"" -- A Homeschooler's Notebook Subscriber.
An interactive, FREE, twice-monthly ezine packed with great reader tips, reviews, & practical encouragement for homeschool families.


Some of Our Sponsors


Landry Academy

Math Mammoth

Great Homeschool Conventions

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Resource Links

All About Spelling
Homeschooling ABCs
Upper Level Homeschool
FIRETIME Notebooking
FREE Funschool Units
Homeschooling Help
More Homeschooling Help
HS Gifted and Talented
Homeschool Country Life
Beloved Books & Audio



First Grade Math Woes, More on Diplomas, Holiday Questions

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, November 30, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 92 November 30, 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
-- Holiday Questions for Our Readers
Helpful Tips
-- Diplomas, Transcripts and Keeping Work
Winning Website
-- The Music Room
Reader Question
-- Early Math Frustration
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Holiday Questions

I'd like to invite all our readers who celebrate Christmas and/or
Hanukkah to choose one or more of the following questions and send
in your answers -- feel free to elaborate! :-)

1) What is your favorite family holiday tradition?
2) How many days do you take off from school work in December?
3) What is a favorite holiday-related unit study you have enjoyed?
4) How do you handle the extra work and/or stress during this time?


Please put "Holiday Answers" in the subject line and send to:

I'll share your answers in the next issue(s)!


Piano Is EASY For Kids

Start piano at home with your child.
Put the numbered stickers on your piano.
Read music with our books.
A great way to get kids started.
Come see all the fun songs you can play!



Helpful Tip

Reader Feedback on Diplomas, Transcripts, and Keeping Work

"Hi, Heather -- The article about the homeschool diploma being
valid for the students' work background check speaks eloquently
to the need for homeschoolers to keep good records. If this
student was able to offer a transcript to his employer to back
up the diploma, HSLDA may not have been needed. I've worked with
homeschoolers for about a dozen years, and here's what we've

NEVER throw ANY work away, even if it was a rough draft. Instead,
put it in a folder or large envelope, one envelope per class.
Put the start and end dates on that envelope or folder. Take a
photo of the item if it won't fit in the envelope. Put homework
on the bottom, tests, research papers or write-ups on top of that,
evaluations on top of that. Make a note of resources used, such
as the textbook for the course. Put it all in the envelope, and
put the envelope on a shelf reserved for keeping homeschool work,
or in a file drawer, or in one of those office storage boxes.

When those envelopes go to storage, record the class, the start
and end dates, and the grades. KEEP A RUNNING TRANSCRIPT OF YOUR
WORK! Kids often get driver's licenses before they graduate from
high school, and a good student discount for insurance depends
on that transcript!

If you are ever questioned about the validity of a high school
diploma, you can offer the transcript. If the transcript doesn't
satisfy, bring those envelopes. It's going to be pretty hard to
deny a class with that evidence.

DO NOT THROW ANYTHING AWAY until the student has successfully
completed a college class in that subject. For example, when the
student has completed a college level math class, then you may
throw away the envelopes with high school math classes. The
college transcript becomes their new record. If the student
does not choose college after high school those envelopes and
the transcript should be stored until it's clear the student
won't be going to college. I recommend waiting at least five
years. MAKE A TRANSCRIPT OF THE WORK before tossing it away."
-- Molly C.


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

Winning Website

The Music Room – http://www.suzyred.com/music.html

Auditory learners will love the catchy songs about grammar rules,
math rules and even science topics found at this fun site. Click
on a title and you'll find the words and the tune to use. For
instance, you can sing about adverbs, to the tune "You Are My Sun-
shine". Some songs even have an accompanying worksheet to reinforce
the topic.

-- Cindy Prechtel - http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"Help! How do you stay motivated? We are trudging through 1st
grade math. Will a digit or place value ever be understood?
What happened to my patience?" -- Christine in VA

Our Readers' Responses

"One way to keep your eye on place value may be to try graph
paper. There are some printable ones online with larger grids or
you could create your own. Math-U-See has a great program.
Linking items(cubes or even little brother's pop-together beads)
could be fun and helpful. Math is fun." -- Jenna M. in Montana


"Christine, if your child is having difficulty understanding some-
thing, he probably isn't ready for it. Put the math book up for
six months or so, and let him use everyday math in real life situ-
ations. Then he'll have a reference for the concepts. I'll share
with you my experience in teaching math in the younger years. I
gave my children loose change and few dollar bills, a tape measure
and ruler, a thermometer, scales, a calendar, measuring cups and
spoons -- anything with numbers on it. We played with them by the
hour. All day long they would bring me money and I'd change it
for them -- pennies for nickels, dollar bills for quarters -- they
were fascinated with it. We counted everything. We played card
games such as War and games that involved counting spaces or money.
They had no idea we were having math lessons. When we planted our
garden, we measured the rows and the spacing of the seeds. We
weighed the produce. We followed instructions for craft projects
and recipes. They were quite old before they ever heard the word
'math'. Eventually they started asking questions indicating that
they were ready for more formal math instruction, and they started
at fourth grade level.

I have found that when my patience wears thin and my motivation is
dwindling, I need to re-evaluate our methods. I reconsider the
resources we're using, how we're scheduling our lessons, the chil-
dren's readiness, whether they really need to know this stuff right
now, and the approach I'm using. About every two months I take a
day off lessons to read some homeschool materials and revamp what
we're doing. The articles and books offer encouragement and prac-
tical ideas, and I can usually identify one or more change we can
make which will help us in areas of productivity and attitude."
-- Mary Beth


"I have homeschooled for 4 years now, and I started with my oldest
son, who has a very difficult personality. He especially struggled
with math. It seemed the basic concepts of 6 being one more than 5,
and 10 being the sum of 5 plus 5, just couldn't be understood.

My husband actually came up with a method to teach him math and get
him interested. He loves LEGO brand building blocks. So we would
let him make a model, if he would count all the dots on the top of
the LEGO. Then we would stack LEGOs up, like stairs, to show him
that 6 was more than 5. It took a lot of patience and creativity,
but math began getting easier for him. I hope that you can find
something that interests your son, that involves physical counting
and manipulation, that will help him 'see' the math concepts.

As for patience, remember to take a break from school if you need
to. The last thing you want your child to see is that you are
frustrated with the learning process -- he will feel that way too.
So take a recess, do something that involves play like hopscotch,
or work, like baking cookies, and he can see that learning can
be fun, too." -- Sarah in Idaho


"I find that I have the least patience when my children are strug-
gling the most. (It seems like we have gone over and over this
and they should know this by now...) What works for us is to back
track some, and go over some things that are easier for a while,
then work our way back up to the harder stuff. Usually by the
time we get back to the area that they were unable to master
before, they have reinforced their skills well enough that they
are able to master the material, which gives us all a boost --
them in terms of confidence and me in terms of patience." -- Cheryl


"It is frustrating when we just can't seem to get our children to
understand something. Sometimes they just aren't ready, and some-
times they may need a different approach. My suggestion would be
to put math (at least new concepts) aside for a bit. Check to see
if your child has a gap in his understanding of previous math con-
cepts. Play math games. (War, Go Fish - be creative, look for
pairs that add up to 7, or subtract to equal 3, memory games where
you need to find pairs that equal 10, etc.) After a couple of
months, try introducing place value or digits again, and see how
it goes. In the meantime, see if you can check out some other
curriculums from fellow home schoolers. Sometimes a different
text will explain something in a different way, and the light
suddenly goes on. Hang in there. My daughter struggled with
place value for years, but she eventually got it. If you do
decide to consider other curriculums, you might check out
Math-U-See or RightStart Mathematics. Both use a structured
approach that works really well for multiple learning styles.
(I wish I would have known about them when my daughter was
young.)" -- Laurie


"Well, I can certainly sympathize with you. I never liked math
and dreaded teaching it to my boys. When our oldest began 1st
grade math, we bought Saxon, because we had used it for K, and
it worked fine. But I was absolutely bored to tears and couldn't
wait for him to finish. On the recommendation of many homeschool
families, we tried Math-u-See for 2nd grade (Beta), and we loved
it. We're now using it for 3rd grade (Gamma) math, and I just
went back and bought 1st grade (Alpha) for my middle son so we
didn't have to do Saxon again (I know Saxon is great and works
well for tons of families -- it just wasn't much fun for me!).
And no, I'm not a Math-u-See sales rep. Hang in there and don't
be too hard on yourself or the kids. There are days that they
won't get it, and then it will just suddenly click. I have way
more patience with myself and with them after 3 years of home-
schooling." --Jenn M.


"I never liked to stick to just math workbook pages. We use math
games on the computer, play board games (most of the games, if
you notice, involve some type of math). We bake, we compare
prices at the grocery store, pretend to order out of catalogs on
a budget, and more. As a result, my kids like math far more than
I ever did when I was a child." -- Laurel S.


"Hang in there! Math really is a very difficult subject when you
think about it. It is all abstract. I think what makes it so
hard as the parent is that you are on the other side -- the 'know-
ing' side. It is hard to comprehend why the child doesn't compre-
hend when the calculation seems so simple.

We use Math-u-See because it is really helpful in getting the
child to 'see' the calculations. The creator also does a fantas-
tic job of explaining why. The other thing I love is that he
explains how you will know that the child has mastered the concept.
This was my biggest concern. He has also created an amazing way
to explain the number values/placements so that the kids get it.
You can get a free DVD to decide if it is right for you.

Keep in mind, every child is different, and it is not a race, even
though it feels like it." -- Michelle L.


"I've homeschooled for 12 years, and about the first grade math,
I'd just say, 'Relax'. Count things -- real things -- with your
child and put the workbook aside for awhile (weeks or months per-
haps). Take a few opportunities throughout each day to show your
child how you count things, pay for things, measure, etc. Kids
all develop differently, and yours may not be developmentally
ready for these abstract concepts of 'digits' and 'place value'.
Abstract thinking develops later than first grade for most kids,
I believe (you education/psychology majors can check me on that
one). A good book to read might be 'Better Late than Early' by
the late Dr. Raymond Moore. I have not read it, but it has
helped countless homeschoolers. I did read many encouraging
homeshooling books that reminded me that we are to instill a
love of learning in our children. When we feel we must adhere
to a certain time frame for the accomplishment of certain skills,
and our child marches to a different beat, that can have the
opposite effect. So, enjoy the journey... and just count raisins,
cheerios, cars, etc. for awhile." -- Cathy


"We all feel this way sometimes. Teaching our children does not
always come with large visible rewards. Often times it is the
tiniest step that needs the biggest recognition. Stop, take a
deep breath, and remember this child is a gift from God and you
have the blessing of leading him on his way. You are doing a
great job. Some things just take time. To a child, place value
is a strange concept and it takes some children a long time to
grasp it. When you feel impatient, do something else. He will
feel it too. Don't feel rushed or pressured. We all learn at
our own pace.

Here are some ideas I have really seen make a difference:

Use something your child is interested in to teach the new con-
cept. Play store, writing down pretend receipts with decimals
in the price. To do this, just cut notebook paper into strips
about the size of a receipt. Show him when you are in a store
how all the numbers have places and line up for a reason. This
toy is $5.97; that's 5 whole dollars and 9 dimes, and 7 pennies
–- 5 dollars and ninety-seven cents. He may think you are nuts,
but keep doing it for a few things each trip to the store. When
you get home show him five one dollar bills, 9 dimes, and 7
pennies. You are laying the foundation.

My son loved to count pennies from his bank and roll them to
take to the real bank. We used this to begin with. We counted
them in singles, and in sets of ten lined up on the desk. Ten
stacks of ten are one hundred. We just stacked and counted and
talked. In a day or two we added poster board with place values
and columns for just ones and tens. We put the pennies in the
columns. I would say show me 5. Five pennies lined up in the
ones column is five. Show me 15. We need one stack of ten in
the tens place beside our 5 in the ones place. This would be
too overwhelming past 100, so I thought of something else. If
you go to pennies as ones, dimes as tens, and a dollar for hun-
dreds, it may confuse him because there is no place value for
a nickel or a quarter -- so I came up with another idea.

My son was really into Legos at first grade level. I used dif-
ferent sizes and colors blocks to represent the places values,
making ones smaller, tens larger, and so on. With a permanent
marker, I wrote, 1’s, 10’s, 100’s, 1000’s etc. on the edge of
the block for that place value. We had disposable cups marked
the same to keep the blocks in and a small sheet of poster board
marked with the place values and columns. I would ask him 'Show
me one hundred twenty-seven'. He need one 100 block, two 10
blocks stacked together, and seven 1 blocks stacked together.
Each was put in its column on the poster board.

Side note - This popped into my head while I was typing the
examples: We used soda bottle caps to learn numbers in sequence
and skip counting. Save bottle caps. Write numbers 1-100 on each
lid. Dump them all in a container and let the child sort them
into order. Start with 1-10, then add more as the child is ready.

There is a wonderful writer - Stuart J. Murphy – who writes the
most creative math books for children. Each book teaches one math
concept through animals, children, and stories. My son loved these
books and still speaks fondly of them when we see them in the
library or book store. He is 10 and in fifth grade, so that says
something about the books.

Have fun with math and he will love to learn for a long time!"
-- Debbie J


"You actually have three questions -- motivation, 1st grade math,
and patience! But there are times when they are all related.
First the math -- there is a developmental switch that happens
usually between ages seven and eight where something can 'be' more
than one thing. Until that switch 'clicks', concepts like telling
time and place value do not make sense -- and you can't rush the
'click'. Usually motivation and patience (on parent and child's
parts) both take a nosedive when concepts are pushed that a child
is not ready for.

In the meantime, find a copy of Peggy Kaye's 'Games for Math' and
just play them; don't teach with them. They are excellent and a
child can develop over time a thorough understanding of place
value just by playing those games (and of course, play the others
as well). Go back to 'hands on' math in general -- sand and water
play, measuring, sorting, building; play with math ideas rather
than learning math on paper. If you need more structure, try
Cuisenaire rods and their materials. Finally, read David Elkind's
'Miseducation' and 'The Importance of Play' to learn some of the
problems associated with 'too much, too soon'. Schools push
earlier and earlier, thinking it will solve their problems, but
it actually makes it worse. We do not have to fall into the same
trap." -- Babette in Colorado

Answer our NEW Question

"My son is now in 9th grade. We've been considering using a diploma
'program', but at this time feel like we should continue what we've
been doing all along... homeschool our own way! Now that he's in
high school, that means we'll be needing to make up a transcript.

My question is grading. We've never given grades. Some courses
will be easy to grade, such as math, where he's using a specific
curriculum that includes tests. But how do folks give grades for
other courses, like English or art? My son spends 2 or more hours
a day writing, and about that many reading, which is lovely, but
does that mean he's an 'A' student? I don't think so - it just means
he enjoys doing those things!

Any help/suggestions on how to assign grades to those courses for
which a 'number' isn't so easy to come up with?" -- Lisa K. in PA


Do you have some help for Lisa?

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

Ask YOUR Question

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!

Need Immediate Help?

Visit our Homeschool Encouragement Center! This is a live 24/7
'chat' area where you can talk live to our homeschool counselors
by typing in a box. When you get there, just introduce yourself
and let them know that Heather sent you!

This ultra-safe chat is supervised by experienced moms who are
there to serve and share their wisdom... or just offer a listening

Check out our schedule of daily chats and jump right in! :-)


[Note: This ministry is geared toward Christian parents, but all
are welcome. You may need to download a Java program to utilize
this service. Email Luanne@educationforthesoul.com if you have
any technical difficulties.]

Our Searchable Newsletter Archive

Access the Homeschool Notebook issues you have missed...
at our archives! http://www.FamilyClassroom.net

...or you can search on a specific word or phrase in issues all
the way back to January 2001! Just go to this link:

Interactive Email Group

In an effort to help our readers become more of an interactive
community, we have set up an email loop at YahooGroups called

Here is the link to sign-up!



There are opportunities for you to be a sponsor of this
newsletter. If you are interested, drop an e-mail to
marketing @ stretcher.com with "Homeschoolers-Notebook"
as the subject. We'll send you some information on how to
become a part of this ministry!


All contributed articles are printed with the author's prior
consent. It is assumed that any questions, tips or replies to
questions may be reprinted. All letters become the property of
the "Homeschooler's Notebook". [Occasionally your contribution
may have to be edited for space.]

Again, I welcome you to the group! Feel free to send any
contributions to HN-articles@familyclassroom.net or

Our main website is:

We also sponsor an incredible site with over 1,500 pages of helps!


No part of this newsletter (except subscription information
below) may be copied and/or displayed in digital format online
(for instance, on a website or blog) without EXPRESS permission
from the editor. Individuals may, however, forward the newsletter
IN ITS ENTIRETY to *individual* friends (not email groups). For
reprints in paper publications (homeschool support group newsletters,
etc.) please direct your request to: Heather@FamilyClassroom.net


To subscribe, just send a blank email to the following address:

To unsubscribe send a blank email to the following address:


Next - Holiday Stress, Cool Science Gift Ideas, What Makes an 'A'?
Previous - Homeschool Diplomas, Writing for 100 Days, '3 Under 3'

     Site content copyright individual contributors and FamilyClassroom.net 2001-2011 - Digital duplication expressly prohibited.
Privacy Policy | Advertise