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Co-ops (1), Math facts, Sequential Spelling

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, October 09, 2006

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 7 No 42 October 9, 2006
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2006 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Guest Article
-- Co-ops (Part One)
Helpful Tips
-- Science Presentations
Resource Reviews
-- Sequential Spelling
Question of the Week
-- Your Questions
-- Your Answers
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

[Here is the first of a 2-part article on homeschool co-ops *fresh*
from Karen's pen! -- well, her keyboard actually. ;-) I'm still
enjoying teaching my class at our local co-op... and I'm much more
relaxed now after 5 weeks. My 'little' boys are enjoying their 'math
games' class while I teach mine. We are just doing the one class,
but most of the families spend several hours at the co-op classes
during that one day per week. I like the flexibility. Thanks again
to all who sent encouraging emails these past weeks!! -- Heather]


Homeschool Learning Cooperatives (Part One)
by Karen Lange

Learning cooperatives are a great way to enhance your family’s
homeschool experience. Co-ops can be personalized to your
children’s needs and interests. Opportunities abound, field trips
(think group discounts!), science labs, art, sports, writing groups,
literary discussions, group music lessons, and more. Don’t forget
socialization benefits; relatives will rest easier knowing your chil-
dren have been properly socialized!

Learning cooperatives can be fun and rewarding for students of all
ages. They are an opportunity for parents to pool resources, and the
kids can benefit by interacting in a setting that you help establish.
The co-op experience is a great addition to the high school student’s
transcript, and can provide experience for career and other educa-
tional pursuits.

There are no set rules for starting a co-op. Just like the homeschool
experience, it can be customized to suit your needs. My kids and I
participated in many co-ops during our sixteen-year homeschool
adventure. There are a few things I discovered (or learned the hard
way!) that are worth considering before starting a co-op. As you dis-
cuss co-oping with interested parents, consider what everyone’s
goals are. Will you focus on academics, socialization, special pro-
jects, field trips, or a little of each? What kind of projects do you
want to do? Will a co-op fit into your schedule? If not, is there
something in your schedule that can be eliminated if you really
want to co-op?

Would you rather have a small or large co-op? There are pros and
cons to both types. A small one will be more personal and relation-
ships may be more easily developed. They require less planning;
fewer resources like money and supplies, a smaller meeting place
such as a home, and can be more flexible and tailored to specific
goals. They can consist of a few to a handful of students gathering
for projects and activities. Meeting times can be set or flexible.

Large co-ops require more organization, planning, and time. Due to
management requirements, they often need to run like more like a
school, the thing some homeschoolers would rather avoid. The
dynamics of developing relationships in a larger co-op can be differ-
ent. A large co-op may have classes, activities, and discounts that
would be difficult for a small one to have. A large co-op will often
include students of a greater age range, like K-12, as opposed to a
small teen one, for example. Often a small co-op grows into a larger
one. Both types work well, success stories abound. It is simply a
matter of your goals and preferences.

If you are feeling a bit intimidated, relax. Co-ops don’t have to be
complicated! You can get together and let the kids watch a science
video, bake cookies, or take a nature hike. Maybe you’d like to have
the kids do a monthly service project, or put on a skit for nursing
home residents. You can be as creative and flexible as you like!

When my kids were younger, we got together twice a month with
a few other families. We did art, nature, and history projects. One
time we made pies for Thanksgiving. We also did creative writing.
The kids dubbed it 'The Kids’ Writing Club'. We gave the kids a
short writing lesson, like using interesting adjectives or other age
appropriate topics. The kids would read stories they’d written the
previous week. After a few months, we put together a booklet with
their artwork and stories. Time together included snacks and play-
time for the kids.

If your co-op plan includes more structured activities, there are
other things to consider. Who will be in charge? No power
struggles here, but you’ll want a few people, or for larger co-ops,
a group to keep things together and focused. Spread things out
so everyone plays a role in decision making and helping things
run efficiently. The last thing you want is for one person to carry
the load and burn out. Co-ops, particularly larger ones, require
commitment and a fair amount of work. This is not a bad thing if it
fits into your family’s educational plan and daily schedule. Some
groups opt to stay smaller to allow participants a balance. If you
are too busy with outside activities, you can lose the focus that
schooling at home was meant to create. When in doubt, it is
better to take a relaxed approach and retain sanity than to lose
sight of what is important in a frenzied schedule.

[Karen Lange is a freelance writer, homeschool consultant, and
creator of the Homeschool Online Writing Co-op for teens. Visit
her website here: http://www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com ]


To be continued on Friday!! -- I'd love to include some of your
'real life' experiences with co-ops as a 'Part Three' to this series
next Monday. Please email with "Co-ops" in the subject line.

Send your emails to hn-ideas@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Science Presentations

"For a fun twist on science, when my older girls were in the upper
elementary grades (they are 3 years apart), I would have them
research a science topic of their choosing. The only condition was
that it had to be scientific, and they had to learn new things.

Then I would give them a choice of ways they could present the
information to the family. Skits were their favorite way, but they
also did a news report one time, posters, a puppet show, and essays.

Years later, they still remember those presentations and the science
behind them. They had loads of fun working on the projects together.
We carried this over into highschool sometimes, too, but then they
were assigned a specific topic." -- Letitia

This great tip was gleaned from Letitia's homeschool tip blog:



Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Resource Reviews

Review of Sequential Spelling
by Cindy Prechtel, http://www.homeschoolingfromtheheart.com

"I’ve looked at lots of spelling programs over the years, but when
I first saw Sequential Spelling, I knew it was different. Originally
written dyslexics in mind, thousands of families have found that
this unique program works with non-dyslexic children as well. There
are 7 levels, which can be purchased individually or as a complete
set. The author recommends that no matter what grade your child is
in, all students should begin in Level 1. Keep in mind these are
levels of the program - not grade levels. The program is extremely
easy to use. The author does an excellent job of explaining the
theories behind Sequential Spelling and provides scripting for the
first seven lessons of each level. This program is based on the pre-
mise that almost every word in our language follows some pattern.
The earlier levels introduce the more basic word patterns and sub-
sequent levels continue to work through more challenging patterns
or word families.

You can read more details in the full review, but here is a quick
summary and recommendation:

If your child struggles with spelling or is dyslexic, this program is
definitely worth a try. It is affordable and students like it because
there aren’t a lot of worksheets, just a daily spelling test. It is
teacher intensive -- you will be spending at least 25 min. each day
doing spelling with your child. You also need to give yourself time
to get used to how the program works. It IS easy to implement,
but some moms have a hard time getting used to the idea that *all*
you do is give your child that test each day. It provides a 'back
door' to phonics -- children who have struggled with reading will find
their decoding skills improving along with their spelling. I do not
think this program is for everyone. If your child has no problem
with more traditional spelling programs, then I wouldn’t switch to
Sequential Spelling. But for those kids who just don’t ‘get it’, this
program can be a real life saver!"

*Please note, this is a much abbreviated version. To read
the full review with many important details, visit this link:

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I have a 9 year old son and a 7 yr old son who are both doing
third grade work. My problem is math. They did addition and
subtraction in first grade and now if you ask them an equation
they have to think about it for a long period of time or try to use
their fingers to figure it out. It frustrates me because I feel
like we are going backwards. We are working on multiplication and
division but I feel like I have to back track and do adding and
subtraction over as well. I would like to be able to teach them
rote memory of these facts but I'm not sure what the best
method would be. Flashcards -- or I've heard of hand-held
games? I'm also having them do some of these facts on-line
with games but we still have the same problem of not being
able to figure it out fast. What do you suggest?" -- Renee

Our Readers' Responses

"There are CDs with math facts that you can purchase. I have
found when the kids learn anything to a song it is easier for them
to learn. We have been listening to them in the car and as a part
of our homeschool time and my 6 and 5 year old are learning them
along with my 8 year old. There is also a card game called Math
War. You can purchase it from Wal-mart in the card section by
the children’s books. It costs about $2.00. It has been an awe-
some way for my children to have fun while learning math facts.
You will be amazed at the results in a small amount of time!"
-- Shay in MS

[Editor's note: I contacted Shay for her recommendation of the
math facts song CD. It is by Kathy Troxel and it is offered by my
friend Sarah Cooper at http://www.SingnLearn.com for $12.95.]


"This may be a popular answer with your readers, but we use
Calculadder. It is a series of timed math drills that increase in
difficulty after successfully completing a full page in the alotted
time. It is a consumable workbook, but you could copy the
pages for each child and time them daily. We also use Math
Shark, a computerized toy-like calculator. I have an 8 year old
daughter who is a reluctant learner in math and we use many
different ways to get her to increase her speed and remember
her math facts. Perhaps if you drill them daily as a 'warm-up' to
their math work. Maybe they would respond if they are being
timed and challenged with competing against the clock and each
other! I agree that if they don't get the basic facts down, they
will be hampered in their efforts to learn more difficult elements
of math." -- Julie in IL


"As a long-time math tutor and twelve year veteran homeschooling
mom, I say -- forget the fast facts! Speed comes with use, and at
their ages they have years and years of use ahead of them; the speed
will come over time. Instead, concentrate on the concepts. If they
are still using fingers, they still need to work with manipulatives
-- real life objects, then pictures of objects, then the numbers
alone. Rote memorization will not serve them well in the years to
come; concepts will. Two books, one by Peggy Kaye called 'Games for
Math', and the other, 'Family Math', I can't recommend highly enough.
Also Cuisenaire rods and their materials (if you can only afford one
of these, get Peggy Kaye, but don't 'teach' from it, just 'play' it).
All are pricier than workbooks and flash cards but you will use them
for years and years, and they will definitely instill the concepts
behind the math -- in a fun way. Try these first before you move on
to multiplication and division. Also spend extra time on place value,
an extremely important concept that affects all math down the road.
Usually when children have trouble with math later in elementary years,
it's because they don't quite fully understand place value. Good luck
and have fun! -- Babette R.


"Over the summer, I had my 14 year old son work on mental math skills
from a workbook for middle-school ages. Maybe you could find something
along those lines for third grade. The point behind these skills was to
look at the problem differently, breaking it down into easier-to-solve
segments." -- Sherry A.


"There is no 'easy' way to memorize math facts, but the children
must have a good grasp on these basics or they will never succeed
in math. I would suggest 2 things:

First, put the addition and subtraction facts on an endless loop tape
(answering machine variety) and have them listen to it for 5 minutes
once or twice a day.

Secondly, find a summer-bridge type book at one of the bookstores
that deals with each function separately. By the time they finish the
book they will be very familiar with their facts. The more these facts
are input into their brains, the easier it will be to retrieve and use
them. Do not put the facts to music. Computation is a logical pro-
cess (left brain), music is a right brain process. When you mix the
two, that logical stuff gets stored on the 'wrong' side of the brain
and makes it harder to retrieve." -- Rhonda


"The first thing that popped in my head when I read Renee's ques-
tion is to try making a game out of it. She could say the problem
and the kids would race to answer. The first person to answer
correctly would win a penny or an M&M or something like that. As boys
like competition, I bet it would get them motivated to memorize those
addition and subtraction facts. If they're struggling with those, it'd
be best to work on that before moving ahead with the multiplication and
division." -- Jennifer

Answer our NEW Question

"Thank you for such a wonderful forum for sharing homeschooling
advice and techniques! I have been reading your e-mails for about
a year now and we are now seriously considering homeschooling
our daughters, ages 5 and 7. They are currently attending a tradi-
tional elementary school and we have decided that the public school
system is not the best fit for either child at this time. The girls
are often bored in class and the pace is far too slow during the day,
yet the teachers weigh them down with a good deal of busy work which
lasts all evening. I know their time can be better spent. We all
want to be able to spend more time together and both girls are excited
about the possibility of homeschooling. There is a very active home-
school educators group in my area and I am friends with a number of
homeschooling moms already. I have started looking into the pro-
grams, field trips and suppport the group offers.

I think we will begin our homeschool adventure in January (3 months
from now). What are the most important things we need to know as
we make this transition? What issues should I be most concerned
about? I would love to hear any personal stories about this type of
transition and I sincerely appreciate any advice you can offer.
Thank you!" -- Faye in NC


Do you have some input and/or wisdom for Faye?

Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!

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