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Resourcing the Gifted Artist, AO Lifepac Tip, Math Meltdown!

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, May 07, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 36 May 7, 2007
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2007 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

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




Notes from Heather
-- Gifted Young Artists
Helpful Tips
-- AO Lifepac Woes Solved
Reader Question
-- Math Facts Melt-Down
Additional Notes
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

My husband is a gifted and talented artist who never had any formal
training or even a single art class. He is known locally for his
magnificent large-scale oil on canvas reproductions of works by Renoir,
Monet, John Singer Sargent, and Gustave Caillebotte -- many of which
are on display at my bookstore. He is an engineer for GM by trade, but
art has been a beloved hobby for him from a very young age!

Recently, on our Homeschooling Gifted (hsgifted) email group, we
had a question from a mom about resourcing her son, who is showing a
real talent for drawing. I thought the answers given were excellent
-- and I thought it would be helpful to share the 'discussion' with
our readers here. If you have a gifted child and would like to join
a safe-haven group for talking about the joys and concerns of raising
a TAG child, you can join here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hsgifted


"I am writing this email in hopes hearing how and what others have done
when they realized their child had a natural gift for the 'artistic

When my son turned 5 he began drawing dinosaurs, which he was very
fascinated with at the time. He loves drawing and is totally focused
and consumed when he is sketching. Now at 7 he can imitate most of
what he sees in books. When it's time to go play he heads straight
for his drawing area. He also draws stories that he sees in his head.

Here is what I have done so far:

1. Provided him with an area that is quiet and has a table with a
shelf that has lots of paper etc.
2. Bought lots of drawing books
3. Resourced him with good examples of children's book illustrators
that he has copied.
4. He takes art lessons once a week from an older gentleman who
trains them with techniques.

Thanks for any advice, suggestions, and your own personal stories."


Here are excerpts of some of the replies --

"It sounds like you are going in the right direction by encouraging
his talent. Provide him with a variety of drawing tools, colored
pencils, charcoals and other media to explore."


"If he is doing it naturally just let him do it. If you put him in
lots of classes and over encourage it, he will lose interest. Just
let him enjoy doing it, and he will find his own technique."


"I have an 11 year old who has been doing basically what you are
already doing. We encouraged and allowed his own practice and found
a local man who teaches art in the adult education dept of the local

Be sure to make available to him good quality art materials. For my
son it has been worthwhile to invest in Prismacolor pencils instead
of crayola pencils, a sketch pencil set instead of the typical yellow
pencil, and artist quality watercolors, papers, etc.

With the child-oriented materials he was always frustrated that he
couldn't get the detail and vibrancy of color that he was attempting.
There are many sites on the web where you can buy artist quality
materials, so shop around for the best prices.

Another worthwhile purchase that is actually very inexpensive is to buy
some kneading erasers of various sizes and a vinyl eraser. Both types
erase much more cleanly and without leaving bits of residue behind, and
the kneading eraser can be rolled into tiny tips to erase even in very
small areas without damaging the part of the sketch nearby."


"My mother, myself and my siblings are all artists and so I can say
with some understanding that what you are doing already is wonderful.
What you can also do is to take him to museums to see the masters'
works; whatever town you go to, go to their museums. Bring sketch pads
for him to copy the work in the museum; it is a common art practice to
learn from the masters by 'copying' work in the museum. With a pad
and a charcoal or pencil, he should be left to do his work for as long
as is possible undisturbed.

Get him good quality paints by Artemis or Lyra and brushes, beeswax
crayons if he likes crayons (they're a lot of fun to work with), and a
flower/leaf press is a good investment. Collect things in the natural
world and preserve them in the flower press for later work, either
decoupage or painting or using in other artwork. Also, my children
like clay to work with and also beeswax modeling wax.

Regarding encouragement -- a good way of communicating interest in
someone's artwork is to point out particular techniques that you find
drawn to or mention that you see he chose to use a lot of blue there
and some dabs of yellow here -- would he care to explain his thought
process of those choices? Communicating your interest in his love of
creating artwork is the most important thing you can do as a parent. in
my opinion. Congrats on raising an artist!"


"You are on the right track. My 13 year old is very talented but lacks
variety -- that would be the one thing I would expose him to more. My
father (almost 88) is an artist and that is all he has ever done -- even
what he did in WWII. He says he was drawing at a young age just because
it was what he liked to do. Some gifted students have the ability to be
extremely focused, which can be a good thing, but as they get older can
be a tendency which causes/allows them to stick with one thing almost to

If you want some attention for your son you may check local libraries,
city halls, civic centers and even restuarants to see if they showcase
particular artists. Usually it involves you doing all the matting,
hanging, etc., but sometimes these kids really need the attention to
feel self-validated or encouraged. I know I sometimes downplayed my
son's work (to keep him from being prideful) but found later that
because he is so able to see fine points even his great detail would
sometimes seem lacking to him. My cousin's kids get a lot of art ready
for local fairs every year - some through 4H and some on their own.

There is a DVD program called Artelier which exposes the student to a
variety of painting/drawing styles - I found it more useful than any by
one particular artist; those I tend to avoid. You want him to see and
practice an array of style, not learn to copy just one artist's style,
which if he is talented will come easily but may mask his own style.

Tempera paints are easy to work with and are completely sufficient at
this age as a change from just watercolor. Get a ream of good thickness
white paper for the painting if you haven't yet. Good luck with your
young artist!"


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Using Alpha Omega Lifepacs

"I tried Lifepacs with my boys and they were a little bored to tell
you the truth. A friend also was using it with her two boys and
they also seemed bored. I tried something with my guys that she
then tried with hers and it worked for her too! (At least it got
all of us through those sets of Lifepacs.) Instead of letting the
boys go through doing all of the work presented, we instead (before
letting them do the Lifepac) gave them the TEST. I know it sounds
sort of backward, but it worked! The boys ended up doing only
problems based on what they did NOT know. It made them feel really
good about learning and made things easier on Mom." -- Penny


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

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I need some advice. My 7 year old daughter had a complete meltdown
this morning over her math facts. She kept wanting me to give her the
answers and when I tried to direct her to the math manipulatives that
we have on hand, she kept crying out that she doesn't like blocks.
When I suggested any other manipulatives she proceeded to tell me that
she doesn't like ANY of them!

What other ways can she use to learn her facts without the use of math
manipulatives or flashcards? She wanted to use a calculator but I told
her that I didn't think that she should use one. Should I allow her to
use one until she gets her facts down? I don't know what to do."
-- Heather L.

Our Readers' Responses

"I used M&Ms and marshmallows (also beans and toothpicks and pennies,
etc.) with my kids. Once they finished the lesson they could eat the
M&M's or whatever we were using if they wanted. I don't know if that
would work for her at this point, but I wouldn't let her use a calcu-
lator." -- Martie


"If you have a deck of cards you have math games! Remember the game
War/Battle we used to play? It works great for addition, subtraction,
and especially multiplication. You can take out higher value cards
if you want. J=11, Q=12, K=13, A=1, and I like to leave the Jokers in
-- the one playing it declares the value. First one to give the answer
of the two cards (decide ahead of time what you are playing -- addition
war, multiplication war, etc.) wins. For preschoolers just recognizing
the number names is good and maybe even having them count out as many
pennies, plastic chips, etc., as the number." -- Nancie


"This may sound silly, but when I was a child I had a VERY hard time
memorizing things. I instead made up formulas to help me get the
answers to all my basic math facts. It was not laziness per se; it
was more a different type of learning style.

For instance, you can place dots on the numerals to help counting.
The number 1 gets one, the number 2 gets two and so on. I would use
these 'dots' to do my adding, subtracting, and multiplying. As you
may imagine, it took me a long time to calculate the multiplication!

While there may be some benefit to forcing her to memorize her math
facts, just know that I went up to Calc II in college and really
blossomed in math AFTER the rote memorization focus was over (Read
'when I started algebra') :-)" -- Christine


"You are doing the right thing -- first you pray for wisdom and then
ask others for advice. What worked with my 4 kids was games. I would
set a timer, he/she had to get their math done before the buzzer went
off, and then we would play a game. If they did their math without
complaining Monday thru Thursday, then on Friday they didn't have to
do a math lesson -- they could play math games instead. There are a
lot more computer games that will drill her in those math facts today
than there were when I started 20 years ago. If you can't find any
suitable, then adapt a board game. For example we played Shoots and
Ladders using 3 die -- 2 white and 1 red. You had to add the 2 white
and subtract the red to move forward (or backward)." -- Rhonda


"I just returned from a homeschool conference and learned more about
different learning styles. I learned about 3 major types - visual
(tends to like workbooks), auditory (learns best by listening), and
kinetic (learns by doing or learns better while moving around). A
challenge arises when mom and child have different styles, as in my
family. I am a visual learner -- I use lists and workbooks, take
lots of notes, and I'm pretty orderly. My 8 year old is a kinetic
learner -- if I had a nickel for every time I've told him to sit down!
But, when I question him, he can tell me all I've taught him. Now
our lessons include more dramatization, oral presentation, making
models, visit museums, nature walks, etc.

Maybe you are a kinetic learner (working well with manipulatives),
but your daughter may be more of an auditory learner. Can she learn
her math facts by singing? (Try the old 'Schoolhouse Rock' video from
your library) or, maybe she's just not ready for the math facts --
they will be there when she is ready.

If you are in a support group, ask one of the 'veterans' to mentor
you as you continue with these homeschooling challenges -- we all
have them." -- Tricia


"First you need to assess if she was just having a bad day or is her
meltdown a recurring theme with math? All of us have bad days some-

Here are some possible suggestions:

Back up a bit and review some – build her confidence. I don’t
know what area of math you are working on, but make sure you aren’t
pushing too hard. Learning will come, but maybe she needs a different
rate than the book provides or needs more repetition before moving on
to new concepts.

Try a different tact – maybe do some cooking! Double a recipe of
cookies, make half a recipe of Rice Krispie squares – do some physical
math, but don’t call it math – just call it fun with Mom! (Yes, there
is a lot of math in cooking) - don’t write down math problems; just
enjoy. Cooking is a great way to involve math without pencil and
paper. Just be sure to take the time (it will take longer) to let
her figure out how much of each item will be required - then enjoy
the results!

Your daughter may say she doesn’t like any manipulatives, however
you can usually find one she will enjoy. Try different types of
manipulatives (lego bricks, marbles and cups, pre-purchased sets, etc.)
– if she is into dolls, use miniature dolls or doll clothing, plastic
dinosaurs, pencils, crayons, leaves, plastic army men, plastic frogs,
snakes, etc.

This one may seem off base, but works with one of my kids(by God’s
grace). I have a son who will melt-down with math on a routine basis,
but it isn’t because he isn’t trying. Results of this used to be
disastrous and difficult for both him and for me. We have tried many
methods of teaching math, other curriculums, manipulative, etc., but
each has met with the same results. He is very talented in writing,
science, and other areas of study, however math is and probably will
always be a challenge for him. Last year we gave him a dog for his
birthday. This was a last minute gift substitution; we had planned
to give him roller blades! This is a dog that someone was going to
put down as they no longer wanted it because she was too large for
their household. This dog (she is a Golden Retriever) has been
amazing. She is able to sense when my son is about to 'melt down'
-- and she was doing this by the time she had been with us only a few
months. She has even gotten up from sleeping and gone over to him
and put her head on his lap. When he unconsciously starts to pet her,
he starts calming down and we can continue with learning. I don’t
know why or what is up (I’m sure there are a lot of reasons), however
the dog knows that she belongs to this son and constantly senses his
moods. She has earned her right to stay indoors. Is my actual
suggestion to get a dog? Not really -- it is to just keep trying and
praying – you never know quite where/how the answer will present
itself." -- Lucinda


"Over the years, I've consistently found that when one of my children
had a 'meltdown' over schoolwork, it was because it was too easy or
boring -- or too hard. Step way back for a bit to evaluate which it
might be. Put math facts into a bigger picture -- they are arithmetic,
and arithmetic is only one very small part of mathematics. My hunch
is, that while she has not yet memorized them completely, she under-
stands them and the concepts have become too easy. (Imagine yourself
spending your math time doing nothing but facts!) A great resource for
doing 'bigger picture math' is a book called Family Math. It has pro-
jects, games, and activities that are still concept-based and hands-on
(two things which you are already doing well and which are essential),
but it is math rather than arithmetic. It's also a great investment as
you will use it for years and years. It will give her a chance to
learn some of the bigger picture and will give her brain a chance to
process and solidify the facts she's been learning. When you revisit
math facts later, my hunch is you will find the resistance gone and
more retention there than you would expect. Even if that is not so,
she will have learned some good 'math stuff' in the meantime. Finally,
as with all skill oriented learning (like spelling), remind yourself
that you have twelve years for her to learn this! Hang in there!"
-- Babette


"I made a fishing game that we have used for addition and multipli-
cation. I cut fish shapes out of construction paper and put a strip
of clear packaging tape on each (to use with dry erase markers). I
wrote a math equation on each fish and then took an old fishing pole
and used only the end with the handle, tying a string and magnet on
the end. You guessed it, I put two paper clips on each fish and my
boys love to 'fish' for math facts. If they correctly answer the math
fact, they get to keep the fish. If they do not answer it correctly,
they 'throw it back.' They have added a couple other fish to the
pond (inspired by Wheel of Fortune on TV) -- they added a 'free cast'
and a 'bankrupt'." -- Melanie


"Einstein, in all his mathematical genius, couldn't make change to
pay for a bus ride. I took a long time to learn my math facts -- and
math is one of my gifts. (Memorization isn't really a math skill.)
When I finally learned them, it was due to repetitive usage. Maybe
she would memorize best with an audio tape of the fact songs.

It sounds like there's some sort of pressure preventing her learning.
(Not necessarily from you; maybe she's comparing herself to some
standard or her friends.) When you remove the pressure, by letting
her find the answers on a chart or calculator, she'll probably do
like me, and memorize them quite by 'accident'.

Aren't you lucky that you don't have to hold her understanding up
even longer with pressure like the public schools would do? This
may be her biggest advantage with home education; preventing math
anxiety with the 'trivial' facts so she can get on to the more
important concepts." -- Heidi K.


"A melt-down in our family has always signaled a child feeling over-
whelmed. It's so important for kids, especially girls, to have a
chance to feel good about math and science, so it really needs to be
enjoyable at a young age. I would suggest keeping math to one-on-one
games for awhile, encouraging her as she gets more facts down. Games
are great in math and there are many resources. I think the key is
to make math one-on-one for a long time, since kids usually eat up
the fun attention from Mom. Take math slow, and be sure she has
plenty of time to really 'get it', so the feeling of 'hating it'
goes away. Good luck!" -- Marla


"What manipulatives have you tried? Most children are very moti-
vated by using real money; start with pennies and work up from there.
Some people like Cuisenaire rods and the Miquon Math program. If
you are not familiar with Cuisenaire rods they are plastic color
coded rods of different lengths for each number. Some students like
to use rulers or number lines to learn addition and subtraction
facts. A really fun math program being used in public school is
the Everyday Math program. The student workbooks are rather inex-
pensive but it is the teacher’s edition that explains how to do a
lot of really fun and easy little games to learn math concepts. The
program uses dominoes and playing cards to teach simple addition.

Another thing to consider for any concept that a child is having
difficulty learning is a reward system. I have used this with my
son only to find that his least favorite topic suddenly becomes his
favorite. The type of reward that is motivating varies from child
to child but some things that have worked for my son are earning
minutes of 'free time', earning a food reward, sticker, or small
toy, earning a trip to the park, etc. If you register at Chuck E.
Cheese’s website they have some free reward calendars that you can
print off, and when your child reaches the goal they can receive
10 free tokens.

If your child is still struggling perhaps you need to break it down
into smaller pieces. You can even do a 'fact of the day' where you
just concentrate on memorizing one fact at a time. Write each fact
on a card and carry it around all day. Drill very frequently
throughout the day, and by the end of the day your child can’t
help but know the answer (your two year old will know it too if
you have one)!" -- Jen


"It sounds to me like maybe your daughter isn't quite ready for
math. Did you know that back in the day children didn't even begin
formalized math until the 3rd or 4th grade? Their early exposure
to mathematics simply came in learning to tell time, dealing with
their own money, and helping in the kitchen. If she begins to hate
math at such an early age, this will be a struggle forever. You
have nothing to lose by maybe taking a break for a few months, or
even a year. I recently purchased a 3rd/4th grade primer (reprinted
with original print date 1934) to use with my youngest son, and we
do most of the problems orally. At the website www.systemath.com
you can find 'old math'.

I would take a break and let her enjoy being seven for awhile.
She won't fall behind, I promise you. :-) Good luck!" -- Shani in AZ


"My daughter tends to be quite dramatic when she gets frustrated
with her school work. I use her favorite things: dolls, M&M's,
Skittles, etc. for manipulatives. We save the edible things for
dire times. Then, when she completes her problems, she can play
with her dolls or eat her edible manipulatives! It works great
for her." --Renee' H.


"I think that 7 years old is a bit young to be learning/memorizing
math facts. Give your daughter a (long) break from math or she
may endup disliking it for the rest of her life. Please read Ruth
Beechick's book Easy Start in Arithmetic: Grades K-3 to under-
stand how young children learn math best.

For my 7 year old son, we used colorful marbles on plates for
him to physically pick up and add/subtract. And, math can be
learned through daily living (e.g., how many people in our family,
how many dishes for the table, 4 spoons + 4 forks + 4 knives =
how much silverware?)

I would definitely not let a child use a calculator at this young age.
(My kids didn't get to use a calculator until 6th grade level.) Calcu-
lators are best used for expediency, not because you don't know
how to figure out something." -- Carolyn


"When my 6 year old son was five, and we were working on math,
he did fine until we came to a certain type of problem. When I
tried to explain the concept, he couldn't get it. I tried, and he
tried, and finally we were both in tears. Math became a major
drudgery for both of us. After talking with my husband about it,
I decided to stop our math workbook for a few months. If we were
counting or something, I didn't even mention the word 'math'. In
January, I got out our math workbook and began working with him
again. He took off with it! Suddenly, the seemingly 'too difficult'
math concept was easy! He and I both needed a break, and when
it came time, he was ready for it. Each situation and child is
different, so I don't know if a 'break' is what you and your daughter
need. It was something that helped us tremendously, so I wanted
to share it with you. I hope to remember this when I begin home-
schooling my younger children, too. I think it will help school be
more fun for all of us." -- Dorothy in AR


"This sounds to me more like a 'get to the root of the problem'
situation than a 'what to use to learn math facts' problem.

Does your daughter have older siblings who are using a calculator
to do math? This may simply be a situation where she associates
the manipulatives with being a 'baby' but thinks the calculator is
more 'grown up'. Get her to talk about her feelings.

Now, after having said that, I would address her attitude. After we
brought our older children (rising 8th grader, sixth grader and 3rd
grader) home from a private Christian school, we recognized
some character and authority issues that we had not noticed
before. (When you are with your children 24/7, you have plenty
of time to recognize parenting issues that need to be worked on.)
We quickly learned that it was not that our oldest daughter didn't
have the intelligence to understand math, but that she had
immature character issues that needed to be worked on. For
example: 'diligence' to stick with the lesson until completed,
'thoroughness' and 'organization' to keep the numbers in the
correct space; 'patience' to take time to do the problems right
the first time, etc.

Your daughter too may have some character needs as well.
She may want the use of the calculator because she doesn't
have the patience (learned character trait) to learn her math
facts. It's much quicker and easier to let the calculator do the

Personally I would not let her use a calculator until she needs
one -- in higher math that she will take in high school. Age
seven is definitely too young. Meanwhile, examine some of
your parenting skills (you are the authority) and help her with
her character development as you try to discover what her real
motivation is in wanting to use the calculator." -- Joanne in AL


"When this happened with one of our children at that age, I drew
a simple ladder with the amount of steps needed to calculate the
answers of her math problems, and numbered the steps. This
works for addition and subtraction facts in most first grade
materials - the child uses her finger or a small object to 'jump' up
or down the indicated number of steps to arrive at the answer.
This is a way to give her a visual help without overwhelming her
with a pile of blocks, since it sounds like she isn't a kinesthetic

Another thing you may try is to add some variety to her math
lessons by playing a file folder game with her once or twice a
week. You could try jumping to another chapter in her workbook,
too - geometry or fractions, for example, and then coming back
to the chapter that she was having trouble with. I'd steer clear
of calculator usage at this age. She is still very young and will
undoubtedly gain the maturity required to get her math facts
under her belt over the next year. Right now, finding ways to
develop a liking for math is more important than completing
drilling her on math facts. Part of the beauty of homeschooling
is that we can tune into the child's learning style and pace and
respond accordingly - but we moms who were educated in the
public school system easily allow the curriculum we're using to
tie a ball and chain around our neck and we forget to think outside
of the box when necessary. Temporarily shifting gears, playing
games, or using worksheets from a supplemental workbook that
is more activity-oriented will give her an opportunity to come at
the subject from a different angle. When you return to the
section causing her woes she just may be refreshed and ready
to take on the task." -- Lisa

Answer our NEW Question

"I have a friend that has five young children. She has felt the
call to homeschool for a few years now, but her husband teaches at
the local elementary school and feels that he would receive lots of
opposition for his decision. I remember reading recently of a family
that was in a similar situation, but I cannot remember where I read
the story! Can anyone help?" -- Ruthanne


Do you have the link to this story for Ruthanne, or do you have a
similar situation to share?

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

Ask YOUR Question

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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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Tags: homeschooling art, gifted artists, AO Lifepacs, Alpha Omega review, homeschool art resources, art curriculum, Prismacolor, Artelier, math manipulatives, homeschool math games, home education tips, homeschool support, homeschool help

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