Make Math Fun

Make math FUN – Doesn’t that sound hopeful?

Math is problem solving and puzzles. It should be fun. Who doesn’t like puzzles?

Somewhere in my life, math stopped being fun. I want to make math fun for my daughter. Click To Tweet

But somewhere in my life math stopped being fun. My teachers made me copy my addition, subtraction, and multiplication tables over and over. Not much fun, but I learned them really well.

Why? Repetition is part of what makes new ideas and concepts permanent. Sure – but does it have to be so terribly boring all the time? I think we can find ways to bring back the fun.

Especially for my kindergarten kiddo, I want learning to be exploring new ideas and understanding mysteries, not just copying and worksheets.

But I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on a math curriculum.

During Christmas shopping, I discovered a new family game that makes math fun!

The game is a version of Shut the Box. Each player rolls the dice and has to add or subtract to eliminate a number from your side of the board (older players may also multiply and divide).Make math FUN - Doesn't that sound hopeful? You want to make math fun for your children.Math is problem solving and puzzles. It should be fun. Why isn't it?

Adding and subtracting fluidly within ten is one of the main kindergarten objectives for math. Each turn, I had her both add and subtract before deciding which number to use. We even discussed multiplication when she needed 3 and rolled 1 & 3.

She didn’t know it was school. We were just playing. The game made math fun!

Plus, playing as adults over Christmas, we had a great time. For under $15 on Amazon Prime, you just can’t beat a family game that doubles as home-school curriculum.

Another way we make math fun is through using math in hands-on or real world examples, like baking together or cutting up her PB&J sandwich into quarters.

We often use M&Ms as manipulatives to demonstrate numbers equal amounts. Plus, she gets to eat them as a reward when we are finished.

One of my daughter’s favorite books is The Doorbell Rang about chocolate chip cookies, and nothing compares to Grandma’s. Her own grandmother makes chocolate chip cookies that are a favorite. In this story, the sister and brother get to divide a dozen cookies, until the doorbell rang.

And two more friends arrive. Using a dozen M&Ms, we divide them up by the two characters. Then we add the two new characters and figure out how many cookies each person will get. As more and more characters arrive, we have to divide more and more.

While division isn’t a kindergarten math objective, introducing the concept in this fun cross-curricular lesson that ties reading and math together was just right to show we had the same number of M&Ms just divided differently.

She practiced counting, adding and manipulating numbers. We both laughed, and I enjoyed watching her pretend dividing up the “cookies.” We will be repeating this lesson, and the story is one of her treasured favorites.

These are two ways we made math fun over the past couple of weeks, and she is truly learning the concepts despite all the fun we’re having.

My 3 No-brainers to raise a Brainiac!

Raising a brainiac is a bit tongue in cheek, but all parents want to give their children the best start in life possible.

And we’ve all wished from time to time that kids came with instructions.

From getting them to sleep or eat green beans, all parents have struggled with getting the hang of this parenting thing, but helping them be ready to learn can be easy with these tips.

My 3 no-brainers to raise a Brainiac!

My daughter is has a sharp memory and insatiable curiosity. While I can’t take credit for her natural gifts, especially since we adopted, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we prepared her to be a learner long before we officially started homeschooling.

Some parenting is hard. Raising a brainiac doesn't have to be. Heaven Not Harvard shares easy tips to start your child on a path to love learning.

1). Read with your child.

Experts recommend 20 minutes a day. Reading  . . .

  • builds bonds between parent and child. I started reading to my daughter in the NICU so she could hear my voice. Reading together still makes me feel close to her.
  • teaches vocabulary, prepares children for oral language acquisition, but also contributes to their ability to follow a narrative and process with visual imagery.
  • helps children understand the basic building blocks of language: print moves from left to right, letters represent sounds that create words representing ideas, a fundamental understanding of grammar and punctuation.
  • can be the vehicle to teach ideas, vocabulary, and content in a variety of subjects. My daughter loves space and animals. She learns about them through reading. Double win!
Reading together builds your relationship and a love of learning, language & books. Click To Tweet

2). Talk with your child.

We all talk to our children, so what do I mean?

  • Use adult vocabulary. Kids are sponges – use it. They’ll repeat everything anyhow, so give them a few things you won’t be embarrassed to hear in the middle of a quiet library.

I used vocabulary above her ability but follow-up with a familiar word to tie the two together.

  • Explain EVERYTHING. I know it gets exhausting. By dinner time, my brain is ready to explode, but she wants to know everything about everything.

And despite the exhaustive nature of the why?, I really want to encourage that her curious nature.

I started before she could talk: We’re going to the store; see the pretty trees – those are pine trees, pine trees are coniferous.

It really doesn’t matter that it is WAY above their heads. Talk anyway because it really helps brains development and babies are not great conversationalists.

Talk WITH your kids about what you're reading, watching, doing. You'll teach them so much! Click To Tweet

3). Edutain them!

While experts recommend ZERO hours of screen time under two, but we all know mommy has to shower! I tried to be very careful with what she watched.

Her music, books, video games, television, movies – 99% are educational exclusively.

If she can’t learn from it, we don’t watch it.

And talk about what you’re watching! Sociologists noted that parents influenced their children the most when they discussed shows they were watching together.

The more we talk, the more the information solidifies in her mind. She asks questions. We can even look up extra information online about what we’re watching.

Bonus TIP!

Most of all, make it fun. Kids will love what is fun. You will love having fun with them.

Play alphabet games, think of silly words that rhyme, watch shows you can enjoy with them.

We spent a week watching #BigBlueLive on PBS about the swarming of marine life in Monterey Bay, Ca. We’ve loved watching it each night and learned a ton.

You can still watch the webcams here.

Raising a brainiac isn’t nearly as important as raising a kind, caring child, but give them the foundation to make learning easy and fun, and make a life-long learner out of your kid.

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The Best Homeschool App (you’re not using)

I’ve used this app before for fun, but didn’t think to use it with my pre-k child until just last week. Whether you are homeschooling or supplementing your child’s education, this application has amazing benefits.

We’ve just barely made the decision to homeschool, so I am looking for as many easy homeschooling tricks as I can find. Part of our decision is that school doesn’t have to take all day, so cross-curricular lessons are especially beneficial. But I also want to create the most beneficial educational experience for her. And why I am so glad I found this app.

Because she loves Dora the Explorer and Diego and is enamored of Skippyjohn Jones, my five-year old has wanted to learn Spanish for a long time. My mother wrote her Master’s degree thesis about the benefits of elementary school Spanish, so I know teaching her a foreign language is beneficial for her creativity, reading, mental flexibility, English grammar skills, writing, and future language ability.

This magical app teaches reading skills, problem solving, grammar, listening skills and so much more. Heaven Not Harvard
graphic used by permission of Duolingo’s press dept.

However, yo no habla español. I can get by to find a bathroom or order a limited meal, but that is about it. I took French in school, so how do I teach her Spanish?

Duolingo is a free app that uses some of the same principles as pricey Rosetta Stone – FREE!

Last week, I opened the app and started using it with my daughter. MAGICAL!! I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.

In order to use the app, she is challenged to read new words: man, woman, girl, boy, bread, water, which, speak, translate, sentence, etc. The application uses multiple learning styles to imprint new words, both Spanish and English. Duolingo has a variety of languages available, but we started with Spanish.

I have to explain articles (the, an, a), feminine and masculine nouns, and capital letters, and what is a sentence, but I’m amazed at how much she intuitively understands through using the app, which also makes the articles and the combinations repetitive so it becomes automatic to pair up the correct article and noun and in later lessons the proper conjugations of verbs and subjects.

She has learned some Spanish, not much, but what she really gets out of this app is a lot of English grammar and reading practice! Additionally, we’ve only used it together three or four times and she can almost operate it independently, which is amazing since she is just heading into kindergarten.

Parts of the Duolingo app are matching pairs of words together, matching English to pictures with Spanish captions, translating sentences with word groups as choices, translating into English/Spanish using the keypad, and speaking your target language.

Watching her play is such a joy. Today, she was spelling words in Spanish! She is just barely learning to spell in English. She is learning and doesn’t even know it! She volunteers for Spanish class!

And I’m not the only one who thinks this app is fantastic. It won best learning app in 2013, and in a recent independent study, professors found that when using Duolingo for 34 hours, students learn the equivalent of one university semester of language instruction.

If you’re like me, making the decision to homeschool or supplement your child’s education comes from wanting to give them the best advantages in life. Learning a foreign language at a young age is a proven method to give children skills that will set them up for educational success, wherever they call school.

 

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To Homeschool or not to Homeschool, that is the question!

To homeschool or not to homeschool, that is the question! Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of playground bullies, or to take up workbooks against the common core and by opposing – teach common sense. Oh to wonder no more, and by making a decision, to say we end the heartache of forever scarring our children by choosing incorrectly. . .

Okay, that Hamlet allusion was probably only amusing me. My students either loved or dreaded Shakespeare units. I always started with a Monty Python-esque British accent and Hamlet’s soliloquy, attempting to inspire them to love the bard.

I was a dedicated public school teacher for 17 years. I hope my students look back and feel I was part of a good argument for sending your children to public school.

But myself, I’m not so convinced. We live in an area that has an emerging school system. Things are improving, but not quickly. We’ve really been torn about whether we should homeschool.Trying to decide if homeschooling is the right answer for our family. Weighing the pros and cons is hard when we don't know all of the potential results of either choice. Heaven Not Harvard

Part of me feels like I’m cheating her from the childhood experience of “the first day of school”, making friends, and meeting other adults who might love and nurture her in a different way than I do.

Local pre-registration for next year is already finished. We chose not to enroll her at this time, but I still struggle with the questions of whether homeschooling is the right choice for us, for her.

I feel like I’m sitting on the fence, making my Pro/Con list without really being able to see all the items on either side of the list.

Trying to decide if you want to homeschool? Here's our pro/con list that made our decision… Click To Tweet

Pro Homeschooling

  1. She has recently been labeled as possibly having ADHD. Homeschooling would allow me to build in wiggle time between lessons.
  2. I can also teach her to deal with her attention issues in a way a classroom teacher wouldn’t be able to in a classroom with 30 other unique children.
  3. She can learn at her own pace, allowing for remediation or enrichment activities and additional subjects, like Spanish and art that our area school may not have.
  4. We can schedule piano lessons or doctor appointments during the day, leaving more time for family in the evenings and weekends.
  5. We can create our own calendar and schedule, which allows us to take breaks when her brothers visit, when her dad has a random day off from the army, or when we want to travel to visit family or friends.
  6. We can reduce or eliminate bullying.
  7. We can control her introduction to the adult subjects of the world. I don’t want to shelter her so much as mindfully guide her using our faith to give her the tools to navigate the world.
  8. I get to watch the world unfold for her. Watching her learning to read for herself has been absolutely magical. Everyday she makes a new discovery, like learning she has a super power.
Here is my pro/con list from our decision about homeschool. To homeschool or not to homeschool? Click To Tweet

Con List

  1. She is the center of my attention all day, every day. She doesn’t learn to take turns or be patient with others.
  2. She misses out on the good memories of making friends, giggling on the playground.
  3. As her only teacher, she may not learn to respect or deal with other authority.
  4. As her mom, our relationship is different, she pushes back at structure and discipline with me in a way she wouldn’t at school.
  5. I have to sit with her during every lesson right now. It is time-consuming and challenging.
  6. Can she learn to be independent if she spends all day with the safety net of Mom and home? Will she be too attached to me?
  7. I can’t seek paid employment while homeschooling, which is difficult for our budget.
  8. Will my attempts to create curriculum be successful and meaningful?
  9. Will playdates and co-op be enough to socialize her? Will she learn social skills as a primarily only child being homeschooled?
  10. Will I have the patience and temperament to make homeschooling a fun adventure instead of daily drudgery?

Stepping into this new realm as a homeschooling parent is less terrifying as a teacher, because in some ways I’ve been teaching her since she was born, but it puts so much responsibility on my shoulders for her social and academic success.

Are you a public/private school parent or are you a homeschooling parent? Are you a product of homeschool? Please share your thoughts and ideas for me.

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