Thursday, January 14, 2016

Math and Junk. And my friend Heidi.

I'll be straight with you - this will not be an incredibly deep post. I have been so productive the last two days, my brain will just not keep up anymore.

Math has always been the most dreaded homeschool subject in our house. I'm not intimidated by math at all actually, but for some reason my children moan and groan every time math is announced. We started with using Saxon's curriculum and are on year three now, but I'm not totally in love with it. I love a lot of things about the curriculum, but sometimes it really feels like a time-kill. And I'm never quite on top of it enough, so then some random morning I look at that day's lesson, where I am supposed to have a bag of peanuts, and shoot, there goes Math for the day. 

I really have no hatred towards math, and while I never aspired to achieve any mathematical success, I tackled it fairly easily. I actually took Pre-Algebra in 7th grade, Algebra in 8th grade and was chosen to be on our "Mathletes" team in Jr High. I opted out after a week or so because my sports and choir practices were going to interfere. Since I was definitely not the smartest of the bunch, they survived just fine without me. I also happened to pretty much skip any homework regarding dividing fractions. Don't ask me how I still passed. In high school I jumped right into Geometry as a Freshman and Algebra 2 as a Sophomore, then I wholeheartedly declined anything to do with math for my last two years. Ha! I did have to take one more course in college, but it was the same exact material as my 8th grade class. Even though I was pretty bored the entire time, I decided to tackle dividing fractions and totally nailed it! Please don't ask me to explain it right now though. 

Math is pretty much a neutral subject in my heart and mind. It is necessary, good, can be challenging but also fairly easy to reason through. There are actually endless philosophical debates regarding math, geometry and more, but that is for another day. With our Saxon curriculum, I love how they emphasize mastering different strategies and concepts. I love how often new skills and concepts are presented, reviewed and explored in different ways. I also love how they weave in using the calendar and word problems to work on learning multiplication. They are so sneaky with all of their new introductions. They say "Here, let's count seeds in an apple" then boom, two weeks later your kid knows how to add and read addition problems without a hitch! There are probably 100 examples I could give you of these sorts of things. Also, thanks to Classical Conversations and Asher's memorizing his 7's to song, he was able to pick up on multiplying his 7's so easily. He didn't have to think too hard, or count over and over. I would ask "How many days are there in 4 weeks?" and he would sing to the tune of Frere Jaques "7, 14, 21, 28… 28 days!" That has been my most tangible example of how memorization in the early stages works perfectly into the more advanced stages of being able to understand concepts more in-depth. It was such an encouragement for both of us. 

Despite all this, I still don't feel a rush of joy sitting down to do Math, like I do when we open a good book, or sit to read History (yes, History is the least boring subject - but more on that another day). Yesterday, I was snooping on Facebook while the kids were reading and peeked in on a conversation my friend Heidi was having. She was asked about Math and mentioned the Khan Academy. My husband has been talking about it forever, but I hate trying new things, so I just pushed it aside every time. Heidi said they focus on mastery, using a "spiral" method (all the review I like) and kids can go at their own pace while parents have oversight as to their progress and time spent on different concepts and on their work overall. Khan Academy even breaks down what particular concepts your child misses the most or needs more help with. 

Heidi is intelligent and has children older than mine (and probably smarter than me), so I went straight to to check it out. I signed us up (it's free) and got started. My boys will have to go through quite a bit of practice and "testing" until there will be completely new concepts presented for them, but I think I will let them get warmed up for a few weeks while they slow down on Saxon and see how it goes. I'm a little nervous to change things up. I'm trying to not give in to the fear that they might "miss something" if we switch. Even though I don't have a firm schedule, and don't completely love our daily rhythm, I also have a hard time with new & unexpected routines! But, Heidi said it has alleviated stress in their Math time, and it's less work for her overall. My kids really do need to have some more areas of independence. I can feel myself wanting to watch all their work over their shoulders, but I really need to learn to back off a bit and let them experiment, learn, and grow, without it all coming from me. I'm involved in almost everything they do right now, so this will be a positive baby step for all of us. 

I should also mention, if you ever want to know what you should be reading, you should ask Heidi, or at least check out her blog. I have no idea how she knows so much! But I have happily read several books she has recommended and my kids are enjoying several right now too. I just discovered she is almost, kind of homeschool-famous. I was listening to an interview from Sarah Mackenzie with Andrew Kern about homeschooling from a place of rest (also the title of her book), and I was browsing other podcasts on her site. Lo and behold, Heidi was on there! It felt so awesome to personally know one of those smarty-pants people. I met Heidi at speaker-training for Classical Conversations last spring, then she was at the first Practicum I spoke at (I was intimidated just a smidge). I mean, I only"Facebook" know her for the most part, besides several in-depth days together, but you can't help but admire her. And she has always been so willing to give me advice and recommendations. Plus, her boys know how to cook delicious foods and desserts for her, so she has got to be doing something really, really right. 

So here are the three things you need to check out:

1- Khan Academy - - Math, Science, History, Computer Programming & more. There's a wealth of information waiting to hit your brain. 

2- Sarah Mackenszie's book and website - - She's also the creator of the Read Aloud Revival. Great stuff!

3 - Heidi & her blog - - Also, here is her podcast on

I hope this was a light and breezy post for you to enjoy. And practical! We don't always have time and energy to delve into difficult topics, but that doesn't mean we can't share and still benefit from each other. Let me know how you like any of these three suggestions, may they be a blessing to you and your family!

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