## Math: Tackling Troublesome Topics, by Cheryl

Kids learn at different rates. Some pick up reading quickly, some more slowly. The same is true for learning math. The pace of an individual child can vary, as well. A child may learn basic math concepts very quickly, but eventually hit a wall and need to slow down. What do you do then? How do you help your child or student scale that wall and take off running again?

Math has always been an easy subject for my eldest. His mind can handle numbers in ways that I cannot understand. When he hit a wall with long division, I was shocked! The joy he had felt during our daily math lessons was replaced by tears. We worked with manipulatives, and we practiced problems together over and over and over for days. I assigned 10+ problems each day for practice. “Drill and Kill!” That is how you master math, right? His frustration just increased. We needed a new plan.

First, I put away the math book. We had been struggling for a couple of weeks, we needed a break. It was almost Christmas vacation, so we took an extra week off from math.

Next, I found a series of videos on division from Khan Academy. One concern I had was that we might have failed to master concepts that allow understanding of long division. A good review of the topic was needed. I assigned my son math videos to watch for fifteen minutes per day.

After Christmas we came back to our book, and instead of drilling long division until we finished a page every day, we only worked on two problems per day. He talked me through one on the board, and I did all the writing as we talked through the steps. Then he did one on his own. After a couple of days we increased to four problems per day – two together and two on his own. After about a week of just a few problems a day he was able to go through all the steps without assistance.

Once the skill was truly mastered, with an understanding of how and why the standard algorithm worked, we flew through the next few lessons and easily caught up to were we would have been without the break. Slowing down for a few weeks eventually helped us to speed up because of the deeper understanding of the topic.

Sometimes we get stuck in the rut of believing that “more drill” is the best way to be sure that a skill is mastered, when what a child really needs is to slow down for a week or two. Sometimes a break from a topic allows the child to absorb what he has been learning, and he can then come back with a different mindset and grasp the next concept more readily.

The freedom to change course has been one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling. I can slow my kids down or take a break when needed. It can be hard to change the pace with a class full of students, but this kind of specialization in education can be the difference between a child’s loving or loathing math.

If your child or student is struggling with a topic in math:

1. Stop.

2. Take a break.

3. Go back to the basics.

4. Tackle just a few problems per day.

These are methods I have learned to use that foster success instead of allowing us to stagnate in frustration.

by Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

## Memoria Press Review by Cheryl: Timeline

Memoria Press’ Timeline program includes a Handbook outlining the program and containing summaries of each event. The summaries are used to help the students complete their Composition and Sketchbook. For each event the Composition and Sketchbook contains a blank page for students to illustrate the event and a notebooking page to record important information about the event. Student Flashcards are used to help students memorize dates, and Wall Cards are hung as a visual reminder of the order of events. The full package retails for \$39.95.

I fell in love with the idea of memorizing a history timeline when I first began studying the classical method. Memorizing historical events in order as reference for later studies made sense to me. We tried a different timeline for two years, but I found it too cumbersome. We spent hours of our week trying to memorize the numerous events. About a third of the way through, we dropped it to make more time for our other studies. When I opened up the Memoria Press Timeline I was pleasantly surprised by the number of items to memorize, only half of what we had been trying to remember previously. It is doable without being the main focus of our school.

Each year builds on the previous year’s memory work. My oldest is in third grade. Third graders are only required to memorize eleven events. Fourth graders review the original eleven items and an additional twenty for a total of thirty-one events. Fifth graders memorize forty-two events and sixth grade students memorize all sixty events.

I used the curriculum with my third grader, and my kindergartener tagged along. We memorized two items each week. The handbook contains the answers that should be written on the student composition page. I used the handbook answers as a quick review of the event. Later in the week I had my kindergartener complete the sketch page (because she is my artist) and my eight year old the composition page (because he is my writer but does not enjoy drawing). I don’t have a place on the wall to use the wall cards right now, but the flash cards were great for a quick daily review.

My kids found the timeline activities fun and easy. I love the simplicity of the curriculum. It is an excellent supplement to any history program.

*Memoria press is a Christian company. The timeline begins with Creation. The five Biblical events could easily be skipped if you are looking for a secular timeline.

I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review on the Sandbox to Socrates blog. Opinions expressed in this review are the opinions of myself or my family and do not necessarily reflect those of the Sandbox to Socrates blog. I received no compensation for this review, nor was I required to write a positive review. This disclosure is in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

## Memoria Press Review by Cheryl: Geography I

After having much success with Memoria Press‘ Prima Latina and Latina Christiana, I was excited to dig into Geography I! The full Geography I set includes the Student Text, Student Workbook, Teacher Guide, The United States Student Workbook and Teacher Key. The full set is only \$48. With 53 countries to study and 20 review lessons on the states, this course will easily fill a year.

The United States workbooks and tests are meant to be a review of the States and Capitals curriculum. As we had recently finished our own study of the states and capitals, the sequence in the book worked very well as a review for my eight year old. Section 1 breaks the country up into regions, and students label the states in each region. We did two regions a day. Section 2 keeps the regions established in the first section and asks students to match the state to the capital. Section 3 lists the capitals and requires the student to list the state from memory. Section 4 requires the student to both identify the state and list the capital  from memory. The progression and repetition is perfect for developing long-term memory.

The Geography I products cover the areas of the Middle East, Europe and North Africa that were once part of the Ancient Roman Empire. Each section gives an introduction to the region followed by a two-page spread on each country. Historical context and more current events are listed as well as fun facts.

I used the Geography I text with both my eight year old and my six year old. We spent time studying the map in the textbook and finding the country on our globe. The reading was quick and easy. After reading and discussing the country, I found that my son was retaining the information very well. For my six year old, I was more interested in her learning the continents and regions, but she can also identify a few of the countries. We will revisit the curriculum when she is a little older.

We are following a four-year history cycle and studied ancient history two years ago. My son already had some familiarity with the regions we were studying. The quick “History’s Headlines” helped him recall what we had previously studied. His familiarity with the subjects made the study more interesting for him.

Overall we found the curriculum worked well with our style of schooling and with our other studies. I look forward to finishing Geography I next year and following it up with Geography II.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review on the Sandbox to Socrates blog. Opinions expressed in this review are the opinions of myself or my family and do not necessarily reflect those of the Sandbox to Socrates blog. I received no compensation for this review, nor was I required to write a positive review. This disclosure is in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

## Lapbooking: A How-To Guide, by Cheryl

If you have followed my Biome study posts, you may have looked at the lapbook pages.  (If not click HERE to see them.) I used to look at lapbooks other people made and be overwhelmed at the thought of making my own. Instead, I downloaded free or inexpensive pre-made lapbooks. Eventually, I gained the confidence to start from scratch and discovered that it was not as difficult as I had once thought.

What is a lapbook?

A lapbook is a scrapbook of things you and your kids have learned. It can be anything. Most lapbooks are made up of “mini book” pieces, each piece covering a different concept or idea. You then glue the mini books into a file folder, onto card stock in a binder, or into a spiral notebook.

The idea is that you teach something, your kids make the mini books, then look at them again as they continue adding to the larger book. It gets them involved with the information three or more times. The more times they see the information, the better they remember it. Lapbooks are a great way to get things into their long-term memory. Plus, if you are in a state that requires a portfolio, they make a fun addition to the record of your school year.

Where Can I Get Premade Lapbooks?

Two of my favorite sites for finding these lapbooks are:

Homeschool Share – lots of free lapbooks on all subjects, and free templates for making your own book.

Currclick – lapbooks to purchase, including Knowledge Box lapbooks. I love the quality of Knowledge Box lapbooks, but the price prohibits me from purchasing many; I have caught a few that I really wanted when they were on sale at Currclick.

Some of the premade lapbooks give all of the information you need to teach a full unit study (I have purchased this Oklahoma State History study from Knowledge Box), some are made to follow a certain book (like this lapbook for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), and sometimes they require research to fill in the blanks (this Frog lapbook is cute and fun, but it will require some research). Often, the book we found did not have all the information the lapbook wanted. I wanted lapbooks to go with what we were learning and the books we used. I just did not know where to start.

I made my first lapbook for Lilly when she was 3. Aidan was studying The Story of the World Volume 1 for history, and we were making an amazing lapbook I found online (you can download it here.) Lilly wanted to make a book. She was studying a letter a week. On Friday when Aidan did his history lapbook page, we made a letter page for hers as well. I went to Homeschool Share and picked a template, printed it and while Lilly colored on it, I found clip art pictures in Microsoft Office. We printed pictures of objects beginning with our letter for that week’s and put them in the template. Easy! I can do this!

When I started with my Map Skills lap book, I knew I needed something different. I had 12 students and I did not want multiple pages to hand out to each child. I needed each minibook on one sheet of paper. I had to design it all for that to work. It was about this time that I discovered Google Docs and all it could do. The drawing tool became my best friend!

I knew enough about basic mini-book parts to start with a few interesting pieces. Below are a few “how to” images for my favorites. (Click on the picture to see a larger image, or on the name of the piece for a downloadable version.)

Pocket:

Wheel:

Hot Dog Book:

Flap Books and Fold-in Books:

For pictures and diagrams you can draw in Paint, search the web for a picture that serves your purpose, have the kids search through magazines, or have your kids draw a picture! The idea is to reinforce what you are studying. Do whatever will help cement things into your kids’ heads.

Get creative and make your own types of mini-books. You can do anything! Start by looking at what other people have created, or the templates on Homeschool Share, and then start making your own designs.

Now, if you really like things neat and you want your hard work to look pretty – make your own lapbook! Again, if you have looked at the Biome posts, you see the neat and pretty books. Here is a big secret: I put that together, my kids’ books look nothing like that! Below you see two versions of the same book (our Map Skills Lapbook):

My son’s looks nothing like my vision for the book. That is okay! He still learned, he had fun, and we have a record of what was learned.

If the thought of designing a lapbook still overwhelms you, make your kids do it. Print a few blank templates, hand one to your child, tell him/her what information you want to see, and let them be creative!

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

## Map Skills, by Cheryl

In middle school and high school I had an amazing science teacher. She is one of a few teachers who have had a lifelong impact on my life and the way I teach my children. (The others being my high school drama teacher, a math teacher, an English teacher, and my dance teacher.) This science teacher led a summer class in which she took us to the Wichita Mountains several times during the week. We hiked, we camped, we cooked out, we learned about the plants and wildlife, and had a blast! The skills that I took away from her summer class (and the orienteering course she taught us as a part of 8th grade science) were the ability to read maps of all kinds, and the use of a compass!

I want my kids to have these skills. Instead of teaching at home, I put together a ten-week course for the 7-9 year olds at our co-op. The following is an outline of the course as I taught it. For six weeks we put together a lapbook to help the kids remember what they had learned. Click the links to see the pieces.

Week 1: Types of Maps

Supplies: Box of maps, globe, history or economics book (for informational maps), scissors, tape/glue, folders, lapbook pieces.

Plan: Look at different maps. What are they for? How are they used? When would you use them? Look at the globe, find the North and South Poles and the Equator, and point out lines of latitude and longitude. Learn to use map coordinates. Look at an atlas. Find cities on a map. Give directions from a map. Make lapbook pieces.

Lapbook Pieces: Cover and Types of Maps

Week 2: Using Keys and Legends

Supplies: Box of maps, globe, history book (for informational maps), scissors, tape/glue, folders, lapbook pieces.

Plan: What does a legend tell you? Identify points of interest from the legend. Learn how to use a map scale.

Week 3: Compass

Supplies: Cork, magnet, paperclips, pans for water, red sharpie, real compass(es), maps, lap books and pieces.

Plan: What is a compass? Find compass points on map. Use a compass to find north. Make a compass.

Lapbook Pieces: Compass, Pocket, and Activity Sheet

Week 4: Early Navigation and Explorers

Supplies: Books on Marco Polo, Magellan, Balboa, Livingston; lap books and pieces; straws, plastic cups, thumb tacks, pencils, construction paper

Plan: Study early navigation tools (land and sea), hints in nature ( sun, stars, etc.), famous explorers.

Lapbook Pieces: Constellations, Early Navigation, and Famous Explorers

Week 5: Latitude and Longitude

Supplies: Globe, lapbook pieces and books, protractors, straws, string, paperclips

Plan: What are latitude and longitude? Find important lines on a map and a globe. Make an astrolabe.

Lapbook Pieces: Astrolabe, Lat and Long, World Map

Week 6: Sundials

Supplies: stick, paper, pencils

Plan: How can a sundial help navigators? Make a sundial outside and check it at least twice.

Lapbook Pieces: Sundial, Finding North

Week 7: What is Scale?

Supplies: yard stick, ruler, measuring tape, graph paper

Plan: Measure student paces (steps). Pace off the length of the room. Calculate actual size based on steps. Use a yard stick, ruler, or measuring tape to measure and map the entire room to scale.

Activity: Map the room and all furniture in it.

Week 8: Map the Building

Supplies: measuring tape, graph paper

Plan: Break into groups and measure the interior of the building, work together to create a full map of the building.

Activity: Create a map of the building to use for treasure hunts later. (We were doing this section of the class in November. Had it been spring and warm, we would have mapped the outside of the building for the treasure hunt.)

Week 9: Following Maps

Supplies: coffee, white paper, bowls, cookie sheets, hair dryers

Plan: Talk about using the compass and landmarks to orient yourself with a map and make pirate maps.

Activity: Make a Pirate Map! Tear the edges of the paper and crumple it up to look old. Soak the paper in coffee. Carefully remove paper and lay it flat on the cookie sheet. Use the hair dryers to dry the paper more quickly. Draw a pirate map. Include all elements of a good map – legend/key, compass points, and scale. (With younger students, you can soak and dry the paper before class, then let them draw their maps.)

Week 10: Treasure Hunt

Supplies: 2 maps, 2 treasure chests, 2 sets of clues

Plan: Follow the map, collect the clues, and find the treasure!

I over planned a little bit for our group. Cutting and pasting did not go as quickly as I had planned, and the couple of things that needed to be handwritten really slowed us down. We ended up cutting out some of the explorers section to make up for time. Once I finished making the lapbook, this class was easy to teach! Most of what we did came from my memory of what I learned in middle school and my hands on experience with maps in high school at various summer camps. Here are a couple of books that would be helpful for someone not as experienced with maps and navigation:

Tools of Navigation by Rachel Dickinson- This is a great introduction for kids. I found some fun activities in it. It also prompted me to add a day of history into our study (the day on Navigators). I just wish we had had more time that day!

Be Expert with Map and Compass by  Bjorn Kjellstrom – This looks like another good resource for brushing up on some skills. I do not have this book, but it was on my short list as I was making purchases.

Orienteering Made Simple And Instructional Handbook by Nancy Kelly – I picked this up to help brush up on my orienteering skills. I did not do as much orienteering as I had originally wanted, but we did the basics. This gave me a good reminder of what all orienteering entailed.

Teaching Orienteering, Second Edition by Carol McNeill – This helped me decide what skills would be best to teach the group I had. The book breaks the skills up into age levels.

With the availability of GPS navigators in cars and on phones, kids don’t see the need to learn to read an actual map. I do believe it is still a valuable skill. I hope this plan makes it a less daunting task for some who have not had the training I was given.

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

## Why Classical Education? Latin as a Foundational Subject in Our Homeschool, by Cheryl

How I Found the Classical Method

The decision to homeschool seemed easy compared to the decision about how to homeschool. What curriculum? Boxed/all-in-one? Separate programs? If I pick separate programs, what subjects? What company do I buy from? What level? I needed some help.

For kindergarten we worked through the What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know text from the Core Knowledge Series. It provided a list of topics to cover. We found books at the library for each topic and read, and read, and read. We did a few science experiments, and we worked through a first grade math book I picked up at the grocery store.

As I fell in love with homeschooling, I started looking at what I needed to do long-term. I checked out out every book our library had on homeschooling. It seemed that every time I returned one, they had two new choices! Most of the books laid out the different philosophies/methods of homeschooling: School at Home, Charlotte Mason method, classical method, unschooling, and eclectic were the most common. I knew I did not want “school at home” and I could not unschool as I need more structure. Classical seemed too difficult for me to do on my own. I needed more information, so I started digging into books on the specific philosophies.

The first book that I really connected with was A Charlotte Mason Education: A Homeschooling How To Manual by Catherine Levison. She presents Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy in a concise format. I fell in love with her methods and started to read Mason’s full homeschooling series. I loved the idea of short lessons and the subjects she laid out; also, I wanted the kids to learn multiple languages. And I could not wait to get outside with them.

It became clear to me very quickly that I needed a little more guidance and structure than Levinson’s book gave; and with two kids and a new business, I was not going to make it through all of Mason’s original works. I went back to the library and came home with two books: The Core by Leigh A. Bortins and The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, both of them takes on the classical method. As I read The Core, I started to see that a classical education was what I had wanted for my kids (the Charlotte Mason method is very similar to classical). I moved on to The Well-Trained Mind, and I fell more in love with the philosophy. Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise laid out full plans to get the kids through high school. The Well-Trained Mind made classical seem doable.

I used suggestions from both books as I selected curriculum for first grade. We started with The Story of the World vol 1, Singapore Math, Rod and Staff English 2, Real Science for Kids, and Classical Conversations Foundations for memory work and an intro to Latin (we did this at home, not in a community). These programs worked so well that we have stuck with them all for three years. We have added a separate Latin program, Prima Latina and Latina Christiana, as well as a separate writing program, Institute for Excellence in Writing.

Why I Follow the Classical Method

Several ideas of the classical philosophy appealed to me: The focus on history and literature, the following of a four-year cycle for history and science, and the study of Latin. I am a horrible speller, and although I speak and write well, I don’t fully understand grammar. I also struggle when learning foreign languages. As I read about why we should study Latin, I realized that this could help my kids overcome the obstacles that held me back.

Why do we study a language that no one speaks anymore? Why study a “dead language?”

We do it because of the influence Latin has had on our language and so many others! Our study of Latin reinforces many grammar topics we study for English. The conjugation of verbs is very similar to that of French and Spanish, and the knowledge of Latin vocabulary is helping my son to understand words in the English language. Many English words have Latin roots, so understanding where the word comes from helps with spelling, meaning, and pronunciation.

When my son asks why he has to learn Latin, I use my limited memory of French (3 years in school) and Spanish (7 years in school) to show him the similarities between the three languages. I also pick a few big words that can be broken down into their Latin roots to find the meaning of the word. Because he is interested in science, we discuss how science uses Latin, among other things, to name animals and plants.

We study Latin now, in the hopes that it will aid in learning other subjects down the road. We are already seeing the benefits of our hard work and as we learn more, we will make more connections through our other studies.

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

## Deserts: The Next Stop on the Biomes Tour! by Cheryl

Previously in our Biomes series: Grasslands

Why did we select deserts as our second biome? Because I found some amazing books at the library that I could not wait to dive into with my kids! Our study of the desert led us on a journey around the world with a look at some fun plants and animals.

Books

As with our grasslands study, I picked up all of the books at our local library. Click the links to see the books. I will start by listing our two favorites!

Desert Days, Desert Nights by Roxie Munro has beautifully illustrated pictures of the North American Deserts during the day and at night. It is a search a find book that my kids truly enjoyed! For each desert, she has a daytime picture and a nighttime picture that illustrated the diurnal and nocturnal (vocab words from our grassland study!) animals of the desert. It made a fun introduction to our study.

Looking Closely Across the Desert by Frank Serifini takes closeup pictures of things found in the desert and has you guess what it could be. Each close up is followed by a full picture and description of the animal, plant, or land feature.

Life in Extreme Enviroments: Life in the Desert by Katherine Lawrence holds some great information on the topic. We did not read the whole thing; we looked at the plant and animal sections and skimmed the sections on people who live in the desert. Not because the book was a problem–my kids’ focus was a problem that day!

About Habitats: Deserts by Cathryn Sill is wonderfully illustrated by John Sill. We found some fun facts, and thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations!

America’s Deserts by Marianne D. Wallace was another book full of great illustrations!

Draw Write Now Book 8 by Marie Hablitzel and Kim Stitzer contains the lessons that correspond to the desert study.

Animals

We learned about some fun animals who make their homes in the desert. We also discovered that some animals we find in grasslands can be found in deserts as well. The pronghorn was one we found in both biomes. Other animals (and insects) of the desert include: horned lizards, javelinas, termites, ants, giant desert centipedes, stink beetles, roadrunners, desert iguanas, red racers, scorpions, turkey vultures, sidewinder rattlesnakes, jackrabbits, mule deer, kit foxes, gray foxes, and diamondbacks.

Plants

Our favorite desert plant is the saguaro cactus. We even made up a silly game to help my five-year-old remember what it is. Anytime someone yells, “Saguaro!” you must stop where you are and hold both arms up at right angles, like the cartoon cacti we have seen in books and movies.

Other plants to look for: golden poppy, agave, Joshua trees, teddy bear chollas, welwitschia

Vocabulary

Arid, Sonoran Desert, Mojave Desert, Gobi Desert, Saharan Desert, Syrian Desert, Arctic Desert, estivate/aestivate, antivenin, tap root, oasis, wadi

Lapbook

We added a desert section to our  lap book. We also added another animal behavior piece. Our books are broken down into sections: Each biome has a section, with a separate section at the front for the general information on plants and animals that we come across.

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Next time: Rainforests!