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Math Review Feedback, Creative Writing, Shyness Revisited

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, April 11, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 29 April 11, 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!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible. :-)


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Notes from Heather
-- Feedback on Math Reviews
Helpful Tip
-- Early Creative Writing
Winning Website
-- Tux Paint
Reader Question
-- Help for Shy Daughter
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

More Math Reviews, Please!

We received quite a bit of feedback from readers on the math
"notes" that Laraba took at a recent homeschool convention!

Feel free to respond to our readers' questions and concerns
and I will share more reader thoughts and observations about
different math curricula in the next issue. -- Heather


"Thank you for posting your thoughts on all the math curriculums
that you looked at. I have a 10 year old boy that is very kines-
thetic/auditory learner and we have been doing Abeka which has
been fine up to now (he is doing 3rd grade as we started school
when he turned 6 instead of 5) and so far we have only completed
1/4 of the book this year due to family situations and moves.
I have been thinking about changing or looking for other math
curriculums for him and what you typed about curriculums was
very helpful to me." -- Ana


"More math reviews, please! I'm deciding between three programs
for next year for my rising 4th and 2nd and K kids.

Has anyone used Math Mammoth? It's written for homeschoolers
with instructions right on the student worktext, no separate
teacher manual (except an answer key). You can download the
pages and I think it's $27 per grade level. They have only grades
1 through 4 right now, working on grade 5. I'm interested in it
but would like to hear more reviews.

Also, is Saxon math 5/4 very different in it's teaching from
the previous levels? I heard once that starting in that level
Saxon ditches the teacher's manual (yeah!) and also has the
instructions within the student book. Is that right? How is it?

Also, is Singapore good?

Does any other math curriculum have as much mental math? Has
anyone used Professor B's math? It has glowing reviews online.
Looks like it includes teaching mental math.

Here's what I've used and what I thought of each:

ABeka - I like the student worksheets a lot, just a few too many
review problems (easy to cross off extra though). The teacher's
manual is hard to use, not easy to follow at a glance. I ended
up not being able to use it at all, which then caused difficulty
in explaining a few topics in 3rd grade.

Bob Jones Grade 3 - really cutesy and had a lot of unrelated
stories in it. I like my kids reading, but not during math time.
It's a mastery program, so there's no review of previous concepts
during daily lessons and I didn't like that.

Saxon - Grades 1, 2 - The scripting got to be too much. Once I
got the hang of their style of teaching I didn't need pages upon
pages of daily scripting. Also tons of review problems and no

Developmental Math - Good for reviewing, but I don't recommend
it for a regular math curriculum. Each book focuses on one
topic -- addition or subtraction or multiplication." -- Sarah G.


"Laraba mentioned that her mentor suggests that Saxon doesn't
work as well for children who are very quick with math and it
may be harder to accelerate.

I have not found this problem with Saxon math. We have been
using Saxon since my then-7 year old was motivated to learn to
read so he wouldn't have to wait for me to read his math lessons
to him in the late 1980's or early '90's. This same son started
(but did not finish) the Saxon calculus book before starting

When my sons were in the early elementary grades they didn't
seem motivated to pay attention to detail enough to check over
their work. We were using A Beka at the time since it was
provided through CLASS. My husband suggested having them do the
first problem in each row of the page, and if they got them all
correct they were done. If they missed one, they had to complete
that row. This was an incentive to be more careful in their work.

This approach didn't work when we switched to Saxon 65 after
A Beka 2nd(side-by-side comparison showed that 65 and A Beka 3rd
covered the same topics, plus that was the lowest grade Saxon
had written at the time).

After we'd used Saxon a couple of years the carelessness cropped
up again and my husband suggested another way to encourage care-
ful work and steady progress. First of all, our grading standard
is this: 90-100, no reworking missed problems; 80<90, redo all
missed problems; under 80, redo the entire lesson (and I keep the
first try). We do not use the tests as they have never needed
the extra work, and the continual review built into the lessons
ensures that they remember concepts throughout the program.

About 10 lessons into the book, if the student is doing well (no
more than 1 or 2 wrong per lesson), then the student can choose
to do what we call 'skip-a-lesson'. I know this is not recom-
mended by Saxon, but it has worked for us for over 10 years.
The student completes the odd-numbered lessons, practice sets
and all. Then for the next lesson, he completes only the prac-
tice set and only the problems in the problem set that pertain
directly to that lesson. If he doesn't get most or all correct,
we go back over the concept (as he obviously doesn't understand
it), and he completes the whole lesson. If, on the odd-numbered
lesson, he has to redo the lesson due to scoring <80, he has to
go back to the previously skipped lesson and complete it as well.

Sometimes a child will have enough trouble with a concept to
find it easier to complete all the lessons for a time. However,
we find that even the Advanced Math book (a two-year curriculum
for all but the most advanced students) can be easily completed
in one year using this method.

By the way, I use Cuisinaire rods for my younger children and
the Miquon books. When they finish these they are ready for
Saxon. Just today my teens excitedly told my 7 year old son
and 5 year old girl that they really enjoyed the Miquon books."
-- Sarah N.


"I just finished reading the issue with the segment about the
different math programs and found it very interesting. I know
there are lots of math programs out there but I felt that I
just had to tell you about the one we have been using (since
3rd grade and now he is in 9th grade). It's called Systematic
Mathematics and we love it. It goes from K thru Algebra 2.
This is a video program where each lesson lasts about 10 to 12
minutes and the worksheets are printed from a CD. The pages
seems to have just enough problems so that it is not boring.
With the CD you can print as many worksheets as you want. I
am not a great math person but Mr. Ziegler has taught me to
love math as much as my son does -- and for the first time I
have no problem with algebra (my son is a math whiz!). Another
nice addition is if you do have a problem you can email him or
call and there's always someone to help right away. The website
is www.systemath.com .

The cost of these programs are very reasonable each module
average price is $22.00. I just thought I might let other
families know about it." -- Pegg H. in FL


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



Helpful Tip

More Tips on Creative Writing for Younger Children

[Heather's note: This was a late response for Lauren, who had
asked about teaching the writing process for her daughter. It
is from Karen Lange, one of our longtime readers and a regular
contributor for our occasional featured guest articles!]


"I would not stress over creative writing for a second grader
- there is plenty of time to develop those skills. Does she
like to write, or not? Consider that carefully, especially if
she does not. Better to allow your daughter time and space to
be creative than to force the issue and have her hate to write.
I would suggest fun activities, such as found in Marjorie Frank's
book, 'If You're Trying to Teach Kids to Write, You've Gotta Have
This Book!'. The book is full of short and long activities to
get kids writing and thinking.

Other activities, such as drawing a picture and then writing a
story about it, are also a good idea. If she isn't big on writ-
ing stories out yet, have her dictate them sometimes to you.
Letters to friends and family, near and far, are a good thing,
as well. A weather log, grocery list (real or imaginary), family
newspaper, captions for pictures found in books -- these are
other ideas to get kids to write without stress and pressure.
Take your time; if she senses you are stressed over this, she
may be too! Read lots of books aloud; this will develop her
sense of what sounds right in the written word. As she gets
older, keep an eye out for different types of writing curricula
- but watch out for busy work and mindless activities that kids
work through just to get done. Most of all, have writing 'fun'
with her! This will accomplish more than you think!"
-- Karen Lange

Karen's resources include: 'Homeschool Online Creative Writing
Co-op for Teens' and 'The Only Homeschool Co-op Booklet You Need
to Start Your Very Own Best Co-op Ever'!

For info visit: www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com


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

Winning Website

Tux Paint


Visitors to this site will find a free drawing program designed
for young children (kids ages 3 and up). It has a simple, easy-
to-use interface, fun sound effects, and an encouraging cartoon
mascot who helps guide children as they use the program. Kids
of all ages will enjoy using all the colors and textures to
create their own works of art.

-- Cindy, www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader 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

Our Readers' Responses

"The problem with shyness is that it makes others feel as if
they are being snubbed. If you could make your daughter aware
of how she might be hurting the feelings of others by not speak-
ing to them, she might want to reconsider how she is responding
to them.

Looking people in the eye, smiling at them, calling them by name
(if they know the name) and giving them courteous greetings are
ways to show respect and honor. Not doing those things is dis-

We went through a time with our son when he responded to people
similar to the way your daughter does. We practiced with him at
home, role playing how he should treat people. If an adult spoke
to him, and we were not pleased with the way he answered, we
would ask the adult to come back and give him the opportunity
to try again. It didn't take long for him to figure out that it
would be easier if would respond appropriately the first time.
He is now 14 and never sees a stranger. People fascinate him,
and he can strike up a conversation with anyone. He calls older
people on the phone just to talk. We consistently receive com-
pliments on his manners and friendliness. I do believe that he
would never have simply outgrown the problem; it must be dealt
with deliberately -- and the sooner the better." -- Mary Beth


"I would certainly dialog with your daughter about how she is
feeling, especially if this is a different behavior than usual.
Your daughter may be going through some hormonal changes at that
age that makes her feel differently about meeting people, so I
would definitely be empathetic and encouraging -- but this is
a great opportunity for teaching that behavior and 'feelings'
aren't automatically linked. We have taught our children that
politeness is a necessity and has nothing to do with how they
are feeling or whether they are shy. They must look people in
the eye, smile, respond appropriately to their questions, and
offer some of their own. (In other words, they must engage.) We
feel social skills are extremely important, whether our kids
grow up to work in a traditional job or are on the mission field.
We want to represent Christ well wherever He places us.

Hang in there; parenting is challenging at every age, isn't it?"
-- Dana W.


"April -- I can understand your concern for your 12 year old
daughter. My daughter is 13 now. She is getting a bit more
courageous, but she still has trouble stepping out on her own.

I had noticed her shyness at about this same age and how she
seemed to depend on someone else to speak or do for her. Over
the last year I have helped her by expecting her to speak for
herself, even if it might embarrass me when she doesn't. Try
not to make excuses for her and say that she is just shy, etc).

My daughter does not like to do things on her own. I think
that she is too afraid to make a mistake and has a fear of the
unknown so she shies away from doing things. At this age girls
seem to be very conscious of looking foolish. Over the last
year I have required her to check out at a store, ask a clerk
something, pay a bill for me, etc., without me being next to her.
However, I am within view if she has a problem. This has given
her a bit more confidence that people will not eat her up or be
nasty if she does something on her own.

Very important -- when you make a mistake or have done something
you regret be sure to let her know when she is with you. That
way she will see that everyone says and does things that they
could have done a better job at, but it is okay. The earth
didn't stop or blow up because an error was made or something
could have been done in a better fashion.

All the best to you! Be of good courage and know that this
phase will pass. Give her an opportunity to be in a group of
teens for a project or musical experience. Be supportive, but
don't do things for her that she can do for herself.

My daughter just walked in to look over my shoulder. She read
what I wrote and would like to tell you or your daughter:

'When I was younger, I was outgoing and not very shy. I was
brought up around adults and the elderly. Now that I am around
other peope my age, I am shy because I don't know how to talk
to them. She may have the same problem, but that is none of my
business. The friend that is closest to my age is sixteen. The
world won't explode if you make a mistake. I am in our church
choir and I make plenty of mistakes. I sing the wrong notes,
say the wrong words, and sometimes have to stop a second or two
to understand where I am. I also play handbells. I am known to
get a measure ahead of everyone else, but the music still sounds
very good. So it's okay to mess up. I know I have a habit of
walking around the store and smiling at everyone I see. It
helps to smile -- you may not know what they are going through,
but yet it is a little something to get their spirits up. My
Sunday School teacher, who happens to be the pastor's wife, says
to everyone, "Try smiling!"' -- Rebecca (daughter) -- Debra (mom)


"Hi, April -- I can certainly relate to your concern about your
daughter's behavior. I have a thirteen year old son and I have
noticed similar changes in him in the past year or so. He used
to be much more outgoing and never shied away from others. I
personally believe it is partly due to his raging hormones.
Everything is turned upside down for him and he is trying to
make sense of the 'alien invasion'. I also have noticed, with
my son, that he is attempting to pull away some from us. Not
in a bad way, but in a 'trying to carve out his own identity'
kinda way. I think as parents we forget what it's like to be
thinking about our appearence, wondering if our hair looks okay,
and questioning if the words coming out of our mouth sounds like
we are semi-educated -- all while trying to carry on a conversa-
tion with someone. One thing I have attempted, and it does seem
to help, is to not make a big deal about the lack of enthusiasm
on his part. I just try to be a positive role model for him
when we are around others and I find positive things to brag on
him about when he does come out of his shell. For me, I think
I worried too much about what other people thought about my
child. As a home schooling parent we want our children to look
great, speak five languages, play three instruments, and volun-
teer in the community two days a week. Yeah, right! If you do
all of that, more power to you -- but for the rest of us, our
kids are just normal, wonderful blessings from God. They are
perfect just the way the are." -- Vicki


"I do not have teens yet, but as a counselor I will say there is
a real and biological reason teens act the way they do (besides
the fact that they are sinners like the rest of us). Somewhere
around age 11 to 13 the brain changes chemically.

If you stand on one side of a wall and ask a small child to stand
on the other, then ask the child what YOU see -- they will of
course say what THEY see. It is hard for small children to grasp
the idea of 'other' -- which is why a toddler's favorite words
are 'mine, me and my'.

Although children begin to grasp the idea of others as they grow,
there seems to be a very large revelation at the preteen (11-13)
age -- the child begins to think that everyone notices everything
about them. They begin to feel self-conscious and think others
see them the way they see themselves. I remember being distraught
over a small pimple -- and most people barely noticed.

As for whether or not you think it is rude, I will leave it up
to you. It is appropriate to respond when someone talks to us,
and maybe she could use some coaching or support when you see she
feels awkward. It sounded as if the church you are attending is
new. If so, then the shyness makes sense.

I would suggest talking to her about it when you aren't irritated
by it. You could also share a time when you were shy and see if
that is what she is feeling. She does not seem to be a child
that is intentionally rude, from your description.

It is probably a phase, but if you see large changes in things
such as more/less eating, more/less sleeping, change in friends,
loss of interest in activities, etc., then I would take a closer
look. Again, talk to her about it -- and most of all -- listen."
-- Michelle in Oregon

Answer our NEW Question

"How do others incorporate a fun idea that comes up? For
example the Iditarod ended recently. I wanted to do a lapbook
or unit study on it (just for a week or so), but never did.

I use Sonlight and we currently only have about 2 months left.
Do others just stop (similar to taking a break around holiday
time) to incorporate new and fun ideas? The same with Dr. Seuss's
birthday. That could have been a fun unit study but since I do
not have that type of curriculum I sometimes feel overwhelmed
and do nothing.

Maybe I am just wanting to rush to the end -- or maybe I do not
know where to start to incorporate it -- Any thoughts?"
-- Michelle in Oregon


Do you have some inspiration or practical advice for Michelle?
Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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Next - RightStart Math, From Dark to Dawn, Fitting in the 'Fun'
Previous - 'Conventional' Math Reviews, Early Creative Writing

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