Sunday, February 23, 2014

100th Post

According to my blog account, this is my 100th post! It seems appropriate to talk about math then, for this post, since it is of numerical importance.

We have been doing a lot of math lately, actually. I recently ordered some math manipulatives - unit cubes and tangrams. I've also stuck the MathTacular! video into the computer my 5-year-old son uses, and showed him how to play it.

So he's been playing it, and playing it, and playing it. I think he watched it for about 2 hours straight the other day, before I realized he was just sitting there for so long and made him go outside. ("Stop doing your math! Go outside and play!") He is enamored with Justin (the main actor in the video). He thinks he's hilarious. And I think my son has just about learned every kindergarten math concept in the past 3 days. He's been spouting out addition and subtraction facts, declaring numbers odd or even, counting up, counting down, counting by tens, and so on. I have MathTacular 2 and 3 also, and so my son has also watched the 2nd one, and enjoys it just as much. I think it's a little above him though, and he's mostly just watching it for Justin. I'm holding MathTacular 3 in reserve for later....

I have been thinking I would consider my son in kindergarten this next year, which is where he would be in public school, since he has a November birthday. But he has shown so much interest and improvement in math lately that I think I may go ahead and start him in Horizons Math 1 in the fall. After all, that's still quite a way off. I have some kindergarten workbooks, leftover from my girls, which I was going to use, but he may be already past those. They will be good practice off and on throughout this spring though, when he's not in preschool, and then in the summer. Then I'll check the readiness test for Horizons 1 and see if he's ready.

And yes, I've decided Horizons Math might be the best fit for him, and maybe for my middle daughter too. I did try Mathematical Reasoning this year for my middle daughter, after she grew frustrated and tired of CLE Math, and she loves the color and variety, but it just seems too disjointed to me, and doesn't flow well. There is little direct instruction too, but just problems. It is good for a supplement, and the more tricky problems are good to get kids to think about math differently, but I don't really like it for a complete program by itself. And it is rather expensive for a supplement.

I tried Mathematical Reasoning for my oldest daughter this year too, to supplement Life of Fred. I was worried that my daughter's computation skills were declining with just Life of Fred, so I wanted to add more worksheets. She likes parts of it ok, but she is really set on doing Life of Fred only. She stopped liking IXL Math after a month or two also, and would only do the simplest levels without protest.

And you have to understand, my oldest is incredibly stubborn. If she doesn't want to do something, she will protest mightily (usually by silently pouting, not with any loud demonstration), and if I force her, she will still learn absolutely nothing, and I will have wasted my time. So it is best for everyone to find something she likes. The more fun pages in Mathematical Reasoning she will do, but it was still not her favorite.

So I let her continue with just Life of Fred, and observed her math skills. What I found is that her ability to add and subtract multi-digit problems was actually improving, and her speed was increasing too. I would leave her with a "Row of Practice" to do (from Life of Fred), and she would finish long before I expected her to. And I found her knowing the answers to multiplication problems I didn't expect her to remember. All in all, I think Life of Fred is really going to work for her, with just a few additions of some word problem work (maybe I should try Singapore's Challenging Word Problems?). She is a reader, and a story-lover, and overall, my Charlotte-Mason style girl, so I guess Life of Fred is a perfect fit for her.

I did try some Miquon Math with my oldest too, and that was a total flop. Then I tried it with my middle girl - and she absolutely loved it! She is very active, and very hands-on and kinesthetic, so I guess it is obvious that the hands-on aspect of Miquon would appeal to her. She loves the Cuisinaire Rods - she was actually play-acting with them when I left her alone with a worksheet one day, making the rods talk to each other like with her dolls! ("I am a 2 and you are a 4, and together we are a 6!") I had been hesitant to try Miquon for a while, since it seemed complicated to teach, but once I actually just started using it, it was simple. The Annotated Lab Notes can be a lot to read at first, but once I realized that the information at the beginning of each section was just for me, and that I didn't need to figure out how to teach it all myself (the worksheets do that themselves), then it was simple. Plus, I've even been learning some math tricks I hadn't known before! Subtraction by place value is pretty cool.

So we've been doing mostly Miquon with her lately, with a few Mathematical Reasoning worksheets thrown in, but I do want to try Horizons with her next year. For one thing, Miquon only goes through about 3rd grade, so I'll need something else soon anyway. For another, she will like the colorful pages in Horizons as a nice contract to the single color Miquon worksheets. She is very quick at many things, if not gifted, so I think these 2 math programs together will be good for her. I'll have to give an update on what I think of Horizons after we've used it for a while.

So, Life of Fred for my oldest, Miquon and Horizons for my middle, and MathTacular and Horizons for my youngest. I may try Miquon for my youngest too (he's the one I originally got it for, after all), but we'll see. He didn't seem nearly as thrilled with the Cuisinaire Rods as I thought he would be. You may think me crazy to be trying out all these different math programs, especially since at the beginning of homeschooling, I was set on using one program only from start to finish, saying that jumping from one to another was counter-productive. Well, my youngest two are still mostly at the very beginning anyway. And I really love math. If I were to teach anything to other people's children, I think it would have to be math (or science, but I digress). I am loving experimenting with all these different programs just for myself. And, it is letting me find the best fit for each of my very different children.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Summer Is Coming

I almost considered turning the air conditioner on in my car today. It was stuffy, a bit humid, and it was about 78 degrees outside. I turned the fan up and rolled down the windows instead, but still, I am reminded that summer is coming. The weather report said it's supposed to be in the 80s tomorrow.

For those of you who live up north (anywhere north of Houston is North), you may be jealous of our warmth, and be thinking that the fact that summer is coming is a good thing. Well, you may be cooped up inside all winter with freezing cold outside, but we are cooped up all summer with unbearable heat outside!

I thought last summer might have been our last one in Houston, as my husband was looking for a new job. He was interviewed for a really promising one in North Carolina this past December, and we were starting to get our house ready to put on the market, but that job fell through, we recently found out, and we are back to square one. So we may end up spending another summer here after all. It's all still a little up in the air, as my husband is still looking for a job in various places. He doesn't need a job - he has a perfectly fine one, but he is eligible for early retirement this year, and so we decided it might be worth looking to try and move away from the Houston climate. (and it's ok for me to post this publicly, as his bosses know all about it anyway)

I have to admit, I love warm weather. 80-85 is about perfect for me. So as long as I have air conditioning in the summer when I want it, I'm really ok staying here. But I wouldn't mind losing the humidity either.

The near-move this past month or two is probably why I haven't blogged lately. At least that will be my excuse. Uncertainty about our plans has made planning extracurricular activities for the kids difficult too. I purposefully didn't sign the kids up for too much this school year, fearing that we might move half-way through. Now, it's about time to start signing up for the more popular programs for next year, and I'm not sure what to do. Pay a deposit now, and maybe have to lose the money later if we do move this spring or summer or fall? Wait until we know more, and risk the most interesting classes being full?

I bought a nice, large whiteboard last fall, which we are using for spelling, math, and many other things. For the longest time, I had it propped against a wall, and had the kids (and me) sit on the floor to use it. It was a bit awkward, but I didn't want to put more holes in the wall if we were going to put the house on the market soon. Well, when this recent job opportunity fell through, I decided to just go ahead and hang up the whiteboard. It's so nice to be able to stand at the board, and not sit hunched over to write on it!

I think we just need to trust that things will happen when they're going to happen, and not worry too much about planning ahead. I don't mean not to plan - I'm a devoted planner, after all - but just to not over-plan. Do what seems best right now, and don't worry about what else (or what two trillion potential possibilities) might happen later. I think God lets us see just as far as we need to, and wants us to trust Him for what's around the corner. He'll handle it. I don't need to worry about it. Plan, yes, but worry, no.

Summer is coming. That's a fact. But God's got it all under control.