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'Conventional' Math Reviews, Early Creative Writing

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, April 07, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 28 April 7, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- 'Conventional' Math
Helpful Tip
-- Shiller Math for Acceleration
Reader Question
-- Teaching the Writing Process
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

On our Homeschooling Gifted group this past week a reader wrote
in with her 'quick reviews' of math curricula she got to glance
over at a homeschool convention recently.

Laraba is a frequent contributor to our group and she *always*
has excellent advice for parents of gifted children. I found
her first impressions of what the different vendors had to offer
very interesting. She readily admits she might be wrong on a
few things (due to the limited amount of time spent) but she
does make some good observations.

Buyer Beware: While homeschool conventions can be valuable for
getting a hands-on opportunity to physically view the actual
product, you definitely want to spend time online reading about
others' experiences, etc. While a convention can be a good place
to buy (at a discount) what you've already decided on -- and a
good place to look over curricula you are unfamiliar with -- it
may not be the best venue for both looking AND buying on the
same day.


Laraba writes --

I just attended a home schooling convention in Cincinnati and
spent much time in the vendor hall looking at math programs. I
wrote up my comments for another group which is not aimed at the
gifted, but perhaps my notes may be of help anyway.


"Okay, I'm back from the conference.

My mind is whirling slightly. I'm going to write down my
comments on math programs, but do keep in mind that I spent
5 to 10 minutes looking at these things so may have gotten some
things wrong.

1. Horizons math (by Alpha Omega, I believe)

Workbook based. Very colorful. Rather dense worksheets. Each
worksheet covers several different types of problems so there
is variety on each worksheet. This would appeal to our eldest
who likes variety, but might confuse some children. No manipu-
latives used. Does NOT have 35 problems of one type. (This is
one of my pet peeves about math books. I see no point in a child
doing 25 to 30 of the same kind of problem in a single day. I
found that incredibly boring when I was in school.) Ends at 6th
grade but then there are Lifepacs that go farther with Alpha
Omega. I didn't look at those, though.

2. Math U See

I actually might go with this one.

Math U See is partially a video curriculum, but the video portion
is only 5 to 10 minutes for a full week's worth of work. That is
good as I didn't want a lot of video. Our house is too noisy for
our children to be able to focus on hours of math on video. I
liked this curriculum for a couple of reasons. First, it is
very manipulatives intensive and I like that as it appeals to
the kinesthetic tactile learner. It also seems very easy to
accelerate. Our older 2 girls seem to be very good at math,
which is no surprise since Daddy and I are engineers.

Math U See goes through pre-calc, I think. Maybe higher?

3. Teaching Textbooks: TT uses workbooks plus a computer CD.
The student enters the answer for each problem into the computer
program, and the computer tells whether she got the answer right.
If she can't get it, there is a complete description of the
method of solving the problem, for EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM. That
is remarkable and great. The young lady selling TT said she
wasn't a 'math person' and after starting Algebra 2 with TT,
her SAT scores jumped 300 points.

One thing she did say was that there was a ton of repetition.
Students take a pretest to figure out where they should start,
and if they can do 2/3rds of the test then they can move onto
the next book or something like that. The point was that there
is a lot of review. That would be great for some students. I
think it would be annoying for my daughters because as I said,
they are very quick with math. I found review very annoying
when I was young because I knew the concepts completely and
felt reviewing over and over and over was a waste of time. I
do think some review is good, just don't see any reason for a
13 year old to still be practicing multiplication when she has
known how to do it for 5 years.

4. Right Start Mathematics

This was an interesting curriculum. It is very manipulatives
based and the students learn many of the topics by playing
games with each other. There are workbooks but not a ton of
problems. I like the approach as I love manipulatives, and I
even purchased a scale from them that can be used to teach
simple math facts. I don't think it'll work well for us, though,
because I don't have time to play lots of math games, and my two
older girls are very competitive and would probably get mad
about losing.

5. Singapore math

Workbook is consumable but not much room available for doing
work. No manipulatives. Goes through Algebra 2. Seems very

6. Abeka math

Consumable workbooks with only small spaces for working. Colorful.
Not too many problems on each page. Spiral approach; keeps moving
back to previous concepts so has a variety of different types of
problems on each page, which our eldest would like. Lots of
Christian problems and story problems. The lack of room for work-
ing is a big deal for me as I prefer to not have the kids copying
onto another page. My 6 year old's math skills are way ahead of
her penmanship skills and this would be tough for her. And I
don't feel like I do have time to write all her problems down
myself, though I sometimes do sit with her and write in answers
on her worksheets as her hand gets tired.

7. Saxon math:

Unfortunately, the only ones I found for Saxon were bound up so
I couldn't flip through them. The back of the box looked tradi-
tional. I know this one is sort of the 'granddaddy of them all'
but my homeschooling mentor suggests that Saxon doesn't work as
well for children who are very quick with math. My memory is
she says it is hard to accelerate.

8. Making Math Meaningful

Unfortunately, I didn't find Making Math Meaningful by David
Quine. This is the one my aforementioned homeschooling mentor
uses. She really likes it and her eldest in particular is gifted
in math. I did buy the Kindergarten book and was really frustrated
with it because it involves lots of 'things around the house' for
learning concepts. That sounds like a good thing, but the list
of required things was very long and I didn't have half of it,
and shopping is SO hard for me because of all the kids. So I
would rather go with a curriculum that just requires one set of
manipulatives (like Math U See or Cuisenaire rods) than having
to scrounge for things. My friend did say MMM doesn't have as
many manipulatives from around the house in the higher grades
and it does go through at least Algebra. Maybe higher?

9. BJU

I also looked at BJU math briefly. Seemed very traditional and
not too different from Abeka, Horizons, and Singapore."


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Shiller Math for Accelerated Students

"We started using Shiller Math over a year ago (we switched
from Math-U-See) and we love it. It has a ton of manipulatives
(and not just the usual ones -- blocks, scale, measuring cups,
ball, dominoes, money, etc). I feel it advances quickly as my
6 year old has already started division. It does not bore him
in the least, all the manipulatives come with the kit, and you
can take a pretest to see where your child would fit in and
jump right into that particular kit.

The founder, Larry Shiller -- a math grad from MIT, developed
it when he didn't find anything on the market that appealed to
him for his daughter.

One thing I really like is that you can start it with as young
as a 4 year old and the kit will work for however many children
you have so that you are only buying it once. I was able simply
to print off the internet the book for my younger one. Each kit
comes with 3 spiral bound books that you work through (the kit
is supposed to last 3 to 4 years depending on how fast or slow
you work at it). Since I have the download license for each
subsequent child, I printed off the book and then I took it to
Office Depot and had them bind it the same way as the original
one for less than $4. Boom -- I have the next child's Math
curriculum already squared away! He also enjoys it as much as
big brother does!"

-- contributed by Kim - member of our Homeschooling Gifted group


Note from Heather -- for another good "mom" review of Shiller
Math, visit Cindy Prechtel's "HomeschoolingFromTheHeart" site:



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

Last Issue's Reader Question

"Hi all - I am just jumping into home schooling my second grader.
My weakest area is creative writing. Does anyone have any good
resources (books, internet links, etc.) on how to teach the writ-
ing process?" -- Lauren

Our Readers' Responses

"You might check out www.jbcheaney.com and www.writeathome.net .
Write at Home has a course you can buy, but they also send out
free writing tips. J.B. Cheaney's newsletters are free and
include helpful writing tips.

Another free method is to allow your child to take notes on a
piece of good writing. Put it up for a while, and then have him
try to re-write it from his notes. He then compares his writing
to the original, to look for ways he could improve his writing.
The object is not to reproduce the original, but to glean a good
example from it.

For a commercially produced writing curriculum, take a look at
the Institute for Excellence in Writing. www.writing-edu.com ."
-- Mary Beth


"We have thoroughly enjoyed using Institute for Excellence in
Writing. It teaches writing step-by-step and in a way that
any child 'gets' the writing process in a painless way. Andrew
Pudewa, the founder, suggests waiting until third grade to begin
teaching writing. However, you could spend your child's second
grade year going through the teacher's DVDs (the ones that teach
you the program) and you would then be prepared for teaching
writing beginning with third grade. Check out his website at
www.excellenceinwriting.com . By the way, if you ever get to
hear Mr. Pudewa in person, go... you will never view the writing
process the same!" -- Kathy in CA


"I have one word for you -- copywork. Have your child do copy-
work from excellent writers. This is one of the greatest gifts
you could give your child. They will learn punctuation, grammar,
vocabulary, sentence structure, as well as style. Give your
child a firm foundation in language arts by using a method that
has been successful for thousands of years." -- Tracy S.


"This isn't a resource, but rather a suggestion: Cut interest-
ing pictures from magazines and newspapers and put them in a
large envelope. Once per week, pull out a picture and paste it
on a sheet of lined paper. It doesn't have to be a the top --
to the side or bottom works well. Then ask your daughter to
make up a story that about the picture. Allow her time to study
and use her imagination. You can have her write it or dictate
it to you. Sometimes my daughter would come up with a paragraph;
sometimes she would write several pages. Once you get her writ-
ing, you can work one specific area at a time, like punctuation,
spelling or dialogue, or just use it as her free writing time
and let her enjoy it without penalty." -- Valerie in MI


"Creative writing is best developed after English skills and
writing basics are intact. Good reading (at this age still
being read to a lot plus some on their own), basic English rules,
and copywork will produce more meaningful writing later on. Copy-
ing short poems and verses exposes children to better writing than
most newer kids' books that seem to all have a social agenda. You
might want to look at 'English for the Thoughtful Child' but may
want to use it later. 'Learning Language Arts through Literature'
(LLATL) has a nice approach and I find Institute for Excellence
in Writing informative although it as it is more costly to use.

Best wishes, enjoy the journey and don't stress -- expect to feel
the need to in the 1st year!" -- Sue in MI


"I am homeschooling a 4-year-old so haven't gotten to 2nd grade
level yet, but several homeschoolers on a local list are very
happy with the 'Noble Knights' math program. While exploring
that website yesterday I found a creative writing resource called
'Storyboard' that looks intriguing:

I thought I might even use it with my preschooler to make up
stories! She might be impressed to read her creativity in later
years." -- Ellen


"Lauren -- If your child is in 2nd grade, they may not be quite
ready to do extensive creative writing projects. I'd suggest
using some of Charlotte Mason's methods:

1) Read a book to your child and then have them narrate to you
things they remembered.

2) Find an art book full of interesting pictures and have your
child look at one of the pictures to study. Then have them make
up a story about the picture to you. You could record their
story and let them listen to it later. If you want, you could
use a portion of the story as writing practice. (You write down
a few sentences, the child practices writing by copying what you

These are just a couple of spring boards for what will definitely
come later." -- Rohanna


"The best resource I have found for writing instruction is
Institute for Excellence in Writing (also known as IEW). After
a few years of hearing about it, but not understanding how the
program works, a friend and I decided to purchase the teacher
training materials together and we are both very glad we did.
The website is http://www.excellenceinwriting.com/ .

One thought, however, is that second grade is very young to be
concerned with creative writing. At that age, we have focused
mainly on letter writing and copywork." -- Lisa W.

Answer our NEW Question

"My 12 year old daughter used to be more friendly and outgoing.
I would say she still is in some environments. But we have been
going to church. Folks are really friendly and she hardly says
two words to them. Or if they smile at her, she barely smiles and
looks away. Is she being rude or just shy? It frustrates me. To
me,it seems like she is being rude. She has never been shy, but
she is going to be a teenager this year. Would puberty changes
be causing her to act differently towards other adults and even
kids? Or is she an introvert personality to some extent? Thanks
for any help or advice from anyone that has gone through this.
How can I help her?" -- April


Do you have some wisdom for April?
Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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

Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
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