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RightStart Math, From Dark to Dawn, Fitting in the 'Fun'

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, April 14, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 30 April 14, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

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Notes from Heather
-- More Math Feedback
Helpful Tip
-- Amazing Backyard Creatures
Resource Review
-- From Dark to Dawn
Reader Question
-- Fitting in the 'Fun'
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

RightStart Math and More - What Works for Our Readers

[We received more input from our readers about specific math
programs the past few days, so I'm sharing the emails here.
This has been helpful to me, too! I just purchased some
materials from Teaching Textbooks myself -- based on the
positive reader reviews! -- Heather]


"I am writing to comment upon one program that was initially
mentioned, but no one else has followed up about it yet.

The reviewer mentioned RightStart Mathematics having a lot of
games which didn't exactly appeal to her because of her daughters'
learning styles. Well, I have to say that I have 2 children that
are more of the abstract learning type (from 'How They Learn' by
Cynthia Tobias) and RightStart is exactly what they need!

This program is not for kids/parents who learn well with work-
book/textbook learning. I love this program because it reinforces
mental math and teaches concepts in small increments, gradually
building upon them. The use of games is not heavy; it's a go at
your own pace kind of program. Sometimes we play the games, and
sometimes I just skip to the next lesson.

What is critical for learning is the mental math. In every
lesson we review concepts and the student is required to solve a
math problem verbally. RightStart makes great use of patterns
in math and it becomes quite practical for everyday living. I
highly recommend using this program for kids who are not tradi-
tional textbook learners!"
-- Julie in Illinois (math students age 10 and age 7)


"I'm a homeschool mom of two -- an 8 year old son and an 11 year
old daughter. I started using RightStart Math (also called the
AL Abacus system) from the beginning. I found it at the Minne-
sota homeschool conference that year and was intrigued by their
incorporation of the Asian model with games to teach math. My
homeschool friends weren't too supportive of the Saxon program.

They focus on mastery of one area before any progression to the
next level. For example, they cover addition up to four digit
numbers before even touching on subtraction. My kids have
enjoyed the card games and sometimes played them when it wasn't
'school time'. This does make it more difficult when doing the
annual standardized tests; however, we've found that to be a
minimal issue.

I also enjoy that they have a weekly review (quiz) in the later
levels as well as 9 week, mid-year and end of year tests. They
only have up to about 5th grade levels available, though. I've
suggested that she develop for junior high and high school. They
are based out of a small town in North Dakota." -- Jo B.


"We use Math Mammoth, First Lessons in Arithmetic (Free Download)
at www.donpotter.net/math.htm , Challenge Math (a book), and a
lot of just life stuff throughout the day.

We also do not allow the use of fingers for basic math. Our
children respond very well to each of these." -- David K.


"We tried Singapore math, and after tearing hair out, decided to
stop and try something else. We are now using Teaching Textbooks
and our daughter really enjoys the mini-lectures and problem
solving techniques. Each and every problem is demonstrated on a
'solutions' CD. We found pre-algebra to be a little too much
review, so we skipped ahead and now love it." -- Marla


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



Helpful Tip

Backyard Animals Blog


"My 8 year old son has been an animal fanatic from the day he
was born. Field guides are among his favorite books, and he
pores over them with the intensity of a great novel. We have
recently enjoyed creating a photo blog of the animals he catches
in our yard. Please feel free to visit!" -- Abbi


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

Resource Review

From Dark to Dawn - A Tale of Martin Luther and the Reformation
Author: Elizabeth Charles; James and Stacy MacDonald, editors
For more information or to order: www.booksonthepath.com


My pastor recently said that "A book isn't worth reading unless
it keeps you up at night - challenging how you live your life."
If what he says is true, and I believe it is, then 'From Dark to
Dawn' is definitely worth reading. From the beautifully illus-
trated cover, to the enthralling story filling over 360 pages,
'From Dark to Dawn' immediately took me in and held me captive
as I experienced a wonderful (and at times horrible) period in
church history.

'From Dark to Dawn - A Tale of Martin Luther and the Reformation'
was originally published in 1862 by English authoress, Elizabeth
Charles. Were it not for the efforts of James and Stacy McDonald,
homeschool parents and publishers of Homeschooling Today magazine,
this treasure might have remained hidden. The McDonald's took
the original work, dusted it off, provided some careful editing
and revision, and have presented us with a book that is destined
to be a favorite of homeschool families everywhere.

As the story opens we are introduced to the Schonberg-Cotta
family, living in 16th century Germany. Through the 'journals'
of a brother and sister, we are able to look in on everyday
family life in the 1500s. Their lives seem so real, and offer a
glimpse of both the struggle of a family to love and live amidst
the trials of great poverty -- and the more important spiritual
battle that rages when one is living without the knowledge of
God's grace and free gift of salvation. I will admit that,
before reading this book, I really knew very little about Martin
Luther or the dark days in which he lived. Reading 'From Dark
to Dawn' opened my eyes anew to God's love and power, which
breaks through man's religion and reaches out to those who would
desire to truly know Him.

Completely enthralling, From Dark to Dawn takes one through a
myriad of emotions as you peer into the lives of Else, Fritz,
their family, and Martin Luther himself. The vocabulary is rich
and the editors have been careful to remain true to the original
work. Although I enjoyed this book immensely, it is not a 'quick
read'. In fact, the rich text and depth of the subject matter
caused me to pause, re-read and reflect often. Throughout the
book terms specific to the religious or daily life of the period
that may be unfamiliar to the reader are embolden, with the reader
encouraged to refer to the glossary for clarification. I found
this to be a tremendous help in my understanding and enjoyment
of the story. Further adding to this work are beautiful illus-
trations by homeschool graduate Johanna Bluedorn, and the inclu-
sion of several historic engravings.

'From Dark to Dawn' is truly a fascinating tale that will be
appreciated most by older children and adults as a family read
aloud. If you like to utilize 'living books' in your school
subjects, this can definitely be used as assigned reading to
enhance your older student's study of church history as well.
The life of Martin Luther, as told through the pages of 'From Dark
to Dawn', provides many opportunities to encourage our children
to live their lives boldly for the King of Kings and to walk in
the light of His glorious grace. I highly recommend it!

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

Last Issue's Reader 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

Our Readers' Responses

"Michelle -- When I first started our school, I was more of a
'slave' to the curriculum and couldn't seem to fit everything
in that I was hoping to do, either. Then after quite a bit of
reading and research, I filtered out and caught on to the great
idea of FLEXIBILITY! As homeschoolers, we are blessed with the
freedom to do other things as well as to NOT do them. Just
because a set program has a certain thing planned on a certain
week does not mean you cannot skip it, substitute something
else, re-schedule, etc.

Now, in our 8th year of homeschooling, we have decided not to
use a pre-programmed curriculum at all. We are using an eclectic
mix -- AmblesideOnline.org -- based on Charlotte Mason primarily,
but including lapbooks or unit studies when we want to, as well
as using some more standardized books when we see there might be
a need. Within the Ambleside schedule, we often find things to
promote further study and research -- from something as simple as
a vocabulary notebook -- to completed unit studies which incor-
porate the same period of history, or same topic in science, etc.
We have been doing this for a couple of years and school is FUN
again for all of us, much more interesting and really more of a
joy daily.

We still have a schedule, but if we can get ahead a few weeks on
some topic that is related to our studies, we will fill in with
more creative and hands on activities or projects that have actual
value -- like planning and planting a small garden, woodworking,
crafts like weaving, sewing, raising an animal, etc., that can
be used well into the children's future lives. Bible study, art
projects, creative writing and other studies can be included at
your discretion. We also include music, singing, and piano.
Even housework, yardwork, and chores can be educational if you
think them through.

Hopefully you will find YOUR way, because our family truly
believes that no other homeschool is or should be just like ours!
Don't be afraid to think out of the box, and enjoy the journey."
-- Cindy B. in AZ


"In our family, we try to be ready for those timely opportunities
that present themselves, and run with them. For example, I
recently found a contest for young entrepreneurs to develop a
business plan. We feel that our children would benefit not only
from the experience of drawing up a business plan, but also from
having their plan evaluated by Christian businessmen. So we
assigned the beginning steps to them the same day we heard about
the contest. We will just work this into our lesson time every
day; we might spend less time on other subjects, and maybe even
put some things on hold for a while.

Remember that whatever curriculum you use, it is only a tool, not
your master. When a tool doesn't serve your needs, you lay it
down, at least for the time being. No publisher can possibly
know better than you what your children need on any given day.
One of the advantages of homeschooling is the freedom to design
our own lifestyle, which includes our academic program. I don't
know how structured Sonlight is, but I would think that no curri-
culum is so binding that you can't put it on the shelf when you'd
like to do something else for a while.

You did not indicate whether you've ever done lapbooks, but if
you do, and if your experience is anything like ours, you'll never
want to stop. You sound to me like the type of family who would
do well with unit studies -- either as your regular approach to
learning, or only occasionally, but I highly recommend that you
look into it. I don't know all your circumstances, but I'm think-
ing you might want to try something more flexible than what you've
been using." -- Mary Beth

Answer our NEW Question

"My son is 7 years old and has mild to moderate autism. He can
read and is verbal; he does addition and subtraction using little
bears so he can visualize what he's doing. Complicated explana-
tions don't work very well. He can memorize exceptionally well.
Are there any parents who are homeschooling an autistic child
and would share what they use or tricks they have learned?
Thanks." -- Mary Ann


Do you have experience to share with Mary Ann?
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!

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[Note: This ministry is especially for Christian parents, but
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have any technical difficulties.]

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