jump ahead to the late middle school years and early high school. To me this is a very important time. For some scholarship requirements, you need to start applying letter grades and documenting textbooks. This is also an important preparation period for college bound students.

The Educator had an initial fear of how to instruct Youth 1 in the sciences at this point. The experiments were easy enough but when you apply mathematics everything changes. How do you teach a subject you are not familiar with? We started looking at ways to educate Youth 1.

We looked at my old college textbooks. I had a chemistry and a calculus book ready to be used. The help would come in a form of the internet. It was doable but difficult. This would require some concentration on all to get this done in a school year. There were other alternatives.

This is where a homeschool group is worth the value of membership. There was a parent that would teach biology. I believe Apologetics was used. The class was formal and instruction occurred. Labs were also done in this class. All reading, homework and lab reports were done outside of class. Even the exams were to be given by the parents.

Youth 1 experienced a classroom environment consisting of homeschoolers. Quizzes and lab were graded and grades posted. This was a real-world experience for Youth 1 and the other students. This class helped to prepare Youth 1.

There was even a chemistry course that Youth 1 participated in. This class was of a similar environment to the biology course. This chemistry class used Apologetics as well. In fact, this course helped provide the opportunity for Youth 1 to test out of first year chemistry at the local university, an option we chose to not take.

As a student enters the upper years of schooling, the educational style needs to change. If you look at chemistry you now need to know how to do stoichiometry. No longer can you only scratch the surface. If your studying physics the simple stuff no longer apply. You need to be able to understand the formulas and utilize them in order to do the calculations.

As a homeschooling parent, you need to be aware of the time to change the way your child is learning. We transferred to a textbook and away from multiple books. No longer was Youth 1 looking at a general subject. He was now going into depth with the subject. Think about how you will go about educating your child during the middle school and high school years.

Why was Apologetics textbooks used? The person teaching required this.

Life of Homeschool Science #6

March 22, 2014 Leave a comment

The early years of science in our household was based on many books and magazines supplemented by visits to nature parks, museums and yes even the television. I can not begin to tell you of the many experiments done in this house.

If you were to ask me if there was one item in our science program that was instrumental to us what is it? The first word would be TOPScience ( We have relied on this material for many of the experiments. The PS
material has been used into the middle school years. There are a few Tops ideas we have used since with Youth 2.

The higher grade years for us has required a more in depth look at science than TOPS provides. We have never touched to my memory the physics or chemistry. A different method has been utilized by us. These two fields require more than what TOPS can offer but could be a supplement to the main material.

I highly recommend everyone to check this out. The parent can learn just as much as the child. A good way to go through this material is to use outside material as well. We commonly use age appropriate books to go along with the tops.

Life of homeschool science #5

March 22, 2014 Leave a comment


Unlike many adults, I do not find it odd to come home and see paperclipped leaves and paper on a tree alongside my driveway. Entering our kitchen, it is not uncommon to see organic items in various states of decay and rot. A visitor would think us a bit untidy with our food. I am not surprised to see a blue or purple celery stalk or some liquid concoction of a strange color. Open my closet door and I can find some type of plant growing there such as a lima bean. I have no problem of having to stand and eat my dinner because an lab experiment is in progress on our dining room table or has just finished. There was even a time when the solar system was pinned to our living room wall that required my covering the holes as the Educator repainted the living room later on. I must confess the room was due to be painted in the summer.

There are strange requests, too. It is not uncommon for me to receive requisition requests for items. We do not regularly consume two liters bottles of soda. I find Walmart, Lowes and the local grocery store a nice place to get some of the items. Others I must rely on ordering from Amazon.

There are experiments where I am asked to be involved in. There has been a time where I had to set up a telescope in 40°F weather for Youth 1 and Youth 2 to see a planet or the moon. I have been asked to help identify the type of lizard we have or to find directions to the Maryland Science Center and participate.

I support my family in these tasks as well as other homeschooling tasks. I am inconvenienced often but willingly go along with this. Eat cereal, waffles or some other quick food for a dinner is not minded by me. This is part of my duty as a spouse and parent.

Homeschooling in general requires support from the spouse. The more active the support is the easier and more educational homeschooling is. It is sad for me to hear some homeschooling families that MUST clean up the area before the husband is home and need to get that meal ready. How is this translated to the children? The message is as straightforward as intended, though not the message that was expected.